I was shocked to see that Marc Haefele has condemned my weekly online media commentary, the Economic Reporting Review (www.fair.org), for advocating the elimination of copyright and patent protection in developing nations [“The Real World Organization: Why being against the WTO isn't enough,” December 10­16]. The reason I found this shocking is that this position has never been argued in the ERR. What the ERR has stated repeatedly is that patents and copyrights are forms of protection — in fact, very costly ones. This is definitionally true. Without patents or copyrights, goods subject to this protection could be sold much more cheaply in a free market. The prices of drugs subject to patent protection could drop by 90 percent or more; prices of material subject to copyright protection, such as compact discs or videotapes, could drop by an even larger amount.

Obviously there is a rationale for patent and copyright protections: They provide incentives for innovation and creativity. But that doesn't change their status as protectionist measures. Since there are other ways to provide incentives, the appropriate question from the standpoint of economic policy is whether patents and copyrights are the most efficient way to provide incentives for this work.

It is a sign of how ideological the discussion of trade has become that to call a measure “protectionist” automatically implies it is bad. There is no way around the fact that patents and copyrights are protectionist measures. Mr. Haefele and others may believe that they are desirable, but they cannot claim that they represent “free trade.”

–Dean Baker

Washington, D.C.



Bob Forrest surely didn't “tell all” to Brendan Mullen [November 26­December 2]. I played a few bars of piano on his first album (Baby, You're Bumming My Life Out in Supreme Fashion) and will never, ever forget the joy of that experience, one of many live performances to which he totally gave himself. I got him to play a benefit at the Coconut Teaszer in 1987 that was probably the wildest evening in Sunset Strip history, due in part to the various bouncers, patrons and passersby he tried to punch out. As with many of Bob's miscapades, no one was really any the worse for wear when it ended in several different brawls. Yes, I long for the day when Bob Forrest tells all, because that will be a book I'll sit and read for a month. But many thanks for that delicious slice of the amazing tale of an incredible life, an extraordinary musician and a singular man.

–Joe Shea




Regarding Harold Meyerson's “Battle in Seattle” [December 3­9], it is absurd to listen to the whining of the protesters that world trade is some bad thing while they stand there wearing their imported clothing (China, Latin America, etc.) and drinking their lattes — again, imported. If they really want to make a difference regarding environmental degradation, labor standards, etc., they should vote with their dollars, i.e., boycott said offenders. Companies worry about the bottom line, not a bunch of idiots running around causing property damage.

–Jose Contreras

Knoxville, Tennessee



In his article on Patricia Highsmith [“Twisted Sister”] in the December 10­16 issue, Brendan Bernhard claims that, The Price of Salt aside, the heroes of Highsmith's books are almost always men. He goes on to neglect one of Highsmith's most important works, Edith's Diary, in which the eponymous heroine is a suburban working wife and mother destroyed by three generations of her family's males: the shiftless son, the philandering husband and the live-in invalid uncle-in-law. She is sustained only by maintaining a fantasy of a perfect family life, as recorded in a fictional “diary.” Longtime expat Highsmith gets the affluent, liberal Bucks County milieu down precisely, dialogue and all. It's a triumph of showing over telling, with a devastating anti-male message conveyed without a breath of feminist rhetoric à la The Women's Room and its ilk.

–Dexter Kelly

Woodland Hills



Stefan Thiel's “The Golden Age of Cinema?” [December 10­16] was a masterpiece. Just kidding . . .

Maybe if these film critics had had to pay 8 bucks like the rest of us, they'd have been more discriminating.

–John Burns

Brooklyn, New York

A Pat on the Back: Congratulations to the staff of L.A. Weekly, which has received Utne Reader's top prize for “Overall Excellence for Newsweeklies, 1999.”

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