Letters to the Editor

New Leftists Art Goldberg and Stew Albert fire back at David Horowitz
Plus: Amen to Joyce Millman's "year in TV" round-up; is it little girls -- or their moms -- who buy pink toys?

Published December 20, 1999 5:00PM (EST)

Who killed Betty Van Patter?



David Horowitz omitted a key section from my letter in his Salon column.
This is what he left out: "If you felt it necessary to have some accounting
of the funds you had raised, you should have called [Panther leader] Elaine
[Brown], and told her Betty was working for you and if there were any
questions about Betty, she was to tell you ... Also, you should have told
Betty to bring any irregularities to you and you should have discussed them
with Elaine." This, of course, would have made it clear that David was
responsible. Instead, he hid behind Betty Van Patter, and let her take the

Horowitz also chose to omit my reminder that the Panther school had just
received a large grant from the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, a
favorite program of Nixon's attorney general, John Mitchell. Since Panther
finances were generally chaotic, they would be especially wary of someone
poking into their books at that time.

Horowitz has a selective and flawed memory. I warned him several times
in the early '70s not to get too close to the Panthers. Newton was in Cuba,
Seale was back east, Cleaver was in exile, and a new crew was in charge.
They were running many fine programs: the school, Breakfast for Children,
sickle cell anemia detection, free health clinics, and job training projects that Horowitz fails to mention.
But there seemed to be a dangerous
undercurrent, and I and others close to the Panthers chose to pull back.

That's when David, against our advice, blindly rushed in. This was
strange, because in the '60s and early '70s, he almost never went to
demonstrations. He was always too busy writing. So when he describes
himself as a New Left activist, it's simply untrue.

It's also strange that he omits my affiliation with Ramparts. He and I
shared an office there in 1968, and in 1971 he sent me to New Haven to cover Bobby
Seale's trial. Since my piece ran in Ramparts, he should know the jury voted
11-1 and 10-2 to acquit Seale and Ericka Huggins of murder, and that the
judge subsequently threw out the charges against them. Yet in his column, he
says the Panthers were guilty of that murder.

Likewise, Horowitz neglects to mention that the police were never able to
find out who killed Betty Van Patter. Is he suggesting that the Oakland Police were
in cahoots with the Panthers in the Van Patter case?

Horowitz is also mistaken when he says Newton "assigned" me to write a
book with attorney Charles Garry. Actually, Newton and Garry were not on speaking
terms in 1973 when I began working on the book, at Garry's request. Newton
never assigned me to do anything. In fact, I first met Newton when Horowitz
assigned me to interview him for Ramparts in 1971.

It's interesting to me that someone who makes a living accusing people of
political and other crimes has such a total disregard for the facts himself.

-- Art Goldberg

David Horowitz states that I called him a "police agent" for
condemning the SLA for murdering Marcus Foster, the Oakland superintendent
of schools. This is a lie. I never called him a police agent -- and the
letter he refers to, which appeared in Ramparts, also condems the murder of
Marcus Foster.

As for David's work with the Panthers, he began doing this when most of
the Berkeley radicals were pulling away from them because we suspected
links to criminal activity and gangsterism. That he recruited a politically experienced individual like Betty into that environment boggles the reasonable mind. Art Goldberg is correct -- if David
had asked me if it was wise or safe to work would the Panthers, I would
certainly have advised against it. But back then David was the sort of guy
who always thought he knew the truth better than anyone else.

-- Stew Albert

What Horowitz hoped to gain from printing that private e-mail
from Art Goldberg, and his wounded rant in rebuttal escapes me. Those of us who think of the Black Panthers as a wretchedly organized black supremacist militia do so without Horowitz's help; those of us who believe the opposite, or who just don't care, will
hardly be swayed by this latest nugget. Using Salon as a bully pulpit from which to execute overkills against ex-friends represents an unworthy lapse in academic good taste.

-- Steven Augustine

Singing the pink blues


I don't believe that garishly girly toys and "pink software" are what
young girls clamor to play with, despite Margot Mifflin's assertion that
"numbers confirm that pink software satisfies an enormous need; according
to PC Data, girl games' sales increased by 250 percent from 1996 to 1997,
while overall software game sales went up only 22 percent."

In this case, the need satisfied is that of the purchaser: usually a
deep-pocketed parent, doting relative or friend. Rarely is the young girl
in question shelling out the $20 to $40 the program costs. A
similar argument can be made for many of the regular toys bought by the
hundreds of millions for little girls and little boys.

My 4-year-old gasps with excitement over seeing "Barbie" software in
the store, but the programs that keep bringing her back are unisex
software giving her creative outlets. Her Barbie dolls sits idle while we
indulge in artwork or concoct elaborate action-adventures with a host of
animal friends.

In my daughter's stories, she is an explorer, healer and scientist who
performs deeds of derring-do and rescues the world. Now that's the spirit
of young womanhood we need for 21st century!

-- Janice Liedl-Myatt

I grew up in the '70s and early '80s and never once owned a doll or a
fighting action figure. We played with blocks, Lego, stuffed animals, a
few Fisher-Price sets and, most important, our imaginations. A cardboard box can be enough to keep a kid occupied for hours. My sister and I, and our (male and female)
friends, would commonly spend afternoons making papier-mbchi or popsicle-stick people, making up skits or otherwise engaging our creativity. My advice to mothers concerned with gender gaps in toys is not to buy gender-specific toys. I never missed them.

-- Miranda Nell

Give your children the respect that you wish for yourself, instead of trying
to change them. Politically correct toys are like having an evangelist at your breakfast table.

-- Andrea Sparling

TV 1999


When did Joyce Millman begin monitoring my VCR recording habits? I was
amazed and thrilled to find that I watched, and agreed with, every one of
her choices for 10 best TV shows of 1999. Any television critic (and, actually, most of
them) can stand up for "The Sopranos" or "The West Wing" (my favorite show
of the year) or even "Everybody Loves Raymond," but how many of them can
see past the WB's demographics and appreciate "Buffy," "Roswell"
and "Angel"? Or the frequently trashed "Sex and the City"? Or the sheer
bravado and joyful "what's next?" style of "Now and Again"?
(Dennis Haysbert deserves an Emmy for bringing to life the most intriguing
character on TV.)

My only disagreement with her worst show choices would be "Family Guy" --
which is genuinely awful less than half the time and truly creative and
funny the other half. I also must honor her R.I.P list, which was amazingly up-to-date, and went
beyond the actors and actresses we've lost to include producers,
directors, voice artists and journalists. It made me think about the various ways individuals contribute to the television medium. Bravo.

-- Scott Hoenig


Y2K: The Vatican fix


Don't blame the Vatican for the fact that you adopted the infidel (Arabic)
number system. The computers of the faithful will have no problem turning
from MIM to MM.

-- Todd Hanneken

Poo rules!


Perhaps you should have mentioned that in Japanese the words for snot,
ear wax and eye schmutz (what do you call the stuff that accumulates in the
corners of your eyes in English?) are hanakuso, mimikuso and meguso --
literally, "nose poop," "ear poop" and "eye poop."

I must say that the Japanese have a much healthier, more open view of
normal bodily functions than we in the West do. The famous children's book
writer, Taro Gomi, has been very successful producing such titles as "Everyone Poops.'' Making such topics taboo can only lead to dangerous ignorance and loathing of our own bodies and their

-- Stuart Luppescu

Why is it magazines and newspapers and periodicals like this focus on the
most bizarre and uninteresting stories in Japan?
While I may have not lived in Tokyo as long as the writer of this story, I
can think of infinitely more interesting stories. Yet this is all I find when I look around me in Western
reporting. Why?

-- Brent E. Millis

Take-home test


The newfound emphasis on intellect in the political debate is refreshing,
and I especially like the pop-quiz line of questioning that George W. has been
getting. But in the interest of focusing on the modern, real-world
responsibilities of the president, I have some other questions that should
be asked: What controlling legal authority should be implemented to cover the
shake-down of Buddhist nuns? Does committing multiple felony perjury and being held in
contempt of court while covering up a squalid affair qualify a president
as one of our greatest? Is a secret meeting of 500 or so insiders and political operatives the
ideal way to nationalize health care, which represents one-seventh of the economy?

-- Adam Odak

We have lowered the bar for the qualifications required for the presidency
with Bush, just as all bars have been lowered for him throughout his life:
Poor prep school grades got him into Yale; poor undergraduate performance
(C average) got him into Harvard business school; poor performance in
business school got him investors for an oil company; poor performance in
the oil industry got him into ownership of a professional baseball team.
His parents would be proud to see their son achieve
again despite his obvious shortcomings, but we should be afraid for the
world. Proud parents tend to see the best in their kids. Voters should see
beyond the Bush's delusions.

-- Suzanne Henry

The sad thing here is that Bush claims that he was reading about Acheson
in an attempt to better understand implementing foreign policy. What he
should have been reading is "Present at the Creation," Acheson's memoirs
of his time in the State Department.

-- Patrick Flanders

Word doctor


I am one of the few poets-only in the National Association
for Poetry Therapy (i.e., I am not a therapist) and spend much of my time trying to convince practitioners and patients alike the value of revision. Healing always includes change, whether it is attitude, perception, behavior or treatment and prescription -- and often a
combination. Revising our language toward clarification of the
condition and options can lead us to a whole new set of realities.

Even if a so-called positive mental attitude written into a poem
does not change the cancer, it certainly can change the attitude through
the experience, and sometimes attitude has eradicated the condition.
I appreciate Campo's careful explanation of his experience and hope
that it brings thousands more to the threshold of what can work for them
as well. We all have a poet inside who can lead us to realize our own great powers of
observation, clarification, self-actualization and healing.

-- Jennifer Bosveld

Director, Pudding House Writers Resource Center

Author, "Topics for Getting in Touch: A Poetry Therapy Sourcebook"

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