Readers Hammer MUGGER; Rep. Barney Frank Checks In

| 11 Nov 2014 | 09:59

    So, "McCain’s Moment Fades" (MUGGER, 2/2)?

    Very savvy, MUGGER. Let me smoke some of that.

    Les Bridges, Manhattan

    MUGGY the Mick MUGGER: Great prognosticating. I understand the Vegas bookies want you to make the morning line for the Oscars.

    Jesus, I haven’t laughed so hard since Truman-Dewey in ’48. In the words of the great Hart lyric: "...don’t change a hair for me, not if you care for me..."

    Mort Weintraub, Larchmont, NY

    Zaklukiewicz Checks In MUGGER: The returns are in from New Hampshire and, well, let’s just say you’ve outdone yourself with inept, alarmingly rabid political prognostication.

    Jeez, we see where you could be forgiven for your piss-poor predictions concerning President Clinton’s reelection and Chuck Schumer’s rise to the Senate, but how can you live with yourself after your incredibly poor handicapping of the Republican New Hampshire primary?

    In addition, with your vituperative ripping of everybody from the three nightly news anchors to Slate’s Jake Weisberg to Clarence Page, you’re really showing yourself to be quite the loudmouthed nasty rich boy. You’re becoming the Steve Forbes of alternative weeklies! When May arrives and it’s wholly apparent that Sen. McCain will be the GOP nominee, it’s going to be fun to watch you retract your early insolence and get back into the GOP line with your tail between your legs. Instead of sticking up for the diaphanously thin positions of that poster boy for aristocratic entitlement ("Mama, why do we have to have all these dad-bum primaries!?"), George W. Bush, why don’t you investigate how the national Republican machine has hamstrung itself with its strategically short-sighted endorsement of Bush? Before even the first epithet of the campaign had been volleyed, Republicans from sea to sea had engaged in a "compassionate conservative" circle-jerk that made Bush the putative nominee. Now your boy has gotten his nose bloodied for the very first time and one wonders whether he’ll have the capability to counterpunch. The next few weeks should be very interesting.

    I predict internecine warfare within the Bush camp on strategy and attack plans, and mass confusion from national Republican leadership regarding the New York ballot fiasco. (What’sa matter, Georgie, don’t wanna fight?)

    To sum up, let’s take a look at your riotously funny predictions from one short week ago:

    A) On the New Hampshire Republican Primary: "...Bush takes McCain by two points, say 36 percent to 34 percent..."

    B) On Sen. John McCain: "I think McCain is finished."

    C) On the New Hampshire Democratic Primary: "...[A] Bradley upset is in the works. I think he’ll defeat Gore by one percentage point..."

    Russ, old boy, keep up the predictions. This is most entertaining.

    Stephen F. Zaklukiewicz, Manhattan

    Great Pains State MUGGER: Could you have been more wrong about the outcome of the New Hampshire primary? Bush got overwhelmed, Gore won in a close race and the religious right managed 20 percent of the Republican vote, in case you haven’t read the papers.

    I truly enjoy reading your columns, but please try to maintain some connection with reality as you promote George W. Bush’s prospects.

    Paul Garrison, Greybull, WY

    Been a While, Barney Michelangelo Signorile ("Opinion," 1/26) is engaged in a campaign of misinformation that could jeopardize our chances of enacting legislation next year to ban sexual orientation discrimination in employment if it were taken seriously. Fortunately, he does it in such an illogical fashion that it is easily refuted.

    In Mr. Signorile’s parallel universe, the fact that I and others who have worked hardest on getting such legislation passed continue to support doing this in a separate Employment Non-Discrimination Act and have expressed our disagreement with Bill Bradley’s assertion that we should revert to the earlier, Civil Rights Act approach that we discarded, is part of a nefarious insider plot to help Al Gore. And in a particularly venomous set of arguments, Mr. Signorile announces that none of us have valid motives, and are engaged purely in self-promotion in this regard.

    He says that I am apparently standing by our decision that the ENDA approach is by far the best chance we have to achieve legislative success because I "could be paid handsomely with a prominent appointment in the Gore administration if he continues to remain loyal." It is hard to get down in one letter the number of things that are wrong with this sentence.

    To begin, it mistakenly casts me as a supporter of the Vice President. In fact, I have been neutral in the campaign. My constant point has been that the important thing to note about this campaign is the extent to which Gore and Bradley have been supportive of efforts to combat homophobia while all of the Republican candidates, including John McCain, have been on the opposite side.

    Other than continuing to express my disagreement with Bradley on the strategy for enacting a gay rights bill, I have had no criticisms to make of Mr. Bradley and have consistently refused to indicate any preference between the two candidates.

    Even more egregious is Mr. Signorile’s explanation that what’s "really up" is that I am hoping to get a prominent appointment. That manages to be both silly and vicious at the same time. I like my current job very much, and I have no intention of leaving it. I have no idea what "prominent appointment" Mr. Signorile thinks would tempt me to leave the current job of which I am so fond, but it exists only in his mind. Never having practiced law, I am not a candidate for the Supreme Court. My nomination as vice president at the Democratic Convention on a Gore ticket is sufficiently unlikely that I do not think even Mr. Signorile would claim that it influences me. And the only members of Congress who voluntarily leave this place for the Cabinet are those ready to retire or people who are looking for a platform to make themselves national candidates. Since I am neither depressed nor delusional, I am not ready to leave for either reason.

    Of course I am not the only target of Mr. Signorile’s illogical nastiness. None of us who disagree with him, apparently, are motivated by a concern for public policy. All of us–Jesse Jackson, Sr. and Jr., Elizabeth Birch, myself and others–are impure. Knowing and working with these people as I have done over the years, I must say that I am very impressed with Mr. Signorile’s implicit claim that he is our moral superior.

    Mr. Signorile neglects to mention the main reason why we decided on the ENDA approach. When Bella Abzug and Paul Tsongas first introduced legislation to amend the Civil Rights Act with the addition of sexual orientation, affirmative action was not terribly controversial. It has since become very controversial, and unless we are able to disassociate interest in banning sexual orientation discrimination from a request for affirmative action, we will lose. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is one of the main legislative sources of affirmative action. (On the question of discrimination, the Civil Rights Act is no stronger that the separate Employment Non-Discrimination Act.)

    Mr. Signorile’s repetition of Bill Bradley’s claim that it is simply axiomatic that if you want to add a new category to those protected against discrimination, you do it by amending the Civil Rights Act, is simply, flatly, wrong. I have tried to think of the new categories we have added to the list of people protected against discrimination since 1964. In no case did we do it by amending the Civil Rights Act. In every case I can think of, we did it by adopting anti-discrimination language tailored to that category in a separate piece of legislation.

    The most prominent example of this is the Americans with Disabilities Act. This in fact represents the major addition we have made to the category of those protected against discrimination, and we did it in a separate act because it would have been politically and legislatively awkward to do it by amending the Civil Rights Act.

    The law banning age discrimination is also a separate one, not an amendment to the Civil Rights Act, as was the amendment to an immigration bill that protected noncitizen permanent residents from job discrimination. All of these involved separate legislation tailored to these needs, and not amendments to the Civil Rights Act.

    This is why Mr. Signorile’s point that I and others have sought to amend the Civil Rights Act regarding sex and race is irrelevant. The Civil Rights Act as I have noted creates affirmative action obligations. Those obligations continue to be important where sex and race are concerned. Thus, there is no inconsistency at all in supporting amendments to the Civil Rights Act in the sex and race categories–the examples Mr. Signorile mentions–while believing that this is not appropriate for sexual orientation, since we wish to separate it from affirmative action.

    As I have noted elsewhere, our view that shifting from a Civil Rights Act amendment to an ENDA approach would gain support for us was vindicated in 1994 by, among other things, the actions of then-Sen. Bradley. Bill Bradley never cosponsored the gay rights bill when it was intended to be part of the Civil Rights Act. It was only after we came up with the ENDA form in 1994 that he became a cosponsor. He was correct then. I am glad that he has been a vigorous advocate of gay, lesbian and bisexual rights in this campaign, but I continue to believe that he was wrong to abandon the approach that he agreed to support in 1994, and seek to bring us back to an approach that he was not willing to support previously.

    Barney Frank, Washington, DC

    Michelangelo Signorile replies: Rep. Frank, whom I’ve often supported and written favorably about in the past, surely knows that journalists and commentators routinely discuss the possible motivations of politicians, lobbyists and others in Washington. I’m bewildered that he now finds this so shocking and egregious. I’m glad, however, that he has cleared up some things, stating that he will absolutely not accept a position within the possible Gore administration, and implying that the same is true of the Human Rights Campaign’s Elizabeth Birch. Curiously, Mr. Frank now says that his criticism of Bill Bradley was solely focused on his belief that Bradley’s plan did not offer the most expedient way to gain protections for gays and lesbians. However, Mr. Frank fails to address the main point of my piece: that the chorus of voices–including his–claiming that amending the Civil Rights Act would cause it to be entirely abolished by a right-wing Congress were grossly exaggerating, putting forth a virtual untruth. Mr. Frank now has nothing to say about this theory that he helped advance, a theory that, as I showed in my piece, was a scare tactic launched by Al Gore’s crowd.

    Fields: NY’s Dumbest I vehemently object to your 1/19 editorial ("A Confederacy of Sleazes"), which characterizes Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields as one of "New York City’s stupider Democratic politicians..." Anyone who has endured one of Fields’ rambling cliche-laden speeches or suffered through her incoherent rants of political doublespeak will respond that she is not merely one of New York City’s stupider politicians. She is, undoubtedly, the stupidest.

    And why does George Szamuely spend so much time and take so much pleasure in trying to minimize the horrors of the Holocaust? I notice New York Press has taken to regularly publishing Szamuely’s anti-Semitic screeds in Section One. I assume this is for the benefit of those New York Press readers who just can’t wait for Armond White’s anti-Semitic screeds, which are usually buried in Section Two. Apparently, Szamuely is so fond of Adolf Hitler that he named his column ("The Bunker") after Hitler’s home-away-from-home during the final years of his life.

    And John Strausbaugh never fails to crack me up. In his 1/19 "Publishing" column, Strausbaugh offers his "expert" advice to Marty Wombacher on how best to market Wombacher’s humor zine Fishwrap. This advice comes from a man who edits and writes for a paper that would lose 98 percent of its readers if it began charging even a quarter for each issue.

    Then Strausbaugh slams Ann Powers and her book Weird Like Us: My Bohemian America (even though he admittedly hasn’t even read it) simply because Powers (who Strausbaugh refers to as "The New York Times’ third-string rock critic") writes for the paper of record. Once again, Strausbaugh plays Igor to MUGGER’s Dr. Frankenstein by blindly adopting his mentor’s hatred for all things Times-ish. But being a third-string writer for a first-string paper is by far preferable to writing for New York Press, the perennial bench-warmer of New York newspapers. (As if Strausbaugh wouldn’t jump to the Times in a second if they somehow discovered that he even existed.)

    Considering the trite and amateurish quality of the music, movie, theater, book and restaurant reviews that appear in New York Press, Strausbaugh should refrain from insulting those who do the job well.

    S. Dempsey, Manhattan

    John Strausbaugh replies: The presumably pseudonymous "S" finds the writing in New York Press so trite and amateurish he/she/it reads it cover to cover and writes us one of these withering little review-letters every single week. God, we must really suck.


    Ten Pennywise Who would have believed my stepson, George Tabb, could actually write a tech column ("Byte Me")? He has 10 thumbs, a computer that I have to fix every time he fucks it up and he doesn’t even know how to use a plunger when he clogs up my toilet. Sometimes they say idiots can be savants. I assure you that with George this is not the case. But congratulations anyway, George. And by the way, that "thing" you hit with a hammer is called a "nail."

    Nick Gurwitz, Manhattan

    Chile Today You guys must be napping at the editorial desk. I mean, I expect and appreciate an ideological viewpoint a little to the right of my own from New York Press, but I appreciate it because it’s reasoned. Gives the old thinkin’ box a workout.

    Anyway, a couple of critiques.

    First of all, Christopher Caldwell’s 2/2 "Hill of Beans": "Is he saying that Congress has for years been authorizing projects without having the money to pay for them?"

    Really, Chris. It’s called a budget deficit. Been the rule for the past few decades? You might want to look into it next time you do a bit on spending.

    Also, on the Elian Gonzalez tip. Personally, I’m a little sick and tired of hearing how awful it would be to send the poor boy back to communist Cuba. As far as I can tell, no one (who’s not a rabid Cuban expatriate) has any real hard evidence that the system down there is that much more "oppressive" than the one we have here. Do the Cubans have more prisoners than unemployed? How about massive racial division and an astronomical gap between the rich and poor? Not that it’s all wine and roses, but come on. If Elian were from one of those fledgling "democracies," maybe Pinochet’s Chile, or Haiti even, I don’t think this debate would be happening. The Cold War’s over, people, get used to it. Just because they’re commies doesn’t mean they’re evil.

    And speaking of Pinochet and Chile, who really appreciates Taki’s Old World, old-money bullshit? His 2/2 column was devoted to (basically) saying that Pinochet wasn’t a bad guy because the preceding regime was, allegedly, more oppressive and there are worse men walking free.

    That’s ridiculous! That’s like me horribly beating a man and then alleging my immunity to prosecution because a) if I hadn’t beat him severely it’s likely that some other meaner person would have shot him in the head, and b) there are hundreds of known murderers (Vietnam vets, CIA operatives, etc.) walking around totally free.

    And the "show trial" business. Reaching a bit there, aren’t we? Is Taki suggesting that 84-year-old people with failing health are not to answer for their crimes? What if a sick 84-year-old were–to use the old trap question–to abduct one of Taki’s close friends and torture him/her with electrical shocks and sexual assault? We wouldn’t want a show trial then, would we? The funniest thing to me is that the whole column is supposedly an attack on British hypocrisy. Sure the whole legal maneuvering has been a bit on the shady side, but I would hope you could put together a better argument than that.

    Makes me wonder if Taki and Pinochet ever swilled brandy and smoked cigars together. Makes me wonder a lot of things.

    Josh Koenig, Manhattan

    Tanks and Hummers Ain’t it interesting, our alternative takes on teen sex, as reported in the 1/26 New York Press.

    In one instance, Jim Holt ("Top Drawer") cites the remarks of a 14-year-old boy in a national magazine to the effect that all the girls want to do "is be eaten out" and that in turn the boys form "trains" to be fellated by eager girls.

    In another, in the cover story on the Waco carnage ("Hillary’s Holocaust"), we see speculation as to whether Branch Davidian David Koresh "diddled little girls."

    In the first case, teen sex is the entertaining subject of a Talk magazine cover article.

    In the latter case, it’s the occasion for a small army of gun-toting federal agents busting into someone’s residence.

    Strange times, indeed.

    S. Hoyroshi, Manhattan