February 5, 2003




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Our pals the libertarians

Let's try to remember who our enemies really are ...

Katherine Mieszkowski's column "Free to Be" [Culture Shocked, 1/22/03] reads like a left-wing version of the Limbaugh Letter; all libertarians are made to look like whacko extremists. Yet if you look at the Web site for the group in question (the Free State Project), you see a list of core values that are also held by the progressive left. Namely: less military spending, no war on Iraq, drug decriminalization, and gay marriage. Also, you have to give them credit, these capitalists actually want to institute some real semblance of true capitalism (not the rampant cronyism that defines "free trade" today).

With what looks like a second Gulf War headed our way, I think it's an inappropriate time to be bashing peaceful, antiwar libertarians.

Ross Bale

San Francisco

The IWW in Park City

Re: B. Ruby Rich on Sundance, "The Company You Keep," (1/29/03).

It's the Industrial Workers of the World, not International (my grandfather was a Wobbly in rural Oklahoma, and I've written about it in my book, Red Dirt – Verso, 1997).

The context for the film being shown in Park City should not have been hilarious at all. That locale was one of the battlegrounds for the IWW fighting the mine owners, U.S. government troops, and Pinkertons. The old city jail is now a museum that features that story and the jail cells where the Wobblies scratched their slogans into the stone walls. Nearby, a Wobbly troubadour and organizer was hung in Salt Lake City. It's too bad that apparently the organizers and documentarian Wilkerson himself didn't contextualize the film. But perhaps that would be too real. Hilarity is so much more fun.

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz


Ruby Rich responds: Of course I know the history, been to the jail museum, revere Joe Hill, and the IWW. Just trust me on this one: nothing could be further from the spirit of those old Park City buildings than the jockeying they witness for 10 fabled days in January.

Preventing war

I enjoyed Lynn Rapoport's opinion piece, "When the Bombs Fall" (1/29/03). But I challenge Ms. Rapoport's apparent assumption that "official" war on Iraq is inevitable. I'd like to offer a more hopeful perspective.

Those of us who march (or call senators, write letters to editors, or otherwise help in the campaign for peace) are doing so to prevent this war from officially starting and to stop the unofficial war making that's already underway.

We believe peace is always preferable and always possible. We believe diplomacy and international cooperation can work wonders, because we've seen them work wonders. We expect our elected officials to share these beliefs and to act accordingly. We know that if this war does "officially" start – with an unprecedented preemptive strike by the United States – our nation's course and that of the world will be irreparably changed.

It's true we don't "have a vote in this," as Ms. Rapoport points out. Not a vote by ballot. But when we march, we vote with our bodies – knowing that the count of our marching bodies, now, will help minimize the count of body bags in the future.

No war is inevitable. Never before has a campaign for peace been so strong before a war has begun!

Bill Henslin

San Francisco

Opting for Tom

The Jan. 22 Hall Monitor column reports the plan of representatives of progressive organizations to meet regularly in an effort to determine how best to influence the upcoming mayoral race. The article further notes, with more than a hint of surprise, that not everyone in the group has yet signed on to back Tom Ammiano's candidacy. But really, there should be no surprise, for although it may seem that this campaign has been going on forever, we have only just entered into the year in which the election will actually be held. The average voter is only dimly focused on an election 10 months down the road. And in politics, no one and nothing – including "progressive activists" – should be taken for granted. People do not support candidates because conventional wisdom says they must, but because their understanding of the issues and the candidate says they should.

But when the dust has settled and the decisions are finally made, it does seem overwhelmingly likely that those whose interests lie in building a progressive electoral majority in San Francisco are going to opt for the candidate who has proven that he can beat better-financed candidates, has won real victories on major issues such as the San Francisco Living Wage Ordinance, and was instrumental in pulling together the coalition that elected a progressive majority to the Board of Supervisors in 2000 – Tom Ammiano.

Tom Gallagher

San Francisco

For the record

Last week's Letters to the Editor contained a transcription error on our part. Noah Stroe's letter "Defending Pelosi" should have read, "Pelosi is one of our enlightened representatives that realizes that this country can't possibly not condemn terrorism against Israel especially after 9/11."