Letters from our readers.
Aug. 21 1998 3:30 AM

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Getting Busy About Izzy

Having recently engaged in these pages in a debate with Ellen Shrecker on the topic of McCarthyism and communism, I am rather astounded to see on Aug. 11 that in a discussion of Dean Acheson in "The Book Club," Eric Alterman refers to wasting part of his time last week engaging in a debate with David Horowitz and me--after referring to us as "professional red-baiters." This is a prime example, I must point out, of McCarthyism of the left.

Alterman does not let readers know what I posted about Izzy Stone on the H-Diplo Web discussion group. Those who look it up will find that it hardly classifies as a slander of Stone. I note that I knew him, spent time with him, and point out that although he was pro-Soviet in the '40s and inexplicably blamed the Korean War on U.S. aggression against North Korea, he had clearly changed his views and become strongly anti-Soviet after the '50s. Moreover, I even wrote that "Alterman is correct to note that on many specific cases, Stone clearly took positions diametrically opposed to the current Communist Party line." In what way are these comments a slander of Stone? True, I do argue that the Venona files show that the KGB made an approach to Stone and that until further documentation is made available, we have no evidence to either confirm or deny that Stone ever took the bait.

I think Alterman believes that only if one exonerates Stone on the basis of insufficient evidence, then and only then is his argument worthy of attention.


Alterman clearly believes that one is kosher only if he is an anti-anti-Communist. One hopes that Izzy Stone's reputation will outlive the weak and pathetic defense of it made by Eric Alterman.

--Ron RadoshBrookville, Md.

Eric Alterman replies:

One rule of thumb I have learned over my 38 years is "never get into a pissing match with Ron Radosh or David Horowitz unless you're getting paid a lot of money." Ellen Shrecker received what I assume to be her princessly sum to do it in these pages, plus she had an excellent book to defend. I have no such incentive.


I will say this: I don't blame Radosh for hating my guts. When I was getting paid to write about him in The Nation, I covered the uproar at George Washington University when the Olin Foundation tried, unsuccessfully, to foist him on its history department, even agreeing to pay all his freight. Didn't work. In the article, I quoted his son--quite a good writer named Danny Radosh--who observed in print that his father, driven by ideology, had attacked a close friend of his without any knowledge of her true politics or any attempt to discover them by asking. That had to hurt, and I felt kinda bad about it.

I don't feel so bad today, except that I am doing this for free. Radosh and Horowitz now make a career of screaming at the people who hold more principled and sophisticated versions of the politics to which they were so attached for much of their lives. Still, they can't help stepping on their own feet, so to speak, when they do it. In the aforementioned "discussion" on H-Diplo, Radosh tried to hold up Michael Harrington as a "good leftist" compared with a bastard like me. He forgot to mention that one of Harrington's last acts on this planet was to draw himself away from his cancer treatments to reply to a Ronald Radosh attack in the Partisan Review. The dying man's crime: insufficient anti-Communism. Lately, on H-Diplo as well, Radosh has taken to calling the politics of the magazine where I work, The Nation, "Stalinoid." This is a word with the moral force of "Nazi" or "Hitlerite," invoking purges and mass murder. Radosh should be ashamed.

Before You Binge ...

Three points regarding Jonathan Rauch's Aug. 13 "Temperance Kills":


1) Every drink damages one's body by killing brain cells. While the loss of brain cells is to be preferred over loss of life, ideally one could preserve both.

2) There are measures that can reduce one's risk of heart disease without damaging one's body: moderate exercise and a vegetarian diet are two.

3) Dr. Eric Rimm, cited in the piece, may want to consider that the prevalence of studies affirming the medicinal benefits of alcohol may be related to the prevalence of businesses wishing to sell alcohol. I'm not questioning the studies' findings; rather, I'm suggesting that studies predicting the benefits of less marketable findings--say, that a cup of lentils a day reduces the risk of heart attack--are less likely to find funding.

--Jim Stoicheff Jr.Seattle


An Enquiry

In his Aug. 10 "Flytrap Today," David Plotz wrote, "A National Enquirer story, probably based on a White House leak, ..."

Is Plotz serious??? When was the last time anyone thought a National Enquirer piece was based on anything other than a catchy headline? If this is now passing for evidence upon which to base conclusions, then punditry speculation has truly spun out of control.

--Michael Carr Washington

Feed the Greed

James Surowiecki's Aug. 13 "Moneybox" accuses boards of directors and senior executives of collusion in their executive compensation practices. The solution, then, must come from the shareholders themselves.

Why haven't shareholders dumped stock of companies that overcompensate executives? Probably because they know that senior executives are marketable commodities and can get the big money somewhere else. If a high-tech company's board decides to institute an employee pay ratio based on "fairness," its top management won't take the pay cut. They will seek higher pay at the company's competitor.

Not paying the market wage is economic suicide. While accountants may not be able to cost-justify executive pay, when faced with the alternative of executive mass defection, boards of directors have an easy decision.

--Dan FlynnBoston

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