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In his opening column of the first bi-weekly issue [TAP, November 23, 1999], Bob Kuttner asks readers to respond with their reactions to the new Prospect. I think it is excellent, and I hope that a broader audience can indeed be reached. You are doing excellent, vital work.
Health Policy Ph.D. Program
Harvard University
Cambridge, MA


As a charter subscriber, I am writing to congratulate you on the new look and format of The American Prospect. Being published every two weeks will allow Prospect editors and writers to have a more immediate impact on public debate. A more widely read Prospect also will help strengthen liberal voices in the year leading up to the 2000 elections. I wish you the best of luck with this endeavor.


Cambridge, MA


Congratulations on, and thank you for your new, developing magazine format and Web site. As one of your very satisfied print magazine subscribers, I always look forward to receiving your excellent, informative, thought-provoking, substantive publication. Now I am happy to know I can look forward to receiving it and enjoying its contents biweekly as well as to visiting you more often on the Internet.


San Marino, California


Congratulations on your new format. I have been reading The American Prospect for some years now, with much relief that there are actual liberals out there. I am looking forward to its biweekly publication. I must admit I like the shorter articles, and I think little is lost because the condensation forces the writers to focus their--and our--minds. I don't have to skim, searching for the author's point, while I think, "Get on with it. I have a dozen other things to do."


Via e-mail



Defending the First Amendment by dismissing the potentially harmful effects that media portrayals of violence can have on children [Wendy Kaminer, "The Politics of Sanctimony," TAP, November 23, 1999] is as simplistic as proposing to solve the problem of school-yard killings by bringing sectarianism back into the public schools.

Numerous studies by reputable social scientists demonstrate a relationship between media violence and antisocial behavior ranging from increased aggression to lack of empathy for victims.

The preservation of civil rights is essential to a healthy democracy, but minimizing the complexity of societal problems in that service is not constructive. Those of us who feel equally passionate about free speech, nonsectarian public schools, and the well-being of children should be grappling with some hard questions:

Do corporations have the right to use glamorized violence to market their products (including violent films and television programs)? Do they have the right to market violence to children through advertising aired when children are likely to be watching television, listening to the radio, or watching a film?

Is overt or covert marketing to children protected by the First Amendment? If so, do children need protection from the potentially harmful effects of that marketing? Are there ways to effectively inoculate children against manipulation by media corporations and the corporations who advertise through the media? Can individual families do this alone? Do parents have the right to information about the content of media products to which their children may be exposed? If so, how can we best provide that information?

We shouldn't have to choose between the First Amendment and the health and well-being of children.
Associate Director, Media Center at the
Judge Baker Children's Center
Instructor in Psychiatry,
Harvard Medical School
Boston, MA



Jane Rosenzweig has much of value to say about the portrayal of girls and women on television ["Ally McBeal's Younger Sisters," TAP, November 23, 1999], but her analysis would have been sharper still if she had paid more attention to the marketing tactics behind the shows themselves. Networks and advertisers see TV shows as devices for framing commercials and conditioning viewers to be more receptive to advertising messages. It follows, of course, that they see TV viewers as an assortment of niche markets, not as a continuum through which today's Buffys become tomorrow's Allys.

It is no surprise that shows that portray teenage girls as perceptive, complex, confident human beings appeal to their audience. The more interesting question is why so many people in the business seem to believe that portraying adult women as shallow and insecure will make them more willing to buy advertised commodities.


Brooklyn, NY



As one who has litigated and won but a single case before the U.S. Supreme Court--a denial of certiorari in an election-law case of little fundamental significance--I hesitate to argue with former U.S. Solicitor General Charles Fried. He is much more a lawyer than a politician, while the reverse is true for me. Yet I am encouraged that his argument and choice of forum are more political than legal, circumstances that seem to concede that affirmative action will not likely go out quietly by judicial decision making ["Captive Labor" TAP, September-October 1999].

For the past 26 years, I have represented a state legislative district with substantial numbers of African-American, Asian, and Latino people. Like almost every other legislative district in America, my district has consistently had a female majority. It is composed of people with middle-class values struggling to achieve middle-class incomes.

Because of their demonstrated interest in jobs, I have made many efforts to inform my constituents about specific opportunities existing in the Philadelphia-area job market. From our numerous discussions, I have learned two important things about job applicants: First, few people seek opportunities that either do not exist or are highly unlikely to exist. Second, the vast majority of employees get many of their jobs in a somewhat random fashion. The truth is, the structure of opportunity matters. It matters whether people think they have a chance to gain a position before they seek to qualify themselves for it. In a famous speech representative of 1950s social thought, Adlai Stevenson told graduates of a prestigious women's college about the great contributions they could make to American society as homemakers. Today, affirmative action tells women, blacks, Latinos, and Asians of the great contributions they can make to American society as workers. This is a message they need to hear.

We will have a color-blind society only when color is irrelevant to personality, life experiences, surroundings, culture, aspirations, and income. It is ludicrous to assume that America would be one big, happy family if only affirmative action were eliminated. The argument is analogous to the former Soviet Union's claim that Jews would be treated equally if only they did not practice their religion.
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Democratic Caucus



As a recent graduate of the University of Chicago--where, as chair of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) chapter on campus, I spent more than a little time doing sweatshop activism--I read Richard Appelbaum and Peter Dreier's recent article on sweatshop activism with some trepidation ["The Campus Anti-Sweatshop Movement," TAP, September-October 1999]. Almost every author, even in the progressive media, tends to play up the heroic tale of young activists rather than the plodding tale of progressive activists finally getting some funding and institutional support. Dreier and Appelbaum deserve a lot of credit for explaining the more truthful story--and especially UNITE's role in it-- while, for the most part, leaving the hyperbolic, heroic tale behind.

By focusing on the sit-ins and the like, however, Dreier and Appelbaum miss an important piece of activism. At the University of Chicago commencement ceremony, they note toward the end of their article, President Clinton did mention child labor and the need for stronger labor protections. But he didn't come to the university--historically a neoliberal bastion--to fight rhetorically against child labor (much less fight the ideology of neoliberalism or free trade). Instead, his speech was intended to be the kickoff for a new, lower-profile effort to gain fast-track trade authority.

When a small group of activists, most affiliated with the DSA or the antisweatshop coalition, criticized the president's intended agenda, he changed his speech, instead addressing the issue of fair versus free trade.

This unexpected presidential acknowledgment brought our activism into the media spotlight. It's not often that people get to use the evening news to explain why the current form of globalization is leveling living standards around the world.

We got that chance.
Young Democratic Socialists
Via e-mail
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Publication:The American Prospect
Date:Dec 6, 1999
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