Pot Calls Kettle Pervert
New York City
JoAnn Wypijewski accurately portrays Christine Quinn as a tool for the real estate lobby and a shameless opportunist [“Carnal Knowledge,” Aug. 19/26], but to suggest that Anthony Weiner’s pathological behavior is akin to a sexual preference that will one day be tolerated is ludicrous. It is OK for a woman to prefer to have sex with another woman, so long as she does not post her genitalia on Twitter for women half her age while in a committed relationship, then lie about it for a week, do it again right before deciding to run for mayor and finally compare herself to Nelson Mandela, as Weiner did. A candidate being criticized for untrustworthy behavior by a rival who happens to be a lesbian is not the pot calling the kettle black. Weiner deserves condemnation.
New York City
Willy-nilly, Jonathan Beatrice and other readers whose knees snapped in synchronous reflex illustrate my point, which is that a sex scandal says more about the social order than about the wretched sod making headlines. A person may be stupid or reckless or simply following a call of nature which that social order has deemed twisted (as in the case of homosexuals when Quinn was born, though not as much today), but the particular act is less interesting than the web of rules, assumptions, official lies and mores that declare some acts disgusting and others wholesome. We are all caught in that web—Weiner, Quinn, Beatrice, me—simply by existing here, today. We can reinforce it, conform to it, work to dismantle it, but as thinking people rather than mankurts we have to recognize it and our own relation to its power. Beatrice et al. have no time for thought; every question is reduced to opinion: for or against. So it is OK for women to have sex together (what a relief!), though with provisos. Why OK or not OK? Why the provisos? Why must Huma Abedin be a martyr, and the women in receipt of Weiner’s silly tweets victims? There is nothing intrinsically good or right about a culture’s web of assumptions. Questioning it is a starting point for ethics and politics. Everything else is a cut-price TMZ.
Bradley/Chelsea Manning’s Trials
After seeing Chase Madar’s “The Trials of Bradley Manning” [Aug. 19/26], I can only second the question by letter writer Jerry Mobley in the same issue: “Are all the adults [at The Nation] on vacation?”
DONALD J. DUPIER
Chase Madar’s analysis of the Bradley Manning prosecution is a compelling and persuasive defense not only of Manning but of the terrifying growth of suppression of free speech and information in America. Madar’s article was brilliant, worthy of Manning’s act of patriotism.
Chase Madar wrote a great article on Chelsea Manning. Madar may have a point about how the human rights community did not do enough to support Manning, but we find the sweeping generalization quite surprising, given that from the beginning, the Center for Constitutional Rights has worked extensively on TV, radio and print to shed light on the importance of Manning’s actions and her outrageous fate, while the people responsible for the war crimes she exposed go free. Moreover, the CCR represented Glenn Greenwald, Amy Goodman, The Nation and Jeremy Scahill, Julian Assange, Kevin Gosztola and Madar himself in a lawsuit challenging government secrecy about the trial. In the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and then in federal district court, we fought tooth and nail until the government agreed to provide ongoing press access to documents in the court-martial. The Manning case is a defining issue of our time. We admire Manning’s courage and will continue working to honor her patriotism and achieve her freedom.
VINCENT WARREN, executive director
Center for Constitutional Rights
Vincent Warren is correct—the CCR has stood apart from other rights groups in its strong and unequivocal advocacy for Chelsea Manning from the very start. All the same, the mostly timid response of other human rights groups to Manning and the contents of her leaks is instructive and extends beyond the whistleblower’s case to the shocking contents of her disclosures.
For example, the aerial slaughter filmed from the gunsight camera of a US Apache helicopter gunship of roughly a dozen civilians on a Baghdad street, including two Reuters employees: this is the most widely viewed wartime atrocity in history. Yet neither Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch or Human Rights First issued a condemnation or comment on this massacre, even after the video went viral. Staff of the latter two told me the reason for their groups’ silence is that the laws of armed conflict—as they actually exist—are at best muddy regarding this act of slaughter, serving more to authorize the helicopter crew’s lethal assault than to restrain it. Manning’s leaked video (see collateralmurder.com) reveals something far more chilling than a war crime; it shows the grotesque reality of “international humanitarian law” as applied to a real-life massacre—failing utterly to protect civilians while providing legal cover to the heavily armed perpetrators. It is a backhanded tribute to the power of law just how many atrocities are not illegal.
Trayvon: Getting It Right
Many fine journalists have tried to solve the Trayvon Martin puzzle—how a young fellow walking with sweets and ice tea could be viewed as a horrifying killer—but only Patricia Williams has the intelligence, compassion and insight to put the pieces together [“The Monsterization of Trayvon Martin,” Aug. 19/26]. Her skilled writing clearly illuminated the weaknesses of the prosecution and the insidious, overwrought racist (thereby successful) approach of the defense. Particularly moving is Williams’s portrayal of Don West’s vile bullying of Rachel Jeantel.
Correction & Clarification
In William Greider’s “Fed Up With Summers” [Aug. 19/26], Robert Rubin was mistakenly referred to as Bill Clinton’s first treasury secretary. Lloyd Bentsen was Clinton’s first treasury secretary (1993–94). Rubin served from 1995 to 1999.
In Jon Wiener’s “Inside the Coursera Hype Machine” [Sept. 23] it was stated that neither iTunes U nor YouTube offers anything like the Coursera system, “in which a particular course starts on a specific date, with video lectures uploaded every week.” The iTunes U iPad app, however, offers some “in-session” classes with a start date.