"STUMBLING SCHWARZENEGGER," by Marc Cooper
I cannot respect the indifference Marc Cooper (and indeed, virtually all commentary, liberal or conservative, I have read on this referendum) displays to redistricting reform. The rapidly growing non-competitiveness of Congressional races ought to make redistricting reform a no-brainer, particularly for a paper as historically committed to criticizing failures of American democracy as The Nation. This issue is especially important in California, where in the last election cycle not a single seat in the state legislature changed party affiliations. Not one. This, unfortunately, seems to be a harbinger of where elections across the country are headed, as incumbents become more audacious in their gerrymandering of districts (Tom Delay being the best-known case). The death of popular democracy in California is an issue vastly more important than anything else on California's ballot, and it is wrong for Cooper to relegate it to a single mention in his article. The Nation should come out in support of all serious attempts at redistricting reform, whether proposed by Republicans or by Democrats.
Silver Spring, MD
"TEAR GAS IN THE ANDES," by Christian Parenti
In response to Christian Parenti's "Tear Gas in the Andes" and John Alexander's letter defending the use of tear gas by Bolivian police, Parenti was clearly describing, not judging, the use of the gas. The article was about the protests and their aims; tear gas merely lent well to an evocative headline. But, regarding tear gas in Bolivia, while it is obviously preferable to more lethal weapons, it is an issue worthy of consideration. First, tear gas--which can be lethal, particularly for the sick, elderly, or small children--has often been grossly overused by Bolivian police. I have seen it launched into or around hospitals and orphanages, and its use in February 2000 against anti-water privatization marchers in Cochabamba was a major factor in inflaming those protests, putting more lives in danger. Secondly, that's our tear gas. During one particularly bloody episode in Bolivia in the late 1990s, a DEA agent at the US Embassy in La Paz said to me, "Who do you think is supplying all the tear gas, rubber bullets, vehicles, and other equipment?" Under the guise of the Drug War, the United States provides Bolivian security forces with a wide array of weaponry and gear used in the violent repression of popular movements there (most of which have nothing to do with coca). US citizens are all, then, involved in what is happening today in the streets of Bolivia.
Christian Parenti's article adds nothing new (except the latest news which we all read in the assorted dailies) and leaves out any discussion of why people are in the streets in the first place. Instead of examining the role of the IMF, or the economic threats of gas multinationals, for example, Parenti prefers to focus on exotic personalities. It's The Nation meets People. I, like Evo Morales, will have a hard time remembering Christian Parenti and his Bolivian epic.
La Paz, Bolivia
"PATTERN OF DECEPTION PERSISTS IN TILLMAN'S DEATH," by Robert Scheer
What this Administration has done to the dignity and respect of the Tillman family is an abomination. An immediate apology from the Commander in Chief is warranted. George Bush's actions should tell the American people what his priorities really are in his war-making agenda: no admission of mistakes and no admission of wrongdoing, especially in using the death of a brave American to "fix the policy." I doubt that the president was kept in the dark for weeks concerning the truth about the facts surrounding the death of Pat Tillman. George Bush knew what happened, how it happened, and when it happened. Taking advantage of a man's death for personal benefit shows you how low this president will go.
"AFTER DOWNING STREET," by Steve Cobble
Thanks to Steve Cobble for his article on the Downing Street Memo, and to Rep. John Conyers for launching an investigation into whether the President committed impeachable offenses by dragging the US into a pre-emptive war based on possibly false pretenses. It was also good to see Katrina vanden Heuvel on CNN, keeping the "Memo" story alive, which remains a well-kept secret in the mainstream American media. I hope The Nation will continue to investigate and report this story, which is of the utmost importance to our country.