MIRACLE ON 32ND STREET

Queens, NY

Imagine my dismay when my wife somehow misplaced our December 12 issue of The Nation before I’d had a chance to read it. I’d nearly given up hope when I received the following letter in the mail:

Dear Trent Hamann,
  What are the odds that the circulation director of The Nation would see this copy of The Nation that was apparently dropped on 32nd Street near Penn Station, step on it, recognize the open ripped page, pick it up, tape the ripped page, add another clean copy and mail it back to its rightful owner?
  Thanks for subscribing.
  Art Stupar

Yes, this letter arrived in an envelope with my lost, stepped-on and salvaged copy along with a fresh crisp new one. Almost too good to be true. I just had to share this miraculous story with other Nation readers. Thank you, Art Stupar, and thank you, Nation! You can count me as a subscriber for life.

TRENT HAMANN


BUT IF IT WERE VIAGRA…

Brooklyn, NY

The FDA’s most recent stall on the morning-after pill is a sexist insult [“In Fact…,” Dec. 12]. The GAO report shows that the FDA’s decision-making process has been corrupted by right-wing fundamentalists. But American women are fighting back. In January 2005 a lawsuit was filed on behalf of myself and eight other women against the FDA. The suit, Tummino v. von Eschenbach, charges that the FDA’s refusal to grant over-the-counter access to Plan B discriminates against women. All of the plaintiffs in the suit are part of the Morning-After Pill Conspiracy, a feminist coalition that sponsored a sit-in at the FDA. We blocked access to the FDA just the way the FDA is blocking women’s access to contraception.

ANNIE TUMMINO



CORNBREAD ENCOUNTERS

Wilmington, NC

I read with interest Bob Moser’s “Cornbread and Roses” [Nov. 28]. I have had the opportunity to hear John Edwards speak in person several times. The impact he has on a crowd is unbelievable. When Edwards enters a room it is a magic I can’t describe. His optimism and sincerity shine. I watched an exhausted Edwards, dealing with presidential defeat and his wife’s cancer, shake hands with every person who turned out in Wilmington on his thank-you tour. I watched him connect with the old and the young, black and white, rich and poor, and I believe they all walked away with the impression that this is someone who really cares.

I, like Moser, compare him to Robert Kennedy, and I believe his concern for the poor is real. He may very well be the one man who can bring this country back together and blend red and blue as well as black and white. To quote what Bobby said so many times: “Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream things that never were and ask why not.” I dream that one day John Edwards will be President, and I know that I am not alone.

ANN MAGUIRE


I’LL BE BACK–RIGHT?

San Diego

Re Marc Cooper’s “Arnold Show: Canceled” [Nov. 28], we have a new nickname for Arnie here in California: The ONE-TERMinator.

TOM ABLES


‘SNOWFLAKES’ & SUGAR PLUMS

Beavercreek, Ohio

Patricia Williams’s “Genes, Genius and Genies” [Nov. 21] highlights an important issue: that the “pro-life” movement is really “pro-birth.” If they were pro-life, we would not have hundreds of thousands of children waiting to be adopted. Fifteen years ago, the pastor of our church said in a sermon that it was not enough to peacefully picket abortion clinics. We must care for the born as well as the unborn. Therefore, after the service he would have a sign-up sheet for families to pledge to adopt a child through the county adoption system regardless of the child’s background, physical condition, race, religion or age. After the service, attended by more than 300, not one person signed up to adopt a child, in a county with more than 750 children waiting for adoption. The pastor had no problem signing up 125 to picket a local abortion clinic.

MICHAEL CORCORAN


Philadelphia

Patricia Williams highlights issues that go beyond the right-to-life position as “personified” in the “snowflake” embryo. It is brilliant on many levels to call these frozen embryos “snowflakes.” It evokes frailty and uniqueness and implies perfection, purity and, perhaps for some, whiteness. But genetic uniqueness is not the same as individuality, as Williams explains, since these embryos haven’t acquired personhood. They exist as abstractions, frozen in suspended animation–Platonic forms of the potential perfect child. One can project onto them not only one’s fantasies of the ideal child but also a flawless, or at least better, extension of oneself. It is not surprising that some would prefer to adopt such an embryo than to open their hearts and homes to one of the many not-so-perfect postborn children in need of an adoptive family.

STEPHEN E. LEVICK, MD


Rockville, Md.

Patricia Williams’s excellent column has a sentence that could be misunderstood: “Pre-embryonic status is thus not a biological designation but rather a new legal category.” “Pre-embryo” is an embryological term covering the first two weeks of development after fertilization. Fertilization results in a single cell with a new and unique DNA structure, with the potential to become one or more new individuals. During the seven to ten days following fertilization, at least half of pre-embryos do not implant in the uterus, failing to start a pregnancy. At about fourteen days after fertilization, most pre-embryos develop one, sometimes more, piling of cells, called the primitive streak–the beginning of an embryo that will develop into a fetus. When no primitive streak develops the pre-embryo dies, and if more than one streak develops they continue to develop as embryos in a multiple pregnancy.

These possibilities led a prominent Catholic theologian, Father Norman Ford, to conclude in his book When Did I Begin? that it could not have been earlier than two weeks after fertilization. Hence he recommends that the term “embryo” should be used only after a primitive streak appears. So pre-embryonic status may become a new legal category, but “pre-embryo” is a precise biological term with an important meaning.

JOSE S. BARZELATTO, MD
Vice president, The Center for Health and Social Policy


REAL ‘SNOWFLAKES’ NEED PRE-K…

Troy, Idaho

David Kirp’s “Before School” [Nov. 21], about pre-K schooling for all youngsters, is compelling. Free Speech TV broadcast an equally compelling documentary, Origins of Human Aggression, produced by the Canadian Center for Early Childhood Development, which shows visually the same issues Kirp articulates in print. Early pre-school quality/substantive care and funding are crucial. Without them we face enormous social problems and ever increasing incarceration rates.

CHUCK BROSCIOUS


…AND PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Dummerston, Vt.

In “On the Wal-Mart Money Trail” [Nov. 21], Liza Featherstone speculates that the motive behind the Walton family’s funding of public school privatization schemes is “ideological, even idealistic, rather than…a new money-making scheme.” But one of Wal-Mart’s biggest costs after labor is property taxes, most of which fund public schools. Most public school teachers and staff are unionized. Most private school workers are nonunion and make less money. Replacing public schools with private ones would save Wal-Mart billions.

EESHA WILLIAMS


MISLED? SPEAK FOR YOURSELF

Corte Madera, Calif.

I totally agree with “Culture of Collusion” [Nov. 14] but have a gripe. You write that Bush “misled” the American people, which implies that we the people bought what Bush was selling. Obviously some did, but I know many who did not, including the hundreds of thousands of peace marchers all across the country who fought hard to stop the war before it began. I, for one, was never misled by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld or Rice, or by Colin Powell’s charade at the UN. I doubt many of you were either. For any intelligent person willing to look into it, the farce was pretty transparent. We were not misled. We were ignored.

JAI FLICKER


Bethel Park, Pa.

As the lies, deceits and incompetence of the Bush Administration become known, we should stop referring to George Bush and his acolytes as neocons. We should call them what they are: neo con men.

KENNETH L. KAUFMAN


Cobourg, Ontario, Canada

As the mighty cabal crumbles (Delay, “Scooter,” Abramoff, Rove, et al.), this period in US history might aptly be called Days of Blunder (with apologies to Bruckheimer). Keep telling the truth!

BARBARA JORDAN


ECCLESIASTES/ECCLESIASTICUS

Phillip Lopate, in “Agee’s Gospel” [Dec. 5], repeats a widely held misconception, identifying the title of James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men as a verse from the Old Testament’s book of Ecclesiastes. It is, in fact, the first verse of Chapter 44 of the Apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus, or Sirach: “Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers in their generations.”