The Bronx, NY

The good old Nation has done it again. A terrific front cover by Art Spiegelman on the May 5 issue. But three pages later (“Tomorrow in Baghdad”) we are told that “the only claim of legitimacy the Administration can make for the war it misled America into is that it was a humanitarian war to liberate an oppressed people.” Whence the legitimacy?

Are we back to condoning unilateral humanitarian intervention, in contravention of the bedrock principle of the United Nations Charter that the use of force by one nation against another is legitimate only as self-defense against an actual armed attack? Which oppressed people will a “coalition of the willing” bomb into liberation next, by leave of Nation editors? North Korea, Iran, Syria, Libya, Cuba? A sincere and vigorous human rights program would be welcome from this or any Administration, starting with, say, Saudi Arabia, Russia or China. But not with total war as the means to that end.



Ashland, Mass.

Stephen Cohen’s May 5 editorial “Are We Safer?” is spot on. He has nailed the issues as they need to be articulated. Those people of conscience (the left) who were against the war failed to articulate Cohen’s points. The warmongers and their mass supporters successfully sloganeered the war around patriotism and the flag, while the left could not effectively respond.

Patriotism should be sold (I hate phrasing it this way) in terms of the question, Are we more secure now than we were before the war? And showing where, why and how we’re in even more danger. As a patriot, I want to shield my country from further harm and antagonism, not provoke it. Sadly, most Americans don’t want to hear a cogent argument, just a bullet point on a PowerPoint presentation. As business does, that is the way we should sell the antiwar. Going forward, the left must reduce Cohen’s questions to bumper-sticker format and beat that bumper-sticker drum.



Brooklyn, NY

Thank you for placing Janeane Garofalo on the April 28 subscription-ad page. My two roommates and I, all in our mid-20s, are avid Nation readers, and it is refreshing to see someone whose hair is not yet gray representing the face of Nation readers.


Janeane Garofalo is just the beginning. See page 28 and upcoming issues. –The Editors


Voorhees, NJ

Robert L. Borosage, in “Sacrifice Is for Suckers” [April 28], expands nicely on my own view of George W.’s effort. It’s a war with class– fought mainly by the working class, for the benefit of the upper class and (sooner or later) paid for by the middle class. At first I thought our President had discovered something new, but I quickly realized that wars have always been done this way–another reason to oppose them.



New York City

The Communications Workers of America has a contract to negotiate with Verizon this summer. And it used The Nation as its soapbox in preparation for that bargaining by attacking Verizon in “Telecom Labor Rising,” by Larry Cohen and Steve Early [April 28].

The problems in the telecom industry are not of Verizon’s making. The entire industry is hurting, and everyone knows that. Wireless and cable companies are making dramatic inroads, regulatory decisions force companies like Verizon to subsidize our competitors, the poor economy has meant spending cutbacks by our customers. All these factors taken together have had a dramatic effect on our business and industry. In order to continue to provide jobs and great customer service, we must respond.

The truth is, last year Verizon had 15 percent fewer service complaints from customers, and 24 percent fewer complaints directed to state regulators. At the same time, J.D. Power and Associates and other consumer organizations recognized Verizon for strong service.

Unfortunately, the CWA hasn’t done its part to help improve the situation. When Verizon appealed to the union late last year to help address the problem of a drastically reduced workload, it refused to seriously discuss Verizon’s proposals. When the company offered a tough but fair proposal that would have avoided many layoffs, the union came up with a proposal that called for a 25 percent raise within a year, eight weeks of vacation and a reduced workweek for increased pay.

As conditions change, companies have to change with them or fail. Union leaders can’t seem to understand that without healthy companies, there will be no jobs–union or otherwise. The telecom sector has lost more than 500,000 jobs in the past two years, but just a tiny fraction of that has been at Verizon, another fact the article conveniently omitted.

The challenges facing the telecom industry can only be solved with creativity and cooperation on everyone’s part.



Washington, DC; Arlington, Mass.

The fact that union contract talks are about to start at Verizon hasn’t stopped its top executives from doing plenty of their own soapboxing lately–in public forums and other media outlets (with larger circulation than The Nation). Let’s start by putting last year’s layoff-related discussions in the proper factual context.

The company’s “tough but fair proposal” would merely have postponed much job loss until this August. In return, workers were asked to reopen their contract and accept a two-year wage freeze, benefit givebacks, scheduling changes, weakening of job security provisions and greater management flexibility to contract out locally or transfer work from the Northeast to other parts of the country where Verizon operates with lower labor costs.

Shortly before these demands were made, the company posted third-quarter results, which included a doubling of net income due to asset sales, investments and what the Wall Street Journal called “a solid operating performance…buoyed by strong gains at Verizon Wireless.” Needless to say–even when threatened with downsizing–local union leaders rejected such major concessions, as they will again in bargaining this summer.

Peter Thonis ignores management’s responsibility for the problems that VZ does face. The company’s current cost-cutting drive is designed to reduce an enormous debt load built up during an acquisition binge that saddled it with $12 billion worth of bad deals. In New York, VZ’s reduction in jobs (23 percent) and capital spending (34 percent) is totally disproportionate to the decline in local access lines (3.9 percent) and revenue (5.8 percent). Service quality has suffered as a result, which is why the New York Public Service Commission is expected this month to order a $15 million consumer rebate for substandard service.

Thonis has “conveniently omitted” another important fact. One of the cellular companies “making dramatic inroads” into VZ’s landline customer base is… Verizon Wireless, its own subsidiary. In contrast to Cingular Wireless, its main competitor, VZW has shown total disregard for workers’ rights to organize and bargain–in violation of the current contract. Perhaps “creativity and cooperation on everyone’s part” can solve that problem in upcoming negotiations.



San Diego

While washing dishes this afternoon I found my mind drifting back to the words of Susan J. Douglas in her April 28 review [“The New Globetrotters”] of Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Global Woman: Nannies, Maids and Sex Workers in the New Economy:

“All women who employ nannies” she writes, “are not Cruella DeVil; many are frazzled, guilty and hate being made complicit in a system of racial domination. But sometimes they really do not have a choice.” I am reminded of George Herbert Walker Bush declaring that sanctions against South Africa would not work, because American women couldn’t live without their diamonds.

Every woman who refuses to make herself complicit in a system of racial domination does so at a price. Often the price is fairly low–having a messy house, for example. Other times the price is extremely high. I, for one, have chosen not to have children if I am unable to care for them myself. Isn’t this what policy-makers have been preaching to poor women for years?



Columbus, Ohio

Thank you for the most sensible article on torture I’ve seen, Eyal Press’s “In Torture We Trust?” [March 31]. You point out that the “ticking bomb” example is phony, that torture isn’t about saving lives but about reinforcing the belief that your “enemy” is less human than you are, and that the torturer does not come away unscathed.


Washington, DC

On behalf of the members of TASSC, each of whom is a survivor of torture, I write to thank you for confronting the US government on an issue many seek to ignore. The Nation‘s commitment to truth gives us the courage to keep knocking on the doors and consciences of our world’s leaders.

Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International


Hope, Me.

With apologies to Calvin Trillin. (Picture Bush, Powell and Cheney in nuns’ habits):

How do you solve a problem like Korea?
How do you stop a nuclear Iran?
Don’t bother to ask us how
Just shut up–we’ll bomb them now
And set up refugees in a Bushistan…