Ali Kinani, 1998-2007
Thank you, Jeremy Scahill, for "Blackwater's Youngest Victim" [Feb. 22]. I was incredibly moved by Mohammed Kinani's fight to see that his son did not die in vain and that justice will be done. As a father of two young children, I cannot imagine the heartache and grief Kinani is suffering every day. Scahill has shown us that there are people on the other side we can identify with and who deserve our attention.
KEVIN M. BROWN
Thank goodness for Jeremy Scahill. His articles are always compelling, but I had not felt a deep sense of rage until I read Mohammed Kinani's account of the loss of his 9-year-old son, Ali, in Nisour Square in 2007. Kinani's admiration of America and Americans, despite this horrific loss, will be sorely misplaced if we fail to bring these Blackwater barbarians to trial. I extend my deepest sympathies to Mohammed and his family and will petition our government to pursue justice so that his simple demand for an apology can be satisfied.
This is the Nation I have been renewing my subscription for. I found myself weeping at Mohammed Kinani's description of those horrific moments that robbed his family of its youngest son, and other families of their loved ones. My heart swelled and then broke with the realization that the principles that Kinani considers to be American did not die along with his son that September day in Nisour Square. It is with a great sense of hope in those same principles that I look forward to seeing Blackwater founder Erik Prince, the six men responsible and the Blackwater company face Kinani in a North Carolina courtroom in the very near future. Please keep us updated on the trial.
J. DARRELL STRICKLAND
And Now, How About Some Democracy?
In "How to Get Our Democracy Back" [Feb. 22], Lawrence Lessig describes how enormous pools of corporate wealth have compromised the integrity and effectiveness of Congress. I agree with Lessig's analysis, but I think the core problem is vast corporate wealth that no government can regulate. As long as so much wealth remains in so few hands, we can be sure that permanent war will continue to enrich the likes of Lockheed and GE, that factory farming will continue to enrich the likes of Monsanto and ADM, and that financial bubbles will continue to enrich the Citigroups of the world.
Congress is not the problem; it's just a symptom. The multinational corporations and the government agencies that serve them--the Pentagon, Federal Reserve, USDA, etc.--will remain in control until we overturn the legal fiction of corporate personhood. Only a democratic revolution can stop them. Go to movetoamend.org to sign the petition. Congress will follow if the people lead.
In 2003 I created Ten Amendments to Take Back America. These include eliminating corporate personhood (very timely after the Citizens United case); publicly financed elections; making illegal all gifts to elected officials and candidates; free media time for all candidates; and abolition of the Electoral College, among others. These are critical to getting our democracy back (if we ever had it). We will continue to have a plutocracy unless the Constitution is thus amended. I support Professor Lessig's call for a constitutional convention and urge all your readers to do the same.
We have always been ruled by the wealthy and big business: read Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. We need to create a real democracy rather than "take back" an imaginary one. We need a constitutional amendment to overhaul the electoral process and ensure its integrity. As Lawrence Lessig states, Congress is no more likely to propose a constitutional amendment than to enact electoral reform. It falls to us, the citizens, to create an amendment and build the grassroots movement to force its adoption.
PHILIP ANDERSON, VALERIE KOZLOVSKY
Lawrence Lessig's analysis of our failing democracy needs to be Vulcan mind-melded into the brains of all Americans. Unless we join together to oppose the takeover of government by big money, we lose. As someone who has been advocating public funding of elections for four years, there is one tweak I must make to Lessig's strategy. We must turn back Citizens United v. FEC (most likely by constitutional amendment) before we enact public funding of elections. The order is very important. In states like Arizona where public funding is already law, special interest candidates can run using public money. Then their corporate godfathers tip the scales with devastating media buys during those sixty critical days before the election. Alas, with a single bang of the nation's weightiest gavel, the Supremes turned strong progressive electoral law into exactly what the right has tried to frame it to be--welfare for politicians.
SAM A. FEDELE
If the only way to fix our government is a constitutional amendment, we're in for an extended period of national grief. A faster (though less permanent) way of confronting the Citizens United decision might be through executive order. Is this a stretch? Perhaps, but we shouldn't forget that it was by executive order that President Bush designated Afghanistan as a combat zone and declared that the CIA's interrogation techniques fell outside the Geneva Conventions.
THOMAS I. SIEMSEN
West Orange, N.J.
Lessig's constitutional convention is a good approach. I propose that members of Congress be continuously measured against the will of the people. To do this, citizens must have the ability to "vote" on the bills online. Such a system would have to be centralized, neutral and truly reflect the will of the people. Votetocracy.com attempts to achieve just that.
THOMAS I. SIEMSEN
Lawrence Lessig suggests convening a constitutional convention but notes that getting approval of two-thirds of the states might not be easy. There is another alternative. Constitutional law professors Akhil Reed Amar at Yale and Alan Hirsch at Williams judge that "Article V merely sets forth one mode of amendment.... There also exists a separate means of amending the Constitution: a national referendum (of sorts) by We, the People."
The fundamental problem is that we can't have political democracy without economic democracy. Steps to achieving both are under way in South America and Europe. In our corporate state this is a harder challenge but one I believe we must face.