Of Czars and Samovars

Victor Navasky’s obituary for André Schiffrin [Jan. 6/13] says that in the late 1950s, Schiffrin was in a group that stood on the Yale library steps in togas declaiming funny things. “The only line I remember was Andre’s,” says Navasky. “ ‘The peasants may be penniless, but the czar is Nicolas.’ ” Very nice, but the line was not Schriffin’s. In the mid-1950s, I belonged to a Jewish youth group. We sang “Shootin’ With Rasputin” in a comic Russian accent:

An intimate friend of the Czar was I
A personal friend of the great Nikolai
We practically slept in the same double bed
It was I at the foot and he at the head

Chorus: Shootin’ with Rasputin
Ate farina with Czarina
Blintzes with the princes and the Czar
Shootin’ with Rasputin
Ate farina with Czarina
Sharing tea and herring round the samovar

A friend of the Czar was I all his
 gracious life
But friendlier still was I with his young wife
We practically slept in the same double bed
Till the Czar kicked me out
 and slept there instead
As the red flag rose I bid Russia goodbye
It was simply a case of Lenin or I
And it all seems so distant it all seems so far
From those glorious days hanging out with the Czar
After the revolution it came
Everyone was penniless
Except for the Czar—he was Nicolas

Steve Oren

“Call Me a Commie…”

Call me an unreconstructed Commie, but I winced when I saw your cover illustration of the red defiant fist [Jan. 6/13]. To me, it symbolizes revolutionary fervor, not liberal reformism. A far more appropriate image for The Nation would be an upraised hand in gray, with its fingers crossed, symbolizing the pitiful hope that the next progressive or liberal in power won’t screw us royally. Speaking of revolutionary fervor, I find Barry Schwabsky’s excellent, biting art criticism more deserving of that fist.

Al Salzman
fairfield, vt.

Progressive Honor Roll

Re John Nichols’s “2013 Progressive Honor Roll” [Jan. 6/13]: Why no mention of Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action for her efforts to build a grassroots opposition to the NRA? The open-carry advocates harassing the meeting of a chapter in Texas was a powerful reminder of how gun advocates can be a sort of redneck Taliban.

James D’Angelo
camp hill, pa.

Thank you for highlighting Representative George Miller’s leadership in Congress fighting for the rights of workers. Miller’s labor work, though, extends far beyond the United States and Bangladesh. In October 2013, he released a major report (“The U.S.-Colombia Labor Action Plan: Failing on the Ground”) with Representative James McGovern documenting continued labor rights violations in Colombia. Despite a joint Labor Action Plan between the United States and Colombia designed under the Free Trade Agreement to address continued abuses against workers, little has been done to curb illegal contracting schemes or unionbusting. As the United States further expands its trade presence in the Americas and throughout the world, Miller’s vocal advocacy is as necessary as ever.

Joy Olson, Washington Office on Latin America
washington, dc

Thanks for mentioning my congressman, George Miller. We love him!

Ironic that George Miller and the Seattle Education Association make Nichols’s Progressive Honor Role. After all, teachers in the SEA are rebelling against high-stakes testing legislation that often originated and continues to find stringent support from the onetime chair and now senior Democratic member of the Education and Workforce Committee. Miller is no friend of teachers fighting to deliver engaging and successful curriculums. On education policy he deserves an F from The Nation.

Ken Tray
san francisco

Where are Manning and Snowden? More than any progressives, their actions and sacrifices have woken up the American people (and the world).

Kudos to Bruce Springsteen and Tom Morello for making the 2013 Progressive Honor Roll. Tom richly deserves the attention. He’s the best guitarist on the planet. If you haven’t seen or heard him play, listen to his duet with Bruce on “The Ghost of Tom Joad.” You’ll be amazed and will also get to know the depth of his political convictions. Maybe Tom can give that ersatz rocker, the Motor City Madman, some lessons. He could begin with Phil Ochs’s “Draft Dodger Rag.” Bruce and Tom, you make us proud.

Harry Koenig
pueblo, colo.

Where are Bill Moyers and Robert Reich? These gentlemen are leaders in progressive thinking, are extremely persuasive in their statements, and deserve (and need) recognition to help get their message out. Beppewhelan

Here in Maryland, we like our state senator, Jamie Raskin, and wish we could also have a Bernie Sanders.

While cooking up idiosyncratic honorees like “Most Valuable Translation of the Pope’s Message,” as well as common ones like “Most Valuable Radio Program,” how could John Nichols leave out Rachel Maddow’s valuable and well-researched TV news and commentary?

Marshall Sahlins

Bill de Blasio. The only progressive with the power to actually get anything done. Tax the wealthy and use the revenue to provide pre-K and kindergarten for all children in NYC.
Robert Jensen

Framing Your Whoppers

Bring back your full-page “Timeless Whoppers” ads, featuring the perpetraitors! I enjoyed posting them on the inside of the toilet seat so I can get a chuckle when they get spritzed from flushing with the lid closed. And when the menfolk put the seat up, it makes an appropriate frame around their sorry faces. Posting on public urinals could also be fun!

Donna Murray
veneta, ore.