Snowden’s “Why I Did It”

When I saw the front page of the May 26 issue, I was glad I’m letting my subscription expire, as it saves me the trouble of asking for a refund [Edward Snowden, “Why I Did It”]. To glorify the traitor Snowden should be beneath your magazine. Snowden is also a coward. Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers, had the courage of his convictions and stayed in the country to face the music.
Verlon Grafton
morristown, n.j.

Snowden’s statements at the National Press Club in Washington underscore his earlier claims that NSA surveillance is relatively useless as a tool for counterterrorism. Rather, mass interception is being applied to conduct economic espionage and diplomatic manipulation—and (most important) impose social control. Snowden implies that the NSA’s surveillance apparatus isn’t being wielded to protect America from terrorism. It’s being used as a mechanism in service of the powerful.

The United States is now a surveillance state where corporate and government spies collaborate to monitor citizens. If academic researchers like Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty are correct in their groundbreaking analysis of growing economic inequality, the end game for society will be pretty grim. As our social fabric disintegrates and the climate becomes less hospitable, the immiseration of the average person will lead to widespread mobilization. The US elite are well aware of what happened to French aristocrats in the eighteenth century. To save themselves from a similar fate, they will switch the cogs of the surveillance state into high gear, and the United States will witness the sort of oppression that is the hallmark of a police state.

Bill Blunden
san francisco

It depends on one’s point of view whether Snowden is a “hero” or merely self-indulgent. Either way, I have absolutely no interest in reading why he did it. As a longtime progressive, I have also become increasingly stressed that he has apparently become the most recent representative of progressive politics in the United States. ALEC and the AEI are, no doubt, most amused.
Lou Sandler
terre haute, ind.


Outstanding

Thank you for this outstanding issue, featuring Edward Snowden, Elizabeth Warren, Robert Reich and Eric Alterman. Yes, “there’s no place like Washington,” as Alterman says in “Obama’s Pundit Problem”; but there is, thankfully, also no publication like The Nation—and no one like Alterman to speak truth to power and to those of us without power who long for the truth. He’s the only journalist I trust; he takes up and articulates my causes—always something I believe in, know to be true, and care about, but am too… impotent to take on. I depend on him and on The Nation.
Ann Benton

Kudos to Eric Alterman for speaking truth to pundits like Maureen Dowd. Her use of the president’s first name from his youth, as in the cited headline (Is Barry Whiffing?), has always struck me as belittling, meanspirited and unbecoming in a supposedly serious writer. It was overdue that Alterman, a professional colleague, spoke out. He reminded us as well about how complex a president’s tasks are, carried out in the face of unending Republican recalcitrance (and/or racism). Thank you, Mr. Alterman.
Charles B. Greenberg
murrysville, pa.

Too bad that the writings of Eric Alterman on the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement [“Letters,” May 26] and the FLAME ads that often appear in the magazine are nearly indistinguishable. Eric has been so helpful on so many other subjects; it is a real pity to see him so wrong on BDS. It reminds me of the defenders of South Africa and the “constructive engagement” of Reagan.
Michael Koivula
springfield, ore.


More Steps to Equality

I agree with Robert Reich’s “10 Practical Steps to Reverse Growing Inequality” [May 26], but I differ with his prescriptions for reform of the estate tax (step 7). An exemption limit of $1 million causes real hardship for middle-class owners of such assets as small businesses and real estate. I’d opt for $5 million, even up to $20 million, indexed for inflation. I also propose steeply progressive rates. Taxing a $50 billion estate at 35 percent won’t end dynasties. Anything over $100 million or so should be taxed at 90 percent or higher.

Also, don’t get rid of the accelerated basis. In fact, revise the treatment of all capital gains so that they’re taxed the same as ordinary income, but the basis is indexed to inflation. Then we don’t need the homeowners’ exclusion and all the other gimmicks. The current system rewards speculators, who hold assets briefly, and penalizes the middle class, especially homeowners, whose assets appreciate over decades and then are subject to disproportionate taxation. For example, my mother bought a house in 1952 for $15,000; it’s now worth $600,000. If it didn’t get an accelerated basis, the estate would end up underwater for taxes, even though the property has barely appreciated in constant dollars.

Bo Curry
redwood city, calif.

Inequality’s “diabolical trend is threatening the foundations of our society”—and also the climate system. The global economic contraction that started in 2008 produced the only significant overall carbon reduction ever, strongly suggesting that reduced material and economic throughput will need to be part of how humanity saves its planet—and itself—from ecological and civilizational catastrophe. Vastly greater economic equality in a world of reduced per capita stuff will be essential. We will need to “share the carbon.” We must be more CO2scious and CO2equal.
Gregory Wright
sherman oaks, calif.


Put Down This Magazine!

Years ago I was reading John Hersey’s Algiers Motel Incident, and he said, “If you haven’t read The Autobiography of Malcom X, put this book down now and read it.” I did, and what a life-changing revelation that was. Now I say to Nation readers, if you haven’t read Elizabeth Warren’s A Fighting Chance, put this magazine down now and read it [Warren, “‘Yes, I’ll Fight,’” May 26]. Senator Warren cares about people.
Frank A. Walter
portland, ore.


Great Men

I don’t ever write fan letters. But Ariel Dorfman’s tribute to “Gabo” brought tears to my eyes [“Memories of García Márquez,” May 26]: for the great writer and friend who has died, but also for the greatness of Dorfman, who has risked his life again and again in the cause of liberation. The world would be a much more shabby place without such people.
Sam Eisenstein
pasadena, calif.