Albany, NY

As a David Soares campaign volunteer, I was delighted to read Katrina vanden Heuvel’s weblog and Katha Pollitt’s comments about Soares’s campaign for district attorney of Albany County [“Subject to Debate,” Oct. 25]. I believe your readers would be pleased to know that the man who achieved the “stunning landslide victory” in the September primary is black. Soares’s triumph was not only a major challenge to the Albany Democratic Party machine but an unprecedented challenge to a local power structure that marginalizes African-Americans. When elected, David will be the second black district attorney in New York State’s history.



San Francisco

I appreciate Major Butler’s candor and on-the-ground assessment of the situation in Iraq [“Letters,” Oct. 18]. But Major Butler, imagine for a moment that you’re a firefighter whose company has been secretly taken over by a gang of arsonists. I respect and am humbled by your self-sacrifice in attempting to extinguish the fires they ignite. At some point, however, you must come to realize the root of the problem and respect the efforts of those of us who are trying to insure that the fires you fight on our behalf are not self-inflicted.


Castro Valley, Calif.

I honor Major Butler’s service but am sorry he thinks he’s fighting the good fight. The war in Iraq is more about controlling oil and the world than it is about terrorism. The people he is fighting in Najaf never posed a threat to Americans. I would like to ask the major what he would do had another country invaded the United States and was now occupying New York, Washington and Boston? Would he help the occupiers or fight them? Also, I did not ask him to fight for me or to avenge 9/11. I have never asked anyone to shed blood in my name, especially when that blood is of the innocent: Iraq and its people are innocent of 9/11.



Little Rock, Ark.

It’s come to my attention that something Eric Alterman recently quoted from my Arkansas Democrat-Gazette column was in error [“The Liberal Media,” Oct. 18]. I wrote this:

“On May 4, 1996, the New York Times published an article with a deceptive Associated Press byline stating that an FBI agent’s trial testimony described a $50,000 windfall to Whitewater from an illegal loan. As the actual AP article stipulated, the agent gave no such testimony.”

The Times byline was not, in fact, deceptive. Unknown to me, the AP produced two stories that day. One correctly stated that Kenneth Starr’s prosecutors had rested “without showing how [Bill] Clinton benefited from a $300,000 loan as another witness had claimed.” It quoted a prosecutor stating that the allegation was not important to his case against Jim McDougal.

The second AP article, by a different reporter, was all but identical to the version published in the Times. It erroneously stated that “jurors heard an FBI agent testify that nearly $50,000 from a $300,000 loan was used to cover Whitewater expenses.” Writing in Harvard’s Nieman Reports, Gilbert Cranberg had carefully parsed the agent’s testimony to show that it said no such thing.

Characteristic of its Whitewater coverage, the Times used the inaccurate story, which became the template for many accusatory commentaries. In his own reporting, Cranberg interviewed the AP bureau chief, who did not advise him that there were competing AP versions. An advance copy of his article was submitted to Times editors, who repeatedly refused comment. The existence of a second, conflicting AP article thus remained unknown to him.

In the process of oversimplifying my own simplification of Cranberg’s work, I drew a false conclusion about the byline. I regret the error.


The Nation, too, regrets the error. –The Editors



What a laugh I had at Alexander Cockburn’s tale of the “Zombies for Kerry” in Portland, Oregon [“Beat the Devil,” Sept. 13]. Perhaps their “fixity of gaze” betrays not the presence of zombies but the presence of “the evil of two lessers,” the only thing beyond the lesser of two evils–given that we don’t have the parliamentary system needed for viable third and fourth parties and coalition-building. It isn’t a zombie gaze but rather that “oh, shit” look of a deer caught fatally in the headlights. No way out, left or right–flattened. The folks Cockburn describes are not ready for the evil of two lessers. It’s as if they are confronted with Nietzsche’s abyss, which stares back if you gaze too long. Many have learned to stare back: Some were at the Battle of Seattle, which Cockburn holds up as “the serious rebellion,” where the streets were filled mostly with progressives who, despite Clinton’s failings, associate themselves with Democrats. Who else? Whether it’s ABB or A BARF (Anyone But a Religious Freak), Northwest progressives are not inclined “to Ralph.”


Brooklyn, NY

Here’s a little insight from a shuffling “zombie”: I’m pissed off at what’s happening in this country, at a liar speaking in our name, at the unthinkable violence the current Administration is responsible for here and elsewhere. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t pissed off before this election. It doesn’t mean I think Kerry is a gem. And it doesn’t mean I’ll stop fighting for labor rights or to get us out of Iraq once Kerry is elected. But it also pisses me off that Alexander Cockburn calls me an idiot for thinking that much is at stake in this election. Yes, this is about choosing the lesser of two evils. Underestimating the real differences in the candidates–despite their problematic similarities–is partly what enabled this disastrous Administration to take over. If there’s some other choice on Election Day, Cockburn hasn’t filled us in.




Jonathan Schell’s “Imperialism Without Empire” [Sept. 13] suggests that the rise of anti-American hatred has coincided with and perhaps resulted from the rise of US imperial ambitions. Rebellion against empire, be it Roman, Turkish, Arab, French, Japanese, British or Soviet, seems inevitable, with historical hindsight. The unique, ironic twist of the current rebellion is its grassroots, democratic nature; a riposte to imperial America’s avowed championing of grassroots democracy worldwide. America is in some measure the victim of its own success, instilling a fever for freedom among peoples burdened with dictatorship, communism, poverty or exploitation.

One of the consequences of democracy and free will is that opinion does not always crystallize in predictable ways. And nothing more antagonizes the opinion of free people than the arrogant expression of imperial power. It is time for Americans to jettison hypocrisy and embrace our original democratic ideals with humility, lest we be forced to learn the bitter lesson the Romans suffered: that a democratic republic is incompatible with empire.



Southport, Conn.

As an addendum to my “Rudy Makes His Move” [Sept. 27], and to paraphrase Fighting Jack Valenti, “I sleep each night a little better, a little more confidently, because” our color-coded Department of Homeland Security was alert enough to divert UAL Flight 919 carrying The Artist Formerly Known as Cat Stevens, sending PeaceTrain’s lyricist out of the country, to Bangor, Maine.



Galesburg, Ill.

Dale Maharidge’s excellent “Rust and Rage in the Heartland” [Sept. 20] may overstate the link between downsized workers and reactionary, xenophobic nationalism. In my research among downsized factory workers here in Galesburg, I’ve spoken to Harley riders, gun enthusiasts, angry grannies, weight lifters, embittered alcoholics and even drug dealers, and I can’t find anyone who thinks the invasion of Iraq makes sense or anyone who blames Mexicans for stealing their jobs (their Maytag refrigerator factory is relocating to Mexico).

These workers are generally quite patriotic: They fly the flag outside their homes, chant “USA! USA!” at rallies and mourn 9/11. But their anger is not typically “unfocused” and up for grabs–it is directed clearly and squarely at Maytag CEO Ralph Hake, corporate greed and politicians who support “free trade” and bust unions. And their nationalism is not xenophobic (something I’ve been looking for high and low); it’s about keeping the American dream alive for their children and taking great pride in American manufacturing and craftsmanship. Though they think Mexican workers can’t produce a Maytag refrigerator of the same quality, they uniformly recognize that corporations go to places like Mexico to exploit lower wages and laxer environmental and safety regulations.

These workers haven’t tuned in to Limbaugh since they began losing their jobs, and they don’t talk harshly about Muslims. They worked in a strong union shop and, consequently, understand their interests and the source of their problems–unlike the bigoted workers from Bridgeview to whom Maharidge refers. Maharidge correctly points our attention toward a potentially volatile combination of anger and fear among the working class, as growing anger about economic insecurity combines with fear of terrorism. But if the left is to focus that “flailing, unfocused, drifting” anger Maharidge has seen in the Rust Belt, we’ll need a reinvigorated labor movement to raise (and focus) consciousness and unite workers around their common interests. I’m not worried about the focused anger that downsized workers in Galesburg express when they chant “USA! USA!” But I worry, like Maharidge, about the “unfocused” anger that comes from unorganized workers, fending for themselves in a time of fearmongering; what do they mean when they chant the same three letters?



New Haven, Conn.

During my years as a US Foreign Service officer, I relieved tension by writing topical verse. I’ve not outgrown the habit.

How soothing is the lexicon
of PR at the Pentagon!
“Acceptable casualties” expire
snug in the warmth of “friendly fire.”
“Collateral damages” are kind–
they aim to leave no child behind.
What luck for them! Though mutilated,
those who survive are liberated!