SAVE YOUR CONFEDERATE MONEY…

Manchester, NJ

I vehemently oppose the efforts of those who would have Vermont secede from the union [Kirkpatrick Sale, “Blue State Secession,” Dec. 13]. I urge instead that we admit our mistake of the 1860s. We should admit that we were wrong and let–nay, urge–the South to secede now.

DANIEL D. SCHECHTER


A LITTLE TEXAS BARBECUE

Silver Spring, Md.

In addition to the Western election bright spots cited by John Nichols [“Democrats Score in the Rockies,” Dec. 6], we might note these: Voters in Bush’s own Texas district re-elected embattled Congressman Chet Edwards, a Democrat with a strong church-state separation record. And South Dakota voters, while boosting Bush and dashing Daschle, also defeated a referendum proposal to provide tax aid to faith-based schools–and did so most strongly in those counties that went big for Bush. That brings to twenty-six the number of statewide referendums between 1966 and 2004 in which voters rejected tax aid to faith-based schools by an average margin of two to one.

EDD DOERR, president
Americans for Religious Liberty


ANOTHER BRIGHT SPOT IN TEXAS

Dallas

Thank you so much for Katha Pollitt’s column on abortion funds [“Subject to Debate,” Dec. 20], an almost underground way of putting pro-choice beliefs into practice and helping real women in real need. Here in Dallas, a small group of women has recently established the Texas Equal Access Fund, one of only two abortion funds in Texas. We have already been overwhelmed with requests for assistance. For more information or to make a donation, contact us at teafund@earthlink.net.

GRETCHEN DYER


SAVED!

New York City

All I can say is, thank God the Republicans saved us from the gays. Like millions of Americans, I was terrified that they were going to take over our churches, our chapels, our very souls, if we didn’t squash them like bugs. Thank God for fearless, moral men like Karl Rove, who masterfully fueled fears to defend us from millions of those evil gays. Thank God I finally can say I live in a moral America, despite the unemployment, the huge deficit, the unaffordable healthcare, the stream of body bags from Iraq. We’re safe from the gays now, thank God, and that’s all that matters, isn’t it?

MITCH RUSTAD


LAS VEGAS WENT FOR KERRY

Las Vegas

As a teacher and scholar of Nevada history, I welcome Sasha Abramsky’s “Why Bush Scored in Nevada” [Dec. 6], which takes the state seriously and is very enlightening. But Abramsky’s focus was mainly on Reno. Las Vegas is more than four times larger, with the vast majority of the state’s voters, especially Latino and union voters. What he found true of these voters–that Republicans made inroads on the hypocritical “morals” issue–is also true here, but that’s only the beginning. Nevada’s economy is in better shape than in many other places, especially in Las Vegas, and this clearly influenced the vote: Kerry won Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, but not by enough votes to overcome Republicans in Reno’s Washoe County and the overwhelmingly conservative rural counties. Another point: Nevada has the nation’s fastest-growing population of people 55 and older, who tend to skew more conservative, even if they’re registered Democrats.

MICHAEL GREEN


Las Vegas

Sasha Abramsky notes that the head of the Nevada ACLU asked him “not to quote his staff making anti-Bush comments” for fear that his organization might “suffer the same fate as the NAACP”–heightened scrutiny of its tax-exempt status after its president made supposedly anti-Bush speeches. We at the Nevada ACLU never muzzle our staff. We do, however, expect that they will adhere to our basic philosophy when speaking in their ACLU capacity. I was simply explaining that the ACLU is steadfastly nonpartisan. We are not nonpartisan because we are afraid of government retribution and certainly not because we are worried about our nonprofit status. We are nonpartisan because, well, because we are nonpartisan. We fight for core principles and fundamental rights regardless of whose political ox is being gored, and that was as true during this last campaign season as it has ever been.

GARY PECK, executive director
ACLU of Nevada


BLUE LAND OF BEULAH

Pittsburgh

Thomas Geoghegan’s “Take It to the Blue States” [Nov. 29] is the best article I’ve seen on practical left strategy in a long, long time. Enough talk–let’s do it! There are many people in the Rust Belt who are ex-union members and pro-labor and would be very interested in becoming associate members of the Steel Workers, UE, Teamsters, etc.

Where do I sign up?

RAY GRIFFITH


Yonkers, NY

Thomas Geoghegan thinks “labor can grow on friendly terrain” toward a blue state social-democratic workers’ paradise. Geoghegan’s proposal ignores the accelerating flight of capital from high-safety-net to unionbusting states and nations. Federal tax dollars are being massively transferred not only from public to religion-based distribution networks but also from the poor and middle class to the super-wealthy and favored multinationals, and from the blue to the red states. And bondholders will eventually require Reagan-deficit-type austerity budgets.

Therefore, our trade unions and other progressive organizations (including progressive religious institutions) need urgently to develop not just Geoghegan’s union-based counseling associations but capital-generating enterprises like those that enabled workers’ survival under Franco’s similarly corporatist fascist regime in Spain. Worker-owned cooperatives and community development banks could help create, and prevent the flight of, locally generated profits.

We must also dedicate blue state resources to technology research–as California voters just did for stem-cell technology–to reinvent the tech manufacturing base necessary to preserve scientific and technical education. And it wouldn’t hurt to learn from Argentina and lay the legal groundwork for workers’ cooperatives to expropriate bankrupt factories.

JULIE WEINER


GEOGHEGAN REPLIES

Chicago

The blue states would boom, not bust. According to this year’s World Economic Forum survey of 101 countries, three of the five most “competitive” are Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Social democracies raise living standards. And often they tend to be more competitive. It’s a shame that in America even some on the left can’t seem to grasp this.

TOM GEOGHEGAN


WAFDI GOALS

New York City

Laura Flanders and Laura Ross’s “Antifeminists Hit Iraq” [Nov. 15] paints all Iraqi women’s groups as the Stepford wives of the various US groups, susceptible to parroting the first ideology that may reach them. This impression is the true antifeminist hit. It dismisses the intelligence and independence of many Iraqi women who have given their lives to push for women’s equality and political power in a new Iraq. Women, including members of the Women’s Alliance for a Democratic Iraq (WAFDI), organized across religious and ethnic lines to obtain 45,000 signatures to fight for a legislative quota of 40 percent women in the temporary constitution. They obtained a set “goal” of 25 percent, in contrast to the average of 3 percent women in the legislatures in other countries in the region.

Flanders and Ross argue that women’s groups in Iraq should not be diverted from working on their number-one problem, “contaminated water.” But only women having the legally enforceable right to be equal political partners when development and budget priorities are established can solve water and all other health and economic problems.

To this end WAFDI, in August, sponsored training for women in Iraq on international human rights, stressing women’s rights under CEDAW, the UN’s legislation against discriminating against women, which Iraq ratified and made part of domestic law in 1992. Among the participants were women running for congress, judges and prosecutors. I was the international lawyer doing this pro bono training. No government funds were used, and travel expenses were raised from private foundations.

This conference was the first of its kind in maybe thirty years. Iraq’s ratification of CEDAW gives Iraqi women legally enforceable political rights, which are now part of Iraq’s domestic law but which are being routinely ignored even by the United Nations, a sponsor of the treaty. (No mention in The Nation, either, of CEDAW and its application to women and political power in Iraq.) By implying that by association WAFDI is “anti-CEDAW,” Flanders and Ross turn the truth around. No other group has printed out explanations of CEDAW in both English and Arabic.

Democracy and human rights for women–for all people in Iraq–seem to be further and further from reality. But for those of us who believe in going forward, it is important that women are supported, not undermined, in their efforts to rescue their country–and our world.

JANET BENSHOOF


FLANDERS & ROSS REPLY

New York City; Minneapolis

Aw, come on Janet. We’d be the last to undervalue the intelligence and courage of Iraqi women living under US occupation. (A cursory listen to Laura Flanders’s radio show proves that.) The insinuations and implications you attribute to us are all your own. Our point, that the Bush Administration and its cronies are using the rhetoric of women’s rights to advance their unpopular corporate agenda, doesn’t contradict yours–that Iraqi women must have equal political voice in their nation’s affairs. The question we raise is whether political voice will be meaningful if the Bush crew have their way, and the economic terms of the country are decided by multinationals and the US/WTO. Our research suggests the Independent Womens’ Forum is more dedicated to choreographing Iraqi assent to US plans than achieving either political self-determination or economic justice for Iraqis.

LAURA FLANDERS, LAURA ROSS


HER HERO

Kailua-Kona, Hi.

Let’s give a cheer for Calvin Trillin,
The greatest thing since penicillin.
Exposing all our leaders’ crimes–
And, best of all, his onslaught rhymes.
Though neocons may brand him villain,
He’s still my hero: Calvin Trillin.

KATHERINE KOCH