Goodbye Oil, Hello Molten Salt


Palo Alto, Calif.

Your May 24 editorial, "There Will Be Blood," is right: we need a moratorium on new offshore drilling and an end to subsidies for oil, coal and conventional nuclear power. Alternative energy is available: the thorium-based molten salt reactor, which generates the same power as a uranium or coal plant but creates less than 5 percent of the waste, and that waste becomes benign in 500 years. Other advantages: a thorium plant can burn our stockpile of nuclear waste/weapons; it cannot melt down/explode; thorium is four times as abundant as uranium; and the process was tested and proven practical in the 1950s and ’60s at Oak Ridge (see and operated this safe nuclear system more than forty years ago but defunded it because it could not make bomb materials. Now we need it.





Defuse the Population Bomb


Swannanoa, N.C.

Can humanity save its climate before climate chaos destroys humanity? Juliet Schor’s "Beyond Business as Usual" [May 24] observes, "But New Deal 2.0—expanded federal spending—still relies on climate destabilizing growth…addressing unemployment by unleashing even more climate chaos." Sadly, that’s a convincing prophesy. And how can we find the solution until we reverse the rate of world population growth? Catastrophe may be only a matter of how soon climate chaos directly reverses that growth. Forget persuading humans to accept self-restraint to save our climate. We are all deniers.





Story Time for Progressives


Deering, N.H.

Amitai Etzioni, in "Needed: A Progressive Story" [May 24], rightly calls on progressives to formulate a convincing narrative as a counterforce to the Republican story that America was on the right path until Roosevelt, Johnson and the ’60s counterculture undermined our traditional values. To me the most convincing narrative would be "recovering community." Such a narrative can plumb the wellsprings of our yearning for community in an increasingly alienating world. But recovering community must move beyond our loyalties to ethnic, class and local groups to the larger American community. We must focus on what is best for all rather than what’s in it for me.

Community loyalty is quintessentially American and has a long and honorable history. Recovering community would offer an umbrella narrative that can draw on our finest moments of history, our deeply felt concerns and our heartfelt need to invest ourselves in causes that transcend our smaller selves.




South Portland, Me.

Amitai Etzioni’s essay echoes Bill Moyers’s prescription that progressives need "a new story." Stories’ roots are in myth (hence Moyers’s fascination with mythologist Joseph Campbell), whose purpose is to tell us how to live. Progressives would do well to tap the American creation myth: the tale of those whose opportunity was foreclosed elsewhere—for ill fortune or lack of title or privileged birth—and who found opportunity through shared contribution and/or sacrifice in a community of equals. The story’s power lies in the truth that community makes us strong.

Stories must explain—but to be compelling, they must inspire. Inspiration is the antithesis of and antidote to fear. And since fear is elemental to most neoconservative platforms, rising above fear must be an inspirational foundation of any progressive story.





Taking The Nation to the Chic Sale


We were stumped by "Sales decoration" as "lunette," the answer to clue 9, Puzzle 1588 [June 7]. We turned to our readers—and were not disappointed. —The Puzzle Editors



Wellesley, Mass.

A down-home, chaw-bacon early (and earthy) twentieth-century humorist known as Chic Sale had quite a following of rustic thigh-slappers for his outhouse humor, syndicated in small-town papers. His book about Lem Putt, a "specialist" in the design and construction of outhouses, claimed he invented the crescent-shaped cutout (a rural "lunette") that was a fixture on their doors.




Somewhere in Cyberspace

Chic Sale was a humorist who wrote a book featuring an outhouse builder. "Chic Sale" or "Chick Sales" was an old euphemism for "outhouse." A lunette is a moon-shaped decorative inset, such as was used on outhouse doors. The moon on the outhouse door has an interesting history. When stagecoach routes were established in England, inns began to provide facilities for travelers. The ladies’ privy was marked with a moon; the men’s with a sun. But the men preferred the woods, so the inns ended up offering only ladies’ facilities.





Clarification—for the Irony-Impaired


In Timothy Patrick McCarthy and John McMillian’s "America’s Radical Roots" (May 31), the authors refer to Barack Obama’s opponents calling attention to his "tenuous associations with an angry black minister, un-American education professor and foreign-born Muslims."

The sentence should have read "anti-American" and had quotes around that word as well as around "angry" and "foreign-born" to make clear that these labels are not the authors’ but are part of the right-wing smear campaign.