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  • Politics October 23, 2002

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  • Politics September 26, 2002

    Inheriting the Wind…

    We've endured our own KT-event regarding David Hawkes's review of Stephen Jay Gould's last book, The Structure of Evolut

    David Hawkes and Our Readers

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  • Politics September 23, 2002

    Other Voices

    KGB, CIA, JFK, FYI...

    Santa Monica, Calif.; Olivebridge, NY

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  • Politics September 19, 2002

    Perception of Doors

    Tom Waits and others cheer The Doors' drummer, John Densmore, for not selling out to the corporations.

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  • Politics September 12, 2002

    Is There ‘A Different Israel’?

    Durham, NC

    In "A Different Israel" [August 5/12] Martha C. Nussbaum wrote that she became relaxed in her "moralistic heart" while accepting an honorary degree from the University of Haifa in May. She indicates she was able to wear the Star of David during the ceremony, while she never does when in her "anti-Zionistic frame of mind." The University of Chicago professor of ethics and law says her relaxation resulted from the peaceful cooperation in Haifa among Israelis and Arabs. The reason given for accepting the degree was to oppose the "ugly campaign" among academics to boycott Israeli universities.

    One should distinguish between relaxation and anesthesia! Perhaps if Nussbaum had gone to Ramallah instead of Haifa, as an acquaintance of mine did recently, her "moralistic heart" would have remained awake. As Nussbaum did, my acquaintance is converting to the Jewish faith of her father and of her husband. Unlike Nussbaum, having seen the Star of David used by occupation troops as a graffiti symbol of hatred and humiliation, she does not feel comfortable wearing hers. Perhaps in Ramallah the campaign to boycott would not have looked quite so ugly.


    Haifa, Israel

    In Haifa University Martha C. Nussbaum found another Israel. But her praise for the university as a symbol of coexistence and peace belies the dismal reality of that campus, which does not (according to one of the many fallacies in her article) have "many Arab faculty members" but only six, out of 600. Her stress on the Arab-Jewish nature of the campus is particularly annoying, as Haifa University has been singled out in the past two years for its harsh and oppressive treatment of Arab students.

    There is a university other than the one Nussbaum described after she received a precious prize there. I have been in the university since 1984, and I think what Nussbaum describes is more in line with the aspirations we had back then but has very little to do with the realities on campus today.

    Haifa University nowadays is an institution that tried to expel me in May because of my claims that Israel committed an ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in the 1948 war--a claim that contradicts the Zionist narrative of that year. I have been prosecuted, and my tenure nearly annulled, for my support of an MA student who was disqualified for his revelation of an unknown massacre perpetrated by the IDF in the village of Tantura in 1948. Had it not been for overwhelming international pressure exerted on this "peace-loving" university, I would have been out of a job.

    This university has silenced its Arab students. They are barred from any political activity on campus, while the Jewish union can openly preach its Zionist ideology. Arab students are discriminated against in accommodations and scholarship policies, and their basic rights as a national group totally denied.

    It is hard enough to watch helplessly the demise of pluralism and free speech in Israel in general and at Haifa University in particular. It is worse when it is supplemented by embarrassingly pro-Israeli stances in the United States that either fail to see reality or, worse, are knowingly serving the present Israeli regime and its evil policies.


    New York City

    I agree with Martha Nussbaum about a "different Israel." I was invited to give a lecture in June at Ben Gurion University, where progressive, liberal and left scholars, activists and professional community workers in and outside national and local government were discussing ways to build a more just, peaceful and secure society in Israel.

    I also met with ninety community organizers from Shatil, an independent, foundation-funded organization. For more than twenty years Shatil has worked in almost every distressed community in Israel and with its most excluded population groups. It has Israeli-Palestinian Arab, Bedouin and Druze staff, and Jews from many origins and cultures. They are engaged in coalition-building around the environment, intergroup relations, poverty, health, housing, education and welfare, and social insurance. With the informal support of some government planners, it is organizing an antipoverty movement, because the government is cutting back on the amount of social allowances and healthcare.

    What was devastating to these articulate and involved progressive people was the sense of hopelessness about the larger political and military picture that surrounds them. They see no peacemakers on the horizon. They view Sharon and Arafat as warmongers and can't identify a single leader on either side who could shift the kaleidoscope toward peace and security.

    They were buoyed momentarily in June because for the first time a group of Palestinian scholars, activists and poets wrote an open letter in Arabic to their leaders calling for an end to suicide bombings and for negotiations. Just as many of us here are working hard to improve the quality of life and conditions for people in this country despite Bush Administration policies, so are many Israelis. There is another Israel, and it must be seen.




    Claiborne Clark's odd logic holds that if a nation is doing anything bad, there cannot possibly be any good in it. This demonization of an entire people is just the sort of nonthinking that produces ethnic violence all over the world; it is all too common between Palestinians and Israelis. To counter this pernicious tendency, we need to find examples that show that cooperation is possible and that peace and justice are not impossibly utopian aspirations. I therefore welcome Terry Mizrahi's letter and agree with everything it says. I can add that the group of Palestinians whose letter opposing suicide bombings has by now been widely published is headed by Sari Nusseibeh, a courageous politician, philosopher and university administrator who is one of the best hopes for responsible leadership on the Palestinian side. Nusseibeh is so far from supporting the boycott of Israeli scholars that he has written books with some, and he makes a point of speaking at international conferences that include Israeli speakers. When in the United States, he insists on addressing both Arab and Jewish audiences.

    Clark also gives an inaccurate impression of my article. I said that I decided to accept the honorary degree both as a statement of opposition to the boycott of Israeli scholars and as an opportunity to make a public statement about issues of global justice that have implications for the just solution to the conflict. As I recorded, I was encouraged to make such a speech and did so. (My position is roughly that of Amram Mitzna, mayor of Haifa and candidate for leadership of the Labor Party, who favors immediate resumption of negotiations, eventual evacuation of the settlements and a partition of Jerusalem.) I can now add that the identity of other recipients of honorary degrees at the ceremony, including Joschka Fischer, the German Green Party foreign minister, encouraged me to believe that this ceremony was a celebration of dissent and the search for justice. What surprised me was that I found in Haifa an entire city that makes peaceful cooperation and the search for a just solution a way of life, that understands Zionism as I do, as a moral commitment, not a commitment to nationalistic triumph. No moral commitment is without struggle, since we live in an imperfect human world. But it seems right to focus on reasons for hope at a time when too many are losing hope.

    I had not heard of Ilan Pappé before I went to Haifa, and I am not in a position to speak about his grievances against the university. I therefore prefer to cite an official statement by the university, responding to his letter:

    "During the course of the past years Dr. Pappé has waged a puzzling and eccentric one-man campaign to defame his colleagues and the University of Haifa. The university has reacted with great patience to his curious and unethical behavior as the issue of academic freedom and freedom of speech is of great concern to us. Dr. Pappé's letter is predictably and consistently inaccurate. Here we will address only the most conspicuous nonissues raised in his letter.

    "1. Contrary to his claims that there are only six Arab lecturers at the University of Haifa, there are in fact sixty-two, nineteen of them in tenure-track positions. This modest number is constantly rising. Moreover, there are more Arab faculty members at the University of Haifa than at any other Israeli university.

    "2. The University of Haifa is proud of its efforts in recruiting Arab students and offering them a wide range of affirmative-action programs. The Arab students are, themselves, aware of these programs and, as such, tend to choose Haifa over other colleges and universities in the country. In fact about 18 percent of our student body are members of Israel's Arab community. No other university in the country has such a large percentage of minority students.

    "3. We are dismayed by Dr. Pappé's bewildering claim that Arab students have been barred from political activity while their Jewish peers preach Zionist ideology with impunity. Nothing can be further from the truth. Despite the impossible situation of daily life in Israel and the tense, close encounters between Jews and Arabs on campus, we have upheld a brave policy of full and uncensored freedom of expression. Our only limitations were short and limited moratoriums on demonstrations during exceptional periods (when, for example, some of our students were killed in terrorist attacks). These limitations applied to Jews and Arabs alike. Moreover, even during the most stressful times, we did not limit other features of free speech (fliers, information booths, political assemblies, etc.).

    "4. Dr. Pappé's assertion that Arab students suffer discrimination in student housing is a mystery. During the course of the academic year 2001-2, the percentage of Arab students in our dorms reached 30 percent, while the percentage of Arab students at the university is about 18 percent.

    "5. Contrary to his claims, the university made no attempt to expel Dr. Pappé. One of his colleagues did indeed lodge a complaint with the internal faculty disciplinary committee. The complaint focused on Dr. Pappé's unethical efforts to disbar his colleagues from international forums for daring to contradict his views. The complaint had nothing to do with his political views, which are shared by other members of the campus community. Moreover, Dr. Pappé has omitted the important fact that he was never summoned by the disciplinary committee, as the committee's chairperson decided not to pursue the complaint in its present form.

    "6. As for the MA thesis mentioned by Dr. Pappé, the claims in this study were the subject of a court case, during the course of which the student-author of the paper tendered a court-sanctioned, written apology for misrepresentations. Following the court settlement, the student was offered the opportunity to revise his MA thesis.

    "In sum, Dr. Pappé does not appear to be concerned to give readers of The Nation a full and accurate account of the facts. Needless to say, despite his odd and unethical behavior, we shall continue to invest efforts and resources for securing our island of sanity in this troubled region.
       --University of Haifa"


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  • Politics September 11, 2002


    A LAUGH, A CRY...

    Pittsboro, NC

    To Tony Kushner: Thank you so much for your words, for the heart and soul behind them, for your humor and for bringing tears to my eyes each time (so far twice) I have read "A Word to Graduates: Organize!" [July 1] I hope to organize more.



    San Francisco

    I applaud Marc Siegel for exposing the hazards of direct-to-consumer drug advertising in "Fighting the Drug (Ad) Wars" [June 17]. You might think that as a women's health advocate I'd welcome direct-to-patient appeals and an emphasis on prevention. But ads are not unbiased. Their promises to cure and prevent everything from allergies and depression to cancer and heart disease downplay--or leave out altogether--the serious, sometimes life-threatening side effects of the pills they push.

    AstraZeneca, the manufacturer of tamoxifen, has urged healthy women to ask their doctors to prescribe a heavy-duty drug to reduce breast cancer risk, despite a wide array of dangerous side effects, from endometrial cancer to deep-vein blood clots. Because the Food and Drug Administration, still leaderless, is turning its back, new consumer health coalitions like Prevention First, whose members accept no funds from pharmaceutical firms, are calling for a ban on these ads. Lowering the risk of breast cancer, indeed good health generally, is much more likely to result from clean air and water, healthy food and unbiased information than from popping pills with life-threatening potential.

    BARBARA BRENNER, executive director,
    Breast Cancer Action


    Brooklyn, NY

    I was pleased to see Dick Flacks and Peter Dreier highlight my grandfather and Earl Robinson's song "The House I Live In" ["Patriotism's Secret History," June 3]. In the wake of the September 11 attacks, the song is making a significant comeback. When I noticed in November that it had been played on Entertainment Tonight, I wrote a piece about the song and my grandfather's politics, which appeared in the February issue of O. Meanwhile, the short 1944 movie by the same name starring Frank Sinatra appears regularly on the Turner Classic Movie channel, and Michael Feinstein has recorded the song, the proceeds of which he is donating to the September 11 fund.

    One important fact about "The House I Live In" will not be apparent to those who only see the Sinatra movie or hear his recording. My grandfather wrote the following lines in one of the verses: "The house I live in/My neighbors white and black." Flacks and Dreier correctly note that "the song evokes America as a place where all races can live freely"--however, that particular line was omitted from the Sinatra versions, recorded and onscreen. I believe only Paul Robeson's recording includes those lines.

    Readers who want to learn more about my grandfather should see, in the Spring issue of American Music, a scholarly article by Dr. Nancy Kovaleff Baker, "Abel Meeropol (a k a Lewis Allan): Political Commentator and Social Conscience."



    New York City

    Jack Newfield's June 17 lead article "The Full Rudy" called Rudy Giuliani "a C-plus Mayor who has become an A-plus myth." What would it have taken to give him a failing grade?

    You might re-examine the pluses you award him (e.g., for the drop in crime, which began under Dinkins and was pretty much nationwide) and two minuses the article didn't mention: Giuliani's heartless treatment of Haitian refugees as a federal officer during the 1980s and the vicious racism that marked his successful campaign to oust New York's first black mayor. Newfield could have shed some light on why he and a few other white liberal journalists supported Giuliani in that campaign.


    Lowell, Mass.

    Jack Newfield's comment about the former mayor of New York, "They don't allow this kind of behavior in trailer parks!" is inappropriate and deeply disappointing in a progressive magazine. Replace "trailer parks" with "public housing" or "Indian reservations," and you'll see what I mean. The Trailer Trash stereotype is an expression of bigotry based on socioeconomic class. That residents of mobile homes are largely white and rural should not make working-class people fair game for leftist scorn.



    Providence, RI

    In a letter in the July 8 issue, John Bradley presents the appealingly egalitarian notion that women might "have it all" by following the strategy of high-achieving men: choosing a man "younger, poorer and less educated than themselves." I would be much obliged if Bradley could identify that pool of men who would even consider a date with a woman older, richer and more educated than themselves, let alone be willing to marry one, raise her children and tend to her emotional well-being.



    Suffern, NY

    Michael Massing's June 10 piece, "The Israel Lobby," is the first article I've read in a US publication that even mentions the power of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). In England, I listened to a show on BBC radio that dealt with the same subject. It amazed me that I had to go to another country to get an in-depth analysis of the relationship between this powerful lobbying group and Washington. It seems that since 9/11 one has to do this more and more to get the real story--or any story at all.


    Port Matilda, Pa.

    While it isn't news that AIPAC is so influential in Washington, it is noteworthy that the organization and its effect on policy is so underreported. I can't imagine a story on guns without mention of the NRA or one on workplace safety without mention of the influence of the AFL-CIO. And when did an abortion story last appear without position statements from NARAL and/or Right to Life?


    San Rafael, Calif.

    Michael Massing is correct: "AIPAC is widely regarded as the most powerful foreign-policy lobby in Washington." Much of its power lies in the concealment from the media and therefore from public scrutiny of the degree of its financial dealings and the political use of this wealth. Unlike other lobbies, AIPAC keeps its cards close to its chest. Despite the Federal Election Commission rules requiring lobbies to register with the FEC and open their books to the public, this behemoth has managed to do neither. It rules in secret and is so massively involved in Washington politics that few senators or congressmen will vote on an issue without ringing up AIPAC to determine which way to vote.

    AIPAC, collecting money from over a hundred Jewish PACs, directs just how it will be spent, pouring millions into the campaigns of candidates who vote the AIPAC way while funneling millions to the opponents of those seen as voting out of step with AIPAC.

    In an attempt to bring this monster under public scrutiny, in January 1989 then-Under Secretary of State George Ball, then-Ambassador to Saudi Arabia James Atkins and then-Illinois Congressman Paul Findley filed a complaint with the FEC, charging AIPAC with failing to register as a political action committee. After almost nine years, as AIPAC fought this through the courts, the plaintiffs received a favorable 8-2 decision in circuit court, only to have the Supreme Court toss the too-hot issue back to the FEC, asking it to review its decision.

    In December 1999 the FEC waffled, citing insufficient evidence. The surviving plaintiffs have appealed that decision. I refer readers to two books: Paul Findley's They Dare to Speak Out and The Passionate Attachment, by George and Douglas Ball.



    New York City

    Your April 8 "In Fact..." column carried the following item: "Some thirty public television stations suspended Bill Moyers's NOW during pledge drives, apparently on the theory that the program's controversial stories might offend donors." While we appreciate The Nation's interest in public television's programming, the implication of this story is wrong.

    We at PBS do not know of any member station that has pre-empted NOW during pledge drives out of concern that the show might offend donors. Just the opposite, station and viewer feedback on NOW has been overwhelmingly positive. Stations frequently alter their schedules during pledge drives. Such long-running shows as American Experience, Masterpiece Theatre and NOVA have all been pre-empted to accommodate the specific formats and objectives of pledge drives, so it would not be at all unusual for the same to happen with NOW.

    Senior vice president
    Co-chief program executive, PBS


    Davis, Calif.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for Gene Santoro's "Folk's Missing Link" [April 22]. I first heard Dave Van Ronk at The Catacombs or the Second Fret in Philadelphia in the early sixties. When I moved to northern California in 1971 I despaired of enjoying him in person again--I knew he didn't like to fly--but then I discovered that he, somehow, had a special relationship with a little club in Davis, California, called The Palms, in a rundown barn south of the freeway. I got my semiannual Van Ronk fix there. Now he's gone and the barn is to be torn down, but I will keep the faith by teaching still more generations of field-trippers in my ecology courses the tune and lyrics of "Rompin' in the Swamp." Ave atque vale, Dave.



    Sierra Madre, Calif.

    Calvin Trillin is quite right in observing that Dick Cheney has perfected the art of the tilted head ["Cheney's Head: An Explanation," June 24], but I don't think Cheney invented the maneuver. A perusal of 1988 campaign footage will reveal that Michael Dukakis often assumed the slanted-head position. He was preceded by the master of that maneuver, the late Rod Serling, who frequently appeared with his head at an angle in his opening segments for The Twilight Zone.


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  • Politics September 11, 2002



    San Francisco

    Far-right populist Jean-Marie Le Pen's upset in the first round of French presidential voting was variously ascribed to rising xenophobia in Western Europe, a crisis of the French left, rising crime rates in France and other possibilities. Doug Ireland, in "Le Pen: The Center Folds" [May 13], subscribes to all three. Yet the evidence doesn't necessarily corroborate these explanations. Instead, what we saw was a major breakdown of France's two-round runoff method of electing the president.

    A full 64 percent of voters supported candidates other than the two who advanced to the runoff. Many left voters, looking to send a message of dissatisfaction to Prime Minister Lionel Jospin in the first round, split their support among seven candidates. Together, left-leaning candidates, led by Jospin, garnered more than 40 percent of the vote--and divided, none polled enough votes to make the runoff. Le Pen, with 17 percent of the vote--a mere 250,000-vote increase, virtually the same popular vote he won in his other failed presidential runs--benefited from this vote-splitting.

    Jospin learned what Al Gore knows all too well: In a plurality electoral system, spoiler candidates and split votes can plague the results. France's use of instant runoff voting rather than a two-round runoff would have prevented its electoral meltdown. With IRV, left voters could have sent a message to Jospin by awarding their highest rankings to other candidates but would have had the option of ranking Jospin as one of their runoff choices. During the ballot counting their votes would have coalesced around Jospin as their front-runner, who would have made it to the instant runoff over the marginalized Le Pen, who has very little runoff support from any other parties or candidates.

    Yes, electoral systems do matter--sometimes dramatically. Just ask Al Gore.

    Center for Voting and Democracy


    New York City

    I've long favored instant runoff voting, but Hill's suggestion that there has been no marked increase in French racism and its political expression is shockingly ostrichlike. Hill's facts are wrong: The parties of Jospin's governing coalition--Parti socialiste, Parti communiste, les Verts and Mouvement de radicaux de gauche--together polled only a little more than 26 percent. Hill's claim that the 10.5 percent won by three anti-Jospin Trotskyists and the 5.5 percent won by the Pôle republicain (which asserted that there was no real difference between Jospin and Chirac) should be included in the score of the left "led" by Jospin could only be made by someone ignorant about French politics. Le Pen got nearly 1 million votes more than he did in '95 (while the governing parties of left and right together lost some 5.5 million votes, as I pointed out).

    Hill may not think that's a significant increase, but the French obviously did--daily demos poured more than 500,000 of them into the streets after Le Pen's victory to oppose his racist program, which includes setting up special "camps" for immigrants and special trains to deport them; and nearly all major parties, unions, media, sports stars, the patronat (MEDEF) and even the Catholic Episcopate called for an anti-Le Pen vote in the runoff.

    Those who, in their obsession with process, exclude the content of politics from their considerations do so at our peril. The increasing demand in France for replacing the Gaullist constitution of the Fifth Republic does nothing to address the root causes of mounting racism while allowing politicians to pretend to have responded to the electoral evidence of France's racial fracture. And the most visible expression of this demand--the Committee for a Sixth Republic (C6R) led by Socialist deputy Arnaud de Montebourg--sadly does not include IRV in its proposals.




    In "The Coup That Wasn't" [May 6] Marc Cooper contrasts Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez with former Chilean President Salvador Allende, saying, "Chávez has failed to produce much of the radical change he promised." Cooper needs a wake-up call. This is 2002, a time when the constraints on economic policy in Latin America are greater than ever. Never has capital been more mobile and more capable of disciplining governments that attempt to embark upon radical change. If Allende were governing Chile today, he'd recognize the constraints and think twice about nationalizing one industry after another, as he did in the early 1970s.

    Considering the constraints the Chávez government has had to operate under, it has achieved some notable reforms. In a recent interview with Le Monde Diplomatique editor Ignacio Ramonet, Chávez lays out some of his government's achievements: "We have lowered unemployment...created more than 450,000 new jobs.... Venezuela has moved up four places on the Human Development Index. The number of children in school has risen 25 percent. More than 1.5 million children who didn't go to school are now in school, and they receive clothing, breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks. We have carried out massive immunization campaigns in the marginalized sectors of the population. Infant mortality has declined. We are building more than 135,000 housing units for poor families. We are distributing land to landless campesinos. We have created a Women's Bank that provides micro-credit loans. In the year 2001, Venezuela was one of the countries with the highest growth rates on the continent, nearly 3 percent.... We are delivering the country from prostration and backwardness."

    Cooper makes no mention of this, nor does he say anything about the hundreds of thousands of poor Venezuelans who descended upon Caracas in defense of their temporarily ousted president. Most scandalous is Cooper's repetition of the coup plotters' version of events, as he claims that Chávez "turned police and armed supporters against peaceful protesters...provoking a shootout that injured scores and killed more than a dozen." Cooper never points out that this version of events is highly contested. Several witnesses to the bloodshed, including former Fulbright scholar Greg Wilpert and Kim Bartley, an Irish filmmaker, contend that unidentified snipers initiated the carnage, shooting into crowds of pro-Chávez demonstrators that had surrounded the Presidential Palace.

    Repeating the coup plotters' version of events and invoking Salvador Allende's good name are shameful.



    It has been claimed that Latin American governments opposed the coup in Venezuela. This is not accurate. Some governments denounced the coup (Argentina, Brazil), but other countries welcomed it (Colombia, Chile, Paraguay, among others). The OAS did not call for a return of the Chávez government; instead it called for the holding of elections as soon as possible, a de facto recognition of the coup.

    In fact, it was part of the coup plan to use the OAS as a way of legitimizing itself. In fact, the coup government invited the OAS head, Cesar Gaviria (from Colombia), to go to Venezuela to help with the "transition to institutionality." The OAS, however, was overtaken by events. The coup lost power, and by the time Gaviria arrived in Caracas, Chávez was back in power.

    So we should not be fooled. The OAS was going to be used by Washington and the coup plotters. The "defense" of constitutionality by the OAS took place after Chávez was returned to the presidency.



    Woodland Hills, Calif.

    The global economic constraints described by Justin Delacour are indeed real. And if, as he suggests, Allende would today have to think twice about nationalizing foreign firms, then how can he defend Chávez's record? Instead of enacting authentic reform, Chávez chose the posture of a loud-mouth demagogue, only narrowing his parameters by rattling the cages of his very powerful adversaries. His playing pattycake with Saddam and Qaddafi and hide-and-seek with the ignoble Colombia guerrillas pissed off Uncle Sam and elicited laudatory editorials from Havana's Granma--and it put food on the table for exactly nobody and created jobs and housing for just as few.

    Chávez might as well have nationalized the entire Venezuelan economy, for nothing could have further alienated his domestic financial and investment elites than his hypercharged revolutionary, but hollow, bluster. Yet Chávez imposed the same budget-slashing austerity of any neoliberal IMF adjustment program. Indeed, the only statistics I need to rebut Chávez's self-congratulatory list of accomplishments quoted by Delacour are the myriad pre-coup polls showing the Venezuelan president's popularity plummeting to around 30 percent. It seems the Venezuelan poor don't read Ignacio Ramonet and are ignorant of their impressively improving status.

    As to who shot whom on the day of the botched coup: Wilpert, Delacour's star witness, has written in online accounts that armed Chávez supporters were involved in the bloodshed that took more than a dozen lives. Chávez has as much as admitted the same. That other forces may have been involved in the firefights--unnamed rooftop (or were they grassy knoll?) snipers, uniformed police acting on behalf of the opposition, sectarian squads, etc.--is still unclear. What is certain is that armed bands of Chávez supporters were present at an otherwise peaceful rally and were directly involved in the lethal mayhem. In an authentic civilian democracy, the president of the republic does not tolerate armed gangs, even of his own supporters. And they certainly don't show up, ready for action, at opposition rallies. In short, your enemy's enemy should not always be considered your friend. It's possible for both the US government and the Chávez administration to have similar if not equal disdain for democratic rule.

    Professor Nelson Valdes is an always astute observer of Latin American affairs, but on this issue he's a tad off the mark. I fully share his suspicion as to the depth of democratic commitment to be found among OAS members. That said, during the thirty-hour period that President Chávez was displaced by Pedro Carmona, virtually no Latin American government recognized the latter's administration. This continental balk was hardly a dramatic rupture with Washington. But the gesture certainly contributed to the vacuum that eventually sucked the usurpers from power.



    Valhalla, NY

    Ralph Brave scores points off Francis Fukuyama by ridiculing the concept of human nature Fukuyama attempts to defend in his brief against genetic engineering and the "posthuman future" ["The Body Shop," April 22]. It's true that as part of an effort by some social conservatives to derail the uses of cloning and related biotechnologies to fabricate designer human embryos, Fukuyama falls into genetic determinism and other varieties of essentialism to characterize what he would like to preserve. But does the fact that human nature is changeable mean, therefore, that the production of humans should be handed over to commercial interests? Draw the line wherever you want and the technological-medical imperative will eventually roll over it. If you don't mind someone making stem cells from twelve-day clonal embryos, how about better stem cells from two-month clonal fetuses, transplantable livers from six-month clones, or bone marrow from clonal newborns engineered never to develop brains? If you don't mind parents genetically engineering their offspring so as to not develop hemophilia, how about to not be less than average height, to have perfect pitch, greater upper body strength?

    Brave seems to think technology is, uncomplicatedly, something "we" produce to satisfy "our" needs. Thus the automobile industry has always just given us the vehicles we demanded, the fuel industry just wants to keep us mobile and comfortable indoors and the processed food companies just want to feed us. As we sit in traffic jams contemplating the climatological and health costs of such technological advances, we might also think about the consequences of adopting Brave's laissez-faire prescription for biotechnology, which looks as strange in the pages of The Nation as Fukuyama's technological skepticism does coming from the author of The End of History.



    Davis, Calif.

    I used to feel heartened when Stuart Newman stepped forward as a scientist expressing concerns about genetic technologies. But his blatant misreading of my review now worries me. Nowhere do I advocate a "laissez-faire prescription for biotechnology," or that "production of humans should be handed over to commercial interests" or "clonal newborns engineered never to develop brains." Although Newman says it is impossible to "draw the line" to prevent unethical biomedical practices, it is done every day. Otherwise even Newman's own research into the cellular and molecular mechanisms of vertebrate limb development would be suspect.

    On the serious issue of clonal embryos for stem cell research, the potential ability to create genetically matched tissues or organs to treat disease and injury is no small matter. The current need of transplant patients to use antirejection drugs for their entire lives, drugs that suppress the immune system, making them unable to defend against infection or cancer, is a treatment compromise that needs remedy. Criminalizing both the research to address this and the resulting therapies themselves, as Newman, Fukuyama and George W. Bush advocate, is what I would label "strange."



    Oakland, Calif.

    Christopher Hitchens reminds us that of the three religions of Abraham--Islam, Christianity and Judaism--Islam is the only one that admits the legitimacy of the other two ["Minority Report," April 15]. A further reminder: The reason Jews have been able to pray at the Wailing Wall for nearly 500 years is that Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, Successor to the Prophet, Commander of the Faithful, Shadow of God upon Earth, ordered his chief architect to construct a porch for them to pay their duty to God at the most visible surviving portion of their ancient temple.


    Wilmington, Dela.

    Christopher Hitchens, admired for his analysis of modern-day events, should be a bit more careful in his examination of earlier ones. The enlightened paradise of Muslim Spain may have indeed been dealt its death blow by Ferdinand and Isabella, but its much-vaunted tolerance ended many years before, in the twelfth century, when power was seized by the Almohads, a fanatical Islamic sect from Morocco, which does bear comparison to the Taliban. They waged a campaign of terror on all Christians and Jews, especially those with political power. Many Jews fled to the more tolerant Christian Spanish kingdoms to the north, while others fled to more tolerant Islamic kingdoms. Among those who fled southward was the powerful family of Maimonides, which hailed from Córdoba but could suffer the brutal regime no longer. So it is a bit disingenuous of Hitchens to hold Maimonides up as a symbol of Muslim tolerance. Even in its best periods, Islamic history is no less checkered than our own.


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