New York City
Win McCormack's sophisticated examination of conservative tactics in the last election was fascinating ["Deconstructing the Election," March 26]. Such sophistication is not necessary to an understanding of conservative intellectual resilience in defending the interests of the dominant economic powers. 'Twas ever thus. There is only one consistency in conservative analysis of the role of government: It is to follow its historical role of protecting the dominant interests and transferring wealth from those who have little to those who have much.
I'm glad the web-based version of your magazine is free. Otherwise I'd be forced to ask for a refund, not to mention punitive damages for the waste of my time (and, undoubtedly, a number of brain cells) caused by reading this article. I'll spare you my opinions and critique. Let's just paraphrase Foucault and say that this is the kind of writing that gives bullshit a bad name.
I am sympathetic with Win McCormack's applying poststructural analysis to the presidential election, but he makes a glaring mistake. The quote he attributes to Michel Foucault, that Derrida is "the kind of philosopher who gives bullshit a bad name," was in fact uttered by UC Berkeley professor John Searle, who made the statement in a 1983 article in the New York Times Book Review.
New Haven, Conn.
I hope I may be pardoned if I quibble, in prepostmodern fashion, over a minor point. I have it on good authority that the wonderful remark on Derrida being the sort of philosopher "who gives bullshit a bad name" comes not from Foucault but from Richard Rorty. But, of course, if the interpretation and recounting of all "texts" really is indeterminate, it perhaps doesn't matter all that much anyway.
JOSHUA L. CHERNISS
The "bullshit" quote is postmodernly elusive. Richard Rorty is fairly certain he never said it. John Searle admits to using it but not to originating it. In his article, McCormack relied on the rarely correct Dinesh D'Souza, who attributed it to Foucault. Scholars pronounce it "un-Foucauldian."
St. Peter, Minn.
I enjoyed Win McCormack's review of the Florida debacle and appreciate seeing the crisscrossing issues brought together in one place. But I was annoyed by his harping on "irony" and hints that Baker & Co. were secret advocates of the "postmodernism" Lynne Cheney castigates. Two errors: 1. Foucault's rejection of objective neutrality is premised on the principle that there's no such thing as objectivity independent of somebody's constructive work--nothing counts as "neutrality" in that sense; rising above subjectivity is an essential impossibility, not one based on human fallibility. This isn't at all the same as James Baker's claim that people are fallible and cannot arrive at objective truth, which nevertheless exists and is better approximated by nonpartisan machines than biased people.
2. There's nothing ironic about Republicans behaving the way they say they don't. It's a nifty example of Foucault's power theory, but you'd hardly expect Lynne Cheney to embrace Foucault. Not unless you find it "ironic" that capitalists are still behaving the way Marx said they do even as they pronounce Marxism dead and discredited. That's what Marx said they'd do. Lynne Cheney writes in a way Foucault anticipates even as she attempts to discredit him. Nothing ironic there.
RICHARD A. HILBERT
Win McCormack's article reminded me of Nixon winning elections by calling his opponents communists and later saying he knew they weren't communists but he had to win. As someone who was at the Inauguration protests in Washington and in several other protests, I was especially interested in the parts about the paid Republican protesters in Florida. I encountered Republican protesters here at the governor's mansion during the election fiasco--nasty, horrible, meanspirited people. When we protested the presence of the Fortune 500 group and Vicente Fox at U Texas, we were held back by a horrifying force of police in riot gear. Our protest community is notoriously peaceful, but no one was protecting us. The police got to try out their new toys--like rubber bullets--against some college students at Mardi Gras, causing several injuries and terrifying us all. Despite strong objections at a city council meeting, the police got a large raise, a toothless oversight committee, no civilian review and were sent on a junket to Seattle to learn crowd control! If we protesters had tried anything nearly as threatening as what Republicans staged in Florida, the police would have caused a bloodbath, and the media would have blamed us.
Win McCormack effectively conveys the tendentiousness, hypocrisy and even demagogy that characterized the Republicans' strategy in Florida. But I take exception to his claim that we require Foucault's concept of "a battle among discourses" to properly understand this historical event. Tendentiousness, hypocrisy and demagogy have characterized political rhetoric since well before the birth of poststructuralist philosophy. They have been analyzed with great acuity by, among others, Machiavelli, who advocated deploying them prudently, and Jürgen Habermas, whose ethics of discourse repudiates them.
McCormack wrongly invokes the term "discourse" to describe the position of one party in a two-party or multiparty controversy. Discourses for Foucault are analogous to what we might call the "paradigm" (Foucault would say "discipline") within which a controversy occurs. A Foucauldian approach to the Florida deadlock, therefore, would involve studying the underlying social, political, economic and cultural relations of power that determined which truth claims were accepted as valid.
It is true, as McCormack notes, that a subjectivist or relativist epistemology underlies this approach to the study of the relationship between power and ideas. But the fact that James Baker raised the problem of "individual subjectivity" on the canvassing boards in no way confirms Foucault's theory of power, as McCormack claims. To assert that election officials may be subjective is a far cry from demonstrating the validity of the proposition that everything is subjective. At most, McCormack may be able to claim that widespread acceptance of Baker's argument would demonstrate that some number of people have embraced a Foucauldian theory of power. This, of course, would no more confirm the theory than does Baker's charge of bias on Florida's canvassing boards.
Ultimately, we do not require Foucauldian concepts to understand what happened in Florida. George Bush personified hypocrisy by contesting the constitutionality of a voting procedure he signed into law in Texas; the US Supreme Court's justification for stopping the manual recount was manifestly tendentious; and Baker's claim that a prolonged electoral struggle would undermine US international standing was demagogic. Foucault can help us understand how networks of power determine whether these discursive acts come to be accepted or rejected. But to understand the corruption that pervaded GOP strategy in Florida, we need only to have been paying attention.
McCormack turns out to be prophetic of future postmodernisms by the more right-wing elements of the Establishment. Writing for an undivided Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas informs us, "It is clear from the text of the [Controlled Substances] act that Congress has made a determination that marijuana has no medical benefits worthy of an exception"--a nice reminder that "power is knowledge."
The idea of different lenses through which history can be viewed and refracted (and twisted) was satirized by E.M. Forster in his seminal (hell, downright ovular) 1909 dystopian satire "The Machine Stops"; and the malleability of the past and the social construction of knowledge and the universe would be no news to George Orwell's O'Brien in 1984 or to the Stalinists, Nazis and other totalitarians he represents. No one knew that power is knowledge better than the authoritarians and totalitarians of the first half of the twentieth century, and later.
What's postmodern now is the degree to which "the best lack all conviction": the degree to which twenty-first-century intellectuals lack the ontological and epistemological foundations from which to argue that Congress might just, concerning medical marijuana at least, be in error, cruel and--in a nontheoretical formulation--full of shit.
RICHARD D. ERLICH
D'outre-Tombe [Beyond the Grave], France
Imagine my post-mortem shock at seeing my name on the cover of The Nation, somehow linked with the slogan "History Is Entirely Subjective." Am I not among those who pointed out in the 1960s that "Man" is a recent invention, and one fast approaching its end? If you want a slogan from my work, how about this one, spoken by an anonymous voice at the end of The Archaeology of Knowledge: "Discourse is not life; its time is not your time. In it, you will not be reconciled to death; you may have killed God beneath the weight of all that you have said. But don't imagine that, with all that you are saying, you will make a man that will live longer than he." "Entirely subjective" indeed!
I am gratified by the voluminous amount of mail that arrived in reaction to my article. I will respond to only one point, as I think that will enable me to expand and clarify my central thesis.
It may be true, as Jason Neidleman contends, that ultimately we do not need to deploy a Foucauldian intellectual apparatus to grasp the basic structure of what happened in Florida. However, I was more concerned with Republican or conservative intellectual superstructure. Conservatives have for some time now been claiming that their movement possesses a moral and intellectual integrity superior to that of their political and ideological adversaries and have repeatedly cited the widespread embrace of "decadent" postmodern (by which they mean poststructuralist) theories in liberal academia as partial evidence of that. Convincing the public of this putative superiority is much of what they have in mind when they speak of fighting, and winning, the "cultural wars" and is the very goal of tracts like Lynne Cheney's Speaking the Truth and Dinesh D'Souza's Illiberal Education. In that context, the fact that their behavior in Florida, from the rough-and-tumble street level all the way up to the hushed, august chambers of the Supreme Court, reveals them, on their own chosen terms of discourse, to be intellectually and morally inconsistent and bankrupt seems more than noteworthy and was, ultimately, my real point.
A VICTIM OF THE WAR ON DRUGS
Your editorial on "The Worst Drug Laws" [April 9] was excellent. It's long past time to reverse the damage done by the war on drugs as well as the damage it has done to the rights of all Americans.
I am 39, have always been gainfully employed and have used drugs recreationally since my teen years. Never had I run afoul of the law or victimized anyone except maybe myself. I am currently doing my third year of a twelve-year sentence on drug charges (Health & Safety Code violation) in a California prison, even though I had no criminal history. The first person I was in a prison cell with was convicted of manslaughter. He was sentenced to six years. Go figure.
There is no way I can convince myself that this should be called a free country. This experience has opened my eyes, though--not to the dangers of drugs but to the dangers of an out-of-touch and out-of-control government.
WHO KILLED KYOTO?
Ross Gelbspan ["Bush's Global Warmers," April 9] quotes my colleague Tom Wigley as saying that my "statements on [climate models] are a catalog of misrepresentation and misinterpretation." The University of Virginia's promotions committee, the dean of the faculty and the provost must think otherwise!
More to the point, however, is that it was Tom's own calculation that killed Kyoto. In 1998 he demonstrated that if all signatory nations complied completely with the protocol, the reduction in realized warming by the year 2050 would be 0.07 degrees C (and 0.14 degrees C by 2100). The cost runs around 2 percent of GDP per year, according to the Energy Information Administration (under the Clinton Administration). That figure assumes the strictures on carbon sequestration and emissions trading that the European Union held us to at The Hague this past November.
The mathematics works out rather simply: If one assumes the UN's mean expectation of 2.5 degrees warming in the next hundred years (a number that is demonstrably a bit too high), Kyoto prevents one twentieth of it (an amount that will never even be measurable with precision), at an enormous annual cost. That's why Bush quit Kyoto. It has nothing to do with an industry conspiracy, which you seem so fond of, and everything to do with Tom Wigley's calculation.
PATRICK J. MICHAELS
Senior fellow, Cato Institute
As his coal-industry funders have long appreciated, Pat Michaels has a special talent for generating much confusion with very few words. Michaels undermines and misstates the projections of twenty-first century warming by the more than 2,000 scientists who compose the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who project the world will warm from 2.5 to 10 degrees in this century.
Assuming the mantle of economist, Michaels declares the cost of complying with the Kyoto Protocol to be "enormous." In so doing, he ignores the far more professional estimates of the insurance industry. Munich Re-Insurance estimates the coming costs of climate impacts will amount to $300 billion a year in the next several decades. The largest insurer in Britain, CGNU, says that, unchecked, climate change could bankrupt the global economy by 2065.
Finally, in assuming to speak for the White House, Michaels asserts that Bush withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol because its costs are too high for its low goals. In fact, Bush said he withdrew from the protocol because it "unfairly" exempts developing countries from the first round of carbon cuts--and because the "science is unsettled."
If, as Michaels suggests, Bush were to take his guidance from such pre-eminent scientists as Dr. Tom M. L. Wigley of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the United States would be leading the world's efforts to curb global warming--instead of fashioning energy policies designed to plunge us even deeper into a climate hell.
THE WHO (PLAYS A MEAN PINBALL)
Robert James Parsons is incorrect in his "The Balkan DU Cover-Up" [April 9] on a number of counts. He claims that the UN system is under pressure "to keep the lid on DU contamination investigations." Concerned about possible public health consequences of the use of DU munitions and aware of concerns voiced by governments and the public, the World Health Organization has, on the contrary, undertaken a number of activities related to this issue. These include a field mission to Kosovo, a meeting with an Iraqi delegation of scientists on further cooperation and future action, publication of a fact sheet on DU, an appeal to donors to fund WHO work on DU and health in affected countries and a forthcoming monograph on DU.
The WHO monograph on DU was never expected to be released in December 1999. A document of some 200 pages, encompassing a review of a large amount of the best available scientific literature on uranium and DU, this work was undertaken only in autumn 1999. Studies of this scope take more than a few months to complete.
The four-page WHO fact sheet on DU (www.who.int/inf-fs/en/fact257.html) is consistent with all m ajor reviews recently conducted on the possible health effects of exposure to DU and is not contradictory. WHO intended to release its fact sheet together with its monograph on DU, but because of intense public concern about DU early this year, the fact sheet was issued earlier than planned. The fact sheet was never "quietly canceled."
The 1959 agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) does not affect the impartial and independent exercise by WHO of its statutory responsibilities, nor does it place WHO in a situation of subordination to IAEA. The above-mentioned DU-related activities were all undertaken independently by WHO, without any approval or influence whatsoever by the IAEA.
Parsons writes that "WHO radiation safety standards [are] designed for measuring a brief 'one event' source of radiation." In reality, WHO radiation safety standards cover both short- and long-term effects. WHO may conduct a field investigation only if the government authorities request it and if funding is provided by donors. Two such requests were made in January 2001; WHO replied positively and took action rapidly.
DR. RICHARD HELMER
World Health Organization
If WHO was "concerned about possible public health consequences of the use of DU munitions," it certainly has been discreet about making that concern known. The field mission and meetings with the Iraqi delegation of scientists, etc. have all taken place since mid-January, whereas the alarm bells concerning Kosovo were first sounded by Bakary Kante's preliminary assessment in May 1999. The problem in Iraq was brought before the world's public long before that, largely by the Gulf War veterans.
Further, once the Iraqi government had finally made up its mind officially to seek help from WHO (in November 1999), WHO did not respond to Iraq's letter until the end of July 2000. WHO headquarters in Geneva claims that it was misplaced at the Middle East Regional Office. Such a politically hot document, received after years of waiting and conjecture as to just what the Iraqis were intending to do about the DU problem, could never have been simply mislaid without knowledge and approval from WHO's highest echelons.
The WHO monograph is not a monograph at all, as acknowledged by Ann Kern, WHO's executive director for sustainable development and healthy environments, but a review of some of the available literature on the chemical and radiological toxicity of uranium, obviously selected for its lack of treatment of the subject of nonsoluable, ceramic-like DU particles--the source of the threat to health and the environment.
The fact sheet was, indeed, not canceled. But an earlier one was. WHO did it quietly, with the result that I, as well as a Dutch journalist, Saskia Jansens, a longtime veteran of DU inquiry, kept having to ask about its progress until Gregory Hartl, WHO's principal spokesman, finally admitted that it would never see the light of day. We did not go quietly upon hearing the news in August 1999, barely two months after the fact sheet had been announced as in the works. The result was an announcement that WHO was undertaking a "generic" study of DU, to be focused exclusively on its chemical toxicity as a heavy metal and thus entrusted to the direction of Barry Smith, a geologist. The study has been rechristened a "monograph."
Dr Michael Repacholi, WHO coordinator for occupation and environmental health, sustainable development and healthy environments, announced at a January press conference at UN headquarters here in Geneva that the scope of the generic study had been extended to include radiological toxicity and also stated that in addition to a review of literature, there would be actual testing of people, such as urine analysis. He then claimed, in an April 26 press conference on release of the "monograph," that it has always included radiotoxicity and chemiotoxicity, but he admits that it is only a review of literature with no clinical or field studies ever intended.
The four-page WHO fact sheet is at stark variance with the draft of the canceled one. The latter dealt with DU as a source of internal, constant radiation, DU in the form of ceramic-like, inhalable particles that have been let loose on the planet by the thousands of billions where DU munitions have burned on contact with their target. The later fact sheet deals with DU as natural uranium, soluble in the human body, hence easily, often quickly, eliminated.
The 1959 agreement with the IAEA, was, according to my sources, the reason the initial fact sheet was canceled as well as the reason the generic study had to be confined to DU's chemical toxicity until the public outcry, particularly in Europe, made it necessary to deal with the radiation side. Not surprisingly, that radiation side is dismissed by the "monograph" as of negligible importance. Helmer's statement that "WHO radiation safety standards cover both short- and long-term effects" does not address the question of constant, long-term radiation from an internal source. The long-term effects of "one event" radiation are still effects from "one event" radiation, like a bomb blast, and not applicable to the radiation generated by the ceramic-like particles lodged for years in lung tissue.
As for the statement that WHO may conduct a field investigation only if government authorities request it, one may point out that regardless of the huge and increasing mountain of evidence about Iraq, the WHO never requested an invitation to investigate, as it could have done.
The just-released "monograph" is one more stone in the huge wall of denial about the dangers of radiation that WHO and the UN are party to. Since the "monograph" and a recent UN Environment Program report are supposed to be the last word on the subject for a long time, we still have a long way to go before anything serious is done about what WHO perceived as a major threat to the human species back in the 1950s before the IAEA agreement silenced WHO on the subject of radiation and public health.
ROBERT JAMES PARSONS
WHAT'S GERMAN FOR 'SWEATSHOP'?
Since Jonah Peretti's "My Nike Media Adventure" [April 9] did not mention coverage in continental Europe, I wanted to add to the catalogue of media coverage an article in the March 7 Die Tageszeitung, Berlin. "Mach dir deine Marke selbst," written by Oliver Tolmein, was the first I read of the Nike e-mail incident until I got my copy of The Nation.
DEAD WRONG POET?--II
Response to Deadline Poet Calvin Trillin's "On Bush Breaking His Campaign Pledge to Limit Carbon Dioxide Emissions" (April 9):
Trillin is mad--boy, is he bitter:
Nader, unknowing, has him a-twitter.
So stressed is Cal (it is most alarming),
He confuses ozone with globally warming.
In Kyoto Gore said, "We must make this clear,
We're flexible always, so relax, never fear.
We'll take back our pledge to cut CO
If the money boys tell us it's what we should do."
Now W's gone and studied Al's pages,
And lo and behold, the poetry rages:
"It's Nader that did it, Ralph Nader's to blame.
He said those two are just one and the same."
VIETNAM QUAGMIRE FANTASIES
The history of the Vietnam War as told by David Rudenstine in his review of A.J. Langguth's Our Vietnam ["Vietnam: 'Quagmire' Quackery," March 5] is based on dominant fantasies every bit as misleading as the nonsensical "quagmire" story he and Langguth properly ridicule. One cannot possibly get the history straight if one begins in 1954 rather than 1945, when Washington initiated its first acts of war against Vietnam. To claim that it was "the North Vietnamese" who "defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu" and to present the United States as an ally of "South Vietnam" against "North Vietnam" is to accept Washington's falsification of the entire subsequent history. As the 1954 Geneva Accords recognized, and as the United States was finally forced to acknowledge in the 1973 Paris Peace Agreements, Vietnam was one country, not two. In fact, most of the government leaders of "South Vietnam" came from the north, while the strongest proponents of northern military support for the rebellion against the Diem dictatorship came from southerners in the Hanoi government.
Indeed, Rudenstine chronicles the period of this southern rebellion as though he had never even heard of it, attributing the fall of Diem exclusively to the Buddhist protests of 1963. Diem's fate was sealed as soon as the National Liberation Front came into being in December 1960 and initiated the organized revolution. If this revolution was not threatening the very existence of the Diem regime, then why did Kennedy begin massive chemical warfare in 1961? This was a year before 1962, when, Rudenstine euphemistically and inaccurately tells us, "Kennedy began to increase the number of US personnel in Vietnam." Too bad The Nation devoted four pages to retailing this minor variation of an official history that many of us, for almost four decades, have been exposing as a deception.
H. BRUCE FRANKLIN
New York City
H. Bruce Franklin is exhausting himself boxing with shadows that are not mine. Of course Vietnam was one country. Of course a more exhaustive and thorough history of what became the US war in Vietnam would cause a historian to begin the narrative long before 1954, as A.J. Langguth does, or even before 1945, as Franklin urges. Further, Franklin's suggestion that my review attributed the fall of Diem to the Buddhist protests of 1963 is silly. More important, Franklin misses the focus of my review. Many, like former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, still claim that the war resulted from "mostly honest mistakes" made by US leaders, as opposed to errors of "values and intentions." But as my review makes plain, Langguth's history demolishes the apologists' quagmire thesis, and in so doing raises the profound question of the capacity of the US political order to implement prudent and moral policies. Franklin does not think that issue is worth the ink spent on it. I can't imagine why. The question is poignantly timely given that we now have a President with no defense or diplomatic experience, a Secretary of State who is a general and a Secretary of Defense steeped in cold war ideology.
THE WHOLE WORLD WAS WATCHING
New York City
Jim Russell's "SDS's Other Wars" [March 5] is as uncritical and celebratory of the SDS film Rebels With a Cause as the film is of the organization. No surprise: Russell--like the film-maker and half the film's talking heads--worked in the SDS national office. Young historians (e.g., Jeremy Varon, Doug Rossinow, John McMillian) have been breaking with this archaic, top-down (and, ultimately, factionalist) perspective and have been going beyond the beliefs that many of us held at the time, into a critical history. Leftists who seek to build a new movement have a deep interest in a history that faces the fact that SDS collapsed when it might have grown and in trying to figure out, as Russell and the film do not, why this happened. A triumphal narrative leaves the collapse unexplained. A useful explanation for this tragedy would go beyond the sectarian wars and that convenient deus ex machina, the FBI--which did great damage but cannot be held responsible for so many of our mistakes. There was always conflict within SDS. The film would have been truer and more cinematically exciting had these often intelligent conflicts been presented (cf., Rashomon, Land and Freedom, Arguing the World, even Clint Eastwood's True Crime).
One example of Russell's uncritical and misleading celebration: Writing of SDS in 1965, he speaks of "the beginning of women's activism in the movement," which "added gender to the inequalities of race and class that the organization sought to redress." Redress? Huh? Women's liberation arose in part in rebellion against SDS's often grotesque sexism, while the national office continued to be decorated with cheesecake posters and faux working-class lunks saying, "Our chicks aren't into that petty bourgeois women's lib bullshit" (actual quote, verbatim). Crediting SDS as the birthplace of women's liberation, as do the film and Russell's review, and, ludicrously, seeing it as feminist is a little like saying the Democratic Party should be credited with having given birth to the 1960s antiwar movement or for the recent Nader campaign. Truth counts: The version peddled by the film and by Russell is simply not true.
For an alternative view, see Lemisch, "Students for a Democratic Society, Heroically Portrayed, Before the Inexplicable Fall: Consensus History in a Left Film," Film & History, March. (For info see www.filmandhistory.org; or write us at Utopia1@attglobal.net.)
Jesse Lemisch and Naomi Weisstein appear to be still suffering from a New Left hangover and seem unable to distinguish, since they invoke that great paragon of progressivism Clint Eastwood, the good from the bad and the ugly. The serious issue they raise concerns how to portray in the relatively short space afforded by the film the strengths as well as weaknesses of an organizational experience. Rebels focused on the strengths but not without acknowledging a number of the weaknesses. On balance film director Helen Garvy presented in my estimation a strong, consistent and, yes, nuanced interpretation of the experience, though obviously not that of Lemisch and Weisstein.
Rebels, it is true, sympathetically portrays its subject. Lemisch and Weisstein apparently would have preferred it to be one last settling of scores from their point of view or, if not that, an ideological free-for-all à la the 1969 convention. While this would have produced a film of great interest to some, I suspect that it, like sectarian politics, would have been irrelevant to most.
Neither the film nor I claimed that SDS gave birth to women's liberation. SDS rather was one of the key movement forums within which the ideas were discussed that launched militant activism around women's issues in the second half of the 1960s. It is true that sexism existed within the organization as well as society. But to imply that SDS wallowed in "often grotesque sexism" and stood opposed to the women's movement is ludicrous. If it were so, why would so many strong and committed feminists have participated in the making of this film and spoken so positively of their experiences in SDS? Cheesecake posters in the national office? Not when I worked there or visited, before or after.
Rebels is not without its faults, some of which I mentioned in the review. But the large number of e-mail responses from students indicate that they find the film a useful vehicle for learning about progressive activism then and talking about it now.
THE NLRB THEN & NOW
I was disappointed in Steve Early's review of William B. Gould IV's Labored Relations ["How Stands the Union?" Jan. 22]. As a member of the labor-management advisory committee to the National Labor Relations Board during Gould's tenure as chairman, I was familiar with many substantive and procedural achievements during those years--accomplishments barely mentioned in Early's review.
One such achievement came to light only last year, when reviewing courts fully affirmed 79 percent of the NLRB decisions appealed to them, an unusually high rate of approval. Most of those affirmed decisions were decided by the NLRB under Gould's leadership.
Early's criticism of Gould's impatience with fellow board members and members of Congress misses an important point. Many of the disputes and turf wars recounted in Labored Relations arose when Gould attempted to rouse career bureaucrats from ordinary, comfortable patterns of doing business. Gould's experiences at the NLRB provide another example of how the revolving door between agencies, Congressional staffs and interest-group lawyers often stymies creative problem-solving. The intensity of their resistance to Gould's reforms underscores a point made frequently in The Nation--official Washington is currently a nasty, poisonous place, and one takes a substantial risk in challenging the established order. Gould's meticulous documentation of the price he frequently paid for taking that risk should be praised, not ridiculed.
JOHN L. BARLOW
New York City
Steve Early's review paints a picture of Gould that almost entirely neglects the accomplishments of the Clinton board over the past eight years and forgets what the board has been (or not been) for unions for much of the two decades preceding. In light of the ascendancy of George W. Bush, we may very soon look back on the Gould-Feinstein years with great fondness and nostalgia.
The undersigned were members of the NLRB's labor-management advisory committee, formed shortly after Gould became chairman of the NLRB. Early should recall with horror, as we do, the state of the board in 1992 after twelve years of Republican rule. The agency--the board agents and attorneys that union organizers deal with every day--was demoralized, in disarray and unable to fulfill its mission of enforcing the (admittedly weak) NLRA. Rather than concentrate on the gossip and innuendo surrounding the internecine warfare at the headquarters (yes, a large part of Gould's book), Early should have recognized in his review the successful initiatives that reversed in part the board's decline and descent into irrelevancy. Of particular importance was the board's Fieldcrest Cannon decision, which imposed an unprecedented set of remedies (upheld by no less than the Fourth Circuit) on the company in order to insure a free and fair election, which the union ultimately won, in the largest organizing victory in the South in more than twenty-five years. Those remedies have also set the standard for correcting outrageous employer behavior in dozens of subsequent decisions and settled cases.
The advisory committee urged, and the Clinton board adopted, a greater use of preliminary Section 10(j) injunctions, the adoption of a framework for processing cases faster both in the regions and in Washington and adoption of administrative devices to encourage settlements and the use of bench decisions by administrative law judges. As Gould points out, improvements in case handling and reforms dramatically reduced the backlog of cases during his four-year tenure. Finally, as is often the case, it was as much the threat of those devices as their use that encouraged employer moderation.
Early correctly points out that "for tens of millions of workers in the private sector, bypassing the law [and hence the board] is not an option." For the first time in many years, unions during the Clinton years felt they had a chance at a fair shake from the NLRB. While we had our disagreements with Gould and Feinstein, and they appear to have had many with each other, the bitter rhetoric of Early's review obscures some real accomplishments in turning around an agency that remains critical to labor's rebirth.
JOHN L. BARLOW
DUANE B. BEESON
WILLIAM E. CODAY
EUGENE G. EISNER
LEE W. JACKSON
FREDERICK T. KUYKENDALL III
As my review indicated, there were certainly differences between the Clinton-era labor board and its Republican-dominated predecessors. However, to workers fired for union activity, these differences were much less apparent than they might have been to friends of Bill Gould, who served on his "labor-management advisory committee." The effectiveness of labor law and its enforcement must be measured in terms of their impact on workplace organization, not with reference to the greater access or influence that union lawyers or the AFL-CIO always enjoy at the NLRB under a Democratic administration. The continuing decline of private-sector unionization over the past eight years speaks for itself. When the percentage of the nongovernment workforce that is organized begins to rise from its current 9 percent level--rather than sink further every year--we'll have seen real evidence that the board's own "decline and descent into irrelevancy" has been reversed.
As a subscriber, I want to thank you for using recycled paper. According to the Worldwide Institute, US paper consumption rose by 20 kg per person between 1992 and '97--and now stands at 335 kg per person. That places a strain on the world's forests, and processing releases harmful chemicals into the air and water. In addition, the paper we throw away accounts for about 40 percent of municipal solid waste streams. If more of the magazine industry (which uses roughly 25 million trees' worth of paper a year) would insist on recycled paper from its suppliers, it would make a huge difference.
THE FAT CAT IN THE HAT
As the great-grandson of the man from whom the word "maverick" became part of the English language, and as the 80-year-old son of the first Congressman from the South to vote for an antilynching law, I am deeply depressed by your cover showing President Bush wearing a Texas cowboy hat [Feb. 26]. You New York liberals are dirty fighters.
MAURY MAVERICK JR.
'FALSE AND DISTORTED'
New York City
Christopher Hitchens's diatribe on Professor Elie Wiesel's essay on Jerusalem in the New York Times is a false and distorted evaluation based on a two-page essay by a distinguished author of more than forty books ["Minority Report," Feb. 19]. Hitchens does not even mention that Wiesel won the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize. Had he read the Nobel committee's citation, he would have discovered that Wiesel was "a witness for truth and justice," and that "his aim is not to gain the world's sympathy for the victims or the survivors. His aim is to awaken our conscience because our indifference to evil makes us partners in the crime." The committee cites "this particular human spirit's victory over the powers of death and degradation." It is for the readers of The Nation to choose between Christopher Hitchens and the Norwegian Peace Committee.
BERNARD D. FISCHMAN
Lewis Steel has had an admirable career as a civil rights lawyer, and I agree with much of what he says in his review of James T. Patterson's book about Brown v. Board of Education ["Separate and Unequal, By Design," Feb. 5]. But from my vantage point as a lawyer who began a forty-five-year career in civil rights as a junior attorney on Thurgood Marshall's staff at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in 1954, I think Steel is wrong on two key points.
First, I believe he is wrong to focus the primary blame for failure to implement the Supreme Court's historic 1954 Brown decision on the "all deliberate speed" remedy decision in Brown II in 1955. While the delays permitted by the Court were a great setback, the real culprits were President Eisenhower and the Congress, in failing to support the 1954 decision and in fact undermining it. Eisenhower said law could not "change the hearts and minds of men" and later allowed that his greatest mistakes were in appointing Earl Warren and William Brennan to the Court. Congress was most notable for being the birthplace of the Southern Manifesto, in which Southern legislators called for resistance to the Court's decision. The abdications of the executive and legislative branches created the vacuum that allowed the era of "massive resistance" to take root.
While Hugo Black later said that had he known in advance about the lack of support he would not have agreed to "all deliberate speed," it is doubtful that the Court, operating without allies, would have been obeyed if it called for immediate compliance. Moreover, Steel mischaracterizes Brown II when he says that it assumed only "personal" and not "group" rights for black children. The Court called not just for the admission of black children to white schools but for a "transition to a racially nondiscriminatory school system." Nor did it imply that whites as a group had a right to delay a remedy. Indeed, the Court said that constitutional principles would not yield "simply because of disagreement with them," a point the Court emphatically reinforced in the Little Rock decision three years later.
Finally on this point, I know of no credible evidence to support Steel's thesis that Chief Justice Warren made a deal that the Court would issue "an all deliberate speed" remedy in return for unanimity in Brown I. The Court did agree to put off the remedy decision for a year, nothing more. And Steel's statement that the author "should have concluded that the second ruling eviscerated the first" exhibits an extraordinary misunderstanding of history. Brown called for the end of the racial caste system that had been erected to replace slavery, and whatever strategic mistakes were made in its aftermath, the decision was the beginning of the modern civil rights era.
Steel's second major argument is that "the Court's failure in the 1960s to confront school segregation, Northern style, doomed the struggle for integration." The question of how to approach segregation in Northern public schools was difficult, to say the least, and involved a dispute between two lawyers--Thurgood Marshall and Judge Robert Carter--who were my first bosses and for whom I have the greatest respect. Marshall believed from a strategic viewpoint that bringing litigation in the North might alienate Northern supporters of desegregation and that it would be unwise to open up a second front when massive resistance had civil rights groups on the defensive on the first front. Carter believed that children were facing problems that could not wait. In addition, while Earl Warren's opinion in Brown stressed educational harm, many lawyers (myself included) believed that the heart of the decision rested on the racial intent of segregation laws. In fact, racial intent in the North underlay much of the segregation that existed, but because it was not reflected in a segregation law, it took time and effort to prove a case. So the Court did not confront the issue until 1973, when it decided the Denver case, issuing a strong opinion for systemwide desegregation.
Unfortunately, by this time many central- city school districts had become almost entirely African-American or Hispanic-American as whites moved to suburbs, where housing segregation served as a barrier to minorities. When the Burger Court treated the city line as an almost impermeable barrier to desegregation, the battle was largely lost. But there is little reason to suppose that the result would have been different if the Warren Court had taken on Northern desegregation earlier.
What strikes me as odd in all this is that Steel, who appears to recognize the entrenched character of US racial discrimination, should think that the Court ever had a magic wand to solve the problem. Progress has come, and it has been very substantial, in part because public officials like Earl Warren and Lyndon Johnson stood up to their responsibilities and made possible Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965. But mainly these public acts enabled people to empower themselves. Today, the largest barriers to opportunity are those faced by people of color who live in conditions of poverty and whose lives have been largely untouched by the civil rights revolution. As always, the answers lie in many strategies and forums--in organization and community action, in legislation at every level and, yes, in the federal and state courts. We ought not underestimate the challenge, but it will ill serve the effort if we do not recognize how far we have come and how we have reached this point.
WILLIAM L. TAYLOR
New York City
Before turning to the main point of Bill Taylor's letter, let me clear away the historical underbrush. Contrary to Taylor's belief that there is no "credible evidence" to support my statement that Chief Justice Earl Warren lobbied those Justices who were resistant or hesitating to join his first Brown decision by agreeing to put off the issue of remedy, "allowing the South's segregated school districts time to change their ways," both Mark V. Tushnet in Making Civil Rights Law and Richard Kluger in Simple Justice provide evidence. Kluger describes Warren's lobbying efforts in some detail and states with regard to the last holdout, Stanley Reed, that "the only condition [Reed] extracted from Warren for going along [his law clerk believed] was a pledge that the Court implementation decree [Brown II] would allow segregation to be dismantled gradually instead of being wrenched apart." Kluger, as does Tushnet, states that Warren was constantly meeting with the hesitant Justices individually and that he directed discussions to the concept of the remedy before the merits were decided. As Tushnet concluded, "The Court achieved agreement on the merits in large measure because most justices had a vague idea that they could avoid difficulty by allowing desegregation to occur gradually." Clearly, it was Warren who conveyed that idea.
Out of this understanding the "all deliberate speed" formula emerged in Brown II. While Brown II alluded to group rights as well as personal rights, Jack Greenberg states in Crusaders in the Courts that "the Court spoke with forked tongue."
Now to Taylor's main criticism. Taylor places the major blame for the failure of school desegregation on Eisenhower and Congress and extols Warren's leadership. For me, there is enough blame spiraling throughout our history to make it unnecessary to engage in apportionment. And there is no "magic wand." Only relentless effort can ameliorate, and perhaps one day overcome, the US brand of racism. And like Taylor, I recognize Brown I as an important stepping stone in this struggle.
However, mythology about the Court ill serves us. As our highest judicial body, our constitutional court and one of the organs of government that made Jim Crow possible in the first place, the Supreme Court had an obligation to attempt to undo its separate-and-unequal handiwork promptly. By folding up its tent and retreating after Brown I, the Supreme Court sent a message that it would look the other way with regard to one of the most critical bulwarks of racism--school segregation. That gave support to those who engaged in resistance. Even during the Little Rock confrontation, the Supreme Court in 1958 failed to indicate that "all deliberate speed" must come to an end.
Finally, Taylor appears to say that Thurgood Marshall soft-pedaled Northern school segregation to avoid alienating supporters when Robert Carter began to attack it. This statement strikes me as highly unlikely. When Carter opened up the second front against Northern school segregation, Marshall was already sitting as a federal circuit court judge and would in all likelihood have refrained from talking about cases that might have come before him. Perhaps Jack Greenberg, who had taken over the leadership of the NAACP LDEF and steered clear of Northern-style segregation, may have held this view, and this may be the cause of Taylor's confusion. In Crusaders in the Courts, however, Greenberg says only that while he felt Carter's approach "was entirely logical," he thought it "wouldn't wash." As Taylor notes, Carter believed "that [black] children were facing problems [centuries of segregation and discrimination] that could not wait." To Carter, losing those children in inferior schools for another generation without trying was little different from trying and losing, as he explained to me with more than a little hint of impatience. Even when we did lose in the lower federal courts during those years, Carter maintained his belief that eventually the Supreme Court would take one of our cases and do the right thing. It was not to be.
To this day all of us, but especially African-Americans, suffer because of the Court's contribution to our nation's failure to do little more than superficially desegregate our schools.
LEWIS M. STEEL
REFORMER IN THE DELLS
A postscript to Frances
Fox Piven's excellent "Thompson's Easy Ride" [Feb. 26], on the
elevation of Wisconsin Governor (and die-hard welfare reformer) Tommy
Thompson to Health and Human Services Secretary: Wisconsin's
independent Legislative Audit Bureau recently released a report
showing that Employment Solutions, one of the "nonprofit" private
agencies running the Milwaukee welfare program, spent more than
$370,000 of Wisconsin's TANF [Temporary Assistance to Needy Families]
money on things like staff time and expenses trying to get welfare
contracts in Arizona, and legal fees to determine whether its
lobbying would jeopardize its nonprofit status and staff
Employment Solutions also made "incentive
payments" averaging more than $9,600 each to eighty-four staff
members in 1999 (a total of more than $800,000). Its director, a
former Thompson aide, got bonuses of nearly $100,000 from 1997 to
'99. As has been its pattern, the state never bothered to set
standards for private contractors' use of incentives--even though the
bonuses came out of welfare funds, not the contractors'
The response of Wisconsin's
Department of Workforce Development? No further investigation
necessary. Meanwhile, Employment Solutions claims to be out of money
to fund portions of the current TANF system, like a loan program for
families in crisis situations. The state itself is running out of
money to fund its childcare subsidy program. It's clear who's
benefited from Thompson's welfare reform.
I must respond to
Frances Fox Piven's inaccuracies and bold misinterpretations of the
Wisconsin Works (W-2) program. There is a reason former Wisconsin
Governor Tommy Thompson was easily confirmed as HHS Secretary with no
opposition by Republicans or Democrats. He has made the necessary
investments in people who are making the transition from welfare to
Piven makes a big mistake saying benefits were cut
under the W-2 program, when in fact they have increased dramatically.
In 1996 the state spent $141 million on childcare, transportation and
other employment services for people participating in work programs
under AFDC. In 2001 the state is budgeted to spend well over $350
Is it true that the amount spent on cash benefits
has been reduced? Certainly. That is the whole premise behind W-2, to
help people make the transition from cash assistance to independence
while providing them with the necessary supportive services to make
that change. These investments in supportive services have paid off.
A recent study indicates that 76 percent of people who left welfare
since the inception of W-2 did so because they got a job or had other
income that allowed them to leave public assistance. The department
was also able to obtain the earnings for just over 13,000 of those
22,000 families and determined that 69 percent were receiving between
$34,000 and $38,000 in income and benefits, based on monthly,
All indications are that children in
Wisconsin are better off since W-2 began. Infant mortality rates have
dropped and the rate of child abuse and neglect has decreased, along
with juvenile crime rates and domestic abuse incidents. And in
contrast to Piven's statement, foster care placements have remained
stable since W-2 was implemented. She also fails to point out that
Wisconsin consistently ranks among the top ten states for having the
lowest number of children living in poverty.
W-2 is all
about hope--hope for the future and hope for a better life. And it
has succeeded beyond even the most optimistic expectations.
Wisconsin Department of
New York City
Fuzzy math and funny numbers. Jennifer
Reinert, secretary of the Wisconsin department that runs TANF, claims
that families formerly on welfare in that state now earn $34,000 to
$38,000 a year. What planet is she living on? Indeed, if we pause
over Reinert's misleading sentences, we can figure out that her
numbers apply to less than one-fourth of these families. Even for
this minority, she appears to be adding in the cash value of such
benefits as Medicaid, which certainly can't buy food or pay the rent
(and maybe adding in their share of missile defense too). More
soberly, we know from other studies, and in particular a study
undertaken by researchers at the University of Wisconsin, that on
average families lose income when they leave welfare, even without
taking into account their added costs in work-related
As for all that money spent on work-related
services for welfare recipients, only a fraction of eligible families
are actually receiving help for childcare, for example, and much of
the money is soaked up by the private companies Wisconsin is relying
on to administer its programs.
The bad news about
Wisconsin, and similar "welfare reform" programs elsewhere, is only
beginning to trickle in. The deluge of supplicants for help from food
pantries and shelters is part of the bad news. And in Wisconsin,
there is the alarming reversal in black and Hispanic infant mortality
trends. The state has gone from having one of the best records in the
country to one of the worst. And since Wisconsin was a pioneer of the
new welfare regime, these statistics should be taken as a grim
warning for other states.
I thank Karyn Rotker for the added information in her letter.
FRANCES FOX PIVEN
PORN TO BE MILD?
part of Mark Cromer's "Porn's Compassionate Conservatism" [Feb. 26]
is based on incorrect information. While the industry list of no-no's
Cromer refers to does exist, its contents were never meant as a basis
for self-censorship of adult videos. As one prominent producer
(Christian Mann of Video Team) explained to me for my article in the
March Adult Video News, the list came about after a group of
XXX producers asked their attorney what sort of material on video
box covers had caused legal problems in the past, and the list
was the result.
Mann told me (since confirmed by several
other producers) that most of what is on the list will continue to
appear in the videos--including the much-discussed "no black men,
white women"--and most consider the idea that such material would
disappear to be ludicrous. The logic behind the list was that police
rarely bring VCRs when they raid adult video stores; they look at the
box covers before seizing the tape(s) and preparing a
The reason for not censoring the videos
themselves is simple: Just about every item on the list has appeared
in videos from every company for the past twenty years, and
they make much of their income by selling those "catalogue" videos.
While one or two companies have announced plans to recall and edit
certain titles, the vast majority have no plans to do so. However,
when the government comes after the companies with obscenity charges,
it is by no means limited to seizing new releases. As long as a video
is still being sold, it is ripe to be busted. Whether it's a 2001
release or a 1981 release, it can be the subject of
Mann pointed out that the list, by its very
nature, cannot be enforced. Video companies are free to ignore it,
and several have announced plans to do so, while others plan to
follow some of it. My sources within the Larry Flynt organization
tell me that Flynt intends to follow the list's recommendations with
some of his magazines and videos but not others, which my source
assumed would then become test cases for the new enforcement
There is little consensus among producers on what
to do to protect themselves from possible federal prosecutions, just
as thevideo stores have no strategies for the much more common
prosecutions at the local level. They simply rely on their attorneys
and all too often fail to take the attorney's advice. Sorry to throw
a wet blanket on what seems a very juicy story--Porn Censors
Itself--but the facts simply don't fit the theory.
MARK KERNES, senior editor
Adult Video News--AVN Publications
To state, as AVN's
Mark Kernes does, that the production guidelines recently issued by
some of the biggest porn companies in the nation "were never meant as
a basis for self-censorship of adult videos" is both illogical and
simply wrong. The fact is, producers from a variety of major
companies (myself included) were instructed specifically to stop
shooting various sex acts and were provided with guidelines to use
when making adult videos. I don't know what Kernes calls that, but it
smacks of self-censorship to me.
Kernes claims that self-censoring videos is pointless because of the huge number of
older videos already on the market, many of which feature the same
acts now being cut. The fact is, some companies have been butchering
their old, classic titles for years now, in a sad effort to ward off
prosecutions, well before Bush/Ashcroft. A concrete example of this
would be the films Honeypie and Vanessa: Maid in
Manhattan, both re-edited and released back into the market with
entire "offending" dialogue tracks cut out--thus in some scenes the
performer's mouth is moving in eerie (and pathetic)
Porn has indeed been censoring itself for years, particularly after the Meese Commission opened fire and highlighted
some of its more fringe elements. Thus, scenes depicting adult-age
incest, rape scenes and other fantasy fare have all been wiped from
the adult filmmaker's palette. One major company--as the election
began to shape up for Bush--cut a scene featuring a pregnant white
female and a black male out of a tape altogether. That's
self-censorship, a pure reaction to fear of being
The president of another major video company known
for its softer, more mainstream fare openly speculated that he may
fold his firm's line of explicit videos rather than risk legal
problems. That's extreme self-censorship. Kernes is correct when he
notes that some companies will not follow the guidelines and that the
guidelines themselves are being revised even now. That doesn't change
the cold, hard fact--which my article detailed--that the industry has
recoiled with the swearing-in of Bush and the confirmation of
Ashcroft and is scrambling to avoid prosecution. Artistic and sexual
freedom are clearly taking a back seat to financial
While Kernes may feel he has thrown a wet
blanket on a juicy story--he has not. He does, however, seem to have
that blanket draped rather snugly over his head, blinding him to the
KEEP THE SUN IN THE SUNSHINE STATE
In "The Florida Fog" [March 19], David Corn asks, "Will the fog ever lift?" and concludes that a concrete final tally of Gore vs. Bush is "probably beyond reach." A polite understatement, as a concrete tally is flat-out impossible, because, as Corn notes, "there are just too many ways to count the leftovers from this lousy election."
The sensible approach for maximum fog reduction would be to assemble the hard and soft data in four general categories. (1) The undervote, assembled as hanging chad (1-corner, 2-corner, 3-corner) and dimpled chad. Gore probably has the nod in this category. (2) The overvote, where Gore clearly would be far ahead. It's hard to imagine a large number of double-voters selecting Gore first and then voting for a minor candidate. Even with extreme generosity, giving a half-vote to each, Gore wins easily here. (3) The misvote, where votes intended for one candidate went to another, should be estimated. Corn mentions 1,700 Miami-Dade ballots punched in a place below the one corresponding to a candidate. Another subcategory would include the 3,812 votes for Buchanan in Palm Beach County because of the infamous butterfly ballot--a statistical impossibility, based on votes for Buchanan elsewhere (about 2,500 of these votes were probably intended for Gore--far more than enough to have won the state). (4) The repressed vote, the many reported instances of qualified voters being dropped from the rolls, having polling places changed, being intimidated by officials, etc., will necessarily be counted by anecdote, affidavit and rough estimate. One exotic but interesting subcategory is pardoned felons with restored voting rights from other states who moved to Florida but were denied the right to vote (in that Florida does not restore voting rights to its felons).
Add them all up, and Gore will at least have an overwhelming moral victory. The obfuscators and the statistically challenged will, of course, try to limit attention to only the first category, and selected findings therein, e.g., the Miami-Dade undervotes. A shared goal of maximum fog dispersal will keep at bay the many Bushies who seek to distort and repress the truth of what happened in Florida.
A more accurate title for David Corn's excellent article might have been "The Miami Herald Fog" or "The Miami Herald Farce." Like the networks and cable news channels that fell all over one another to be numero uno to proclaim first Gore and then Bush the Florida winner on election night, it appears that the Herald succumbed to Be-the-First fever. Maybe we do need Fidel to send monitors.
WINNING NOT WHINING
Paul Wellstone is right that "Winning Politics" [Feb. 19] requires galvanizing grassroots activists. But he's neglecting something: A lot of us activists are very, very angry right now, at his party and at the spineless, wrongheaded, unprincipled betrayal by the party leadership, particularly in Congress. Furthermore, George W. Bush was appointed President. He is not due the same deference as an elected leader, and the main goal of Democrats in Congress who claim to have a progressive bone in their body should be containment of, not compromise with, this individual and his Administration.
If there is to be any hope of achieving the organizational success Wellstone refers to, there will have to be a purgative process in the Democratic Party. The anger of progressives is not going to simply disappear. And without the energy of grassroots progressive activists, as Wellstone has himself pointed out, all is meaningless and for naught.
Paul Wellstone hit the mark squarely with his article on progressive politics in the Bush II era. In Minnesota we're especially proud of our senior senator, who has carried the banner for improved lives for working families with increasing vigor every year he has represented us. As the senator remarks, there's an urgent need to see beyond the Bush restoration, that Al Gore's loss of the presidency is a tragic miscarriage but not an irreparable one if we mobilize, organize and stick together to make the progressive (and, yes, liberal) voice heard as the 2002 election draws nearer.
THE COURT JESTERS?
New York City
I fully endorse your Name the President contest, now on your website, but you're being unfair to the Supreme Court. The nine biggies (or at least five of them) deserve their own naming contest. Perhaps the Fawlty Five? the Supreme Mistakes? the Curious Curia? Where do I file my no-friend-of-the-Court brief?
RICE, POWELL & PAIGE
Michael Eric Dyson, in "Bush's Black Faces" [Jan. 29], states that "many blacks" support school vouchers. However, if you analyze the results of voucher referendums in this past election, black support seems pretty paltry. African-American voters overwhelmingly put thumbs down against a voucher proposal in California, 68 to 32 percent. In Michigan a voucher scheme bankrolled by right-wing billionaire Dick DeVos was crushed, assisted by a black vote of nearly 4 to 1 against it, as reported by the Detroit News--this despite vocal backing of Proposal 1 by a number of African-American clergy.
Blacks and other people of color have consistently demonstrated their skepticism toward voucher plans. George W. and Rod Paige had better think long and hard before they mount a crusade to undermine an already underfunded public school system, which still has strong support among most Americans.
New York City
Michael Eric Dyson writes that Colin Powell's beliefs will have "little substantive impact" on the new Administration's domestic policies and that "Powell's value to Bush on race [is] largely symbolic." While I applaud Dyson for questioning how well Powell, Rice and Paige will serve the interests of most black Americans, I think his sense of what those interests are is too narrow. Indeed, the key to assessing Powell's potential impact may lie in the interrelated nature of Bush's likely domestic policies, and their effect on blacks in America, with his likely international policies toward blacks in Africa and other parts of the world. Here, the presence of Powell and Rice could be more than symbolic. It could be dramatic. Powell's vision of foreign policy tends toward the militaristic, and Rice's background seems more suited to the cold war. Neither has had much to say about African nations. Granted, Clinton's record is a mixed bag, but he was the first sitting President to travel to sub-Saharan Africa, both times accompanied by members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Further, the passage of the Trade and Development Act of 2000 to promote commerce with sub-Saharan Africa and Caribbean countries, as well as efforts to press for debt relief, cheaper medicines and conflict resolution were some of the most valuable gains made in the past eight years. The possibility that Bush may return us to a policy of not-so-benign neglect may prove as crucial in the long run as his apparent desire to chip away at affirmative action, public education and welfare. When it comes to assessing racial progress, the interests of black Americans--a diverse group in terms of ethnicity and national origin--are situated not only at home but also abroad.
ANGELA D. DILLARD
Baton Rouge, La.
Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., in "George Bush's Democrats" [Jan. 22], has expressed what so few wish--or feel that they have the right--to express. If the Green Party is looking for another candidate in 2004, it should not have to look too much further than Jackson's doorstep. If the left wants to resuscitate itself, it needs to speak--and act--with the unashamed ethos, logos and pathos with which Jackson speaks. People like him give me hope and represent an America that is all but lost in this environment of hip fascism (I don't think I'm exaggerating).
I wish Jesse Jackson Jr. the best of luck in building a "progressive bipartisan economic coalition" by reclaiming the Democratic Party from its conservative wing. If he succeeds, he may draw me away from the Green Party. And if any Greens are elected to Congress in the coming years, I hope Jackson's coalition will welcome them warmly.
We had an interesting "town meeting" event at the Boulder Theatre in January, titled "Organizing for Democracy After the Stolen Election," which featured former State Senator Tom Hayden visiting from Los Angeles, Yippie Stew Albert of Oregon, Democratic State Senator from Boulder Ron Tupa, Green Party activist Ron Forthofer, editor Pamela White of the Colorado Daily, diversity activist Sherry Weston as well as yours truly, token poet. I read from a new piece, "Rogue State," and reported on experiences at the Shadow Inauguration in DC the previous weekend, where more than 2,000 people took an oath to uphold the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and surrounded the Supreme Court building. Most chilling had been the taunt from a Bush supporter: "Get back to the back of the bus!" which haunts and propels me with particular urgency to stay involved.
Boulder citizens young and old--after venting their continuing outrage at the New Select Administration--also promised to get more active. The distinguished guest speakers had a lot of cogent analyses and clear-cut advice, which is, of course, the same old stuff: Keep the heat on through media bombardment, letter and Internet campaigns, phone calls, boycotts, actions in the streets; push on voting reform, pro-choice rights, environmental issues and also keep the pressure on the Democratic Party and know who the judicial candidates are on your local ballots! Kick out the jams! Jimi Hendrix's "Star Spangled Banner" was even played. Jeff Milchen's reclaimdemocracy.org is a good resource. I wanted to encourage public forums like ours to start up (if they haven't yet) all over the country. As one of our poets' protest signs in DC said, using Voltaire's celebrated injunction: Ecrasez l' infâme!
The Jack Kerouac School of
With "None Dare Call It Treason" [Feb. 5], an exposé of the crime committed by the Supreme Court when it appointed George W. Bush as President, Vincent Bugliosi drew the largest outpouring of mail in our 136-year history and tapped a deep reservoir of outrage among our readers: "God bless you for printing this! I'm sending it to everyone I know." "It gave me heart that I am not alone in my outrage." "Bugliosi has made me angry all over again--and I'm glad he did." "One of the most important articles I've ever seen, up there with the Pentagon Papers." "Wish it could be air-dropped to every American city." "One of the most intelligent, bold and straightforward articles I have ever read." "The most important document to come out of the entire farce called an election." "How fitting it is that the lowest point in the history of our Supreme Court is the subject of the best article I've ever read in The Nation." "Thank God for Bugliosi. A voice crying out what needs to be heard." "I cannot express my elation at finding this article." "Bravo, bravo, bravo, bravo, bravo!" "It's because I do hold the Court in such high regard that I want to scream out Treason!" A sample follows.
Highest honors to Vincent Bugliosi for his courageous indictment of the Supreme Court. Sir John Harington's epigram scores a bull's eye on this political crisis: "Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason?/For if it prosper, none dare call it treason." The country should honor such courageous patriots as Bugliosi, who would dare to call the wresting of the presidency from Gore and handing it to Bush an act of the most blatant usurpation.
HENRY F. SALERNO
In case Vincent Bugliosi doesn't get to Washington very often, he might be interested in my observation that some prankster has chiseled a tasteless joke into the pediment of the Supreme Court building. It reads, Equal Justice Under Law.
Did you hear the one about the brave attorney who spoke out against five Supreme Court Justices? He was overruled.
Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Bugliosi has hit the nail on the head. I just wish that his reasoning had hit the heads of the supreme court justices. I am an African-American, and I am embarrassed that Uncle Clarence Thomas is on the supreme court. (I type "supreme court" in lowercase because of the lack of respect I now have for that body.)
Finally someone calls it as it is! I keep telling my friends how furious I am at what happened in the "election," how the fury only ripens with each passing day. This is Boston Tea Party time! People of America, rouse yourselves and rise! Nothing short of sacking the Heinous Five and an immediate national re-election is morally required. This is not about Bush or Gore or Nader: This is purely about who we are as a people.
Vincent Bugliosi's piece was superb. It seems that most of the country is wandering around as if in a mindless fog, filled with media-supplied trivia. Instead of justice being blind, the Justices have blindfolded us and given us, and democracy, a swift kick in the rear.
LINDA S. ANDERSON
West Hollywood, Calif.
Right after the imperial hand of the Supreme Court reached down and slammed the door on the libraries and counting offices across the state of Florida, a bemused Republican election official was interviewed on MSNBC. She pointed out that the best way to get an accurate count was to first run the ballots through the machines several times so they can exfoliate and the count can stabilize. Duh. Instead, those who fear the chad got hysterical when they found the little things in the bottom of counting boxes--you'd think they'd found bugs in the flour. And so we have the final image of Justice Scalia holding up the glimmering ballot...protect its sanctity, keep it safe from harm, defend it against impostors. Don't count it.
I applaud you for not letting us go quietly into that dark night of American democracy to which our own Supreme Court was intent on leading us. Those of us who refuse to accept the Court's outrageous ruling and "just get over it" need a strong voice, and I am thankful that The Nation is there. What the Supreme Court has done is truly frightening. I find equally chilling the apparent ability of so many--including our politicians and judiciary--to passively accept this blatant affront to democracy.
I am a criminal defense attorney who represents capital defendants in federal court. I have toiled in the field of judicial disingenuousness for a long time, in cases in which a person's very life is at stake. Heretofore, I have viewed Vincent Bugliosi somewhat suspiciously, as an adversary, if you will (he is, after all, from the prosecutorial side of the courtroom). I must say, however, that his article took my breath away. His passion and his brutal cut-to-the-chase shook even me--jaded and world-weary--from my cynical malaise over the judicial theft of the election. I found myself shouting and cheering out loud for the pithiness of his metaphors and his "cut the bullshit" on-target analysis. I am heartened that he has put words to the outrage that I have difficulty fully articulating about the shabbiness of the Court's ruling. I am heartened that he has put the lie to the Court's brazen pedantry, which it used to disguise its plain malfeasance.>
Your counterinauguration issue looks like a gift from the heaven where dwell the truly righteous and the just, where abide the eternal spirits of the great liberal and progressive beacons of liberty. (I see the face of Adlai Stevenson smiling benevolent approval. I see Robert La Follette, Wayne Morse, Norman Thomas and Reinhold Niebuhr observing with urgent concern the endangered ship of state thrown crazily about by the storm of singular corruption rampant in this election.) I observe how thinly informed is the American public re what really goes on behind the thin veneer touched upon by our mainstream journalists and commentators. For most of my eighty years my hopes for a Jeffersonian-like informed electorate have been sustained by the courage, dedication and service to high ideals of small minority voices like yours.
CLIFFORD P. WOLFSEHR
Sherman Oaks, Calif.
If we mere citizens were to consider pressing charges, how many of us would stand up and say so? Who would represent "We the People"? And to what judicial body would we plead our case? Most of America has already forgotten about their rights being violated, thanks to an apathetic McMedia. Is there anyone else out there who prefers these matters not be forgotten? who thinks there should be televised hearings? Anyone? Hello?
There are millions of people wanting some remedy to what has happened, although many of us have no idea where to begin. Can no efforts be made to remove these Justices from the bench? I think such a campaign would be a lightning rod for hopes that the possibility of democracy is not entirely dead.
Contrary to what most Americans may believe, bringing the five conservative Supreme Court Justices to the bar of justice is very possible. The Constitution expressly authorizes criminal proceedings against judges if they are found guilty of "bad behavior." Article III, Section 1 states: "The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their offices during good Behavior...." Article II, Section 4 states: "The President, Vice President, and civil officers shall be removed from office on impeachment for conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." The five Justices appear to have committed a "high crime." The issue is whether the five Justices are guilty of criminal "bad behavior" in approving a decision that denied Gore his victory and if they are also impeachable for the "high crime" of judicial conspiracy to fix the election.
CHARLES O. PORTER
Member of Congress, 1957-60
On October 20, 1973, Solicitor General Robert Bork executed what came to be known as the Saturday Night Massacre, following orders to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox after both Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus refused to heed White House orders and resigned in protest. Twenty-seven years later, a Saturday Night Massacre of voting rights occurred when a split Supreme Court ruled to stop the count in Florida, a transparently political decision engineered with Machiavellian calculation by the ignominious "Gang of Five." In glaring contrast to this ruling of the Rehnquist Court, in 1974 the Burger Court unanimously voted to uphold a lower court ruling and ordered President Nixon to release the tapes of subpoenaed White House conversations. In that heralded 8-0 decision, the Burger Court ruled definitively in favor of the principle that no person is above the law, a decision that upheld the Constitution and caused Nixon irreparable harm. Is there any doubt that this current Supreme Court would have ruled in Nixon's favor?
BARBARA ALLEN KENNEY
Your article led to remembrance of things past wherein US self-righteousness condemned other countries for choosing their leaders much as the US Supreme Court Five chose George W. Bush. Russia was the "Evil Empire" because a Central Committee rather than the people chose its leader. Central American and Caribbean countries were invaded--sometimes openly, sometimes not--to teach them our "democratic values," since they were governed by "dictators" rather than by popularly elected leaders (of course, Washington wanted to choose the dictator).
We all saw it happen and wondered, How can it be?! Then the mind numb-ers went to work: Sam Donaldson dismissed the recounts with "Get over it!" Not in my lifetime, Sam.
NUCLEAR POWER & US
New York City
I would like to provide an update on some remarkable events that followed Joseph Mangano's epidemiological discovery that closing the Rancho Seco reactor in 1989 was followed by an enormous improvement in infant mortality and childhood cancer [Harvey Wasserman, "No Nukes=Better Health," Jan. 29]. Mangano has now found that mortality rates for all age groups in these areas have, since 1989, improved for all diseases mediated by the immune response, so that San Francisco, for example (only seventy miles from Rancho Seco), had in 1998 the lowest age-adjusted mortality rate of any large US county, with extraordinary declines since 1990 in all cancers, including breast and prostate, and in all infectious diseases. Even AIDS death rates in San Francisco by 1998 had declined to the level of 1979.
As a result of local grassroots dissemination of these facts and a generous grant from the CEO of a large San Francisco company, Mangano may soon be able to offer clinical as well as epidemiological proof of the benefits of closing reactors. As national coordinator of our Tooth Fairy Project, which has been finding ominously high levels of bone-seeking radioactive strontium (Sr90) in the baby teeth of about 2,000 children born in recent years that could not be the result of past superpower above-ground nuclear bomb tests, he may soon be able to ascertain the change, if any, in the ratios of Sr90 to calcium in the baby teeth of children born before and after nuclear reactor closings.
Nation readers can give us invaluable support by collecting baby teeth from anyone born in recent years or even from baby boomers born as far back as the bomb test years of the 1950s, for we have found that they have the same incredibly high levels, after correction for the twenty-nine-year half-life of Sr90, that prompted President Kennedy to terminate such above-ground tests in 1963. Please visit our website, www.radiation.org, and/or call (800) 582-3716 for envelopes for baby teeth.
JAY M. GOULD
Radiation and Public Health Project Inc.
Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Harvey Wasserman has again shown how adept he is at picking out a tidbit of bad science to support his views while ignoring the vast storehouse of real science. He claims nuclear power is causing cancers and other health effects, based on a largely debunked study sponsored by an antinuclear group. Not mentioned is the National Cancer Institute study that examined 90,000 cancer deaths near nuclear power plants spanning thirty-four years and found no connection between the operation of reactors and cancer. This is only one of several highly reputable studies that have come to the same conclusion.
Ironically, The Nation recently published Ross Gelbspan's editorial [Jan. 22] on the seriousness of global warming. Any plan to deal effectively with this potentially devastating problem must contain significant levels of nuclear energy, which produces no greenhouse gases. Even the Clinton Administration's strategy to meet the Kyoto goals required substantial electricity production from nuclear plants.
The fair-minded observer must agree that US nuclear plants have been safe sources of electricity. And as we try to find our way out of increasingly frequent power crises, it will probably be an important component for the foreseeable future.
DR. THEODORE M. BESMANN
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
It's great fun when pro-nukers confirm the realities of global warming, even while denying the devastating health and environmental impacts of their brand of radiation poison. No government- or industry-funded study will admit to the connection between nuclear power and cancer. But hidden in virtually all of them is damning hard evidence to the contrary. The cure for global warming lies in wind, solar and efficiency, not in an economically catastrophic technology that kills people and the planet.
And kudos as always to Jay Gould and the vital work done by him and his colleagues in searching out the health impacts of this failed technology. See-no-evil doesn't cut it when the radiation is being dumped into our bodies--and those of our children.
Regarding Ross Gelbspan's "Cool It, World" [Jan. 22], even the Hague proposals rejected by the United States are insufficient. As Mark Hertsgaard writes in his book Earth Odyssey, the pollution in China and India is so extreme that even if the United States and Europe immediately eliminated all greenhouse-gas emissions, the impact would be negligible if nothing changed in China and India. This fact underscores, as Gelbspan correctly notes, the imperative for large-scale technology transfers.
But Gelbspan errs in thinking the recent collapse in climate talks might "set the stage for a truly transformative initiative" in US policy. EPA chief Christie Whitman, an environmental ignoramus, is joined by Interior Secretary Gale Norton, a protégée of the odious James Watt, whose Mountain States Legal Foundation is currently suing Clinton over his creation of national monuments. Norton is dedicated to the unfettered use of private property, while Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham supports the "pollution credits" derided even by Great Britain.
Gelbspan's tenuous optimism about Paul O'Neill at Treasury is curious, given O'Neill's career with two notorious corporate ecocides: International Paper (ten years) and more recently, Alcoa (eleven years). More than forty-seven Alcoa facilities have been cited for environmental violations since 1987, including an aluminum smelter in Massena, New York, which in 1991 was fined the then-largest criminal penalty ever ($3.75 million) for hazardous-waste violations. Last March Alcoa agreed to an $8.8 million settlement with the EPA over dumping inadequately treated waste into the Ohio River between 1994 and 1999. Alcoa's Rockdale smelter is among the most polluted plants in Texas, emitting 104,000 tons of pollutants a year. It is among hundreds of Texas plants still receiving a grandfather exemption from when air pollution laws went into effect in 1971 (thirty years ago!). According to the Los Angeles Times, a legislative effort to change that exemption was defeated "at the behest of the governor, George W. Bush."
Alcoa hired Texas law firm Vinson & Elkins to represent Alcoa on environmental issues. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that the firm "contributed more than $200,000 to George W. Bush's presidential campaign, making it the president-elect's third largest donor. In return, Vinson & Elkins got a loophole in Texas environmental regulations that will allow Alcoa to continue pouring 60,000 tons of sulfur dioxide annually into the air, solidifying Alcoa's position as one of Texas' top polluters."
National governments and international lending organizations have subsidized Alcoa's foreign business and boosted its profits while failing to enforce environmental responsibility or require adequate compensation (if such is possible) to populations uprooted or abused by the company. For example, many of the 20,000 people evicted from the island of Sao Luis on Brazil's Tocantins River for an Alcoa refinery and smelter were never compensated (O'Neill earned $36 million in compensation last year), as reported by Terje Langeland in the Colorado Daily. The Machadinho Dam, currently under construction by Brazil and Alcoa (and expecting World Bank loans), will displace 9,000 people. As Treasury Secretary, O'Neill will significantly determine directors and policy at the World Bank and IMF.
Little or nothing in the careers of any of these people hints at recognition of the need for vigorous government leadership in addressing the threat of global warming. Fortunately, there is substantial historical precedent for far-reaching initiatives. The federal and state governments--through expenditures, tax incentives, laws, research or fiat--facilitated railroads and airports, space exploration, computers and the Internet and the telecommunications revolution. Since the United States already leads the world in alternative-energy and related technologies, many American companies could profit enormously from a conversion. But conversion will most readily and with least disruption occur only if leaders embrace with vision and courage something like an Energy Marshall Plan. There are many potentially viable technical and financial options, but Bush's Cabinet choices belie hope of his Administration pursuing any of them.
KELLEN A. CAREY
FULL OF IT?
Thanks for Christopher Hitchens's humorous column about George W. Bush's frequent use of "heart" language to promote his agenda of "compassionate" conservatism ["Minority Report," Feb. 5]. Hitchens applauds the Washington Post's view that the "heart" will be the throbbing organ most favored by the new Administration (in contrast to the one so clearly favored by Clinton). Hitchens also acknowledges that Bush has used this term quite effectively to position himself within the discourse of conservative Christians, whose rhetoric is full of similar appeals to the "heart." Still, Hitchens missed the funniest irony of all: When Bush and his conservative religious allies speak of the "heart," they assign it a meaning inconsistent with biblical usage.
When the New Testament was being written, people had very different ideas about the functions and symbolism of the body's organs. The heart (kardia) was understood to be the center of physical and mental life. The heart, not the head, was the seat of intellect; therefore, a person who claims to be a biblical literalist cannot rightly link the heart with George W. Bush! (It's hard even to write the words "intellect" and "Bush" in the same sentence.)
Fortunately, there is a bodily organ that can be appropriately and accurately linked to Bush in a biblical context. In New Testament times, feelings/emotions were understood to reside in the bowels (splagchna). Compassion, specifically, is said to originate there (see I John 3:17). Well, this makes a lot of sense! When I think of that which emanates from the bowels (given my modern frame of reference), I can easily associate it with Bush and with all he is dumping on the public--especially when he claims to be compassionate. Furthermore, I know how my gut responds to Bush's rhetoric: When I hear it, I feel I need to run--but whether it's for the loo, for office or for cover, I'm not sure.
It feels odd to use New Testament Greek as a tool of ridicule, but I must agree with Hitchens on a final point. As he noted, when we indulge ourselves in the ridiculous, we often awaken to a valid point.
SOA BY ANY OTHER NAME...
Congressman Joe Moakley says that the new name for the infamous School of the Americas, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, is "far more difficult to chant outside the gates" ["In Fact...," Feb. 12]. The name might be--but what a perfect acronym! Whisk Away WHISC! Whisk Away WHISC!
NOT BLESSED IN SALT LAKE CITY
Salt Lake City
The pamphlet Allen Lutins referred to on your January 22 Letters page never received "the blessing" of the Salt Lake City School district. It was published by a parent, acting on his own.
DAPHNE R. WILLIAMS, director
Salt Lake Education Foundation