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
THE SUITES & THE SWEATS
New York City
In "Economists vs. Students" [Feb. 12], Liza Featherstone and Doug Henwood cheer on students who demand that garments bearing their college's logo be made under decent conditions. The students are right. These garments cost enough to enable employers to pay wages sufficient to meet the basic needs of their workers. Indeed, the economic argument is stronger than the one the authors present. Better-paid, better-educated, healthy workers are more productive, more likely to stay longer and produce better-quality products that benefit the bottom line.
Unfortunately this article, lauding people who fight to improve the plight of workers, misrepresents a code of conduct with the same goals and an effective implementation record: SA8000, the Social Accountability International standard for decent working conditions, and its independent verification system. This information is readily available on SAI's website, www.sa-intl.org.
(1) SA8000 is not led by multinationals. Half the SA8000 advisory board is composed of public interest organizations and trade unions from around the world. These include Amnesty International, trade unions representing 25 million workers (many in the developing world), the National Child Labor Committee, the Maquila Solidarity Network and the comptroller of New York City. Professor Jagdish Bhagwati did once serve on the SA8000 advisory board but does not currently.
(2) Audits of certified factories are by no means "sporadic." On the contrary, they are scheduled at regular six-month intervals. SA8000 auditors are highly trained. Furthermore, the training is and will continue to be regularly evaluated and improved. Far from being superficial, the SA8000 audits require an unusual depth of investigation and worker interviews. Public reports are an SA8000 requirement.
(3) The SA8000 factory cited in the article, where auditors did get bamboozled by a management cover-up, had its certification suspended in a fraction of the time it takes for legal remedies, at zero cost to those who brought the complaint. The loss of its certificate puts it at high risk of losing at least one of its largest customers, so it is under considerable pressure to reform. The certification body that issued the SA8000 certificate has been required to significantly improve its audit procedures. This is prima facie evidence of a system that works.
(4) China is, indeed, "not a friendly environment for independent union organizing," since the right to organize is severely restricted by law, and civil society is virtually nonexistent--and often violently repressed--there. Rates for limbs lost to industrial accidents in parts of China are appallingly high, just one indicator of the cost to workers. Yet 70 percent of toys are made in China, as well as dominant portions of garment manufacture. The 1.2 billion people of China deserve a genuine effort to improve their lot. Where freedom of association is prohibited by law, SA8000 states that employers must provide "parallel means" for free association, such as: a worker-elected SA8000 representative and committees for health and safety, wage negotiations, literacy and complaints and resolutions.
In a world with much exploitation by employers, those who are ardently seeking to change working conditions for the better should work together rather than snipe at one another.
ALICE TEPPER MARLIN, president
Social Accountability International
FEATHERSTONE & HENWOOD REPLY
New York City
Nowhere do we say that SAI is "led by multinationals"; we quote an outside observer who calls it a "PR tool for multinationals," a characterization repeated by many sources. Watching Alice Tepper Marlin fawn over a Toys 'R' Us exec at the SAI conference this past December lent considerable credence to this view. On the advisory board, business members outnumber labor members by more than two to one (not counting the New York City comptroller, who manages one of the world's largest stock portfolios).
Inspections every six months sounds reassuring, but scheduled at predictable intervals and announced in advance, they're unlikely to expose abuses. Snap visits would be much more effective. We're happy to hear that the offending factory eventually lost its certification, but it's troubling that it got approved in the first place; auditors are supposed to see through managers' attempts at bamboozlement. SAI's auditor on the scene, Det Norske Veritas, told the South China Morning Post that it's impossible to do reliable audits in China: "The factories always manage to find a way around the auditors." We're also happy SAI is broadly trying to improve the lot of workers in China, but certifying factories there implies that they meet the criteria of free association in SAI's high-minded code, which they clearly do not. We don't see how "parallel means," whatever they are (and they sound like company unions), could possibly be a substitute for independent organizing.
As for Tepper Marlin's "economic argument," we're always amused when NGO directors suggest they know more about running businesses than managers. If profits are fatter when workers are well paid and well fed, why are there so many miserably exploited people in the world? Businesses pay higher wages only when they're forced to.
'GO TO IT, O JAZZMEN'
Why put up with all the punditry and spiel in Ken Burns's Jazz [Gene Santoro, "All That Jazz," Jan. 29], when the photos, film clips and musical sequences are so wonderful? After all, this is the digital age of free-for-all pirating of images and sound. Just record each episode of Jazz on your VCR (fess up...you're already doing that, aren't you?). Then acquire cheap (or even free) digital video-editing software for your home computer. Load the footage onto your hard drive. Then eliminate the interminable "talking heads" (I'd get rid of all the Wynton Marsalis and keep most of the Gary Giddins, some Stanley Crouch and a few other odds and ends). Assemble your favorite clips into the sequences you like (say, a full hour of Louis Armstrong photos, film clips and music). You can do this over and over again in whatever order you like. In fact, it's this kind of cut and paste that makes up Burns's filmmaking technique, no?
Gene Santoro makes a minor factual error in his review of Ken Burns's Jazz. Burns's Baseball does not stop in 1970. An entire episode is devoted to post-1970 developments. I was on the film's advisory board. There's a segment on the 1986 World Series, when Boston was one out away from the championship in game six but lost to the Mets on a wild pitch and an error. At the final preview screening my friend Ken, a die-hard Red Sox fan, left the room. He still couldn't bear to look.
BERNARD A. WEISBERGER
New York City
My slip is showing, but it's Freudian. Baseball's final episode was as much of a mess as Jazz's.
New York City
I love Calvin Trillin's poems. Who could forget "Norm, Norm, big as a dorm" and "Al D'Amato, sleazeball obbligato"? Brilliant! But this Nader thing has got to stop ["Silver Linings," Jan. 22]. Nader took votes from Gore, sure, but he also got Republican, libertarian and independent votes. Yet somehow these votes, as opposed to Democrats who voted for G. Dubya, made the difference. I don't buy it. Meanwhile, the "liberal" Joe Biden, who voted to confirm Antonin Scalia and who couldn't stop eleven colleagues from defecting for Clarence Thomas, supported John Ashcroft at first. Hmm... What rhymes with Delaware--nice new hair? Cynically aware? We'll decide what's fair? Spines in us are rare?
Nader, an important voice, like Trillin's own, has informed so many about so much for so long. Basta!
CHRIS PEDRO TRAKAS
Cherry Hill, N.J.
Calvin Trillin has a gift
For skewering those with whom he's miffed.
His caustic rhyming the right wing singes,
As he goes snark-hunting in their fringes.
His targets tend to represent
Insiders of the Establishment.
Which is why I wonder at his pique
At Ralph O'Green, who had the cheek
To charge both parties with selling out
To corporate cash and controlling clout.
Trillin's focus seems less than keen
When he waxes snide at Ralph O'Green.
Ashcroft, Whitman, Norton and Watt
Mr. Trillin has bones to pick with this lot.
I agree with his gripes; they mirror mine,
But why blame Nader for Dems' lack of spine?
50 Dems ignored the Black Caucus ordeal
(Senate fetes might lose their warm feel).
I know why he puts blame on Nader alone:
It's easier than rhyming 50 names in a poem.
THE TIANANMEN PAPERS
New York City
Edward Jay Epstein in "The 'Tiananmen Papers'" [Feb. 5] retails a story about 15,000 pages of secret Chinese documents being hand-copied even though I told him it is false, and he justifies doing so by mentioning two newspaper articles whose sources he hasn't checked. His other statements about how the material reached me, and how my colleagues and I verified it, are imaginary.
ANDREW J. NATHAN, co-editor
The Tiananmen Papers
New York City
I did, in fact, include in my article not only Andrew Nathan's assertion that reports in the Wall Street Journal and Associated Press concerning the number of pages of documents were erroneous but also his dubious claim that he and his co-editor were the only "authoritative sources on this question." I do not know how many authentic documents, if any at all, were ever copied anywhere. The problem that concerns me is not numbers but whether the provenance of what are purported to be transcripts of secret verbatim conversation of the leadership of China in 1989, which the publisher compares with the Pentagon Papers, is real or imaginary.
In the case of the Pentagon Papers, the New York Times, which published them, clearly established (1) the existence of authentic documents--the Secretary of Defense had commissioned them in the late 1960s, (2) the existence of a bona fide copy at the RAND Corporation and (3) that the copier of them, Daniel Ellsberg, had the necessary access and opportunity at RAND. In the case of The Tiananmen Papers, the publisher has not established (1) that any of the putative documents ever existed or that the Chinese leadership ever made verbatim transcripts of their secret conversations in 1989, (2) that any such documents were ever copied or (3) who transcribed the supposed documents. It has even kept secret the identity of the man who delivered to America electronic data, which is no more verifiable than an anonymous e-mail. Under such circumstances, how can one verify that copies of documents that one does not possess match original documents that one does not know ever existed?
EDWARD JAY EPSTEIN
HEALTH FOUNDATIONS SICKENED
Annette Fuentes and Rosemary Metzler Lavan's "No Health, No Wealth" [Dec. 18], critiquing the performance of several foundations created as a result of nonprofit organizations converting to for-profits, misrepresents the work of the California HealthCare Foundation. The foundation is characterized as providing a paltry sum to not-for-profit organizations. In fact, since 1998, we've made close to 600 grants to nonprofits totaling nearly $90 million. Representative of these grants are $1 million for breast cancer treatment for uninsured women in California, $2 million to augment the state's high-risk pool for uninsurable people and $4 million to subsidize coverage for undocumented children in Los Angeles, to name just a few.
The authors are dismissive of our investment in research into healthcare "market issues." The Nation itself, however, found one of our reports worth quoting in Simson Garfinkel's February 28, 2000, "Privacy and the New Technology." That report on problems with healthcare-website privacy policies brought about industrywide changes and prompted an investigation by the FCC. Foundation research, reports, workshops and conferences have helped keep privacy of healthcare information in front of policy-makers, the healthcare industry and the public, culminating in tough federal regulations announced by the Clinton Administration on December 20.
The foundation is severely criticized for making grants to for-profit organizations. Without the expertise available only from the private-sector, for-profit world, it would be impossible to do certain kinds of work, such as developing and pilot testing a web-based software application that will nearly eliminate time-consuming paperwork and cut the time it takes to enroll children in Medi-Cal and Healthy Families programs to as little as six minutes. We hope readers will visit our website (www.chcf.org), read our reports and decide for themselves whether "taxpayer money is being used against the taxpayers."
MARK D. SMITH, president and CEO
California HealthCare Foundation
I work for the Advisory Board and write for California Healthline, the online publication referred to in your article. The advisory board is not, as the article claims, an "organization of drug companies, hospitals and health plans." It is a healthcare research firm, committed primarily to conducting research that allows hospitals to improve their business practice. While it is a for-profit company, neither drug companies nor hospitals nor health plans have a role in running the company.
Woodland Hills, Calif.
"No Health, No Wealth" was decidedly one-sided and negative. The reporters ignored information about the nearly $700 million in grant funds our foundation provided over the past five years to California communities for programs ranging from health services for persons with HIV/AIDS and the homeless to new models of primary-care delivery for American Indians. Instead, the only example of our spending was the cost of a conference room table.
The emergence of conversion foundations brings the real potential to change health systems. No matter the size of our assets, no single foundation will make sustainable sweeping change in the healthcare arena. However, working together, as health foundations have begun to do in California, we can leverage our assets to begin to bring systematic change toward improving the health of the underserved. The article ignored the tremendous progress that has already been made and, most important, the significant lessons learned in reforming healthcare in California, for the sake of sensationalism.
STEWART KWOH, ESQ.
ROBERT K. ROSS, MD
The California Endowment
Annette Fuentes and Rosemary Metzler Lavan rightly report on the egregious activity that has characterized some of the new conversion foundations recently established using the charitable assets of healthcare institutions that abandon their nonprofit missions. It is very troubling.
Fortunately, not all conversion foundations are plagued by the problems cited. Many of these new philanthropies are playing critical roles in supporting important healthcare projects, including funding community clinics, underwriting immunizations and health screenings and extending services to underserved communities. Increasingly, consumer advocates are organizing their communities to prevent the kind of abuse profiled in the article. Since 1996 the Community Health Assets Project, a partnership between Consumers Union and Community Catalyst, has worked to provide technical assistance and legal-advocacy services on conversion issues to community groups and public officials nationwide.
In Building Strong Foundations, we recommend that conversion foundations dedicate their assets to the mission of the converting nonprofit through a planning process that involves community involvement. Conversion foundation boards should not include members from the former nonprofit or the purchaser and should reflect the diversity of the community. There should be strict limits on terms of service and strong conflict-of-interest policies for board members and an organizational structure that is transparent and publicly accountable.
In communities where citizens insist on public involvement in their conversion foundations, the resulting philanthropic organization is much more responsive to local needs. Consumers and public officials who've intervened in Blue Cross and Blue Shield transactions in Maine, Kentucky, Kansas and Missouri have won important structural guarantees on governance, bylaws, mission and community participation on boards and in grantmaking decisions. With proper citizen input, these charitable assets can be preserved in publicly accountable foundations to help serve unmet healthcare needs far into the future.
New York City
Mark Smith is a whiner. He would have criticized any article that did not laud him and the California HealthCare Foundation. Indeed, his public relations person contacted this magazine after I interviewed Smith to complain that I had "an agenda." That's the same criticism Smith leveled against consumer watchdog Jaime Court, who questioned the foundation's funding of for-profit, market-oriented healthcare entities and research with public charitable assets. As California for-profit health plans prepared to eject thousands of elderly Medicare patients last year because they weren't making enough money off them, Smith's foundation issued a report declaring that everything would be OK because only a few thousand Medicare enrollees would be left without any alternative health plan. Of course, there is an epidemic of for-profit HMOs dumping Medicare patients across the country--and there is nothing OK about it. Smith should get CHCF's priorities straight.
John Kastellec is a nit-picker. The Advisory Board Company is a multimillion-dollar concern that does custom research on the healthcare marketplace for its 2,500 members, including pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Eli Lilly, a dozen Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans, hospitals and others who pay hefty membership fees. For the California HealthCare Foundation to give the Advisory Board more than $700,000 of Californians' money is not charity. It's corporate welfare.
Stewart Kwoh and Robert Ross are predictable. Their defense of the California Endowment's missteps, misspending and floundering first years is to hype the millions in good grants they've made. I wish I had a dollar for every source who refused to speak on the record on the endowment and its troubles because they didn't want to spoil chances of getting grants or because they're part of the philanthropic-industrial complex, to borrow from Eisenhower.
Harry Snyder and Robert Restuccia are right. Unfortunately, the rosy picture of community involvement they paint has been the exception rather than the rule, despite Consumers Union's efforts over the years. But the fight for "good" conversion foundations is a red herring. The healthcare system is in a state of emergency because consumers and people like Mark Smith bow to the inevitability of for-profit, market-driven healthcare that leaves 43 million Americans uninsured and countless millions scrambling for basic care. Universal healthcare anyone?
CECI N'EST PAS UNE PIPA
One small correction to Katha Pollitt's January 22 "Subject to Debate" column: The instrument she saw being played in the subway on New Year's Day was almost certainly an erhu, a Chinese violin, not a pipa. A pipa is not played with a bow, nor can it produce a thin wail. It is plucked and shaped somewhat like a half-pear, with frets; the Western equivalent would be a lute or a balalaika.
David Price's "Anthropologists as Spies" [Nov. 20] is a timely and important article because historians of anthropology seem to have collective amnesia concerning the intersection of anthropological scholarship and politics. Identified by Laura Nader as the "phantom factor," anthropologists all too often fail to acknowledge our intellectual forefathers and that many of our longstanding traditions were profoundly influenced by government institutions. This is all the more remarkable given the fact that anthropologists have traditionally worked among disfranchised groups and supposedly championed those cultures that have suffered because of the "progress" of Western civilization. Thus, rather than being the voice of the disfranchised, too many anthropologists have used the science of man as a handmaiden for the power of the state.
The sooner anthropologists recognize the as yet unwritten history of their work as spies the better. Price's article is a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done. This is especially true in light of the recent publication of Patrick Tierney's controversial book Darkness in El Dorado. While it is one thing to recognize our past mistakes, it is incumbent upon anthropologists and the American Anthropological Association to take actions to prevent them from happening again. I believe that any anthropologist who knowingly works for a US intelligence agency such as the FBI or CIA and uses his or her position or fieldwork as a cover for covert actions should be sanctioned by the AAA. This is not an original idea, nor is it my own--Franz Boas suggested it in 1919. The result? He was censured by the AAA. If anthropologists do not impose sanctions against covert research are we not giving tacit approval for these studies? And equally important, how can we expect the people we are supposed to be studying to believe anything we say?
WILLIAM J. PEACE
Pacific Palisades, Calif.
David Price puts anthropologists doing undercover spying for the government together with anthropologists choosing to work openly for the government or organizations funded by the government. Without question it is reprehensible when an anthropologist goes into the field professing to be doing only a specific scholarly study but at the same time secretly gathering information for government agencies having nothing to do with his professed study. That is spying.
Price goes beyond this, however, when he makes the assertion that "some of the same anthropologists who spied during World War I did so in the next war" and then gives as examples: "During the early cold war Ruth Benedict and lesser-known colleagues worked for the RAND corporation and the Office of Naval Research." And "in the Vietnam War, anthropologists worked on projects with strategic military applications."
It is ludicrous to accuse Benedict of being a spy when she was simply a consultant on some RAND research projects. RAND is not a spy organization. I worked there for thirteen years (1956 to 1969) and do not know of any staff member that played the role of spy. Gerald Hickey, an American anthropologist, did research on the aboriginal peoples living in the highlands of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War as a RAND consultant, but he did so openly, not covertly. He has published his findings in a two-volume work--Ethnohistory of the Vietnamese Central Highlands--published by Yale University Press in 1982.
This brings up an important ethical issue, not discussed by Price, that must be faced by all anthropologists once their fieldwork findings have been published: They lose all control as to how their findings will be used by anyone. And no matter how careful anthropologists may be in writing up their findings, they cannot predict how their findings will be used, whether to help or to hinder the people being studied. I have had to face this ethical issue as a research anthropologist during the many years I have spent studying male homosexual behaviors in Mexico. It is my belief that anthropologists have the right to choose their research topic and who sponsors their research but they also have the ethical obligation to do so with regard to the ways their research data may be used by anyone, for or against the people studied, once it is made available to the public.
While I appreciate David Price's efforts to expose the historically seedy underbelly of American anthropology, I strongly object to his implication that anthropology graduate students who receive funding from the National Security Education Program are somehow engaged in fieldwork that is a front for espionage or that they will be required to engage in espionage as part of the NSEP's service requirement. As an NSEP fellow currently conducting dissertation research in China, I consider his remarks inaccurate and irresponsible.
One of the post-cold war "peace dividend" programs of the senior Bush Administration, NSEP was created in the early 1990s by an act of Congress. Administered by the Defense Department, the program is similar to the older (and less conspicuously named) Fulbright program: NSEP provides money for research abroad in a wide variety of academic fields. What distinguishes NSEP from Fulbright is that it comes with a service obligation that requires recipients to make a "good faith effort" to find employment in a "security related" government agency within five years of graduation. If they cannot find such employment, they may complete their service agreement through teaching at the college level.
Hmm. Sounds ominous enough to prompt objections from any self-respecting anthropologist. Price, however, leaves out some rather crucial information that makes the NSEPs seem a little less dastardly. First, the strong objections that academics like Price expressed about the program at its inception substantially modified the final product: NSEP scholars are forbidden by law to be employed by any US government intelligence agency while engaged in their research; "security" is defined in the broadest possible terms, including such issues as sustainable development and human rights; NSEP scholars fulfill the requirement to work for the government simply by posting their résumé to the NSEP website (beyond that, they are neither assisted in finding government work nor compelled to do so); only a tiny percentage of the research funded by NSEP in the past five years has explicit links to security issues; and "security-related agencies" include more than twenty Congressional subcommittees, the International Trade Office and the Treasury Department, among others.
Price's remarks do something far worse than paint an inaccurate picture: They also endanger NSEP fellows currently in the field, many of whom are conducting research in countries with less than cordial relations with the United States. As with other academic exchange programs, the presence of NSEP fellows is meant to encourage communication and alleviate tensions. The last thing these scholars need is to be associated, through careless remarks, with the US intelligence apparatus. In past years, Peace Corps volunteers and Fulbright scholars have suffered from such bad publicity, sometimes being arrested and expelled from their research countries.
Finally, when I received NSEP funding last spring, I felt a considerable amount of trepidation about accepting the money, not because I felt that it was morally wrong (the CIA and I both know that I don't work for the CIA) but because I knew that in a year or two I would be seeking jobs in anthropology departments where my NSEP award might actually be a liability. I feared that I would have to constantly defend my decision to take the NSEP. Let the games begin.
I have nothing to add to historian of anthropology William Peace's astute observations regarding anthropology's need to come to grips with its hidden cold war past. Joseph Carrier's and Adam Frank's letters, however, require some comment.
Joseph Carrier worked so hard to misrepresent my writing that some of what he writes doesn't even make sense. He claims that my mention of Benedict's RAND affiliation, or various anthropologists' Vietnam work, are examples of anthropologists who spied in World War I returning to do so again in "the next war." The next war I referred to was of course World War II, not Vietnam; Benedict was not even in WWI, and RAND didn't exist until 1948. Likewise, Carrier mixes two separate sentences to give the false impression that I accuse Benedict of being a spy.
Carrier claims I lump undercover spies with anthropologists openly working for the government. I don't. I do examine the historical reasons that the American Anthropological Association does not have explicit prohibitions against both espionage and secret research (two different things) and note that the historic reasons the AAA removed its ban on espionage and secret research were linked to the concerns of contract anthropologists working for both public and private agencies.
An old RAND hand like Carrier (co-author of the 1966 RAND counterinsurgency study of factors inducing Viet Cong defections, Viet Cong Motivations and Morale) knows that the beauty of RAND is that it is not simply a haven for current and former intelligence folks; it instead hosts a mix of social scientists, policy wonks, number crunchers and others working on classified as well as unrestricted projects. Lots of useful things happen in such a climate, though the "usefulness" of these is not always widely circulated. That anthropologists work on research projects that are kept secret from research subjects (as Ruth Benedict did in the mentioned 1948 study that RAND classified as restricted) does not trouble anthropologists like Carrier, but it should trouble us all.
Adam Frank is simply wrong to claim I implied NSEP recipients are necessarily spies or that they are required to engage in espionage. He is, however, correct in stating that it was due to the concerns and activism of scholars such as myself that bans now exist on NSEP participants conducting espionage while visiting foreign countries--though we were unsuccessful in getting similar bans extending to the period after the grants. It was, of course, this post-grant "payback" period that clearly was the focus of my single sentence regarding the NSEP, and given the central importance of informed consent in ethics codes from Nuremberg to the present, this is not a trifling matter. Let me be clear: My concern with NSEP derives from the inherent conflict it presents to practitioners in a field whose commitment and loyalty must be to those we study--not those who pay our way through graduate school.
I do not know who told Frank that his only mandated payback to NSEP was "posting [his] résumé to the NSEP website." This is clearly not true. The Defense Department states that all grantees must post résumés and seek federal employment at an NSEP-approved national security-oriented agency. Participants are allowed to request that their résumés not be circulated among the CIA, DIA and NSA--though the FBI (with its new offices in Russia, Mexico, Hungary and elsewhere abroad), the State Department and many other agencies that are the soft-core interface of our national security state's apparatus do not appear on this list of off-limits agencies (see aed.org/nsep).
Incidentally, just in case Frank was planning not to follow through with the required "good faith effort" to seek national security-related employment upon graduation, he should be forewarned that NSEP's policy states that "recipients are required to reimburse the U.S. Government for the full amount of assistance provided by the NSEP Fellowship, plus interest, should they fail to fulfill the service requirement." True, NSEP fellows can fulfill their payback requirement at US institutions of higher education after their good-faith effort to find employment at NSEP-approved government agencies, but given the job market for anthropologists, anyone counting on repaying NSEP through such an anticipated maneuver is living in denial.
NSEP's commitment to oiling the revolving doors between the academy and the national security state goes against the grain of anthropologist Ralph Beals's sage observation, over thirty years ago, that "the research data obtained for one purpose should not...be used for another without the consent of the individual[s] involved." Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, a specialist in anthropological ethics, notes that anthropologists must describe and disclose "to the people studied, to the best of his or her knowledge, the intent of the research; the methodology by which it is to be carried out; the source of financial support; and the possible outcomes of the research." Under this most basic concept of informed consent, anthropologists receiving NSEP funding must inform those they study that upon their graduation they are required to seek employment from a limited list of national security-related government agencies. But I am sure that Adam Frank has done this in Shanghai and that the University of Texas has required him to do so in compliance with its Human Subject Review Board's policies.
I am glad to see that Frank is outraged that he and other anthropologists can be mistaken as spies. This disturbs me too. I would encourage Frank and other anthropologists to write members of the AAA's Ethics Committee and urge revisions of the AAA's Ethics Code so that it once again explicitly prohibits secret research and espionage. Those we study should not assume we aren't spies unless we at least declare we aren't. I take heart that AAA president Louise Lamphere has shown sincere concern about revelations of past links between anthropologists and intelligence agencies. Two months ago Lamphere devoted a large portion of the AAA's annual business meeting to an examination of historical evidence and ethical implications of past associations between the CIA and the AAA. Who knows, the association may be poised for a reconsideration of its lack of explicit prohibitions on covert research and work for intelligence agencies.