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New York City

It certainly is flattering to have a five-page comprehensive review of our book, Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism and the Future ["Riding the Third Wave," Dec. 11], but Michelle Jensen repeats the same pattern we critique: If it doesn't look like it did thirty years ago, it must not be feminism. The sad part of Jensen's second wave-lensed review of Manifesta is that she overlooked our subtitle altogether and rendered invisible the hundreds of examples of young women--their lives and activism--that are the purpose of the book. Women like Farai Chideya, Tali Edut and Sabrina Alcantara-Tan and the work of the Third Wave Foundation, Bust and WILD: For Human Rights--institutions founded and run by young women.

We don't mind the contentious review. We've had many (they have wildly different opinions about what we did right and wrong), and they prove that feminism is as various as women are. But the contrast between the exasperated academic reviewer and the dozen or so huge, totally enthusiastic crowds of young feminists that have greeted us at college campuses over the past few months makes us think that we were on the right track with Manifesta--even without the socialist feminist theory Jensen so craved.




I suppose it's easier for Richards and Baumgardner to paint me as an unreconstructed second waver than to engage with the political substance of my critique. What they can't quite grip, and this is where feminist "wave theory" reveals its simple-mindedness, is that I am their cultural contemporary. I like my platform shoes, my Dawson's Creek, my Hitachi Magic Wand, my Butchies and my campus popularity as much as the next girl: I just don't call it politics. I don't care one whit about what feminism "looks like" (which is why their superficial inclusion of a few token women of color fails to convince me); I care deeply, however, about my generation's ability to advance a historically conscious movement to liberate all women, no matter where they may be located in structures of class, race, sexuality, nation or generation. The manifesto to consult, for a truly liberatory blueprint, is the Redstockings': "We identify with all women. We define our best interest as that of the poorest, most brutally exploited woman. We repudiate all economic, racial, educational, or status privileges that divide us from other women."



San Luis Obispo, Calif.

H. Bruce Franklin in "Antiwar and Proud of It" [Dec.11] tells of the aircraft carrier Constellation's crew petitioning for Jane Fonda's antiwar road show to be allowed to perform aboard. In 1971-72 I was a Marine lieutenant out of the Air Force Academy stationed in Okinawa when Hanoi Jane's show performed in the city of Koza. It was exuberantly attended by thousands in uniform, many just back from Vietnam, as Nixon pulled the troops out. I returned to the States in '72 to resign my commission out of a sense of the evil of the man (this was pre-Watergate break-in) and increasing discordance between principle and reality, but a vehicular accident broke my back before my request cleared. Support for the antiwar movement was feverish even among the uniformed, many of whom attended the show so that they could have their pictures taken by intelligence personnel and go on record.


Davis, Ill.

I beg to differ with H. Bruce Franklin on the 1945 transport of the French military and Legionnaires to Saigon. I was on Army transport ships then. We were civilian merchant marines, not enlisted men. I doubt that the Navy would protest--that would be considered mutiny. But whoever did it, I deeply wish that Misters Truman and Nixon had listened. "They're not listening still. Perhaps they never will."



If Jerry Lembcke found "not a shred of evidence" that Vietnam vets were spat upon, it doesn't mean there was none. I am acquainted with a man who was on active duty stateside in the mid-sixties and was walking down the street of a western Massachusetts city when someone came up and spat in his face. He didn't run looking for sociologists to tell his story to, but it happened. It is good to recall and affirm the strengths of the antiwar movement. It is not good to create new distortions in the attempt to offset old ones.



Newark, N.J.

The crews of the US ships being used to transport an invasion army to Vietnam in 1945 were indeed all in the merchant marine; it was the enlisted crewmen (i.e., nonofficers) who unanimously protested this complicity with colonialism.

While there may possibly have been isolated cases of servicepeople being spat upon, there is no contemporaneous evidence of such incidents. More important, although such behavior was never part of the antiwar movement, it is an image of antiwar protesters rampant in American culture today. Both these topics are explored with thorough documentation in my book, Vietnam and Other American Fantasies.



Johnson City, N.Y.

Jane Spencer's "Caught in the WAVE" [Dec. 4] reminded me of a recent work purporting to link high school students' interest in progressive causes to drug abuse. In How Parents Can Help Children Live Marijuana Free, written by University of Utah criminologist Gerald Smith and others and published by Walt Plum, "excessive preoccupation with social causes, race relations, environmental issues, etc." are listed as some of the "social signs of regular [drug] users." The sixty-plus-page booklet, distributed to parents of students in the Salt Lake City School District with the blessing of the district, prompted parents of two students to pull their children off the debate team. Students may now be targeted not only for acting or appearing different, but also for reading The Nation!



Walnut Creek, Calif.

It may seem unappreciative for a former Communist to be critical of the relatively reasoned article on "The Right's Cold War Revision," by Ellen Schrecker and Maurice Isserman [July 24/31, "Letters," Oct. 9]. The very rules of engagement in this discussion seem to begin with the docile acceptance as received word of the outpourings of double and triple agents from Moscow's murky Venona files. Schrecker and Isserman are no exception, stating: "As Venona and the Moscow sources reveal, the [US] party recruited dozens, perhaps hundreds, of its members to spy for the Soviet Union."

Who were all these spies, and how come they were never named and prosecuted? Hoover's FBI says it had the party thoroughly infiltrated (hardly the difficult feat that melodramatic movies made it). What these FBI agents would most want to present to the Boss was proof of espionage. Never happened.

Schrecker and Isserman do American Communists the dubious favor of writing, "Acknowledging that some American Communists spied on behalf of the Soviet Union does not reduce the entire history of their movement to a criminal conspiracy." Thanks a lot. How much of its history does it reduce to a criminal conspiracy? Half? Three-quarters?

Are there any historians out there to say straight out that American Communists, despite their sins, were patriots who advocated something more human than corporate capitalism for this land of ours and fought hard and effectively for social justice in the meanwhile?

Yes, they were starry-eyed over the emergence of the world's first nation to proclaim itself socialist and place people above profits, and yes, they were lamentably slow to accept the reality that Stalinism had butchered the socialist dream. But when "liberal anticommunists" were doing diddly about the shame of raw racial discrimination, it was the Communists who exposed the Scottsboro rape frameup, who put their bodies where their mouths were, going South to work for black voting rights, who with the black newspapers launched the campaign that ended the apartheid ban in our national pastime, who did the indispensable on-the-ground organizing in the creation of industrial unionism.

If the Communist movement was the malign spy apparatus Radosh, Klehr, Haynes and Weisberg say it was, how would they explain its attraction to so many of the world's most leading creative men and women?

On a personal note, I worked for the Communist Daily Worker for twenty years and found my colleagues to be principled idealists, the salt of the American earth.

Will history, dictated by "liberal (?) anti-communists," harden by default into the "spy" falsehood for this significant part of the American radical left?



Frisco, Colo.

I've been a subscriber to The Nation for more than twenty years, and I'm finally getting off my butt and writing. I have a confession. I'm in love with Katha Pollitt's column. Whenever I'm not sure how to express my feelings, I wait for Pollitt's column, and there they are--my feelings articulated perfectly.

I live in a rural community without residential mail service, so I have to drive to the post office. I empty my box every couple of days, and when I get my Nation, the first thing I do is open it to Katha's column and savor her comments paragraph by paragraph. Then I sit back in my minivan smiling as I hug my Nation. And that warm, fuzzy feeling lasts all day, because Katha's column makes me realize that I have a choice. I can either become depressed, or I can laugh, or I can do a bit of both.

Am I alone? I can't be the only reader whose idea of a good time is settling back into my minivan high-back seat in front of the post office in a one-stoplight town in the mountains of Colorado reading Katha's column. So why doesn't it appear weekly?



Hayward, Calif.

I share William Greider's glee about the election stalemate ["Stupefied Democracy," Dec. 4] and the opportunity it provides for the voting public to discover the underpinnings and inadequate mechanisms of the electoral process. However, there is a disturbing tendency in this article and most other observations of the state of US "democracy" to refer to some earlier time (usually unspecified, as in Greider's piece) when the situation was better or even pure and perfect. In using terms like our current "decayed democracy" and a "shriveled meaning of citizenship," Greider falls into the old trap of what I call the "origin myth" of US democracy. I think it is an important issue because we really must look to ideas that will lead us to constructing democracy, rather than reviving a mythical democracy.


Woodstock, N.Y.

Your postelection editorial "Indecision 2000" [Nov. 27] asserted, "Union families were more than one-fourth of the popular vote and voted nearly 2 to 1 for Gore; African-Americans came out in large numbers and voted 10 to 1 for Gore; pro-choice women helped give Gore an 11-point lead among female voters. These numbers make it hard to take Nader's suggestion that it was his presence in the race...that will make Democrats take progressives in their own party more seriously." It's not clear why these numbers alone would get Democrats to take progressives more seriously--since the numbers were virtually the same in 1996. That year, union families provided almost one-fourth of all voters and chose Clinton over Dole by an even bigger margin than they chose Gore over Bush. And Clinton had a wider gender gap over Dole, a 16-point lead with female voters.

You went on to say: "The strength of the base vote now makes it harder for the DLC to persuade nervous Democrats that rebuilding the party requires further moves to the right." Since the base vote today is similar to that in 1996, some new vehicle of power and persuasion is needed to move the Democrats in a progressive direction. Otherwise, we'll keep watching a rerun every four years in which liberal leaders and journals mobilize their constituencies with increasing frenzy on behalf of decreasingly appetizing DLC candidates from Clinton to Gore to Lieberman. If Nader has the wrong approach, your editorial is fuzzy about who has the right one.


Cedar Rapids, Iowa

I as well as some fellow Metro high school students registered 200 new voters, then called them up on Election Day and reminded them to vote for a new leader for this nation. Because we did this, our teacher let us dye his hair bright pink. But this election has disappointed me. I propose instant runoff voting [Robert Richie and Steven Hill, "If Politics Got Real...," Oct. 16] so this kind of thing doesn't happen again.


San Francisco

As long as we do not have proportional representation and a complete ban on private financing of political campaigns, our elections will not be representative of anyone but the business class. The will of the people should not be usurped. Changing those two aspects of the electoral process is where our time, money and energy should be spent--not in worrying about which member of the ruling class wins a meaningless election.



The following is a reply to Norman Finkelstein's letter in last week's issue. --The Editors

New York City

Norman Finkelstein calls my work on the Swiss bank Holocaust case an exercise in blackmail. But the $1.25 billion Swiss bank settlement on behalf of Holocaust victims cannot possibly be characterized as blackmail unless that term is distorted to include any payment made by a defendant who is afraid to go to trial. Did the lawyers put pressure on the Swiss banks? You bet we did. We threatened them with justice.

Finkelstein's principal claim is that I misstated the documentary record when I charged that Swiss banks systematically destroyed records of Holocaust deposits. Let's look at the document Finkelstein cites--the report of the Volcker committee, which conducted an intensive audit of the banks. The Volcker report finds that records for 2.8 million accounts opened during the Holocaust era had been completely destroyed by the Swiss banks (Volcker report, para. 20). The Volcker report calls the destruction of those records an "unfillable gap." Moreover, the Volcker report finds that almost all of the transaction records for the remaining 4.1 million accounts were also destroyed, leaving a record of an account's opening and closing, but no information about the account's size, or whether it had been plundered (Volcker report, para. 21). I call that a pretty good job of systematically destroying records, especially since, in the absence of records, the banks get to keep the money because Switzerland has no escheat law. It is true that under Swiss law, the banks were required to keep records for only ten years. But, having accepted deposits from Holocaust victims, and knowing that most Jewish depositors had failed to survive the Nazis, how can anyone defend the Swiss banks' widespread destruction of the records needed to trace the true ownership of the Holocaust funds?

Despite the immense hurdles created by the destruction of records, the Volcker report identified 46,000 Swiss bank accounts with a "probable or possible" connection with Holocaust victims. The names of 26,000 of the accounts are about to be published, and the federal court has set aside $800 million to pay the owners of those funds. Neve Gordon, in his review of Finkelstein's book, suggests that the sum is exaggerated, but his figures dovetail closely with mine. The $800 million for bank deposits includes an interest/inflation factor of 10 that the Volcker committee found was necessary to permit payment of current value. Everyone, including Raul Hilberg, agrees that Jewish deposits into Swiss banks on the eve of the Holocaust were at least $80 million. Surely, the Swiss banks should not have the use of that money for sixty years without paying interest to the accounts' true owners. $800 million is, therefore, a very conservative estimate of what the banks really owe.

Finally, in a characteristically venomous charge, Finkelstein accuses me of "making a mockery of Jewish suffering during World War II," because I have estimated that 1 million victims of the Holocaust are still alive. In order to reach such a figure, Finkelstein argues that I must be diluting what it meant to suffer during the Holocaust. But, as usual, Finkelstein's obsession with criticizing anyone who acts on behalf of Holocaust survivors blinds him to the facts. My figure of 1 million victims was intended to include all surviving victims, not merely Jewish survivors. The German foundation Remembrance, Responsibility and the Future estimates that more than 1 million former slave and forced laborers are still alive and qualify for compensation. The fact is that the Holocaust did not affect only Jews. The Swiss settlement includes Sinti-Roma, Jehovah's Witnesses, the disabled and gays. The German foundation will distribute most of the slave/forced labor funds to non-Jews. About 130,000 Jewish survivors and about 900,000 non-Jewish victims are still alive. Norman Finkelstein accuses me of being a "main party" to seeking compensation for them. Thank you, Norman. I could not be prouder.



New York City

In his brilliant review of the work of Damien Hirst ["Art," Nov. 20], Arthur Danto offers up a useful if inadvertent example of the difficulty both sides continue to have in talking across the fence that separates Science from Art. He wonders at the connection made by Hirst in the title of a painting between a small molecule--argininosuccinic acid--and the bite of the asp. Danto's explanation builds up to a notion of painting as a form of pharmacology. Perhaps. But there is a simpler link between the asp and argininosuccinic acid, a link that goes deeper than the toxicity of the former or the pharmacology of the latter. ASP is the standard abbreviation for the common amino acid aspartic acid, also called aspartate. So the reason Hirst had for linking the title of his work to this snake may have been a simple pun.

But perhaps he had more in mind. When an excess of the four-carbon amino acid ASP must be gotten rid of--after one eats a fleshy meal, for instance--it is dropped into a set of enzymatic reactions called the urea cycle. There, the ASP is grabbed by the enzyme argininosuccinate synthetase and hooked onto the five-carbon amino-acid derivative citrulline to form Hirst's compound, argininosuccinate. This is then broken down into a set of compounds including urea and citrulline, which closes the cycle that dumps urea into urine. So beyond the pun, we have been given the notion of pissing as an antidote to poisoning. Not quite pharmacology, but clearly Hirst knows his biochemistry!




According to Trudy Lieberman ["Unhealthy Politics," Nov. 6], the uninsured in the United States wait four months for an MRI. In Canada, the (universally) insured routinely wait six months for an MRI. Women with proven breast cancer have treatment delayed for months, unless they are lucky enough to live in a province where they are transferred to a US center. (In Ontario, they go to Buffalo.) And Canadians are not guaranteed stabilization in emergency rooms even if acutely ill--certainly there are no laws to that effect. Nonetheless, our universal healthcare system has overwhelming support from the Canadian public and virtually no one looks to the US system as a model.



New York City

I am glad Stuart Klawans recognizes the extraordinary gifts of Anna Deavere Smith, but he writes a premature obituary for the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue that she founded at Harvard in 1998 ["Films," Oct. 16]. I had the good fortune of participating in and seeing several institute events. It did set up innovative connections among artists and between artists and audiences. Because of this accomplishment, and others, I hope the institute will keep on in some form. Whatever this might be, the institute has established a model that can and surely will be adopted elsewhere.



Washington, D.C.

It's a damn shame we can't lock Lynne Cheney [Jon Wiener, "'Hard to Muzzle': The Return of Lynne Cheney," Oct. 2] in a room with Diane Ravitch [Peter Schrag, "The Education of Diane Ravitch," Oct. 2] and make them discuss Ravitch's comment that "it is a fundamental truth that children need well-educated teachers who are eclectic in their methods and willing to use different strategies, depending on what works best for which children."

Of course, it's entirely possible that Ravitch would wind up providing Cheney more historically acontextual and one-sided ammunition for her "liberals have destroyed our schools" jihad. Never mind that smaller classes are better learning environments (and, barring a mass infusion of nuns, will necessarily cost more money), that the vast majority of teachers are underpaid, that no immigration crackdown can make the nation's children all learn English this year, and that parents who are both undereducated and overworked understandably have trouble participating in their children's education.



Toledo, Ohio

Bravo! to Patricia Williams's June 19 "Mad Professor" column, titled "Little House in the 'Hood," about what's happening in Harlem. While Harlem is certainly special because of its rich history, I fear that the same thing is happening all over the country as whites, with a growing appreciation for the beautiful woodwork and craftsmanship with which many older houses in the near-downtown areas were constructed, are buying them at very low cost. Once these neighborhoods "come back," the housing costs increase to the extent that long-term residents, especially the elderly, can no longer afford to live where they have lived most of their lives. Property values rise, which is good, but the other side of the coin is that some people get taxed out of their homes.

I was raised in, and have always lived in, integrated neighborhoods where everyone genuinely got along and looked out for and enjoyed being with one another. While I certainly would not want to see segregation rear its ugly head again, I do think that something gets lost from the fabric of a community when it's "taken over" and commercialized to the extent that it is no longer recognizable. My parents too, though living in integrated neighborhoods when they moved north, speak longingly of the time when blacks had their own businesses in their own communities. There was the neighborhood movie theater, dry cleaner, corner grocer and pharmacy complete with soda shop, and the like. We can all live, work and play together, but why do the character, the flavor and the fabric of communities that make them special have to be sacrificed in the process? Unfortunately there are some blacks who only see "green" when it comes to development, and I say they do so to their own (and the communities that they're supposed to serve) harm.

As a real estate professional interested in housing and social issues, I would like to engage in dialogue with others who share my thoughts and passions on this matter. Any takers? (cjones@gallonlaw.com)



Everett, Wash.

Christopher Hitchens's October 9 "Minority Report," "Why Dubya Can't Read," cleared up a mystery for me. I've been deeply puzzled by Dubya's claim to be a leader. I now realize that Dubya was trying to tell us that he's a dealer.



Berkeley, Calif.

The article on electronic books ["On Pixel Pages It Was Writ," June 12] left out the most intriguing aspect of this new format: digital rights management technologies (DRM). These technologies are being developed by the electronic publishing industry to protect the rights of the copyright holders and, of course, are not so diligent about protecting the rights of readers. DRM standards, such as the XrML standard developed by Xerox and endorsed by Microsoft, contain mechanisms to allow publishers to put time limits on reading, to potentially charge by the page or by the minute, to protect against excerpting and printing. These "rights" go significantly beyond the rights recognized by copyright law.

Among the many annoyances of these systems is that works are generally licensed to a particular piece of hardware, such as an individual computer or e-book reader. While the hardware industry is working to make our computing devices obsolete, the content industry is tying our content to those same machines. Upgrade your computer, and you lose access to all the content you have licensed. So, the question is not whether we'll be able to read digital works in the bathtub or on the beach--the question is whether we'll be able to reread them in a few years, quote from them or offer them to friends once we've finished with them.



Cambridge, Mass.

Siva Vaidhyanathan, in "MP3: It's Only Rock and Roll and The Kids Are Alright" [July 24/31], suggests that Metallica has somehow "forgotten that it got rich through free music" simply because the band objects to Napster's accessory to theft. Giving away free music to build a following is a valid business model; as a musician, I may do the same thing. But the fact that Metallica gave away the music it once created has nothing to do with whether it wants to (or ought to) give away the music it now creates. That's Metallica's choice, but Napster, Gnutella, etc., make it easy to take that choice away; they don't distinguish between music that an artist has granted permission to distribute free and music that some unethical third party has offered without the artist's permission.

As we celebrate the demise of the recording industry's distribution near-monopoly, the distinction between freedom of information and respect for intellectual property is being ignored. Music fans rejoice in the "right to free music" Napster has brought them, but it has brought them no such thing; it has simply permitted them to do something possibly illegal without facing the consequences. Any musician will tell you that they're last in line to get paid; stealing from them and justifying it by pointing to recording industry profiteering is intellectually dishonest.

Vaidhyanathan levels fair criticism at the recording industry, which is clearly fighting a losing battle to retain its monopoly over distribution channels, but his dismissal of Napster as a serious issue defeats his own alternative. He points out that bands can bypass the entire conventional production/distribution/marketing monopoly through home production and Internet alternative-music websites, charging "$1 per song for MP3 downloads." But Napster, Gnutella and the rest don't come close to enabling that business model to be used; in fact, they make it absurdly easy to defeat. Certainly, these services are not going to go away, but it's crucial to recognize that they are morally and ethically neutral and that they fail to make distinctions between lawful and unlawful behavior. How to support the decision of the artist about how his or her music is to be distributed is the conversation we ought to be having. My music is not yours simply because I created it.



Guadalajara, Mexico

In a hagiographic review of the Culver/Hyde biography of Henry Wallace ["The Wallace Doctrine," June 12], Kai Bird rhetorically inquires as to "who wouldn't" like its protagonist. I, for one. Whatever Truman's failings, at least he didn't belong to a weird cult in which he used the code names "Shamballal" and "Logvan" (his wife was "Poroona") and uttered such inanities as "I shall obey the Gita as remorselessly as Krishna." For all his loony mysticism, Wallace was quite capable of double-crossing his guru, Nicholas Roerich, when he thought he had become a political embarrassment. Having sent him on a mission to Asia, Wallace prevented him from returning by threatening him with a $14,000 tax lien.

Wallace's insensitivity in personal relations was legendary. Given a new car when he married, he went off on a three-hour solo spin while his bride waited in bewilderment. A rich man, he was such a stingy tipper that at restaurants aides would have to surreptitiously flesh out his niggardly gratuities. In World War I, his well-heeled family kept him out of military service as an "essential farmer." After the 1948 election, he walked out of his headquarters without a word of thanks to devoted campaign workers. When asked by H.L. Mencken about the "guru letters"--fawning missives he had addressed to "Beloved Master" Roerich in happier days-- Wallace weaseled, causing intense mirth among the press corps, who unaffectionately referred to him as Old Bubblehead. Objective scrutiny of the man and his record makes Westbrook Peglers of us all.



Washington, D.C.

So Wallace was quite a character! I'll still take his eccentricities any day over the men who defeated him.



Richmond, Calif.

The August 7/14 issue contained two articles that, when read against each other, produce serious discontent. In "The Crack in the Picture Window," Benjamin Barber's review of Bowling Alone, we are presented with an analysis of the loss of "social capital" and "civic grace" in the face of growing social isolation. It's astounding that no mention is made of the profound dominance of social life by corporations. In fact, no meaningful reference to the tyranny of corporate power occurs in the entire review.

If only Barber had read E.L. Doctorow's passionate polemic in the same issue, "In the Eighth Circle of Thieves." Doctorow sees clearly that American life outside and in is manipulated for the sake of corporate dominance and gain; the consequent result is distorted priorities, child poverty, media domination, the swelling of ethnic prison populations, the high cost of health insurance, international trade agreements that defeat national environmental laws--"the list is long."

Doctorow calls on the iconic power of Whitman and proposes a reform bill. Barber could not recognize corporations, but Doctorow cannot, apparently, recognize that corporations are embedded in a social-productive system--capitalism. Capitalism forces the movement of corporations among their various paths to venality and social-environmental destruction. What has come to dominate The Nation is a new populism, a recognition of large-scale social destructiveness unrelated to its underlying economic determinant.


S. Gardiner, Me.

E.L. Doctorow remarks that "campaign finance reform as a phrase has been bruited about so long and to so little effect and is so yawningly dull, dreary and unresounding, it makes one wonder if it's not partly responsible for the conditions it has so far failed to address." I totally agree. "Graft" seems the appropriate term. It puts the focus on the politician, which is exactly where it belongs.

And while we're calling a spade a spade, how about returning the name of the Defense Department to its historical and accurate name, the War Department? It would have a major effect in stemming that hemorrhage from the public treasury. Just imagine how it would sound: "President recommends increase in the war budget." It would be a well-placed thorn in the media's bag of foul air.




Tom Hayden ["Harrington's Dilemma," June 12] draws a plausible lesson from Michael Harrington's life: The Shachtman-Harrington crowd shouldn't have been so nasty to the rest of the left. But there's another lesson, more relevant for today: The left is torn apart and weakened when part of it makes peace with the US war machine. When Harrington was expelled from Norman Thomas's Socialist Party in 1952 "because of his involvement in trying to take over its youth branch," the underlying reason was that Harrington was against the war in Korea, while Thomas was for it. And in Hayden's 1965 debate with Irving Howe, I'd have been more upset at Howe for supporting the Vietnam War than for his "paternalistic needling." Now that Soviet-style Communism is dead and buried, the US empire is more powerful and seductive than ever. Drawing this lesson seems more important than rehashing old feuds among ex-Communists, ex-Trotskyists and ex-New Leftists.


Brooklyn, N.Y.

For those of us who knew Harrington and worked with him, one of his more endearing qualities was his capacity to reflect, in a self-critical way, on his political past. Both in his published writings and in conversation, he would forthrightly state that he mishandled the relations between the parent League for Industrial Democracy and the newborn Students for a Democratic Society in 1962, that he waited too long to express publicly his opposition to the Vietnam War and that his censure of the New Left had often been unduly harsh and unnecessarily polarizing. Harrington's description of that behavior as "stupid" in the copy of his autobiography he signed for Hayden was quite characteristic.

But Harrington and others from the old left had no monopoly on stupidity and sectarianism. Those of us who came of political age as part of the New Left contributed mightily in both of those areas, and any reasonable account of that period would have to address the incredible self-destructiveness of that movement, which ended with SDS dissolving into a bunch of warring sects adhering to the worst caricatures of Marxism-Leninism and Stalinism. Until the New Left is as direct and as honest in our self-evaluations as Harrington was, we will be willfully blind to our own history. Hayden made his share of mistakes, and then some, as a leader of SDS and the New Left, and one would have hoped he would use this review to acknowledge them. If there is a "true believer" in this story, it is much more my fellow New Leftist Hayden than Harrington.



"Indeed, it seems to me that Nader, who is a reformer acting empirically, has in many ways raised more radical questions, and possibilities, than the European social democrats. His lead should be carefully followed."

Prophetic words? They were written by Michael Harrington in 1972, in Socialism, chapter 12. The torch was passed, unremarked, nearly thirty years ago. Now it's up to the rest of us to unite behind another torchbearer in an international Green-Red movement. Is that Michael's ghost with a hopeful smile?


Divorce, American Style

New York City

In The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, Judith Wallerstein argues that the consequences of parental divorce for children are typically harmful and long-lasting. Katha Pollitt disagrees ["Subject to Debate," Oct. 23], charging that Wallerstein's study cannot be trusted because her sample is too small and because the families she studied suffer from multiple problems, not just divorce. Wallerstein's anti-anti-divorce critics have been making these charges for years, but fortunately we now have independent evidence to show who is getting it right. The two most important quantitative studies based on representative samples seeking to distinguish the effects of parental divorce from the effects of pre-divorce family problems are A Generation at Risk (1997), by Paul Amato and Allan Booth, and a study by Andrew Cherlin and colleagues published in the American Sociological Review in 1998. Both studies broadly support Wallerstein's main findings and offer little or no support to her critics. Which is why your readers aren't likely to hear about these studies from Katha Pollitt, even as she improbably appoints herself guardian of the scientific method on this topic.

Institute for American Values

Belvedere, Calif.

In her strident column, Katha Pollitt attacks my book, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, with a plethora of misstatements. I reply to the most egregious. I state categorically several times in my book that I am not against divorce: "I am not against divorce. How could I be? I've probably seen more examples of wretched, demeaning, and abusive marriages than most of my colleagues." And further: "I don't know of any research, mine included, that says divorce is universally detrimental to children."

What I do say throughout my book, which Pollitt chooses to ignore, is that when people decide to divorce, it has a short-term and long-term traumatic effect upon the children that makes their subsequent life journey more difficult and that society, including the courts and their parents, must recognize this and take steps to mitigate this impact. They can come out well, as I demonstrate. It is simply harder.

Pollitt attacks my work as "pseudoscience." My method, the case-study method of qualitative research, is well established in biological and social science. It is a major method in medicine, psychiatry, psychology and anthropology. It depends on intensive interviewing to learn the internal landscape of the person and is the chief source of hypothesis formation and knowledge generation. The twentieth-century contributions of Piaget, Freud, Erikson and Bowlby were based on this method. Quantitative survey research cannot tap inner life experience.

About controls, Pollitt is again wrong. At the twenty-five-year mark, when I was elaborating the life experience of these children from childhood into adulthood, I assembled a comparison group of youngsters in the same neighborhoods with parents in comparable social and economic circumstances. They were matched (as a group, as do most sociological studies) along major parameters that I found relevant to my study. It is not clear what more Pollitt, who is not a behavioral scientist, could have in mind. This group was not solicited earlier because I was starting in a new area--no one had studied the impact of divorce on children before me--and I could not have known then what to control.

Pollitt asserts that mine is a skewed sample consisting of "crazy" divorcing parents, primarily responding to an offer of treatment. Certainly, people who are divorcing are distressed at the time and can exhibit very disturbed behaviors, including violence, which did not characterize the prior relationship until its downhill course brought the couple to the divorce decision. Certainly, people who divorce--across the board, not just in my sample--are people who have failed at a central relationship and therefore may have more psychic disturbances than those who maintain successful marriages.

It is shocking to call my sample "crazy" and therefore not representative of a divorcing population. I was working for divorce under the best of circumstances and was happy to have such a relatively affluent and well-educated sample. It is altogether untrue that they came as "sixty disastrous families, featuring crazy parents, economic insecurity [and] trapped wives." As for the 131 children of the sixty couples, they were screened to be developmentally on course, without significant school, home or play disturbances prior to the breakup.

Pollitt states that our world has changed significantly since my study began in 1971. Fathers are now more actively involved with their children, mothers are now better placed economically, etc. It remains to be seen how much difference this makes. In my study, a significant number of the women had professional degrees and careers, and that has not made the post-divorce relationships of their children significantly better than the others in the cohort. And it remains to be seen, when 50 percent of divorces occur with children under 6, and 75 percent of the divorced fathers remarry, how many fathers can maintain their parenting in the first marriage, while living with the requirements of the second marriage and new children.

My main point is that although I was the first to call attention to the traumatic impact of the divorce experience, during the early seventies, there have by now been many corroborating studies--done in our contemporary climate--that uphold my findings, and what seemed to many to be an alarmist view then is now conventional wisdom. I trust that my current findings of the long-term impact of parental divorce that crescendos as these children face the issue of man-woman relationships in adulthood may be similarly concurred in as further studies are carried out by others.



New York City

It is true that Judith Wallerstein says in her latest book that she is not "against divorce." But what does that mean? She writes, "I think you should seriously consider staying together for the sake of your children," and she praises parents who stay in unhappy or dead marriages "with grace and without anger" but not those who leave such marriages and still put parenting first, something she seems to think is nearly impossible ("parenting erodes almost inevitably at the breakup and does not get restored for years, if ever"). Everyone who has written about her research takes it to argue that divorce is a great evil, to be avoided if at all possible--certainly that is what David Blankenhorn thinks she is saying. If Wallerstein is not "against divorce" why does she sit on the Council on Families of Blankenhorn's Institute for American Values, which has an explicit antidivorce agenda, opposing no-fault divorce, favoring "covenant marriage," waiting periods and mandatory counseling?

Wallerstein compares her methods to those of illustrious modern psychologists. It's odd to see Freud, who has been widely criticized for massaging his data when he didn't make it up, invoked as a model practitioner, but in any case, none of these men co-wrote their books with popular journalists (in Wallerstein's case, Sandra Blakeslee), used composite characters or presented as interviews done by themselves interviews that were conducted by other people. Case studies are all very well, perhaps even when written up with an obvious eye to mass-market advertising and media soundbites, but interviewing people for a few hours every five years (or listening to the tapes of such interviews by others) is not "intensive interviewing"--it's a conversation, a visit, a tête-à-tête. Nor is a group of high school classmates of one's original subjects assembled twenty-five years into one's research a valid scientific control. Besides, as she herself notes, the comparison group parents were much better educated and wealthier.

As a sample of children whose parents are divorced, Wallerstein's 131 subjects leave much to be desired. For one thing, she didn't follow up on the ones who dropped out--thirty-eight people, almost 30 percent of the original group! If, as is likely, the ones who stayed were the ones with more problems, and the ones who left were the ones who adjusted well to divorce and moved on with their lives, then failing to do "case studies" of the dropouts leaves her with a sample biased toward gloomy findings. (That Wallerstein's continuing subjects came disproportionately from families that had a hard time coping with divorce is suggested by the fact that 32 percent of their mothers had only a high school diploma or less versus 24 percent of the mothers in the original group.) It is disturbing that Wallerstein seems incurious about the melting away of so many of her original subjects, and the result is that she not only cannot say how representative her interviewees are of "children of divorce" in general, she can't even say how representative they are of her own sample!

As she has done many times in recent years, Wallerstein fudges the fact that she recruited her group--and skewed her sample--by offering free therapy, as she herself clearly acknowledged in her first report on her study "Surviving the Breakup." Similarly, although she professes herself shocked by the word "crazy," it was she who, in the same book, described her sample as consisting largely of people who were mentally or emotionally troubled. According to her own words, only one-third of the parents in her sample were "those whose functioning overall during the life history of the marriage was generally adequate or better." Roughly 50 percent were "moderately disturbed"--nor does she suggest in the earlier book that this is a temporary aberration caused by the stress of divorce, as she now claims. On the contrary, she speaks of addictions, suicidal tendencies, chronic depression, "severe neurotic difficulties," "handicaps in relating to another person" and "longstanding problems in controlling their rage or sexual impulses." This is half the parents. The remainder--15 percent of the men and 20 percent of the women--were "severely troubled during their marriages, perhaps throughout their lives," with "histories of mental illness, including paranoid thinking, bizarre behavior, manic-depressive illnesses, and generally fragile or unsuccessful attempts to cope with the demands of life, marriage and family." Divorce or no divorce, the offspring of such people are not likely to reach adulthood unscathed.

Wallerstein labels her subjects "children of divorce." The very process of participating in her study may have encouraged her subjects to embrace that self-definition, as "children of alcoholics" often view their lives through the lens of parental drinking, which is taken to explain every possible deviation from the ideal. Another researcher might label them "children of the emotionally or mentally ill." Perhaps, as Wallerstein seems to believe, two disturbed parents are better than one. But that tells us little about what the effects of divorce are for the children of parents who are nonviolent, sane, stable and capable of loving and responsible relationships. Paradoxically, these parents, the ones most likely to raise healthy kids after divorce, are the ones most likely to heed Wallerstein's advice to remain in bad marriages.



Brooklyn, N.Y.

In "When Women Spied on Women" [Sept. 4/11], the piece excerpted from Ruth Rosen's book regarding women spying on and infiltrating the women's movement, contained a reference to Seattle that I wish to clarify. Rosen repeats Betty Friedan's contention that the FBI had infiltrated a number of women's organizations and manipulated the gay-straight split. She cites Friedan's charge that when she was invited to speak in Seattle, she was met with protesters. Friedan told Rosen that she thought "the Seattle thing was [the result] of agents."

I was active in the left and women's liberation movement in Seattle, am writing a book about the women's liberation movement in Seattle, helped organize the protests against Friedan--and I know I wasn't an agent. The protest against Friedan was organized mainly by individuals and groups like the University YWCA, the University of Washington Women's Commission and the Seattle Gay Women's Alliance, who were disturbed by Friedan's homophobia. One of the main organizers of that protest was Mary Aiken Rothschild, now a professor of women's studies at the University of Arizona, then a PhD candidate in history and acting director of the University of Washington women's studies program. In an interview with Pandora, a local feminist newsletter, Rothschild challenged "Friedan's idea of what a feminist movement is about.... Mary defined herself as a straight woman, a mother, a professional who supported her lesbian sisters. Gay and straight women work together in Seattle and that is why we are getting somewhere. We didn't need big name leaders from the outside coming in to disrupt our movement."

Those of us involved in organizing the protest were very proud of our activities. We had attempted to convince Friedan to share a platform with an activist in the lesbian movement. She refused. We tried to meet with her and discuss her political point of view. She refused. So, we confronted her at a cocktail party and then at her public meeting at the University of Washington. This was not the first time that the radical women's liberation movement publicly confronted movement "leaders." In the fall of 1972, largely through the efforts of the University of Washington Women's Commission, we met with and publicly demonstrated against Gloria Steinem. The women were particularly critical of her support for the Democratic Party and her role in voting down the pro-choice plank at the 1972 Democratic convention.

As Rosen demonstrates, many women were hardly "sisterly." Others, to their discredit, accused women of being agents, provocateurs or male-identified as a way to dismiss their ideas or persona. As historians, especially as historians of our own movement, we have an obligation not to leave these charges unanswered.


Brooklyn, N.Y.

I can verify that the FBI continued its surveillance of the women's movement long after the late sixties and early seventies. Three months after my book Mothers on Trial: The Battle for Children and Custody was published, in 1986, the FBI convened the first grand jury in the history of our country to question an American citizen, me, about the whereabouts of a missing mother and her "allegedly" sexually abused daughter, who had fled "underground" when a court awarded custody of the girl to the "alleged" paternal incest-abuser. Had I been granted immunity to testify before the Buffalo grand jury and failed to do so, I might have sat in jail for a long time.

What terrified me was the possibility that few feminists understood that my silence was a political act. At the time (long before TV began to air docudramas about a Mother's Underground) virtually none of the liberal feminist organizations with whom I had worked on other issues--NOW, NOW's Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Center for Women and Family Law, Ms. magazine and Foundation--were institutionally or ideologically ready to face this kind of danger. Lawyer Margy Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights was, and the center stood by me. A few days before the grand jury was to take place, I received a call from the FBI telling me that they "had captured the felon" and that my testimony was no longer needed. Meanwhile, feminist and lesbian networks were disbanded, a number of feminist and lesbian lawyers were harassed, and one lost her license to practice law in Mississippi because she dared to represent a mother in a similar circumstance. The FBI successfully hunted down and jailed a number of runaway mothers.


Malthusian Delusions?

Franklin, N.Y.

Amartya Sen starts his otherwise sensible "Population and Gender Equity" [July 24/31] with the unproven assertion that Thomas Malthus was wrong when he wrote that population growth would soon outstrip growth in food production. What Malthus didn't know is that the age of cheap and abundant fossil fuels was at hand and would, for a geologically brief 200 years, delay the fulfillment of his gloomy prediction. Now those fuels are running out while population has grown to numbers Malthus probably could not have conceived of.

Modern agriculture has been described as a means of turning petroleum into food, but sometime--very likely this decade--the world will reach peak oil production. Then all will change. Fertilizers made from petroleum and natural gas will be very expensive and then unavailable; transportation and the operation of farm machinery will be hugely expensive or impossible. The idea that alternative fuels and solar and wind power will make up the deficit is, so far, a fantasy, and the level of investment in such alternatives remains paltry. In a two-century orgy of consumption, we have burned up the solar energy that was for hundreds of millions of years stored under the earth's surface. Our oil-based civilization is about to come crashing to an end, and we have very little time to prepare to deal with the consequences. Not surprisingly, the oil companies don't acknowledge the problem. Even more disturbing, none of our politicians want to be the bearer of bad news.

One is loath to lump a man of Sen's decency and humanity in with the economic cultists who believe that "the market" will take care of the problem. Nevertheless, it is the bizarre beliefs of economists, including the notion that the world runs on investment rather than energy, that will probably result in Malthus being proved an accurate observer.


Oakland, Calif.

Amartya Sen dismisses concerns about the global food supply as it relates to burgeoning population for two reasons: Food production has expanded and the price of food continues to fall. But we should not be lulled into thinking the world's food supply is sustainable or secure. That's because at least one key part of food production is not reflected in current prices: water. In coming decades, increasing scarcity of water will make itself felt in prices and supply. Visions for a sustainable future must balance population density and growth with current and future water prices and availability. Food--grain, produce and livestock alike--represent huge investments of water. Producing a ton of beef can require up to 70,000 tons of water and a ton of grain up to 3,000 tons. Agriculture is a thirsty enterprise. As water becomes scarcer (as is already happening in the Central Valley of California, which, like many regions, relies on artificial water supplies) and soils become more salinized, food production will not hold at current levels. The earth's hydrological cycles have been mined to increase food production. This is a historical anomaly, not a sustainable trend.

Redefining Progress

College Park, Md.

In Amartya Sen's article on gender equity, structures of patriarchy and capitalism are nowhere visible. Problems are reduced to a series of variables--economic, cultural and political "handicaps" that are to be overcome. Sen's basic point that literacy and schooling bring a decline in fertility is simply a correlational, not causal, part of the tired argument that investment in human capital will yield wealth and progress. Historically, fertility rates did not decline because of education but because wealth made having large families unnecessary for survival. Unusual low-income, low-fertility-rate stories, like China and Kerala, are not due to education (Sen discounts the effects of China's "one child" policy) but because both have departed from traditional capitalist and patriarchal structures.

The most important issue Sen raises is how employment opportunities for women (and men) are essential to achieving greater gender equity. But Sen, like any mainstream economist, lacks understanding of structures of inequality and oppression. He believes that fostering the education of girls and women, promoting access to microcredit for rural women and fighting discrimination in urban labor markets are the policies that will improve employment and equity. To the contrary, the creation of sustainable, decent livelihoods for the 2 billion women, men and children living on the global margin will not come from better policies within structures rooted in poverty and inequality. "Reversing the...handicaps that make women voiceless and powerless" and "bringing gender equity and women's empowerment to the center of the stage," as Sen wishes to do, do not depend on a "unified framework of understanding" based on the results of "empirical and statistical research" but on a political struggle for economic rights and societal transformation.




Eugene Marner is right to express worry about the growth of world population, even though the source of this worry cannot really be the alleged accuracy of Malthus (I shall return to Malthus after discussing the general problem). The exhaustion of fossil fuel is certainly one source of concern (to which Marner rightly draws attention), as is the growing difficulty in guaranteeing adequate water supply (to which Michele Gale-Sinex devotes her letter). Even though each of them has chosen a singular focus of attention (petroleum and water, respectively), problems generated by excessive population growth can arise in many other ways as well, varying from the depletion of the ozone layer to overcrowding in a limited habitat (as I discussed in my essay).

The point of departure in my essay was the particular relation between (1) high fertility rates and (2) the low decisional power--indeed subjugation--of women. The critical linkage is that "the most immediate adversity caused by a high rate of population growth lies in the loss of freedom that women suffer when they are shackled by persistent bearing and rearing of children." This connection is important in itself because of its relevance to the well-being and freedom of women (and derivatively of men as well). Furthermore, since the interests of young women are so closely involved, it would also be natural to expect that anything that increases the voice and power of young women in family decisions will tend to have the effect of sharply decreasing fertility rates (and through that, reducing the environmental adversities associated with population explosion). This expected connection has received very substantial statistical confirmation in intercountry comparisons around the world as well as in interstate and interdistrict correspondences within India (as I indicated in my essay).

That was the reason for my conclusion that women's empowerment and agency (through such factors as their education and economic independence) are central to an effective resolution of the so-called population problem, including its environmental consequences. These connections, which draw on a firm interpretive framework, cannot be dismissed as "simply correlational," as Steven Klees does in his letter. Empirical work is inescapably dependent on statistical investigation. Causal connections, which demand interpretation, have to be assessed on the basis of statistical findings, not independently of them. This combination of interpretive scrutiny and statistical assessment gives causal plausibility to the empirical association between fertility decline and women's empowerment (reflected by such enabling factors as female literacy, women's gainful employment and access to microcredit, land and other resources, and public debates and political discussions on gender equity).

Klees argues that as a "mainstream economist," I cannot have any "understanding of structures of inequality and oppression." If correct, this would be very sad for me, since--mainstream or not--I have devoted a very big part of my life precisely to investigating inequality and oppression, including studying, at close quarters, their manifestations in such phenomena as famines and starvation, class- and gender-related atrocities, and military and police brutalities. I accept the possibility that Klees has been able to acquire (from his vantage point in College Park, Maryland) a direct understanding of these issues which I have failed to achieve. However, since Klees does not refer to any empirical work whatsoever, it would have been very nice to have been told a little about how he has accomplished this understanding. Indeed, despite his fleeting invocation of "patriarchy" (along with "capitalism"), Klees dismisses the relevance of the indicators of women's empowerment that well-researched empirical studies in feminist economics as well as demography have established as important (on which my essay drew).

I come, finally, to Eugene Marner on Malthus. Marner disputes what he describes as my "unproven assertion that Thomas Malthus was wrong when he wrote that population growth would soon outstrip growth in food production." Since exactly the opposite of what Malthus predicted has occurred and continues, why is the recording of the nonfulfillment of Malthus's prediction "unproven"? Is a period of 200 years not time enough to check a prediction? But we must not dismiss Marner's reasoned worries about the future, since the exhaustion of petroleum is an important issue. However, Marner surely oversimplifies with his "turning petroleum into food." There are a great many different factors (such as new seeds, better cultivation techniques, etc.) that have contributed to the sharp rise in food production per capita in the world, which has occurred since Malthus's gloomy predictions were made and which has continued to occur through the most recent decades. Nevertheless, given the difficulties that are visible now (including petroleum and water problems) and new adversities that might well arise, we do have good reason to consider ways and means of raising agricultural productivity as well as reducing fertility rates (as I discussed in my essay).

Where Malthus is particularly counterproductive is in his dismissal of informed reproductive choice and of the effectiveness of women's conscious agency as ways of reducing fertility rates. Malthus took penury to be the only sure way of keeping fertility rates down (he did not revise his view on this particular subject, despite rethinking on some other issues) and even argued for suppressing the Poor Laws and the very modest arrangements for social safety nets and economic security that existed for the poor at his time. It would be unfortunate to rely on Malthus's harsh and dogmatic pronouncements for our understanding of the population problem.


Washington, D.C.

As I have traveled the country in this election year, many progressives have asked me whether I believe a vote for Ralph Nader is justified to promote the longer-term goal of a truly representative democracy--with third and fourth parties--in which progressives would have a larger piece of the governing pie. My answer to them is no. Regardless of whether progressives believe that third-party politics makes sense, Nader is not, and cannot be, the standard-bearer for such an effort. Why not? In short, because Nader's agenda and his record have been far too narrow to serve as a springboard for progressive politics in the twenty-first century.

In fact, in any comparison between Nader and Vice President Gore, Gore is far more qualified to shepherd progressive causes than Nader. And I say this as someone who has fought for progressive causes in Congress for thirty-five years. I say this as someone who learned under Martin Luther King Jr.'s tutelage the interconnectedness of the multiple progressive issues in forming a more just society.

While Nader was fighting for a safer bus, Gore was fighting so that Rosa Parks could get a seat on the bus. It's not that Nader did not support civil rights but it did not appear to be a central concern. It was for Al Gore. Despite the potential cost (his father, Al Gore Sr., lost his Senate seat in part because of his support for civil rights legislation), Al Gore has been there not just in word but in deed for the civil rights struggle. As senator, he not only supported landmark civil rights legislation but actively sought out the Congressional Black Caucus to help plan strategy. In the White House, he was frequently our "go to" guy and our strongest inside ally on hate crimes and racial profiling and in our efforts to kill legislation to repeal affirmative action.

We in the civil rights movement know the difference between an active crusader and a mere supporter of the struggle. Gore has been an active crusader. Nader, by contrast, has been a mere supporter. Indeed, the same can be said of Nader across the spectrum of first-tier progressive causes, such as women's rights. While Nader led the commendable fight against dangerous contraceptives, seldom was he pounding the pavement in defense of choice. By contrast, Gore spent years in Congress and the White House actively fighting for choice. In Congress he fought to codify Roe v. Wade, and in the White House he campaigned to kill countless bills that encroached on the cherished constitutional protection. He also led the charge on the Violence Against Women Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Equal Pay Act and increasing the minimum wage. When you measure the sweat off the brow that Gore and Nader have expended on women's issues, Gore wins, hands down.

Al Gore has also made a centerpiece of his agenda something else that women, particularly mothers, are demanding--common-sense gun safety legislation. While Gore cast the tiebreaking vote in the Senate to close the gun show loophole and helped lead the fight for the Brady law in 1994, Nader has, until recently, been largely mum. Credible progressives are hard pressed to justify a vote for Nader over Gore based on this as well.

The space on this page does not allow me to continue the litany. But if we closely study not just the positions that each may take at election time but the level of passion and commitment that each has shown on these and other issues critical to progressives--supporting public education and smaller classrooms, maintaining the Social Security and Medicare safety nets, and a wide range of other issues--we'll find that Gore has toiled far longer, far more consistently and with far more sweat on issues fundamental to progressives. And while both Gore and Nader have dedicated themselves to progressive causes, Gore has devoted his career to a far broader progressive agenda.

I take the opportunity to express this on these pages not simply because I believe that a vote for Nader is effectively a vote for Bush, although I believe that it is. I say this also because I believe that progressives cannot build a multiracial, multicultural and multisocioeconomicmovement based on Nader's record as compared with Gore's.

US Representative

Buffalo, N.Y.

When I cast my vote Election Day, I intend to cast it in favor of progressive ideas and grassroots action. I'm going to support a genuine alternative to a closed system where two parties often act with a single agenda--an agenda that simply does not address the daily reality of millions of citizens. I'm going to lend my voice to the fundamental concept that government should serve the needs of the people, not a handful of multinational corporations. In other words, I'm voting for Ralph Nader.

If you're talkin' politics, my decision has never been simpler. Nader speaks openly against the death penalty and in support of women's rights, plus his environmental stand is exemplary. Nader and the Greens also want to cut military spending, end the drug war and attack poverty at its systemic roots. They represent the best way to follow through on the groundswell of anticapitalist activism currently uniting progressives across traditional boundaries of gender, class and generation. I don't expect him to win, of course, but I know that a vote for him truly counts over the long haul, because it's helping to bust open the stifling two-party stranglehold on our system and bring progressive voices into the national political discourse.

'Course, there's just one little hitch. The way the Electoral College works, a majority of votes for any given candidate wins the whole state, and there are certain states where Gore or Bush will be a clear winner. In my home state, New York, for instance, it's easy to vote for Nader without worrying that I am aiding a Bush victory. But in the swing states (currently, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin), a Green Party vote really does mean that Bush comes one vote closer to winning. While I am sensitive to the power of a symbolic protest vote, there are larger issues at stake in this election. It's true that Democrats and Republicans have grown disturbingly similar, but there are still profound differences between their agendas. If I found myself in a swing state, I'd remember the record number of executions Governor Bush has authorized in Texas, for instance, and I'd think long and hard about the bleak future of women's reproductive rights in a Republican-controlled White House. And my vote would go to Al Gore.

I firmly believe that if all of us progressive thinkers around the country collaborate in a thoughtful strategy, we can achieve the dual goals of getting the Green Party on the ballot for future elections and getting Gore into the White House, thereby preventing the tragedy of a Baby Bush administration.

Because my vote does count, this year more than ever. The choice may not be cut and dried, but one thing is obvious: I don't want an even dumber Bush in office, and I don't want my actions to allow that to happen.

P.S. These articles helped shape my thinking: Eric Alterman, "Bush or Gore: Does It Matter?" [Oct. 16] and Katha Pollitt's "Subject to Debate" of October 9.


Righteous Babe Records

Amherst, Mass.

Two weeks ago I heard my students here at UMass coughing in class from the lingering effects of the macing they received in Boston for trying to get Ralph Nader heard in the presidential debates. For the first time in decades there is something in the air, a genuine resistance to corporate tyranny--and then what? I come home tonight to read that a vote for Nader is, in your opinion, simply too radical an act. Why don't you just change your name to The New Republic and get it over with?


The Woodlands, Tex.

Your courageous and practical editorial urging people to vote for Gore in states where a vote for Nader might tip the election to Bush was a pleasant surprise. I am a lifelong (53-year-old), left-wing Democrat and have always chosen to fight my party from within. I wanted to bolt over the death penalty and welfare "reform," but I've seen new parties come and go while the Democratic Party endures, warts and all--the only party that can stand against the Republicans. And just think, most of the people in the House who would get chairmanships, if the Democrats take over, are liberals.


Tampa. Fla.

The Clinton/Gore Administration really has brought minorities into government in record numbers. That offsets, for me, the disappointment over the failure to enact national healthcare and other needed reforms. Another Clinton/
Gore policy was the return of Father Aristide to Haiti--the only US foreign policy initiative I've supported in the past forty years. My heart is with Nader, a truly heroic figure, but my head says Gore.


New York City

The Clinton years have made it crystal clear that Congress--especially the Senate--plays as important a role in governance (including who gets onto the Supreme Court) as the President. We also know that which party controls the Senate is likely to be decided by one or two state races. Therefore, it is essential that Joe Lieberman and not a Republican become the next senator from Connecticut. For that to happen, Lieberman must lose the election for Vice President. Viewed in that light, voting for Ralph Nader is not only morally right, it is strategically right. As a slogan for the remaining days of this election season, Greens might consider: "Help the Democrats Win Control of Congress--Vote for Ralph Nader."


Moatsville, W.Va.

I'm glad The Nation is calling on people to vote for Gore in close states. If Bush wins--in any way that can be attributed to Nader, and it's hard to imagine him winning in any other way--then for a number of people the entire left or progressive project/approach that The Nation champions will seem not to be worth the candle. I'd rather not face that miserable scenario.


'Supreme Coort Follows th' Iliction'

Missoula, Mont.

Thank you for your Supreme Court issue, "Up for Grabs: The Supreme Court and the Election" [Oct. 9], which makes the point that Bush vs. Gore will literally make a life-or-death difference in the federal courts. As someone who practices daily in federal court, I can assure you that the difference between our new Clinton appointee (one of the few to be confirmed) and the prior Reagan appointee is the difference between day and night.


Washington, D.C.

The Nation's special issue on the Supreme Court was a useful reminder about the importance of the judicial branch to progressives, but why was the only message, both explicit and implicit, to vote for Al Gore for President? We need a serious debate about growing reactionary trends in law and how to combat them, but you left out some significant voices and perspectives in your discussion. A full discussion paper, Saving the Courts, is available on our website (www.votenader.org/issues/court_save.html). I offer here a few remarks in the very limited space allowed.

Here in Washington, the front-page news recently was that the Supreme Court, by a margin of 8 to 1, summarily rejected a voting rights lawsuit brought by the District of Columbia on behalf of the 600,000 Americans who live in the city and have no voting representation in Congress. The sole dissenter was Justice John Paul Stevens, who was nominated by President Gerald Ford. In the prior 2-to-1 decision in the district court, two judges appointed by President Clinton had determined that Washingtonians, nearly two-thirds of whom are African-American, have no constitutional right to vote. The lone dissenter, Louis Oberdorfer, was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson and reflects the kind of passionate champion of civil rights and civil liberties who no longer gets appointed to the bench by Democratic Presidents. Needless to say, despite intense local appeals, the Clinton Justice Department vigorously opposed the voting rights suit, which had the strong support of the DC Council, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Mayor Anthony Williams.

The corporate Democratic judges recently appointed to the courts go with the flow in this fashion. The Clinton Administration itself has been something of a civil liberties nightmare, as documented repeatedly by Anthony Lewis and Nat Hentoff. Rapid expansion of the death penalty at the federal level, destruction of habeas corpus, warrantless searches of public housing, increasing wiretap authority, a stepped-up failed War on Drugs, secret evidence in deportation proceedings--these are policies pursued by the Democrats in the White House. Except for abortion (which George W. Bush appears to have surrendered on, given his understanding of where most Americans stand after the triumph of the women's movement), it is hard to think of any significant differences between the Democrats and Republicans on civil liberties issues. When at one of the debates Bush said he opposed allowing gays and lesbians to marry, Gore enthusiastically agreed, essentially now putting him to the right of Dick Cheney! I opposed the Defense of Marriage Act, which the Democrats supported, and defend the equal rights of gays and lesbians in every sphere of life, including civil unions.

Whom do we suppose Al Gore would appoint to the Supreme Court? Not Lani Guinier, whom they dropped like a hot potato. Not longtime Clinton friend Peter Edelman, whose widely discussed nomination to a federal appeals judgeship was promptly dropped by Clinton after Republicans objected to his scholarship on ending poverty. Not anyone remotely so visionary or brave as the late Justices William Brennan or Thurgood Marshall. Not even anyone so progressive as Justice David Souter, President Bush's appointment, who has turned out to be significantly more interested in civil liberties and democracy than, for example, Justice Stephen Breyer. Recall Forbes v. Arkansas Educational Television Commission (1998), where a majority that included Breyer upheld the right of state-owned television broadcasters to exclude third-party candidates from government-sponsored campaign debates. It was only Souter, joined in his passionate dissent by Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who stood up for the First Amendment rights of outsider parties and the democratic right of the people to decide elections for ourselves. The same three (two Republican appointees, one Democratic) dissented in Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party (1997), where Breyer cheerfully joined with the conservatives to uphold undemocratic antifusion laws that stifle third-party organization.

Many liberals like to complain about the growing conservatism of the Democratic Party but then jump on the bandwagon at election time in the name of saving the Supreme Court. Millions of people are refusing to play that game this year. Many remember the unanimous support for Justice Scalia by Senate Democrats and the eleven Democratic senators, in a Democrat-controlled Senate, who put Justice Thomas over the top in a 52-to-48 confirmation vote.

These views deserve some support and analysis in your fine pages.


New York City

You overestimate the historical correlation between the voting records of Supreme Court Justices and the politics of the Presidents who appointed them. Dwight Eisenhower, an opponent of big government and judicial activism, appointed not only liberal lion Earl Warren but also William Brennan. Richard Nixon selected Harry Blackmun as a law-and-order conservative. Ronald Reagan chose Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy, and George Bush chose David Souter, primarily because they were expected to overturn Roe v. Wade; all three now vote to uphold Roe.

In contrast, progressive Presidents often elevate reactionary Justices: All four of Harry Truman's Court picks (Vinson, Burton, Minton and Clark) turned out to be far more conservative than the Democratic Party of the fifties; privacy-opponent Byron White's views certainly did not reflect those of booster John Kennedy. Franklin Roosevelt would have been surprised by the segregationist sentiments of his second nominee, Stanley Reed.


Washington, D.C.

In addition to abortion rights, there are a number of other constitutional and statutory protections for women's rights that could be threatened by even a slight change in the Supreme Court's majority. For one thing, equal protection guarantees are at risk. This Supreme Court term marks the thirtieth anniversary of the landmark decision, in Reed v. Reed, that applied Fourteenth Amendment equal-protection principles to prohibit sex discrimination. Since Reed, the Court has struck down laws based on stereotypes about women as the weaker sex and has opened jobs, educational opportunities and basic citizenship rights to women. Yet three current Justices (Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas) have rejected the post-Reed heightened scrutiny of gender classifications. Justice Scalia, in his dissent in the 1996 case opening up the Virginia Military Institute to women, even cited with approval a 1948 decision that upheld a state law prohibiting a woman from working as a bartender unless she was the daughter or wife of the bar owner.

A Court with a different majority could also extend its hostility to a woman's right to choose beyond abortion itself to opposing protection of women's access to reproductive health clinics, to allowing more state control over pregnant women and even to restricting specific forms of contraception. If the latter seems unthinkable, note that four current members of the Court have already endorsed the preamble to a Missouri law that defines human life to begin at conception, with conception defined as the time of fertilization. This could make methods of contraception, like forms of the pill and the IUD, unlawful.

In addition, many key federal statutory protections against discrimination are in place only as a result of slim majorities, and a current majority holds a restrictive view of Congress's authority, which has already resulted in the invalidation of an important provision of the Violence Against Women Act and which could jeopardize other critical protections for women's rights. These include the right of state employees to sue their employers for damages under civil rights laws of particular importance to women, such as the Equal Pay Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Many rights women take for granted are not nearly as secure as they might think. A new report, The Supreme Court and Women's Rights: Fundamental Protections Hanging in the Balance, provides more detail and is available at www.nwlc.org.

National Women's Law Center

Evanston, Ill.

Those who argue that "it's the Supreme Court, stupid" in this election have misread judicial history. The Court rarely leads; it "follows th' iliction returns," in the words of Mr. Dooley.

The Dred Scott decision validated the pervasive racism of the nineteenth century and said the Constitution was a slaveholders' document, the identical view of the abolitionists. The objectors in the North did not primarily object to its racism but to the argument that Congress had no power to restrict slavery in the territories. After all, slavery was buttressed by those pillars of society, market capitalism, the Constitution, property rights and the protection of property from federal interference. The Court in Dred Scott did not lead, it validated the values of the time.

What about Plessy v. Ferguson, which enshrined segregation in the 1890s? The conservative Court simply ratified the abandonment of radical Reconstruction, which gave blacks the vote but left them economically defenseless.

When the Court in the thirties validated the National Labor Relations Act, it did so after violent and painful organizing drives of the CIO and a growing number of sit-down strikes. When labor suffered numerous Court defeats between 1900 and 1937, it was after the redbaiting of World War I, the crushing of the Wobblies, the open-shop propaganda, etc. The Court in 1915 even said workers who signed a "yellow dog" contract, pledging not to join a union, were off-limits to union organizers.

Brown v. Board of Education was not an open road to the end of segregation; it took another ten years to write in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and desegregation "with all deliberate speed" became a perfect out for school boards. The courts are like the public schools, both presumably bulwarks of democracy, but as a retired Chicago public school teacher I would argue that the schools, like the courts, validate both the good and evil of the time.


Rochester, Mich.

Dennis Hoover is mistaken when he recommends that we say "Yes to Charitable Choice" [Aug. 7/14]. The issue is exactly the same as with religious schools. If some people believe that God wants them to establish schools for their children, the Constitution says they have the right to do that but not to receive public tax money for it. If they believe God wants them to accept other children into their schools and keep religious indoctrination to a minimum, they still cannot use public tax money. Likewise, if some people believe God wants them to do charitable works and not to restrict the beneficiaries to their own denomination, the Constitution says they have the right to do that but not to receive public tax money for it. There is no question that both activities benefit society. The problem is that how the activities are carried out depends entirely on what those people happen to believe. Government restrictions on how the tax money is spent still do not solve this problem, since the money releases other money to be spent however the religious organization believes it should be. The only consistent position on both questions is the one indicated by the Constitution: no government financial aid to religious organizations, even when their activities benefit society as a whole.


New York City

Dennis Hoover writes that support for charitable choice is linked philosophically to a "new religious center" and not to the religious right. It's true that moderate groups are now being aggressively recruited to act as service providers under charitable choice contracts. But the core impetus and ideology behind the current spate of legislation and promotion do not come from the center, and they deserve careful scrutiny. The charitable choice concept draws heavily on the thinking of Abraham Kuyper, who developed and implemented the notion of social "pillarization" in the Netherlands a hundred years ago. In Kuyper's scheme, each ethnic and religious group in a pluralistic society runs its own institutions and services; these separate "pillars" support the social whole, but public services as we have known them in this country--services open to all and fostering interaction and mutual understanding--are made to disappear. Hardcore charitable choice ideologues in the United States make no secret of the fact that they want to see Horace Mann's conception of "common" schools replaced with a similar patchwork of faith-based or group-based schools. Should this really be on the progressive agenda?

Hoover correctly reports that as the legislation is written, faith-based service providers won't be able to discriminate against clients on religious grounds. But it is by no means clear that they won't be able to discriminate on other grounds, notably sexual orientation; moreover, faith-based groups have historically had fairly wide latitude to engage in employment discrimination when claiming a religious rationale, and there is no reason to think this will change when these groups are spending public funds.

Charitable choice is a provision of the failed welfare reform legislation of 1996, founded on the principle that people are impoverished because of bad choices and irresponsible behavior. The systemic causes of poverty and the unprecedented wealth gap of the past twenty-five years are not considered. Part of the neoliberal project clearly involves tempering the harshness and salving some wounds with a dose of good old Christian charity. But should the churches be accepting the basic situation of systemic injustice? What happens to their prophetic voice if they are willing to play the role of junior partner to Pharaoh? This is not just a matter of the churches' own integrity; nonreligious progressives also have a stake in preserving an independent religious sector that has not been bought out by the totalizing neoliberal agenda.

Judson Memorial Church

The Employment Project

Washington, D.C.

If progressives support charitable choice, they will unnecessarily sacrifice civil liberties in their war against poverty. Charitable choice was designed to allow houses of worship (and other groups that integrate religion into their social service) to receive government grants and contracts for their social service ministries. But how can the government fund faith-drenched services without unconstitutionally advancing religion? Hoover insists that the government will simply require churches and other religious providers to "demonstrate that public funds do not pay for religious speech (specifically 'sectarian worship, instruction or proselytization')." But no one has begun to explain how the government will perform this task and otherwise regulate a church or other pervasively religious group without becoming excessively and unconstitutionally entangled with religion.

Although Hoover and others assure us that politicians will pass out a limited number of social service grants and contracts to selected religions without favoritism for "secularism over religion, religion over secularism or for one religion over another," the truth is that politicians find it almost impossible to resist playing politics with religion, including favoring majority over minority faiths. Furthermore, progressives should ask how the government will insure that social service beneficiaries will truly have the ability to opt out of religious activities in these settings. Finally, progressives should consider the fact that charitable choice attempts to allow a religious provider to reject a particular taxpayer for a tax-funded employee position because he or she isn't the "right" religion or does not hold the "right" religious beliefs.

What Hoover characterizes as potential minor defects are actually grave structural errors. These problems can be avoided with appropriate safeguards, but such safeguards have been repeatedly rejected by charitable choice supporters. Progressives should not join charitable choice proponents who, for many different reasons, are dismissing profound constitutional and civil liberties concerns. Instead, progressives should raise questions about charitable choice and demand appropriate safeguards to protect individual liberties.

Joint Baptist Committee

Hackensack, N.J.

As a clergyman who cherishes the First Amendment, I was shocked to see a defense of charitable choice in The Nation. Charitable choice goes further in destroying the time-tested separation of church and state, and replaces it with a doctrine of religious accommodation by government, than any initiative on the political agenda. It transforms churches into administrative arms of the state and is a very dangerous idea. Dennis Hoover's claim that charitable choice is predominantly supported by mainline religious groups is debatable. What is certain is that the judicial doctrine invoked to legitimize charitable choice is a darling of the far right. The dubious constitutional doctrine of non-preferentialism, which asserts that government may support religious groups as long as it doesn't discriminate among religions, is powerfully championed by the Christian Coalition and receives endorsement from Justices Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas. Lamentably, Bush, Gore and Lieberman have appropriated this new turn in constitutional interpretation.

Hoover states that faith-based organizations "must demonstrate that public funds do not pay for religious speech," including proselytization. Whom are we kidding? Does he really believe that when confronted with a commandment from God Almighty to win souls, committed evangelicals will be deterred by what will seem like a bureaucratic nicety? Why should they, when the guiding premise of charitable choice is that services rendered through faith commitments are superior to those delivered by secular agencies? Moreover, charitable choice permits faith-based organizations to serve the needy in religious sanctuaries rather than in secular settings, as has pertained. The stage is set for rampant missioning. No one should ever be placed in the demeaning position of having to compromise his or her religious conscience in the face of neediness and dependence on others. Charitable choice will make this violation commonplace.

Charitable choice augurs other dangers. It will set church against church in a battle for public funds. It will force the courts to pass judgment on competing theological positions in order to determine which churches are pervasively sectarian and which not. Government oversight of public funds will be either rigorous or lax. If lax, churches will be tempted to use funding for their ongoing religious purposes. If strict, government agents will show up at church doors demanding to audit their books. Is that what we want in a nation that professes religious freedom?

Hoover states that charitable choice provides protection for the religious identities of service workers. Yes, for those within the faith of the organization but not for those outside it. Faith-based organizations will be able to discriminate, for example, against those who dance, drink, smoke, are divorced or have had an abortion, if those practices offend the strictures of the faith.

Finally, charitable choice will muffle religion's prophetic voice. Religion plays its most important social role when it stands outside the precincts of secular power and critiques the abuses of government from the plateau of higher moral values. It's dubious that churches, as recipients of the state's largesse, will bite the hand that feeds them. In this age of moral anxiety, of which religious triumphalism is a consequence, it's become widely assumed that religion can be nothing but good. It's an ominous blindness. The Founding Fathers knew better. Experience had taught them that the entanglement of religion with state inevitably oppresses religious freedom and elevates the state's power to dangerous proportions.

Western society has taken 300 years to put the tiger in the cage. It's disturbing that Dennis Hoover joins those who want to let it loose.

Ethical Culture Society


Hartford, Conn.

The most striking error in these letters is Joseph Chuman's assertion that charitable choice forces government to determine which religious organizations are "pervasively sectarian." This problematic task is precisely what the government used to have to undertake under the old "no aid" regime, which denied eligibility for grants to "pervasively sectarian" organizations, and thus unjustly discriminated in favor of providers whose vision of social service could abide secularization. Charitable choice embodies a more robust understanding of government neutrality toward all in a religiously pluralistic and multicultural society. It levels the playing field, requiring not that grantees strip themselves of "sectarianism," whatever that means, but rather that they be able to account for their use of public funds.

Melissa Rogers frets over the intrusiveness of this accounting requirement, but how can measuring degrees of religious sectarianism be considered less difficult and meddlesome than reviewing accounting records? Rogers will also have to explain why she thinks politicians are more likely to try to play favorites under charitable choice than they were under the old rules.

Rogers is joined by Chuman, Peter Laarman and Paul Chapman in complaining about the fact that charitable choice allows a faith-based organization to hire only those who agree with its religious worldview. But this complaint is simply another way for critics to say they don't like the way charitable choice levels the playing field. Nothing could be more basic to maintaining the distinctive religious character of an organization than making sure the relevant staff share foundational assumptions. What could be more "totalizing" than forcing all nonprofit grantees into the same secular mold? Consider also that religious organizations have long had an exemption from the bar on religious discrimination in employment found in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and this exemption is not sacrificed when religious organizations receive public funds not earmarked for specific positions.

Furthermore, the word "choice" is in the label "charitable choice" for good reason. Rogers, Laarman and Chapman are concerned about religious liberty for individual welfare beneficiaries, but the law is clear: Charitable choice mandates that secular programs be available for clients who so choose. Also, if a beneficiary agrees to receive services from a religious provider, he or she is empowered to opt out of explicitly religious activities. Analogous principles of choice have long been reflected in federal subsidy programs for college education (such as the GI Bill).

It is nonsense to charge, as does Chuman, that charitable choice is the "darling of the far right." Is there really a vast right-wing conspiracy interested in spending public money on welfare services? In achieving genuine neutrality in the relationship between church and state? For rhetorical purposes, it is obvious enough why leftist critics of charitable choice would characterize their own position as "mainstream" and relegate others to the lunatic fringe. But, like it or not, "centrist" is easily the best shorthand way of characterizing charitable choice. Both Al Gore and George W. Bush endorse charitable choice, and Joe Lieberman is a co-chair of Congress's bipartisan Empowerment Caucus, which supports charitable choice. There are also Democratic governors who have made implementing charitable choice a priority (e.g., Governor Frank O'Bannon of Indiana). The coalition of religious groups that back charitable choice likewise spans the usual left-right divide.

Several critics say charitable choice is somehow uniquely corrupting of religion--in particular that it "will muffle religion's prophetic voice," as Chuman puts it. Chuman presumes to tell us that the right social role for religion is to "stand outside" secular power and hand down critiques "from the plateau of higher moral values." But the actual prophetic tradition includes some who were court insiders. And even if we acknowledge the potentially subversive effects of government subsidies, this is hardly a new problem unique to charitable choice. Religiously affiliated agencies have long received subsidies to deliver services. If religious groups think that it is important to speak out against the systemic sources of injustice (and I wish more did) but fear suffering a complete moral collapse when faced with a grant application, they need not participate. Charitable choice is just an option, not a draft notice.

In fact, legally, charitable choice is consistent with the free speech principle, long touted by liberals in the nonprofit community, that government cannot censor the privately funded speech of grant recipients. For years, right-wing forces have attempted to deny grants to nonprofits that use private money to engage in advocacy activities on behalf of disadvantaged constituencies. Liberals have rightly challenged this, defending the ability of nonprofits to properly account for their use of public funds. Charitable choice says religious nonprofits should not have their privately funded religious speech censored when they take public money to deliver welfare services. We cannot play favorites with the First Amendment rights of nonprofits.

Richard Burke's letter sniffs at my suggestion that we factor lowly "public opinion" into our thinking. But I wonder if he realizes whose opinions he so pointedly refuses to dignify with a response? More Democrats (61 percent) than Republicans (46 percent) favor the charitable choice concept, and support among African-Americans rises to 74 percent. Recent studies by Mark Chaves of the University of Arizona show that liberal congregations and African-American congregations are the most likely to be interested in participating.

In recent years some voices on the left (see for example Michael Kazin, "The Politics of Devotion," in the April 6, 1998, Nation) have warned that if the left wants to avoid permanently alienating itself from a mass constituency, it must reacquaint itself with religious progressives and make peace with new antipoverty movements among Christians, such as the Call to Renewal (which supports charitable choice). But, rhetorical gestures notwithstanding, the idea that social policy might actually include religious institutions is still hard for some progressives to get their minds around.