Victor S. Navasky has served as editor, publisher and now publisher emeritus of The Nation and presently at the Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he directs the Delacorte Center of Magazines and chairs the Columbia Journalism Review. In the 1970s he served as an editor on The New York Times Magazine. In the 1960s he was founding editor and publisher of Monocle, a “leisurely quarterly of political satire” (that meant it came out twice a year). His books include Kennedy Justice; Naming Names, which won a National Book Award; in collaboration with Christopher Cerf, The Experts Speak: The Definitive Guide to Authoritative Misinformation and also Mission Accomplished! Or How We Won the War In Iraq; and A Matter of Opinion, which won the 2005 George Polk Book Award and the 2006 Ann M. Sperber Prize. Mr. Navasky is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Most recently he has published The Art of Making Magazines: On Being an Editor and Other Views for the Industry edited by Victor S. Navasky and Evan Cornog, The Art of Controversy: Political Cartoons and Their Enduring Power (Knopf, 2013), and The O’Dell File is on Kindle (July 29, 2014) and available through Amazon.
My three favorite media stories in recent weeks were how Bill "Politically Incorrect" Maher kept his job at ABC-TV, how Ann Coulter got herself fired from National Review and how all the networks simultaneously agreed to the Bush Administration's request that they suppress any future Osama bin Laden tapes.
I also got a kick out of the Dan Rather interview on a cable channel in which he answered questions about whether it's OK for a network in the interests of objectivity to ban anchors from wearing American flags on their lapels, while a simulated American flag flew in the logo on the lower left-hand corner of the screen. (Rather himself prefers not to wear a flag but said nothing about appearing with a flag logo in the lower left-hand corner.)
Bill Maher got into trouble on Politically Incorrect when he correctly observed in the aftermath of September 11 that it's wrong to call the suicide bombers "cowards" and impolitically added, "We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away: That's cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it's not cowardly."
Two advertisers, Sears and Federal Express, pulled their ads, seventeen stations canceled his program and Maher apologized for being, well, politically incorrect. Or rather for being misinterpreted ("I offer my apologies for anyone who took it wrong," he said), although why he should apologize to people who misinterpreted him he never explained. The defecting advertisers claimed patriotism, but in fact they were the cowards for withdrawing ads from fear of the controversy Maher's remarks might spark.
So what do we learn from this first profile in cowardice? Maher demonstrated that at best he is only incorrect within permissible limits. The advertisers should come back, the seventeen stations should reinstall the show (if they haven't already) and Maher should resign, not for what he said but for flying under false colors. You can't have a show called Politically Incorrect and then abjectly apologize for not being PC.
Next case. Ann Coulter, rudely dismissed by the Boston Globe's Alex Beam as "a right-wing telebimbo" for her colorful but intemperate attacks on the Clintons, was fired by National Review after she wrote in National Review Online that "we should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." My question is, In which order?
Technically, they didn't give her the boot until she wrote a follow-up about requiring passports from "suspicious-looking swarthy males." Now there are two possibilities here: One is that National Review fired her because they didn't like what she said. The other is that National Review fired her because by saying what too many National Review readers believe, she embarrassed the home team. Solution: After Maher apologizes for apologizing and resigns, Politically Incorrect should hire the truly politically incorrect Coulter.
Finally, on the networks, I don't understand why Condoleezza Rice didn't include Al Jazeera in the request to suppress the bin Laden tapes. It's true that Washington doesn't control the Qatar network, but it doesn't control the major US networks either, and surely Al Jazeera has a higher quotient of terrorist viewers. Originally, I thought the Administration's request had to do with not showing enemy propaganda, and I wondered whether this meant that the networks' much-vaunted claims of political neutrality--giving equal time to both sides in a dispute--stopped at the water's edge. But the Administration said the issue had to do less with propaganda than with national security, claiming that bin Laden might be using the occasion to send a message by secret code.
Since potential terrorists can still get bin Laden's message via Al Jazeera and via the Internet, I am baffled as to the networks' true motives, unless, like Maher, his advertisers and National Review, they are also in the controversy-avoidance business.
What this incident does show is that you don't need media concentration to have homogenization of the news. The simultaneous capitulation of all the major TV networks proves that concentration or no concentration, they are perfectly capable of marching in lockstep on their own.
We regret that space considerations permit us to print only a few of the many letters we received on Martin Duberman's "A Fellow Traveling," his review of Ronald Radosh's Commies, and Victor Navasky's "Cold War Ghosts," an essay on the new McCarthyism, both in the July 16 issue. Among those we're unable to print (but which may be read on our website) are letters from victims of McCarthyism, letters on the merits (demerits, actually) of the Hiss and Rosenberg convictions, scholarly letters filling in missing pieces of cold war history (including one from a Navy veteran who served in the Office of Strategic Services) and a letter finding a "cold war ghost" in the actions of "those who rule the National Pacifica Radio Board." Radosh invites readers to his website to read his answer to Duberman's review. We accept, and we invite readers to our special website letters page to read more on this topic. --The Editors
I would like to thank Martin Duberman for trying to be evenhanded and fair in his discussion of my memoir, Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left. I suspect that many Nation readers will be angry that he did not deliver the hatchet job expected by so many of them. Nevertheless, I have many points of difference with both him and Victor Navasky, whose piece appeared in the same issue. Rather than take up the limited space allotted in the letters column, which would not allow for a substantive answer, I refer interested readers to my archive at frontpagemag.com, where they will find my answers to both Duberman and Navasky.
I thank Victor Navasky and Martin Duberman for their sane and cogent analyses of the new anti-Communism. As a veteran of union organizing during the Great Depression and of military service in World War II, I long ago concluded that Communism and anti-Communism are equally absurd. They are absurd in being essentially theological, in the outdated mode of the Crusades or of Cromwell's Puritanism. Both Communism and anti-Communism derive tests of faith syllogistically from shaky first principles. Thereupon their opposing heresy-hunters are off and running. Heretics are judged to violate vague notions called loyalty and security. Our nation's Founding Fathers omitted these notions and defined treason narrowly and precisely. Later the notion of loyalty tests died with rejection of the Alien and Sedition Acts; died again with revulsion against the Palmer Raids; and died a third time with the deserved unpopularity of Joe McCarthy. (Espionage is another matter. Insofar as there really are national secrets, they must be protected, but only with strict observance of due process.) I began to recognize Stalin's paranoia and cruelty with Trotsky's murder and the "treason" trials. Nevertheless, I must raise a query about Sidney Hook's dictum that "the first priority" of our time has been "the defense and survival of the West." Did not the Red Army, despite Stalin's crimes, help to meet that priority?
JOHN M. PICKERING
Martin Duberman and Victor Navasky leave out one important point. During the cold war many anti-Communist liberals and leftists, with some very few honorable exceptions, spent more time inveighing against "domestic totalitarianism" on the left than they did agitating for peace and social justice. For all of their well-meaning ideals, those anti-Communist liberals did no more to advance progressive causes than did the right-wingers who were using anti-Communism to impede those causes.Meanwhile, rank-and-file Communists, as well as other leftists, without regard to who did or did not do what and with which and to whom, were among the most dedicated, passionate and successful people working for peace and social justice. And they and their political descendants remain so today.
Chevy Chase, Md.
The Soviet Union is no more, nor, effectively, is the CPUSA; yet the indefatigable experts on the Red Menace keep clambering over old battlefields and, with the help of such imperfect tools as the Venona Project, constructing new ones.
Victor Navasky and Martin Duberman adumbrate admirably the pathological nature of this quest, the dishonest methods employed by its practitioners, the absurdity of regarding Communism solely as a security threat and the American CP as just a tool of Soviet foreign policy. But both writers are guilty of some serious inaccuracies. Thus, while Irving Howe objected to Ronald Radosh's portrayal of the Sandinista regime as composed of "ultrarevolutionary Marxist-Leninists," it is absurd to suggest, as Duberman does, that Howe would warn Radosh not to criticize the Sandinista regime while they were "under attack by the American empire." I happen to know something about it, as I was close to Howe and wrote a few pieces for Dissent after visiting Nicaragua and interviewing some of its leading players.
In general, terms like "Marxist-Leninist" and "Stalinist" are often used incautiously vis-à-vis Central American revolutionary parties. There were certainly Marxist-Leninists among the Sandinistas, but the Sandinistas were a motley lot, and "anti-imperialism" or "anti-Yankeeism"was more relevant to their collective ideological makeup than the verities of Marx and Lenin: It could hardly be otherwise. Nor is it true that the Sandinistas simply followed the "Castro model." Rather, they tried to combine it with those of Eastern Europe's "people's democracies" and, curiously, with more authentic stress on democratic principles. Even the Polish elections of 1989, which brought Solidarity to power, stipulated that 65 percent of all seats in the new Parliament would be held by Communists and their allies.
As for the American CP, however small the number of members Moscow tried to recruit--successfully or not--few of them were starry-eyed idealists fighting for social justice, organizing unions (as long as they could control them) and joining Pete Seeger in singing "We Shall Not Be Moved." Almost all desperately believed that the Russian CP was always right and that frequent changes in the party line were explainable by the Russian comrades' superior wisdom. (Doubts and hesitations would be suppressed--though luckily not altogether banished.)
Hence the outrageous justifications of Stalin's heinous crimes, hence the inquisitorial means used against suddenly out-of-favor figures, and the groveling mea culpas by those who had, poor souls, defended the new enemies when they were still revered leaders.
During my many years as a Sovietologist, I got to know not a few ex-Communists, some of whom (Joe Starobin, for instance) became good friends. It was precisely their original commitment to a noble cause that made many realize that they had been serving false gods. Still, for a long time they had belonged to a party that was, in the words of French CP head Maurice Thorez, "unlike any other political party," a description that fits the American CP as well as the French. Exposing one set of simplifications is no reason for espousing another.
Washington Township, N.J.
Victor Navasky's "Cold War Ghosts" was as cogent and historically focused as anything I have read on this topic in a very long while. The old left, social idealists like me whose beliefs were contoured by the Depression and World War II, made mistakes, but we were never ideological "shills," as a Nation essayist recently called us. We believed in fundamental human rights for all Americans and, yes, in peace, and we put our youthful energies and our hearts into trying to move our country toward those goals. Espionage was never part of it. We bore harsh criticism for our efforts and some of us suffered severe punishment. It was not that we were wrong but that we underestimated the enormous power of the right wing, which distorted and misrepresented who we were to the American people. By raising the specter of espionage, they were able to successfully market their own antihumanist agenda and have been doing it ever since.
Misjudging the right was a mistake as destructive as the misplaced trust we put in our own demagogues, but at least our efforts were honest. That is not true, I believe, of most of this era's facile-tongued critics with their skewed hindsight, dishonest representations and scrambled historiography.
Victor Navasky is right that historians obsessed with Communist Party espionage have been unable to offer a convincing answer to the question, What was the essence of the Communist Party USA? The Comintern, Profintern (Red International of Labor Unions) and CPUSA archives in Moscow are vast, and are perhaps even more riddled with difficult problems of evidence and verification than most historical archives. It still seems to me, as someone who has done extensive research in those archives, that to focus selectively on some documents implicating certain CP leaders in espionage seems wildly misdirected and disproportionate. Even at the level of leadership cadre, the emphasis on espionage does not hold up very well. After all, even CP leader William Z. Foster (whom Harvey Klehr himself identified in his book Communist Cadre as the single most influential leader in the party throughout its history because of his degree of involvement with its everyday governance) has not been identified as connected with the espionage apparatus, nor has he been implicated in the Venona dispatches. Significantly, Foster, despite his shortcomings as a party spokesman, was primarily involved in labor organizing, the party's self-declared most important mission. Productive research into the party's goals and mission must begin by rejecting the functionalist and unilluminating "spies or dupes" dichotomies of the McCarthy era.
Pine Plains, N.Y.
The Haunted Wood was formed under conditions that should be known: The co-authors are not really co-authors. There was the researcher, Alexander Vassiliev, who spent two years in the KGB archives gathering the material, and the editor, Allen Weinstein, who put the book together. Vassiliev had virtually no say on what went into the book. It wasn't supposed to be that way. Vassiliev, an ex-KGB colonel, seems to have been overwhelmed by Weinstein's reputation, his rhetoric and by the prospect that Weinstein kept dangling in front of him of making big bucks from the book. Also, he was in England, and Weinstein was in the United States, dealing with editors and publishers.
The uneven collaboration unfortunately weakens the book in more ways than one. The heavy anti-Hiss slant is pure Weinstein; the substitution of Hiss's name wherever Vassiliev wrote "Ales" was not Vassiliev's idea. Victor Navasky (and everyone else) should know that Vassiliev told me that in the KGB files "I never I saw a document where Hiss would be called Ales or Ales may be called Hiss. I made a point of that to Allen. It might be important for you." Ah, yes. Just slightly.
Left out of the final copy is the list of code names that Vassiliev found in the archives. It is, according to Vassiliev, a list of names and code names of US sources and Soviet operatives who worked in the United States. Besides names that have been noted in various other books, such as Silvermaster, Bentley and Golos, the following appear: Alger Hiss, given the code name Leonard, noted as a former official of the State Department; Harry Dexter White, "Lawyer," noted as dead; Whittaker Chambers, code-named Karl. A measure of the limits of Vassiliev's understanding of US political history (and this underscores how Weinstein took control of the book) is that, according to Vassiliev, this list "was composed in connection with Bentley's defection," and of course Bentley defected in 1945, Hiss resigned from the State Department in 1947 and White died in 1948.
Also on the list, according to Vassiliev, is Noel Field, code-named Ernst, an idealist of whom much has been written, most of it wrong. Field was an authority on disarmament, an idealistic "Quaker communist" who, offered the German desk at the State Department in 1936, turned it down to work for the League of Nations in Geneva (not exactly the smartest thing to do if you are a Russian spy). By the late 1940s Field was in Europe working for world peace and by 1949 had been picked up by the Russians and thrown into a Budapest prison, accused of being an American spy.
But back to The Haunted Wood. Accompanying a photo there's a caption that reads, "Three high-ranking Soviet agents in policy-making position in the wartime Roosevelt Administration--Laughlin Currie, Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White--all provided Moscow with crucial documents...." Vassiliev says he never saw a document, or reference to a document, supplied by Hiss in the files.
Am I the only one who thinks that "Ales" might be almost anyone except Alger Hiss? Without any special knowledge of the field, it seems unlikely that any competent espionage organization would assign a code name so easy to decipher. (Not to mention Alger's willingness to identify himself this way.) Have the readers of the Venona files found other cases of similarly transparent anagrams? If not, maybe they should wonder why an exception was made in this one case, or if in fact "Ales" continues successfully to conceal the true identity of the real spy: Bill Buckley, perhaps, or Fala.
ROBERT M. FLANAGAN
I make no claim to be either a historian or an intellectual. But after reading Victor Navasky's "Cold War Ghosts," I wondered, Why would Hiss's name be mentioned at all in the Venona communications if he were innocent? To excuse that use of his name by saying the spies were not supposed to use real names is begging the question.
THOMAS BRYAN WARREN
Another "cold war ghost" occurred to me while reading Victor Navasky's article: To this day, civilian federal government agencies spend millions each year on security clearances that invade the privacy of career federal employees who have absolutely no access whatsoever to national security information. These costly and intrusive investigations are based on an Eisenhower executive order that created a cottage industry for the FBI and the OPM, who conduct the background checks.
New York City
Thanks to all who sent their thanks. Here I'll only say to Thomas Warren that my point was not that "spies were not supposed to use real names" but rather that under the informal rules of Venona, real spies were never referred to by their real names, only their code names. Thus the cryptic Venona reference to "Hiss" by his real name gives rise to the inference--to be weighed along with other evidence pro and con--that he was not a spy.
And to Abe Brumberg, whom I admire, I'll say only that while I may indeed be guilty of "serious inaccuracies," I can't find them in his letter. I didn't suggest that hard-core Stalinists and Moscow-recruited spies sang along with Pete Seeger (although they may well have), but rather that 99.9 percent of the CPUSA were not spies, and many of them did row the boat ashore (Hallelujah!) with Peter. I don't doubt that some of them were apologists for the party line.
New York City
To John M. Pickering: In insisting that "Communism and anti-Communism are equally absurd," you're equating Communism with Stalinism and ignoring communism with a small c. Those who did and do believe in lower-case communism are part of a complex lineage--an intertwined, shifting mix of Fourierist, anarchist, Marxist and socialist traditions--whose first principles, far from being "shaky," as you blithely state, are solidly rooted in the belief that (to employ one common formulation) the "highest social priority should go to the needs of the least fortunate." Nothing theological about that: It's about the distribution of opportunity and wealth right here on earth.
To Abe Brumberg: I knew Irving Howe only slightly, but through the years I read (and agreed with) his extended, sophisticated critique of Stalinism--which makes me suspect that you're right in saying it would have been out of character for him to warn Ronald Radosh (as Radosh claims) against attacking the Sandinista regime while it was "under attack by the American empire"; but I can't prove it one way or the other.I also accept your corrective that the Sandinistas combined a "Castro model" with that of the Eastern European "people's democracies," though I'd still question how much "democracy" that represented.
We agree that only a small number of those who joined the American CP became spies for Moscow, but I don't share your certainty that among them only a "few...were starry-eyed idealists fighting for social justice." How can you know that for sure? Where is the evidence to back your claim that "almost all...believed that the Russian CP was always right"? I doubt we'll ever have the documentation needed to prove or disprove such statements, given how many CP members are dead and how inordinately difficult it is to measure and quantify human motivation. In saying this, I acknowledge that my own opinion is also impressionistic--based, that is, on a selective list of readings and interviews that I could never prove are "representative."
And finally, to Ron Radosh: Yes, I've caught some hell from fellow leftists for being "too soft" on you in my review. That didn't bother me overly much until I went, as you directed, to your far lengthier response online. It contains so many startling misstatements about what I believe that I have to wonder, after all, whether I didn't give you too much credit for veracity. I never thought I'd have to set this particular record straight, but here goes: I've never believed, let alone "still" believe, that the Soviet Union was on the "right side of history." Nor do I believe, as you suggest, that "only apologists for Stalinism are true black people." Really, Radosh, that is a bit much!--even for someone who can claim that the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua "was comparatively moderate and merely authoritarian" when compared with the Sandinistas! To prepare me for your kind of "history," I'd better start reading more novels.
IF I HAD A HAMMER...
I agree with Katrina vanden Heuvel on the necessity of building a better infrastructure to combat the right-wing corporate giant ["Building to Win," July 9]. The right has the money and the media. The progressives have the brains and the moral highroad. Let's keep to the latter while concentrating on how best to position the former. Newt Gingrich used computer technology to fire his misguided agenda. Progressives need to capture the Internet as the means to train, inform, meet and proselytize (The website Common Dreams is a good start). Technology can go far beyond a simple reprinting of well-written articles. I suggest that the web be our printing press as well as our town meeting hall to take back our party, the Democratic Party, and to then move the rest of the country back from the fringe of fascism.
New York City
Unquestionably, infrastructure is essential. But until we regain command over the buzzwords, conservatives hold the advantage. After a relentless barrage of invective by conservatives and sixties radicals, "liberal" became a term of opprobrium. "Marketplace" must be shown to be a myth; "privatize," a synonym for corrupt favoritism; "missile defense initiative," a form of corporate welfare; "interests" returned to its original meaning, corporate oligopoly; "tax reduction," a transfer of wealth from those who have little to those who have much; "globalization," a search for the most repressive dictatorships that deliver the lowest wages and costs. Government and labor must be what they were in the past, the only counterweights to supranational conglomerates.
Katrina vanden Heuvel perpetuates a common misunderstanding when she states, "The 1997 Supreme Court decision against the New Party...has chained us constitutionally to the existing duopoly." Not so. Nothing in the Constitution "chains" us to the two-party system. Only federal law does. A statute passed by Congress forces states to gerrymander their territories into single-member districts. This law entrenches duopoly politics, because a one-winner election turns third parties into spoilers and encourages voters to hold their noses and vote for one of only two candidates. Thus, states are prevented from using proportional representation (PR), which the Constitution would allow. By using larger, multimember districts and preference or party-list voting, PR would give third and fourth parties a chance. A bill in Congress, HR 1189, the Voters' Choice Act, would eliminate the single-seat requirement, allowing states to experiment with PR. The duopoly can be broken without having to face the Supreme Court or amend the Constitution. It's a legislative issue, like other election reforms, and progressives should be leading the way.
Midwest Democracy Center
VANDEN HEUVEL REPLIES
New York City
I'm sorry if my shorthand summary of our present predicament was confusing. It is quite true, of course, that the Constitution does not mandate a two-party system. Indeed, it says nothing at all about parties. Our duopoly is a creation of statutory law and administration rule, and in principle we could change it by the same means. The age-old problem, however, is that the very duopoly the law protects also runs our government and has never shown the slightest interest in increasing competition. So those who wish to reform the system are forced to use citizen initiative or the courts.
What the Supreme Court's decision in Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party did was in effect to preclude the second line of attack. Steered by the same Gang of Five that later gave us Bush v. Gore, it held that the current major parties werefree to construct electoral rules for the exclusive purpose of limiting competition to themselves. Just how profound a departure from past law this was is important to see. Before Timmons the Court often recognized the endurance of our two-party system and even the possible virtues of the duopoly over other electoral systems. But what it had never done was misread the Constitution to favor party duopoly, and it had always treated any effort by the two major parties to reproduce themselves indefinitely as the duopoly--by erecting artificial barriers to new party entry and effective competition--with something approaching contempt. The Court said in Timmons that existing parties had a legitimate interest in doing just that. Moreover, it declared itself prepared to uphold this interest regardless of a showing, as was made and accepted in the case, that doing so hurt our electoral system's representativeness with no gain in any other electoral value--accountability or stability, for instance--traditionally recognized by the Court. After Timmons, I see no constitutional argument that might successfully be made against the rules upholding our duopoly. That's what I meant by saying the decision "chained us constitutionally."
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL
A MODEST PROPOSAL
I know a place where the Navy can shift its bombing operations that will make everybody happy--Martha's Vineyard [Angelo Falcón, "Liberating Vieques," July 9]! Like Vieques, the Vineyard is a charming island with easy access to sea and land. With more than three times Vieques's paltry fifty-one square miles, it should afford the Navy a much wider range of out-of-the-way targets. And since the peak season runs only about three months, there'll be ample opportunity to squeeze in the 180 days a year of bombing the Navy says it needs to maintain readiness. Since the Navy claims these operations have no significant impact on public health, safety, economy, ecology or quality of life, I don't foresee a problem.
YOU CAN TAKE THIS VOTE & SHOVE IT
As one of those blue-collar white folks examined in Andrew Levison's review of why most supported Bush in the last election, I'd like to point out that most of us didn't support anybody--refusing to take what time off we have to vote for one elitist son of a politician over another. Just whose version of NAFTA were we supposed to endorse? As best as I can tell, a lot of scholarship went into explaining the obvious ["Who Lost the Working Class?" May 14].
Working white folk have been abandoned for decades by the Democrats and corporate labor, a feeling native workers "of color" are beginning to experience. Racial divisions were exploited by conservatives for profit and liberals for posture. And while we knocked heads over jobs and wages, the libs and cons retired to their clubs under the awning of loyal opposition.
Levison continues the obvious fallacy that unions represent the majority of workers and their interests. After they purged action-oriented activists a couple of generations ago, their flaccid advocacies have served only to diminish their own numbers, bolstered today only by a willingness to adopt scabs once workers have lost their jobs. The new predominant service industries require servility over skill. Americans suck as servants. Immigrant labor, so unsurly and so adored by progressives, met no opposition from the liberal side until it impacted jobs of college graduates in the high-tech industries. Republicans don't have the working-class vote any more than the Democrats have our interest at heart. It don't take four years in the Ivy League for most of us to recognize the two empty husks in the American shell game.
I recognized the values Andrew Levison enumerates as "working class," and his description of the 1950s, from my own experience as the daughter of an East Texas railroad engineer and labor organizer. We used to iron my father's striped work overalls, so he left the house each day starched and clean and returned greasy. But in the 1950s he started wearing a suit to work and would change into his overalls at the rail yard. Even as a child, I sensed the shame that had replaced his militancy.
"Who Lost the Working Class?" fails to mention two singular men who also toiled in Andrew Levison's vineyard. Where is Will Gavin (whose prophetic 1975 sleeper, Street Corner Conservative, argued that the "Right" kind of Republican could take all the marbles in places like the People's Republic of Queens)? And what about the late Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Tom Fox (who in 1976 coined the phrase "Reagan Democrats")? I gave Fox my own Rx for the GOP: Let Jerry Ford spend more time with Joe Garagiola (and less with Henry Kissinger) and he wins. But they didn't. So he didn't.
NOEL E. PARMENTEL JR.
NOT BY SEX ED ALONE
Santa Cruz, Calif.
Marjorie Heins disputes myths of abstinence-only education only to uphold the myth that better sex education would eliminate the difference between high US and low European teen pregnancy rates ["Sex, Lies and Politics," May 7]. In fact, the biggest reason for the difference is poverty. In more affluent communities where US teenagers have poverty rates as low as those of European youth (around 5 percent), US teen pregnancy rates are as low as Europe's; in America's impoverished inner cities and rural areas, teen pregnancy rates are 20 times higher. Black and Hispanic adolescents suffer poverty levels triple those of white youths, and the Centers for Disease Control's latest report shows that black and Hispanic adolescents have pregnancy rates three times higher than whites'.
Comprehensive evaluations of American teen pregnancy prevention do not show that sex and abstinence education reduce pregnancy rates but that poverty exerts powerful effects. The best evidence indicates that sex education and contraception provision help to deter pregnancy only when accompanied by social and economic reforms that provide expanded opportunities for poorer populations. By drastically overstating the effectiveness of programmatic interventions, sex education advocates interfere with the crucial need to redress America's grotesque socioeconomic inequalities and youth poverty levels.
COLD WAR CITATION REVISIONISM
New York City
In my July 16 essay, "Cold War Ghosts," I should have cited either Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes's Venona or Allen Weinstein's Perjury rather than The Haunted Wood (by Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev) for the argument that since the person code-named ALES returned from the Yalta Conference via Moscow, and Alger Hiss did the same on a plane carrying three others, none of them spy material, ALES was probably Hiss.