"THE GOP'S FAVORITE DEMOCRAT ," by Ari Berman
The choice between two mutually exclusive possibilities.
A situation presenting such a choice.
Ari Berman's April 18 "Outrage of the Day" was rife with humor but devoid of fact. The humor was manifested in Berman's complete ignorance of the facts but what isn't funny is how readily Berman dismisses Nebraska's Senator Ben Nelson's efforts to find a compromise on judicial nominations.
Contrary to Berman's misinformed rage-ologue, Nelson is not doing the bidding of either political party in the Senate. In fact, as part of his campaign for the office he rejected the notion that political parties should come before doing what is right.
Berman correctly says conservative opposition to Frist on the "nuclear option" is rising. He failed to point out that one of the conservative critics of the plan to change the rules via party-line vote is Nelson.
Berman warns that "the support of one or two more centrist Democrats could resuscitate Frist's plan at the very moment it is dying." Nelson's position is clear. He does not support the "nuclear option" and he doesn't support the use of the filibuster to block ten judicial nominations.
Instead, Nelson is presenting an alternative (see definition above) that would require wide bipartisan support to come to fruition. His alternative would guarantee that judicial nominations would get votes in the Senate--no matter which party controlled the White House or the Senate. Nelson's plan, unlike the nuclear option, would also address the committee methods of blocking nominations as occurred in the last Administration.
Since when is offering an alternative to a controversial plan considered a gesture of support?
Nelson believes that if Senators think the situation is dire enough to merit a temporary solution dubbed the "nuclear option" then they think it serious enough to merit a permanent rules change in the Senate. If Senators are serious about the rhetoric they are using, they should be trying to effect change the right way--by addressing the situation through a rules change that requires bipartisan support and would forever eliminate the partisanship that has marred the judicial nomination process.
Communications Director for Nebraska's Senator Ben Nelson
"COKE: THE NEW NIKE ," by Michael Blanding
San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico
It is well documented by the World Health Organization and others that excessive consumption of junk food and soft drinks contribute to obesity and ill health around the world. Here in Mexico, multinational junk food companies are also contributing to childhood malnutrition.
Mexico has the largest per capita consumption of soft drinks in the world. Upwards of 40 percent of children in Mexico experience malnutrition, with even higher rates for indigenous people in southern Mexico. Coca-Cola--which has won the lion's share of the soft drink market in Mexico--appears to be a major contributor to this problem.
Last month, as part of a continuing education course in a government clinic in San Miguel de Allende, I witnessed an overwhelming number of malnourished infants and children. According to the staff of the clinic, most of these children are not malnourished simply because of poverty.
They are malnourished because poor and often poorly educated parents are choosing to feed their children soft drinks, especially Coca-Cola, and junk food instead of healthier and more affordable traditional foods. The marketing and distribution practices of Coca-Cola directly contribute to the ill health and sometimes the death of infants and young children here in Guanajuato and throughout Mexico.
MARIE MULLIGAN, M.D.
"PRO-DEATH POLITICS ," by William Greider
National Park, N.J.
William Greider is the first pundit I've seen anywhere to put his finger on exactly why Protestant and Catholic leaders have so fervently and aggressively supported the Republicans in recent years. The real quid pro quo between Republicans and religious leaders is, "You support us and get our candidates elected, and we'll give you taxpayer money."
The Catholic Church has been in decline in recent years, and many of its schools have closed. Government money could potentially stop that. From the plethora of "faith-based initiative" handouts to churches for various purposes, you can see that the government is already buttering the bread of organized religion.
To fulfill their part of this Faustian bargain, religious leaders have mobilized their massive communications infrastructure--from TV networks, to radio stations, to print media--in the service of shamelessly pushing the Republican platform. Religious leaders now tow the line on deregulation, regressive taxation, and other policies that hurt the poor. Even some black church leaders are being bought, as witnessed in the last election.
Clergy selling out in order to slough at the federal trough is reprehensible, and I'm glad Greider pointed this out. The left needs to focus attention on the wholesale buyout of organized religion before it's too late.
JOSEPH D. BASTRIMOVICH
William Greider wrote, "the Bible says simply, Thou Shalt Not Kill, but various codicils have been added over the millennia by religious thinkers." That's not quite right.
After issuing that injunction to Moses, the Hebrew god handed down an extensive and dizzying array of offenses for which the authorities could kill people: adultery, sexual relations between men, fornication by the daughter of a priest, etc. Violation of any of the Ten Commandments was punishable by death. Capital punishment was not only okay by that god; sometimes, he was downright enthusiastic about it.
Progressives need to remember that the Protestant element of the religious right is made up overwhelmingly of people who believe the Bible is literally true, and who read their Bibles regularly.
For pro-choice people, it might be worth nothing that while God handed out capital crimes willy-nilly and invented 613 specific acts of fidelity that Isrealites were required to adhere to, he never once thought to prohibit abortion, as Katha Pollit has noted. In light of Yahweh's mind-boggling intrusion into the sexual lives of his people--up to and including the prohibition of sexual activity during specific phases of the menstrual cycle--this must be significant.
"IN CONTEMPT OF COURTS ," by Max Blumenthal
This retired judge watched with horror on C-SPAN, with the benefit of a distance not enjoyed by Max Blumenthal, as Michael Schwartz and other ruffians advocated every manner of violence against judges and the judicial system. Surely, I thought, the chief of staff of a United States Senator, who not only looks like his boss but also seems more articulate, cannot publicly propose long, criminal sentences for judges who are simply obeying their oaths! Plainly, I was hearing not a respectful dissenting opinion, but the voice of a lynch mob.
How can one resist inquisitors in an inquisitorial age? History knows the horror of crazed, sword-wielding "Christians," but I'll have none of them. Let cooler Lukes preserve judicial immunity--if they fail, and the "crimes" of judges become retroactively punishable, I'll be off in the Cyclades sucking down Retsina and pickled octopus. Since I was never required to allow a fellow citizen to die with the dignity she expressly hoped for, I figure whatever I may have done won't be thought extraditable.
The reference to Pete Peters in Max Blumental's article hit me like a bolt of lightening. Why would a high-profile organization like the RNC have anything to do with a man of his, to say the least, checkered history?
Anyone can visit the Anti-Defamation League's website and read what they have to say about Pete Peters. Why has the news of his affiliation with the Republican organization not exploded across the major media? That the RNC is cozy enough with this man to host 300 meetings with him should not be ignored.
Need there be any clearer sign as to the makeup of the current manifestation of the Republican Party? The nation had better wake up in a hurry.
"KILLED BY PREJUDICE ," by Laura Hershey
Thank you for the article "Killed by Prejudice." As I watched the Terri Schiavo case unfold, the main thing that concerned me wasn't who was right or wrong in the family feud, but that the debate showed how many people think of "disability" as something quite abhorrent. At times, I felt that the media turned into a playground of kids shouting, "Oh, gross, I would never want to be like that!" Except these kids were adults. Shame on us.
I disagree with Laura Hershey's analysis of the Terri Schaivo case.
As with most commentators, she views the case through the filter of what she would want for herself. During illness, every human being has a point where her quality of life reaches such a low point that she no longer wants to continue. That point is relative to the level of comfort and function she is used to.
I too am disabled, although in a way that few people notice. My epilepsy is not severe enough for any limitations to be readily apparent. When problems surface, however, my behavior and even my thoughts seem to belong to someone else. Losing part of who you think you are is a frightening experience, and I know it isn't one I would want to face on a long-term basis.
When a person loses what she holds to be her fundamental human nature, she should be allowed to choose death. Forcing a person to live against her will is just as cruel as forcing death upon someone who wishes to keep living. In cases where no written instructions were left and the individual can no longer express her wishes, the best option is to let loved ones decide. It is not a perfect solution, but it is the best one available to us.
"DEBRIEFING SCALIA ," by Eric Berndt
Richmond, British Columbia, Canada
Thank you for printing Erick Berndt's letter to his NYU classmates. This man is going to make a great lawyer. He had every right to ask Justice Scalia the question he did. After all, he was merely asking the kind of question Mr. Scalia's opinion in Lawrence v. Texas would have given American law enforcement officials the right to ask and demand an answer to. Unfortunately, I imagine that in the future Scalia will be using the White House approach to Q&As: Invite only those who agree with the message.
San Francisco, CA
I am gay and out of the closet for fourteen years. I am absolutely no fan of Justice Scalia, and I proudly admit to being a liberal-left thinker and voter. I want to say that Eric Berndt does not speak for me.
The letter he wrote to his fellow NYU law students is reasonable and well-argued. I agree with most of it in principle. But the picture I have of how the whole thing must have played out makes me cringe. The days when actions like Berndt's were brave or helpful have long since passed.
The left has to end its love affair with public spectacles of this kind. We need strategy, not drama, to oppose the power that Justice Scalia represents and upholds. This strategy has to be inclusive of people who don't read The Nation and don't know or care who Nina Totenberg is. It must include those who might need a little help traveling the distance between our sodomy rights and everyone's civil rights. If Berndt had tried to do that, then and only then might his invocation of Dr. King's legacy be appropriate.
As it happened, Berndt wasted a perfectly good opportunity to engage one of the leading legal minds of our time on his bigoted opinion in Lawrence v. Texas. It is nice of The Nation to permit him the space to explain himself, but the only thing that will be apparent to people who don't read your paper and don't attend NYU is that a gay NYU law student asked Justice Scalia how he pleasures his wife.