'FALSE AND DISTORTED'
New York City
Christopher Hitchens's diatribe on Professor Elie Wiesel's essay on Jerusalem in the New York Times is a false and distorted evaluation based on a two-page essay by a distinguished author of more than forty books ["Minority Report," Feb. 19]. Hitchens does not even mention that Wiesel won the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize. Had he read the Nobel committee's citation, he would have discovered that Wiesel was "a witness for truth and justice," and that "his aim is not to gain the world's sympathy for the victims or the survivors. His aim is to awaken our conscience because our indifference to evil makes us partners in the crime." The committee cites "this particular human spirit's victory over the powers of death and degradation." It is for the readers of The Nation to choose between Christopher Hitchens and the Norwegian Peace Committee.
BERNARD D. FISCHMAN
Lewis Steel has had an admirable career as a civil rights lawyer, and I agree with much of what he says in his review of James T. Patterson's book about Brown v. Board of Education ["Separate and Unequal, By Design," Feb. 5]. But from my vantage point as a lawyer who began a forty-five-year career in civil rights as a junior attorney on Thurgood Marshall's staff at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in 1954, I think Steel is wrong on two key points.
First, I believe he is wrong to focus the primary blame for failure to implement the Supreme Court's historic 1954 Brown decision on the "all deliberate speed" remedy decision in Brown II in 1955. While the delays permitted by the Court were a great setback, the real culprits were President Eisenhower and the Congress, in failing to support the 1954 decision and in fact undermining it. Eisenhower said law could not "change the hearts and minds of men" and later allowed that his greatest mistakes were in appointing Earl Warren and William Brennan to the Court. Congress was most notable for being the birthplace of the Southern Manifesto, in which Southern legislators called for resistance to the Court's decision. The abdications of the executive and legislative branches created the vacuum that allowed the era of "massive resistance" to take root.
While Hugo Black later said that had he known in advance about the lack of support he would not have agreed to "all deliberate speed," it is doubtful that the Court, operating without allies, would have been obeyed if it called for immediate compliance. Moreover, Steel mischaracterizes Brown II when he says that it assumed only "personal" and not "group" rights for black children. The Court called not just for the admission of black children to white schools but for a "transition to a racially nondiscriminatory school system." Nor did it imply that whites as a group had a right to delay a remedy. Indeed, the Court said that constitutional principles would not yield "simply because of disagreement with them," a point the Court emphatically reinforced in the Little Rock decision three years later.
Finally on this point, I know of no credible evidence to support Steel's thesis that Chief Justice Warren made a deal that the Court would issue "an all deliberate speed" remedy in return for unanimity in Brown I. The Court did agree to put off the remedy decision for a year, nothing more. And Steel's statement that the author "should have concluded that the second ruling eviscerated the first" exhibits an extraordinary misunderstanding of history. Brown called for the end of the racial caste system that had been erected to replace slavery, and whatever strategic mistakes were made in its aftermath, the decision was the beginning of the modern civil rights era.
Steel's second major argument is that "the Court's failure in the 1960s to confront school segregation, Northern style, doomed the struggle for integration." The question of how to approach segregation in Northern public schools was difficult, to say the least, and involved a dispute between two lawyers--Thurgood Marshall and Judge Robert Carter--who were my first bosses and for whom I have the greatest respect. Marshall believed from a strategic viewpoint that bringing litigation in the North might alienate Northern supporters of desegregation and that it would be unwise to open up a second front when massive resistance had civil rights groups on the defensive on the first front. Carter believed that children were facing problems that could not wait. In addition, while Earl Warren's opinion in Brown stressed educational harm, many lawyers (myself included) believed that the heart of the decision rested on the racial intent of segregation laws. In fact, racial intent in the North underlay much of the segregation that existed, but because it was not reflected in a segregation law, it took time and effort to prove a case. So the Court did not confront the issue until 1973, when it decided the Denver case, issuing a strong opinion for systemwide desegregation.
Unfortunately, by this time many central- city school districts had become almost entirely African-American or Hispanic-American as whites moved to suburbs, where housing segregation served as a barrier to minorities. When the Burger Court treated the city line as an almost impermeable barrier to desegregation, the battle was largely lost. But there is little reason to suppose that the result would have been different if the Warren Court had taken on Northern desegregation earlier.
What strikes me as odd in all this is that Steel, who appears to recognize the entrenched character of US racial discrimination, should think that the Court ever had a magic wand to solve the problem. Progress has come, and it has been very substantial, in part because public officials like Earl Warren and Lyndon Johnson stood up to their responsibilities and made possible Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965. But mainly these public acts enabled people to empower themselves. Today, the largest barriers to opportunity are those faced by people of color who live in conditions of poverty and whose lives have been largely untouched by the civil rights revolution. As always, the answers lie in many strategies and forums--in organization and community action, in legislation at every level and, yes, in the federal and state courts. We ought not underestimate the challenge, but it will ill serve the effort if we do not recognize how far we have come and how we have reached this point.
WILLIAM L. TAYLOR
New York City
Before turning to the main point of Bill Taylor's letter, let me clear away the historical underbrush. Contrary to Taylor's belief that there is no "credible evidence" to support my statement that Chief Justice Earl Warren lobbied those Justices who were resistant or hesitating to join his first Brown decision by agreeing to put off the issue of remedy, "allowing the South's segregated school districts time to change their ways," both Mark V. Tushnet in Making Civil Rights Law and Richard Kluger in Simple Justice provide evidence. Kluger describes Warren's lobbying efforts in some detail and states with regard to the last holdout, Stanley Reed, that "the only condition [Reed] extracted from Warren for going along [his law clerk believed] was a pledge that the Court implementation decree [Brown II] would allow segregation to be dismantled gradually instead of being wrenched apart." Kluger, as does Tushnet, states that Warren was constantly meeting with the hesitant Justices individually and that he directed discussions to the concept of the remedy before the merits were decided. As Tushnet concluded, "The Court achieved agreement on the merits in large measure because most justices had a vague idea that they could avoid difficulty by allowing desegregation to occur gradually." Clearly, it was Warren who conveyed that idea.
Out of this understanding the "all deliberate speed" formula emerged in Brown II. While Brown II alluded to group rights as well as personal rights, Jack Greenberg states in Crusaders in the Courts that "the Court spoke with forked tongue."
Now to Taylor's main criticism. Taylor places the major blame for the failure of school desegregation on Eisenhower and Congress and extols Warren's leadership. For me, there is enough blame spiraling throughout our history to make it unnecessary to engage in apportionment. And there is no "magic wand." Only relentless effort can ameliorate, and perhaps one day overcome, the US brand of racism. And like Taylor, I recognize Brown I as an important stepping stone in this struggle.
However, mythology about the Court ill serves us. As our highest judicial body, our constitutional court and one of the organs of government that made Jim Crow possible in the first place, the Supreme Court had an obligation to attempt to undo its separate-and-unequal handiwork promptly. By folding up its tent and retreating after Brown I, the Supreme Court sent a message that it would look the other way with regard to one of the most critical bulwarks of racism--school segregation. That gave support to those who engaged in resistance. Even during the Little Rock confrontation, the Supreme Court in 1958 failed to indicate that "all deliberate speed" must come to an end.
Finally, Taylor appears to say that Thurgood Marshall soft-pedaled Northern school segregation to avoid alienating supporters when Robert Carter began to attack it. This statement strikes me as highly unlikely. When Carter opened up the second front against Northern school segregation, Marshall was already sitting as a federal circuit court judge and would in all likelihood have refrained from talking about cases that might have come before him. Perhaps Jack Greenberg, who had taken over the leadership of the NAACP LDEF and steered clear of Northern-style segregation, may have held this view, and this may be the cause of Taylor's confusion. In Crusaders in the Courts, however, Greenberg says only that while he felt Carter's approach "was entirely logical," he thought it "wouldn't wash." As Taylor notes, Carter believed "that [black] children were facing problems [centuries of segregation and discrimination] that could not wait." To Carter, losing those children in inferior schools for another generation without trying was little different from trying and losing, as he explained to me with more than a little hint of impatience. Even when we did lose in the lower federal courts during those years, Carter maintained his belief that eventually the Supreme Court would take one of our cases and do the right thing. It was not to be.
To this day all of us, but especially African-Americans, suffer because of the Court's contribution to our nation's failure to do little more than superficially desegregate our schools.
LEWIS M. STEEL
REFORMER IN THE DELLS
A postscript to Frances
Fox Piven's excellent "Thompson's Easy Ride" [Feb. 26], on the
elevation of Wisconsin Governor (and die-hard welfare reformer) Tommy
Thompson to Health and Human Services Secretary: Wisconsin's
independent Legislative Audit Bureau recently released a report
showing that Employment Solutions, one of the "nonprofit" private
agencies running the Milwaukee welfare program, spent more than
$370,000 of Wisconsin's TANF [Temporary Assistance to Needy Families]
money on things like staff time and expenses trying to get welfare
contracts in Arizona, and legal fees to determine whether its
lobbying would jeopardize its nonprofit status and staff
Employment Solutions also made "incentive
payments" averaging more than $9,600 each to eighty-four staff
members in 1999 (a total of more than $800,000). Its director, a
former Thompson aide, got bonuses of nearly $100,000 from 1997 to
'99. As has been its pattern, the state never bothered to set
standards for private contractors' use of incentives--even though the
bonuses came out of welfare funds, not the contractors'
The response of Wisconsin's
Department of Workforce Development? No further investigation
necessary. Meanwhile, Employment Solutions claims to be out of money
to fund portions of the current TANF system, like a loan program for
families in crisis situations. The state itself is running out of
money to fund its childcare subsidy program. It's clear who's
benefited from Thompson's welfare reform.
I must respond to
Frances Fox Piven's inaccuracies and bold misinterpretations of the
Wisconsin Works (W-2) program. There is a reason former Wisconsin
Governor Tommy Thompson was easily confirmed as HHS Secretary with no
opposition by Republicans or Democrats. He has made the necessary
investments in people who are making the transition from welfare to
Piven makes a big mistake saying benefits were cut
under the W-2 program, when in fact they have increased dramatically.
In 1996 the state spent $141 million on childcare, transportation and
other employment services for people participating in work programs
under AFDC. In 2001 the state is budgeted to spend well over $350
Is it true that the amount spent on cash benefits
has been reduced? Certainly. That is the whole premise behind W-2, to
help people make the transition from cash assistance to independence
while providing them with the necessary supportive services to make
that change. These investments in supportive services have paid off.
A recent study indicates that 76 percent of people who left welfare
since the inception of W-2 did so because they got a job or had other
income that allowed them to leave public assistance. The department
was also able to obtain the earnings for just over 13,000 of those
22,000 families and determined that 69 percent were receiving between
$34,000 and $38,000 in income and benefits, based on monthly,
All indications are that children in
Wisconsin are better off since W-2 began. Infant mortality rates have
dropped and the rate of child abuse and neglect has decreased, along
with juvenile crime rates and domestic abuse incidents. And in
contrast to Piven's statement, foster care placements have remained
stable since W-2 was implemented. She also fails to point out that
Wisconsin consistently ranks among the top ten states for having the
lowest number of children living in poverty.
W-2 is all
about hope--hope for the future and hope for a better life. And it
has succeeded beyond even the most optimistic expectations.
Wisconsin Department of
New York City
Fuzzy math and funny numbers. Jennifer
Reinert, secretary of the Wisconsin department that runs TANF, claims
that families formerly on welfare in that state now earn $34,000 to
$38,000 a year. What planet is she living on? Indeed, if we pause
over Reinert's misleading sentences, we can figure out that her
numbers apply to less than one-fourth of these families. Even for
this minority, she appears to be adding in the cash value of such
benefits as Medicaid, which certainly can't buy food or pay the rent
(and maybe adding in their share of missile defense too). More
soberly, we know from other studies, and in particular a study
undertaken by researchers at the University of Wisconsin, that on
average families lose income when they leave welfare, even without
taking into account their added costs in work-related
As for all that money spent on work-related
services for welfare recipients, only a fraction of eligible families
are actually receiving help for childcare, for example, and much of
the money is soaked up by the private companies Wisconsin is relying
on to administer its programs.
The bad news about
Wisconsin, and similar "welfare reform" programs elsewhere, is only
beginning to trickle in. The deluge of supplicants for help from food
pantries and shelters is part of the bad news. And in Wisconsin,
there is the alarming reversal in black and Hispanic infant mortality
trends. The state has gone from having one of the best records in the
country to one of the worst. And since Wisconsin was a pioneer of the
new welfare regime, these statistics should be taken as a grim
warning for other states.
I thank Karyn Rotker for the added information in her letter.
FRANCES FOX PIVEN
PORN TO BE MILD?
part of Mark Cromer's "Porn's Compassionate Conservatism" [Feb. 26]
is based on incorrect information. While the industry list of no-no's
Cromer refers to does exist, its contents were never meant as a basis
for self-censorship of adult videos. As one prominent producer
(Christian Mann of Video Team) explained to me for my article in the
March Adult Video News, the list came about after a group of
XXX producers asked their attorney what sort of material on video
box covers had caused legal problems in the past, and the list
was the result.
Mann told me (since confirmed by several
other producers) that most of what is on the list will continue to
appear in the videos--including the much-discussed "no black men,
white women"--and most consider the idea that such material would
disappear to be ludicrous. The logic behind the list was that police
rarely bring VCRs when they raid adult video stores; they look at the
box covers before seizing the tape(s) and preparing a
The reason for not censoring the videos
themselves is simple: Just about every item on the list has appeared
in videos from every company for the past twenty years, and
they make much of their income by selling those "catalogue" videos.
While one or two companies have announced plans to recall and edit
certain titles, the vast majority have no plans to do so. However,
when the government comes after the companies with obscenity charges,
it is by no means limited to seizing new releases. As long as a video
is still being sold, it is ripe to be busted. Whether it's a 2001
release or a 1981 release, it can be the subject of
Mann pointed out that the list, by its very
nature, cannot be enforced. Video companies are free to ignore it,
and several have announced plans to do so, while others plan to
follow some of it. My sources within the Larry Flynt organization
tell me that Flynt intends to follow the list's recommendations with
some of his magazines and videos but not others, which my source
assumed would then become test cases for the new enforcement
There is little consensus among producers on what
to do to protect themselves from possible federal prosecutions, just
as thevideo stores have no strategies for the much more common
prosecutions at the local level. They simply rely on their attorneys
and all too often fail to take the attorney's advice. Sorry to throw
a wet blanket on what seems a very juicy story--Porn Censors
Itself--but the facts simply don't fit the theory.
MARK KERNES, senior editor
Adult Video News--AVN Publications
To state, as AVN's
Mark Kernes does, that the production guidelines recently issued by
some of the biggest porn companies in the nation "were never meant as
a basis for self-censorship of adult videos" is both illogical and
simply wrong. The fact is, producers from a variety of major
companies (myself included) were instructed specifically to stop
shooting various sex acts and were provided with guidelines to use
when making adult videos. I don't know what Kernes calls that, but it
smacks of self-censorship to me.
Kernes claims that self-censoring videos is pointless because of the huge number of
older videos already on the market, many of which feature the same
acts now being cut. The fact is, some companies have been butchering
their old, classic titles for years now, in a sad effort to ward off
prosecutions, well before Bush/Ashcroft. A concrete example of this
would be the films Honeypie and Vanessa: Maid in
Manhattan, both re-edited and released back into the market with
entire "offending" dialogue tracks cut out--thus in some scenes the
performer's mouth is moving in eerie (and pathetic)
Porn has indeed been censoring itself for years, particularly after the Meese Commission opened fire and highlighted
some of its more fringe elements. Thus, scenes depicting adult-age
incest, rape scenes and other fantasy fare have all been wiped from
the adult filmmaker's palette. One major company--as the election
began to shape up for Bush--cut a scene featuring a pregnant white
female and a black male out of a tape altogether. That's
self-censorship, a pure reaction to fear of being
The president of another major video company known
for its softer, more mainstream fare openly speculated that he may
fold his firm's line of explicit videos rather than risk legal
problems. That's extreme self-censorship. Kernes is correct when he
notes that some companies will not follow the guidelines and that the
guidelines themselves are being revised even now. That doesn't change
the cold, hard fact--which my article detailed--that the industry has
recoiled with the swearing-in of Bush and the confirmation of
Ashcroft and is scrambling to avoid prosecution. Artistic and sexual
freedom are clearly taking a back seat to financial
While Kernes may feel he has thrown a wet
blanket on a juicy story--he has not. He does, however, seem to have
that blanket draped rather snugly over his head, blinding him to the
KEEP THE SUN IN THE SUNSHINE STATE
In "The Florida Fog" [March 19], David Corn asks, "Will the fog ever lift?" and concludes that a concrete final tally of Gore vs. Bush is "probably beyond reach." A polite understatement, as a concrete tally is flat-out impossible, because, as Corn notes, "there are just too many ways to count the leftovers from this lousy election."
The sensible approach for maximum fog reduction would be to assemble the hard and soft data in four general categories. (1) The undervote, assembled as hanging chad (1-corner, 2-corner, 3-corner) and dimpled chad. Gore probably has the nod in this category. (2) The overvote, where Gore clearly would be far ahead. It's hard to imagine a large number of double-voters selecting Gore first and then voting for a minor candidate. Even with extreme generosity, giving a half-vote to each, Gore wins easily here. (3) The misvote, where votes intended for one candidate went to another, should be estimated. Corn mentions 1,700 Miami-Dade ballots punched in a place below the one corresponding to a candidate. Another subcategory would include the 3,812 votes for Buchanan in Palm Beach County because of the infamous butterfly ballot--a statistical impossibility, based on votes for Buchanan elsewhere (about 2,500 of these votes were probably intended for Gore--far more than enough to have won the state). (4) The repressed vote, the many reported instances of qualified voters being dropped from the rolls, having polling places changed, being intimidated by officials, etc., will necessarily be counted by anecdote, affidavit and rough estimate. One exotic but interesting subcategory is pardoned felons with restored voting rights from other states who moved to Florida but were denied the right to vote (in that Florida does not restore voting rights to its felons).
Add them all up, and Gore will at least have an overwhelming moral victory. The obfuscators and the statistically challenged will, of course, try to limit attention to only the first category, and selected findings therein, e.g., the Miami-Dade undervotes. A shared goal of maximum fog dispersal will keep at bay the many Bushies who seek to distort and repress the truth of what happened in Florida.
A more accurate title for David Corn's excellent article might have been "The Miami Herald Fog" or "The Miami Herald Farce." Like the networks and cable news channels that fell all over one another to be numero uno to proclaim first Gore and then Bush the Florida winner on election night, it appears that the Herald succumbed to Be-the-First fever. Maybe we do need Fidel to send monitors.
WINNING NOT WHINING
Paul Wellstone is right that "Winning Politics" [Feb. 19] requires galvanizing grassroots activists. But he's neglecting something: A lot of us activists are very, very angry right now, at his party and at the spineless, wrongheaded, unprincipled betrayal by the party leadership, particularly in Congress. Furthermore, George W. Bush was appointed President. He is not due the same deference as an elected leader, and the main goal of Democrats in Congress who claim to have a progressive bone in their body should be containment of, not compromise with, this individual and his Administration.
If there is to be any hope of achieving the organizational success Wellstone refers to, there will have to be a purgative process in the Democratic Party. The anger of progressives is not going to simply disappear. And without the energy of grassroots progressive activists, as Wellstone has himself pointed out, all is meaningless and for naught.
Paul Wellstone hit the mark squarely with his article on progressive politics in the Bush II era. In Minnesota we're especially proud of our senior senator, who has carried the banner for improved lives for working families with increasing vigor every year he has represented us. As the senator remarks, there's an urgent need to see beyond the Bush restoration, that Al Gore's loss of the presidency is a tragic miscarriage but not an irreparable one if we mobilize, organize and stick together to make the progressive (and, yes, liberal) voice heard as the 2002 election draws nearer.
THE COURT JESTERS?
New York City
I fully endorse your Name the President contest, now on your website, but you're being unfair to the Supreme Court. The nine biggies (or at least five of them) deserve their own naming contest. Perhaps the Fawlty Five? the Supreme Mistakes? the Curious Curia? Where do I file my no-friend-of-the-Court brief?
RICE, POWELL & PAIGE
Michael Eric Dyson, in "Bush's Black Faces" [Jan. 29], states that "many blacks" support school vouchers. However, if you analyze the results of voucher referendums in this past election, black support seems pretty paltry. African-American voters overwhelmingly put thumbs down against a voucher proposal in California, 68 to 32 percent. In Michigan a voucher scheme bankrolled by right-wing billionaire Dick DeVos was crushed, assisted by a black vote of nearly 4 to 1 against it, as reported by the Detroit News--this despite vocal backing of Proposal 1 by a number of African-American clergy.
Blacks and other people of color have consistently demonstrated their skepticism toward voucher plans. George W. and Rod Paige had better think long and hard before they mount a crusade to undermine an already underfunded public school system, which still has strong support among most Americans.
New York City
Michael Eric Dyson writes that Colin Powell's beliefs will have "little substantive impact" on the new Administration's domestic policies and that "Powell's value to Bush on race [is] largely symbolic." While I applaud Dyson for questioning how well Powell, Rice and Paige will serve the interests of most black Americans, I think his sense of what those interests are is too narrow. Indeed, the key to assessing Powell's potential impact may lie in the interrelated nature of Bush's likely domestic policies, and their effect on blacks in America, with his likely international policies toward blacks in Africa and other parts of the world. Here, the presence of Powell and Rice could be more than symbolic. It could be dramatic. Powell's vision of foreign policy tends toward the militaristic, and Rice's background seems more suited to the cold war. Neither has had much to say about African nations. Granted, Clinton's record is a mixed bag, but he was the first sitting President to travel to sub-Saharan Africa, both times accompanied by members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Further, the passage of the Trade and Development Act of 2000 to promote commerce with sub-Saharan Africa and Caribbean countries, as well as efforts to press for debt relief, cheaper medicines and conflict resolution were some of the most valuable gains made in the past eight years. The possibility that Bush may return us to a policy of not-so-benign neglect may prove as crucial in the long run as his apparent desire to chip away at affirmative action, public education and welfare. When it comes to assessing racial progress, the interests of black Americans--a diverse group in terms of ethnicity and national origin--are situated not only at home but also abroad.
ANGELA D. DILLARD
Baton Rouge, La.
Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., in "George Bush's Democrats" [Jan. 22], has expressed what so few wish--or feel that they have the right--to express. If the Green Party is looking for another candidate in 2004, it should not have to look too much further than Jackson's doorstep. If the left wants to resuscitate itself, it needs to speak--and act--with the unashamed ethos, logos and pathos with which Jackson speaks. People like him give me hope and represent an America that is all but lost in this environment of hip fascism (I don't think I'm exaggerating).
I wish Jesse Jackson Jr. the best of luck in building a "progressive bipartisan economic coalition" by reclaiming the Democratic Party from its conservative wing. If he succeeds, he may draw me away from the Green Party. And if any Greens are elected to Congress in the coming years, I hope Jackson's coalition will welcome them warmly.
We had an interesting "town meeting" event at the Boulder Theatre in January, titled "Organizing for Democracy After the Stolen Election," which featured former State Senator Tom Hayden visiting from Los Angeles, Yippie Stew Albert of Oregon, Democratic State Senator from Boulder Ron Tupa, Green Party activist Ron Forthofer, editor Pamela White of the Colorado Daily, diversity activist Sherry Weston as well as yours truly, token poet. I read from a new piece, "Rogue State," and reported on experiences at the Shadow Inauguration in DC the previous weekend, where more than 2,000 people took an oath to uphold the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and surrounded the Supreme Court building. Most chilling had been the taunt from a Bush supporter: "Get back to the back of the bus!" which haunts and propels me with particular urgency to stay involved.
Boulder citizens young and old--after venting their continuing outrage at the New Select Administration--also promised to get more active. The distinguished guest speakers had a lot of cogent analyses and clear-cut advice, which is, of course, the same old stuff: Keep the heat on through media bombardment, letter and Internet campaigns, phone calls, boycotts, actions in the streets; push on voting reform, pro-choice rights, environmental issues and also keep the pressure on the Democratic Party and know who the judicial candidates are on your local ballots! Kick out the jams! Jimi Hendrix's "Star Spangled Banner" was even played. Jeff Milchen's reclaimdemocracy.org is a good resource. I wanted to encourage public forums like ours to start up (if they haven't yet) all over the country. As one of our poets' protest signs in DC said, using Voltaire's celebrated injunction: Ecrasez l' infâme!
The Jack Kerouac School of
With "None Dare Call It Treason" [Feb. 5], an exposé of the crime committed by the Supreme Court when it appointed George W. Bush as President, Vincent Bugliosi drew the largest outpouring of mail in our 136-year history and tapped a deep reservoir of outrage among our readers: "God bless you for printing this! I'm sending it to everyone I know." "It gave me heart that I am not alone in my outrage." "Bugliosi has made me angry all over again--and I'm glad he did." "One of the most important articles I've ever seen, up there with the Pentagon Papers." "Wish it could be air-dropped to every American city." "One of the most intelligent, bold and straightforward articles I have ever read." "The most important document to come out of the entire farce called an election." "How fitting it is that the lowest point in the history of our Supreme Court is the subject of the best article I've ever read in The Nation." "Thank God for Bugliosi. A voice crying out what needs to be heard." "I cannot express my elation at finding this article." "Bravo, bravo, bravo, bravo, bravo!" "It's because I do hold the Court in such high regard that I want to scream out Treason!" A sample follows.
Highest honors to Vincent Bugliosi for his courageous indictment of the Supreme Court. Sir John Harington's epigram scores a bull's eye on this political crisis: "Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason?/For if it prosper, none dare call it treason." The country should honor such courageous patriots as Bugliosi, who would dare to call the wresting of the presidency from Gore and handing it to Bush an act of the most blatant usurpation.
HENRY F. SALERNO
In case Vincent Bugliosi doesn't get to Washington very often, he might be interested in my observation that some prankster has chiseled a tasteless joke into the pediment of the Supreme Court building. It reads, Equal Justice Under Law.
Did you hear the one about the brave attorney who spoke out against five Supreme Court Justices? He was overruled.
Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Bugliosi has hit the nail on the head. I just wish that his reasoning had hit the heads of the supreme court justices. I am an African-American, and I am embarrassed that Uncle Clarence Thomas is on the supreme court. (I type "supreme court" in lowercase because of the lack of respect I now have for that body.)
Finally someone calls it as it is! I keep telling my friends how furious I am at what happened in the "election," how the fury only ripens with each passing day. This is Boston Tea Party time! People of America, rouse yourselves and rise! Nothing short of sacking the Heinous Five and an immediate national re-election is morally required. This is not about Bush or Gore or Nader: This is purely about who we are as a people.
Vincent Bugliosi's piece was superb. It seems that most of the country is wandering around as if in a mindless fog, filled with media-supplied trivia. Instead of justice being blind, the Justices have blindfolded us and given us, and democracy, a swift kick in the rear.
LINDA S. ANDERSON
West Hollywood, Calif.
Right after the imperial hand of the Supreme Court reached down and slammed the door on the libraries and counting offices across the state of Florida, a bemused Republican election official was interviewed on MSNBC. She pointed out that the best way to get an accurate count was to first run the ballots through the machines several times so they can exfoliate and the count can stabilize. Duh. Instead, those who fear the chad got hysterical when they found the little things in the bottom of counting boxes--you'd think they'd found bugs in the flour. And so we have the final image of Justice Scalia holding up the glimmering ballot...protect its sanctity, keep it safe from harm, defend it against impostors. Don't count it.
I applaud you for not letting us go quietly into that dark night of American democracy to which our own Supreme Court was intent on leading us. Those of us who refuse to accept the Court's outrageous ruling and "just get over it" need a strong voice, and I am thankful that The Nation is there. What the Supreme Court has done is truly frightening. I find equally chilling the apparent ability of so many--including our politicians and judiciary--to passively accept this blatant affront to democracy.
I am a criminal defense attorney who represents capital defendants in federal court. I have toiled in the field of judicial disingenuousness for a long time, in cases in which a person's very life is at stake. Heretofore, I have viewed Vincent Bugliosi somewhat suspiciously, as an adversary, if you will (he is, after all, from the prosecutorial side of the courtroom). I must say, however, that his article took my breath away. His passion and his brutal cut-to-the-chase shook even me--jaded and world-weary--from my cynical malaise over the judicial theft of the election. I found myself shouting and cheering out loud for the pithiness of his metaphors and his "cut the bullshit" on-target analysis. I am heartened that he has put words to the outrage that I have difficulty fully articulating about the shabbiness of the Court's ruling. I am heartened that he has put the lie to the Court's brazen pedantry, which it used to disguise its plain malfeasance.>
Your counterinauguration issue looks like a gift from the heaven where dwell the truly righteous and the just, where abide the eternal spirits of the great liberal and progressive beacons of liberty. (I see the face of Adlai Stevenson smiling benevolent approval. I see Robert La Follette, Wayne Morse, Norman Thomas and Reinhold Niebuhr observing with urgent concern the endangered ship of state thrown crazily about by the storm of singular corruption rampant in this election.) I observe how thinly informed is the American public re what really goes on behind the thin veneer touched upon by our mainstream journalists and commentators. For most of my eighty years my hopes for a Jeffersonian-like informed electorate have been sustained by the courage, dedication and service to high ideals of small minority voices like yours.
CLIFFORD P. WOLFSEHR
Sherman Oaks, Calif.
If we mere citizens were to consider pressing charges, how many of us would stand up and say so? Who would represent "We the People"? And to what judicial body would we plead our case? Most of America has already forgotten about their rights being violated, thanks to an apathetic McMedia. Is there anyone else out there who prefers these matters not be forgotten? who thinks there should be televised hearings? Anyone? Hello?
There are millions of people wanting some remedy to what has happened, although many of us have no idea where to begin. Can no efforts be made to remove these Justices from the bench? I think such a campaign would be a lightning rod for hopes that the possibility of democracy is not entirely dead.
Contrary to what most Americans may believe, bringing the five conservative Supreme Court Justices to the bar of justice is very possible. The Constitution expressly authorizes criminal proceedings against judges if they are found guilty of "bad behavior." Article III, Section 1 states: "The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their offices during good Behavior...." Article II, Section 4 states: "The President, Vice President, and civil officers shall be removed from office on impeachment for conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." The five Justices appear to have committed a "high crime." The issue is whether the five Justices are guilty of criminal "bad behavior" in approving a decision that denied Gore his victory and if they are also impeachable for the "high crime" of judicial conspiracy to fix the election.
CHARLES O. PORTER
Member of Congress, 1957-60
On October 20, 1973, Solicitor General Robert Bork executed what came to be known as the Saturday Night Massacre, following orders to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox after both Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus refused to heed White House orders and resigned in protest. Twenty-seven years later, a Saturday Night Massacre of voting rights occurred when a split Supreme Court ruled to stop the count in Florida, a transparently political decision engineered with Machiavellian calculation by the ignominious "Gang of Five." In glaring contrast to this ruling of the Rehnquist Court, in 1974 the Burger Court unanimously voted to uphold a lower court ruling and ordered President Nixon to release the tapes of subpoenaed White House conversations. In that heralded 8-0 decision, the Burger Court ruled definitively in favor of the principle that no person is above the law, a decision that upheld the Constitution and caused Nixon irreparable harm. Is there any doubt that this current Supreme Court would have ruled in Nixon's favor?
BARBARA ALLEN KENNEY
Your article led to remembrance of things past wherein US self-righteousness condemned other countries for choosing their leaders much as the US Supreme Court Five chose George W. Bush. Russia was the "Evil Empire" because a Central Committee rather than the people chose its leader. Central American and Caribbean countries were invaded--sometimes openly, sometimes not--to teach them our "democratic values," since they were governed by "dictators" rather than by popularly elected leaders (of course, Washington wanted to choose the dictator).
We all saw it happen and wondered, How can it be?! Then the mind numb-ers went to work: Sam Donaldson dismissed the recounts with "Get over it!" Not in my lifetime, Sam.
While Stephen Schwartz does a good job of tearing apart the Venona book by Herbert Romerstein and Eric Breindel, he praises the Venona book by John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr ["A Tale of Two Venonas," Jan. 8/15]. But neither book questions the accuracy of the decryptions. All the authors take for granted that the National Security Agency has published a true decryption of the Soviet cables. This assumption is quite remarkable in view of the past history of the NSA, which has not given scholars the opportunity to check the decryptions' accuracy.
The NSA's identification of the individuals with cover names is another questionable area. For example: The cover names Antenna and Liberal, which the NSA said identified Julius Rosenberg, were initially assigned to one Joseph Weichbrod, and it was only after David Greenglass, Julius's brother-in-law, was arrested, that the NSA said, Oops, we made a slight mistake. Strangely, I, a bona fide convicted spy, could not be found anywhere among the hundreds of identified spies, but this was not for lack of their trying.
In a very candid May 13, 1950, memo, which the FBI never thought would see the light of day, it writes of Venona: "The fragmentary nature of the messages themselves, the assumptions made by the cryptographers, in breaking the messages themselves, and the questionable interpretations and translations involved, plus the extensive use of cover names for persons and places, make the problem of positive identification extremely difficult." One would never know this from the way all the authors write about the decrypted Venona cables.
The important question of why the NSA brought the FBI into the project must be examined. Certainly the FBI did not have decryption expertise beyond that of the NSA. The FBI's role was to try to match their files against "the fragmentary nature of the messages." And as an example of their expertise in this game one need look no further than the Weichbrod case cited above. I have tried to obtain some decryptions relating to my case that were available before the FBI entered the arena, but without success. A half-century later the NSA maintains that allowing me to see these files would expose their decryption methods.
It is the fundamental questions relating to the NSA's decryptions that seem to be off-limits to those who write about Venona.
To flog one untrustworthy book about Venona with another, as Stephen Schwartz did, raises doubts about his entire discussion. Of course the Herbert Romerstein book, given its authorship, is not credible. But Schwartz's chosen weapon against it, a book by John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, has likewise failed the test of probity and accuracy.
Consider, for example, how Haynes and Klehr treat the cases of three New Dealers: Lauchlin Currie, Harry Dexter White and Alger Hiss. Currie, a Canadian and a graduate of the London School of Economics and Harvard, was the first professional economist to serve in the White House. Haynes and Klehr use Venona decrypts of Soviet World War II cablegrams to traduce Currie as a spy for the Soviet Union. In the process, Haynes and Klehr get their facts wrong, withhold relevant facts and weigh evidence from one side only. They suggest that Currie tried to kill the Venona project before it revealed Soviet cable traffic, but they withhold the facts that expose their claim as incredible, if not absurd. They falsely assert that Currie fled the United States and renounced his citizenship, when actually he returned to Colombia on a two-year contract to advise the government on implementing the recommendations of a World Bank mission, married a Colombian and was unable to renew his passport because he was residing mainly in Colombia (a basis for nonrenewal for a naturalized US citizen at that time). For more, see Roger Sandilands, "Guilt by Association? Lauchlin Currie's Alleged Involvement with Washington Economists in Soviet Espionage," History of Political Economy (Fall 2000).
Harry Dexter White was an assistant secretary of the Treasury under FDR and Truman. In 1941, when Russia was hard pressed on its western front against Nazi Germany, KGB Gen. Vitaly Pavlov met White for lunch in a Washington restaurant to ask for increased US pressure on Japan to deter it from attacking Russia's Far Eastern borders. Recounting the event in Operation Snow (1995-96), Pavlov describes White as a patriotic American and "never one of our agents." Haynes and Klehr characterize White's meeting with Pavlov (whose first name they get wrong) as "clandestine" and, based on dozens of Venona documents they misconstrue out of context, name White "A Most Highly Placed Spy." For further details, see James Boughton, "The Case Against Harry Dexter White: Still Not Proven," forthcoming in History of Political Economy (Summer 2001).
As for Alger Hiss, Haynes and Klehr assert that Venona confirms his guilt because he was "Ales," the cover name of a spy described in a Venona cablegram. Facts that virtually preclude such an identity (among others, that Ales was a military-intelligence group leader and obtained only military information, whereas Hiss was charged with acting alone and obtaining only nonmilitary State Department information) Haynes and Klehr simply ignore. They also assert that Alger's brother Donald spied with him, but they do not disclose that even Alger's accuser, Whittaker Chambers, denied that Donald was a spy, nor is there a shred of evidence that he was. For more in point, see my article "Venona and Alger Hiss" in Intelligence and National Security (Autumn 2000) and on the website of British Universities Film & Video Council, www.bufvc.ac.uk, under "publications" and "viewfinder."
Haynes and Klehr did not originate the practice of misconstruing Venona documents to support faulty conclusions. The practice was begun by the FBI after it joined the Venona team in 1948, and it was subsequently used on countless targets. In the early 1960s, for instance, Venona documents helped convince the CIA's own Venona head man and mole-hunter, James Jesus Angleton, that former governor of New York and ambassador to Russia Averell Harriman was a Soviet agent. Haynes and Klehr merely jumped on the bandwagon thirty years later.
If Schwartz had applied the same critical faculties to the book by Haynes and Klehr that he brought to bear on Romerstein, he would have discovered that both books are thoroughly unreliable.
My review did not address the guilt of Lauchlin Currie, Harry Dexter White or Alger Hiss, aside from saying that the Venona evidence on the last person could not be dismissed. The evidence to which I referred drew a parallel between the movements of Hiss and the agent Ales in Russia.
I am much less interested in the fates of these three bourgeois careerists than I am in those of such dissident revolutionists as Ignacy Porecki-Reiss, Andreu Nin and Leon Trotsky. I have never understood the moral compass of certain US intellectuals who consider the sufferings of White and Hiss, or of the heirs of Currie, to be more compellingly tragic than the assassination of Reiss, the death by torture of Nin or the smashing of Trotsky's brain by an ice ax.
Indeed, there is evidence that the infiltration of Soviet agents into the highest levels of the US government involved something much worse than mere spying; rather, an intent to manipulate the US authorities in support of these terror operations. We see a possible example of this in the interest of Hiss, while at State, in the Robinson-Rubens case.
Lowenthal refers to "the practice of misconstruing Venona documents to support faulty conclusions.... subsequently used on countless targets." I have no idea who the "countless targets" might be, but I know and can sustain the following points on the basis of unchallengeable documentation, witnesses of the time and fully established memoirs by such persons as the Russo-Belgian writer Victor Serge, the Trotskyists Pierre Naville and Gerard Rosenthal, my co-author, the Catalan historian Víctor Alba, and others:
(1) Mark Zborowski, the NKVD mole who infiltrated the Trotskyist movement and murdered Trotsky's son Leon Sedov, while also facilitating the murders of Ignacy Porecki-Reiss, Andreu Nin, Kurt Landau, Erwin Wolf, Hans Freund ("Moulin") and Rudolf Klement, was identified and brought to partial justice in the United States on the basis of Venona.
(2) The related unmasking of the infamous Sobolevicius brothers, Jack Soble and Robert Soblen/Roman Well, who had penetrated the Trotskyist movement before Zborowski, was made possible by Venona.
(3) The positive identification of Jaime Ramón Mercader del Río as the assassin of Trotsky, first made by Víctor Alba (then working as a crime reporter for the Mexican daily Excelsior) was confirmed by Venona.
(4) The extensive infiltration of the US Trotskyist movement by such agents of the Stalinist secret police as Floyd Miller was first revealed in Venona.
(5) The NKVD employment of Spanish Stalinists like Victori Salà, a key figure in the attempted frameup of the POUM, while they were in exile in Mexico during World War II, was exposed by Venona.
(6) The recruitment of US maritime workers--seamen and longshoremen--as Soviet spies is documented in Venona.
(7) The manipulation of important Yugoslav politicians by the Soviet secret police during World War II was disclosed through Venona.
(8) The suspicions of the Moscow secret police center regarding a lead agent, Otto Katz, resulting in his public trial and execution with several others in Prague after World War II, may be traced in Venona.
I independently researched these cases before I'd even heard of the existence of Venona. In addition, all of them involve numerous additional people who figure in Venona. Venona merely corroborated evidence I had amassed and thoroughly analyzed on my own. Using these cases as controls, I have little or no doubt about the decryption and analysis put forward by the National Security Agency and by Klehr and Haynes. I am the first to admit the apparent irony that investigation of these matters was in most cases of virtually no importance to the vital interests of the US government.
NUCLEAR POWER & US
New York City
I would like to provide an update on some remarkable events that followed Joseph Mangano's epidemiological discovery that closing the Rancho Seco reactor in 1989 was followed by an enormous improvement in infant mortality and childhood cancer [Harvey Wasserman, "No Nukes=Better Health," Jan. 29]. Mangano has now found that mortality rates for all age groups in these areas have, since 1989, improved for all diseases mediated by the immune response, so that San Francisco, for example (only seventy miles from Rancho Seco), had in 1998 the lowest age-adjusted mortality rate of any large US county, with extraordinary declines since 1990 in all cancers, including breast and prostate, and in all infectious diseases. Even AIDS death rates in San Francisco by 1998 had declined to the level of 1979.
As a result of local grassroots dissemination of these facts and a generous grant from the CEO of a large San Francisco company, Mangano may soon be able to offer clinical as well as epidemiological proof of the benefits of closing reactors. As national coordinator of our Tooth Fairy Project, which has been finding ominously high levels of bone-seeking radioactive strontium (Sr90) in the baby teeth of about 2,000 children born in recent years that could not be the result of past superpower above-ground nuclear bomb tests, he may soon be able to ascertain the change, if any, in the ratios of Sr90 to calcium in the baby teeth of children born before and after nuclear reactor closings.
Nation readers can give us invaluable support by collecting baby teeth from anyone born in recent years or even from baby boomers born as far back as the bomb test years of the 1950s, for we have found that they have the same incredibly high levels, after correction for the twenty-nine-year half-life of Sr90, that prompted President Kennedy to terminate such above-ground tests in 1963. Please visit our website, www.radiation.org, and/or call (800) 582-3716 for envelopes for baby teeth.
JAY M. GOULD
Radiation and Public Health Project Inc.
Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Harvey Wasserman has again shown how adept he is at picking out a tidbit of bad science to support his views while ignoring the vast storehouse of real science. He claims nuclear power is causing cancers and other health effects, based on a largely debunked study sponsored by an antinuclear group. Not mentioned is the National Cancer Institute study that examined 90,000 cancer deaths near nuclear power plants spanning thirty-four years and found no connection between the operation of reactors and cancer. This is only one of several highly reputable studies that have come to the same conclusion.
Ironically, The Nation recently published Ross Gelbspan's editorial [Jan. 22] on the seriousness of global warming. Any plan to deal effectively with this potentially devastating problem must contain significant levels of nuclear energy, which produces no greenhouse gases. Even the Clinton Administration's strategy to meet the Kyoto goals required substantial electricity production from nuclear plants.
The fair-minded observer must agree that US nuclear plants have been safe sources of electricity. And as we try to find our way out of increasingly frequent power crises, it will probably be an important component for the foreseeable future.
DR. THEODORE M. BESMANN
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
It's great fun when pro-nukers confirm the realities of global warming, even while denying the devastating health and environmental impacts of their brand of radiation poison. No government- or industry-funded study will admit to the connection between nuclear power and cancer. But hidden in virtually all of them is damning hard evidence to the contrary. The cure for global warming lies in wind, solar and efficiency, not in an economically catastrophic technology that kills people and the planet.
And kudos as always to Jay Gould and the vital work done by him and his colleagues in searching out the health impacts of this failed technology. See-no-evil doesn't cut it when the radiation is being dumped into our bodies--and those of our children.
Regarding Ross Gelbspan's "Cool It, World" [Jan. 22], even the Hague proposals rejected by the United States are insufficient. As Mark Hertsgaard writes in his book Earth Odyssey, the pollution in China and India is so extreme that even if the United States and Europe immediately eliminated all greenhouse-gas emissions, the impact would be negligible if nothing changed in China and India. This fact underscores, as Gelbspan correctly notes, the imperative for large-scale technology transfers.
But Gelbspan errs in thinking the recent collapse in climate talks might "set the stage for a truly transformative initiative" in US policy. EPA chief Christie Whitman, an environmental ignoramus, is joined by Interior Secretary Gale Norton, a protégée of the odious James Watt, whose Mountain States Legal Foundation is currently suing Clinton over his creation of national monuments. Norton is dedicated to the unfettered use of private property, while Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham supports the "pollution credits" derided even by Great Britain.
Gelbspan's tenuous optimism about Paul O'Neill at Treasury is curious, given O'Neill's career with two notorious corporate ecocides: International Paper (ten years) and more recently, Alcoa (eleven years). More than forty-seven Alcoa facilities have been cited for environmental violations since 1987, including an aluminum smelter in Massena, New York, which in 1991 was fined the then-largest criminal penalty ever ($3.75 million) for hazardous-waste violations. Last March Alcoa agreed to an $8.8 million settlement with the EPA over dumping inadequately treated waste into the Ohio River between 1994 and 1999. Alcoa's Rockdale smelter is among the most polluted plants in Texas, emitting 104,000 tons of pollutants a year. It is among hundreds of Texas plants still receiving a grandfather exemption from when air pollution laws went into effect in 1971 (thirty years ago!). According to the Los Angeles Times, a legislative effort to change that exemption was defeated "at the behest of the governor, George W. Bush."
Alcoa hired Texas law firm Vinson & Elkins to represent Alcoa on environmental issues. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that the firm "contributed more than $200,000 to George W. Bush's presidential campaign, making it the president-elect's third largest donor. In return, Vinson & Elkins got a loophole in Texas environmental regulations that will allow Alcoa to continue pouring 60,000 tons of sulfur dioxide annually into the air, solidifying Alcoa's position as one of Texas' top polluters."
National governments and international lending organizations have subsidized Alcoa's foreign business and boosted its profits while failing to enforce environmental responsibility or require adequate compensation (if such is possible) to populations uprooted or abused by the company. For example, many of the 20,000 people evicted from the island of Sao Luis on Brazil's Tocantins River for an Alcoa refinery and smelter were never compensated (O'Neill earned $36 million in compensation last year), as reported by Terje Langeland in the Colorado Daily. The Machadinho Dam, currently under construction by Brazil and Alcoa (and expecting World Bank loans), will displace 9,000 people. As Treasury Secretary, O'Neill will significantly determine directors and policy at the World Bank and IMF.
Little or nothing in the careers of any of these people hints at recognition of the need for vigorous government leadership in addressing the threat of global warming. Fortunately, there is substantial historical precedent for far-reaching initiatives. The federal and state governments--through expenditures, tax incentives, laws, research or fiat--facilitated railroads and airports, space exploration, computers and the Internet and the telecommunications revolution. Since the United States already leads the world in alternative-energy and related technologies, many American companies could profit enormously from a conversion. But conversion will most readily and with least disruption occur only if leaders embrace with vision and courage something like an Energy Marshall Plan. There are many potentially viable technical and financial options, but Bush's Cabinet choices belie hope of his Administration pursuing any of them.
KELLEN A. CAREY
FULL OF IT?
Thanks for Christopher Hitchens's humorous column about George W. Bush's frequent use of "heart" language to promote his agenda of "compassionate" conservatism ["Minority Report," Feb. 5]. Hitchens applauds the Washington Post's view that the "heart" will be the throbbing organ most favored by the new Administration (in contrast to the one so clearly favored by Clinton). Hitchens also acknowledges that Bush has used this term quite effectively to position himself within the discourse of conservative Christians, whose rhetoric is full of similar appeals to the "heart." Still, Hitchens missed the funniest irony of all: When Bush and his conservative religious allies speak of the "heart," they assign it a meaning inconsistent with biblical usage.
When the New Testament was being written, people had very different ideas about the functions and symbolism of the body's organs. The heart (kardia) was understood to be the center of physical and mental life. The heart, not the head, was the seat of intellect; therefore, a person who claims to be a biblical literalist cannot rightly link the heart with George W. Bush! (It's hard even to write the words "intellect" and "Bush" in the same sentence.)
Fortunately, there is a bodily organ that can be appropriately and accurately linked to Bush in a biblical context. In New Testament times, feelings/emotions were understood to reside in the bowels (splagchna). Compassion, specifically, is said to originate there (see I John 3:17). Well, this makes a lot of sense! When I think of that which emanates from the bowels (given my modern frame of reference), I can easily associate it with Bush and with all he is dumping on the public--especially when he claims to be compassionate. Furthermore, I know how my gut responds to Bush's rhetoric: When I hear it, I feel I need to run--but whether it's for the loo, for office or for cover, I'm not sure.
It feels odd to use New Testament Greek as a tool of ridicule, but I must agree with Hitchens on a final point. As he noted, when we indulge ourselves in the ridiculous, we often awaken to a valid point.
SOA BY ANY OTHER NAME...
Congressman Joe Moakley says that the new name for the infamous School of the Americas, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, is "far more difficult to chant outside the gates" ["In Fact...," Feb. 12]. The name might be--but what a perfect acronym! Whisk Away WHISC! Whisk Away WHISC!
NOT BLESSED IN SALT LAKE CITY
Salt Lake City
The pamphlet Allen Lutins referred to on your January 22 Letters page never received "the blessing" of the Salt Lake City School district. It was published by a parent, acting on his own.
DAPHNE R. WILLIAMS, director
Salt Lake Education Foundation
The following is a forum on Ellen Willis's "Freedom From Religion," which appeared in the February 19 issue.
I am a spiritual man. I believe politics must arise from a spiritual source as well as an ideological one. The great movements in our history have been spiritually motivated, at least in part. I also want the religious institutions engaged in the questions of justice and morality every day of the week.
But there are problems with the new politics of religion about which Ellen Willis writes. One is the danger of the private religious sphere replacing the public sector, a new kind of privatization that is not accountable. The second is that these religion-based projects will be charitable in nature and will not express political rage--because they will be tax-exempt, dependent on government. Third, social programs and movements should be independent of any pressure to adhere to a religious doctrine to qualify.
What is needed is Old Testament rage, not a clerical seizure of the public sector.
Tom Hayden is a former California State Senator.
Ellen Willis makes two intertwined arguments. The first is a forthright defense of the separation of religion and the state, inflamed by George W.'s plan to fund "faith-based" service agencies. The second is a sweeping attack on those liberals and leftists who speak kindly of churches and devout churchgoers, ignoring their undemocratic beliefs and arrogant practices.
Anyone who truly cherishes the First Amendment should indeed be wary of Bush's desire to use tax money to proselytize Americans who are short on money and hope. But it's not only secularists who are concerned. Liberal evangelicals like Jim Wallis and faithful conservatives like Kate O'Beirne worry that manna from the Feds will compromise what Wallis calls the "prophetic voice" of religious bodies. Early in the nineteenth century, the very absence of a state-sanctioned church encouraged Americans to create and follow a wildly heterogeneous variety of creeds (and none at all). People who take their faith seriously would be foolhardy to give up the independence that served them so well in the past.
Willis's broader polemic against "religious orthodoxy" reveals how little she understands the spirituality she abhors. In challenging all manner of received authority, the rebellion of the 1960s also transformed the rituals of many churches and synagogues--and started many young people on a personal search for "meaning" that social movements by themselves could not satisfy. Today, the conflict between the devout left and the devout right--over economic issues like a living wage as well as an acceptance of homosexuality and support for abortion rights--is as intense as the one in which Willis does battle. And it's probably a more significant fight, given the minority of Americans who articulate their moral beliefs in strictly secular ways.
Strangely, Willis never seems to wonder why the "alternative moral vision" grounded firmly in the Enlightenment (which we share) captures few contemporary hearts and minds. The secular left has found nothing to replace the socialist dream and struggles to mount a persuasive challenge to the far-too-worldly gospel of free markets. Karl Marx, no friend of organized religion, nevertheless understood that, for ordinary people, religious faith was "the heart of a heartless world." If Willis hopes to build a more humane society, a bit of empathy for the spiritual choices of ordinary Americans might come in handy.
Michael Kazin's latest book (with Maurice Isserman) is America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s. He teaches history at Georgetown University.
Ellen Willis is right but does not go far enough. Even without Bush's faith-based initiatives the Catholic Church not only demanded but received exemption after exemption from providing the most unexceptional forms of reproductive health. No emergency contraception for women who have been raped. No voluntary postpartum sterilization for women who are having what they hope will be their last child. No fertility treatments for women who would like to have a child.
These services are legally denied by Catholic hospitals and they are often eliminated in secular hospitals that merge with Catholic institutions. Catholic Charities of California has sued the state, seeking an exemption from a state law that requires employers--other than religious institutions engaged in narrowly defined religious activities--to provide contraceptive coverage to its employees. At the same time Catholic Charities nationally receives about 75 percent of its income from government sources. Catholic hospitals receive the bulk of their funding from government sources and tax-exempt bonds.
But the simple claim of conscience by a Catholic institution or the assertion of "church teaching" is enough for most legislators to just give the church whatever it wants as well as tax dollars. There was no national interest in protecting women's consciences when the Clintons included in their health reform package a conscience clause for healthcare provider institutions allowing them to deny any service they deemed immoral and still be eligible for government grants and contracts. Catholics are against this. Eighty-two percent believe that if a Catholic hospital receives government funds it should be required to allow its doctors to provide any legal, medically sound service they believe is needed. But for most legislators the power of the 300 US Catholic bishops is much more important.
For the bishops to try to have their cake and eat it too is politics as usual. For ultraconservative Catholic groups to claim that any criticism of the Catholic Church is Catholic-bashing is part of the game. For our leaders, Democratic and Republican, to keep serving them more cake is unconscionable.
Frances Kissling is president of Catholics for a Free Choice.
New York City
The First Amendment was enacted not merely to keep the state off the back of religion. One of its prime functions was to keep religions off one another's back and to stop them from using the state as their agent.
Let us not imagine that this problem has long vanished. Two or three years ago, I was supposed to share a platform with John Cardinal O'Connor on the subject of Jewish/Catholic relations at the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York. The Cardinal was so ill he sent his speechwriter to read his remarks. I responded then, and later in an Op-Ed in the New York Times, by asking a very direct question: What would happen to my religious liberty as a rabbi if the campaign by the Roman Catholic hierarchy and the evangelical Protestants to outlaw abortion completely and under all circumstances passed into American law? As a rabbi, I am commanded--not permitted, but commanded--to advise a pregnant mother whose life is in danger that she must have an abortion. On the question of who comes first, the mother or the unborn child, Judaism, even its most Orthodox versions, insists that the mother's right to life is pre-eminent. The ultimate aim of the "pro-life" believers is to outlaw abortion completely. It is thus an attack on my religion. The First Amendment of the Constitution was enacted to make sure that I would not meet a triumphant collection of cardinals and bishops, and evangelical preachers, celebrating a victory of "natural law," as they interpret it, over the Talmud.
Even more fundamental, the notion that morality is safe only in the hands of the religions does not stand in the face of historical evidence. No society in which a church was dominant has ever emancipated the Jews. In the past two centuries or so, Jews have achieved political equality in the West, but everywhere, without exception, the forces that granted this freedom were fought by the majority religions. The major faiths of the world have learned, or are still learning, to live with one another as equals, but not because they have had new revelations from on high. On the contrary, this kinder and gentler aspect of their natures has been evoked by mercantilism and then by the Enlightenment, that is, by the very secular forces from which we would supposedly be saved by the major religious traditions in the name of their superior morality. In our day Roman Catholics and Orthodox have been slaughtering one another in the Balkans, and joining in the murder of Muslims, in the name of religion, and Muslims in the region have been no kinder. It is not self-evident that we will be cured of our ills if there is more control of public life by the various faiths.
In my ears, a recent statement by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the contemporary keeper of orthodoxy in the Roman Catholic Church, continues to ring. He pronounced non-Christians to be "defective people." Pope John Paul II, despite some urging, did not disavow this assertion. I would suggest that those who want to cure our ills by asking for a return to "that old-time religion" need to be made to examine very closely what they are calling on our society to affirm.
Arthur Hertzberg, Bronfman Visiting Professor of the Humanities at New York University, is the author, most recently, of Jews: The Essence and Character of a People. He is currently working on a memoir.
Ellen Willis and I share much in common: our disdain for the religious right, our distrust of the Bush Administration's motives behind its new "faith-based" solutions--and our complete and unbending opposition to those religious claims that, when acted out, bring real and substantial harm to those whose views are not the same.
But Willis can't stop there--and yet should have, because taken as a whole her essay is so utterly lacking in historical understanding of religion's roles in America, so devoid of nuance in recognizing the immense varieties of experience, belief and religiously inspired political action, and ultimately so intolerant that she ends up willfully blind to the freedom-, justice- and equality-creating contributions religious ideals, language and actors have made to American life. Bereft of that, she disqualifies herself from being taken seriously. Her ideas, for example, that American religion perforce relies on "absolute truth" while "democracy, by contrast, depends on the Enlightenment values of freedom and equality," and that democracy has thrived here because it has "preserved relatively clear boundaries between public and private," and thereby kept "conflict between secularism and religion...to a minimum," mean she's never read Tocqueville or Perry Miller or Gordon Wood or Sydney Ahlstrom or Kevin Phillips's recent Cousins' Wars on religion's centrality in creating and sustaining our democracy, nor even vaguely begins to understand why and what divides American Christianity over literalist, inerrantist and historical/critical readings of the Bible itself--or why it's important to American politics.
Telling us that unless religion stays a chastely private "matter of personal conscience," it almost always and everywhere breeds intolerance that threatens democracy itself means Willis has never read Eugene Genovese on evangelical Christianity's emancipatory and sustaining role in the lives of African-American slaves. Certain that any religiously based assertion of a public voice serves power and bigotry means she's never read Herbert Gutman on faith's role in the lives of early industrial workers and how it helped them fight for unions and fair treatment before the law. Busy doing other things, apparently she's never picked up Lincoln's Second Inaugural or ever glanced through the private journals of Union soldiers who in their faith found the courage and reason to destroy slavery. Convinced that religion enforces only sexual and gender orthodoxies, she can't imagine why religiously organized colleges were the first to admit women or provide them advanced professional training.
In seeking to assure us that the best of all possible democratic worlds is one in which we enjoy "freedom from religion," she leaves us with no coherent explanation of what inspired the abolitionist movement, or early suffragists, or the temperance movement, or how the Progressive Era emerged. She gives us no way to understand why US Catholic bishops endorsed extensive worker ownership of the means of production in 1919 or why Father John Ryan was known as "Father New Deal," or how as Hitler rose to power in the 1930s, Jewish and mainline Protestant leaders worked together successfully to transform the then-common references to America as a "Christian nation" into a "Judeo-Christian" one, or how theologians like Paul Tillich and Reinhold Niebuhr led the early homefront mobilizations against Hitler well before Kristallnacht, let alone World War II.
Closer to the present day, Willis leaves us no way to affirm how the Kings and Abernathys and Lewises as well as the Berrigans and Coffins and Coxes and Hines--and the millions of white and black Americans--who found in their religious faith the reasons to battle racism and segregation or the horrors of the Vietnam War. Nor does she help us understand what, in the 1980s, sent Catholic nuns and Quakers and thousands of other religious Americans to Nicaragua and El Salvador and Guatemala, or inspired the Catholic bishops' pastoral letters on nuclear arms or on economic justice. Nor can she tell us why it is religious groups today that are in the forefront of the anti-death penalty movement, or living-wage campaigns, or massive debt relief for impoverished Third World nation campaigns, or why they were the principal supporters of reuniting Elián González with his father.
Nuanced when it comes to explaining the aesthetic behind Andres Serrano's Piss Christ, Ellen offers only unnuanced contempt to those she derides as "the earnest centrists and liberals who are doing [the] dirty work" of Bush and the Christian right by thinking religion has an important role to play in America's public and political life. Wrong in her history, wrong in her analysis, she is wrong in her judgments.
But how could she not be wrong? Living in a country where more than 90 percent of its citizens have always told pollsters they believe in the existence of God, Willis cannot see which traditions therein speak for justice, and those against, which seek freedom, and which do not, which love democracy and which do not--let alone how to build a progressive politics that can build on the shared values of the secular and religious alike. Blind, Willis cannot see; deaf, she cannot hear.
Led by this kind of thinking, progressivism should stop pretending even to be political--and settle permanently into the sort of dinner-table rant Willis's essay represents.
Richard Parker teaches on religion, politics and public policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Ellen Willis refers to a Joe Lieberman speech in which he mentions an incident after a talk I gave at Harvard on religion and public life. I don't know where Lieberman heard the story, but he got it wrong. Let me give the true account as a way of responding to Willis's piece. At an informal gathering of left intellectuals in the Harvard/Boston community discussing faith and politics, I was asked, "But Jim, what about the Inquisition?" I was a little surprised by the question, after laying out the history of progressive religion's contribution to myriad movements for social reform. I replied, "Well, I was against it at the time--and I am still opposed to it. Now unless you want me to raise Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge every time you bring up national health insurance, why don't we move on to a better conversation." The questioner smiled, got the point, and we did move into quite an intelligent discussion between religious and nonreligious progressives about common concerns. It's too bad that Willis missed the opportunity to do that.
In my own religious upbringing, I heard many people equating anybody on the liberal left with the most oppressive and totalitarian of regimes. But when I became involved in civil rights, antiwar and other social-justice movements, I discovered many people on the left quite committed to democracy, pluralism and human rights. It was quite comforting. Apparently, Ellen Willis hasn't yet figured out that there are religious people committed to the same things. She thinks we are all committed, instead, to special privileges for religion in the political arena. I guess she doesn't get out much, or hasn't bothered to read her history, or just can't bear realities that don't fit her pre-conceived ideological agendas.
It is tedious the way that "secular fundamentalists" like Willis continue to caricature and belittle religion and people of faith. Ellen, we are indeed motivated by our faith to seek justice and peace. But in the public arena, we don't make arguments based on others' accepting the "absolute truth" of our faith. We make cases appropriate to a pluralistic society. King's vision of the "beloved community" came directly from his biblical faith, but he argued for civil rights and voting rights on the basis of what was good and right for a democracy. Many of us make similar claims in similar ways all the time, even if it is faith that compels us to do so.
It's also very old and, frankly, politically stupid, to keep repeating the abuses of religion as if religious people didn't know or even agree. Yes, their owners gave the Bible to black slaves to turn their eyes toward heaven and away from their earthly plight. But in that same book, the slaves found Moses and Jesus, who helped inspire their liberation struggle. Some of us have been among the chief critics of oppressive religion for years but, at the same time, have lifted up its progressive practice and potential. Do we really need to keep reciting that progressive religious history? I think the Ellen Willises must know it and just choose not to pay any attention. Nothing will keep the secular left more irrelevant in America. Martin Luther King Jr. neither hid nor imposed his religion but rather used it as a social resource to transform America. That's exactly what many of us are doing today. And you know what, we don't need The Nation's permission to do so.
Jim Wallis is editor of Sojourners magazine, author of Faith Works and convener of Call to Renewal, a federation of faith-based organizations working to overcome poverty.
New York City
I applaud Ellen Willis's smartly reasoned critique and agree heartily about the dangers such politics present to democratic and feminist values. Two points that Willis neglects, however, show a more complicated view of the bipartisan, pro-religion landscape we face in the Bush II era.
My first point has to do with the link between the culture wars and macroeconomics. It is surely true that religious groups and politicians across the spectrum (from Jim Wallis and Floyd Flake to the Christian Coalition and the Vatican) are rushing to legitimize public support for "faith-based programs" in order to reclaim moral authority and "a privileged role in shaping social values." But the struggle over sexuality, gender definitions, parental control and popular culture is also tied to the struggle over public resources. At the macroeconomic level, the newassertiveness of religious institutions as stakeholders in the polity takes place in the larger context of globalization and the rapid privatization of social services formerly provided by the state.
Privatization wears many faces, including those of the so-called nonprofit as well as the corporate profit-making sector. In the United States, for example, Catholic/non-Catholic hospital mergers have proceeded at a nearly geometric pace since the mid-1990s, according to a series of studies by Catholics for a Free Choice. The result is that in numerous counties across the country, Catholic hospitals that systematically deny essential reproductive health services are the only provider hospitals in town. Likewise, with the attack on public schools and universities and erosion of their resources, parochial schools come to be seen--and advertise themselves in full-page New York Times ads--as a better-quality "choice" for poor black and Latino as well as middle-class children. All this is about not only control over social and sexual values but also the grab for tax dollars and the marketization of religious institutions. The strategic implications are clear: Progressives fighting for "freedom from religion" need to ally with groups opposing privatization in education and health.
My second point has to do with the potential constituency for such an opposition movement and carries a more optimistic note. I was the daughter of an observant Reform Jewish family who grew up in the heart of the conservative Christian, anticommunist Bible Belt in the 1950s. When I try to trace the roots of my liberal and left radicalism in later years, I find their earliest core in the alienation and anger I felt in public schools where Christian symbols and "Athletes for Christ" were compulsory fare and religion not only defined who you were but was itself defined in evangelical Christian terms. The resurgence of religiosity in politics today may pretend to be stylishly multicultural, but if the sanctimonious Joe Lieberman is any indicator, we can be sure that "correct" religion--and correct "faith-based programs" for the public coffers--will represent the Judeo-Christian mainstream. Even Willis neglects to mention Muslims, Hindus, Parsis, Buddhists and so on in her comments about devaluing the citizenship of "others." And her persistence in using "church" as a generic substitute for religion only underscores the ubiquity of certain exclusionary assumptions in the dominant political discourse.
My optimism comes from my childhood experience in a similarly conservative era. I predict that the movement to institutionalize and fund "faith-based programs" by the state will create its dialectical opposite. Not only secularists and Jews but a whole generation of immigrant young people--Indians, Vietnamese, Egyptians, Pakistanis--will become radicalized toward secular antiracist feminisms and the left. The sexual dimensions of religious politics (e.g., funding for "abstinence-only" sex education), whose importance Willis rightly emphasizes, will only intensify their fervor.
ROSALIND POLLACK PETECHESKY
Rosalind Pollack Petchesky, professor of political science and women's studies at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY, is the author of Abortion and Woman's Choice and the forthcoming Women and Global Power.
As an ordained Baptist minister and former pastor, I largely agree with Willis's principled and spirited defense of democratic secularism. But I've got a few bones to pick, only a couple of which I'll address here. While both left and right critics in their arguments about religion and politics often use the example of the black church, few ever get it just right, including Willis. She charges Stephen Carter with rewriting history by equating "the civil rights movement with Martin Luther King Jr. and the black church." To be sure, a lot of folk outside the black church were involved in that movement, but the central, even defining, influence of black religion on the civil rights struggle can't be missed. Counterposing "secular activists" like Rosa Parks--a devout Methodist--and John Lewis--an ordained minister--to black church activists is a serious misreading of just how much the gospel of freedom influenced many religious blacks who were leaders and foot soldiers in the NAACP, CORE and SNCC.
Unlike the Christian right, black Christian activists have mainly resisted the impulse to make ours a Christian nation. Martin Luther King Jr. and other black Christians were inspired by their religious beliefs to fight for equality and freedom for all citizens, even those who did not share their religion. That's why King opposed school prayer. He didn't want the state telling anyone that they had to pray, or whom to pray to, even if it turned out to be the God he worshiped. King understood the genius of secularism: It allows all religions to coexist without any one religion--or religion at all--being favored. Plus, King had a healthy skepticism about the white church, which lent theological credence to slavery and Jim Crow. He sided with the state against the church when the former intervened to keep white Christians from bombing black churches.
But Willis could also learn the skepticism that King and many black Christians had for the Enlightenment. Reason proved no better than religion in regulating the moral behavior of bigots. And proclaiming a devotion to freedom and equality meant nothing if black folk weren't even viewed as human beings worthy of enjoying these goods, either by religious whites or enlightened secularists. For many black folk, it wasn't whether white folk were religious or secular that mattered; it was whether they were just or not. To paraphrase Jesus, Willis and the rest of us should not only see the bad trees in religion's eye, but spot the forest that plagues the secularist's vision as well.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON
Michael Eric Dyson, the Ida B. Wells-Barnett University Professor at DePaul University, is the author of I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr. (Touchstone).
New York City
Richard Parker, Michael Kazin and Jim Wallis all ignore what I actually said and impute to me views I don't hold--some of which my article explicitly disclaims. I did not write a broadside attack on religion or religious people but an argument against the current broadside attack on secularism and secularists, particularly the claim that secular society is antidemocratic and violates believers' rights. While quarreling with the notion that religion is the sole or primary inspiration of social movements--which writes secular activists out of history--I acknowledge the political contributions of the religious left, the common interests of religious and secular leftists, and the fact that many religious progressives oppose the antisecularist politics I criticize. Far from expressing abhorrence of spirituality, as Kazin charges, I note that in our postpsychedelic age many people who favor a secular society and are not religious in the conventional sense have their own conceptions of the quest for transcendence. (I include myself in that category.)
I do not, as Parker suggests, claim that religion has had no influence on American democracy--or American democracy on religion. Nor do I argue that religious and democratic sentiments are mutually exclusive. My contention that there is "an inherent tension" between the two is a response to the argument made by Stephen Carter and others that a democratic government should make special accommodations to religious belief because of its absolute nature. To recognize a tension, however, is not to deny the existence of efforts to transcend or reconcile it. In an odd misapprehension, Parker has me saying democracy has thrived by preserving clear boundaries between public and private, thereby minimizing conflict between secularism and religion. My point is essentially the opposite: that minimizing religious-secular conflict depen ded on confining the practice of democracy to a narrowly construed public, political sphere, and that the spread of democratic principles to "private" life--especially sex, gender and childrearing--has greatly intensified the conflict. Parker ought to do a better job of reading before presuming to lecture me on the supposed gaps in my bibliography.
I don't dispute Michael Eric Dyson on the centrality of the church to the civil rights movement, but would argue that secular ideas and organizations were also important. In fact, one laudable function of the Southern black church during the civil rights era, as with the Catholic Church in Poland in the 1980s, was to give shelter and space to a diverse assortment of dissidents, religious or not. I agree that secularists have no monopoly on morality or clear vision. As part of another group not considered fully human, I've experienced the gap between the profession of Enlightenment principles and their practice. But it's only because the principles exist that I can demand that they apply to me.
Pace Tom Hayden, I believe the only truly radicalizing force is people's desire to change their own lives for the better. In my experience, moral outrage all too quickly becomes self-righteous authoritarianism.
Thanks to Frances Kissling, Rosalind Petchesky and Arthur Hertzberg for their valuable additions and to Wallis for supplying the context of Joe Lieberman's use of his remarks.
THE SUITES & THE SWEATS
New York City
In "Economists vs. Students" [Feb. 12], Liza Featherstone and Doug Henwood cheer on students who demand that garments bearing their college's logo be made under decent conditions. The students are right. These garments cost enough to enable employers to pay wages sufficient to meet the basic needs of their workers. Indeed, the economic argument is stronger than the one the authors present. Better-paid, better-educated, healthy workers are more productive, more likely to stay longer and produce better-quality products that benefit the bottom line.
Unfortunately this article, lauding people who fight to improve the plight of workers, misrepresents a code of conduct with the same goals and an effective implementation record: SA8000, the Social Accountability International standard for decent working conditions, and its independent verification system. This information is readily available on SAI's website, www.sa-intl.org.
(1) SA8000 is not led by multinationals. Half the SA8000 advisory board is composed of public interest organizations and trade unions from around the world. These include Amnesty International, trade unions representing 25 million workers (many in the developing world), the National Child Labor Committee, the Maquila Solidarity Network and the comptroller of New York City. Professor Jagdish Bhagwati did once serve on the SA8000 advisory board but does not currently.
(2) Audits of certified factories are by no means "sporadic." On the contrary, they are scheduled at regular six-month intervals. SA8000 auditors are highly trained. Furthermore, the training is and will continue to be regularly evaluated and improved. Far from being superficial, the SA8000 audits require an unusual depth of investigation and worker interviews. Public reports are an SA8000 requirement.
(3) The SA8000 factory cited in the article, where auditors did get bamboozled by a management cover-up, had its certification suspended in a fraction of the time it takes for legal remedies, at zero cost to those who brought the complaint. The loss of its certificate puts it at high risk of losing at least one of its largest customers, so it is under considerable pressure to reform. The certification body that issued the SA8000 certificate has been required to significantly improve its audit procedures. This is prima facie evidence of a system that works.
(4) China is, indeed, "not a friendly environment for independent union organizing," since the right to organize is severely restricted by law, and civil society is virtually nonexistent--and often violently repressed--there. Rates for limbs lost to industrial accidents in parts of China are appallingly high, just one indicator of the cost to workers. Yet 70 percent of toys are made in China, as well as dominant portions of garment manufacture. The 1.2 billion people of China deserve a genuine effort to improve their lot. Where freedom of association is prohibited by law, SA8000 states that employers must provide "parallel means" for free association, such as: a worker-elected SA8000 representative and committees for health and safety, wage negotiations, literacy and complaints and resolutions.
In a world with much exploitation by employers, those who are ardently seeking to change working conditions for the better should work together rather than snipe at one another.
ALICE TEPPER MARLIN, president
Social Accountability International
FEATHERSTONE & HENWOOD REPLY
New York City
Nowhere do we say that SAI is "led by multinationals"; we quote an outside observer who calls it a "PR tool for multinationals," a characterization repeated by many sources. Watching Alice Tepper Marlin fawn over a Toys 'R' Us exec at the SAI conference this past December lent considerable credence to this view. On the advisory board, business members outnumber labor members by more than two to one (not counting the New York City comptroller, who manages one of the world's largest stock portfolios).
Inspections every six months sounds reassuring, but scheduled at predictable intervals and announced in advance, they're unlikely to expose abuses. Snap visits would be much more effective. We're happy to hear that the offending factory eventually lost its certification, but it's troubling that it got approved in the first place; auditors are supposed to see through managers' attempts at bamboozlement. SAI's auditor on the scene, Det Norske Veritas, told the South China Morning Post that it's impossible to do reliable audits in China: "The factories always manage to find a way around the auditors." We're also happy SAI is broadly trying to improve the lot of workers in China, but certifying factories there implies that they meet the criteria of free association in SAI's high-minded code, which they clearly do not. We don't see how "parallel means," whatever they are (and they sound like company unions), could possibly be a substitute for independent organizing.
As for Tepper Marlin's "economic argument," we're always amused when NGO directors suggest they know more about running businesses than managers. If profits are fatter when workers are well paid and well fed, why are there so many miserably exploited people in the world? Businesses pay higher wages only when they're forced to.
'GO TO IT, O JAZZMEN'
Why put up with all the punditry and spiel in Ken Burns's Jazz [Gene Santoro, "All That Jazz," Jan. 29], when the photos, film clips and musical sequences are so wonderful? After all, this is the digital age of free-for-all pirating of images and sound. Just record each episode of Jazz on your VCR (fess up...you're already doing that, aren't you?). Then acquire cheap (or even free) digital video-editing software for your home computer. Load the footage onto your hard drive. Then eliminate the interminable "talking heads" (I'd get rid of all the Wynton Marsalis and keep most of the Gary Giddins, some Stanley Crouch and a few other odds and ends). Assemble your favorite clips into the sequences you like (say, a full hour of Louis Armstrong photos, film clips and music). You can do this over and over again in whatever order you like. In fact, it's this kind of cut and paste that makes up Burns's filmmaking technique, no?
Gene Santoro makes a minor factual error in his review of Ken Burns's Jazz. Burns's Baseball does not stop in 1970. An entire episode is devoted to post-1970 developments. I was on the film's advisory board. There's a segment on the 1986 World Series, when Boston was one out away from the championship in game six but lost to the Mets on a wild pitch and an error. At the final preview screening my friend Ken, a die-hard Red Sox fan, left the room. He still couldn't bear to look.
BERNARD A. WEISBERGER
New York City
My slip is showing, but it's Freudian. Baseball's final episode was as much of a mess as Jazz's.
New York City
I love Calvin Trillin's poems. Who could forget "Norm, Norm, big as a dorm" and "Al D'Amato, sleazeball obbligato"? Brilliant! But this Nader thing has got to stop ["Silver Linings," Jan. 22]. Nader took votes from Gore, sure, but he also got Republican, libertarian and independent votes. Yet somehow these votes, as opposed to Democrats who voted for G. Dubya, made the difference. I don't buy it. Meanwhile, the "liberal" Joe Biden, who voted to confirm Antonin Scalia and who couldn't stop eleven colleagues from defecting for Clarence Thomas, supported John Ashcroft at first. Hmm... What rhymes with Delaware--nice new hair? Cynically aware? We'll decide what's fair? Spines in us are rare?
Nader, an important voice, like Trillin's own, has informed so many about so much for so long. Basta!
CHRIS PEDRO TRAKAS
Cherry Hill, N.J.
Calvin Trillin has a gift
For skewering those with whom he's miffed.
His caustic rhyming the right wing singes,
As he goes snark-hunting in their fringes.
His targets tend to represent
Insiders of the Establishment.
Which is why I wonder at his pique
At Ralph O'Green, who had the cheek
To charge both parties with selling out
To corporate cash and controlling clout.
Trillin's focus seems less than keen
When he waxes snide at Ralph O'Green.
Ashcroft, Whitman, Norton and Watt
Mr. Trillin has bones to pick with this lot.
I agree with his gripes; they mirror mine,
But why blame Nader for Dems' lack of spine?
50 Dems ignored the Black Caucus ordeal
(Senate fetes might lose their warm feel).
I know why he puts blame on Nader alone:
It's easier than rhyming 50 names in a poem.