Cape May Courthouse, N.J.
Alexander Cockburn should show respect for, and knowledge of, the facts. In his May 7 "Beat the Devil" column, "Justice Scotched in Lockerbie Trial," he shows neither.
He starts by praising a report critical of the trial presented to a conference of the Arab League by Hans Koechler, whom he describes as "a distinguished Austrian philosopher." Distinguished for what? Certainly not for his knowledge of Scottish law. Koechler's report is bizarre. He doesn't even seem to know that in a Scottish court the judges do not introduce evidence. Koechler proposes that there was a conspiracy to convict Libyans, which included the United States, Britain, the Scottish court and even the Libyans' defense lawyers. Koechler has wandered out onto the grassy knoll, and Cockburn is trotting right along behind him.
Koechler was "one of five international observers at the trial" appointed by Kofi Annan. He was a representative of something called the International Progress Organization. A second observer appointed from the same organization was Robert Thabit. Koechler acknowledges that he worked with Thabit. Shortly before his appointment as trial observer Thabit had been a lawyer for Libya's UN mission. Cockburn was either unaware of this or just forgot to mention it.
Cockburn characterizes the testimony of Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci--who was supposed to identify one of the accused Libyans as the man who bought clothes found in the bomb bag in his shop--as so confused he could barely recognize the accused when he was pointed out in court. We would bet a considerable sum that Cockburn didn't see the Gauci testimony. We did. He was an excellent witness, clearly a man trying his best to accurately describe an event that had taken place over a decade earlier. Not only did he point out the accused Libyan in court, he picked him out of a lineup ("parade," the Scots call it) shortly before the trial opened. In 1991 Gauci picked out a photo of the accused as the man resembling the purchaser of the clothes from twelve photos shown him. Earlier, in 1989, Gauci assisted a police artist in preparing a sketch and in compiling an image of the purchaser. Both images looked strikingly like the accused Libyan looked at the time. This also seems to have escaped Cockburn's notice.
Cockburn says that prosecutors produced "a document" indicating that a bag from Air Malta was loaded onto Pan Am 103 at Frankfurt. Actually, there were two documents: They were the baggage-loading records from Frankfurt. Cockburn counters that there was "firm evidence from the defense" that all bags from the Air Malta flight had been accounted for. The defense presented no evidence at all on that point. It just said that all the bags had been accounted for, and even Cockburn must be aware that evidence is not what comes out of a lawyer's mouth.
That's an impressive number of errors for a short column. The Lockerbie trial was long and complicated, and there was a ton of evidence. Cockburn may know this, but he doesn't care. He appears to believe that if there is evil in the world, the United States is behind it. He can truly paraphrase "the terrible Lord Braxfield": "Let them bring me Americans, and I'll fiddle the facts."
Parents of Theodora Cohen, murdered in the terrorist bombing of Pam Am 103
I don't expect to agree with every Nation article, but I do expect meticulously accurate facts. I can address only some of Alexander Cockburn's most flagrant falsifications here. He thinks "the prosecution's case absolutely depended on proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Megrahi was the man who bought the clothes" used in the lethal suitcase from a Maltese shop owner. He also claims that "in nineteen separate statements to police prior to the trial the shopkeeper, Tony Gauci, had failed to make a positive identification of Megrahi" and that "Gauci was asked five times if he recognized anyone in the courtroom. No answer. Finally, the exasperated prosecutor pointed [out the accused].... 'the best that Gauci could do was to mumble that 'he resembled him.'"
Gauci did not mumble when he identified Megrahi--the first time he was asked to do so in court. The only number five that can reliably be associated with Megrahi is the number 5 he wore in the police lineup in April 1999 when Gauci pointed him out as the man who came into his shop in December 1988. The number nineteen is the number of photographs Gauci was initially asked to look at on September 14, 1999, in police headquarters in Floriana, Malta. As for the correct number of times Gauci actually met with police and looked at photographs, according to the Opinion of the Court, it seems to be six.
What is Cockburn's source? My sources for the facts are: the transcript of the testimony Gauci gave on July 11, 2000; the Opinion of the Court delivered by Lord Sutherland on January 31, 2001; my transcribed remarks of a speech Alistair Campbell, QC, gave when he spoke to the US families in Baltimore on March 5, 2001, during the posttrial briefings of the crown team; and the recollections of other family members who heard that testimony.
Cockburn seems unaware that the prosecution's case against Megrahi was also based on the coded passport issued to him by the Libyan Security Service, the ESO, for which Megrahi worked; the tickets for every flight he took; the records of every hotel he stayed at in Malta in December 1988. Nor does he seem aware that the prosecution team was able to use Megrahi's own words against him by playing the film interview he gave to Pierre Salinger in 1991, in which he lied about his ESO membership and denied staying in the Holiday Inn, Malta, December 20, 1988. Megrahi used his false passport five times in 1987. The next time he used it was December 20-21, 1988, to travel to and from Malta and Tripoli. He never used it again.
I have a passionate need to see justice done in the murder of my husband, Tony Hawkins, and 269 other souls. The evidence as revealed in the Lockerbie trial has convinced me that: 1. The debris trail from Lockerbie leads to Libya; 2. These two men are guilty of assembling the bomb and starting it on its journey; 3. They were not mere soldiers taking the rap for the higher-ups; 4. That of the two, Megrahi was clearly in charge of this operation, Fhimah providing the necessary assistance and access to Air Malta; 5. They clearly did not act on their own without the complete assistance and approval of the Libyan government, i.e., Qaddafi.
What was incomprehensible was not the guilty verdict but the not guilty verdict. It should have been not proven. The case against Fhimah was not as strong as that against Megrahi. I don't know who Cockburn believes to be responsible for this act of terrorism, but he shouldn't use his column to create confusion about this case or to increase the suffering of the families who are still fighting for justice for the people they love.
Editor, Truth Quest (newsletter published by The Victims of Pan Am Flight 103)
For years the Cohens described the Scottish media in extremely unflattering terms, sending multiple faxes to editors if they even suspected a publication was going to challenge "the official version." Thus, in July 1991, they protested the possible inclusion of the Syrian flag among those of other Gulf War coalition members at a Washington victory parade, on the grounds that the Syrian government had murdered their daughter (the favored line of official US leakers at that time). When Washington decided to shift the blame to Libya they became no less clamant in their denunciations of Qaddafi and indeed of anyone, like distinguished Scottish law professor Robert Black, who attempted to negotiate an agreement under which the two Libyans could stand trial in a neutral country. Certainly, the group of US relatives suing Libya for some $4 billion as responsible for the bombing has every reason to dislike any questioning of the verdict.
Hans Koechler is indeed a distinguished Austrian philosopher who by now probably knows a lot more about Scottish law than the Cohens. Those sitting through the entire trial in Zeist, Holland (which the Cohens, contrary to their misleading insinuation, attended a relatively sparse number of times), recall that Koechler was present for almost the entire proceedings. Thus Koechler may know, as the Cohens do not, that while Scottish judges cannot introduce evidence, they can rule on what evidence is or is not admitted.
Less prejudiced critics might pause to reflect that, since they had brought the indictments, there obviously was a conspiracy by the US and British governments to convict the Libyans. Collusion in such an agreement by the judges and the defense, William Taylor QC (counsel for Megrahi), can only be inferred, but it is not absurd for Koechler to make that inference. The judges found Megrahi guilty solely on the basis of some very shaky circumstantial evidence, and the normally tigerish Taylor, in the opinion of many legal observers, put up an astonishingly feeble performance in his crucial cross-examination of Tony Gauci, the only witness who could link Megrahi to the suitcase bomb. Nevertheless, Gauci was hardly "an excellent witness." Engelhardt has no basis in claiming only six meetings between police and Gauci, who was interviewed by innumerable Scottish, US and Maltese law enforcement groups, as well as prosecution and defense lawyers. On a reasonable count, the number of such interviews goes well into the double digits. The judges themselves admitted in their verdict, "On the matter of identification of the first accused, there are undoubtedly problems," and "We accept of course that he never made what could be described as an absolutely positive identification."
In fact, when Gauci gave evidence on July 11 last year, he was asked several times by the crown counsel if he could identify anyone in the court as the man who had bought the clothes from his shop that were later found in the suitcase containing the bomb. He failed to do so, and only when asked if the person sitting next to the policeman in the dock was the man in question did he grudgingly reply: "He resembles him a lot." On an earlier occasion, when shown a photograph of Mohammed Abu Talb, a Palestinian terrorist whom the defense contended was the real bomber, Gauci used almost the same words, declaring, according to his brother, that Talb "resembles" the clothes buyer "a lot." Gauci's identification of Megrahi at the identity parade just before the opening of the trial was with the words "not exactly the man I saw in the shop. Ten years ago I saw him, but the man who look [sic] a little bit like is the number 5" (Megrahi).
It is highly likely that the evidence of identification of Megrahi, its unsatisfactory nature and the comments by the trial judges will bulk large in the appeal this coming fall. However Gauci's testimony may have later appeared in a transcript or on a video recording, two relatives who were physically present at the courtroom testimony have confided that they found Gauci far from confident in his identification.
Whether Megrahi had a false passport, or stayed in Maltese hotels, or was there on December 20-21, 1988, is irrelevant--grassy knoll territory, if you will. Is there evidence that links him to the bomb? That's the sole pertinent issue. That's why Gauci's testimony is crucial. As I noted above, even the judges admitted that identification was squishy. As for Fhimah, the judges would doubtless have preferred to opt for a "not proven" verdict, but there was no evidence of any sort against him, apart from testimony of the prosecution's supergrass Giaka, who was on the CIA's payroll before, during and after the bombing, but who failed to mention the alleged role of Megrahi and Fhimah in the bombing to his paymasters until 1991. Even the judges called him a liar. The prosecution described Fhimah in indictments and thereafter, up until almost the end of the trial, as a Libyan intelligence agent, then dropped the accusation.
As far as the baggage is concerned, the prosecution's sole achievement was to demonstrate that it was theoretically possible for a bag from the Air Malta flight to have found its way onto the Pan Am flight from Frankfurt to London that connected to Flight 103. The fact remains that there is no conclusive evidence that this transfer occurred. When Granada TV broadcast a documentary asserting such a transfer as a fact, Air Malta sued and extracted damages.
New York City
Win McCormack's sophisticated examination of conservative tactics in the last election was fascinating ["Deconstructing the Election," March 26]. Such sophistication is not necessary to an understanding of conservative intellectual resilience in defending the interests of the dominant economic powers. 'Twas ever thus. There is only one consistency in conservative analysis of the role of government: It is to follow its historical role of protecting the dominant interests and transferring wealth from those who have little to those who have much.
I'm glad the web-based version of your magazine is free. Otherwise I'd be forced to ask for a refund, not to mention punitive damages for the waste of my time (and, undoubtedly, a number of brain cells) caused by reading this article. I'll spare you my opinions and critique. Let's just paraphrase Foucault and say that this is the kind of writing that gives bullshit a bad name.
I am sympathetic with Win McCormack's applying poststructural analysis to the presidential election, but he makes a glaring mistake. The quote he attributes to Michel Foucault, that Derrida is "the kind of philosopher who gives bullshit a bad name," was in fact uttered by UC Berkeley professor John Searle, who made the statement in a 1983 article in the New York Times Book Review.
New Haven, Conn.
I hope I may be pardoned if I quibble, in prepostmodern fashion, over a minor point. I have it on good authority that the wonderful remark on Derrida being the sort of philosopher "who gives bullshit a bad name" comes not from Foucault but from Richard Rorty. But, of course, if the interpretation and recounting of all "texts" really is indeterminate, it perhaps doesn't matter all that much anyway.
JOSHUA L. CHERNISS
The "bullshit" quote is postmodernly elusive. Richard Rorty is fairly certain he never said it. John Searle admits to using it but not to originating it. In his article, McCormack relied on the rarely correct Dinesh D'Souza, who attributed it to Foucault. Scholars pronounce it "un-Foucauldian."
St. Peter, Minn.
I enjoyed Win McCormack's review of the Florida debacle and appreciate seeing the crisscrossing issues brought together in one place. But I was annoyed by his harping on "irony" and hints that Baker & Co. were secret advocates of the "postmodernism" Lynne Cheney castigates. Two errors: 1. Foucault's rejection of objective neutrality is premised on the principle that there's no such thing as objectivity independent of somebody's constructive work--nothing counts as "neutrality" in that sense; rising above subjectivity is an essential impossibility, not one based on human fallibility. This isn't at all the same as James Baker's claim that people are fallible and cannot arrive at objective truth, which nevertheless exists and is better approximated by nonpartisan machines than biased people.
2. There's nothing ironic about Republicans behaving the way they say they don't. It's a nifty example of Foucault's power theory, but you'd hardly expect Lynne Cheney to embrace Foucault. Not unless you find it "ironic" that capitalists are still behaving the way Marx said they do even as they pronounce Marxism dead and discredited. That's what Marx said they'd do. Lynne Cheney writes in a way Foucault anticipates even as she attempts to discredit him. Nothing ironic there.
RICHARD A. HILBERT
Win McCormack's article reminded me of Nixon winning elections by calling his opponents communists and later saying he knew they weren't communists but he had to win. As someone who was at the Inauguration protests in Washington and in several other protests, I was especially interested in the parts about the paid Republican protesters in Florida. I encountered Republican protesters here at the governor's mansion during the election fiasco--nasty, horrible, meanspirited people. When we protested the presence of the Fortune 500 group and Vicente Fox at U Texas, we were held back by a horrifying force of police in riot gear. Our protest community is notoriously peaceful, but no one was protecting us. The police got to try out their new toys--like rubber bullets--against some college students at Mardi Gras, causing several injuries and terrifying us all. Despite strong objections at a city council meeting, the police got a large raise, a toothless oversight committee, no civilian review and were sent on a junket to Seattle to learn crowd control! If we protesters had tried anything nearly as threatening as what Republicans staged in Florida, the police would have caused a bloodbath, and the media would have blamed us.
Win McCormack effectively conveys the tendentiousness, hypocrisy and even demagogy that characterized the Republicans' strategy in Florida. But I take exception to his claim that we require Foucault's concept of "a battle among discourses" to properly understand this historical event. Tendentiousness, hypocrisy and demagogy have characterized political rhetoric since well before the birth of poststructuralist philosophy. They have been analyzed with great acuity by, among others, Machiavelli, who advocated deploying them prudently, and Jürgen Habermas, whose ethics of discourse repudiates them.
McCormack wrongly invokes the term "discourse" to describe the position of one party in a two-party or multiparty controversy. Discourses for Foucault are analogous to what we might call the "paradigm" (Foucault would say "discipline") within which a controversy occurs. A Foucauldian approach to the Florida deadlock, therefore, would involve studying the underlying social, political, economic and cultural relations of power that determined which truth claims were accepted as valid.
It is true, as McCormack notes, that a subjectivist or relativist epistemology underlies this approach to the study of the relationship between power and ideas. But the fact that James Baker raised the problem of "individual subjectivity" on the canvassing boards in no way confirms Foucault's theory of power, as McCormack claims. To assert that election officials may be subjective is a far cry from demonstrating the validity of the proposition that everything is subjective. At most, McCormack may be able to claim that widespread acceptance of Baker's argument would demonstrate that some number of people have embraced a Foucauldian theory of power. This, of course, would no more confirm the theory than does Baker's charge of bias on Florida's canvassing boards.
Ultimately, we do not require Foucauldian concepts to understand what happened in Florida. George Bush personified hypocrisy by contesting the constitutionality of a voting procedure he signed into law in Texas; the US Supreme Court's justification for stopping the manual recount was manifestly tendentious; and Baker's claim that a prolonged electoral struggle would undermine US international standing was demagogic. Foucault can help us understand how networks of power determine whether these discursive acts come to be accepted or rejected. But to understand the corruption that pervaded GOP strategy in Florida, we need only to have been paying attention.
McCormack turns out to be prophetic of future postmodernisms by the more right-wing elements of the Establishment. Writing for an undivided Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas informs us, "It is clear from the text of the [Controlled Substances] act that Congress has made a determination that marijuana has no medical benefits worthy of an exception"--a nice reminder that "power is knowledge."
The idea of different lenses through which history can be viewed and refracted (and twisted) was satirized by E.M. Forster in his seminal (hell, downright ovular) 1909 dystopian satire "The Machine Stops"; and the malleability of the past and the social construction of knowledge and the universe would be no news to George Orwell's O'Brien in 1984 or to the Stalinists, Nazis and other totalitarians he represents. No one knew that power is knowledge better than the authoritarians and totalitarians of the first half of the twentieth century, and later.
What's postmodern now is the degree to which "the best lack all conviction": the degree to which twenty-first-century intellectuals lack the ontological and epistemological foundations from which to argue that Congress might just, concerning medical marijuana at least, be in error, cruel and--in a nontheoretical formulation--full of shit.
RICHARD D. ERLICH
D'outre-Tombe [Beyond the Grave], France
Imagine my post-mortem shock at seeing my name on the cover of The Nation, somehow linked with the slogan "History Is Entirely Subjective." Am I not among those who pointed out in the 1960s that "Man" is a recent invention, and one fast approaching its end? If you want a slogan from my work, how about this one, spoken by an anonymous voice at the end of The Archaeology of Knowledge: "Discourse is not life; its time is not your time. In it, you will not be reconciled to death; you may have killed God beneath the weight of all that you have said. But don't imagine that, with all that you are saying, you will make a man that will live longer than he." "Entirely subjective" indeed!
I am gratified by the voluminous amount of mail that arrived in reaction to my article. I will respond to only one point, as I think that will enable me to expand and clarify my central thesis.
It may be true, as Jason Neidleman contends, that ultimately we do not need to deploy a Foucauldian intellectual apparatus to grasp the basic structure of what happened in Florida. However, I was more concerned with Republican or conservative intellectual superstructure. Conservatives have for some time now been claiming that their movement possesses a moral and intellectual integrity superior to that of their political and ideological adversaries and have repeatedly cited the widespread embrace of "decadent" postmodern (by which they mean poststructuralist) theories in liberal academia as partial evidence of that. Convincing the public of this putative superiority is much of what they have in mind when they speak of fighting, and winning, the "cultural wars" and is the very goal of tracts like Lynne Cheney's Speaking the Truth and Dinesh D'Souza's Illiberal Education. In that context, the fact that their behavior in Florida, from the rough-and-tumble street level all the way up to the hushed, august chambers of the Supreme Court, reveals them, on their own chosen terms of discourse, to be intellectually and morally inconsistent and bankrupt seems more than noteworthy and was, ultimately, my real point.
GREECE [heart] MACEDONIA
New York City
Dusko Doder's assertion, in "Balkans Breakdown" [April 30], that Greece was against the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) existence is erroneous and unfounded, especially in light of Greece's continuous support for FYROM during the Balkan crisis. Besides condemning the terrorist attacks against FYROM's northwestern regions, Greece from the beginning firmly reiterated its support for its Balkan neighbor. In his message to FYROM Prime Minister Georgievski, Greek Prime Minister Simitis stressed that "Greece considers the sovereignty and territorial integrity of FYROM within its internationally recognized borders essential for the stability in our region and unequivocally condemns all violent acts aiming at its destabilization."
Simitis assured Georgievski that Greece, in close cooperation with its partners in NATO and the EU on the situation, called on the international community to take appropriate measures to avoid further escalation in that sensitive region. Greek Foreign Affairs Minister George Papandreou, who was among the first to visit Skopje and offer support, said that Greece was prepared to participate in a multinational force aiming at protecting FYROM.
Regarding Greece's position on the use by FYROM of the name "Macedonia," Simitis reiterated that in his recent talks with Georgievski they agreed that this matter must be resolved as quickly as possible.
Greek Press and Information Office
As an information official, Dr. Gemelos is paid to have a selective memory. A few facts: In 1992, both Greece and Serbia were engaged in relentless harassment of the new Macedonian state. The Greeks banned the tiny country's access to the port of Thessaloniki, while the Serbs banned export of food to Macedonia. The Serb and Greek leaders, Slobodan Milosevic and Konstantin Mitsotakis, actively considered Macedonia's partition. In April 1992, after Milosevic returned from Athens, he publicly proposed a Greek-Serb confederation. Prime Minister Mitsotakis backed away from this idea when some key people in the ruling New Democracy Party publicly broke away. The grand old man of conservative politics, George Rallis (the former prime minister, whose father and grandfather were also prime ministers) resigned his parliamentary seat protesting Mitsotakis's policy toward Macedonia, which he said was endangering Greece's ties to Europe.
Dr. Gemelos quotes George Papandreou, whose father was elected prime minister in 1993 on a platform denouncing the incumbent Mitsotakis for taking part in UN-sponsored talks to resolve the Macedonian crisis. "Greece cannot and should not accept a nation with the name Macedonia on its borders," Papandreou insisted. In November 1993 he terminated UN-sponsored talks on resolving the Macedonian-Greek conflict. In February 1994, he imposed a total embargo on Macedonia. The Greek government's slogan, which could be seen everywhere, was: "Macedonia has been a part of Greece for 3,200 years."
It is perhaps most telling that Dr. Gemelos does not refer to Macedonia as Macedonia but as FYROM--nine years after that unhappy territory became a fully fledged member of the United Nations.
TAKE THE TOYS AWAY FROM THE BOYS
Bill Hartung, in "Bush's Nuclear Revival" [March 12], asserts a view widely held by the peace community that the Bush Administration's nuclear posture review, and the push for a National Missile Defense (NMD), will rekindle a nuclear arms race. If only it were that simple. In all likelihood, the Bush review has intensified the internal conflict within the military establishment between burgeoning conventional- weapons spending and the enormous costs of supporting excessively large nuclear targeting requirements. There's a good chance that nuclear weapons will be cut further. DOE weapons labs are already looking for a new "niche market" by pushing for new, low-yield precision nuclear "bunker busters." In addition to enormous operations and maintenance costs of deployment, nuclear weapons states are being forced to internalize additional large costs of nuclear material legacies, and to shore up deteriorating and dangerous nuclear weapons facilities. These factors add greatly to the cost of maintaining the roughly 7,500 existing nuclear weapons. Even after significant reductions over the past ten years, the real costs of the DOE's nuclear weapons program have nearly tripled. In effect, the "balloon mortgage" of the nuclear arms race is just coming due.
If past is prologue, George W. Bush will have to contend with the legacy of his father, who after a similar nuclear weapons posture review in 1990 imposed a moratorium on nuclear testing, eliminated battlefield nukes and removed other tactical nukes from deployment, ceased production of fissile materials, initiated a major downsizing of the weapons production complex, entered into an agreement to purchase 500 metric tons of highly enriched uranium from Russian nuclear weapons, teed up the ratification of START I and initiated START II negotiations. George W.'s campaign rhetoric was very clear about his promises to take unilateral nuclear disarmament steps.
Specifically for Russia, deployment of NMD could mean serious harm to existing arms agreements, which is bad enough. However, the enormous expense of nuclear weapons is leading Russia to unilaterally slash its nuclear arsenal to pay for more urgent conventional-force requirements. To compensate for the loss of revenues from the Defense Ministry, the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry is actively trying to obtain hard currency by offering Russian sites as nuclear waste dumps for the commercial nuclear industry. A more imminent threat to the world than NMD comes from the spread of excess fissile materials in the former Soviet Union.
The nuclear arms buildup scenario by China is less certain, given China's minimal nuclear deterrent capability. However, the days of huge nuclear buildups based on the concept of "how many times the rubble will bounce" are over. China and other nations merely have to look at the enormous and tragic debacle created by the United States and Russia over the past half-century. Provocative acts not connected to NMD, like pushing for "usable" nuclear weapons, can unleash efforts by China and other countries to do the same.
The NMD program is meant to open the door for a major weaponization of space using an array of next-generation nonnuclear weapons. NMD is just the first step in achieving the Pentagon's long-range objective of US military domination of space, where weapons are envisioned to do things like cripple the electrical infrastructures of entire nations.
The consequences of NMD testing and deployment by other nations are likely to be mixed. They will probably take the form of economic and military acts that will alienate the United States from its historical friends and former enemies at a time of growing global political instability. But these problems should not be confused with a steep new cold war-era buildup of nuclear weapons. That nuclear arms race cannot be restarted.
New York City
I thank Robert Alvarez for his thoughtful response to my editorial. He has a long and distinguished record of dealing with nuclear issues, both as a nongovernmental expert and at the Energy Department, and I respect his judgment.
My concern about the Bush nuclear posture--at least the variant supported by advisers like Stephen Hadley and Robert Joseph, both of whom participated in the National Institute for Public Policy's hair-raising study on this issue--is not necessarily that it will lead to huge numerical increases in global nuclear weapons stockpiles. My concern is that by pushing a technical solution to nuclear dangers (missile defense) while pressing for a new generation of allegedly more "usable" low-yield nuclear weapons, the Bush Administration will re-legitimize nuclear weapons as an "acceptable" instrument of coercive diplomacy and outright warfare. This in turn could push China to build hundreds or perhaps as many as a thousand or more nuclear-armed missiles to augment its current force of eighteen. Russia would be more inclined to keep its nuclear forces on alert, increasing the possibility of an accidental launch in some future crisis. And all bets would be off in terms of capping the nuclear programs of India and Pakistan or the nuclear ambitions of states like Iran and Iraq. The danger would not be increasing numbers of weapons, but an increased risk that one of them might be used in a regional conflict.
I do not dismiss Alvarez's extremely important arguments. The economic and environmental costs of sustaining cold war-style nuclear arsenals are coming home to roost. There are obvious incentives for Washington, Moscow and Beijing to reduce these forces, if for no other reason than that they will gobble up resources that could be used for other military purposes. And given the daunting technical obstacles standing in the way of fielding even a modest missile defense system, Bush's dream of a multitiered missile shield is by no means inevitable. Funding priorities that may compete with ballistic missile defense in the Pentagon budget include weaponizing space, building a new generation of lighter, "smarter" weapons and increasing the mobility of US forces--not to mention building all those big-ticket weapons platforms left over from the drawing boards of the cold war. Even if the Pentagon decides not to pursue a major nuclear buildup, the Bush Administration's highly militarized approach to foreign policy is worth opposing in its own right, even if it is accompanied by some reductions in the numbers of nuclear weapons, but that's a longer discussion.
Despite the excellent points made by Alvarez, my fear is that if Bush doesn't hear strong, clear opposition to the more destructive elements of his emerging nuclear doctrine--from the media, the public, Capitol Hill and cooler heads in his own party--he may resist the strong logic favoring denuclearization in pursuit of a deluded and dangerous ideology of nuclear superiority that should have long since been tossed into the dustbin of history. Given his Administration's behavior in its first few months, I'm not inclined to trust the good intentions or common sense of the Bush foreign policy team on a matter as sensitive and dangerous as nuclear weapons policy.
WILLIAM D. HARTUNG
A VICTIM OF THE WAR ON DRUGS
Your editorial on "The Worst Drug Laws" [April 9] was excellent. It's long past time to reverse the damage done by the war on drugs as well as the damage it has done to the rights of all Americans.
I am 39, have always been gainfully employed and have used drugs recreationally since my teen years. Never had I run afoul of the law or victimized anyone except maybe myself. I am currently doing my third year of a twelve-year sentence on drug charges (Health & Safety Code violation) in a California prison, even though I had no criminal history. The first person I was in a prison cell with was convicted of manslaughter. He was sentenced to six years. Go figure.
There is no way I can convince myself that this should be called a free country. This experience has opened my eyes, though--not to the dangers of drugs but to the dangers of an out-of-touch and out-of-control government.
WHO KILLED KYOTO?
Ross Gelbspan ["Bush's Global Warmers," April 9] quotes my colleague Tom Wigley as saying that my "statements on [climate models] are a catalog of misrepresentation and misinterpretation." The University of Virginia's promotions committee, the dean of the faculty and the provost must think otherwise!
More to the point, however, is that it was Tom's own calculation that killed Kyoto. In 1998 he demonstrated that if all signatory nations complied completely with the protocol, the reduction in realized warming by the year 2050 would be 0.07 degrees C (and 0.14 degrees C by 2100). The cost runs around 2 percent of GDP per year, according to the Energy Information Administration (under the Clinton Administration). That figure assumes the strictures on carbon sequestration and emissions trading that the European Union held us to at The Hague this past November.
The mathematics works out rather simply: If one assumes the UN's mean expectation of 2.5 degrees warming in the next hundred years (a number that is demonstrably a bit too high), Kyoto prevents one twentieth of it (an amount that will never even be measurable with precision), at an enormous annual cost. That's why Bush quit Kyoto. It has nothing to do with an industry conspiracy, which you seem so fond of, and everything to do with Tom Wigley's calculation.
PATRICK J. MICHAELS
Senior fellow, Cato Institute
As his coal-industry funders have long appreciated, Pat Michaels has a special talent for generating much confusion with very few words. Michaels undermines and misstates the projections of twenty-first century warming by the more than 2,000 scientists who compose the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who project the world will warm from 2.5 to 10 degrees in this century.
Assuming the mantle of economist, Michaels declares the cost of complying with the Kyoto Protocol to be "enormous." In so doing, he ignores the far more professional estimates of the insurance industry. Munich Re-Insurance estimates the coming costs of climate impacts will amount to $300 billion a year in the next several decades. The largest insurer in Britain, CGNU, says that, unchecked, climate change could bankrupt the global economy by 2065.
Finally, in assuming to speak for the White House, Michaels asserts that Bush withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol because its costs are too high for its low goals. In fact, Bush said he withdrew from the protocol because it "unfairly" exempts developing countries from the first round of carbon cuts--and because the "science is unsettled."
If, as Michaels suggests, Bush were to take his guidance from such pre-eminent scientists as Dr. Tom M. L. Wigley of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the United States would be leading the world's efforts to curb global warming--instead of fashioning energy policies designed to plunge us even deeper into a climate hell.
THE WHO (PLAYS A MEAN PINBALL)
Robert James Parsons is incorrect in his "The Balkan DU Cover-Up" [April 9] on a number of counts. He claims that the UN system is under pressure "to keep the lid on DU contamination investigations." Concerned about possible public health consequences of the use of DU munitions and aware of concerns voiced by governments and the public, the World Health Organization has, on the contrary, undertaken a number of activities related to this issue. These include a field mission to Kosovo, a meeting with an Iraqi delegation of scientists on further cooperation and future action, publication of a fact sheet on DU, an appeal to donors to fund WHO work on DU and health in affected countries and a forthcoming monograph on DU.
The WHO monograph on DU was never expected to be released in December 1999. A document of some 200 pages, encompassing a review of a large amount of the best available scientific literature on uranium and DU, this work was undertaken only in autumn 1999. Studies of this scope take more than a few months to complete.
The four-page WHO fact sheet on DU (www.who.int/inf-fs/en/fact257.html) is consistent with all m ajor reviews recently conducted on the possible health effects of exposure to DU and is not contradictory. WHO intended to release its fact sheet together with its monograph on DU, but because of intense public concern about DU early this year, the fact sheet was issued earlier than planned. The fact sheet was never "quietly canceled."
The 1959 agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) does not affect the impartial and independent exercise by WHO of its statutory responsibilities, nor does it place WHO in a situation of subordination to IAEA. The above-mentioned DU-related activities were all undertaken independently by WHO, without any approval or influence whatsoever by the IAEA.
Parsons writes that "WHO radiation safety standards [are] designed for measuring a brief 'one event' source of radiation." In reality, WHO radiation safety standards cover both short- and long-term effects. WHO may conduct a field investigation only if the government authorities request it and if funding is provided by donors. Two such requests were made in January 2001; WHO replied positively and took action rapidly.
DR. RICHARD HELMER
World Health Organization
If WHO was "concerned about possible public health consequences of the use of DU munitions," it certainly has been discreet about making that concern known. The field mission and meetings with the Iraqi delegation of scientists, etc. have all taken place since mid-January, whereas the alarm bells concerning Kosovo were first sounded by Bakary Kante's preliminary assessment in May 1999. The problem in Iraq was brought before the world's public long before that, largely by the Gulf War veterans.
Further, once the Iraqi government had finally made up its mind officially to seek help from WHO (in November 1999), WHO did not respond to Iraq's letter until the end of July 2000. WHO headquarters in Geneva claims that it was misplaced at the Middle East Regional Office. Such a politically hot document, received after years of waiting and conjecture as to just what the Iraqis were intending to do about the DU problem, could never have been simply mislaid without knowledge and approval from WHO's highest echelons.
The WHO monograph is not a monograph at all, as acknowledged by Ann Kern, WHO's executive director for sustainable development and healthy environments, but a review of some of the available literature on the chemical and radiological toxicity of uranium, obviously selected for its lack of treatment of the subject of nonsoluable, ceramic-like DU particles--the source of the threat to health and the environment.
The fact sheet was, indeed, not canceled. But an earlier one was. WHO did it quietly, with the result that I, as well as a Dutch journalist, Saskia Jansens, a longtime veteran of DU inquiry, kept having to ask about its progress until Gregory Hartl, WHO's principal spokesman, finally admitted that it would never see the light of day. We did not go quietly upon hearing the news in August 1999, barely two months after the fact sheet had been announced as in the works. The result was an announcement that WHO was undertaking a "generic" study of DU, to be focused exclusively on its chemical toxicity as a heavy metal and thus entrusted to the direction of Barry Smith, a geologist. The study has been rechristened a "monograph."
Dr Michael Repacholi, WHO coordinator for occupation and environmental health, sustainable development and healthy environments, announced at a January press conference at UN headquarters here in Geneva that the scope of the generic study had been extended to include radiological toxicity and also stated that in addition to a review of literature, there would be actual testing of people, such as urine analysis. He then claimed, in an April 26 press conference on release of the "monograph," that it has always included radiotoxicity and chemiotoxicity, but he admits that it is only a review of literature with no clinical or field studies ever intended.
The four-page WHO fact sheet is at stark variance with the draft of the canceled one. The latter dealt with DU as a source of internal, constant radiation, DU in the form of ceramic-like, inhalable particles that have been let loose on the planet by the thousands of billions where DU munitions have burned on contact with their target. The later fact sheet deals with DU as natural uranium, soluble in the human body, hence easily, often quickly, eliminated.
The 1959 agreement with the IAEA, was, according to my sources, the reason the initial fact sheet was canceled as well as the reason the generic study had to be confined to DU's chemical toxicity until the public outcry, particularly in Europe, made it necessary to deal with the radiation side. Not surprisingly, that radiation side is dismissed by the "monograph" as of negligible importance. Helmer's statement that "WHO radiation safety standards cover both short- and long-term effects" does not address the question of constant, long-term radiation from an internal source. The long-term effects of "one event" radiation are still effects from "one event" radiation, like a bomb blast, and not applicable to the radiation generated by the ceramic-like particles lodged for years in lung tissue.
As for the statement that WHO may conduct a field investigation only if government authorities request it, one may point out that regardless of the huge and increasing mountain of evidence about Iraq, the WHO never requested an invitation to investigate, as it could have done.
The just-released "monograph" is one more stone in the huge wall of denial about the dangers of radiation that WHO and the UN are party to. Since the "monograph" and a recent UN Environment Program report are supposed to be the last word on the subject for a long time, we still have a long way to go before anything serious is done about what WHO perceived as a major threat to the human species back in the 1950s before the IAEA agreement silenced WHO on the subject of radiation and public health.
ROBERT JAMES PARSONS
WHAT'S GERMAN FOR 'SWEATSHOP'?
Since Jonah Peretti's "My Nike Media Adventure" [April 9] did not mention coverage in continental Europe, I wanted to add to the catalogue of media coverage an article in the March 7 Die Tageszeitung, Berlin. "Mach dir deine Marke selbst," written by Oliver Tolmein, was the first I read of the Nike e-mail incident until I got my copy of The Nation.
DEAD WRONG POET?--II
Response to Deadline Poet Calvin Trillin's "On Bush Breaking His Campaign Pledge to Limit Carbon Dioxide Emissions" (April 9):
Trillin is mad--boy, is he bitter:
Nader, unknowing, has him a-twitter.
So stressed is Cal (it is most alarming),
He confuses ozone with globally warming.
In Kyoto Gore said, "We must make this clear,
We're flexible always, so relax, never fear.
We'll take back our pledge to cut CO
If the money boys tell us it's what we should do."
Now W's gone and studied Al's pages,
And lo and behold, the poetry rages:
"It's Nader that did it, Ralph Nader's to blame.
He said those two are just one and the same."
VIETNAM QUAGMIRE FANTASIES
The history of the Vietnam War as told by David Rudenstine in his review of A.J. Langguth's Our Vietnam ["Vietnam: 'Quagmire' Quackery," March 5] is based on dominant fantasies every bit as misleading as the nonsensical "quagmire" story he and Langguth properly ridicule. One cannot possibly get the history straight if one begins in 1954 rather than 1945, when Washington initiated its first acts of war against Vietnam. To claim that it was "the North Vietnamese" who "defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu" and to present the United States as an ally of "South Vietnam" against "North Vietnam" is to accept Washington's falsification of the entire subsequent history. As the 1954 Geneva Accords recognized, and as the United States was finally forced to acknowledge in the 1973 Paris Peace Agreements, Vietnam was one country, not two. In fact, most of the government leaders of "South Vietnam" came from the north, while the strongest proponents of northern military support for the rebellion against the Diem dictatorship came from southerners in the Hanoi government.
Indeed, Rudenstine chronicles the period of this southern rebellion as though he had never even heard of it, attributing the fall of Diem exclusively to the Buddhist protests of 1963. Diem's fate was sealed as soon as the National Liberation Front came into being in December 1960 and initiated the organized revolution. If this revolution was not threatening the very existence of the Diem regime, then why did Kennedy begin massive chemical warfare in 1961? This was a year before 1962, when, Rudenstine euphemistically and inaccurately tells us, "Kennedy began to increase the number of US personnel in Vietnam." Too bad The Nation devoted four pages to retailing this minor variation of an official history that many of us, for almost four decades, have been exposing as a deception.
H. BRUCE FRANKLIN
New York City
H. Bruce Franklin is exhausting himself boxing with shadows that are not mine. Of course Vietnam was one country. Of course a more exhaustive and thorough history of what became the US war in Vietnam would cause a historian to begin the narrative long before 1954, as A.J. Langguth does, or even before 1945, as Franklin urges. Further, Franklin's suggestion that my review attributed the fall of Diem to the Buddhist protests of 1963 is silly. More important, Franklin misses the focus of my review. Many, like former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, still claim that the war resulted from "mostly honest mistakes" made by US leaders, as opposed to errors of "values and intentions." But as my review makes plain, Langguth's history demolishes the apologists' quagmire thesis, and in so doing raises the profound question of the capacity of the US political order to implement prudent and moral policies. Franklin does not think that issue is worth the ink spent on it. I can't imagine why. The question is poignantly timely given that we now have a President with no defense or diplomatic experience, a Secretary of State who is a general and a Secretary of Defense steeped in cold war ideology.
THE WHOLE WORLD WAS WATCHING
New York City
Jim Russell's "SDS's Other Wars" [March 5] is as uncritical and celebratory of the SDS film Rebels With a Cause as the film is of the organization. No surprise: Russell--like the film-maker and half the film's talking heads--worked in the SDS national office. Young historians (e.g., Jeremy Varon, Doug Rossinow, John McMillian) have been breaking with this archaic, top-down (and, ultimately, factionalist) perspective and have been going beyond the beliefs that many of us held at the time, into a critical history. Leftists who seek to build a new movement have a deep interest in a history that faces the fact that SDS collapsed when it might have grown and in trying to figure out, as Russell and the film do not, why this happened. A triumphal narrative leaves the collapse unexplained. A useful explanation for this tragedy would go beyond the sectarian wars and that convenient deus ex machina, the FBI--which did great damage but cannot be held responsible for so many of our mistakes. There was always conflict within SDS. The film would have been truer and more cinematically exciting had these often intelligent conflicts been presented (cf., Rashomon, Land and Freedom, Arguing the World, even Clint Eastwood's True Crime).
One example of Russell's uncritical and misleading celebration: Writing of SDS in 1965, he speaks of "the beginning of women's activism in the movement," which "added gender to the inequalities of race and class that the organization sought to redress." Redress? Huh? Women's liberation arose in part in rebellion against SDS's often grotesque sexism, while the national office continued to be decorated with cheesecake posters and faux working-class lunks saying, "Our chicks aren't into that petty bourgeois women's lib bullshit" (actual quote, verbatim). Crediting SDS as the birthplace of women's liberation, as do the film and Russell's review, and, ludicrously, seeing it as feminist is a little like saying the Democratic Party should be credited with having given birth to the 1960s antiwar movement or for the recent Nader campaign. Truth counts: The version peddled by the film and by Russell is simply not true.
For an alternative view, see Lemisch, "Students for a Democratic Society, Heroically Portrayed, Before the Inexplicable Fall: Consensus History in a Left Film," Film & History, March. (For info see www.filmandhistory.org; or write us at Utopia1@attglobal.net.)
Jesse Lemisch and Naomi Weisstein appear to be still suffering from a New Left hangover and seem unable to distinguish, since they invoke that great paragon of progressivism Clint Eastwood, the good from the bad and the ugly. The serious issue they raise concerns how to portray in the relatively short space afforded by the film the strengths as well as weaknesses of an organizational experience. Rebels focused on the strengths but not without acknowledging a number of the weaknesses. On balance film director Helen Garvy presented in my estimation a strong, consistent and, yes, nuanced interpretation of the experience, though obviously not that of Lemisch and Weisstein.
Rebels, it is true, sympathetically portrays its subject. Lemisch and Weisstein apparently would have preferred it to be one last settling of scores from their point of view or, if not that, an ideological free-for-all à la the 1969 convention. While this would have produced a film of great interest to some, I suspect that it, like sectarian politics, would have been irrelevant to most.
Neither the film nor I claimed that SDS gave birth to women's liberation. SDS rather was one of the key movement forums within which the ideas were discussed that launched militant activism around women's issues in the second half of the 1960s. It is true that sexism existed within the organization as well as society. But to imply that SDS wallowed in "often grotesque sexism" and stood opposed to the women's movement is ludicrous. If it were so, why would so many strong and committed feminists have participated in the making of this film and spoken so positively of their experiences in SDS? Cheesecake posters in the national office? Not when I worked there or visited, before or after.
Rebels is not without its faults, some of which I mentioned in the review. But the large number of e-mail responses from students indicate that they find the film a useful vehicle for learning about progressive activism then and talking about it now.
THE NLRB THEN & NOW
I was disappointed in Steve Early's review of William B. Gould IV's Labored Relations ["How Stands the Union?" Jan. 22]. As a member of the labor-management advisory committee to the National Labor Relations Board during Gould's tenure as chairman, I was familiar with many substantive and procedural achievements during those years--accomplishments barely mentioned in Early's review.
One such achievement came to light only last year, when reviewing courts fully affirmed 79 percent of the NLRB decisions appealed to them, an unusually high rate of approval. Most of those affirmed decisions were decided by the NLRB under Gould's leadership.
Early's criticism of Gould's impatience with fellow board members and members of Congress misses an important point. Many of the disputes and turf wars recounted in Labored Relations arose when Gould attempted to rouse career bureaucrats from ordinary, comfortable patterns of doing business. Gould's experiences at the NLRB provide another example of how the revolving door between agencies, Congressional staffs and interest-group lawyers often stymies creative problem-solving. The intensity of their resistance to Gould's reforms underscores a point made frequently in The Nation--official Washington is currently a nasty, poisonous place, and one takes a substantial risk in challenging the established order. Gould's meticulous documentation of the price he frequently paid for taking that risk should be praised, not ridiculed.
JOHN L. BARLOW
New York City
Steve Early's review paints a picture of Gould that almost entirely neglects the accomplishments of the Clinton board over the past eight years and forgets what the board has been (or not been) for unions for much of the two decades preceding. In light of the ascendancy of George W. Bush, we may very soon look back on the Gould-Feinstein years with great fondness and nostalgia.
The undersigned were members of the NLRB's labor-management advisory committee, formed shortly after Gould became chairman of the NLRB. Early should recall with horror, as we do, the state of the board in 1992 after twelve years of Republican rule. The agency--the board agents and attorneys that union organizers deal with every day--was demoralized, in disarray and unable to fulfill its mission of enforcing the (admittedly weak) NLRA. Rather than concentrate on the gossip and innuendo surrounding the internecine warfare at the headquarters (yes, a large part of Gould's book), Early should have recognized in his review the successful initiatives that reversed in part the board's decline and descent into irrelevancy. Of particular importance was the board's Fieldcrest Cannon decision, which imposed an unprecedented set of remedies (upheld by no less than the Fourth Circuit) on the company in order to insure a free and fair election, which the union ultimately won, in the largest organizing victory in the South in more than twenty-five years. Those remedies have also set the standard for correcting outrageous employer behavior in dozens of subsequent decisions and settled cases.
The advisory committee urged, and the Clinton board adopted, a greater use of preliminary Section 10(j) injunctions, the adoption of a framework for processing cases faster both in the regions and in Washington and adoption of administrative devices to encourage settlements and the use of bench decisions by administrative law judges. As Gould points out, improvements in case handling and reforms dramatically reduced the backlog of cases during his four-year tenure. Finally, as is often the case, it was as much the threat of those devices as their use that encouraged employer moderation.
Early correctly points out that "for tens of millions of workers in the private sector, bypassing the law [and hence the board] is not an option." For the first time in many years, unions during the Clinton years felt they had a chance at a fair shake from the NLRB. While we had our disagreements with Gould and Feinstein, and they appear to have had many with each other, the bitter rhetoric of Early's review obscures some real accomplishments in turning around an agency that remains critical to labor's rebirth.
JOHN L. BARLOW
DUANE B. BEESON
WILLIAM E. CODAY
EUGENE G. EISNER
LEE W. JACKSON
FREDERICK T. KUYKENDALL III
As my review indicated, there were certainly differences between the Clinton-era labor board and its Republican-dominated predecessors. However, to workers fired for union activity, these differences were much less apparent than they might have been to friends of Bill Gould, who served on his "labor-management advisory committee." The effectiveness of labor law and its enforcement must be measured in terms of their impact on workplace organization, not with reference to the greater access or influence that union lawyers or the AFL-CIO always enjoy at the NLRB under a Democratic administration. The continuing decline of private-sector unionization over the past eight years speaks for itself. When the percentage of the nongovernment workforce that is organized begins to rise from its current 9 percent level--rather than sink further every year--we'll have seen real evidence that the board's own "decline and descent into irrelevancy" has been reversed.
As a subscriber, I want to thank you for using recycled paper. According to the Worldwide Institute, US paper consumption rose by 20 kg per person between 1992 and '97--and now stands at 335 kg per person. That places a strain on the world's forests, and processing releases harmful chemicals into the air and water. In addition, the paper we throw away accounts for about 40 percent of municipal solid waste streams. If more of the magazine industry (which uses roughly 25 million trees' worth of paper a year) would insist on recycled paper from its suppliers, it would make a huge difference.
THE FAT CAT IN THE HAT
As the great-grandson of the man from whom the word "maverick" became part of the English language, and as the 80-year-old son of the first Congressman from the South to vote for an antilynching law, I am deeply depressed by your cover showing President Bush wearing a Texas cowboy hat [Feb. 26]. You New York liberals are dirty fighters.
MAURY MAVERICK JR.
'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