Web Letters | The Nation


Where Will the Slippery Slope of ‘Hobby Lobby’ End?

The other missed point about the Hobby Lobby decision and many decisions this Court has made, aside from the ones in Katha Pollitt’s article, is that neither the Supreme Court or any of our courts have the power to rewrite the constitution. The federal courts have only the power to uphold the constitution as written, when addressing cases arising from the constitution. The only way we can change the meaning of the constitution is through a constitutional amendment, not by rulings of the Supreme Court.

The Court’s misuse of the rights granted people in our Constitution started after the Civil War with the Morrison Waite Court, which totally rewrote the meaning of the Constitution by denying freed slaves their constitutional rights and then handing these self-same rights, particularly through the Fourteenth Amendment, over to railroad companies, because they did not want to recognize the personhood of the freed slaves.

But neither the Supreme Court, nor any court, has the power to alter the Constitution or is infallible, and it is the direct legacy of those courts after the Civil War that this misconception has been handed down to down to us. If this Court is not called on the carpet for judicial error by altering the constitution by court decree, rather than constitutional amendment, we of this generation will have finished the job of destroying this country that the governments of the last thirty and forty years have started. That is what is at stake—whether we allow the constitution of this country to be altered by judicial decree, or whether we continue to alter it by amendment that we all have a vote on. Whether we remain a country governed by our vote and our representation in our government or we cement it as a country ruled by a few that we have no say so in, and trash the Constitution and the ideals put forth in it by those who started this Great Experiment.

Carroll Robinson

Winter Park, FL

Jul 9 2014 - 3:15pm

Exclusive: Inside the Koch Brothers’ Secret Billionaire Summit

It has become clear that big money spending by corporations in elections is a problem. Since the outcome of Citizens United campaign spending has reached an all-time high, the top thirty-two Super PAC donors in the 2012 election gave as much as President Obama and Mitt Romney raised from all of their small donors combined—that’s at least 3.7 million people giving less than $200 whose voices were overpowered by just thirty-two megadonors.

For too long, unaccountable special interests have had too much influence in our elections by virtue of the money they can spend. Campaign finance reform is important, in order to restrict campaign spending in elections. As bad as the problem has been historically, the new rules post–Citizens United has only made things worse, with often-unknown spenders breaking records every election cycle—2014 is expected to be no exception.

The Supreme Court, unfortunately, seems bent not on fixing this problem, but on making it worse. While winning a constitutional amendment to reclaim our democracy for ordinary citizens won’t be easy, it’s a fight worth having. And with sixteen states and over 500 communities across the country already on record as calling for an amendment, the momentum for victory is building. The Senate should stand up for their constituents, not special interests.

Leslie Card

Washington, DC

Jul 9 2014 - 10:52am

The Silence of American Hawks About Kiev’s Atrocities

I am very glad to read (at last!) a very true article about events in Ukraine! People should know the truth, but usually they believe what they are told to and don’t try to find out the real facts. I am very grateful to Mr. Cohen that he has made so much effort to find the real facts and to analyze them in an unbiased way. I am from Russia, I have friends in Сrimea and I have had communications with refugees (there are too many of them, and they move to Russia, not to Kiev—why do you think?), and I understand how much that is deceptive about the situation is reported by American and European media. They publish what they are told to—it is very convenient—and don’t even try to send the reporters to Donbass to listen to the opposition and to watch how the Ukraine army kills “terrorists”: Russian-speaking children and women.


Jul 8 2014 - 7:16am

The Silence of American Hawks About Kiev’s Atrocities

Thank you, Steven! It would be nice if this article was read all over the world!

I find it funny to read comments about the custom-made nature of this article. In Ukraine, there is a civil war, killing civilians. Children! A huge number of refugees. Killing journalists. Kiev shifts the responsibility onto militias and Moscow, with the bombing and shelling of residential neighborhoods. And this for its citizens!

A representative of the United States allows himself completely unacceptable remarks about my country and my president. Psaki amuses me. She pours so much dirt on us, but her allegations are unsubstantiated, not supported by the facts. Funny. Is Russia your enemy? Why so much anger?


St. Petersburg, RUSSIA

Jul 4 2014 - 2:09pm

On Israel-Palestine and BDS

As a linguist, Noam Chomsky very finely lays down the implicit rules of what may or may not be discussed. But of course, read between the lines.

We may take notice of Palestinian lands stolen after 1967, but any discussion of land taken by force before 1967 is beyond the pale. So too, any review of the massive suborning of the US administration, the Congress, lately the judiciary in matters against Iran, the threats of adverse, suborned, US actions against a couple of dozen parliaments in South America and Europe in 1947 and 1948. Recall “Truman beats Dewey.”

Chomsky included the hackneyed proposition that if we do not boycott Harvard, as a single convenient example, for various crimes of the US, then it is unfair to boycott Israeli colleges who support the Israeli actions against the Palestinians. Killing Palestinians and stealing their land was a criminal conspiracy since 1898 and today is a crime in progress. In systems of criminal justice, the perpetrators don’t get to choose who will be indicted. Israel claims a “special relation to the US.” There is a downside: special notice by Americans who do not enjoy being accomplices.

Noam Chomsky denies Palestinians the right of return to stolen lands and, I suppose, the concept of paying compensation to the dispossessed and to the descendants of the dispossessed. Heaven forbid! Don’t mention it. Don’t bring up German reparations, 1950 to 2014.

Ronald Johnson

Pittsford, NY

Jul 4 2014 - 11:43am

How New York Real Estate Became a Dumping Ground for the World’s Dirty Money

Its sad that The Nation’s article on New York City real estate led off with the story of Chen Shui-bian and his wife, Wu Shu-jen, when there were so many better stories. The article fails to convey any of the reality of the story: Chen was acquitted in the first trial of bribery by Yuanta, but the prosecutors appealed to a higher (and presumably more pro-ruling party) court to gain the victory (the first judge pointed out that since President Chen had no say in the merger, it was rather stupid of Yuanta to bribe the Chens). How another judge who made an early ruling in Chen’s favor was removed under savage political pressure and a more pliant judge brought in, a warning to subsequent judges. How the prosecutors all promised to get Chen at any cost, and even conducted a sick skit where they portrayed him as a AIDs victim and social pariah. This was not a corruption prosecution but a political persecution.

The Nation article points up the real problem with the Justice Department. It didn’t go after Chen because he was corrupt. It went after him because he was weak and an easy target, a man slowly dying in jail. Powerful Chinese one-party state politicians and officials and their children own large real estate holdings in the US, but they are never touched. The Justice Department has never seized anything from the ruling party that put Chen in jail for having the temerity to beat them in two presidential elections. As for Justice’s non-punishment of Wall Street…

In reality, this case thus presents the odious spectacle of the US Justice Department colluding with the former authoritarian ruling party in Taiwan to seize the assets of a pro-democracy, pro-independence politician after he left office and was in jail, dying and too weak to protect himself.

The conclusion is obvious. If only Chen Shui-bian had blown up the world economy through extensive fraud or run a one-party state that jailed and murdered its opponents and maintained itself in power, his US investments would be still be safe and sound. But because he remained committed to democratic process, he became a target.

Michael Turton

Taichung, TAIWAN

Jul 4 2014 - 1:12am

The Silence of American Hawks About Kiev’s Atrocities

Stephen S. Cohen’s lurid title would make one think that Ukraine’s central government has countenanced the targeting of civilians in its war with separatists and Russian fighters in eastern Ukraine. Yet perusal of the websites of the credible human rights organizations Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International shows no evidence that would support Cohen’s sensationalist claim. A detailed report of the human rights situation in Ukraine by the UN’s High Commission on Human Rights (dated June 15), although critical of Ukraine’s central authorities on some points, including its investigation of the May 2 deaths of pro-Russian activists in Odessa, also does not support Dr. Cohen’s conclusions. Most reports on human rights violations in eastern Ukraine do, however, link these to actions by separatists and allied Russian fighters, who have crossed into Ukraine to support the secessionists. Dr. Cohen, instead of offering hard evidence to support his accusation that Ukraine’s central authorities have committed atrocities, makes a vague reference to some videos. As a scholar, he should know better.

Bohdan Klid


Jul 3 2014 - 6:00pm

The Silence of American Hawks About Kiev’s Atrocities

Having an immediate family in Ukraine, I was shocked by how untruthful this article is about the situation in Ukraine. This is the most untruthful article I have read in the Western media. My family is from the Russian-speaking south (city of Mykolaiv and Odessa), and we interpret your article as lying Russian propaganda. Yanukovich ran Ukraine as a Mafia-style enterprise. During this revolution, he hired gangs to beat his opponents on streets to death, confiscated people’s businesses for his oligarch son during his last four years, created a business monopoly for his own family and much, much more. Every person in Ukraine I know participated in this revolution because the ousted president was a criminal, with a criminal record!

Russia is another story, and they are Nazis in this case. Please explain what is Nazi-like swastika symbols used by Ukrainians? What a fake lie! You see more swastikas in Moscow. The swastika was only used by Ukrainians to accuse Russia of Nazi-like behavior when they annexed Crimea.

The author has no clue what is going on in Ukraine, or has received a good bonus from the Russian government. Shame on you for putting out this lie! Our friend’s son was kidnaped by twelve Russian fighters in Kramatorsk and executed because he mentioned to his neighbors that he does not support this war. His mother, who was present when they broke into the house, said they were Chechens from Russia. So why not mention Russia’s sending terrorists to Ukraine who execute people and blow up bridges and trains? I am shocked by the amount of lies in your article. Wow.

Anatoliy Khlevnoy

Bonney Lake, WA

Jul 3 2014 - 3:51pm

The Silence of American Hawks About Kiev’s Atrocities

Just finished your article. Really gives an accurate account of the Ukraine situation from start to finish without leaving out any details! I have been following the situation in Eastern UKR and am heartbroken to see the death and destruction that's being meted out to the people there by the neo-Nazi regime in Kiev. As an American (living abroad), I must admit that I am ashamed to be an American! This article needs to be read by everyone in the US who are ignorant of the facts. I recently stopped reading The Nation, Common Dreams, Alternet, TruthDig etc. simply because there is nothing on Ukraine and what's happening in the East. So to see this piece I was elated (great article too!) As a matter of fact I caught this article from the the article by Ray McGovern on Common Dreams! So maybe people/progressive news sites are waking up! I hope so, the people in southeast Ukraine need it.

John McDonald


Jul 3 2014 - 3:49am

The Silence of American Hawks About Kiev’s Atrocities

Never, in my fourteen-year history of reading The Nation (since I moved to this country from Canada), have I felt the magazine has so misrepresented an issue as it has in its recent coverage of events in Ukraine.

Stephen Cohen’s articles, which have dominated that coverage, have been utterly, and astonishingly, biased in favor of Russian government depictions of events. Cohen’s selective accounts reveal not only an ignorance of Ukraine, matched by a deep fondness for Russia—which is fine in itself, but shouldn’t be the core of the magazine’s coverage of another country. They show a willingness to distort the picture—and to believe conspiracy theories disseminated, and often manufactured, by Russian state media—in a way that smacks of axe-grinding against all those who find his views inaccurate, overblown and misguided.

Examples of Cohen’s egregious misrepresentations are plentiful. Most obvious is the liberal use of hot-button words like “massacres” and “atrocities” to describe events that are left recounted. The only event that receives any description is what Cohen calls the “Odessa massacre,” a tragedy by all accounts, which he blames, in line with Russian propaganda, squarely on Kiev authorities. Cohen claims that “eyewitnesses, television footage and social media videos told the true story” about the events, as if the “true story” is known (it’s still contested) and straightforward (it isn’t). His claims about “subsequent atrocities” rely entirely on accounts produced by Russian state media, which practically all objective observers have concluded are grossly propagandistic. Operations intended to take back buildings from pro-Russian militias are routinely described by Russian media as “massacres,” just as the coalition government in Kiev, consisting of a parliamentary majority, has been called “neo-Nazi” based on the existence of a handful of extreme nationalists in its ranks.

More subtle forms of misrepresentation make up nearly every sentence in the article. For instance, calling President Petro Poroshenko’s ending of the ten-day cease-fire “unilateral” suggests he has pulled out of a bilateral deal of some kind. In fact, the cease-fire was Poroshenko’s unilateral initiative, which the pro-Russian separatist fighters never followed, as army casualties continued to mount throughout the ten days.

Like other Ukraine scholars, I completely agree that there are far-right nationalists who ought to be monitored and kept in check (as there are in almost all Western countries). Cohen, however, seriously misrepresents and misunderstands the Maidan movement and, in the process, makes it more difficult for the Western left to find allies among the Ukrainian leftists and pro-democracy activists who were well represented in that movement. The result is a gift to the right, both in Ukraine and in Russia. The Nation’s continually resorting to Cohen as its “expert” on Ukraine is disappointing, frustrating and ultimately discrediting.

Adrian Ivakhiv

Professor of Environment, Society & Public Affairs, University of Vermont; Editor, “UKR-TAZ: A Ukrainian Temporary Autonomous Zone”

Jul 2 2014 - 8:51am