Web Letters | The Nation


Bloomberg Beyond the Billions

How could Eric Alterman write an entire column about Michael Bloomberg’s mismanagement as mayor of New York without mentioning the CityTime scandal even once? More than $500 million was embezzled, most of it on Bloomberg’s watch, and most of the crooks involved private sector contractors.

It’s bad enough when governments contract out work that could and should be performed by civil servants, but the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations contracted out oversight for the CityTime project. Oversight?!? I’ve worked on a multi-year automated time and attendance project for a large public sector agency myself, and our handful of contract programmers, trainers and business analysts were supervised every step of the way by a similar number of agency information technology, human resources and business office staff, with agency executives providing overall oversight. Bloomberg contracted out that whole middle layer of public supervision and oversight, and his appointee to oversee the whole project seemed to be more interested in protecting some of those contractors than in getting a good system built.

CityTime is a scandal that should regularly be thrown in the faces of the peddlers of privatization and contracting out and the dogmatists of the Holy Libertarian Church of the Indisputable Efficiency of the Market, be they ensconced at the Manhattan Institute or the Cato Institute, or in the pages and editorial boards of the daily newspapers and Reason magazine.

Charles K. Alexander II

Albany, NY

Sep 29 2014 - 5:03pm

Will Georgia Be the Next Ukraine?

I and my Japanese wife just read this article.First of all, the title is confusing, because what is happening in Ukraine is already happened in Georgia. Secondly, the author writes “everything,” and as a reader I was lost. Every time I read a paragraph, I did not get a point.

Shakarian does not realize that NATO is “expanded” because the Eastern European nations do not trust Russia and want to join the West. NATO does not force anyone to join the organization. In fact, since the Soviet Union collapsed, NATO invited Russia to conduct joint military exercises.

As I read the conclusion of the article, we realized that Shakarian points out his anti-Georgian and anti-Western views. This is not journalism.

Pat Gogh

Philadelphia, PA

Sep 26 2014 - 6:05am

Why Liberians Thought Ebola Was a Government Scam to Attract Western Aid

Since 2006, Liberia has emerged to join and become a full fledged part of the credible nations of the world (under Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s leadership). During the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, this country had serious problems with monstrous levels of corruption, mismanagement in government and public corporation circles and bad governance. There were no attempts made by any previous government to rein it in. Over the past three years there has been a virtual turnaround in public finance and nation development. Things are not rosy perfect just yet (we’ve had the national Ebola crisis, for example), mainly because of the many years of destruction of life, of culture, infrastructure and so forth. It will take some time to focus on the most vital elements that will make the difference in benefitting the majority of the people. In order to properly develop the education, health and agricultural sectors, this government has had to start from scratch. It is going to take some time, and it will cost much more money. I am frankly relieved and, as most Liberians, would rather take my chances with Johnson-Sirleaf.

I was incarcerated and made desolate by the evil undertaken by the Liberian security officers and military in 1985, led by the late Jenkins Scott and others. I was falsely imprisoned and humiliated, and at one point almost lost my life as a consequence of “zero hour.” I was not charged with any crime and indeed was with my mother on the November 12, 1985, at our family residence. At the time I was head of credit at Citibank, NA, Monrovia, Liberia on Ashmun Street, and not playing any major role in Liberian politics. I spent over two months in prison without charge and was taken to a vmilitary tribunal (after civil elections) without any substance. Ask yourself why.

I want to say here that I want those people who continue to place my president and my mother’s name in a line-up with the iniquitous elements such as the former warlords in Liberia to immediately desist. I am the proof, as I was there with her November 12, 1985. I can assure you not one cent of mine was spent supporting Charles Taylor or any other warlord. No conscious effort was made by any family member to support war or killings, or I would have most certainly been a part of it. Let this be made very clear. She has won the Noble Prize and I can say that she deserves it more than any other Liberian for certain. I stand firm in my assertion.

She reacted to the scandalous mayhem in Liberia as most intelligent but palliated other people would. The TRC or no other group constitutes enough authority to make the “charge-less” “charged-for.”

James E. Sirleaf


Sep 20 2014 - 1:30am

Joan Rivers Gets the Last Laugh

I cannot believe The Nation would publish an article about Joan Rivers without more than a brief, dismissive mention of her horrible comments about Palestinian Gazans just days before her death. Rivers wasn’t even pretending to make a joke when she told a reporter that when Israel started bombing Gaza, the Gazans should have left the country, and those who did not “deserved to die” and were extremely stupid. She has made similar statements before, and the reporter was giving her a chance to disavow or soften her earlier remarks. Instead, she said she had “no sympathy” for the more than 2,000 dead, or the more than 10,000 injured, or the more than 100,000 displaced in this most recent round of fighting. Imagine if similar comments were made by an Arab or Muslim comic about dead Jews. We know what kind of public outcry there would have been (and rightly so). Also, comparing Heidi Klum to the Nazi executioners is not funny at all. Shame on you, Katha Pollitt, and shame on The Nation!

Fritz Neil

Shaker Heights, OH

Sep 16 2014 - 9:19pm

How Zephyr Teachout Taught Democrats a Lesson in Democracy

What we have learned from the 35 percent percent of New York state primary votes that Zephyr Teachout received is that there are a lot of people with the capability of voting who prefer to not understand how politics works. (Like making sausages) Also, they want to not have to think too much about how their rights are protected. Honest government, or less costly government, is a matter of grays rather than absolute blacks and whites.

By the way, I never have heard or seen Zephyr Teachout’s campaign platform. It was not discussed in your article, nor in any media story I saw or heard before or since the election. It was the same situation in the 2008 elections. Undefined “hope and change.” I could not vote for that phantom then, and I could not vote for another phantom, Zephyr Teachout, now.

Cheri Fistel

Bronx, NY

Sep 12 2014 - 10:02am

Patriotic Heresy vs. the New Cold War

I think it is refreshing that The Nation is open to publishing alternative viewpoints on the crisis in Ukraine. That said, it seems that the frame The Nation is applying to Ukraine is not consistent with how the magazine typically addresses issue of national sovereignty and self-determination.

Certainly, Ukraine has a history of being subjugated by other countries and has a diverse population divided between Russian and Ukrainian speakers. However, Russia’s annexation of parts of Ukraine is a dangerous step. I find Roger Cohen’s fallacy about the lack of a Ukrainian people straining to be out from the yoke of Russia to be troubling as a potential excuse for Russia’s annexation of part of another country. Certainly, it could be applied to almost any country, particularly historically imperialist states like Russia that have made it a practice to annex other territories. It could definitely be applied to the United States as well.

What is fair about his article is that the people who live in Ukraine (if there is no concept of a Ukrainian people) are stuck in the unpleasant position of being chess pieces in a new battle between East and West. I think at best they are stuck between two villains, and while the rest of the media are unbalanced in favor of the West, it does not benefit the nation to present a view that is inappropriately favorable to the East.

Eric Hosken

New York City

Aug 29 2014 - 12:09pm

Why Is Washington Risking War With Russia?

In this article, as in previous articles published in The Nation on Ukraine, the Ukrainian government has been portrayed as a proxy for Washington, while Russia has been portrayed as justifiably reacting to an existential threat. While entitled to his views and to promote them, Stephen Cohen, who has co-authored this piece and has authored others on the crisis in Ukraine, has ignored the views of many liberals and opponents of the Putin regime in Russia, which readers of the The Nation are entitled to know. Briefly, many liberal opponents of the Putin regime believe that Russia is in the grips of aggressive nationalism, which has been deliberately promoted by its leadership. Allow me to share an excerpt from an article “Goodbye Europe,” by Lyudmila Ulitskaya, a critically acclaimed Russian writer, which I have translated (with some help from Google), below:

I am a Russian writer of Jewish origin and Christian education. My country today declared war on culture, declared war on the values of humanism, the idea of the freedom of the individual, the idea of human rights, which was developed by civilization throughout its entire history. My country is ill from aggressive ignorance, nationalism and imperial mania. I am ashamed of our parliament, [which is] ignorant and aggressive, of the government, [which is] aggressive and incompetent, of the country’s leaders, toy supermen, worshipers of force and deception, I’m ashamed of all of us, of the people who have lost [their] moral bearings.

Ulitskaya’s article, on the whole, is deeply pessimistic, and I share to a great degree her pessimism. But, aside from that, it represents the views of a minority in Russia that is courageous and honest. She deeply cares for her country. She recognizes that Russia is suffering from ignorance and aggressive nationalism. Readers of The Nation need to be acquainted with the content of articles and writings of other brave Russian intellectuals, who oppose the anti-democratic, chauvinistic and militaristic Kremlin leadership. Ulitskaya and others like her represent the type of Russia that needs support. Unfortunately, The Nation has been supporting the Russia of Putin and his corrupt, imperial chauvinist cronies.

Bohdan Klid

Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA

Aug 27 2014 - 2:07pm

Without Parents or Lawyers, Thousands of Children Brave Chaos of Immigration Courts Alone

I have been an immigration lawyer for more than thirty years, including seven as an immigration counsel on the House Judiciary Committee. I have written an article in which I propose an alternative for handling the unaccompanied alien children crisis in a way that I think would be in the best interests of the children and could be acceptable to both parties. “Meeting the Challenge of Unaccompanied Alien Children at the Southwest Border: Is there a better way?” (July 10, 2014).

Nolan Rappaport

Washington, DC

Aug 26 2014 - 9:04pm

How the War on Terror Created the World's Most Powerful Terror Group

This is why The Nation is so yesterday. The truth is, the US created ISIS and weaponized the group, just as the US created the fictitious band called “Al Qaeda.” ISIS is the new home-fashioned boogeyman. Just as America and Israel created Hamas to soften Fatah (who?), they can create new Islamic enemies just with a snap of the ol’ AIPAC. You see. It’s the same clown dressed in ever-new clothes. And even The Nation is falling for the storyline now. Boo! Scared you.

Richard Mann

Seattle, WA

Aug 22 2014 - 4:59pm

The American Cult of Bombing

OMG! We had the flight simulators for attacking Russia, Vietnam, Korea, Lybia, Irak, Iran (scenarios : stealth delivery of goodies and baksheesh, support attacks, full-war bombing anything including nuke plants…) already in the 1980s! And from the recent “jubilees” for WW1 and WW2, when the takeover of the world by the USA began, there seems to be no hope anyone will remember and learn from WW3 (against Russia and China).

Klaus Reinstein


Aug 20 2014 - 12:14am