Web Letters | The Nation


What Can the White Man Say to the Black Woman?

This has got to be one of the most racist things I've ever read. How can you allow this racist to write an article like this? I'm Hispanic and find her story highly offensive and, worse, totally untrue.

Alberto Gutierrez


Mar 31 2015 - 2:33pm

Magna Carta Messed Up the World, Here’s How to Fix It

Nice about the rats, that’s new info. Privatize everything so it gets done most profitably, creating greater security, freedom, prosperity and choice for all. Restrain the problem of the Commons/the State by doing only so much genocide or oppression as is actually profitable. This is the way the world actually works. Reality has no moral or ethical or right/wrong dimension. Those memes are abstractions useful to fool the ignorant into getting along well enough so that most of them, and society, can survive and improve.

Myself, I care about every individual equally, none more than any other, myself included. I care about all humans collectively. I recognize no groups no institutions as anything but convenient fictions.

John Werneken

Kelso, WA

Mar 28 2015 - 1:41pm

Michael Moore for President

I was quite impressed with the article. We do have one person who will be running for president & maybe Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren will jump in. Michael, I could easily see you as Bernie’s or Elizabeth’s VP. Not too sure you have enough experience to run the free world. I have no idea about your background, but I do like hearing your opinions. I did not see any mention about climate change. Freezing in GA, TN & AL with snow on the ground certainly rings climate change to me. The past winter in NY was considerably awful. Something is going on & it is the people that is the cause of climate change & changes need to be made before we kill our planet. Thanks for the good read.

Andrea Boyce


Mar 26 2015 - 6:34pm

‘Why Do They Hate Us?’

Moustafa Bayoumi’s article clarified for me why the liberal hawks like Obama and Clinton scare me at least as much as the Tea Party conservatives. The conservative Islamophobes mostly want to whip up their base for policies that will wreck the United States. The liberal Orientalists carry out policies that harm the rest of the world. I would frankly rather the US made a mess of itself than of the rest of the world.

Ross Taylor

Beaverton, OR

Mar 26 2015 - 6:27pm

Michael Moore for President

These are nineteen of the best campaign ideas that I have heard in my fifty-plus years of voting for US presidents. If anyone can make them happen, Michael Moore can and I pledge to become a volunteer to help him get elected! I have been actively volunteering for candidates at all levels for decades and this is the most hopeful I have ever been, so I know how much harder I will work this time.

Carol Fordonski


Mar 26 2015 - 3:36pm

After Last Week’s Deal With the Troika, What’s Next for Syriza?

I have been deeply touched by the worldwide recognition of the injustice with which Greece has been treated by a bunch of barbarous politicians and vulture capitalists. When their countries were hosts to cavemen, Greece was already a cradle of civilization of the nowadays so-called Western civilization, but now these countries, and their plutocrats destitute of principles and values deem themselves superior beings and pose as arrogant judges.

What a world is this of ours! What a shame. Greece is worthy of gratefulness forever; we, all Western people, are debtors for the values given us by Greece, not money values, but spiritual ones that can’t be lent at 89 percent, that can never be devalued. Euros are a shame in comparison. Let our voice get out and loudly cry and denounce the injustice commited by these few bad representatives of the human race, hidden behind the Three Lenders.

Ernesto Porras-Collantes

Los Angeles, USA

Mar 6 2015 - 3:10am

Why Nobody Seems to Mind That Bill O’Reilly Is a Total Fraud

To our enjoyment and enlightenment, Stephen Colbert presented himself as a faux O’Reilly on The Colbert Report. Despite his biting and illuminating satire, Jon Stewart readily admits that he is a comedian, not a news anchor.

What the liberal Colbert/Daily Show audience doesn’t get is that O’Reilly is primarily an entertainer. His audience enjoys his egomanical bullying of their antagonists. He stands for what they believe, in a way that pleases them. The lions in the Colosseum weren’t funny, but the blood thirsty the masses loved them.

The tall tales O’Reilly spun where done to enhance his persona as a real, courageous journalist and “your humble” correspondent. I guess anyone who thinks he is one for real must have believed that Colbert was as well.

Does it matter to his audience that O’Reilly is a bullshit artist? No, as long as he skewers the people and ideas they despise. Comedy Central hit the jackpot with The Daily Show and Colbert; Fox has done so with O’Reilly (and the the rest of the Faux news nightime lineup. Stewart and Colbert got it right: let’s mock and laugh at the Fox “News” crew without taking the mistaking bona fides for phony fides.

Asher Fried

Croton-on-Hudson, NY

Mar 5 2015 - 2:50pm

Why Americans Don’t Care About Prison Rape

I am grateful for this article’s exposure of conversations those of us working with incarcerated populations have been having for a long time. Another thread of discussion worth noting: many people who do rehabilitative work with inmates believe the vast majority of violent criminals are also survivors of sexual assault (however, we have no hard data to back this up, as few inmates are willing to discuss histories of sexual assault for fear of stigma or being identified as an already primed target for further sexual abuse).

In my experience, rape and many other forms of sexual assault (although not all), are more about having power over someone than a result of sexual deviance. As such it is not surprising that so many survivors (in the prison system and the general public) turn into sexual assailants or violent offenders, in an effort to reclaim the power that they didn’t have at the time of their assault. This “reclaimed” power serves as a cheap antidote for the PTSD powerlessness they have been feeling since their original incident. As a society, we must address, prevent and support the healing of of sexual assault happening within our prison populations, or else hold ourselves responsible for the increased number of rapes and violent crimes that are certain to result.

J. Miakoda Taylor


Mar 4 2015 - 6:20pm

If America Wants to End Terrorism, It Has to Start With Its Own

What has been forgotten is that the United States has committed crimes identified in the Geneva Conventions. Why beat around the Bush? The 269 war crimes were itemized in my book George W. Bush, War Criminal? yet The Nation and other publications have been too chicken to review the book and use the term “war crimes.”

Michael Haas

Los Angeles

Mar 3 2015 - 10:38am

Is Pacifica Radio Worth Saving?

As a forty-year supporter and volunteer of our local Pacifica Radio outlet in Los Angeles, KPFK-FM, I found this piece a good read, yet there are some problems with his narrative—particularly in that the author overlooks some aspects of Pacifica’s current plight. To begin, he cites the Pacifica debts as a given. Fact is, the contract with Goodman (Democracy Now!) was conducted unilaterally by the Pacifica Radio “chair” and executive director, not properly by the entire Pacifica National Board (and featured other “irregular” and troubling aspects), and contains onerous terms, so it is imperative that this document finally be rescinded and revoked—probably renegotiated—as an unconscionable contract… and monies already spent be refunded to Pacifica. Only in the most apparent—and superficial—sense to we “owe” Goodman hundreds of thousands of dollars. Of course, in legal matters a problematic issue—like this—which is never challenged is generally never provided a remedy. It just goes on and one, like the pain of a neglected diseased tooth.

The second problem is that the author neglects to mention that some specific components of the system—some stations—have been non-producing for many years, and that the producing stations—such as KPFA and KPFK—have long been “picking up the tab.” Even when they occasionally enjoy a particularly successful fund-drive, two or three months later the money is gone and BAM! our listeners are—once again—barraged with what feels like incessant fund-drive pitching. WBAI in NYC seems to have been the primary locus of the problem, as the decision, some years ago, was made to acquire exclusive and very expensive Manhattan studios and contract for enormously costly Empire State Building monthly antenna-service fees. This East Coast station has since relocated to other facilities, but the system is still suffering from some very poor decision-making in years past. We may have to “bite the bullet” and make some difficult decisions. I will add that our stations have frequently opted for major upgrades, including boosts to ever greater broadcast power—and additional sub-stations—actions which may have been—in the long run—somewhat unrealistic and unwise.

It is absolutely essential to comprehend that these are the real bases for our insolvency, the fact of our system’s hemorrhaging serious money for decades. If I may change metaphors, this has been the albatross hanging about our neck, and we have been stuck in a never-ending dwindling spiral, with constant efforts to “rob Peter to pay Paul.” It may also explain the terrific—and constant—refusal to provide essential financial documentation, though we have demanded same—even to its own Finance Committees. Nothing any more exotic or complicated than normal “balance sheets,” but—no—we never get them. I have attended countless KPFK Local Station Board meetings, and rarely are these issues even mentioned… except by a handful of very vocal subscribers, during the “public comment” segments.

All we hear is that we are “deeply in the red,” and that we need more funding. This is like a diabetic patient furiously seeking leg pain management, while refusing to address the systemic cause, his diabetes. I might mention that a few of us have been viciously criticized for being “argumentative” and “divisive.” Yet, Management has historically been in serious denial of the real issues. What do you say—as a victim of domestic violence—when your neighbors or police complain about your “being such a trouble-maker? Yes, this is also akin to complaints about “Palestinian terrorist violence” when the Israelis have a history of routinely bulldozing residents’ homes and establishing new settlements right on top of the homes of those whose families have occupied the area for centuries. What—the hell—is wrong with this picture? I’m not sure about blatant fraud and misappropriation of funds, but obviously there has been serious financial mismanagement, and the Powers That Be seem convinced that the problem will “go away” if we simply ignore it move on. Isn’t there a classic definition of insanity to the effect of continuing with a given behavior or procedure, which keep resulting in unpleasant consequences, with the expectation of different results?

The “other end” of this problem has been—until terribly recently—KPFK (and I presume the other stations’) resistance to experiment with various innovative means toward additional revenue generation and to further engage with the community (and younger members of the community), even with relatively low-tech means, such as bill-board and public transport ads. This has been one of my key demands for the past five years. As it happens, our listenership median age—I understand—is around fifty years of age, and our refusal to branch out (along with some recalcitrance to push the limits with controversial subject content), is probably related to our dwindling subscriber-ship numbers. That is to say that to focus one’s marketing ONLY on one’s already existing listenership probably is tantamount to courting death. One can only succeed by targeting a much larger population, and by focusing on the psychology-and needs—of other age-groups and populations. And, by insuring that our programming—consistent with our tradition, and Pacifica Mission Statement—is solidly activist and controversial… and by demonstrating openness to innovative—and youth-oriented—programming.

A few years ago I was an officer of our Community Advisory Board (and frequently attended the meetings of other local committees, as well). We had been making an earnest effort toward more solidly activist program content and toward much more community involvement—and Management responsiveness to community issues—and I must say that it was not a little disconcerting to discover—a little down the road—that the general manager had summarily dissolved our body. I interpreted this as a sharp slap in the face to us… and to the concept of real community involve-ment… to the idea that this truly was “our radio station.” Clearly, rhetoric about “responsiveness to community needs,” accountability and “transparency” is mostly baloney.

Now, the matter of fund-drive content… The first problem is that this programming seems interminable, and much of it is simply canned programming, not live programming, which is alienating to many listeners, in part, because this kind of content is inherently dishonest. When the host says something about Bill and Sadie just having called from Torrance and Encino, and we have been paying attention for the last several days and remember that this particular show was heard, say, the weekend before, this may strike a very negative chord. It is also lazy programming. In the sixties and seventies, say, there was much more live programming. More local “remote” broadcasts, too. On the issue of fund-drive program subject content… IMO, this is a very mixed situation. On the one hand, in view of Management’s heavy resistance to certain types of particularly “radical and incisively controversial material,” to catch some of this during the drives is terribly refreshing and encouraging. Along with many of my fellow station subscribers and volunteers, we are heartened to hear more about research about President Kennedy assassination research developments through the years, more about the shoddy “9-11” official report, which was used as a pretext for America’s horrible and illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—which have been morally reprehensible, thoroughly unjustifiable, and interminable. As a holistic practitioner and chiropractic doctor, it delights me to hear content related to holistic-alternative medicine. When we occasionally hear a commentator reminding us that the last two administrations in Washington have been equally corrupt (and is willing to forego the usual adulation of Mr. Obama), it is music to my ears.

On the other hand, some of this content is along the lines of “magical, magnetic healing water” or “Theta Healing Energy”… .or nutritional educational material from figures like David Wolf, who has no medical or scientific credentials whatever, or borderline value mental deprogramming audio files (and expensive workshops) from Chris Howard. As I have noted during meetings, we are badly in need of a board to vet these guests and their material.

Some of this is atrociously, abysmally bad stuff… and no doubt has badly affected our station’s “rep.” I will add that this kind of “snake oil” marketing is something that both programmer Ian Masters and I deplore, but Masters refuses to distinguish between material that is somewhat provocative and experimental, say—but based on research—or, at least, on some legitimate clinical experience—and the fatally “out there” stuff (like alien visitation and the content I cite above), with an attitude much like the truly offensive… and categorically reactionary and hyper-skeptical pair, Penn and Teller, and the equally odious “Quackwatch” website content.

Finally, our board meetings—both Pacifica National Board (PNB) and Local Station Board (LSB)—are like meetings aboard the “Flying Dutchman” ship, damned to circumnavigate the world, and never drop anchor at any port, or perhaps marooned in the middle of the Atlantic. They are phlegmatic, unresponsive to some genuine issues which are occasionally introduced (important motions introduced by various station committees are generally postponed or referred to a committee, frequently to disappear into the abyss) and almost without exception simply “rubber-stamp” the long-standing status quo, mistakenly instituted policies. Generally, a collection of department store manikins could perform about as well as these people, some of whom are real “blowhards.” Let me be more specific. A couple of years ago, the issue before the Local Board was the matter of ratification of the proposed station budget at that time. It was patently clear to a handful of us that, in lieu of full disclosure, action on this would be premature and a huge mistake. Nonetheless, the Board proceeded to vote for ratification. Someone, on the Board, should have been “raising bloody murder.”

What we need are boards—and system and station management—which really do “speak the language” of account-ability and transparency, represent solid anti-war activism, dependable radical and innovative content, which is fearless in criticizing fascism and corruption of any group or individual—not excepting the present one in Washington. And, which is “all about” a robust mission for guarantee of the civil and political rights of people like key whistleblowers, minority groups, and repeal—and overturning—of signally toxic measures and institutions such NAFTA, the “Citizens United” decision, National Defense Authorization Act, and the Dept. of Homeland [sic] Security. We do—from time to time—succeed in “hitting the target,” but all too often we miss it entirely. It would be so nice to see Pacifica make a turn toward integrity and sustainability.

Finally, I object most strenuously to the author’s characterizing of the producers of activist commentary and other forms of alternative, and authority and “business as usual” challenging content as “conspiracy theorists.” Much of what we hear, read and view in the main-line media today is dogma and duplicitous propaganda and “reality show” character certifiable junk (Hollywood celebrity gossip tripe and such). His attitude reflects very badly on him, and makes him suspect as a serious commentator or journalist.

Dr. Thomas Halle

Los Angeles

Feb 22 2015 - 9:14pm