Web Letters | The Nation


How Unrest in Ukraine Is Sending a Wave of Refugees to Russia

The key part that is missing in this article is that neo-Nazi militias overthrew a democratically elected government in Kiev.

Francis Kornblum


Jul 11 2014 - 2:24pm

How US Evangelicals Fueled the Rise of Russia’s ‘Pro-Family’ Right

The leftists will readily denounce the Project for the New American Century or the Wolfowitz doctrine. But hegemony requires propaganda, and that includes demonizing foreign leaders. The lefties have difficulty comprehending that. They believe that Putin is bad because he violates gay rights. But there are about eighty countries around the world that actually criminalize the homosexual acts. Russia is not one of them. So why the fixation on Russia? Well, Putin is inherently evil, and his anti-gay agenda is just one manifestation of it. But is he? Or has he been demonized by propaganda?

There is a massive propaganda campaign against Russia underway. Ostensibly the critique (or rather hysteria) is directed against her president, Vladimir Putin. We hear everywhere that Putin is a scheming, devious man, so there must be something to it, right? (Actually, to me those accusations sound childish.) For example, take gay rights. Western leaders did not attend the Sochi Olympics because of that. Yet one more weapon in the propaganda arsenal. The lefties jumped on the bandwagon. Never mind that the neocons usually associate with people who do not particularly care about gay rights; any means are good in the march to global hegemony.

Russia passed a law banning propagation of homosexuality to minors. That is supposed to be some major horror, a truly monumental human rights violation, simply intolerable. What about all the countries that actually criminalize homosexuality?

Francis Kornblum


Jul 11 2014 - 2:19pm

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

Real estate in New York is like oil in Texas. Wherever land costs a lot (and pays off a lot), and wherever oil is deposited, you find bullies hurting people and raking in fortunes. Easy money always attracts loose morals.

It does so inside and outside government, both the bribe givers and the bribe takers. (What’s the difference between a bribe and a campaign contribution of millions? Time’s up.) The real state is real estate and always has been, from the days lords and kings to the present day of landlords and bank lenders.

The only antidote is to realize that natural rents belong to us all, to begin sharing them à la Singapore and to keep promulgating that realization. More at Progress.org.

Jeff Smith

Portland, OR

Jul 11 2014 - 2:00pm

The Silence of American Hawks About Kiev’s Atrocities

The pitiful piece of writing is missing just too many facts if the author tended to “find nuances.” Almost every paragraph is written in the famous style of Russian propaganda—omitting this, misinterpreting that and easily hooking too-simple clichés. The author does not bother about his reputation. What could be the reason?



Jul 10 2014 - 5:40am

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