Web Letters | The Nation


Europeans Do It Better

As a statistician, there is often discussion of the level of "numeracy" in the general public. This article, published in one of the country's leading magazine of thought, is kind of stunning.

"Six billion is enough." It is? Does it matter how old they are? What skills they have? Where they live? This "just do a global head count" approach to demographics is interesting.

The plan to train the Arab teenagers in France or the youngsters in the orphanages in Russia to fill future jobs in the EU isn't just about teaching a skill like how to type -- ask the West Germans who have tried to absorb a generation of East Germans. It means teaching a world-view.

Hearing someone living in upscale, downtown US say "six billion is enough" sounds a bit simplistic. "Train orphans" sounds beyond smug -- that, unfortunately, sounds like Jonathan Swift.

Carson Bennett

Tempe, AZ

Apr 2 2007 - 7:18pm

The New SDS

I enjoyed reading this article overall, but I would like to respond to this:

"'Propaganda by the deed doesn't work," says Yale's Landau. "They probably alienated far more people than they inspired with the Capitol rush, especially the graffiti on the steps of the Capitol.'"

It is hard to define propaganda of the deed, but if we are saying it means an illegal action intended to inspire rather than alienate people, judging from the crowd of excited faces I recall seeing at the Capitol building I don't think there can be any doubt that it did work. Why else would so many people have flocked over there?

Consider this passage from JoAnn Wypijewski, a former senior editor of The Nation, who witnessed the event,

"As we were approaching [the Capitol building] there came the one unscripted moment of the march. The anarchist kids, the revived SDS, a youthful band bearing red and black flags, one saying 'An Army of None', swept up the stairs of the Capitol. We joined them and for a brief time the whole thing felt like it should--electric and raw, impolite."

Far from concluding that we had gone too far she wishes we had done more, adding,

"At one point there were very few police. Had there been waves of thousands coming up those steps, it would have been hard for the men in blue to do much. It's not as if, in practical terms, 'taking' the Capitol steps would have been any more meaningful on that lovely winter afternoon than marching in a well-behaved box, but it would have been symbolically potent. It would have been an exhibition of a fierce anger, in the fifth year of Guantanamo, the fourth year of the war in Iraq, in the awful march of euphemized torture, legalized detention, authorized aggression, constitutional trampling, death and pain and sadness and acquiescence. It would have been apt. Not much really, just somewhat commensurate with the horror of the times, a performance of fury and a warning of more."


I agree that "for a brief time the whole thing felt like it should." We were testing the limits, and if nothing else those actions changed us. Even if it is true that the police were ordered to go easy on us, we didn't know that at the time. I was sure we were going to be clubbed, and I think many had similiar anxieties. The satisfaction we derived from facing our fears was not diminished by the fact that they weren't realized. It was even better. We left D.C. emboldened and unscathed.

I sent away for my SDS membership soon after returning home.

Matthew Provonsha

Toledo, Ohio

Apr 2 2007 - 6:51pm

The New SDS

A question for Maurice Isserman, who writes, "As a historian, I found it a little offensive. It's like, could I be in the Sons of Liberty tomorrow if I started it, claimed lineal descent from Sam Adams?"

Are you aware of a group called the Zapatistas? Do you know that Emiliano Zapata died many years ago, and neither he nor anyone in his circle could be said to endorse the EZLN?

Steven Sherman

Carrboro, North Carolina

Apr 2 2007 - 6:35pm

The Many Man-Crushes of Chris Matthews

Can we see that live-feed that Harry Shearer had with Matthews & Tom DeLay talking about Frank Luntz's data on Sen. Clinton & Kerry?

That was some hot man love.

Shawn Fassett

Seattle, WA

Apr 2 2007 - 5:10pm

Witnesses to an Execution

The article stated :

In 2004, 97 percent of all known executions took place in China, Iran, Vietnam and the United States; in the number of juvenile executions since 1990, Iran ranks second (fourteen) to the United States (nineteen) which just this past March categorically banned the death penalty for those under 18.

First, the US has not executed a minor since Leonard Shockley in 1959 and has not executed anyone even under 19 since 1964. In the last year that clear execution tallies are readily available, the four offending nations that you mentioned as making up 97 percent of the world's executions were:

China - 3,400;
Iran (with less than a quarter of the population of the US) - 169;
Vietnam - at least 122 known and likely many more
 (some claim only 69 but that figure is at the first half of the year mark);The US - 60

Per capita the US is far down the list and has far fewer capital offenses than most any nation. Most executions occur in socialist/communist nations and Islamic nations under shira law.

Your article distorts the facts and makes it appear that the American application of capital punishment is on a level with that of Iran. I suppose this was typically deliberate.

Ron Tucker

Monroe, GA

Apr 2 2007 - 4:26pm

The New SDS

Glad to see that The Nation provided its readers with news about SDS and MDS in the 21st-century.

Apparently another elected member of MDS's board is Jeff Jones, who did a lot of great anti-war campus organizing during the late 1960s as a member of the New York SDS Regional Office.

The original MDS was formed by this office and one of MDS's co-founders, a 1968 Columbia Student Strike leader named David Gilbert, is still imprisoned at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York (although a recent court decision apparently finally overturned his 1983 trial verdict because of trial procedure irregularities).

Readers of The Nation who are interested in 1960s SDS and MDS history might also find some of the historical material posted on the www.bfeldman68.blogspot.com site of interest.

Bob Feldman

Boston, Massachusetts

Apr 2 2007 - 12:09pm

The Sum of Our Fears

I agree that funding levels for public risk mitigation is driven by media-fueled emotion.

More is needed for automobile safety, less for aviation safety. The terrorism threat in the US is vastly overstated.

But to be fair, AIDS and women health issues also get more than their fare share of funding for the same emotional reasons,

David Buchyn

Wilton, New York

Apr 1 2007 - 10:18am

'Para-politics' Goes Bananas

Pure potassium ignites when exposed to water. Bananas contain much nutritional potassium, but it's not enough to explode--however, plantains have become explosive. How dangerous is your banana?

The Geneva "Human Rights Tribune" newsletter recently gathered information investigating Chiquita's involvement in terrorism. Chiquita's American headquarters were contacted and Communications Director Mike Mitchell admitted: "...Today we have farms in Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala and Honduras and continue to buy bananas in Colombia, but without directly owning the plantations."

Chiquita did not own the plantations in Columbia, but they continued to hire unsanctioned militia groups to protect their business interests violently while brutalizing workers forming labor unions. It amounted to industrial terrorism. Jose Humberto Torres, Colombian lawyer and activist with the Solidarity Committee for Political prisoners, met with the Human Rights Tribune in Geneva.

"My organization is going to formally ask the American government that the 25 million dollar fine [against Chiquita] be used to compensate the victims of these abuses and their families. We are also going to request a prison sentence for Chiquita’s top management for having financed an organisation responsible for murders, terrorism, forced disappearances, sexual violence and forced recruitment. We are asking that truth, justice and compensation for the victims be recognised," Jose Humberto Torres stated.

On the Net: http://www.humanrights-geneva.info/article.php3?id_article=1353

* * * *

As early as the mid 90's, Chiquita was suspected of violating human rights, violating labor laws, and interfering in foreign government policy.

General failures of the [American] and Guatemalan [governments] to ensure respect for labor law and basic rights of banana workers were presented as the key issues of a study and petition filed in mid-June by the AFL-CIO and by US/GLEP along with IUE, UE, and the International Labor Rights Fund. The study asked that the U.S. Trade Representative review Guatemala's eligibility for duty-free trade benefits. Chiquita, other businesses, militant organizations, and the Guatemalan government were suspected of continuing worker rights violations.

Women continue to walk the streets [of Guatemalan cities and towns] with fear that they could at any moment be abducted and killed. According to the Guatemalan National Civilian Police (PNC) the number of women killed has risen steeply from 303 in 2001 to 665 in 2005. Exceptional cruelty and sexual violence characterize many of the killings. Some of the victims had their throats cut, were beaten, shot or stabbed to death. Many of their bodies show signs of rape, torture, mutilation or dismemberment.


* * * *

US policy makers claim to be fighting a "War Against Terrorism", but their actions with Chiquita have been supporting and encouraging terrorism in Guatamala, Columbia, and throughout South America. George W. Bush claims to be liberating Iraq. No one claims to be liberating Banana Republics from American corporations. American corporations are maintaining Banana Republics that neglect human rights and encourage violence while further destabilizing foreign governments. America continues it's terrorist operations against the world in pursuit of globalization and political dominance.

We want things cheap and easy, forgetting that something gained in one place equals something lost in another place. Excess in this market equals depletion in another country. Labor unions are being strangled in impoverished countries, silencing any representation that would exist for the average working, and corporations don't blink or hesitate while murdering democratic practices. It's sickening, but ordinary Americans don't stop during the day to think about the rest of the world.

We're not useless or helpless. Something as easy as an e-mail to Chiquita can affect corporate public relations and policy. Everyone deserves an honest day's wages for an honest day's work. Countries have the right to autonomy and self-determination without American interference. Our goal is too assist the weak, but we've forgotten that we are our brother's keeper.

Jerie Leep

Tenkiller, Oklahoma

Apr 1 2007 - 1:34am

On the Genealogy of Morals

As I've been told long ago, writing history should not be about one's subjective views but about what really happend in it's truest form.

If we continue to politicize how and what we write regarding our history, our descendants will write off the 21st century as irrelevant.

A. Cook

Dunwoody, GA

Mar 31 2007 - 11:32pm

The Loan Shark Lobby

I am a diehard fan of The Nation and consider myself a progressive and an individual who cares about my fellow man and fellow americans. I am, in addition, a manager of a large mortgage company.

I've read a lot of articles lately which have targeted and blamed the mortgage industry as the sole reason for the increasing amount of foreclosures--and Colorado itself is leading the nation in defaults.

While yes, some blame can be placed on unethical mortgage brokers, the industry is not just a bunch of loan sharks. We typically lend at 6 percent to 10 percent interest rates, which are also tax deductible which effectively lowers these rates even further.

The credit card industry lends at 10 percent to 35 percent interest rates, which are not deductible and the credit card companies can simply increase their rates anytime they choose, which is not the case in the mortgage industry. Automotive salesman lend to subprime borrowers at 21 percent interest rates.

Homeowners with subprime loans may have $1,500 or so mortgage payment yet they typically have $600 car payments--while their credit card debt is ever increasing and they are earning less today in wages then they did five years ago. All of this while healthcare costs and gas prices have soared. So it is easy to blame the mortgage industry for the increasing foreclosure trend.

The mortgage industry is not the sole cause of this problem. The same Americans who are losing their homes in this economy would also be unable to make their rent payments if they were renters. I see this as more an effect of economy as a whole--consumer credit card debt and credit card interest rates are increasing along with everyday living costs such as healthcare and energy bills, while average income has decreased.

So to blame the mortgage industry which lends at much lower rates and at least has some regulatory guidelines to follow (unlike the credit card and auto industry) is convenient for many.

Why don't we put some controls on other industries which make it impossible for homeowners to make their payments on their most important asset--their homes?

Christopher Chialtas

Highlands Ranch, CO

Mar 30 2007 - 8:37pm