Web Letters | The Nation


Distorting Russia

Given the events at Sochi, such as the beating of the Pussy Riot activists, and the way the crisis in Ukraine has played out, I truly believe that you owe your readers an apology. This was one of the worst articles I have ever read in your magazine, and does, in fact, make me question my subscription. Though the whole article was troubling, the notion that Putin has “virtually saved Obama’s presidency” by his role in Syria is just offensive. I don’t believe Putin is interested in saving any presidencies other than his own, and the puppets he controls in the surrounding former “republics” of the Soviet Union. Again, I believe you owe your readers an apology for this “cover story,” which I think it truly was, in as much as it was an attempt to provide Putin cover and justifications for his actions, so reminiscent of Georgia. Just very offensive.

Dean Sinclair


Mar 3 2014 - 12:13pm

Distorting Russia

Cohen’s article is the most sensible and fair discussion of Russia I’ve seen so far. In fact, it’s the only sensible and fair discussion of Russia I’ve seen.

It seems that almost everybody, right and left, has a mental image, or a system of categories set in stone, for viewing Russia. These categories were formed years ago, and never re-examined. Putin can’t get a break from either side.

When a bunch of disruptive, vaguely threatening juvenile delinquents invade a church to take over the service for their own purposes, they end up in prison; and it’s all Putin’s fault. When they’re released, it’s a deception, a provocation, an optical illusion.

Russia has had close ties with Ukraine in the past; I would almost be inclined to say, Ukraine is in Russia’s “sphere of influence.” Yet when a street mob overthrows the duly elected government of Ukraine, we’re supposed to side with the protesters. Well, not me.

During the Cold War, pundits were fond of saying, “Our enemy is not the Russian people; it’s the Communist system.” But then when communism collapsed, there was no rapprochement—quite the reverse. We might have become friends then, but we missed the boat; and now people just seem to go along, by habit, thinking of Russia as the enemy. It’s lazy and stupid.

Larry E.

Bloomington, IN

Mar 3 2014 - 3:39am

Why Woody Allen Deserves the Benefit of the Doubt

I am responding to the article written on behalf of Woody Allen. Just the title made my face burn! Who wrote this, some yuppie? Or someone who hasn’t followed the news since this happened years ago? Why does it seem that people are quick to judge Mia Farrow, supposedly brainwashing her daughter? And so quick to sanctify Woody Allen. Isn’t it a fact that Dylan told her mother and her mother responded to the authorities? Didn’t she try everything in the book to keep her children safe? Are you a mother, who wrote this article? Have you been in this position? I think not! And quoting supposed professionals that think, “it may have been planted in her mind.”

I for one hope that Mia, Dylan and Ronan and family members continue to keep on doing whatever they can to bring light to this because Woody Allen thinks he can still get away with his behavior. For the most part, he can! Because there are ignorant people that refuse to recognize that he was capable and did in fact abuse Dylan as she remembers it! Also, I am ashamed of The Nation  for printing this article like no one was going to notice that hasn’t been keeping up with the news. For the people who continue to be in his movies. They want money & fame and nothing more matters, period! But it does matter!

Shame on you for writing such a shallow article. I expect more from The Nation!

Lucinda Kinsall


Feb 28 2014 - 2:55pm

Purging the Legacy of Dictatorship From Chile’s Constitution

This article described a very different country from the one I, as a young Chilean, experience every day. It is simply not true that the gains of the past three decades have gone only to the elite. Chile’s GINI coefficient decreased from .56 to .52 between 1990 and 2000 (World Bank data). This implies that growth was, at least, evenly shared—which is more than you can say for the United States.

Beyond the data, every year we see more and more Chileans moving from shantytowns to real houses, traveling abroad, and attending universities. Higher education enrollment grew sixfold in two decades. The sad place described in your article, where “Chileans have been struggling,” “retirees have been joining the ranks of the poor” and “expensive tuition has shut out all but the wealthy from advanced education” does no justice to the real gains made by the lower and middle classes in Chile.

Injustice still exists here, painfully so. The fact is, however, that Chile has been one of the only countries in the world to dodge the global rise in inequality of the past twenty years. The author of your piece projected her own (very justified) fears about rising US inequality and financial deregulation onto our country, but this was mistaken.

It is past time to stop viewing all events in Chilean politics through the lens of the Pinochet dictatorship. (Wouldn’t it sound weird to you if foreign correspondents associated Obama’s 2012 re-election with the traumas of LBJ in Vietnam or Jimmy Carter’s failed re-election bid?). Our little country has made significant strides decades in effective financial regulation and the fight against inequality, achievements the United States could learn from. These gains are ignored by foreign journalists’ anachronistic obsession with a dictator who left power before I was even born.

Diego Salvatierra

Santiago, CHILE

Feb 26 2014 - 3:43pm

The Battle for Kiev

Nicolai N. Petro places equal blame on all parties in the Ukrainian crisis. Doing so, however, relies upon drawing a false equivalency between the corrupt Yanukovych dictatorship and the revolutionaries who appear to have overthrown that dictatorship. There are times when negotiation is not a viable option and violence is necessary. Dictators cannot be negotiated with, and there is no doubt that Yanukovych was not going to compromise or sincerely respond to the demands of the people. Armed violence was the only way that the people were going to take back democratic rule. I say that the revolutionaries who took to the street, committing acts of violence, and the MPs who took control of Parliament, will be remembered as heroes. My hope is that someday people in the US will similarly rise up and take back their government from the corrupt politicians and corporations who comprise the ruling class here.

Timothy Post

Kansas City, MO

Feb 24 2014 - 8:04pm

Why Now Is the Time to Reform How We Elect the President

This article completely ignores the most fundamental breakage: the plurality voting system. Until that is replaced with something like Instant Runoff or Approval voting, nothing else will change.

Alan Batie

Corvallis, OR

Feb 23 2014 - 2:08pm

Distorting Russia

I will just copy below, my own comments, that I tried to post as a comment to the em>New York Times’s op ed, by Romano Prodi on February 20. Though I read other comments essentially in sympathy with my note, which was not published by the Times, I offer my remarks here, in respect to Stephen Cohen, for his insights and grounding in present Ukrainian history matters.

Firstly, for the spirit of a free press, and secondly as an alarm to us all—that we should be careful what ‘history’ we accept as truth—in the case of current events of Ukraine, I mention Stephen Cohen, scholar and student of soviet history. His assessments are worth hearing. See his recent Democracy Now! interview—that concerns the various partisan sides currently raging and burning in Ukraine. Also note his explanation of the geopolitical power politics that have for years been at work behind the ‘popular media’ curtains—an explanation that shows the orchestration of EU and USA (and IMF!) in a ‘mutual’ agenda—to gobble Ukraine into their own orbit, against Russia. A version of a resurgent ‘cold war’ that plausibly is under way?

Further perspectives on this present-day history from Cohen are available at The Nation magazine. A succinct summary that characterizes the East vs. West activities and their divisive agendas is here, at Between the Lines. A free press allows pertinent ‘comments’ or commentary. At least as a figurehead, one understands this column—Comments, by name—to have a not disingenuous concern to protect such discourse, and argument and discussion. here’s hoping!

They did not publish this comment, for one reason or another!

Michael Waddell

Austin, TX

Feb 20 2014 - 9:26pm

Three Signs of Retreat in the Global War on Climate Change

As it was already thinking of dropping out of the Kyoto Protocol, the Harper government made a commitment in Copenhagen to reduce Canadian GHG emissions by 17 percent in 2020, going from 734 Mt in 2005 to 612 Mt in 2020. According to its “Sixth National Communication and First Biennial Report on Climate Change for 2014” to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Canada will miss its target by 122 Mt (a 0.4 percent reduction). Canada’s own predictions (which I think are largely underestimated) shows that GHG emissions from the exploitation of tar sands alone will jump from 34 Mt in 2005 to more than 137 Mt in 2030, an increase of 303 percent. Of that increase, around 60 percent (or 82 Mt) will come from bitumen “in situ” extraction. In total, GHG emissions from Canada’s Oil and Gas Sector will reach 241 Mt in 2030, or around 30 percent of all Canadian GHG emissions compared to 4.6 percent in 2005.

This report doesn’t even include emissions associated with wildfires (within the managed forest) and carbon uptake (removals) associated with regrowth in areas disturbed in prior years as required under the UNFCCC. As the area burned by wild land fire is expected to increase across most of Canada as climate change progresses, the Canadian government doesn’t want to include GHG emissions and related removals resulting from natural disturbances. According to Natural Resources Canada (NRC), the number of fires (an average of 9,000 a year) has double since the 1970’s, and is predicted to double again or more by the end of the century, because of warmer temperatures expected as a result of climate change. In 2011, the NRC as estimated that “managed forests alone acted as an overall net carbon source, releasing around 84 Mt of CO2 to the atmosphere.

For countries in the Northern Hemisphere, fire on boreal peatlands represents a major concern. As climate change progresses, peatland gets dryer and more susceptible to catch fire. Peatlands ecosystems cover 2–3 percent of the earth’s land surface, but 25–30 percent of the boreal forest region. It is estimated to store 30 percent of all the world’s terrestrial carbon and 64 percent of the total global boreal forest carbon stock. It is also estimated that peat fires release mercury into the atmosphere at a rate 15 times greater than upland forests, which may be a serious human health concern.

Beside peatlands emissions, there are also all the potential larger methane emissions from the melting permafrost. All of that together creates a pretty scary picture; that is probably why the Canadian government wants to hide the truth from its own population and the rest of the world. It would also only add to the bad reputation that Canada already has around the world as a country not doing enough when it comes to deal with climate change.

René Ebacher

Toronto, CANADA

Feb 16 2014 - 1:54pm

Beyond Naturalism: On Ronald Dworkin

Why doesn’t the Golden Rule or Kant’s Moral Law or something like them offer a better argument? Segregationists, for example, would protest if they were suddenly treated accordingly. Frederick would not want his son to be a common solider, etc. People recognize fairness, which is why we justify inequality (for example), by saying it should come about fairly. I guess this comes closer to Rorty, since in small groups and families fairness is important, and when violated it causes problems.

Roger Seamon

Vancouver, CANADA

Feb 15 2014 - 10:16am

Beyond Naturalism: On Ronald Dworkin

Perhaps the only reasonable solution to the dilemma at the end of the piece on Dworkin—subjectivism on the one hand, theological ethics on the other—is found in evolutionary ethics. I blog on this topic at reasonandmeaning.com.

Dr. John Messerly

Seattle, WA

Feb 14 2014 - 11:01pm