Web Letters | The Nation


Without Respite

There was not a single outrage perpetrated against the Jews by the Nazis that had not been committed against countless other equally innocent human beings even in modern times. This is not to minimize the importance of the Holocaust. Rather, it is to universalize its significance. It was in many ways an emblematic event, symbolizing the terrible human price that has been paid to build the modern world. I think Jewish writers like Ms. Gornick do the subject (and themselves) when they describe it as a unique and indescribable event. Much better to describe it in graphic detail—as has been done countless times, by Levi among others—and to emphasize its universal human significance. In my judgment, anyway.

Luke Lea

Walden, TN

Dec 4 2013 - 12:01pm


Joshua Clover, WTH? Talk about wandering off a bit: “…with less purchase on the radical displacement of ethical ties by the compulsions of labor and markets.” You’re annoying! I am not going to finish reading your article.

Mrs. Clinton Esperson

Salt Lake City, UT

Dec 4 2013 - 2:26am

Without Respite

I am not a Primo Levi scholar, but based on the reports I have read, I am not convinced that his death was a suicide as opposed to an accident. (He was on an anti-depressant that can cause dizziness.)


Cleveland, OH

Dec 3 2013 - 9:55am

The Nation en Español

With the overwhelming reader backlash against Eric Alterman, he seems to have taken this on as a personal mission to enrage as many Nation readers as possible. When Alterman replies to Abdeen Jabara’s call for these type of articles to be censored, I think The Nation should go one step further. Either have Alterman admit publicly that he is your periodical’s “Zionist apologist and Israeli propagandist-in-chief” or just fire him outright. None of your readers want to read his writing, as most of us had just ignored his articles in the past anyway. It is ironic that Alterman would claim that he is the only one providing a platform for Max Blumenthal’s book, when if it had not been for his “review” of Blumenthal’s book, Alterman would still be respected by the ignorant. Alterman tries to lay the blame on his editors, and he will not even acknowledge his writing for what it is. It was clearly a review of a book that he started reading with the intention of attacking the author.

Bill Maas

Colorado Springs, CO

Dec 2 2013 - 11:21am

The Progressive Electoral Wave of 2013

You wrote that “surfing a wave of union backing, [Marty] Walsh won” the Boston mayoral election. Walsh could not have won with just union backing (especially since most Boston teachers didn’t support him during the preliminary because of his support for raising the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts). He won because three of his top preliminary challengers—one black woman, one Latino and one Cape Verdean—got on board to support him. As a progressive, white, retired history teacher, I supported Felix Arroyo in the preliminary, but held my nose and voted for Walsh in the final. I’m hopeful that he’ll rethink his stand on public education, and I wish him well.

Maureen O'Connor

Boston, MA

Nov 26 2013 - 8:25pm

Hannah and Her Admirers

I don’t think the writer of this article understood this film well. The film is as much about what is going on in the world today, suggesting the Arendt was right in seeing evil as banal. Arendt said that Eichman dissociated himself from his own humanity and that allowed him to do what he did, that he was not truly driven by hatred but by having blocked himself off from his own humanity.

The bankers, mortgage companies, investment bankers who wrecked havoc on the lives of many millions of Americans to line their pockets with great wealth, and those in the government who failed to prosecute anyone for an open fraud on the American public, also had to dissociate from their own humanity, to see the people they stole from as meaningless and even inhuman.

Arendt may have misread Eichman. Maybe Eichman did truly hate Jews. But I think she got the banality of evil right, and I think the real message of the documentary Hannah Arendt is that all kinds of banal evil have happened in this world: corporations make millions while paying fast-food workers so poorly that the taxpayers pay for their healthcare and food stamps—that is evil. Corporations make millions by inflating real estate values, selling bad loans to people who could not afford them, selling bad loan portfolios to unsuspecting investors, even betting against their own junk investments all so they could make money.

Look at any aspect of our economy: one has to dissociate from one’s own humanity to run a fracking operation, or to be the Koch brothers and fund things like wiping out union power and wiping out the middle class.

Arendt got evil exactly right. She might have gotten Eichman’s hatred of the Jews wrong and she might have been too lost in cool intellectualism to speak about the Jewish leadership in Germany as the Nazis rose in power, but her main message is that evil is really banal, and boring: it is simply when a human being dissociates from their own humanity—this dissociation allows a human to be cruelly evil to fellow humans. She got that right, it is going on in the world today… as long as some rich well connected folks are making money and greasing the right palms, banal evil happens all over the world. She got evil right. Unfortunately.

Don’t let her comments about Jews and the conflict those comments generated distract from her insight into the banality of evil. Look around the world: banal evil is all over.

Tree Fitzpatrick

Berkeley, CA

Nov 23 2013 - 10:49am

Why the Left Should Defend Obamacare

I have now read countless articles, posts, and blogs about why the Affordable Care Act is the greatest thing to happen in healthcare in years… and why it's the worst thing to happen to this country in years and will likely bring about the apocalypse. In all of this useless hyperbole I have found not a single article in the mainstream media that talks about the real healthcare issue, that is, the complete control of our healthcare system by the pharmaceutical and insurance industries.

Of course, the alternative media have been onto this for years, perhaps because they don't have the restrictions incurred by receiving billions of dollars of advertising from those corporations. The hard truth of the pharmaceutical industry is that there are no profits in cures, not when compared to expensive drug treatments that last a lifetime. The everything-requires-a-drug approach to medical treatment is the norm taught in medical schools today and is largely funded by the pharmaceutical industry. And what about political influence? Why is Dick Durbin sponsoring a bill to have the FDA (a revolving door branch of Big Pharma… just look at who runs the agency) take control of approving dietary supplements? To protect the public? When more people die each year from prescription medications than all the illegal drugs and dietary supplements combined? Ka-ching!

Then there are the insurance companies. Just talk to Wendell Potter about them and you'll realize they are the totally unnecessary middlemen that are the real cause of the rising cost of healthcare. Or visit the website of Dr. David Belk to see what drugs and medical procedures really cost. It becomes apparent rather quickly that the insurance industry is soaking us all and are largely to blame for the debt that everyone is so concerned about.

And finally, why are so many Americans so sick? Why has cancer become epidemic? And diabetes? And heart disease? A little research into what's happened to food production in this country (courtesy of ADM, Monsanto, Dupont, Cargill, et al.) will answer that question. Food processing results in a product that is as much chemicals as it is food. Our food is less nutritious, with more empty calories, than at any time in our nation's history. The food producers provide what the fast-food industry requires and so the cycle goes on. Fortunately, there is a growing trend in the country toward buying organic produce and dairy products and grass-fed beef (check the info on CAFOs, and you'll only eat grass-fed from now on).

Look, I've only scratched the surface here. I'm no journalist, but there is a mountain of information out there for someone who wants report on what the real healthcare issues are. Please, let's have no more talk of insurance bills… unless there is one that gets rid of the insurance companies.

Richard Singletary

Richardson, TX

Nov 21 2013 - 4:42pm

The ‘I Hate Israel’ Handbook

To label Goliath “The ‘I Hate Israel’ Handbook” evinces a certain emotional hypersensitivity that isn’t really warranted. On the other hand, to label it “The I’m Angry at Israel’ Handbook” doesn’t have the same dismissive ring. Better, when all is said and done, would have been to encourage or suggest that one actually read the book and get from it what it has to offer. I see the book as more along the lines of an anthropological study of contemporary Israeli policy vis-à-vis the Palestinians, doubly valuable because Blumenthal was there gleaning “facts on the ground” rather than “pie in the sky” and presenting these facts in a highly readable fashion.

Alterman says Blumenthal has titled some of his chapters to “imply an equivalence between Israel and Nazi Germany”. No, not an equivalence, but certainly some ironic parallels. Few readers would be so ahistorical as to actually find equivalence, but some similarities, yes. Alterman has obviously also written about Israel’s “brutal military occupation of Palestinian land” and and how it has “desensitized its citizens to the daily humiliations it inflicts on the Palestinians”. So why begrudge the book for presenting the material in such a way as to help (re?-)sensitize the reader to the same? After all, we’re all interested in the search for truth, no?

Alterman’s main complaint seems to be that the book makes no attempt to be balanced. Well, the book isn’t a polemic, and what Blumenthal has lived and observed during his stay in Israel deserves to be recorded and published. After all, what truly makes the book remarkable is what he has recorded for posterity. Wouldn’t we have appreciated similar books recording the “up front and personal” observations of historical assaults against other peoples, native Americans, Armenians, Jews and any and all victims of systematic degradation? It’s as if Alterman would have expected Blumenthal to provide enough “context” (Israel’s perception of threats against it) to excuse and make irrelevant the dismaying and heart-breaking events Blumenthal elucidates.

Obviously, “Fascism” can’t be recreated in any current or future historical context. The past can’t be duplicated. There can be no “equivalence.” But, thanks to Max Blumenthal, for providing his observations helping draw a more accurate portrait of the Israeli reality than was available before his book was published.

And finally, what is ultimately accomplished by discouraging anyone from actually reading the book?


Steve Marzicola

Santa Barbara, CA

Nov 20 2013 - 1:05am

Village People

Thanks for the review, just wish I had seen it forty-eight hours earlier. Would have saved me some money. I actually bought this extra stack of garbage on audiobooks, so I really took it I the shorts.

The whole construct seemed like a bad flashback to the double line of double BS rethuglicons were trying to hype on the public. Many bought it—still do. That’s even scarier because of the endless double-wide filled communities that are now faced with there worst possible nightmare… another four years with a black man in the White House.

Your subtitle—“Mark Halperin and John Heilemann’s Double Down entertains, but its contempt for liberalism shows on almost every page.”—is the best summary of the book around. It shows how they play a very thin game of trying to appear as liberals and glaring through as nothing but Glen Beck think-alikes. Every time I’ve seen them over the last few weeks, that patina is so thin, I’m afraid it’s gonna pop on the set.

Fifty pages in, I tossed it… Lesson learned.

Ron Baldwin


Nov 16 2013 - 1:43am

Why Are Children Working in American Tobacco Fields?

Hello, I spent several seasons photographing small tobacco farm families in Weston, Missouri. You can view a small portfolio of the pictures on my website.

Eli Reichman

Kansas City, MO.

Nov 15 2013 - 12:02pm