Web Letters | The Nation


Three Signs of Retreat in the Global War on Climate Change

Life is tough. As someone who has had to collect deliquent payments for winter heating, I know firsthand how hard the poor are hit. You cannot just blow off the poor. Government works are in good shape, not the poor. Also I have worked in areas populated by the very environment-friendly trust-fund babies, and they are in a total different world than the working poor.

Jack Connell

Middleton, ID

Feb 13 2014 - 10:19pm

Distorting Russia

Cohen hits the nail on the nail. US media coverage is atrocious. Was the case back in 1917 when we invaded the country, didn’t like the Bolsheviks, to today, stray dogs, gays. God, we have our problems with stray dogs and gays in this country. We run a military imperium, and Russia is a threat, as is China; there are geostrategic considerations involved. But there is no need to demonize other countries. The fact is, we are a pretty inept world’s policemen. More cooperation is what’s needed. Peace in the world or the world in pieces.

Howard Kaplan

Belmont, MA

Feb 13 2014 - 8:42pm

Beyond Naturalism: On Ronald Dworkin

I read with interest the discussion about Ronald Dworkin’s ideas about values and rights. A few days ago CNN had a story about a Danish zoo that had put to death one of its healthy giraffes. As I understood it, the zoo runs a breeding program in which this particular giraffe did not fit in. So for the good of the over-all program, the animal was euthanized. Various values were discussed, including the value that animals should be treated well while they are alive and living at the zoo; so they were reluctant to transfer the animal to some other zoos. Still, the giraffe did not in their view have an inherent right to life that would trump their breeding program. I found it interesting that the anchor, Anderson Cooper, was not not so sure the giraffe didn’t have that right. Presumably we humans feel we have such an inherent right, but on what is it grounded? There does seem to be reference to a transcendent value, at least for now.

Jim McDonald

Cranston, RI

Feb 13 2014 - 5:25pm

Distorting Russia

S.F. Cohen’s lonely and unsupported article ensures my rejection of subscribing to your magazine, and I would appreciate not receiving any further e-mail communications or solicitations. I do subscribe to The Economist and Bloomberg Businessweek, as well as Newsweek online.

Roger Allison

(somewhere in the United States)

Feb 13 2014 - 4:09pm

Why Bankrolling Israel Prevents Peace in the Middle East

As long as US aid to Israel continues the Israel lobby in Congress will be able to influence Congress and thereby continue oppression of the Palestinian people, which is not likely to end. The overwhelming majority of American citizens are not fully aware of why Israel has such a stranglehold on the high and mighty USA. The aid (American taxpayers’ money) received by Israel would be handled by the Procurement Department in the Israeli Embassy, which is likely to award commercial and military contracts to American companies that are expected to donate funds to candidates standing for election in both houses of Congress. This is one of the major reasons Israel is able to call the shots and determine who should be elected in Congress. Wake up, Americans, and stop supporting those senators and representatives who continue to support Israel.

Solly Jacquesson


Feb 12 2014 - 8:46am

Rand Paul Gets the Math Wrong on the Minimum Wage

At one time the phrase “the bottom line” was in vogue. Although a phrase of the past, it is still the principle governing corporate America.

The bottom line as to the minimum wage is this: the glut of low-wage workers has enabled employers to keep wages low. Workers have lost virtually all bargaining power. The current minimum wage is not only far below what it should be for inflation and productivity adjustments, it is far below a living wage. The bottom line: economic fairness dictates that the wage be increased appropriately and indexed for automatice increses in the future.

The arguments against the increase are rhetorical; even if there is some truth, fairness trumps all and the only bargaining power low-wage workers have is government intervention. However, one argument that cannot be dismissed out of hand is that corporate America (shortsighted, greedy and, yes, stupid) will focus on the bottom line and thus hours will be reduced. The increase in the minimum wage is a step towards economic fairness, but passage will mark the begining, not the end, of the struggle to have an economy that lifts all ships with the rising tide. No doubt President Obama would trumpet an increase in the minimum wage as a victory. There is no indication that he could or would after winning this battle, go on to win a war against the corporate and individual greed that is the hallmark of American society.

Asher Fried

Croton-on-Hudson, NY

Feb 11 2014 - 10:22am

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

It’s a rainbow with only red and blue (and purple). It’s a black and white (and gray) television picture. It’s multiculturalism with just two cultures represented. It’s an ice cream shop with only vanilla and strawberry (I like them both, but where’s the… chocolate, for God’s sakes!). It’s a highway full of two-toned automobiles. It’s either Bush or Clinton.

This project should have begun twenty, thirty years ago, but here we are. Make the best of it, please. El Salvador is going to the second round of its presidential elections because the leading candidate received only 49 percent of the total vote, and 50 percent is required!

Pete Healey

New Paltz, NY

Feb 11 2014 - 7:23am

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

One approach within the current constitution would be to vastly expand Congress. You can read about one such idea here  or in the book discussed there. Even if that did serve to reinvigorate democracy to some extent, it would have to go hand in hand with some cultural shift to return to the rule of law and a turn away from the cult of the presidency: fewer executive orders, a more literal reading of the constitution (accompanied by the courage to amend it) with a more assertive Congress (especially on oversight of security and defense issues, etc.).

Mark Hatlie

Feb 8 2014 - 5:58am

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

Voter fraud it appears more commonly occurs as a result of rigging the rules by election authorities or rule makers than from individual acts by voters. One example of this is the practice of gerrymandering.

The Problem. The American Constitution neither provides for nor prohibits gerrymandering, the practice of creating congressional districts by artfully tailoring the boundaries of a district for partisan advantage. Gerrymandering amounts to rigging the outcome of the election. State legislatures draw the boundaries for the federal congressional districts from which the United States House of Representatives is selected. In doing this the majority party in both houses of a state legislature makes sure the newly drawn district includes more voters favorable to their party than to their opponents in drawing the electoral district lines.

The Solution. There may be a solution to this problem that can be achieved legislatively and without the need for a constitutional amendment. The Constitution does not require single-member congressional districts. The only constitutional requirement for congressional representation, quoting the Constitution, Article I, section 2, is that representatives “shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their [the states'] respective Numbers”—in other words, according to the population. The language is specific as to whom is counted. It says that this number “shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of years [indentured servants], and excluding Indians not taxed, [and] three fifths of all other Persons.” The three-fifths reference is to those persons then held as slaves. The census presumably gives the total of all persons. For the sake of counting persons, “free persons” refers to residents and not citizens. Still, today only citizens can vote.

Accordingly, the idea is simply to eliminate congressional district boundaries within the states as the final boundaries for representation in the House of Representatives by federal legislation and have the popular vote represented proportionally in congress on a state-wide basis. Such a solution would not be proportional representation, strictly speaking, but it would be in some sense more proportional. For example, if a state is entitled to eighteen members of Congress, let each party have a representation in exact proportion to the popular vote for that office in the state. If the popular vote for congress is 60 percent Republican and 40 percent Democratic, then congressional representation of the eighteen members from that state would reflect that vote. In the example given, this would mean the Republicans would receive eleven congressman and the Democrats would receive seven. If the results of the popular vote were reversed in the example the Democrats would get the eleven and the Republicans would get seven. Each party could submit a slate of eighteen candidates for Congress (the number used in the example), perhaps following district primaries, and the top statewide individual vote-winners would be seated before those receiving fewer votes, with the winning party's total representation not to exceed nor be less than their share of the popular vote state wide, as nearly as is numerically possible.

Also, for the presidency, eliminate the electoral college.

Richard W. Crockett

Monmouth, IL

Feb 7 2014 - 1:34pm

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

Political scientists and historians agree that our election system is insoluble short of a complete revamping of our form of government, i.e., by initiating a constitutional convention and establishing a parliamentary form of government. Such would eliminate our broken and non-representative bipartite system, with its corruptible Electoral College, and, probably, result in some sort of coup. The latter probability is high, as our current form has incurred a madhouse of divisiveness that is as unlikely to establish a healthy, representative system as are Iraq or Afghanistan. Accepting that, one can only project a takeover by either the extreme right, as powered by the wealthy and driven to rule at any cost, the military, given their extant position of military governance of the world, or some combination of these. With their increasing belligerence, our Chinese creditors may even elect to foreclose.

Charles Riley

Tucson, AZ

Feb 6 2014 - 5:35pm