Web Letters | The Nation


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

The Silence of American Hawks About Kiev’s Atrocities

Stephen S. Cohen’s lurid title would make one think that Ukraine’s central government has countenanced the targeting of civilians in its war with separatists and Russian fighters in eastern Ukraine. Yet perusal of the websites of the credible human rights organizations Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International shows no evidence that would support Cohen’s sensationalist claim. A detailed report of the human rights situation in Ukraine by the UN’s High Commission on Human Rights (dated June 15), although critical of Ukraine’s central authorities on some points, including its investigation of the May 2 deaths of pro-Russian activists in Odessa, also does not support Dr. Cohen’s conclusions. Most reports on human rights violations in eastern Ukraine do, however, link these to actions by separatists and allied Russian fighters, who have crossed into Ukraine to support the secessionists. Dr. Cohen, instead of offering hard evidence to support his accusation that Ukraine’s central authorities have committed atrocities, makes a vague reference to some videos. As a scholar, he should know better.

Bohdan Klid


Jul 3 2014 - 6:00pm

The Silence of American Hawks About Kiev’s Atrocities

Having an immediate family in Ukraine, I was shocked by how untruthful this article is about the situation in Ukraine. This is the most untruthful article I have read in the Western media. My family is from the Russian-speaking south (city of Mykolaiv and Odessa), and we interpret your article as lying Russian propaganda. Yanukovich ran Ukraine as a Mafia-style enterprise. During this revolution, he hired gangs to beat his opponents on streets to death, confiscated people’s businesses for his oligarch son during his last four years, created a business monopoly for his own family and much, much more. Every person in Ukraine I know participated in this revolution because the ousted president was a criminal, with a criminal record!

Russia is another story, and they are Nazis in this case. Please explain what is Nazi-like swastika symbols used by Ukrainians? What a fake lie! You see more swastikas in Moscow. The swastika was only used by Ukrainians to accuse Russia of Nazi-like behavior when they annexed Crimea.

The author has no clue what is going on in Ukraine, or has received a good bonus from the Russian government. Shame on you for putting out this lie! Our friend’s son was kidnaped by twelve Russian fighters in Kramatorsk and executed because he mentioned to his neighbors that he does not support this war. His mother, who was present when they broke into the house, said they were Chechens from Russia. So why not mention Russia’s sending terrorists to Ukraine who execute people and blow up bridges and trains? I am shocked by the amount of lies in your article. Wow.

Anatoliy Khlevnoy

Bonney Lake, WA

Jul 3 2014 - 3:51pm

The Silence of American Hawks About Kiev’s Atrocities

Just finished your article. Really gives an accurate account of the Ukraine situation from start to finish without leaving out any details! I have been following the situation in Eastern UKR and am heartbroken to see the death and destruction that's being meted out to the people there by the neo-Nazi regime in Kiev. As an American (living abroad), I must admit that I am ashamed to be an American! This article needs to be read by everyone in the US who are ignorant of the facts. I recently stopped reading The Nation, Common Dreams, Alternet, TruthDig etc. simply because there is nothing on Ukraine and what's happening in the East. So to see this piece I was elated (great article too!) As a matter of fact I caught this article from the the article by Ray McGovern on Common Dreams! So maybe people/progressive news sites are waking up! I hope so, the people in southeast Ukraine need it.

John McDonald


Jul 3 2014 - 3:49am

The Silence of American Hawks About Kiev’s Atrocities

Never, in my fourteen-year history of reading The Nation (since I moved to this country from Canada), have I felt the magazine has so misrepresented an issue as it has in its recent coverage of events in Ukraine.

Stephen Cohen’s articles, which have dominated that coverage, have been utterly, and astonishingly, biased in favor of Russian government depictions of events. Cohen’s selective accounts reveal not only an ignorance of Ukraine, matched by a deep fondness for Russia—which is fine in itself, but shouldn’t be the core of the magazine’s coverage of another country. They show a willingness to distort the picture—and to believe conspiracy theories disseminated, and often manufactured, by Russian state media—in a way that smacks of axe-grinding against all those who find his views inaccurate, overblown and misguided.

Examples of Cohen’s egregious misrepresentations are plentiful. Most obvious is the liberal use of hot-button words like “massacres” and “atrocities” to describe events that are left recounted. The only event that receives any description is what Cohen calls the “Odessa massacre,” a tragedy by all accounts, which he blames, in line with Russian propaganda, squarely on Kiev authorities. Cohen claims that “eyewitnesses, television footage and social media videos told the true story” about the events, as if the “true story” is known (it’s still contested) and straightforward (it isn’t). His claims about “subsequent atrocities” rely entirely on accounts produced by Russian state media, which practically all objective observers have concluded are grossly propagandistic. Operations intended to take back buildings from pro-Russian militias are routinely described by Russian media as “massacres,” just as the coalition government in Kiev, consisting of a parliamentary majority, has been called “neo-Nazi” based on the existence of a handful of extreme nationalists in its ranks.

More subtle forms of misrepresentation make up nearly every sentence in the article. For instance, calling President Petro Poroshenko’s ending of the ten-day cease-fire “unilateral” suggests he has pulled out of a bilateral deal of some kind. In fact, the cease-fire was Poroshenko’s unilateral initiative, which the pro-Russian separatist fighters never followed, as army casualties continued to mount throughout the ten days.

Like other Ukraine scholars, I completely agree that there are far-right nationalists who ought to be monitored and kept in check (as there are in almost all Western countries). Cohen, however, seriously misrepresents and misunderstands the Maidan movement and, in the process, makes it more difficult for the Western left to find allies among the Ukrainian leftists and pro-democracy activists who were well represented in that movement. The result is a gift to the right, both in Ukraine and in Russia. The Nation’s continually resorting to Cohen as its “expert” on Ukraine is disappointing, frustrating and ultimately discrediting.

Adrian Ivakhiv

Professor of Environment, Society & Public Affairs, University of Vermont; Editor, “UKR-TAZ: A Ukrainian Temporary Autonomous Zone”

Jul 2 2014 - 8:51am

The Silence of American Hawks About Kiev’s Atrocities

Dear Mr Cohen, Thank you for your article. It’s the most comprehensive and unbiased analysis that has been published so far.

Ivan Bogachev


Jul 2 2014 - 6:31am

The Silence of American Hawks About Kiev’s Atrocities

Here’s the simple fact: before the Russian separatists’ armed takeover, sponsored by Putin’s Kremlin, there was no armed warfare over Ukrainian territory with hundreds of deaths. It is the Russian separatists who have turned Eastern Ukraine (and Crimea) into war zones.

If the pro-Russians do not like living in Ukraine under Ukrainian laws as Ukrainian citizens, then they should go back to Russia where there is no “second” language. My question is, Why aren’t they returning to Russia? Nobody is forcing them to stay.

Could it be because life in Ukraine may be freer and more pleasant than back in Russia? You’re either Russian or Ukrainian—make up your minds.

This is a manufactured war brought to you by the Putin Land Grab Company, sponsored and produced with the full cooperation of the Kremlin and supported by all who believe their propaganda, as the truth is still “twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools” (Kipling).

Are we now blaming the victim for the crimes of defending one’s own country? Reverse the roles. Would Russians allow such an intrusion into their homeland?—silly question, don’t you think? As silly as any defense of Russia’s hostile takeover at the expense of innocent lives.

Yes, we are way beyond 1984… unbelievable!

Bohdan Yuri

Kennebunk, ME

Jul 1 2014 - 2:36am

Bad Credit: How Payday Lenders Evade Regulation

The article is a good introduction to investigating payday loans. It is not unusual (nay, normal) for articles not to state methods of calculating an annual percentage rate. This articles states, &#8220;Most states impose interest rate caps of 24&ndash;42 percent on consumer loans.&#8221; Not stated is the loan period time period. Since the subject is payday loans, I will assume that it means 24 percent to 42 percent monthly (nominal) annual percentage rate (NAPR) on a payday loan of the (usual) fourteen days. It is highly unlikely that the writer of this article should know the esoteric method of calculating the current <em>nominal</em>, simple-interest, mathematically untrue NAPR. It is (on the 24 percent loan) using Excel mathematical symbols, 625.71 percent, calculated as 24*365/14. The <em>compound</em> (^ symbol), mathematically true, annual percentage rate is 27,166.96 percent calculated as ((1+0.24)^(365/14)-1)*100. Now, if you don&#8217;t comprehend, Google my name, A.F. Bob Blair Jr., and see other examples. Obviously, the law should change to the compound APR.

A.F. Bob Blair Jr.

Thibodaux, LA

Jun 28 2014 - 10:16pm

The Chairman of the Largest Private Company in America Just Told the 1 Percent to Worry About Climate Change

Carbon-based fuels are wasteful. Gasoline, oil, methane, natural gas, coal and even ethane derived from corn are all carbon-based fuels. These sources of energy are so thriftless that oil companies, car companies, and even governments spend billions of dollars each year to cover up this fact. Every facet in the use of hydrocarbons as energy is extremely inefficient.

For example, gasoline starts its life as crude oil.

1. Crude is found deep underground. In the beginning it would spirt up out of the ground in a gusher. These days we must pump it out. This leaves vast cavernous voids in the earth’s crust and sometimes cause sinkholes; you might have heard of a few in Texas.

2. The oil is pumped, trucked, railed or sailed to a refinery; sometimes this process goes wrong and causes irrevocable environmental damage.

3. At the refinery the crude oil is converted to gasoline by partially burning it; I don’t think they tap the energy in any practical way when they do this.

4. The gasoline is trucked to various gasoline stations around the country where millions of vehicles fill up on a daily basis.

5. The millions of vehicles have hundreds of moving parts in their engines, most notably the pistons that reverse their momentum thousands of times each second.

6. As all of the vehicles on the road idle at a stop light or stuck in traffic jam for a combined unfathomable eon their engines cycle producing megatons of carbon-dioxide.

7. When these cars, busses, trucks and motorcycles finally get moving quickly they will all at some point need to come to a stop. When the brakes are applied the forward momentum of the vehicle burns up info heat.

Compare gasoline to an all electric vehicle:

1. Electrical power can be generated almost anywhere. Wind, wave, hydroelectric, geothermal and photovoltaics are all good sources of electrical power.

2. The infrastructure for transporting electrical power is already in place.

3. If you have solar cells on every roof the power would not have to go very far at all.

4. If you changed the gas stations to battery exchange stations you could travel the country without worry of being stranded.

5. An electric motor only has one moving part and it just spins in a circle.

6. As an electric vehicle waits at a stoplight or is in heavy traffic no energy is lost.

7. When these emission-free transportation systems finally get moving quickly and need to stop with regenerative breaking, most of the forward momentum is put back into the battery. All carbon-based fuels produce carbon dioxide. If we continue to burn these fuels at ever increasing rates, global climate change will run out of control. There will be more floods, more tornadoes, no more clean water to drink and, God’s green earth will turn brown and no longer support life.

Gregory Scott Callen

[somewhere in California]

Jun 28 2014 - 6:47am