Web Letters | The Nation


What Paul Ryan and Obama Have In Common

I have followed Harris-Perry’s television career with interest and some enthusiasm—partly because I am a graduate of Tulane School of Social Work and because I have good memories of working with some of the Crescent City’s earliest advocates for “The Struggle.” That was several years before Harris-Perry was born. I am sure each of us caught the attention of the FBI while attending the annual convention of the National Tenants Organization. I worked as a community organizer in a Southern city where we eventually forced HUD to implement the Brooke Amendment in the local public housing.

More recently, I was employed as a social wWorker in several of Florida’s prisons, where I eventually learned that most of the inmates from whom I obtained an in-depth family history had spent their early years in generally the same cultural environment. These are the factors I found most frequently:

1. A culture in which it was assumed that it was not important for children to have a father involved in their daily lives.

2. A culture in which most people believed that God determined everything that happens in our lives and that there is nothing humans can do to change that.

3. A culture in which it was assumed that addictive drugs were an inevitable part of life and that they had to be tolerated.

4. A culture in which members were likely criticized for “trying to be better than the rest of us.”

5. A culture in which many children lacked effective guidance or supervision because their caregivers were impaired in some way.

6. A culture in which education was considered unimportant or even useless.

I do not in any way mean to praise of defend Paul Ryan. I believe he, like most politicians, is a phony and an opportunist. But I do believe that people who live in a community that shares the cultural values I have mentioned here, regardless of nationality or racial origin, will be at a very high risk for endemic poverty and economic blight. Melissa, I have high hopes for you, but sometimes your words remind me of Jesse Jackson’s mantra, which goes something like this: “Black people are just helpless victims and nothing is ever our fault.

Randall Ladnier

United States

Mar 22 2014 - 8:55am

How to Avert a New Cold War Over Crimea

To begin with, I have to compliment you for this thoughtful article on how to avoid catastrophe in Ukraine and to congratulate you for recognizing even in parenthesis the neo-Nazi elements of the current interim government of Ukraine. One cannot expect much from a leader like Obama, who cannot even bring himself as the leader of the free world to inform Mr. Yatseniuk that we cannot help or negotiate with goverments that have constituent parts like the SVOBODA party or the paramilitary Right Sector (and we all have seen on TV what the leadership of these parties think about interacting with employees of the state that are not willing to follow their orders). Since the president does not feel too bothered by the composition of the interim Ukrainian government, and condones the hubris of Ms. Nuland (who to my knowledge maintains her position advising him), I doubt if he can listen to any thoughtful advice such as that offered in your article. Naturally, the big question is why, or what kind of president we have. But this is another subject that I would like to see your thoughts on. Meanwhile, good luck to all of us and our country, and may God help us, since our leaders are incompetent to do so.

George Katopis

Poughkeepsie, NY

Mar 21 2014 - 3:14pm

Warning Signs: How Pesticides Harm the Young Brain

We’re appreciative of the excellent article, “Warning Signs: How Pesticides Harm the Young Brain,” in your March 31 issue. This is excellent, important research, and beautifully reported. Believing that there is a place for a lower budget but higher numbers version of such research linking environmental exposures to important child outcomes, we are collecting information from parents of children on the autism spectrum. We’re asking for participation of large numbers of parents. Perhaps some readers and certainly many of their friends are in this category. Our questionnaires are at www.mappingautism.com. Participation can be helpful in finding answers. Research is approved by the institutional review board of The Wright Institute, Berkeley, CA. Emily Diamond, Psy.D. James M. Diamond, M.D.

James M. Diamond, MD; Emily Diamond, PsyD

Berkeley, CA

Mar 20 2014 - 9:20pm

Remember ‘Benghazi’?

Just like Benghazi, what difference, except that it involved Ron Reagan, who in 1983 ordered 10,000 American troops into Beirut, Lebanon, and in a flash 242 American marines were blown to bits in barracks protected by American Marines commanded there by Ronald Reagan, president. At a cost of $100 million, American forces were withdrawn in less than thirty days to “a more defensible position” per Reagan in a news briefing. Marine loss worst since Iwo Jima. No investigation was requested by the Republican Congress.Reagan said he was sorry. Can you spell hypocraps or hypocripples?

Jack Doyle

United States

Mar 20 2014 - 3:31pm

Twenty-seven Questions for Stephen F. Cohen from Russia’s Leading Opposition Newspaper

“Remove justice, and what are kingdoms but bands of criminals on a large scale.”—St. Augustine

In defense of writing his The Russian Revolution  as a political conservative, Richard Pipes writes in his Introduction, “The Russian Revolution was made neither by the forces of nature nor by anonymous masses but by identifiable men pursuing their own advantages. Although it had spontaneous aspects, in the main it was the result of deliberate action. As such it is very properly subject to value judgement.” Remarkably, no such moral value judgment has been forthcoming from historians of tsarist Russia.

Thus I am surprised that the West is so aghast at the return of capitalist Russia following the success at long last of the counterrevolution against the October Revolution of 1917 in the form of the US win of the Cold War. As a high-ranking Japanese said to a US representative during the war-crimes trial in Tokyo in 1946: we learned from you.

Burke Ritchie

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Mar 19 2014 - 10:08pm

The Right Loses It Over Russia—Again

I read the following in an information clearinghouse article on the Israel lobby’s going after Palestinian justice activists:

“It would be heartening if prominent liberal intellectuals would agree with all of my conclusions, or would accept the legitimacy of BDS,” Blumenthal went on. “But the only reasonable expectation we can hold for them is that they speak up in defense of those whose free-speech rights and rights to organize are being crushed by powerful forces. Unfortunately, when those forces are arrayed in defense of Israel, too many liberal intellectuals are silent or, as in the case of Michael Kazin, Eric Alterman, Cary Nelson and a who’s who of major university presidents, they actively collaborate with fellow elites determined to crush Palestine solidarity activism through anti-democratic means.”

So, Eric Alterman, are you silent on these issues? Why?

Nina Sakun

Hartford, CT

Mar 17 2014 - 7:54pm

Distorting Russia

At the time Gorbachev was talking about new chances for humanity, I and many of my compatriots really believed him. You must be aware of what Soviet people were like. They were inspired to make a difference. They were innocent about greed and corruption. Yet talented, smart and hard-working—the best people to deal with if you Americans wanted to really make a difference. What Cohen missed pointing out in his article is the fact that what America did or, better said, did not do is a major contribution to the kind of people you probably see in Russia today. Still talented and smart, but now very cynical.

We believed in friendship. We believed that the tension between our nations was finally over. So deep disappointment followed, when all of us saw that America did not really mean to use this chance to start to perceive Russia in a new way. The USA still does not, and the chance is gone. We performed the steps that were agreed upon, and we were all disappointed that you did not.

As Cohen correctly says in his article, there was still a chance for the United States to stop demonizing Russia as the enemy.

We could still have forgiven the missed opportunities from the United States after perestroika. Even though we became very cynical as a nation, we still value love and mercy.

But humanity has made a step backward as this opportunity is lost. It is sad to see people in my country became cynical. This is regression not only here but over the whole planet.

Mikhail Koustov


Mar 13 2014 - 12:19pm

Elizabeth Warren Tackles Wall Street

Is there any follow up to this story? I haven’t heard anything. The statement about the banks getting loans for .75 percent so why do our children have to pay 6.8 percent? Any information would be appreciated. Thank you

Brenda Brown

Long Valley, NJ

Mar 10 2014 - 11:21am

Distorting Russia

Thanks to Professor Cohen for his piece of media distortion vis-à-vis Russia. I find Heinrich Mann’s Der Untertan (Underling or Subject) the most fitting to understand the particulars of being a mainstream foreign policy journalist these days.

I don’t know if you have read the book, but there is a great 1951 film of it, which I am not sure was ever subtitled, though it can be understood from behaviourism and tone of voice. Just as there is “pre-emptive war”, there is “pre-emptive obedience”.

Another hero to call to your cause of educating our public would be Barbara Tuchman, in The Proud Tower, where she masterfully depicts the general national mentality of hurrah-patriotism that led everyone quite obliviously into World War I. You may find the chapter on the Dreyfuss case in France especially instructive, to give your readers an example to which they have enough emotional distance, to fathom how belligerent madness can be entirely orchestrated, without any conspiracy—simply, pre-emptive obedience, a natural byproduct of fear, ergo ignorance.

I hope you are surviving the vilifications you must be experiencing for speaking out for rational dialogue so boldly! Keep your head high, your articles will be judged kindly by history if we manage to rescue civilization from a new world war, which could be the last if fought.

Daniel Grasenack-Tente

Copenhagen, DENMARK

Mar 5 2014 - 5:17pm

Why Woody Allen Deserves the Benefit of the Doubt

Why does Joann Wypijewski rely upon 25 year-old arguments to suggest that Dylan Farrow is making up things in her head and Woody Allen is probably mostly blameless? Why does Joann dredge up the controversy over the book, “Courage to Heal” from well over two decades ago? Does Joann know that many of the proponents of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (is it a syndrome? or a catch-phrase?) were supporters of sex with children? Did her research turn up the no fewer than seventeen

studies showing that one in three girls are molested before the age of 18? One in five boys (they don’t tend to report, so the statistic is fuzzy)? What impresses me about the letter from Dylan Farrow (which, BTW, was not put forward by Nicholas Kristof as “fact” but was published under Opinion), is that she exhibits characteristics of someone suffering from incest in childhood. Memories can be altered in their details, but to invent a traumatizing memory out of whole cloth, and then find the characteristics of serious trauma present twenty-five years later, isn’t realistic according to data. Trauma has a root that is based in real experience.

I tend to believe Dylan because she exhibits the symptoms other victims of incest exhibit. There were officials at the time that had enough evidence to prosecute, but Mia Farrow declined to do it. Today, she wouldn’t have that choice. The authorities would prosecute on behalf of the child. Reading in this article that Allen was behaving in “inappropriately intense” ways underscores for me the probability that Dylan is telling a real truth, not one implanted in her head.

This article is beneath the dignity of The Nation. Better research and less slant, please. Base it on current research.

Fionna Bright


Mar 4 2014 - 12:59am