Let’s Hear It for Class Warfare!

Eliot, Me.

In your June 30 special issue, “The New Inequality,” you showed a bar graph of the relative annual compensations of the top five “earners” in each of five groups (military leaders, Congress members, university presidents, CEOs and hedge-fund managers). The hedge-fund managers bar is more understandable and even more shocking if their $12,600,000,000 figure is measured (on the same scale) in these ways: if printed to its full height, it would travel up through eighteen and a half pages of The Nation, or would stand sixteen feet, eight and two-thirds inches or 5.097 meters tall. I think that amounts to the biggest bank robbery in history.



The Nation appears only to hope for curbing capitalism’s excesses. We will win battles and lose the war as long as we believe that reform of this economic system is possible. Capitalism’s concessions to women, blacks and workers came at a time when America was in its ascendancy. But it took a depression, war and a US-dominated world economy to squeeze those compromises from the ruling class. Now we are in a wholly different period. The Soviet Union is gone, leaving capitalism in control. China and India are creating competition like we have never seen. The wealthy are loath to give one inch, much less go back to a time when there was a gesture at economic equality. Fighting for reform is absolutely necessary. But it must lead to the socialization of wealth and production for human needs.

The Harpeth Institute for Social Policy

Reform and Resilience

Alexandria, Va.

Ari Berman’s “John McCain’s Voodoo Reformism” [July 14] unfairly attacks a reputable think tank using a rehash of discredited accusations and erroneous conclusions. The Reform Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit public policy organization that advances a bipartisan, solutions-based agenda to restore Americans’ faith in government. The institute is not, as Berman suggests, affiliated with John McCain’s presidential campaign.

The institute enjoyed the support of Senator McCain as it played a key role in advocating for landmark campaign finance reform legislation in 2002. With then-Senator Bob Kerrey, he was honorary co-chair of the institute’s advisory committee.

The modestly funded institute receives contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations. Its diversity of funding reflects the institute’s ability to attract support from across the political spectrum. It goes beyond what is required of a 501(c)(3) by disclosing donors on its website.

Berman’s suggestion that the institute focuses on resilience to protect industry from regulation is without foundation. Resilience is a bipartisan concept that has already been embraced by the House Homeland Security Committee, which held hearings on it in May. Resilience will make America more secure by partnering the general public, the private sector and government in enhancing America’s ability to respond rapidly to and recover from catastrophic events. The need for resilience was demonstrated by the lapses in preparedness and response exposed by the attacks of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.

PAUL BATEMAN, chairman
Board of Directors, The Reform Institute

Alexandria, Va.

Ari Berman’s article is a heavy-handed attack on an up-and-coming and highly respected think tank as well as on a concept–resilience–rapidly gaining ground as the only sensible, unifying notion in the murky field of homeland security. The Reform Institute, founded in 2001 as a bipartisan organization to champion issues related to campaign finance reform, has over the years spread its wings to address other urgent national issues, including immigration, homeland security and climate change. It has identified resilience as a cornerstone of homeland security.

Berman’s puzzling assertion that resilience is being adopted by industry as a means of dodging regulatory restrictions is bizarre in the extreme. Resilience is the notion that the nation should be focusing on ensuring that our infrastructure, institutions and economy can experience a catastrophic event and “bounce back” to a state of near normalcy as quickly as possible. It transcends the idea that we can somehow prevent catastrophic disruptions and promotes the mature view that rather than parsing the threat we should ensure that we can withstand disruption.

The Reform Institute has been a leading bipartisan voice recommending specific solutions that would lead to greater resilience in key infrastructure components, such as the global supply chain. When the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee designated May as “Resilience Month,” the institute was invited as a majority witness to provide supporting testimony.

Homeland and National Security Center
The Reform Institute

Berman Replies

Washington, D.C.

John McCain resigned as honorary chair of the Reform Institute in 2005 due to “negative publicity.” But as my article pointed out, many McCain loyalists, including top fundraisers, former staffers and political allies of the senator, remain involved with the institute and its advisory committees. These links–and the institute’s advocacy for McCain on issues like global warming and immigration reform–are extensively detailed in the piece.

More specifically, the concept of “resilience” may indeed be premised on the best of intentions about protecting the country. But the private sector would not embrace it so enthusiastically if there wasn’t a potential payoff. As Bateman and Kelly should know, many policies that benefit big business in Washington have bipartisan support.


Still Puzzled After All These Years

Crawfordsville, Ind.

Did you think you could pull the wool over your puzzle-loving readers’ eyes so easily? Announcing the return of Frank W. Lewis’s indispensable cryptic crossword to a “weekly” appearance, you announce at the same time your shift to a biweekly summer schedule! This is double-speak worthy of the Bush Administration.



Alexander Cockburn’s July 21/28 column, “The Ongoing Persecution of Sami Al-Arian,” stated that Dr. Al-Arian was “found guilty” on “two relatively minor offenses.” In fact, no jury found Al-Arian guilty on any charge. In December 2005, a Tampa jury was hung 10 to 2 in favor of acquittal on nine charges. In a plea deal, the government dropped eight of them and demanded Al-Arian plead guilty to a watered-down version of one charge. Given the Justice Department’s vindictiveness and that it might insist on a costly retrial, Al-Arian’s lawyers urged him to accept. Under the plea agreement–which the government betrayed–Dr. Al-Arian pleaded guilty to one charge of providing nonviolent services to people associated with a designated terrorist organization.