Fantasy Island; voices of sanity; going beyond green; clicking for human rights; no tears for TNR


Fantasy Island

Your article “A New Deal With Cuba” [Jan. 12/19] refers to a half-century of conflict. But it is important to recall the earlier days of Cuba, before the Castro brothers took charge. In 1944–45, as a flight radio operator, I helped fly returning combat veterans to Havana for rest and recreation. Such “recreation” involved houses of prostitution, rum factories and gambling casinos. Veterans and tourists spent money freely on the island. The profits were split between the dictator, Fulgencio Batista, and the Mafia. Why did we love Cuba in those days?
Burt Shachter
pompton plains, n.j.

Voice of Sanity

Patricia J. Williams echoes my sentiments exactly in her column [Jan. 12/19] exploring the role that untreated mental illness likely played in the murder of two New York police officers. Ever since Ronald Reagan cut off funding for the mentally ill and turned many helpless people into the streets to fend for themselves, our society has suffered. We now know that mental disorders are often caused by chemical imbalances in the brain and should be treated as a disease—and yet, because many of our self-righteous political representatives still subscribe to an “up by your bootstraps” philosophy, we continue to misdiagnose and mistreat mentally ill people, who often end up in our (for-profit) prison system. Williams hit the nail on the head in assessing the main reason we endure these tragic killings far too often. Thank you for your insight into the real problem.
Jerry Mobley
st. cloud, fla.

Going Beyond Green

In his much-appreciated recognition of the People’s Climate March as the Most Valuable Day in 2014 [Jan. 12/19], I’m sorry to say that John Nichols missed a critically important point. That is, the expanded articulation of a climate-justice movement happened in no small measure because groups representing working people, low-income people and communities of color were at the core of the organizing. These groups included organizations like the Climate Justice Alliance, a collaboration among over thirty-five organizations uniting frontline communities around the country; the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, which links grassroots organizations, low-income neighborhoods and communities of color in their struggle for environmental justice; and a network of more than seventy labor unions and workers’ associations.

Making sure that frontline communities played leadership roles made the whole experience different and helped reset the nature of this movement. To their credit, organizations like the Sierra Club and Greenpeace understood that moving the work forward required making this shift.

Nichols also left out Avaaz.org, which describes itself as “a global web movement to bring people-powered politics to decision-making everywhere.” Along with 350.org, it provided the lion’s share of the financial and staffing resources for the march.

How this movement grows will be shaped in part by how we record our own history, so it’s important to get this right.

Leslie Cagan
Co-coordinator, People’s Climate March
new york city

Clicking for Human Rights

Rafia Zakaria is too pessimistic in her article “Clicking for ISIS” [Jan. 12/19]. True, we as the general public have very little ability—or none at all—to deal with the likes of ISIS and Boko Haram. The “naming and shaming” of their barbaric acts is indeed useless as a way to influence them. Since their values are antithetical to those of the Twitterverse, our response only encourages them. For now, the only effective opposition to them is an imperialism that we deplore just as much.

But the continual expansion of awareness does advance the worldwide consciousness of human rights as a principle, and that, in turn, can influence local powers. In Pakistan and India, for instance, more local attention has been paid to the brutal treatment of women since the stories of gang rapes, quasi-judicial and otherwise, erupted across the Internet. International moral pressure, both governmental and private, is part of the complex of forces that can incrementally advance the cause of human rights. It may be inadequate at this point, but it’s all we have—unless you want to call out the drones.

Chris Nielsen

No Tears for TNR

In “The TNR Implosion” [Jan. 12/19], the author confuses lament over the loss of an ideal, or even an entire industry, with the loss of a single publication whose greatest accomplishment was little more than the wrapping of ugly ideas in the trappings of pretty verbiage. The New Republic was not journalism, the print publishing industry, a defender of open debate or a conservator of laudable ideals. It was a promulgator of poorly conceived right-wing ideology that hung its hat on rants based not on reality but on dogma and trafficked in ideas that harmed far more than they helped. Its success would not have prevented the further decline of an industry of which it is a dark, shabby corner, nor will its demise hasten it. It will only remove one more source of citation for those on the right wishful to believe there is intellectual support for their nonsense.
Mark Choi

Let’s cry no tears over The New Republic. When it wasn’t cheering on the Contras, bashing Edward Said, microwaving popcorn for “shock and awe” or bullying the Democrats into their latest feckless mutation, the publication ran an original voice or two. But why wade through an ideological sewer to find the gems among the muck?

One nice David Thomson essay or even a half-century of Stanley Kauffman reviews hardly make up for the murderous cheerleading for empire, the racism, or the endless bad faith from Martin Peretz and his editors.

Arjay Cee

Sorry, we’re done forgiving racism as a product of the times. Like almost all “progressive” publications, TNR claimed that it couldn’t find worthy black writers out of a population of some 40 million. Of course, why would we want to work at a place that would soil itself with the Bell Curve “debate”?

If they hadn’t wanted us to dance on their grave, they shouldn’t have dug the damn thing.

Richard Bottoms


Bécquer Seguín and Sebastiaan Faber’s “Can Podemos Win Spain?” [Feb. 2] quoted a journalist who stated incorrectly that Spain’s general election will be held in 2016. The election is expected to happen by the end of this year.

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