Amherst, NH



Amherst, NH

I keep expecting to awaken and discover that this has all been a surreal Through the Looking Glass dream [Jeff Gillenkirk, “Election Postponed to Preserve Democracy,” Aug. 2/9]. We have Der Vaterland Führer Tom Ridge telling us that Al Qaeda may be planning a major attack to disrupt our “democratic process”; we have the Federal Selection Commission investigating the protocols for postponing presidential elections (isn’t that a disruption of the process?); and we have Duh-bya telling us eight times in one speech, “America is safer now.” Safer? From what? From that pesky, dangerous “election thing”? Someone please shake me. I can’t seem to wake up…




Re: Sasha Abramsky’s “Incarceration, Inc.” [July 19/26]: The prison privatization trend seems Wal-Mart-like in its concern for bottom lines and political agendas over social responsibility or ethics. With privatization comes the blurring of chains of command and individual accountability. For years Amnesty International has documented cases of prisoner abuse by guards in US detention facilities and the failure of prison authorities to enforce policies, procedures and laws that could have prevented these brutal acts. We must insure that our correctional facilities are consistent with international human rights standards for prisoner treatment. Only by doing so can we hope to repair the damage to our nation’s reputation by incidents like those at Abu Ghraib.

Amnesty International USA



Re: Salih Booker and Ann-Louise Colgan’s “Genocide in Darfur” [July 12]: I have been reading about the civil war in Sudan and am puzzled when the reporters talk about the ten-year or twenty-year civil war. It was a relief to see your statement that Sudan “has experienced civil war…since independence in 1956,” because I remember being there in mid-1960, and there was fighting in Juba. In fact, my ex-husband often went to southern Sudan, hunted game and gave to the tribesmen, since they were forbidden to hunt and were starving. It was common knowledge where I was staying that the northern Sudanese were bent on exterminating the southern Sudanese. The civil war then and now is not only a cultural and class war, it is a racial war.



Los Angeles

“Hey, shootin’ guys is aw-right! If y’all are a woman op-pressed by patriarchal domination, y’all jes whip out yawr .38 and spling splang there you go, a man’s brain spattered on the wall, and y’all are free, Free, FREE!” Claire Dederer, in her review of SCUM Manifesto [“Cutting Remarks,” June 14], expresses sisterly admiration for the nutcase assassin Valerie Solanas, who gunned down Andy Warhol and some other poor shmuck who accidentally got in her way when she couldn’t find her publisher to kill. The SCUM Manifesto “is a document of profound vulnerability, written in a voice of profound empowerment…a brutal call to arms.” In this reading, the serial killer/hooker Aileen Wuornos and Squeaky Fromme are modern-day Joans of Arc. Well, why not? Lee Harvey Oswald, Sirhan Sirhan and let’s throw in Jeffrey Dahmer just might be the cutting edge of a “profound” new progressive movement.



Bryn Mawr, Pa.

Kelly Candaele and Peter Dreier’s “Where Are the Jocks for Justice?” [June 28] was excellent. But instead of asking, “Why aren’t sports stars aligned with progressive causes?” perhaps the question should be, Why don’t progressive outlets like The Nation cover sports in more detail? It’s infuriating to watch sports documentary after sports documentary where the only political talking head is George Will. This past spring The American Enterprise ran a long, nonpartisan interview with baseball author Bill James; try to imagine the same piece in The Progressive or Mother Jones.

It’s terrific that The Nation periodically speaks out in favor of Title IX and against exorbitant, publicly financed stadiums, but when the left ignores social issues in sports, it allows the right to frame them to their advantage. When several major school districts banned dodgeball, liberal magazines could have used that moment to demand a return to daily gym classes in public schools. But by their silence they allowed conservatives to have a field day presenting liberals as ultra-wimps.



Jersey City, NJ

Thanks to William Greider for his masterful review of the economics of the Reagan years [“The Gipper’s Economy,” June 28]. I worked as a social worker in the first Reagan term and saw my clients lose their Social Security disability benefits in a purge of the rolls. Some slipped into destitution and homelessness in a New York-area housing market whose rental units were disappearing in a triple crunch of repealed rent control, condo conversions (which forced them out of apartments they couldn’t buy) and the resulting escalating rents. Reagan’s welfare cutbacks hit them with one fist; Reagan’s tax breaks to encourage churning in the real estate markets were the other blow. Homelessness increased remorselessly. And let’s not forget how the demise of thousands of family farms meant that in the 1980s we could hardly watch the NewsHour without seeing a story of a farmer who had hanged himself in his barn.

Yep, the mystique of this man is bizarre. Future historians will have some shocks to deliver to America about how we were snookered by the Gipper.



Los Angeles

In Alexander Cockburn’s excellent “Reagan in Truth and Fiction” [“Beat the Devil,” June 28], there’s one nit to pick regarding Ronald Reagan’s war. Having lived in the area since 1930 (when my father began his thirty-nine-year career at MGM) up the street from where World War II training films were made, I can mention that that Army facility was at Hal Roach Studios. The nickname for that lot was “Fort Roach.”



New York City

Daniel Lazare, reviewing Samuel Huntington’s Who Are We? [“Diversity and Its Discontents,” June 14], calls it “Huntington’s best book in decades.” The problem is that this book is based on factually incorrect and prejudiced assumptions about the main object of its fear–Latinos. Huntington concocts a new enemy to replace the old Communist threat, since terrorism itself doesn’t appear a sufficient replacement. Lazare’s review attempts to be balanced and winds up being dangerously bipolar.

Nowhere in his review does Lazare examine the empirical validity of Huntington’s assertions, certainly not those demonizing Mexicans. For the vast majority of Mexicans coming to the United States, the overriding goal is to fit in–not to undermine American society. This is verified not only anecdotally but by a body of objective scholarly research. It is interesting to see Lazare and others treat this book so gingerly, given Huntington’s clearly prejudiced interpretation of the facts.

The result is a tacit endorsement of Huntington’s perspective that Mexicans and other Latinos come to this country with cultures and under circumstances that pose a serious threat to the future–and security–of the United States. The role of American society, by its treatment of Latinos and other people of color, in undermining itself is not even mentioned. Huntington’s most recent contribution to American cultural and political paranoia should be more roundly condemned, and his clearly prejudiced and shoddy scholarship should be more clearly exposed. His “best book in decades”? Give me a break!

Puerto Rican Legal Defense & Education Fund


New York City

No, give me a break. Angelo Falcón accuses Samuel Huntington of playing fast and loose with the facts without citing a specific example. He tosses around phrases like “factually incorrect” and “shoddy scholarship” yet provides nothing to back them up. This is not only unfair, but unconvincing. Besides, is the issue really whether Mexican immigrants are slow to learn English or apply for US citizenship, as Huntington alleges? If they aren’t, then nativists like Huntington will always be able to find some other “negative” aspect to seize upon, just as their predecessors did with regard to Italians, Irish and Jews. (How many earnest articles were written in the 1920s defending Jews against the charge of clannishness and criminal proclivities?)

The real issue, rather, is nativism itself, which is an attempt to freeze society in place and wall it off against outside influences–ethnic, religious and, above all, ideological. Xenophobia of this sort not only threatens immigrants but democracy in general, as my review attempted to show.

But I trust that Huntington is right and Falcón wrong in asserting that “the overriding goal” of Mexicans immigrants “is to fit in–not to undermine American society.” Those of us attempting to undermine American society from within could use a little outside assistance, and if Mexicans, with their rich revolutionary tradition, are not going to help, who the hell will?




I’m not much of a poet, but I’m a World War II vet who cares what is happening:
   Bush lied
   Thousands died.
   On this Election Day,
   We must Kerry him away.


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