Letters From the April 16, 2018, Issue

Letters From the April 16, 2018, Issue

Letters From the April 16, 2018, Issue

Beyond #MeToo… A place to be… After Parkland… A scandal [web only]…


Beyond #MeToo

As an on-and-off reader for over 30 years, I devour everything JoAnn Wypijewski writes. Thanks to her heartrending and mobilizing piece on #MeToo [“What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About #MeToo,” March 19/26], you can be sure I will be reading for another 30.

In this wise and subtle essay, I hear the echoes of a Marxist, sex-positive feminist and historian—part exposé and memoir, part treatise. More than all of that, Wypijewski writes from the heart. I have so longed for her meditations on this messy life, this fully human and complicated experience of the world. I so long for thinking people to see how class- and race-blind, how polarizing and cruel, this supposedly liberatory moment is. Reading her column gets us most of the way there.

Tracey Rizzo
asheville, n.c.

Wypijewski’s article on the #MeToo movement, American justice, mass incarceration, workplace suffering, and the history of sex panics from Reconstruction to the child-predator mania of the ’90s is sprawling but remarkable for its candor, and the best thing I have read on the subject. (Also one of the least polemical.)
David Bromwich
new haven, conn.

A Place to Be

I would like to thank Sue Halpern for her article “Libraries Are Essential to Democracy” [March 19/26]. Halpern’s story is remarkable: creating a blossoming library from scratch for a town of some 3,000 people.

Halpern notes that Trump is “gunning” for libraries, but just as important is the neoliberal fever that is destroying every public good in its path. Libraries still need to provide the services that they have traditionally provided, but they are needed now more than ever to provide new services, such as Internet access and safe community spaces. Furthermore, shrinking staffs and deprofessionalization are taking a toll on basic services. Higher-paid librarians are fast being replaced by lower-paid support staff without master’s degrees, and full-time staff are being replaced by part-timers who receive few or no benefits. Instead of offering quality services, directors are playing a numbers game that often consists of staging big, splashy programs to get as many bodies into the building for the least cost. Public-library boards very often just go along, but there have been several revolts from the library-going public. At this time of stretched budgets, library users should be on the lookout for such trends and hold their library administrations and boards accountable.

Al Kagan
champaign, ill.

In this era of Trump, it was both heartening and sad to read this article. I am uplifted when I visit my local branch library with its diversity of patrons: new immigrants with their young children, local professionals and seniors—all there to read and learn. We cannot afford to lose this critical resource.
Barbara Moschner
san antonio

After Parkland

Katha Pollitt’s instinct is, as usual, unerring [“Teens Versus Guns,” March 19/26]: Nobody has a right to own a gun, period. At least not a constitutional right, as opposed to a right granted by custom or case law. Individual ownership of arms has never been threatened by the government, and it certainly wasn’t at the time of the Constitutional Convention. What was threatened was the practice of storing arms and ammunition in public arsenals for the use of local militias. After all, Daniel Shays almost succeeded in seizing the arsenal at Springfield, Massachusetts.

The Second Amendment guarantees a collective right: the right of the people to keep arms in a public place and bear them for the defense of the community. The Constitution says nothing about an individual’s right to own arms. In fact, if there ever had been such a thing as an intellectually honest originalist on the Supreme Court, he would have pointed out that the Bill of Rights is quite explicit in using the terms “person,” “persons,” “owner,” and “the accused” when referring to individual rights. “The right of the people” is a collective right only, as in the First, Second, Fourth, Ninth, and 10th amendments.

Someday the NRA’s savage and paranoid 40-year campaign will backfire as the courts—and the people—discover how little relevance the Second Amendment has in our modern crisis of armed violence.

Paul Fees
cody, wyo.

The false dichotomy of pro-gun/anti-gun contributes to a serious polarization that keeps the movement toward a sane gun policy in this country paralyzed. This movement needs gun owners and non–gun owners to join together in supporting laws that can genuinely reduce gun tragedies. I would have preferred that Pollitt, instead of saying “…and work like heck to elect anti-gun candidates,” had said: “to elect candidates who support reasonable, sensible gun legislation.”
Virginia Classick
duarte, calif.

Katha Pollitt has become my favorite writer, and her column on guns really hit home with me. The only “commonsense” answer to gun violence is to reduce the number of deadly weapons; pass a ban on assault rifles, high-capacity magazines, and large-caliber ammunition; and begin a new dialogue on power and violence. I too have become tired of progressives who defer to the NRA in an attempt to woo people who will probably never change their minds or their votes. Except for Hillary Clinton, the Democrats have not aggressively addressed gun violence or the astonishing loss of access to abortion. When they do, maybe they will start winning their races again.

Sally J. Keller
toledo, ohio

If the DNC had a spine, much less a brain attached to that spine, it would recognize that running candidates on a platform that is unequivocally opposed to the AR-15 and other instruments of war and terrorism would work beautifully. This defense of assault weapons is a giant Republican Achilles’ heel laid out for the Democrats to slash to ribbons. But sadly, they probably won’t. “Let the kids do it,” indeed. Well, thank God for them. I and my fellow left-minded adults have long been pretty pathetic on this particular issue.
Duncan Forster

Thank you for this. I agree wholeheartedly! I am so tired of this obsession with owning weapons.
Diane Payne

I am so proud and happy that the youth of today are taking this issue into their hands. They are not corrupted by the idiocy of the American public. Their beliefs are still close to who they really are, and they act from a sincere spot. I support the youth, and I am grateful that they are rationally effective.
Laurel Podrasky


A Scandal

As a longtime reader of The Nation, I am writing to express my great disappointment in Ronald Katz’s profoundly misleading article on the film Icarus and the whistleblower at its center, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov [“‘Icarus’: Best Film Based on a Doping Scheme (but the Wrong One),” Mar. 14]. You would never know from this article that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) launched an Independent Commission (IC) that found Dr. Rodchenkov to be completely credible. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) itself, despite a predilection for forgiving Russia whenever possible, then created not one but two of its own commissions, which similarly found Dr. Rodchenkov to be telling the truth and Russia to be guilty of running a state-sponsored doping program. Finally, a second Russian whistleblower disclosed a Russian computer database that further corroborates Dr. Rodchenkov’s testimony in great detail. As a result of this voluminous and incontrovertible evidence, the IOC was forced to ban Russia from the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.

As the producer of Icarus, over the last two years I was forced to educate myself deeply in the sordid politics and corruption of both the World Anti-Doping Agency and the IOC, and I am sad to report that both organizations wanted more than anything to sweep this scandal under the rug. If Dr. Rodchenkov’s claims were false, WADA and the IOC would have been thrilled to discredit him. Unfortunately for them, they could not. Even their own investigators turned up incontrovertible forensic and chemical analysis that corroborated Dr. Rodchenkov’s extensive first-person diaries and testimony that he was carrying out instructions from the top levels of the Russian government.

As for the extortion claim in Katz’s article, Dr. Rodchenkov has repeatedly made clear that while many findings about his work in the secret, state-sponsored Russian doing scheme are true, as he himself has described them, this extortion claim is categorically untrue, and he was never a part of any such discussions, never asked for, and never received any such payments. It must be noted further that this claim was never substantiated and never repeated in subsequent reports. In fact, even by their own admission, the athletes who claimed that they believed Dr. Rodchenkov extorted them never had direct contact with Dr. Rodchenkov—they were told by their coaches that they had to pay Dr. Rodchenkov, and then the coaches collected the money from the athletes and said they would turn it over to Dr. Rodchenkov. I have every reason to believe Dr. Rodchenkov’s categorical denials, as in fact everything Dr. Rodchenkov ever told our team, even things he was not able to prove himself at the time he told them to us, have since turned out to be true beyond a shadow of a doubt.

If your writer had evidence that Dr. Rodchenkov had lied, I would have been very interested to learn what it was. As an expert in this case, I would have been fascinated to dig into it. Instead, Katz ignores mountains of evidence demonstrating that Dr. Rodchenkov was entirely truthful in order to suggest, on the basis of no evidence whatsoever, that this might not be the case. This is deeply irresponsible reporting, and it has no place in a magazine that values its integrity, such as The Nation.
Dan Cogan
Producer of Icarus
new york city


Ronald Katz Replies:

Because Mr. Cogan does not point out any errors of fact in what I wrote, I will proceed to the main point I made in the piece—the lack of balance in Icarus. The extortion issue, to which Mr. Cogan devotes a substantial amount of space in his letter, is an excellent example of that lack of balance.

The film Icarus simply does not mention the issue. That, in my opinion, is not an intellectually honest manner in which to approach that (or any serious) issue raised by a significant organization like WADA. In fact, WADA’s Independent Commission made this serious extortion accusation in more than one place in the November 2015 IC Report, and the commission has never retracted it.

Also, contrary to what Mr. Cogan says in his letter, the Independent Commission could and did discredit Dr. Rodchenkov’s claims. On the key issue of what the IC Report calls Dr. Rodchenkov’s “intentional and malicious destruction” of 1417 urine samples, for example, the IC report plainly states on page 204 that “The IC finds that Dir. Rodchenkov’s statements regarding the destruction of the samples are not credible.“ Ironically, if these urine samples existed today, they would provide important evidence in this matter.

The remainder of Mr. Cogan’s points are either incomplete and/or incorrect. He ignores the inconvenient facts that the international sporting organizations and the Court of Arbitration for Sport have so far cleared 123 out of 135 Russian athletes that were caught up in the state-sponsored doping alleged by Dr. Rodchenkov. These figures should give pause to any objective person.

Mr. Cogan also states that everything Dr. Rodchenkov told him “turned out to be true beyond a shadow of a doubt.“ That claim is disproved, however, by a December 8, 2017 New York Times article, in which Dr. Rodchenkov retracted a claim smearing a distinguished scientific colleague working in Lausanne: “I owe Professor Saugy an apology. Much speculation has been reported that he somehow helped me cover up doping in Russia. I certainly thought and hoped that he would be helpful to us—because I lied to him and convinced him that we were clean.” This is the problem with informants—they lie.

WADA’s IC Report is doubtful of Dr. Rodchenkov’s credibility on the extortion issue. Page 13 of that report rejects Dr. Rodchenkov’s assertion that only coaches took bribes. In WADAs own words: “[Rodchenkov] not only accepted, but also requested money in order to execute the concealment [of] positive test results, which makes him equally responsible for incidents where coaches or officials extorted athletes even if he was not personally made aware of the extortion.” Logically, even if only coaches took bribes, that fact is still inconsistent with the state-sponsored scheme at the center of Dr. Rodchenkov’s allegations: the state of Russia would have no interest in personally enriching coaches through extortion, and no one, including Mr. Cogan, has made a case to the contrary.

The issues covered in Icarus are important. To merit an Academy Award, in my opinion, a documentary film exploring such important issues must engage in a balanced search for truth. That balanced search did not occur in Icarus.

One result of this lack of balance, in my opinion, is that at least dozens of Russian Olympic and Paralympic athletes have been punished without proof of their individual guilt. This result is the opposite of the fair play to which the Olympic movement aspires.
Ronald Katz
mountain view, calif. 

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