Letters From the November 2, 2015, Issue

Letters From the November 2, 2015, Issue

Letters From the November 2, 2015, Issue

Judging the Court… Hitchens’s exceptionalism… Don’t burn Bernie!… Sinatra always had a cold…


Judging the Court

Kudos for the special issue “The Case Against the Roberts Court: A Decade of Justice Undone” [Oct. 12, 2015]. It is one of the best issues of The Nation that I have read. I agree completely with your indictment of the Roberts Court. In my opinion, John Roberts is the worst chief justice in the history of the Court except for Roger Brooke Taney.
John A. Matta
bradenton, fla.

It was distressing to read how the Roberts Court has turned legal precedents against their original intent and fashioned them anew to serve the rich and powerful. In so many ways, American courtrooms no longer deliver justice to ordinary people.

David Cole observes [“The Roberts Court’s Greatest Hits?”, Oct. 12] that one more liberal on the Court would have made all the difference. He also notes how often some conservative justices voted with their liberal colleagues in the past. There was a time when the Supremes voted their conscience, but that was then and this is now. It is no longer possible to give the Court’s conservative majority the benefit of the doubt when it comes to fair play. They are biased and corrupt, and they’ve been bought by the likes of the Koch brothers, along with the state legislators, judges, governors, senators, and congressmen who have drunk the Kool-Aid of the moneyed 1 percent.

For all that, I liked the way your writers summarized the issues taken up by the Court in the last decade. I thought about and was inspired by the real people who brought those cases. They labored on and fought the good fight, even though the odds were never in their favor.

Peter White
kingston springs, tenn.

Hitchens’s Exceptionalism

In his article “The Kissinger Effect” [Sept. 28/Oct. 5], Greg Grandin belittles Christopher Hitchens’s book The Trial of Henry Kissinger for focusing “obsessively on the morality of one man, his devil: Henry Kissinger.” Grandin continues: “The Trial of Henry Kissinger isn’t very useful and is actually counterproductive; righteous indignation doesn’t provide much room for understanding.” This analysis, of course, implies the shallowness of history based on the influence of individual actors.

But the body of Grandin’s article belies his point by revealing the many ways in which Henry Kissinger’s powerful influence actually resulted in criminal acts of mass slaughter. No doubt, in the wider view, Kissinger was a product of the psychosis of chauvinistic “exceptionalism,” but, in a similar vein, so were Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Pol Pot.

Al Salzman
fairfield, vt.

Greg Grandin Replies

I thank Al Salzman for his letter, with which I agree completely. That Kissinger has committed war crimes is beyond dispute. And while it is necessary to document those crimes, it isn’t sufficient—or at least it isn’t sufficient if the goal is to understand the deeper causes of today’s endless warfare state.

The point of Kissinger’s Shadow is to use Kissinger to go beyond Kissinger, to see “the total military and economic situation.” I myself greatly enjoyed Hitchens’s j’accuse, which fulfilled the first mandate of good journalism: It afflicted the comfortable. I know that the book continues to irritate Kissinger, who is among our most comfortable. But that Hitchens’s analysis didn’t do much to expose the larger contours of the warfare state is evidenced by Hitchens himself, who very soon after its publication threw in with the neocons and their Third World War.

In the years before his death, Hitchens would continue to update his charges against Kis­singer, even as he supped with Dick Cheney and dreamed of cluster-bombing Muslims (since the shrapnel would go “straight through somebody and out the other side and through somebody else. And if they’re bearing a Koran over their heart, it’ll go straight through that, too”). Hitchens was able to square his circle of hating on Kissinger and loving George Bush because he presented Kissinger as a perversion of American exceptionalism, a singular monster unique to our country’s history. In Kissinger’s Shadow, I’ve tried to argue that Kissinger is the purest expression of American exceptionalism. In any case, I do document nearly all of Kissinger’s many crimes (except perhaps what he did in Cyprus) while trying to index those crimes to particular moments in the evolution of the national-security state, from Vietnam until today.

Greg Grandin
new york city

Don’t Burn Bernie!

There you go again: I’ve counted three times in which three different authors have written in The Nation that Bernie Sanders can’t win. Has this become a policy, although unwritten, of your magazine? You must realize what damage you’re doing; progressive readers will think that it’s true and pull back on their support. Is that the purpose, to weaken support for Sanders?

Of course, the claim that Sanders can’t win isn’t true, simply because we don’t know the future. Writing as if you did is simply dogmatic and unworthy of a publication like The Nation, which, in my experience, has stood for the most progressive political and social principles. Haven’t you heard of the tens of thousands who have turned out for Sanders’s rallies? Instead, The Nation seems to be putting its bet on Hillary Clinton, who does not stand for progressive principles and has said herself that she is a centrist.

If Clinton is elected, she will bring more of the same corrupt government that we now have. It is time for a systemic change. Social democratic has a nice ring to it.

Allan Larsen
grove city, penn.

Sinatra Always Had a Cold

I resent the pairing of Billie Holiday with Frank Sinatra [“Who Loves You?”, Sept. 28/Oct. 5], an imitative charlatan who could barely reach the high notes and whose emotional expression was just one: Outta my way, I’m a big deal. If people like that kind of singing, Michael Bublé does it much better and more effortlessly. Holiday was in another sphere altogether, with complicated and brilliant melodic tricks; her emotional content was ever varied and expressive.
Leo Rockas
west simsbury, conn.


Michelle Goldberg’s “Whose Kids Is Big Brother Watching?” [Oct. 19] mistakenly referred to Child Protective Services investigators as social workers. In some states, CPS investigators are not required to have a degree in social work.

The sidebar “Volkswagen on Its Back” [Oct. 19] stated that VW produced 5.05 million cars between January and June of this year. It should have read 5.04 million.

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