Maria Margaronis’s excellent "Greek Drama" [March 8] neglects to mention the size of Greece’s military expenditures as an element in its budget crisis. Holding the Athens Olympics in 2004 may have cost the country 5 percent of GDP that year, but annual defense expenditures average 4 percent of GDP every year–the highest in the EU and second only to the United States. Similarly, she rightly decries the reported 30 percent of Greeks who work in the public sector but overlooks the 2.9 percent of the country’s active population engaged in the military sector–the highest in NATO! Unfortunately, Greece’s ongoing arms race with its neighbor Turkey, abetted by its arms-supplying NATO partners, makes any serious reining-in of military spending unlikely in the foreseeable future.
18 Million (Living Wage!) Jobs
Flushing, N.Y.; New Canaan, Conn.
Congratulations to Bob Pollin ["18 Million Jobs by 2012," March 8] for raising the ante! Pollin estimates that creating 18 million jobs in the next three years would bring the official unemployment rate down to 4 percent, a level the country has reached only twice since the late 1960s. At 4 percent unemployment we would achieve the "interim goal" of the Humphrey Hawkins Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act of 1978–remember that hard-fought but nearly forgotten legislation?
Even in better times, unemployment is a chronic problem. For example, in 2000, when unemployment was at the 4 percent level, 13.3 million people were either officially out of work, employed for fewer hours than they would like or discouraged from looking for work. Millions more were working poor. Therefore, Pollin’s target rate should be considered an interim goal, a first step on the way to living-wage jobs for all. Let’s remember what Franklin Roosevelt had to say in the depths of the Great Depression: "We cannot be content, no matter how high the general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people…is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed and insecure." And let’s not forget FDR’s Economic Bill of Rights, which began with "the right to a useful and remunerative job." To achieve these economic rights we need a movement like the ones that brought civil and political rights to all our citizens. Visions like these can help inspire a social movement strong enough to overcome our grim political realities.
HELEN LACHS GINSBURG
GERTRUDE SCHAFFNER GOLDBERG
Founders and executive committee members
National Jobs for All Coalition
New York City
I have been a member of Feminists for Life since 1984 and served on its board of directors between 1985 and 1995. I wish to clarify some points made by Katha Pollitt in her February 22 column, "Focus on the Fetus."
Pollitt referred to a description by Kate Michelman and Frances Kissling of Feminists for Life as representing a "new, crunchy pro-life approach." FFL was started in 1972 by several women who broke away from the National Organization for Women over the abortion issue. Abortion violates the basic tenets of feminism: nonviolence, nondiscrimination and justice for all.
The jury is still out on whether there is an abortion-breast cancer link (see Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, Vol. 10, No. 4, pp. 105-110, "Abortion as an Independent Risk Factor for Breast Cancer," a review of recent studies). It is inaccurate at best to say this is "disinformation." However, archival information from past issues of The American Feminist aside, as far as I can see, FFL has determined to let medical experts on both sides of this debate sort it out since FFL president Serrin Foster’s conversation with Pollitt. But it is important to note that since prochoice researchers first suggested that abortion might be linked to increased risk of breast cancer, Foster has warned prolifers not to use this as a weapon against women.
Regarding contraception, FFL members hold a wide range of opinions, as Foster mentioned during her recent NPR interview (npr.org/templates/story/storyphp?storyId=122851804).
I became a prolife feminist thirty years ago when, as a foreign student in Costa Rica, I heard liberation theology speakers say that abortion does nothing to solve any social problem or change any social or economic relations. What it does do is help maintain the economic, political and social status quo. Our society has largely lost its sympathy for unmarried single mothers, saying, "If it’s her choice, then why should I have to pay for it?" Abortion has become both a symptom and a symbol of alienation in the society and the culture.
FFL believes that abortion degrades and exploits women through invading and objectifying their bodies, distorting their physiology, misdirecting their anger and obscuring the true causes of their oppression. We know from the Guttmacher reports over the years that most women have abortions because they lack resources and support they need in the workplace, school, home and from our government. Women deserve better. FFL opposes the criminalization of women (as almost everyone in the prolife movement does) and focuses our efforts on freeing women from abortion by addressing the issues reported by the Guttmacher Institute–and working along with prochoice advocates to check off our task list.
If that makes us "crunchy," we plead guilty as charged.
Feminists for Life of America
And a Little Child Shall Lead Them
Jeremy Scahill’s "Blackwater’s Youngest Victim" [Feb. 22; "Letters," March 22] has been lodged unnervingly in my mind. I wept reading it and again, reading it aloud first to my wife and later to my 14-year-old son, choked up nearly uncontrollably.
I distributed copies to friends and co-workers. Were my child the victim, I’m convinced I’d have sought out and waylaid Erik Prince and beaten him to within an inch of his life with bare fists, or died trying.
I am at once shamed and inspired by the utter grace of Ali’s father and his family. It has forced me to rethink my views of the reactionary aspects of Shiite Islam, which I have tended to consider a parallel to extreme conservative Christianity.
If we all possessed a fraction of the grace exhibited by Mohammed Kinani, we could indeed be living in a Garden of Eden.
DANA G. FILLBACH
An editorial slip-up in Scott Saul’s "A Body on the Gears" [March 29] caused a quote about Mario Savio to be attributed to Jann Wenner. It was actually written by Greil Marcus. The sentence should have been rendered as follows: "As former FSMer Greil Marcus has noted, ‘Savio seemed to embody not just will but also doubt, and the need to speak and act in the face of doubt.’"