Do Mama Grizzlies Sit in the Woods?
Redwood Valley, Calif.
Interesting parenthetic phrase in Betsy Reed’s "Sex and the GOP" [Oct. 18]: "If it were up to men, Palin might very well become president in 2012 (if it were up to white men, she’d be a shoo-in)." Yes, but had it been up to white women, John McCain and You-Know-Who would be our prez and veep right now, since white women favored that swell ticket roughly 54 to 46 percent. It’s possible that white women think they have the most cultural capital to lose, as our perishing Republic struggles with equality across all social lines. It’s certain that if women of color sit out this election, white heat will have burned President Obama’s coattails.
Santa Rosa, Calif.
OK, OK—I don’t so much object to the yucky story, but the girlie cartoons on the cover—c’mon, gimme a break. Being funny is one thing; we can use humor. Being sickening we don’t need.
As a contributor to the Dump Bachmann blog (dumpbachmann.com), I would have preferred a story about Michele Bachmann’s pardon letter for Petters Ponzi associate and top donor Frank Vennes Jr.; or her acceptance of $10,000 from the operator of the sham Navy Veterans Association charity; or her support for bizarre homophobic radio preacher Bradlee Dean and for a crackpot pod transport scheme.
Sexual Freedom vs. License
The next time Katha Pollitt runs into a young feminist who is unable to articulate how and when stripping, prostitution and porn are troubling versus perfectly OK versus both, direct her to a feminist expert on the sacrosanctity of sexual freedom regardless of gender: Betty Dodson, Susie Bright, Gayle Rubin, Nina Hartley, Carol Queen, just to name a few ["Subject to Debate," Oct. 18]. Dan Savage is an indispensable source of knowledge and rational thinking about all things sex-related. Mistress Matisse is another articulate blogger and columnist. Her February 10, 2009, post on why she both is and is not a feminist should be required reading.
And please, please, please direct that young feminist to organizations actually run by the women (and men) who strip, trick, star in or produce porn. You can’t think about an issue without listening to the people most affected by that issue. Flip comments and vague thinking about sex work should be countered with concrete experience. To that end, $pread magazine, by and for sex workers, is an excellent resource. This all-volunteer publication could use more subscribers, and it is the most articulate resource I’ve read on the troubling/perfectly OK aspects of stripping, prostitution and porn.
Asses on the March
Oakland Park, Fla.
Ari Berman’s "Herding Donkeys" [Oct. 18], on the battle between grassroots activists and Beltway insiders, makes for great reading, but his point of view suffers from the same Washington-centric attitudes he attributes to the Democratic Party. His characterization of Organizing for America as a purely top-down group, imposing a White House agenda on the grassroots, is unfair and misleading.
In Broward County, Florida, the local OFA rallied the Democratic base in support of Congressman Ron Klein, gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink and Senate candidate Kendrick Meek, as well as for candidates for the state legislature. The county Democratic Party is notably absent, which goes to show that not all grassroots are the same.
Boulder Creek, Calif.
Ari Berman absolutely nailed it! I worked in the Dean and Obama campaigns as a volunteer. I was in Iowa the night of the Dean "scream." I’ve worked in the DFA and OFA. I went to an OFA "listening tour" event, where the audience did all the listening. Friends at other events describe similar one-way formats. I worked for change in the Democratic Party when Dean was DNC chair. Berman is right about why so many activists are so frustrated. I thank him for speaking for us.
Ari Berman’s "Herding Donkeys" is a wakeup call. Is President Obama’s separation from the people who put him in the White House through all their hard work and outreach his choice, or has he been maneuvered into that insular position? Thomas Geoghegan’s "Ten Things Dems Could Do to Win" [Sept. 27] inspired me to send a copy to Obama. Yet as I mailed it, I knew he would never see it. Barack Obama the candidate appeared open, honest and approachable; President Obama seems cut off, isolated and shielded from his grassroots. How did that happen and why? And what can we do to turn this around?
Altruism of the Fittest?
Rohnert Park, Calif.
As a professor of mathematics, I rarely see anything in The Nation about my field. So it was a delightful surprise to find "The Group" [Oct. 11], an elegant article by Miriam Markowitz about an important topic in my field. Thanks!
Miriam Markowitz employs the inductive and deductive logic of science involving either/or choices: either evolution is controlled by the competition of natural selection or altruism is an equally important component of evolution. Although classical science requires either/or choices, atomic physicist Niels Bohr urged the use of the concept of the complementary to consider not only the relationship of protons and electrons but also many other scientific relationships, especially in psychology.
I have developed the logic of complementary systems dynamics to consider evolutionary processes. In Evolution and Reason—Beyond Darwin (1993), I propose that evolution is guided by the complementary processes of competition and cooperation (symbiosis). The use of complementary systems dynamics in evolution theory considers the following: mutation and selection are two concepts that may appear to be mutually exclusive, need different criteria to judge their essence, are a whole, function together in dynamic equilibrium, interact in reciprocal moments of time.
Mutation and natural selection appear to be mutually exclusive because they traditionally have been separated into the disciplines microbiology–genetics and paleontology–evolution. The criteria for judging mutations lie in chemical, physical and microscopic analysis of organisms, while the criteria for judging selection lie in analysis of bone/fossil placement in environmental strata. Mutation and selection constitute a whole in the concept of evolution. Mutation requires selection and selection requires mutation. The two dynamic processes interact at many levels in reciprocal time frames.
Another example of complements: although many male species compete for females, females must cooperate with the "winning" male to produce offspring if selection is to be among the most fit individuals. Thus, this is a modification of Darwinism and inclusion of the many ideas of authors regarding the importance of cooperation, symbiosis and altruism. The logic of complementary systems dynamics places a new and broader emphasis on evolution theory.
DOROTHY KURTH BOBERG
My interest was piqued and neurons pleasingly synapsed by Barry Schwabsky’s "Good-Enough Objects" [Oct. 11], a critical discourse of crafts. As for Schwabsky’s closing wish for "someone to put just enough order into them to shake things up but not enough to nail them down," I think the irritatingly concise yet honorably staunch "DIY" has shown its value.
There it is again! The ubiquitous word "handicraft," courtesy of a quote in "Good-Enough Objects." It makes serious craft work sound like just a nice pastime making things for the home from pre-assembled kits. Can we all please drop the devaluing diminutive "i" and use the simpler and more dignified word "handcraft"?
Above the Fruited Plain
I kept reading Charles Petersen’s meditation on the human ebb and flow across the Great Plains ["Unsettled," Oct. 4], expecting to find some discussion of the impact of the Homestead Act of 1862 on the native populations. Midway through, he quotes a lament by Romantic painter Charles Russell—"the Indians and the buffalo have gone"—as if this were an incidental passing of nature. This is his only (indirect) acknowledgment that the Great Plains had quite recently been Indian territory and not simply open range for cattle. His discussion of ecological history is framed by the impact of cattle ranching and agriculture on an environment suited for neither, ignoring the longer period of human habitation by various native cultures.
Although the settlers flocking to stake their claims to farmland did not bear the "degrading legacy of slavery, sharecropping, grinding poverty and soil depletion that has overlaid the rural South," they were occupiers of lands newly available after military defeat. Sitting Bull was the last major plains leader to surrender, in 1881. This is the kind of historical amnesia that keeps our shared history segregated and incomplete.
Keeping Hope Alive
My profound thanks to E.L. Doctorow for his "A Calamity of Heart" [Aug. 30/Sept. 6]. He described in the most beautiful prose what I’ve been feeling since those disgusting Supremes elected Bush president in 2000. Doctorow gives me hope for a better future.
JOSEPH F. DiBLANCA
Alyssa Katz’s "Who’s Afraid of Progressive Power?" [Nov. 1] says New Yorkers for Growth is led by state GOP chief Ed Cox. Cox left NYG in August 2009 and had no affiliation with the group when Andrew Cuomo got the WFP endorsement.