Got It Covered
Your November 3 cover question, above photos of three appealing faces—“Did a major defense contractor cause brain cancer in these kids?”—sounds like something out of You Bet Your Life with Groucho Marx; it’s right up there with classics such as “Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb?” Meanwhile, the headline on the article is “How Cancer Came to the Acreage,” a more Nation-worthy identifier for Sharon Lerner’s article. This is still more evidence that one can’t judge the quality of a magazine by its cover tease.
Block That Vote!
Although Ari Berman’s “The GOP’s War on Voting” [Nov. 3] makes a good point—that for many Americans, voter disenfranchisement is a huge issue that needs to be resolved—it makes the situation seem worse than it is. First, Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) specifies which parts of the country must have changes to their voting laws “pre-cleared” by the federal government in accordance with Section 5, which implements federal restrictions on these areas’ right to pass new voting laws. Section 5 and Section 2, which outright prohibits discriminatory voting practices, are still standing. Section 4 was struck down on the grounds of unconstitutionality because it made certain states go through legal hurdles that other states would not have to in order to pass new laws. Section 4 merely provided the formula for determining what states were covered by Section 5 (the actual teeth of the legislation). Cases like Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder (2009) were concerned with the fact that this forty-year-old formula takes in regions of the country that have no history of voting rights abuses.
The article pointed toward the 2013 Texas voter-ID law, which went into effect immediately after the Supreme Court’s decision. However, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, this law comes into question regarding Section 2, and the Justice Department took immediate action to assess its legality. Section 4 would have done nothing about it. It is important to note that although there are still attacks on voting rights, Shelby County v. Holder was, in essence, not one of them. Chief Justice Roberts was simply more concerned with issues of constitutionality and states’ rights.
Samuel Tiratto is wrong. Texas was one of the states covered under Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, and thus the federal government had to approve its voting changes under Section 5 because of a long history of voting discrimination. Only after the Supreme Court gutted the VRA, paralyzing the “pre-clearance” provision of the law, did Texas’ discriminatory voter-ID law go into effect. The fact that such a law remains on the books despite two court rulings against it shows that Section 2 of the VRA is no replacement for Sections 4 and 5.
new york city
Smarter Than Yeast?
I agree with Joshua Clover [“Pop & Circumstance,” Oct. 20] that the Anthropocene is not about machines. But neither is the epoch about capitalism, however compelling its role may seem. Capitalism is no more responsible for yeast dying in a brew vessel than it is for the collapse of many populations over countless millennia. Some were extinguished by external causes. The rest destroyed themselves, always by excessive predation or a befouled nest, which plays out as environmental or social collapse—often both.
In the past, many people escaped social or environmental ruin by going out to pioneer new lands. Thanks to capitalism and the technologies it bred, there’s no place left to go. The only question is: Are our real leaders (consummate predators, largely unchecked and consumed by self-interest) smarter than yeast? The record is not encouraging.
The Rich Shall Inherit…
I read with interest your November 3 letters page, in particular the responses to “A People’s Shock,” the excerpt from Naomi Klein’s new book, This Changes Everything. Those who expressed their concerns regarding overpopulation can rest easy. Granted, it’s already here. But the earth can easily carry several billion humans—just not the type we’ve become, that is, addicted to our own technology.
John C. Calhoun said, “You cannot have a democracy without slavery.” And so we shan’t. In a few generations, when the drones and self-navigating cars displace the USPS and trains, when robots flip your burgers and otherwise take over the blue-collar salt mines, those who fail to die off naturally will be put down. It will be the humane thing to do. No work, no food, no water, no medicine—no life. The survivors, of course, will be the owners of the means of production, the robots. Resources will become plentiful again, as those being served will number in the millions not the billions. And the prophecy shall be realized.
Climate Poem for Naomi
In admiration for Naomi Klein’s “A People’s Shock” [Oct. 6], I share my poem:
Shoulderless tides are raised by a full moon.
Fingerless waters everywhere seek shore.
We’ve got to listen to our bodies soon
For language to solicit answers. Or
We’re done! This world is spinning faster now,
Too fast for ambiguity’s two- headed
Arrows that fly and quickly drop below
The day-by-day planning that is needed.
And so: Let’s not shut up! It’s laptop time
To pace worldwide cyberstraighttalk in flat prose or rhyme.
Let’s hereby take our “Save the planet!” pledge!
Sharon Lerner’s “How Cancer Came to the Acreage” [Nov. 3] erroneously stated that Becky Samarripa met with the parents of a boy diagnosed with a brain tumor in the waiting room of Miami Children’s Hospital as her daughter was recovering from surgery. The parents did in fact talk, but not at the hospital. The article also stated: “In 1978…[Pratt & Whitney] admitted to health officials that 2,000 gallons of trichloroethylene…leaked into the groundwater and surface water on its campus.” The leak occurred in 1979, which the company admitted in 1980.