Cover of January 10/17, 2011 Issue

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January 10/17, 2011 Issue

Ariel Dorfman on Nelson Mandela, Calvin Trillin on John Roberts's bad calls and a new Arthur Rimbaud translation by John Ashbery.

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Cover design by Stephen Kling/Avenging Angels

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Lame Duck Congress Victories

The repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the passage of a landmark food safety bill and the narrow defeat of the DREAM Act all prove that organizing and educating across issues reall...


John Nichols on the immediate threat to social security, Kate Murphy on opening up the FM airwaves and Braden Goyette on this yea...




…but Were Afraid to Ask Eugene, Ore.  In "Ten Things You Should Know About Slow" [Dec. 13] Dian Duchin Reed considers endeavors that are common to all of us (eating, socializing) or to just some of us (driving, shopping, parenting). She forgets, however, another key slow endeavor that concerns us all: sex. Yes, there is slow sex, a delightful practice, sometimes known as karezza or tantric sex. This practice of generous touch is relaxing and fulfilling rather than fiery and consuming. Read Cupid's Poisoned Arrow by Marnia Robinson and Tantric Sex for Men by Diana and Michael Richardson.  LAURA AND JOHN HOFER     The Divine Sarah Stirling, N.J. Melissa Harris-Perry's thoughtful arguments in "The Misunderestimation of Sarah Palin" [Dec. 13] confirm my thinking. An inveterate blogger and writer of letters to the editor, I've repeatedly said, "underestimate this woman at your peril." Month by month she gains in stature and popularity while a chorus from the left wing of our national stage excoriates her. I don't care for her either, but I see how the media are buffing her luster. She will wind up with more electoral cred than she ever deserved. L.E. ALBA     Rapid City, S.D. Melissa Harris-Perry says people will regret their "mocking" and "dismissive" attitude toward Sarah Palin. She is wrong. Jana Prikryl has it right a few pages on in "The Dirty Halo," where she describes Palin as a "glossy, unflappable" figure who sashays "her degraded political slapstick" onto the national scene and gets the attention of the talking heads. "Photo­genic star power" does not qualify her as anything more than an attraction, kind of like Disneyland. Is that "dismissive," or a true grasp of reality? ELIZABETH COOK-LYNN     New York City I intend to adopt the Republican strategy of "starving the beast." I will not click through any story that reports on, quotes, analyzes or otherwise pays attention to Sarah Palin. Please, I implore you, ignore her. D. MACLEOD     Chariot of Fire Findlay, Ohio I was stunned by Anne Carson's translations "[3 fragments of Mimnermos]" [Dec. 13]. I had never heard of Mimnermos. Indeed, little is known of him other than that he died around 600 bc. What I found remarkable were the lines from "[that lucky old Sun]": "already tomorrow goes riding his bed of daysided/gold goes skimming/sleep countries from west to east…" If I interpret this correctly, the image appears to be that the earth is moving (rotating) from west to east! Otherwise, if the sun were revolving around the earth, it would be "skimming" from east to west. That such an image appears some 350 years before Aristarchus was allegedly the first to claim that the earth revolves around the sun is what I find remarkable. Carson is a classics scholar and has made her translations freely into modern English, so perhaps this is not an exact replication of Mimnermos' imagery. But if the translation does reflect his image, we may have to re-evaluate our understanding of when the geocentric theory was first challenged. JIM FLECHTNER     Carson Replies Brooklyn, N.Y. I thank Jim Flechtner for his sensible question about my translation of Mimnermos fr. 8. The text is conveyed to us by a Hel­lenistic author named Athenaios, who says: "Mimnermos says in the Nanno that it is in a golden bed made for the purpose by Hephaistos that the sun, while he is asleep, crosses to the east, with riddling reference to the hollow of the cup…." I take this to mean that the sun has to get back from the west to the east each night in order to ride from there in his cup each morning, so he accomplishes this covertly while everyone is asleep and the lights are out. The "skimming" is this nightly transit, not his diurnal journey in the conventional direction. ANNE CARSON     Charity Robs the Treasury San Mateo, Calif. Hoo-rah for David Nasaw's "The 'Giving' Season" [Dec. 6]! Charitable contributions do often directly or indirectly benefit the donors. Nasaw also raises the question of who should "make basic decisions about our schools, healthcare institutions and cultural priorities." I strongly support his preference for such decisions being made by a democratically elected body. Let me add that this deduction is even more regressive than he said, because wealthy donors may contribute appreciated assets. These contributions get special treatment: the donation is deducted from ordinary income at appreciated value with no capital gains tax paid. DONALD T. ELLIOTT     Baton Rouge, Louisiana David Nasaw obscures important issues by equating "every $100 donated to charity" with "$35 less to the Treasury." Those of us working toward the Gulf Coast's recovery from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the BP disaster know that the nonprofit sector does work that the government either will not or cannot do. In the immediate aftermath of the storms, small community organizations and faith-based groups were first on the scene. While state and federal governments were still strategizing, local (underresourced) nonprofits were rescuing the stranded and feeding the hungry. Without the nonprofits—most of which rely on funding from large foundations—which aid low-wealth communities and racial/ethnic minorities, the policies developed to rebuild and repopulate the gulf would have left tens of thousands (and more) behind. Granted, this work falls mostly into that meager "10 percent of charitable giving" that "goes to the poor and needy," as Nasaw says. But since these are our most vulnerable populations and do rely heavily on the nonprofit sector, it is essential that this sector not be incapacitated by efforts to curb wealthy power blocs. Thank you for your top-notch journalism—it is an oasis! JESSICA MCKELVIE KEMP     Drip, Drip, Drip Boynton Beach, Fla. I see the drawn faces of poverty in puddles on rain-soaked streets. Victims of trickle-down economics. STEPHANIE LANGSON     Clarifications Christian Parenti's "Green Strategy Now" [Dec. 20] may have created the impression that the Environmental Defense Fund accepts donations from the fossil fuel industry. It does not. Due to a production error, the version of Eric Alterman's "Liberal Media" column that went to press last week was not the final version. The final version is here. Read More



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