Cover of May 16, 2011 Issue

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May 16, 2011 Issue

William Greider on the deficit fixation, John Palattella on Elizabeth Bishop and Margaret Spillane on Tony Kushner's new play

Cover art by: Cover photo by Luciano Mellace/Reuters, design by Milton Glaser Incorporated

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Dark Days for Syria

The Syrian president is is facing unprecedented pressure rooted in grievances over government repression, corruption, a weak economy and lack of civil liberties. He cannot hunke...




Too Pig to Bail Bluff Point, N.Y. William Greider’s message in “Put the Banksters on Trial” [April 18] is right on the money! If a citizen robs a bank, he will go to jail. Why should corrupt bankers walk free when they’ve robbed an entire nation? And why is President Obama so afraid to let Elizabeth Warren off her leash? I say cut her loose, and let’s watch all the creepy Madoff wannabes pay for their crimes! MARK D. SMYTH Not So Smart, ALEC Eugene, Ore. The American Legislative Exchange Council’s aggressive pursuit of the e-mail records of university professors who have dared to offer some insight into ALEC’s considerable behind-the-scenes influence in crafting anti–public worker legislation is ripe with ironic hypocrisy [“Noted,” April 18]. As revealed by The Nation’s investigative reporting on the anti-immigration legislation passed in Arizona, ALEC is a central player in shadowy antidemocratic efforts to move a highly conservative and destructive agenda through statehouses across the country. Its carbon-copy legislative proposals have cropped up in legislatures across the country, complete with the same misspellings and typos. While ALEC is a private organization and therefore exempt from FOIA, it seems to me that there should be a greater effort made to investigate and expose the members of this cabal, given their obvious effort to influence legislation while avoiding responsibility for the consequences of their efforts. CLAIRE SYRETT Tax the Rich—Please! Prescott, Wisc. So, New York’s new Democratic governor wants to let the “millionaire’s tax” lapse [Katha Pollitt, “Women Under the Budget Knife,” April 18]. Perhaps rephrasing the rallying cry of our founding fathers would be appropriate: No representation without taxation. WILLIAM KRUBSACK Kudos to Melissa Boca Raton, Fla. Re “Are We All Black Americans Now?” [April 18]: Whenever I finish listening to Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC or when I finish one of her Nation columns, I always feel like my consciousness has been raised about the human condition and, more specifically, the black experience in America. This essay was carefully prepared, building step by step from the foundation up, with historical truth and insight in a breathtaking series of historical analogies between life for the African-American community and events taking place since the November elections. Bravo to Harris-Perry for seeing things that many of us miss and for the thought-provoking analysis in each of her wonderful columns. BOB WAXMAN Olney, Md. I admire and greatly appreciate Melissa Harris-Perry’s intelligence, mind and creative expressions. In an April 18 Nation Associates ad she says, “For a progressive political nerd like me, being asked to write a column for The Nation was equivalent to being drafted by the NBA (although admittedly with a much smaller salary).” Melissa, think bigger! You are much more valuable than any NBA player! MARY A. ALLMAN Stirling, N.J. Bravo! Melissa Harris-Perry hits the bull’s-eye again. We are all very pleased in my family that she is on board what my granddaughter calls Grampa’s favorite “grown-up magazine with no pictures.” Marriage must agree with her, since she seems smarter with every issue. But this is absolutely the last iteration of her periodically reinvented name I will tolerate—unless, of course, she marries me. L.E. ALBA Palestinians & Israelis Together Motza Ilit, Israel Joseph Dana and Noam Sheizaf, in “The New Israeli Left” [March 28], mention Combatants for Peace. Some Israelis are actively opposing the occupation and the settlements—they are literally destroying our country—and assisting Palestinians because we feel, as Jews, it is our moral obligation. We are a small minority, but that minority is doing great things. The Combatants for Peace movement was started jointly by Palestinians and Israelis who had taken part in violence: Israelis as soldiers and Palestinians in the struggle against the occupation, mainly during the second intifada. Until then we had seen one another only through gun sights and at detention centers. Now we have put weapons aside and fight for peace. We recognize that this is the only way to put an end to the violence and bloodshed and the oppression of the Palestinian people. We act only nonviolently and see dialogue and reconciliation as the only way to end the occupation and to halt the settlements. I recently spoke with a fellow who heads the Jerusalem–Bethlehem branch of the organization. He commanded “shock” forces (his term) in the Bethlehem area during the second intifada, and I don’t even want to think of the violence he’s been responsible for. He spent seven years in jail and was released as part of the Oslo Accords. He had never met an Israeli who was not in uniform until he participated in demonstrations at Bil’in. Here he encountered Israelis in the thick of things, opposing the path of the wall and the expropriation of land. It did not take long before he became active in Combatants for Peace. I volunteer in Humans Without Borders, an organization of about 200 members devoted to helping Palestinian families whose children require medical treatment available only in Israeli hospitals. Each week volunteers drive about fifty children and their families to and from hospitals in Israel, where we visit and comfort the children—especially the ones being treated for cancer. I drive children from the Bethlehem–Jerusalem border crossing to a hospital in West Jerusalem to undergo dialysis three times a week. Humans Without Borders also organizes summer camps for the kids; we bring whole families to the sea and zoos for fun days, and we do so much more. Ilan Shtayer is a remarkable man who almost single-handedly arranges for the weekly distribution of vegetables from Wadi Fukhin, a small Palestinian village being strangled by the ultra-Orthodox city-settlement of Betar Ilit. The village is famous for its organic agricultural produce—they raise the most amazing vegetables. But until Ilan and others took the marketing in hand, the villagers had no way to sell their vegetables. Each week he trucks the goods into Jerusalem and distributes large boxes of wonderfully fresh organic seasonal produce—we never know what the boxes will contain. The 150 families in Wadi Fukhin survive because Ilan and his friends distribute that produce. Anarchists Against the Wall, Combatants for Peace, Humans Without Borders and others desperately need funding. LARRY LESTER Read More


We Have a Winner!

Congratulations to The Nation’s new puzzlemeisters, elected by Nation puzzle-solvers to don the mantle of the late Frank W. Lewis, our cryptic-crossword construct...

Talking With W.S. Merwin

The Poet Laureate Consultant to the Library of Congress talks about spontaneous demonstrations, his hope for poetry, and why he doesn't read criticism anymore.

Books & the Arts

Talking With W.S. Merwin

The Poet Laureate Consultant to the Library of Congress talks about spontaneous demonstrations, his hope for poetry, and why he doesn't read criticism anymore.

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