Cover of November 21, 2011 Issue

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November 21, 2011 Issue

Alexander Cockburn on the international Occupy movement, Mark Hertsgaard on a wall of trees for Africa and a poem by Evie Shockley

Cover art by: Cover design by Milton Glaser Incorporated

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Richard Lingeman on the revival of It Can't Happen Here; Erika Eichelberger on the global fight over tar sands.




Anita Hill: The Truth Hurt Cincinnati   Re Patricia J. Williams’s “Twenty Years Later… We Still Believe Anita Hill” [Oct. 24]: we believe Anita Hill because she was telling the truth. The debacle surrounding her personal trials, along with the gross abuse of power shown by those sitting on the bench, are the legacy of the right wing of the current Court, eroding respect not only for their Court but for all courts—and, sadly, for the rule of law in this country.   E.A. TAVERNER   Marina del Rey, Calif. It has always seemed strange to me that in all the enraged talk about how the Senate Judiciary Committee savaged Anita Hill, nobody ever mentions who chaired that committee and allowed that to happen. It was none other than our esteemed vice president, Joe Biden. He is, in fact, the one most responsible for Hill’s shabby treatment and for Thomas’s confirmation. The Democrats had a majority in the Senate and could have blocked that appointment. Biden not only allowed that travesty; he voted for Thomas’s confirmation. So you can stop complaining that the Republicans gave us Clarence Thomas. SANFORD THIER    Philadelphia In 1991, as a young twentysomething, I landed a job in investment banking and was grateful for the break. I soon found myself in the surreal situation of being chased around the desk, literally, by my boss, while Anita Hill’s testimony played in the background. I complained to no one and deflected his advances. I dreaded travel for work because of the inevitable grope. I invented social plans so I could find my own ride after meetings. I thought it horribly unfair that because of his behavior, I could be marked as a troublemaker, or worse: “Did she or didn’t she?” Meanwhile my boss derided Hill; if it was true, he said, why did she wait until now to speak up? If the subject of Anita Hill’s credibility ever comes up, I tell my story. I can imagine if my tormentor had remained an influence in my career how the stakes would have kept getting higher. I too would have kept quiet. However, if he were someday to verge on such a position of influence as Supreme Court justice, I knew I would be compelled to speak out—no matter how many years had passed. I am grateful to Anita Hill; I have defended her story with my own. Unfortunately, like so many pioneers, she took a bullet. As a young lawyer, she may have dreamed of one day sitting on the Supreme Court herself, not of being the subject of my “Anita Hill moment.” KATHY PUTNAM    When America Didn’t Need to ‘Occupy’ Bellingham, Wash. My family lost their Kansas farm during the Great Depression. As tenant farmers, my parents lived with indebtedness until 1943, finally recovering from depression, dust, storms, grasshopper plagues and severe drought. Does the present government have any understanding of the anguish people go through when they lose their homes, their farms, their livelihoods? It does not seem so. In the early ’30s we had a president who gave us hope. In our little town of 600, federal assistance made it possible to construct an entire municipal sewer system to replace hundreds of unsanitary outdoor privies, while hiring dozens over an extended period. This resulted in jobs for carpenters and plumbers too. Some dozen women, including my widowed aunt (with four children), were employed in the “sewing room” making overalls and shirts for those who could not afford to buy them. My aunt was also the recipient of “commodities”—rice, grapefruit, canned meat, peanut butter, cornmeal and prunes. An older brother, a cousin and many other young men enrolled in the CCC and constructed a county lake, still in recreational use today. Another brother and cousin, both in high school, were paid to help elementary teachers grade papers. My father and other tenant farmers were hired to repair a bridge. Although we were very poor, we had the feeling that our government cared and was doing something about poverty and unemployment. In 2011 that feeling is gone. DON PILCHER It’s a Man’s World Out There Purchase, N.Y. In her “Subject to Debate” column “Ban Birth Control? They Wouldn’t Dare…” [Oct. 24], Katha Pollitt has it just right. I am a veteran of more than thirty years in the politics of reproductive rights, as co-founder and president of Westchester Coalition for Legal Abortion. With men in charge, it’s always been their game, and women’s lives are at their mercy. Today, Republicans in Congress are ganging up to take even birth control (!) out of women’s reach. This should astonish and spark a reaction in the electorate, if only they knew about it. These GOP Congress members get away with it because the mainstream media, with some exceptions, choose to ignore it. In years of debating the opposition, I’ve heard them say one or another version of “they [women] had their fun; let them pay for it.” I have never forgotten the comment of a Long Island Republican on an antiabortion amendment to a Defense Department funding bill: “If a Peace Corps volunteer wants to have a roll in the hay with the local witch doctor, why should we pay for it?” Why do Republican women stand for such attitudes and policies? They avail themselves of the full range of reproductive healthcare the same as the rest of us. POLLY ROTHSTEIN    Marine, You Funny Little Sunny Little… West Chester, Pa. If Marine Le Pen does not win the presidency of France, I wish she could run in the US [Agnès Catherine Poirier, “Can Marine Le Pen Win in France?” Oct. 24]. She is everything I’m looking for in a candidate and cannot find in either party here. She is strong, articulate and has very good ideas. ELAINE JACOBS   Red Bluff, Calif. The progressive agenda advocated by a politician known for her right leaning reveals a democratic deficit here in the United States. It is hard to imagine any of our presidential candidates expressing similar views without being tarred, feathered and branded a commie pinko. JOE BAHLKE   Keep On Trillin Cyberspace I dearly love Calvin Trillin’s lines. Poetically he well defines What it means to understand Political chicanery and underhand. I never miss his sterling verse. He says things well, and also terse. The Nation is my only bible— It’s full of news I consider reliable. And if Calvin T. should fail to appear In the Nation pages I so revere, I will immediately cancel my sub And drown myself in my own bathtub. ALICE F. Read More


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