Letters to MotherJones.com

The Left Is not Always Right
Re: “Blaming America First”
2/6/02

I wanted to take a moment to tell Todd Gitlin that I have never read an article that so thoroughly and eloquently summed up my frustrations before. This ‘liberal fundamentalism’ is the major reason I switched to the Republican party during college, and seeing this article in a left-wing magazine brings the left up quite a few notches in my mind — a willingness to confront our own perspectives is what truly makes us stronger.

Matt McCormick

 

I feel that a criticism of self-described “progressives” is long overdue. As a student, I have read many works by Chomsky. However, while I still find many aspects of his dissection of U.S. foreign policy and the media valid and relevant, I could never quite reconcile his one-sidedness, particularly his downplaying of the Soviet threat (and others, such as the Khmer Rouge). His view is emblematic of current leftist thought, in that such views fail to acknowledge the complexity of international politics (for example, that it is far easier to fault the US for the rise of Al-Qaeda, rather than to address the realities in the Muslim world that would permit someone like Bin Laden to flourish).

I applaud your contribution to this debate, and look forward to reading more of your work.

Devin Trousdale

 

Europe’s Oil Habit
Re: “An Oily Quagmire”
2/6/02

I wonder whether the question of American oil dependency should also be extended to European oil dependency. After all, we too are clients of the same market. Having had a few discussions on US responsibility in the Sept. 11 drama, I found that the tendency of my left wing friends here in Europe is to scrutinize only the American responsibilities and not to take into consideration our position as oil consumers as well. Most of my friends here have two, if not three, cars for one family!

Maria Grazia Sorrentino

 

Arming Our Friends?
Re: “American Arms — Into Whose Hands?”
2/21/02

The Biblical admonition, “As ye sow, so shall ye reap,” comes to mind. What grinds me most is that the US has a habit of dumping millions into unstable governments with the understanding that the money will be used to buy arms, supposedly for support of interests that are congruent with ours. A cynic might conclude that a part of the policy goes something like this: The US does not have a heavy need for munitions and war goods right now, but we can’t afford to let our arms manufacturers go dormant. So, hey!, let’s spread some bucks to a few tin-horn dictators with the understanding that they use it for weapons procurement.

It seems as if this approach has become a big part of our foreign policy. I agree with the conclusions of your recent article. We have not seen the last of having one of our “new” enemies shooting at us with weapons “Made in the USA.”

Rudy Dalpra
Safford, AZ

 

It is saddening that our leaders appear to have learned very little from mistakes made in the past. Having just fought a “war” against an organization led by Osama bin Laden, formerly a “friend” of the United States who received weapons from us in the 1980’s to fight the Soviets, one would think some wiser decisions would begin to be made. And that is just one example of how our actions have come back to haunt us. At the moment I am ashamed that our country continues to fuel the global arms race, while demonizing other countries for producing arms at paltry levels compared to us. When will these hypocrites realize that if we used our great wealth to pull these desperate people out of poverty by providing them with the money for food, housing, and education; that perhaps they will have less animosity and more to live for than the next battle. We need to stop using the poor of the world for our own advantage, and not only for the reason that is not without consequences. We are treating the symptom of poverty instead of going to the source, and dropping packets of food from the air onto a desolate land interspersed with bombs does not disguise our motives.

Susanne Brander
Production Coordinator
National Organization for Women


 

A Love Letter From the “Vast Right Wing Conspiracy,” but No Love for Lay
Re: “Ken Lay’s Nest Egg”
2/21/02

From everything I know about variable annuities, they are a perfectly legal investment. They may not be for everyone, but every person’s investment needs are different.

Your article insinuates that Ken Lay has done something wrong by purchasing an annuity. Why? Are you envious? Is this just another left-wing accusation that is now permeating the news? Is it just more of the left-wing class warfare that consumes the liberal press? Is there some criminal charge against Mr. Lay that precludes buying an annuity that I am unaware of, or are you trying to create one? You see, I believe someone is innocent until proven guilty and in this matter, there are not even any charges filed!

As far as Mrs. Lay being on the Today Show, she’s only going forward with the new format when the press starts its rampaging and hype on a topic or certain individuals. We remember Hillary Clinton going on the Today Show and vehemently denying her husband’s affair and blaming it on a “vast right-wing conspiracy”. The press has yet to really challenge her on that like they’re attacking Mrs. Lay. I wonder why? Could there be a little bias on the part of the liberal press?

By the way, would you forward me your article about Hillary trying to hide assets from scrutiny before being sworn in as a Senator? She got $8,000,000, but had to have it before being sworn in to avoid the eyes of the Senate ethics committee. Remember? I’m sure that someone who could unearth something about Ken Lays annuities knew all about this and wrote a long piece insinuating bad things on the part of Hillary. Of course, the first bill Hillary put in the hopper as a new Senator, was a law to forbid politicians from making big bucks on “tell all” books etc. By this time, of course, Bill Clinton had already inked a $10,000,000 book deal! The hypocrisy on the Left simply takes one’s breath away.

By the way, do you know if DNC Chairman Terry McCauliffe, who turned $100,000 into $18,000,000 via the bankrupt Global Crossings Corporation, has bought any annuities? At least we now know how he was able to be the original underwriter for the Clintons’ $1.8 million dollar home in the second most “white” zip code in New York state – a state where Hillary had never lived, worked, voted, or paid taxes, but felt she had the right to lay claim to the highest political job in the state. As I say, liberals are the most hypocritical group of people under the sun.

You can send your the copy of your “vast right wing conspiracy” piece and the results of the Terry McCauliffe annuity investigation to

Earle Drabenstott
Painesville, Ohio.

 

You’re going to find that over 1/4 of the Enron employees own variable annuities, most of them offered through Manulife Financial, in a product called “Venture.” You’ll find this because UBS PaineWebber had the Enron stock option plan, and the UBS PW group out of Houston that had this plan did a diligent job of trying to convince employees to shed at least half of their shares — two years ago — and diversify into an annuity. It had nothing to do with the notion of ducking lawsuits but simply doing the right thing. It sounds like Ken Lay did the right thing with $4 million by purchasing an annuity, however, there is no way it will produce $900,000 of annual income in six years. More like $250,000.

Daniel Schneider

 

In my opinion Lay is a crook.

However, anyone, I repeat anyone who is in the stock market is there at his/her own risk. When people win — they scream “Hooray!” and tell everyone how smart they were in the market. When they lose, they scream that they are victims and blame it on someone else. Did they get taken by a pack of people trying to save their own bucks? In my opinion, Yes! Should they take blame for being stupid and putting all their eggs in one basket? Also a big Yes! I am guilty of being greedy in the stock market myself — I take the blame and do not attempt to be looked at as a victim.

Frederick L. Kolovrat
Syracuse, NY

 

There is only one way I know of to confront this type of behavior: understand how the behavior was allowed in the first place. And that put quite simply, is because the law(s) allowed it. One has only to spend a little time on the Internet, to realize that most of what occurred with Enron, was legal, and the legality was authorized by politicians who in turn were support by the wealthy. Through a great deal of ignorance on the part of the public majority, the control of the media by corporations (read that as wealthy CEO’s, etc) who have mastered the art of “spin control”, and the political system as it operates now, and you have the ingredients for a perpetual money scheme that only fails when the wealthy get too greedy, such as with Eron. While educating the public is certainly beneficial, the truly wealthy are very smart people, and it is unlikely that public could stay one step ahead, especially when you have only a smattering of the whole truth (if any), that is presented in the mainstream media. But, and this is a HUGE BUT, we as the public do have the ability to control the other part of the equation, and that is the laws. Because no matter how much money politicians get from corporations or wealthy individuals, my vote still can not be bought. And I say that in the sense that my vote, and YOUR vote elects the politician, not money.

An outstanding move by Mr. Lay. From a purely business prospective he protected his family, though, he may need a small touch of humanity toward his fellow man. I wish I made $40,000 a year much less a month. That is my fault as I chose to teach children. I would have to say I might be a tad envious and anyone who says they are not is most likely fibbing.

I’m sorry Mr. and Mrs. Lay that you are going to have such a difficult retirement. There are scores of employees as well as other investor in Enron who may have a few less ski trips or cruises than you will. Those are also the people who have invested in America with their toil and taxes. Enron will have probably been a blessing for some because it will lessen their tax liability a little.

Americans need to take heed and realize that there is no “quick” way to becoming wealthy. Greed is an overpowering fault. Be careful.

Enjoy your visit to our nation’s capital. I’m sure it will warm you up hob nobbing with all those dignitaries

Joe Waleski

 

Not the Whole Cure
Re: “Beyond Banning Soft Money”
2/26/02

I agree that Shays-Meehan is only the start, but to think that addressing hard money will be the end is naive. We also need to attack the revolving doors between government positions and lucrative jobs with lobbying firms, corporate funded think tanks, PR firms, and corporate boards. How can we expect legislators, legislative aides and bureaucrats to regulate industries or corporations when they are working in anticipation of future well paid corporate funded jobs? One only needs to look at Wendy Gramm for a recent example of mutual back scratching.

Neil Adams

 

Ambivalence for Animal Hyper-Activism
Re: “Ecoterrorists Under Fire”
2/8/02

Elaine Close’s comment that “The ELF/ALF are not focusing on public opinion” shows how immature and self-absorbed they are. In a democracy, public opinion is everything. Public opinion can cause good laws to get passed, and it frequently sends corporations and politicians scurrying for cover. If Boise Cascade has “no conscience to appeal to,” then expose them in the court of public opinion, and harass them relentlessly in the media. I know it’s a longer-term strategy that doesn’t provide the childish rush of instant gratification that, say, burning down a ski resort does, but ecoterrorists are ultimately hurting their cause down the road. The minute you commit an act of violence — which is what ELF/ALF are doing, no matter what Close says — you create the pretext by which the bad guys can portray you as the villain. For the sake of “winning” a few battles here and there, Close’s friends are losing the war — for all of us.

Lee Nichols
Austin, Texas

 

I am actually in favor of non-violent protest but when I read about the ELF/ALF ‘violence’ or terrorism I cannot in good faith be that critical of it. I have always been amazed that as a population we stand idly by when horrific violence is perpetrated on animals and nature in the name of ‘science’ or ‘progress’ and yet when someone, or group actually have the commitment and compassion to stand up endangering themselves to say enough is enough and take a pro-action stance we immediately label them ‘terrorists’ and within our own eco-community want to repudiate them. With regard to violence against property, I don’t know how to measure the value of property against life — on a higher spiritual level I can understand that this is perhaps not the best choice, but what choice are we given? Do the vivisectors give us or animals a choice of an alternative to animal

Experiments? No! Do the loggers or miners give the Earth or us an opportunity to listen to the environmentalists who offer alternatives? No! What in fact I see is a smoke screen from the people who choose to destroy life, and when that energy is turned against them they shout ‘terrorist!’ and ‘violence!’ and yet when the magnifying glass is held against their deeds, they again shout ‘scientific research,’ ‘defense of our country,’ ‘the growing demand of energy.’ But what in fact is happening is a violent demand for money and power with out any regard for life. So I say good for you, Elaine. And most of all, thank you for taking on that responsibility for us. I might not participate in your actions but I won’t disagree with them. As long as no lives are taken and only property is damaged, I say do whatever it takes to stop the destruction of this planet and its precious life.

Julia
California