Week of June 29 – July 5

Lies, Damn Lies!
Way too late for Bush — I’d be mad as hell if he ‘fessed up (“Whoppers of Mass Destruction”). We already know he lied. We just need a critical mass of citizens to do something about it or for our media to get some spine and integrity and investigate.

Shirley Bryant
Muskogee, Oklahoma

They lied and continue to lie to cover up their previous lies. Unfortunately, our society has been so brainwashed by the continual lies coming out of this White House about so many things that people seem to be unable to question or protest anymore. We have become numb. And the administration-fed corporate media keeps the myths going.

The only answer is regime change — and regime change begins at home!

Beverly Monaghan
Palm Harbor, Florida

We shouldn’t get mad at a kid who says he hit a home run, but a president who promotes an invasion that results in the deaths of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians needs citizens of this country to shout, “We are very mad! and we need you and your slimy crew to ‘fess up and get out.”

M. Cherubin
New York, New York

If it was just Bush’s lying, that would be one thing. But it’s more than that. It’s this whole administration and its secrecy, and the consequences of their lies on the lives of people. How many people have died because of their lies? Did anyone die because Clinton lied about having sex with Monica? No, there is something seriously askew with Bush and this administration. There is a lack of regard, a lack of respect, a lack of decency. And if we have to treat our president like a little boy, and essentially provide understanding for his lies, then what does that say about our president? That he’s too immature to understand his actions? If that’s the case, then he shouldn’t be in office.

Kimberly Lata
Portsmouth, Ohio

Nuclear Welfare
The answer to our energy dilemma is an understanding on the part of the American public that every time they turn on a light, turn up the thermostat, or hop in the SUV and go to Wal-Mart for a bag of cat food, fossil fuel is being burned (“The Half-Life of Pork”). That will soon come about — as monthly bills from utility companies and gasoline prices begin to skyrocket. Of course, we can always throw another war to keep cheap oil flowing, but Americans will soon tire of sending their kids to die for this purpose. Americans never understand anything until it hits their wallets. Conservation, solar, Geo Exchange, alternative fuels such as hydrogen are just some of the possible solutions, with conservation probably playing the largest role. These things will come about, but not before the situation reaches the “crisis” stage.

Dillard Jenkins
Grand Junction, Colorado

This is wrong, wrong, wrong — just more pork from the senator from New Mexico. He should be interested in lifting his state out of poverty instead of subsidizing the non-renewable and non-competitive waste-laden, nuclear industry. He is a disgrace to the people of New Mexico.

Jan Moore
Torreon, New Mexico

Backtalk | Week of June 8 – June 14

The Unmourned Dead
My dad, a submarine veteran of World War Two, said when the Iraq war was being proposed that people should know what happens in a war before they rush into one (“Forgetten in Memorial: The Casualties of War”). He told me what I already knew: that terrible things happen in war and that it’s hardly like the afternoon football game people make it out to be. Our conservative hawks in Washington were generally able to avoid the dark acquaintance of warfare. I am fortunate to share the wisdom of a Depression-era orphan with an eighth grade education who spent what should have been the happiest years of his life in the business of taking life on a grand scale. Maybe he should have gone to Yale.

Edward D. Groh
Linthicum Heights, Maryland

This situation is intolerable in the least and downright criminal. We should demand that the administration publish accurately the number of casualties from the Iraqi war. We all need to know the real truth about this war. We need to be informed about the cost in human lives for history.

I find the sneaky nature of this administration really unconstitutional. At least I’d hope that someone can find a law that would require Bush to come clean on this war.

Robert D. Morris
San Jose, California

A Hawk’s Hawk
Sadly, while I often disagree with Pipes, I must agree that his pointing out the refusal of the media to recognize the seriousness of the desire of militant Islam to convert the world is right on point (“Daniel Pipes, Peacemaker?”). You mention CAIR [The Council on American Islamic Relations] and fail to mention the statement made by the president of that organization that Islam in the US does not seek to integrate or become part of the mix of religious beliefs in this country, but rather to convert the US to an Islamic state.

The need for an Islamic reformation is immediate and urgent. Unless Islam can join the rest of the world in the 21st Century, we are doomed to see a conflict between the West and Islam that will horrify us.

Jack Lass
Bethesda, Maryland

Daniel Pipes makes racist statements about Muslims the likes of which would be totally condemned were they about any other religious group. But instead, Americans who have no great knowledge of Muslims or the Middle East or Israeli-Palestinian history lap up his comments as truth.

This is the type of person we want in an Institute of Peace? He says that even peaceful Muslims should be treated as barbarians. His assertion that Muslims want to impose an Islamic state on the US not only illustrates an ignorance of what an Islamic state is, it’s much less true than saying that the religious right wants to impose a Christian state on the US.

Sumbul Ali
Menlo Park, California

In their most candid moments, astute historians will admit that international conflicts are ultimately resolved in only one out of two ways: either when one party vanquishes the other and dictates the terms of peace, or — far more rarely — when both parties are so tired of fighting that a painful compromise is preferable to some distant prospect of victory.

Daniel Pipes’ argument starts with what ought to be an unassailable premise, namely that there can be no peace between the Arabs and the Israelis unless and until the Arab world accepts the existence of the State of Israel, not just through political action but in their hearts and minds.

Pipes proceeds to talks about the elephant in the room. The evidence from all attempts at forging a peace between Israel and the PLO indicates that the PLO at best wants peace without making any real concessions; at worst that peace can only be achieved when all of Israel has become an Arab Palestine.

Pipes’ critics don’t accept the burden of proof of refuting the evidence. Rather, they make his argument politically incorrect — it is simply impolite to doubt the motives of the Palestinian leadership (though it is de rigeur to cast doubt on the motives of the Israeli leadership). For anyone who is willing to consider the probability that Arafat actually doesn’t want peace, Pipes is Churchill to the rest of the world’s Chamberlain.

Leif Knutsen
Maplewood, New Jersey

Backtalk | Week of June 1 – June 7

Peace, Politics, and Daniel Pipes
Although Pipes is unapologetically conservative, his book, Militant Islam Reaches America, repeatedly says that Islamists are a tiny minority of the population and that Islamists do not represent the views or ethos of normative Islam (“Daniel Pipes, Peacemaker?”). There’s much one may find to criticize in Pipes’ views and approach, but I think it’s intellectually dishonest (or lazy) to mischaracterize his views and set a mob on him for what he *didn’t* say.

Todd Pitock
Villanova, Pennsylvania

The fact that Pipes’ message is prompting audiences “more than 5,000 miles from the bloodshed” to respond to his war-cry establishes that the U.S. has no interest in a peaceful resolution to this war or to any conflict: the result is only a wider profliferation of hatred. In placing Pipes on the board of the United States Institue of Peace, Bush is, by extension, supporting anti-Palestinian sentiment; Pipes is naive to think that any long-term resolution could possibly result from the humiliation and virtual annhialation of the Palestinians by the Israelis. No peace can come of war, for it is merely murder disguised as politics.

Danielle de Pass

Although I loathe Bush, I would consider voting for him if he continues his tough stance on the Israeli-Palestinian issue as reflected with his appointment of Mr. Pipes. I find any capitulation to the Palestinian terrorists unacceptable. As the quote goes: If the Arabs lay down their arms there will be peace. If the Israelis lay down their arms there will be no more Israel.

Gail Weiss
Bethesda, Maryland

West Texas Waste
Look for more and more privatization of public responsibilities (“A Radioactive Recipe for Profit”). This does not shock me since the corporate profit seems to be the only motive in these days of Bushism. If a policy makes money, it’s good. If it doesn’t, legislate it out of being … or better yet, legislate it for show and starve it with lack of funding.

The strange silence of our elected representatives in both political parties can only be interpreted as culpability.

Dorothy Rossi
Houston, Texas

Backtalk | Week of May 25 – May 31

Hydrogen Hoopla?
Finally! It was nice to see a more complete picture of the “plans for the future” of the current stake holders (“Hydrogen’s Dirty Secret”). You bring out nicely that they see the public wants a future that is clean and free of fossil burning. They know their current infrastructure investments are threatened.

So they are going along with it and directing the decision makers and somehow will have everyone believing that coal is being converted to hydrogen without adverse environmental effects. If the public ever wises up they will have a choice between expensive hydrogen from wind and solar or inexpensive hydrogen from environmentally friendly fossil conversion. Economics always seems to win. The fossil controllers have a plan.

John E. Weaver
Aptos, California

The Bush Administration’s policy on development of hydrogen from fossil-based fuels is enough to make any environmentalist sick to the stomach. Georgie boy has a vested interest in the oil industry, as does fellow oilman Dick Cheney. I’m sure that there are others in his circle with similar interests.

This President undoubtedly has the country’s Founding Fathers turning in their graves. He continues to use the office of President to line his pockets for his own objectives and to widen the gap between the social classes. God help us if he wins a second term. I feel that he is behaving moderately (for him) in this, his first term. Wait until the next term when he will forge ahead with no interest in reelection.

James Walker Flick
Crystal River, Florida

I’m not so sure I care about how we get to a hydrogen economy — just that we get there. The key is that we have an infrastructure to deliver the fuel.

If hydrogen from fossil fuels gets us there, so be it. Once established, any number of processing methods are open for inclusion. Then it’s just a matter of individuals coming up with competitive methods and processing (and environmentally palatable) for a product everyone is already using.

Additionally, I think it’s a lot easier to scrub the chimneys of a centralized processing plant than the exhaust pipes of every car.

Ken Press
Sacramento, California

Even if hydrogen produced doesn’t come from renewable sources in the near-term present, the long-term effects are all positive. The near-term hydrogen economy pollution effects will break even. However, the future benefits will be substantial. The main problem with pollution is that 200 million cars produce the pollution. New advances in technology can make new cars cleaner, but it takes decades to get the old ones off the road. 80 percent of all pollution is caused by only 20 percent of all cars … and those cars will take decades to leave the freeways.

I would much rather have several thousand pollution-creating factories, that can be cleaned up and examined closely by government companies such as the AQMD, rather than 200 million pollution-creating cars. Several thousand hydrogen-producing factories can be readily upgraded with new standards and technology much faster than all the individual cars on the road.

Eric Schneider
Thousand Oaks, California

Backtalk | Week of May 18 – May 24

Embeds and Access
I just want to say that I see no reason to have reporters on the front lines and scattered all over the place, each telling his own little story from his personal point of view (“The Inside Take”).

The thing that bothered me most about the embeds was the idea that one reporter was there and it took at least two GIs to watch out for him. Those same two GIs could/should have been paying attention to what was going on instead of mollycoddling some errant reporter.

Oh well, it’s about over now, but we’ve set a dangerous precedent for future conflicts.

Bob Vaught
LaPine, Oregon

Selling Israel
I think Mother Jones should continue following this story (“A Roadmap of Spin”). I also think that MJ needs to do a full-fledged story on how Israel is not really a democracy. Most important, Israel is not a constitutional democracy in the way the United States is. There are no inalienable rights, no judicial system to enforce a legal system based on a constitution, etc. … And on a philosophical level, how does a democracy claim to be a democracy — which is about guaranteeing all persons access to the political system, to having a political voice — while actively preventing so many people from political access? It doesn’t make any sense. The claim is just a smoke screen, like this Luntz report, to deflect any criticism or real analysis of what’s going on with Israel.

Linda Chang
San Francisco, California

Hot Air on Hydrogen
Why should we be surprised that George W. Bush is supporting the oil industry (“Hydrogen’s Dirty Secret”)? Or is it the other way around?

The whole rationale behind a transition to hydrogen as a fuel source is that it could be renewable and non-polluting. Leave it to the powers-that-be to twist that vision into a new way to use up fossil fuels, and while we’re at it, breathe new life into the nearly dead nuclear energy industry.

Americans should be rioting in the streets over the stupidity of this idea, and others like it.

The idea of a hydrogen generator quietly humming in the backyard, turning electricity from the solar panel on the roof into a clean fuel that heats your water, grills your burgers and gasses up the family car must be too good for us to believe, must be a fantasy. Truth is, the technology is all available right now. Wal-Mart and Home Depot could be selling package kits in a few years.

Question is, how many of us will swallow the well-greased lies of an entrenched oil industry that tells us otherwise?

David Isaacson
Santa Maria, California

Even if US manufacturers start churning out hydrogen-powered vehicles, does the green party really think a reduction in global warming can be achieved? Although this article focuses on the griping that the process to harvest hydrogen will be through fossil fuel plants, how many of your Green Party leftists out there understand that the emissions from this new hybrid car produce water vapor? Water vapor is Earth’s dominant greenhouse gas.

As more and more people turn to this new vehicle (once it is produced for consumer production) out comes the water vapor into the atmosphere. The vapor rises, condenses and now forms clouds. An easy demonstration of the greenhouse effect on a local scale is the contrast in temperatures between dry clear nights versus cloudy nights. Temperatures will not drop as low on a cloudy night as they will on a cloudless night since the water vapor in the clouds traps and holds heat near the surface. This is why dry desert air is so cool at night though daytime temperatures may soar well into triple digits. Depending on the shape and whiteness of the clouds, they may cause more sunlight to be reflected back to space, hence offsetting some warming, or they may further strengthen the greenhouse effect (remember clouds are composed of water vapor which is a greenhouse gas). The jury is still out on how clouds will affect temperatures.

So I sit here and laugh at you people running around concerned that hydrogen will be harvested through fossil fuel manufacturing plants when in reality we are still going to be driving around in a polluting vehicle.

The only true non-polluting vehicle out there would be an electric car. But that all depends on where the consumer gets the electricity to recharge the batteries. Wake up and smell the (Starbucks) coffee. Time to do your own research. When you do, publish all sides of the facts and not just what fits your political agenda.

Derek J. Nelson
Alamogordo, New Mexico

I was not surprised to find a Bush scam that would benefit his oil industry buddies, while preaching about hydrogen fuel cells in autos to reduce pollution.

Bush is such a liar!

The only way to deal with Bush is to take the bastard — and the EPA — to court, and sue him and sue him, and sue him some more! Bush’s fascist regime can be stopped — but it will take somebody with guts and money to make him accountable in a court of law, preferably with judges not appointed by his Poppy.

Harold S. Kramer
Marblehead, Massachusetts

Antiwar’s Young Gun
Thank you for the profile of Eli Pariser (“Virtual Peacenik”). Just when I think all hope is gone, a light appears at the end of the tunnel. I like his pragmatic approach! My tax refund will go to support MoveOn’s 2004 campaign — what a delicious irony to use Bush’s tax cut to help defeat him!

Peggy S. Baker
Easley, South Carolina

I am heartened to see that someone finally realizes that getting arrested is not the way to effect change. But what is MoveOn doing now that the war is over? How are they hoping to effect real change in the greatest challenge of all — the 2004 elections?

If the left doesn’t score significant gains there, all the protesting in the world won’t do any good. Most people think there isn’t even an issue to protest anymroe now that the war is a fait accompli. How are they trying to reach the minds of people without coming off as radical or just plain nuts?

C. Rose
Los Angeles, California

Pharmacological Fallacies
Your recent article (“Teen Herbicide”) on dietary supplement regulations was long on moral outrage and short on historical perspective, opposing views or constructive alternatives. Here’s some of what you missed:

Until the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), FDA could only regulate supplements as a food, a food additive or a drug. DSHEA was prompted, in part, by attempts to turn supplements into prescription drugs (or ban them) and by FDA’s regulatory abuses. For example, FDA had declared admittedly safe food substances, such as black currant oil, to be unapproved food additives for the mere fact of being “added to” a capsule. DSHEA created a new regulatory category, more akin to foods than drugs. That makes sense because dietary supplements generally can’t be patented, while it takes literally hundreds of millions of dollars to bring a drug to market. Dietary supplements are also one of the safest product categories on the market, allegedly causing a few dozen deaths per year (vs. 100,000 for FDA-approved, hospital-administered drugs). Regulating supplements as foods or food additives is similarly a bad fit.

DSHEA gave FDA the power to remove harmful supplement products from the market. It also directed FDA to establish good manufacturing practices (GMPs) to ensure their quality. Instead, FDA has chosen to play helpless and ask for more heavyhanded authority. In spite of industry pleas, FDA has taken nearly nine years to propose GMPs, let alone adopt them.

FDA has a well-documented revolving-door relationship with big drugs and big medicine. It strikes me as odd that you would portray the supplement industry as a political heavyweight for its million dollars spent on political campaigns, when it’s been opposed by the massively larger medical and pharmaceutical establishment throughout its history. Only large-scale grassroots support has kept the supplement industry from being done in by that establishment.

I want the freedom to take vitamins and use herbal medicines. I also want to be protected from fraudulent and unsafe products. I believe DSHEA provides an imperfect, but reasonable framework for that, especially if FDA would do its job.

And Mother Jones would be doing its job if it made the effort to treat this subject in the detail I assume your intelligent and concerned readers would appreciate. If, on the other hand, you must write hard-hitting, slanted articles to pander to a lower-minded audience, why don’t you at least give a little more thought to whose side you’re on?

Laughing Water
Helena, Montana

Backtalk | Week of May 11 – May 17

(Un)Clean Energy
I agree that there’s a problem with deriving hydrogen from fossil fuels, but there are problems with deriving hydrogen from any source (“Hydrogen’s Dirty Secret”). In fact, the clean energy technofix is a half-baked approach that cannot replace petroleum on the scale necessary to perpetuate the global economy. Petroleum civilization’s days are numbered. Petroleum feeds the world, and there are too many billions to continue the party at Earth’s expense much longer. As world oil extraction peaks around now, we must anticipate dire shortages aggravated by the market response to declining production, right around the corner.

The funded environmental movement is paid to promote a renewable energy future for a greener consumer economy, but not even Worldwatch Institute can offer any proof of the viability of post-petroleum global economics. What is ahead is unprecedented conservation and energy curtailment, resulting in — if we’re lucky — bioregional economies relying on the degraded ecosystem’s reduced carrying capacity.

I explained all this at the Institute of Petroleum when I gave a speech there in February, and one thing I said was “I don’t foresee today’s world rolling along into a hydrogen economy, for several reasons … ”

I encourage you to look further into this on our website, www.culturechange.org.

Jan C. Lundberg
Sustainable Energy Institute / Culture Change
Arcata, California

Why haven’t you Greenie types accepted the second law of thermodynamics and realized that there is no such thing as “free energy?” When you people have outlawed internal combustion engines and plug in your electric cars: you will be burning gas and coal and splitting uranium atoms or killing fish with hydroelectrics to charge them up! How sad for you and the planet you purport to defend! Of course, if you were not so technophobic, you would support technology that makes better use of the petrochemical supply chain instead of just trying to trash all of our installed energy infrastructure. I refer your readers to the May issue of Discover, “Anything Into Oil.” This technology can convert any organic waste into, you guessed it, oil and gas that is very clean burning! Using thermal depolarization could solve the energy and even global warming problem without doing away with internal combustion or the present oil-based energy supply chain!

Brad Boyer
Boyer & Associates
Lombard, Illinois

I agree with the author’s basic premise that the Bush administration’s hydrogen initiative is largely a ploy to use more oil and gas. However, I question his contention that “Using existing technology, hydrogen can be easily and cleanly extracted from water.”

Extraction of hydrogen from water requires either heat or electrical energy. “Cracking” water is energy-intensive, requiring more energy input than is recovered when the hydrogen is turned back into water. For hydrogen to replace oil by mid-century, when oil is likely to be in very short supply, about 2.5 million 1-megawatt wind turbines or 700 1-gigawatt (nuclear?) electrical generation plants will be needed.

If solar energy is to be used to produce hydrogen, we’d better get going on that technology; it may already be too late!

Gary E. Richardson
Executive Director, Snake River Alliance
Boise, Idaho

I have been following this story with great interest as I originally hoped there was great potential in fuel cells. A friend of mine is a former NASA engineer from the Space Shuttle and, as you may know, that craft runs fuel cells to power electrical systems. He seemed like a ready source of information so I gave him a call.

In our discussions we talked about some of the issues. One is the dangers of storing hydrogen. When I was in the military, (enlisted, technical, not a general!), we used liquid hydrogen and the stuff is extremely volatile. Building a car that carries it around is like building a bomb on wheels. Unlike gasoline, hydrogen is way more volatile, (and therefore dangerous). I think there is a safety concern that will be hard to address: namely, how do you ensure there is no easy way to rupture an onboard hydrogen tank?

The other area is in the need to extract hydrogen easily so that it can be used in vehicles. At first blush, the different extractors/converters that are being worked on to pull hydrogen from fossil fuel sources seems interesting, but virtually all these devices are very inefficient. You wind up back at fossil fuel internal combustion engine efficiencies whether the loss is at a refinery or in the vehicle itself.

Also noteworthy is the vehicle weight penalty for such a device, the fuel cell itself, and the waste product left over once the hydrogen is extracted from the hydrocarbon. I have not seen anyone mention what happens to the carbon component, but I am assuming it does not go away. It would have to be disposed of, for if it were not, your vehicle would be gaining weight each time you tanked up. If the process is happening at a “hydrogen refinery,” well you would see big piles of carbon sitting around. I guess we could build everything out of carbon fiber.

Finally, fuel cells themselves use some rare, expensive, dangerous metals that will be difficult to properly maintain and/or dispose of. You still need the electric motor and transmission for the drivetrain.

So what is accomplished? You get a heavier, more complex vehicle that is a rolling bomb. Great. Seems we have a way to go in our development of enviro-friendly personal transportation.

To make things even more interesting, we are also ignoring the potential of the hybrid electric/gasoline vehicles. Bush and friends don’t like this idea because it immediately cuts into fossil fuel sales. With up to 80 mpg, these vehicles could be widely deployed, (the Japanese have vehicles for sale!). The benefits to the atmosphere and the conservation of fossil fuel resources seem to be two obvious benefits. The third is we can do it today, not 20 years from now, (notice how the adminstration has said it will take a loooooong time and we shouldn’t mess around with other ideas. No sir!).

Ah, what the hell. I believe we have built an unsustainable infrastructure, no matter what we do at this point. Think about it. This super tech weenie zoomy shit is used by a small fraction of the earth’s total human population. How do we get the rest of the world up and running? Survey says! — we can’t. We can’t even sustain our own infrastructure for the privileged few, which is shrinking and becoming less privileged over time.

To be succinct, we as a species are screwed. Evolution and natural selection have gone down another dead end. Evolutionary history is littered with such species carcasses.

David Goldstein
Shawnee, Oklahoma

War and Peace
No matter the rage we feel in our hearts that our names are being used, as they have in the past, to fight wars we do not believe in we cannot respond with outrage (“Virtual Peacenik”). Though emotions run high, to go out on the streets and scream and fight is only to let “THEM” win.

What Eli, and others like him, are doing is the best way to achieve true peace. We must organize, and unite. The majority of us who believe that our government is making very bad choices are among the most patriotic people you could meet. We believe in what this country used to stand for, and that is what Eli and his friends are fighting for.

My father once told me that you can only change things from the inside, and that, now more than ever, seems to ring true. Thank you Eli, and everyone else who is fighting the good fight. I am eight months pregnant, and people like you give me faith that my son will grow up in a better world.

Tabitha Davis
Granada Hills, California

I am a member of MoveOn because I still believe that we cannot just lay down and give up what we believe in. Personally, I discovered (back in the 70s) that yes, one voice can make a difference when I won a fight against the Los Angeles City Council to save some of the more than 100 year-old trees that were going to be chopped down in order to widen our street in the San Fernando Valley.

I have believed for a long time that there are many “followers” and very few “leaders,” and all it takes is just one “leader” to get the “followers” moving for what they believe in. Unfortunately, when Bush declared after 9/11, “You are either with me or against me,” many of the “followers” in the U.S. became scared, and decided to keep their mouths shut for fear of being labeled a “terrorist.”

Since 9/11 I have only met three people that don’t feel like I do — and all three of them voted for Bush. I have a wide circle of friends, and besides those three, ALL of them feel as I do, so I realize that the results of these so-called “polls” that show Bush with a high rating are outright lies. Yet, a lot of people believe them and so they continue to keep their mouths shut.

Just yesterday I read on the internet that Bush, Inc. has finally come out and admitted that there are NO “weapons of mass destruction” left in Iraq (if there were any there in the first place). Will this be published in the newspapers, or will we hear that on TV? And if so, will that fact finally bring these “silent Americans” to realize that this so-called “war” was simply a setup by Bush, Inc. to attain more of what their true goals really are? Will these “silent Americans” weep for the lives lost on both sides? Will these “silent Americans” realize that the money wasted on this so-called war could have done so much good in our country? I can only pray that this will finally happen.

Before 9/11 I had always been proud to be an American. But since then my pride in being an American has greatly diminished, and this is mainly because I have been witness to how many Americans are simply “followers.” With the 2004 elections coming up I pray that we will have someone running for president that can usurp the Bush, Inc. “reign of terror.”

Oby Thomas
Naperville, Illinois

Over-the-Counter Killers
Your screed (“Teen Herbicide”), well intentioned though it may have been, missed the mark completely. So-called “ethical” drugs, with the complete connivance of the FDA, which is the unadmitted enforcement arm of the AMA-Big Pharma complex, kill anything from 100,000 to 250,000 people a year, and cripple God alone knows how many more.

Supplements, on the other hand, cause maybe a few dozen casualties a year, ALL of whom are victims of their own stupidity in misusing substances that can be powerful. Yes, kids shouldn’t use a number of things, but I will wager you anything you care to name that more kids are injured by aspirin than are harmed by ephedrine! The DSHEA was promulgated, wisely I think, as a valiant effort to rein in the utterly corrupt FDA, whose “enforcement” was for decades devoted to the destruction of health food stores. As an example of the stupidity and venality of the Bureau, consider the abolition of tryptophan as an easily obtained, totally safe mood ameliorator, because ONE Japanese manufacturer used an unproven process and poisoned a number of people with an impurity. Of course the fact that Prozac had just been approved by the FDA as the mood ameliorator of choice (at twenty times the cost) had nothing to do with the ban. And if you believe that, I have a bridge — (And you STILL can’t get tryptophan legally, even though Prozac’s patent has run out, because of FDA’s intransigent attitude.)

I’d much rather see kids made aware of the risks involved with potent natural products, than let the FDA back in to regulate (meaning prohibit) their proper use. Ephedra is a godsend to people with upper respiratory problems — but it should NOT be a “prescription” item. Next time, before letting your bleeding heart show, research your topic more completely!

Edward G. Robles, B. Sc. (Chemistry), D.D.
Franklin, North Carolina


Backtalk
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Crude Policies
The Thirty-Year Itch” (March/April 2003) does a good job of distinguishing between oil for fuel (oil as profits for American oil companies) versus oil for power (oil as a way for the United States to control Europe and China). Clearly, Iraq is about oil as power. But author Robert Dreyfuss could have done more to draw out the role of the oil companies in planning an occupation of the Middle East. Focusing so much on the Bush administration and the Republicans could lead us into the arms of Democratic “moderates” who are just as interested in long-term occupation of the Middle East for oil (as power), but want to delay until they can convince the American people and foreign powers to support it.

Michael Lyon
San Francisco, California

Control the world’s oil supply, Dreyfuss suggests, and you control the world. Well, why not, if we can do it easily? It’s a mighty hard prospect to resist. If we don’t, others will, and the longer we wait, the harder it will get. It might be time for some good old manifest destiny. We could bring developing countries a lot more resources than they have now, and they can give us new markets to develop.

Kevin McElroy
Waterbury, Connecticut

I wish to commend you on an extremely well-researched investigation of U.S. global expansion. My only criticism is that you failed to mention the strategic importance of the Caspian region, which may contain up to 200 billion barrels of oil reserves. Some of those reserves are slated to flow through the Baku pipeline to refineries in Turkey. Basing U.S. forces in Turkey would therefore have served a dual role: providing a front line in the invasion of Iraq, and guarding the flow of oil against disruptions caused by those opposed to the devastation of the Caspian ecosystem.

Robert Ovetz
Sausalito, California

Your article is dead-on. The effect of a war in Iraq will be to subsidize the price of oil at the pump through military expenditures, causing us to burn up the world’s reserves at an artificially rapid pace. Allowing the oil-producing states to charge a fair price for their product, and perhaps even imposing an additional tax, might give us time to adjust to the looming environmental catastrophe. Instead, we are intent on stealing resources that belong to others and handing them over to SUV owners.

William Rood
Rochester, Minnesota

Your article about the war with Iraq is extremely comprehensive and factual. I forwarded it to the rest of my battalion. However, you fail to mention the effect the war will have on the people of Iraq. The war may very well be about American imperialism and oil, yet the Iraqi people still live under a ruthless dictator. Many Iraqis have come to America to escape Saddam Hussein’s regime, and you never see them protesting the war.

Jordan Rushie
Pioneer Battalion, Army ROTC
Villanova, Pennsylvania

Dreyfuss makes clear that the reasons behind U.S. policy in the Middle East are much darker than we have been led to believe. We are witnessing a global game of Risk — albeit one in which the United States is bent on making the rules as it sees fit, or else.

Alexander Boyd
Barcelona, Spain

Card-Carrying Hypocrites
Union-busting efforts by Wal-Mart are only part of the story (“ Up Against Wal-Mart,” March/April 2003). I know too many people who bemoan employee exploitation yet still prize their Sam’s Club card. If any of your readers “tsk-tsk” over Karen Olsson’s compassionate story and don’t cut up their cards on the spot, I hope they realize that the few bucks they save will come off the backs of Wal-Mart’s workers.

Mary Sojourner
Flagstaff, Arizona

The Welcoming Country
It is disappointing that your article (“ Outback Nightmares & Refugee Dreams,” March/April 2003)) ignores Australia’s contribution to humanitarian need. In the past 50 years, Australia has resettled more than 600,000 people. We welcome migrants and refugees, but only if they come through the front door. None of the boat arrivals making claims against Iraq or Afghanistan have fled directly to Australia. Almost invariably they have traveled through several countries to reach here, bypassing many opportunities to make their claims. In other words, they had already achieved safety, but were now looking for a place where they would like to live. Refugee places should be given to people who cannot return home but remain at risk where they are, not to those who have the resources to engage a people smuggler.

The Hon. Phillip Ruddock
Minister for Immigration, Multi-cultural and Indigenous Affairs
Canberra, Australia

CORRECTION
“The Thirty-Year Itch” incorrectly attributed a quote to Robert Kagan. The comments were made by his father, Donald, a history professor at Yale University. “Outback Nightmares & Refugee Dreams” stated that refugees were being transferred from camps in Australia to Papua New Guinea and Nauru. They actually were sent to the islands directly from arriving boats.