Backtalk

Legacy or Travesty?

Christopher Hitchens fails to acknowledge that despite his terrible flaws, President Clinton kept the Democratic Party from being obliterated for a generation ("Good Bill? Or Bill of Goods?" September/ October). Had the party stayed to the left as Hitchens wants, we would now be coming up on our 20th year of GOP control of the White House.

Hitchens claims that under Clinton, "American Democratic liberalism has lost its honor and prestige." I submit that this honor and prestige was lost long before Clinton in the inept campaigns of George McGovern, Walter Mondale, and Mike Dukakis. What is noble about losing 40 states? Hitchens would rather lose and be on the outside while maintaining ideological purity than live with a flawed winner. Until the left wing of the party can fashion a winning message behind a candidate who can appeal to middle-of-the-road voters, Hitchens' whinings about Clinton are a prescription for minority-party status.

Steve Soto
Sacramento, California

I don't want to be a defender of the president, but there are clear differences between Gore and Bush in the areas of sensible gun controls, environmental concerns, Supreme Court appointments, a woman's right to choose, health care, preserving Social Security, and defense spending. Hitchens believes that even while Reagan and Bush were in office, there was no change in abortion, civil rights, school prayer. He leaves out one important component -- during those administrations, there was a Democratic House. Does any rational liberal believe that a GOP Congress, led by Trent Lott and Tom DeLay, along with a GOP administration led by Dick Cheney, wouldn't have a profound effect on our future?

N.V. Helms
Arlington Heights, Illinois

Michael Kazin states that "Clinton was the first president since 1945 who didn't use U.S. military might to protect undemocratic rulers or raw economic interests." Would someone please explain how spending $1.3 billion that will be used by the Colombian military to execute peasants, farmers, and political dissenters does not constitute using the military? Clinton's only justification is to further fuel the miserably failing "war on drugs."

Tom Diasio
Chicago, Illinois

I think both Kazin and Hitchens are right: The left deserved Bill Clinton. It's our job as citizens and as activists to pressure our leaders to do the right thing. We've failed in the 1990s, and it's taken a challenge from Ralph Nader to even make the Democratic Party go through the motions of liberal policy making. We as a nation deserved a man who didn't disturb our fantasy world.

Geoffrey Fitzgibbon Hughes
Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Our Rich Past

In "Beyond Excess" (September/October), Paul Taylor lists Michael Huffington among the wealthy businessmen who were never able to "buy their way into office." Regrettably, Huffington was indeed successful at leveraging nearly $5 million from his personal fortune to secure election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992. It is true that he failed to parlay that win into a Senate seat; however, his loss was to incumbent Dianne Feinstein, herself one of Congress' richest members. So let's set the record straight: Huffington and Feinstein broke the "gazillionaire's curse" eight years before Jon Corzine's primary win in New Jersey. Three cheers for democracy!

Carina C. Zona
Santa Barbara, California

Be Prepared

As an emergency room physician and former director of an emergency medical service, I am aware of how unprepared our society is for any community disaster ("The Phantom Menace," September/October). Emergency rooms are understaffed to handle even the everyday volume of patients during flu season. Local agencies would find it imperative to call in federal assistance to deal with any mass-casualty situation. Although I agree with Robert Dreyfuss regarding erosions of civil liberties that occur through antidrug and antiterrorist programs, I am certain that money is well spent in disaster preparedness. In this, we can never be overprepared.

Karen E. Apodaca, M.D.
Mesa, Arizona

Your article on the government's pervasive "antiterrorism" activities missed one consequence of the campaign: how industry can use it to evade "right-to-know" requirements. Under the 1990 Clean Air Act, companies were required to report worst-case scenarios of chemical releases from large industrial facilities. This provision was designed to publicize emission levels and force reductions. Using terrorism hysteria as a cloak, industry supported a change in the law last year to eliminate the electronic availability of such information. Communities and workers will pay with their health and lives.

Tony Tweedale
Missoula, Montana

Patch Work

Your story about the PharmChem drug patch ("Patchy Justice," September/ October) leaves out what I perceive as relevant information. The study conducted by the Naval Research Laboratory was seriously flawed and subjected the drug patch to unrealistic conditions. In a recent U.S. District Court decision, Judge Philip Pro, after hearing from experts from both sides, concurred that this study was not reflective of real-life exposure to drugs and therefore not applicable to the cases before the court.

The story also suggests that following Vice President Al Gore's announcement that he favors drug testing for all prisoners and parolees, "executives at PharmChem ... had cause for celebration." Please know that we at PharmChem do not celebrate any aspect of the grave realities of the drug problem in the United States and take great offense at your implication that we do. We provide a needed service that we believe makes many people's lives better and safer.

Neil A. Fortner
Vice President, PharmChem
Menlo Park, California

Activism 101

Your annual "Top 10 Activist Campuses" (September/October) failed to highlight campuses like Johns Hopkins University that don't traditionally have an activist slant. Though professors lecture against activism, students occupied a shanty and staged a 17-day sit-in -- all for a living wage for the lowest-paid workers on campus.

Julie Eisenhardt
Washington, D.C.

Bucking the Trend

The September/October issue of Mother Jones is better designed and vastly more readable. As a reader from the magazine's earliest days, I find the full-page layout makes me willing and eager to read the articles. My compliments to Jane Palecek, your design director. Her willingness to buck the common trend in comic-book-look design is most welcome.

Jerry Caveglia
Hayward, California