Week of October 20 - October 26

Shooting Lott's Statistics
I am a member of the NRA, I have a concealed carry permit and I usually carry ( Double Barreled Double Standards ). I have never been the victim of a crime. Though immediate family members have been, carrying a gun would not have prevented them from being victims. A very little bit of common sense would have; not leaving their purse on the front seat in an unlock car, not getting so drunk their legs were wobbly.

Trying to make this argument with statistics may make some folks feel good; but, it is totally bogus!

I suspect there is a greater statistical correlation between head-of-household paying jobs (which are disappearing at lighting speed in this Republican Administration) and crime reduction than there is between gun ownership and crime reduction. The debate over gun ownership and licensing individuals for open or concealed carry is not, in my humble opinion, helped by reliance on statistics, bogus or not because the decision to own/carry isn't a scientific one; it is an emotional, and often irrational one.

Ultimately, science doesn't decide what each individual does or doesn't do. Shooting is fun; that is not a scientific or statistical term. I have sold guns that were not fun to shoot. Statistical truths or falsehoods had nothing to do with it, and simply are rationalization for a political position some one has staked out.

Ralph de Juliis
Muskogee, Oklahoma

One obvious difference between the allegations against John Lott and Michael Bellesiles is the level of expertise required to evaluate their claims. When I publicly exposed Michael Bellesiles's work in late 2000, it was easy for any intelligent person to see and understand: I displayed Bellesiles's quotes alongside the documents he claimed to be quoting. Anyone who was literate could immediately see that what Bellesiles had done was not scholarship, but fraud.

The allegations against Lott require a significant knowledge of multivariate statistical analysis to understand. I know just enough about the subject to know that I don't know enough. There seem to be no smoking guns as blatant as Bellesiles's rewriting of the Militia Act of 1792, or his falsification of colonial militia statutes.

There is one allegation against Lott that requires no technical knowledge to understand: did Lott actually perform the 1997 survey? While the combination of factors that Lott says caused there to be no records is implausible, it is not impossible.

By comparison, Bellesiles's probate inventory analysis involved, at least in part, identifiable and locatable documents. Others who attempted to reproduce Bellesiles's numbers found what historians like myself found when checking Bellesiles's citations of historical documents: fraud.

The situation with respect to Lott's 1997 survey is not in the same category. It is impossible to prove that Lott's 1997 survey did not take place; at best, scholars can only be suspicious of Lott's claim to have done it.

Clayton E. Cramer
Boise, Idaho

There is little doubt that Lott's behavior seriously undermines his credibility beyond any verifiable facts or recreatable analysis. The deliberate complexity of his analysis presents a disconcertingly convenient defense. However, it is telling that in the wake of his work and the largely successful defense thereof, the discussion is no longer about how badly "shall issue" laws exacerbate crime, but rather how much, if any, they reduce crime. Establishing that private concealed ownership has either a neutral or beneficial impact on violent crime (in the U.S.) effectively changes it from a strong pawn for gun control and establishes it as a fairly weak pawn for gun advocates.

Despite his notorious defensiveness, Lott has defied the convention of gun socioeconomists to hide as much of their source material as possible until as late as possible. Even if his analyses prove to be irreparably flawed, his establishment of a new convention of open databases will be invaluable to all concerned.

Rodney Smith
Springfield, Virginia

Bankrupting California
I'm glad to see that someone (Day of the Locust) has pointed out the fact that Dubya and his crew are more than a little responsible for California's budget troubles. If it weren't for Bush and his cronies (Enron etc.) screwing around with energy prices and pretty much bankrupting California, I don't believe this whole recall debacle would have come around!

I'm of the opinion that this government started to go down the toilet because of Reagan (as bad as he was for the country but at least he wasn't the redneck, Bible thumping war monger that we have now). Bill Clinton did his damndest to straighten things out (although no one is perfect in politics), but the feeing Republicans worked him over so badly that a lot of his ideas and policies just didn't stand a chance. Anyhow, Arnold will probably screw things up even worse, and the idiots that put him in office deserve every thing they get. The rest of the populace has my sympathy.

One last comment. If I remember correctly, didn't Arnold pretty much convince General Motors to produce the Hummer (once strictly a military vehicle till the end of Desert Storm) as a truck for his own use and then for general sale?

John Pitt
Levittown, New York

Backtalk | Week of October 13 - October 19

Beyond Bush-Bashing
I am going to send this article to my mother ( Let Them Eat War). Her husband, George, has been out of work for six months now. He is the typical blue-collar worker, struggling to find even a simple job.

Maybe they can find insights and vote differently next year and following years. But I doubt they will even vote. My mother says she does not feel she needs to vote. The Republicans seem to be doing just fine (she lives in Texas and blindly trusts Republicans). So, maybe this article could be a wake-up call for them. Maybe they will start voting and hope that their voice does matter.

Sarah McCaleb
Berkeley, California

I think you hit the nail on the head with your analysis. Democrats are going to have to address those issues directly rather than trying to bash Bush otherwise they'll look like sore losers without solutions.

Glenn Taylor
Cochrane, Canada

Ms. Hochschild's commentary is the best single piece of political insight I read in quite a while -- at least since the collapse of liberal morale post-Gore and September 11th. It is truly inspirational. I've been scouring various left-leaning publications for insight into the reasons behind liberal ineffectiveness that go beyond tactical, statistical, and blame-the-media approaches and look toward social and psycho-emotional factors.

As a liberal guy with a fair amount of political experience (some successful) in several red, middle-American states, I believe she's laid bare the essence of our problem. I'm not sure how to develop a liberal-oriented reclamation project to counter the effects of the conservatives' emotional "strip mining" operation she's pointed out, but I'll be working on it out here in our electoral Siberia.

Chris Dixon
Lexington, Kentucky

The Usual Profits
Business as usual for the Bushie bunch( K Street on the Tigris) . The whole episode stinks to high heaven.

Georgie's bunch has taken over in California and has the United States footing the bill for rehab of Iraq. And all of the good ol' boys are making a bundle in Iraq at the expense of our service people, who are the sitting ducks in this disgusting mess that Georgie created.

Jean Kotwitz
Sun City West, Arizona

This is just despicable.

Iraqis and our own soldiers are still getting killed, Iraq is in a state of anarchy, the $87 billion spending package hasn't even been "approved" yet, and huge corporations -- along with members of our own government -- are lining up their business interests in Iraq like gluttonous pigs at a feeding trough.

And we wonder why the cost of "reconstruction" keeps going up?

Carl Shea
Orlando, Florida

Well, is anyone surprised? We all knew companies like Bechtel and Halliburton were set to plunder Iraq through their cozy contacts with the Pentagon, the Department of Defense, George Bush, and Dick Cheney. It doesn't take too great a leap to see that General Motors is wanting 'some of that' too.

What is a bit surprising is the extent that people, across the political spectrum, have jumped on board of the "plunder Iraq now" bandwagon.

It points to the fact that there was so much momentum to attack Iraq for purely economic reasons. That's why one needs only to listen to the hollow tone of the administration's leaders -- from Bush through Cheney, around to Colin Powell, back over to Condoleezza Rice -- to know that we're not there for anything other than their corporate sponsors. They needed a new market to conquer. Bush needed to show off his military toys and his new program of 'pre-emptive strikes'. What a great partnership!

Zane Safrit
Fairfield, Iowa

Backtalk | Week of October 6 - October 12

An American Decline?
My only comment would concern Mr. Johnson's worry over a new Caesar pandering to the veterans of our volunteer military( Scourge of Militarism). This is and will be a troublesome ploy, but I would add that many American professionals have become as ferociously supportive of "imperial" policies as any ex-service person. A huge military budget buys a lot of medicines, gigabit routers, and jockey shorts. The immense feeding frenzy initiated by the Iraqi war and by the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security shows how attractive government contracts are to corporations of every type and scale.

When military/security spending is our only growth industry, the entire economy is facing a "cul de sac of American society" and will, like any private citizen, scramble to hop aboard the bandwagon of militarism. Nowadays, the bandwagon has been stretched like a jumbo-jet fuselage and its cavernous interior beckons to many a recent college graduate as well as e-commerce refugees, unemployed engineers and fired programmers. I believe we are all living through a radicalizing of the professional classes and that, for America, is uncharted territory.

Joe Shema
De Pere, Wisconsin

Last year, I read Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of Roman Empire." That material prompted me to come to conclusions similar to yours. It seems to me that the decline of the USA has already started, and the war in Iraq is a clear symptom of that.

Djordje Dragovic
Lisbon, Portugal

Backtalk | Week of September 29 - October 6

An American Hero
I think John [Andrew] is a hero (" Truth on Tour"). He has shown the kind of courage and commitment, I was brought up to believe is typically American. I hope he encourages others to follow in his path and help to replace a few statistics (4 millions lost jobs) with faces and stories.

I have been living in Germany since 1984 and am thus able to observe the States from a distance. I have so often asked myself if the U.S. was always so screwed up and I just couldn't see it because I was trapped in the system, or is it really getting worse? I am grateful to have discovered Mother Jones. It keeps me up to date and gives me hope that there are those who take a discriminating view of the U.S. even from within it's borders.

Kimberly Colegrove
Cologne, Germany

Back in the 1870s the James-Younger gang decided that the bank in Northfield, Minnesota was ripe to rob. They tried to hold up the bank and discovered that the citizens of Northfield were not about to be walked over. The town fought back, and effectively stopped the gang.

I am pleased to see that a citizen of the town is carrying out the tradition of fighting back against the lying backstabbers that are ruining our country.

Ed Richter
Port Angeles, Washington

Andrew is the kind of person we need more of -- many more of -- to publicly counter the feigned optimism of the Bush administration. All we, the American people, get are promises. The economy will get better, health care will get better, the situation in Iraq will get better, etc. All this some time in the future.

Most of this is self-serving arrogance. It's my hope that, in 2004, enough sensible voters, a.k.a. the true "patriots" of this country, will go to the polls and send George Bush and company to wherever they used to call home. Except in their own eyes, they've done little to deserve re-election. And that's the truth!

Joe Metz
Spotsylvania, Virginia

Backtalk | Week of September 22 - September 28

Technical Difficulties
I think Harvey Wasserman has captured what is happening in the electricity marketplace (" Bush's Bogus Blackout Remedy"). He is correct in stating that the large nuke or fossil fuel plants usually do not have blackstart capability. One of the biggest problems in restoring a failed electric grid is getting startup power to these large generating units. Since small hydro or gas units have to be used for startup power it is difficult to get a clear path from the startup to the disabled steamer or nuke. Once it delivers the energy the rebuilding process is very slow. This is due to the need to start the large unit slowly and only bring it up to full load when expansion and a host of other technical problems are resolved. Overall, it's a slow process.

Peter Gibson
Vancouver, Washington

The Empire's Demise
Thank you for such an insightful article (" The Scourge of Militarism"). It is right on the mark.

America will fail as a nation. The country's core aims and values, as advanced in the constitution and Declarartion of Independence, have been sacrificed for the illusion of empire.

Rather than aspiring to create world governments, world trade organizations and large strategic alliances, we should be working to reduce the size and influences of countries by promoting geographic and ethnic diversification. It might allow the forces of democracy to take hold as an attainable ideal. To put it in terms of power, "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose".

John D. Vedilago
Gûteborg, Sweden

Solidarity With Whom?
The accident which was Rachel Corrie's death was of course heartbreaking(" The Death of Rachel Corrie"). But in her need to help the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), she was trained to be a "human shield" -- a dangerous and deadly form of help. The ISM is only concerned with Palestinian human rights. What about the rights of the citizens of Israel to walk freely in the street, use public transportation, shop, and dine in cafes? All of those places have been subject to terror attacks.

There is no recognition of the state of Israel on the ISM website. There is never a news release denouncing suicide bombings, lynchings, drive by shootings, car bombs, stabbings and all the rock throwing on the part of Palestinians. The Israeli government clearly cited the Corrie death as regrettable -- and said their sorrow publicly.

Suicide is suicide -- whether strapped with bombs on one's body or standing in front of an army tank. I truly feel heartfelt condolences to the Corrie family. No one should have to endure the death of a loved one especially a child. Israeli society understands this better than anyone, as the citizens live with the threat of murder by terrorists every day. When a suicide terrorist decides to attack -- it is difficult to see it coming in plain site.

Haina Just
New Rochelle, New York

I think that Mr. Hammer spent entirely too much time reading right-wing websites when gathering information for this piece. My faith in your publication would be restored if Mr. Hammer, or perhaps an unbiased journalist would interview the witnesses or at least someone from the ISM to ascertain what actually happened.

I was shot at by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in Rafah in August of last year while escorting a group of small children in broad daylight. They shot a journalist in the neck and killed him in the same area. Tom Hurndall, a British peace activist was shot in Rafah, also while escorting small children in April, and is now brain dead. There is a clear pattern of disregard for civilians by the IDF in Rafah. The activists traveling to the West Bank and Gaza do not have a deathwish. They are there to try to preserve innocent life. Sometimes we are successful, sometimes we are not. Even one innocent life saved is worth the effort.

Beverly Anderson
Newport Beach, California

Backtalk | Week of September 8 - September 14

U.N.:Not Dead Yet
David Rieff's article about a new era of international cooperation ("Goodbye, New World Order," July/August) doesn't belong in your magazine. The conservative Council on Foreign Relations hardly represents the Mother Jones perspective, and your readers are already well aware of the evil and dangerous power of the so-called realists -- they don't need to be told. There certainly has been no "coupe de grace" to the idea of an international community, despite the policies of the American neoconservatives. An international community is the only reality possible, and if you review the history of the last 58 years, the proliferation of international organizations, rules, laws, interdependency, and world consciousness is obvious. What if, during the Nazi regime, you had included an article subtitled "The Hitler administration's go-it-alone aggression delivered the coup de grace to the idea of a united Europe"?

I am an NGO representative at the United Nations. I am constantly reminded of what I was told by an African journalist: "You Americans take the U.N. for granted. To us, it is our only hope." The Bush administration is trying to destroy the United Nations, multilateralism, and international law, but it won't succeed and needs to be opposed vigorously. The U.N. system has obvious flaws, especially the anachronistic makeup of the Security Council, but it preserves and remains indispensable -- and reformable by the increasing activist civil society. As Dag Hammarskjold said, "The United Nations was not made to take mankind to paradise, merely to save humanity from hell."

Caroline Bridgman-Rees
Hamden, Connecticut

David Rieff's suggestion that the "environmental movement offers the best model" of realism is not supported by anything in the article. The environmental cause is simply part of the larger multinational work. The environment is one thing. Human rights and international courts to enforce them is another. Emergency relief is yet another, and so on. All these things necessitate multinational cooperation. It's not easy, and we may not be making much progress right at this moment, but that doesn't make it "unrealistic." You can be quite aware of the problems and still think that it's necessary and possible to make progress, for the sake of the environment and human rights and to fight economic inequalities between nations.

Henning Strandin
Stockholm, Sweden

It sounds as if David Rieff is struggling with his personal conflict between the reality principle (Hobbesian world, most people self-interested most of the time, fixed notion of human nature) and the left-wing world-view that he has obviously internalized to the bone. He reminds me of Pauline Kael, incredulous at Nixon's landslide re-election because she didn't know anybody who voted for him. Why would an American want to be a member of the international community? Definitely a step down from American citizenship. American saved the world over the last century a least three times, not "the international community." That will never change, as fortunately the people running America recognize. American has always been the most idealistic and the most practical country in the world. Maybe Rieff ought to appreciate our country a little more before wishing we were more like Belgium.

Geoff Faust
Clayton, California

Settlements' True Cost
The settlements issue ("At What Price?" July/August) us an enormous stumbling block to ever finding a peaceful solution to Palestinian/Israeli difference, and I resent my tax dollars going to support the enormous investment Israel makes to maintain and expand the settlements and then protecting them with troops and U.S. war material. President Bush speaks of Hamas as the only Middle East problem, but that is a very skewed vision. If the settlements and other issues such as water usage were dealt with in an even-handed manner, one could expect a unified Palestinian effort to curtail the terrorist acts of Hamas and to bring them into a political solution. I think the costs associated with the settlements should be investigated and publicized, especially in this country. That might let people know how Israel is spending our money.

Ann Davidow
Old Greenwich, Connecticut

A Clear-Eyed View
Suketu Mehta's essay on Kashmir ("Too beautiful for Death" July/August) was excellent, factual, concise and well researched. This is a rarity on the topic of Kashmir. Typically, loud and well-orchestrated Jihadi rhetoric tries to drown out the facts of this so-called self-determination struggle-ethnic cleansing, murder, mayhem, and corruption. But while Ami Vitale's pictures are beautiful, they seem to mislead the casual reader. The pictures of Muslim suffering and the Indian army with guns are shown in full glory. Yet the pictures of the real culprits, the terrorists and their Pakistani handlers, and their monthly massacres of Kashmiri Hindus are missing.

Ravi Razdan
San Diego, California

Backtalk | Week of September 1 - September 7

America's Wetlands
I've been involved in mostly futile attempts to save wetlands here in Louisiana for over 30 years. There are a few triumphs, but even now, most people have given up even trying. While many others who are loudly trumpeting "Save America's Wetland" just want to get their hands on money to help the offshore oil industry and cause yet more "development" in wetlands.

Your article is great("Down Upon Suwannee River"), but it will only be read by people who already understand. We need to come up with a plausible, easy-to-understand, dynamic argument to counter this "we've got to grow" and "we need economic development" line that's constantly rammed down our throats.

Jay Vincent
Harvey, Louisiana

As a Florida native, I find it disturbing and appalling that our beloved Suwannee River is being decimated by an ignorant tyrant. Nevertheless, it should not be surprising since Prince Jeb is our Lord Governor.

It is remarkable that American environmental policy in the 21st Century is dictated by business and not by scientific data. Maybe it would be wise to disband the EPA and let our government start reaping the whirlwind of environmental repercussions. Maybe then, we will rise up and protect our lands from destruction.

Roger Geertz Gonzalez
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

I am a West Virginian, now living in Florida. I hadn't been in my home state for several years until this past July. I was shocked by what I saw. I looked where there should be a mountain and saw, instead, a flattened meadow-like area with grass, just grass, no trees, no rivers or streams, no wildflowers. It looked like a golf course without holes. And now, I read about this abomination on the Suwannee.

I have not read a single article in any of the three newspapers I subscribe to every day about this. We are destroying our planet home and no one seems to care so long as their lives are not disturbed. As a friend of mine used to say: "It's mind over matter. Nobody minds so it really doesn't matter".

Shirley Given
Lady Lake, Florida

Living in the Smog
I spent several years living near a refinery in the late '60s ("No Clear Skies"). We were like fish living in water, not realizing how much pollution we were swimming in every day. When the refinery closed in the '80s my family was stunned at how things changed: the overcast gray skies suddenly turned sunny and I wouldn't get sick when I visited my parents. It took us a while to believe that the refinery was actually responsible. But the change was permanent and the skies over northern Indianapolis are still sunny and clear.

To think that this administration is turning back the clock on the obvious progress we have made in the United States during my lifetime is outrageous!

Janet Chilton
Indianapolis, Indiana

No new news here. I'm from Port Arthur, and we all knew it was in the air. I've known people who had babies born without a brain, many that have cancer, and just about everyone has some sort of chronic respiratory illness. The health of this town was sold down the river to industry decades ago ... and it's still dying!

Eric Patrick
Port Arthur, Texas