December 8-14, 2003

Our Angel in America

Tony Kushner is right on the money (" Tony Kushner, Radical Pragmatist.") Democrats repeatedly select candidates that please their ideological bent rather than selecting an electable candidate -- i.e. McGovern, Mondale and Ferraro, Dukakis.

Gore was a solid candidate, but lost, just as Kushner said, because Democrats didn't vote, or voted for Nader. We are facing a similar situation with Howard Dean, whose anti-war, anti-tax cuts resonate with liberals, including myself. However, a more mainstream, mature, candidate that would give average Americans confidence of homeland security and looks and sounds more presidential and less strident would be somebody like Gen. Wesley Clark. Dean will never beat Bush with his enormous GOP-corporate financial and political machine.

Right on, Tony, keep 'em coming. America needs you.

Thomas Hall
Baltimore, Maryland


Thank God for Tony Kushner -- that's some of the most sensible liberal talk I've heard in a while. I too am astonished that folks on the left can look back at American history and do nothing but nitpick, ignoring the context of our history and all the terrible roads this country avoided taking.

There's really only two cultural foundations in this country for any major accomplishment to be built on: one is Puritanism, which is by and large useless, and the other is equality before the law, mutual respect, personal freedom, and orderly, rule-bound democratic governance. We've parlayed that second strand into immense gains, and I'm pretty proud of what we've been able to do with it; if you've got patience, commitment, and a good idea on your hand, you can eventually get it through the democratic system.

Turn on and tune in, but for god sakes don't drop out; and don't let Puritanical intolerance of imperfection (and much of the left is highly Puritanical) keep you away from the greatest instrument for social justice the last 300 years has produced.

Paul Benson
Austin, Texas


Ivins, No Excuse

I am not sure if I believe George W. Bush's lack of awareness has led him to produce such setbacks for every sector of the country (" The Uncompassionate Conservative.")

You are giving Bush the excuse without even letting him claim it himself. Ronald Reagan used a similar approach in the 1980s, which seemed to serve his purposes well. The American public was surprisingly comfortable with the notion of our Commander-in-Chief having absolutely no idea what was occurring in the government.

Please do not give Bush the same opportunity. Like you said, he is not stupid. How could a man with that much support be that ignorant?

Katie Bombico
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


Molly Ivins' article contains a misrepresentation regarding Eugene Scalia, the former Solicitor of the Department of Labor. Ms. Ivins states that Mr. Scalia was "a handsomely paid lobbyist working against ergonomic regulations designed to prevent repetitive stress injuries." This is simply incorrect. Mr. Scalia is and has always been a labor attorney, not a lobbyist. (Although some lobbyists are attorneys, the majority of Mr. Scalia's work before becoming Solicitor of Labor was representing clients in litigation, not lobbying.) I know, because I worked with him at Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher.

I am sure Ms. Ivins is aware of his prior (and current) position as a labor attorney as well, which makes me question the reason for her mischaracterization. The only explanation I can come up with is that by characterizing him as a "lobbyist" rather than an "attorney," Ms. Ivins hoped that her argument would have more emotional impact. This is shameful journalism. Frankly, the Bush administration has sufficient flaws to evoke emotional outrage without resorting to misrepresentations. Doing so only undermines the force of her argument and the trust I place in the integrity of your publication. I sincerely hope that Ms. Ivins and Mother Jones' fact-checkers do a better job in the future.

Marla Kanemitsu
Washington, DC


It's fine to be a dyed-in-the-wool liberal and hate anything that has anything to do with conservatism or the trappings of successful or, in Dubya's case, unsuccessful capitalist ventures. Ms. Ivins personal hatred of G.W. Bush is palpable, and that's fine too. But you could fill most of New York and Boston with people who despise Bush -- oh I forgot, they already are. But why pay somebody to go on a personal rant?

It's a darn good thing you and she don't make your livings by investing money looking for oil -- there's just something dirty about being rich from selling oil. But selling jealous-based hate to become rich? No problem. What is it about somebody who is so obsessed with a man, that she must create an entire career of bashing the way he parts his hair?

Martin K. Shimp
Columbus, Ohio


Debating Dubya

Encomiums to Molly Ivins for her brilliant piece( The Uncompassionate Conservative); incidentally, I'm a Texan, and many people don't realize Bush ISN'T. This man's policies must be stopped before the nation is totally bankrupt. Continue your good work showing what Bush and his cabinet of merry men are really about. We can ill afford four more years of their shenanigans. It's not that Bush doesn't have a clue, it's that he doesn't really care a whit for anything but his own narrow-minded agenda.

Jerry Benedict
Spokane, Washington


I wonder how Molly Ivins has been able to maintain her sanity and sense of humor over the decades as she watched this born loser who happens to be the ultimate son of privilege rise to the pinnacle of power, where his political whims become our social disasters.

How many articles do you have to write, how many books, how loudly do you have to shout from your housetop that the man you think you're looking at is not that man at all, but a cruel political joke being played on America and now the world? And even now, with the catalog of his lies and cruelty on display for all to see, how should one think about the fact that there are millions who will not see or simply cannot. And to realize further that many among these millions of the blinded are members of our precious Fourth Estate, supposed eyes and ears of We the People. Molly Ivins is made of sterner stuff, indeed.

What do I think? George W. Bush is our legacy president; I wonder how we're going to survive the legacy of George W. Bush.

William Miller
San Anselmo, California


As a Texan myself, I think Molly Ivins is dead on in her assessment of the typical Texas attitudes that helped to form his personality. To boil it down even further, the two characteristics that have combined to make him the worst president in decades (at least) are ignorance and arrogance, two qualities that are especially dangerous for people in positions of power.

Scott Bynum
Denton, Texas


Overall, this story reeks of jealousy, envy, and bitterness. Leading is a difficult job, leading the most powerful nation on earth is a challenging and daunting endeavor. I am certain that President Bush's moral certitude, leadership, and success will continue to enrage Ms. Ivins and others who see appeasement of and surrender to those who would destroy this country as the path of virtue.

Shawn Hannon
Columbus, Ohio


Molly, you are the one with no understanding of the poor and downtrodden. You put the poor into a group which you stereotype as powerless and stupid. These people are not capable of helping themselves, they need your help and those in the government who will decide their needs for them. Yours is the worse sort of bigotry.

Dr. J. Pidgeon
Chula Vista, California


Dubya has not a clue in his head as to how his decisions are affecting the impoverished. He's never endured a single day of hunger in his pitifully privileged life. He's never lived without medical insurance, he's never needed food stamps to survive or had to choose between feeding his children and paying rent. To step into the shoes of someone else who faces these problems every moment of their existence on this earth is apparently inconceivable to this man who does not possess one iota of compassion in his so-called "saved" soul. Until people realize that this man will continue to ruthlessly destroy all that which the Democrats have fought so hard to obtain over the years.

Patricia Schoenberger
Eden Prairie, Minnesota


If Ivins' complaint is that Bush's policies are not completely thought through, and it's hard for him to see the effect on the little man, well, that makes him completely consistent with every predecessor of his, save none. Clinton talked a good game and could turn on tears and bite his lower lip with the best. But he had no real concern for anyone except himself as proven by his personal betrayals and irresponsible behaviour in office. The implication that none of this had any relevance to the common man is to insult both the morality of the common man and his intelligence. Americans have always well understood the connection between morality and effective leadership -- and they know the difference between a lie and an exaggeration.

Ivins seems intent on trashing Bush because he is Texan, a Christian and from a wealthy family. This is rank bigotry. I, for one, think quite highly of Texans and understand the distinction between linguistic traits and anti-intellectualism. For that matter, intellectualism is highly overrated. We don't elect presidents because they are intellectuals, we elect them because we think they are good leaders (again, the distinction from Clinton.) Our country, though this obviously galls Ivins and the Left, was not founded on secularism but on Christian values. Christianity is imbued in all elements of our history and our development as a nation. From Pilgrim Fathers onward, we have perceived America as a specially blessed country, blessed by the Christian God, not the Jewish, Moslem, Hindu, Anamist nor Secular god. Ivins has a tin ear not to realize this deep cultural value. As to wealthy, well, I wonder how much Ivins and her crowd have railed against Kenney and FDR on that score.

Ivins writing, to put it in a French way, is a nonsense.

Richard Stanaro
London, England


I think this article explains a lot about Dubya and his actions since taking office. What I don't understand is why he is able to get away it. To be so uninformed that you do not know how your policy decisions affect the people is arrogant. It is as though this is yet another asset for him. Other politicians would be run out of the country for being so unworldly, heartless and dull-minded. He is the puppet in a sad scenario and he doesn't even have the balls to feel embarrassed about his lack of caring and lack of intelligence. He is a smug hypocrite in my view and yet others look at him and see strength. It is an amazing trick.

Nancee Fox
Santa Rosa, California


Unwanted Saviors

I believe that if these folks really want to gradually reduce this problem it will be by working with the families who turn to such solutions in the face of abject poverty (" Thailand's Brothel Busters.") Most of us in the United State have absolutely no conception of the desperation that such poverty brings to families, who often see sexual servitude as a better answer than a life of perpetual hunger and demeaning poverty.

Rita Mittleman
Kanab, Utah


The trouble with this story is that since the "uplifters," in this case are seen to be conservative, they are condemned for their behavior. I agree with the article that these "uplifters" are involving themselves where they are not wanted. But on the flip side, these kinds of actions are what leftists of all stripes persue constantly. Take any leftist program and at the heart of it is a philosophy of doing good for the people in question, whether they want it or not.

All do-gooders, whether working for Jesus or the federal government only exacerbate existing misery when folks don't wish to be helped. Bush is learning this lesson the hard way in Iraq.

Les Dell
Atlanta, Georgia


While I find the sex trade deplorable, we must recognize that "raids" and "sanctions" will be absolutely ineffective unless some crucial changes are made to the global economic system, which I see as instrumental in pushing some of these women into the sex trade. Thank you for an enlightening and revealing piece.

Julia Hudson-Richards
Tucson, Arizona


I think it is erroneous to say that these women don't want to be saved. That would be true if they said they really love their job, but having worked with prostitutes, I am convinced that no street/brothel prostitute ever said that.

The problem is that in order to "save" these women -- I do not like the religious/moralistic connotation of this expression -- you have to offer them other economic options, something these "saviors" apparently don't do. As long as they bust brothels and leave the prostitutes in the cold without concern for serious economic programs for the prostitutes, these busts are spectacular but meaningless.

Dr. Francine M. Taylor
Paris, France


Counting the Votes

I am a computer technician. I love computers. I love gadgets. But this technology is completely inapropriate to the task at hand (" Chad 2.0.") Just as the "paperless office" is a complete joke, the reliance on computer touch screen and hard drive technology is leading us astray of our common sense. Anyone who uses computers on a daily basis knows that we are dealing with a fragile and unreliable tool. Most people I deal with are astonished at what computers can do. They also know that without proper backups, (including paper printouts of really critical data, letters, and such) they are casting data to the wind. Anyone who has experienced the effects of a virus upon the computer knows the vulnerability inherent to this medium. The risk of mischief is too great to rely on vulnerble hard drives.

David Doss
Grand Ronde, Oregon


As a professional involved in forensic accounting, it's my opinion that providing an audit trail and a voting receipt for each voter would not be problematic. Using a double entry system would provide a lot more confidence to voters. For example: Use the touch screen to easily record votes, have the touch screen equipment print out two voting records (voucher) with unique identifiers showing the name, position and party of each person voted for and/or for each issue. The voter takes one voucher and deposits it in a secured box and takes the second one home.

This would provide an immediate vote count electronically and provide a second vote count manually if needed. In addition, as a last resort voters could drop off their copy of the voucher for recount.

To blindly trust electronic voting tabulation, especially given the history of voting mistakes/fraud, would be abrogating our responsibility as members of our democracy.

Paul Glenn
Houston, Texas


If the United States is going to use electronic voting machines, several things have to happen:

1. The government should be in charge of the machines. They could create a commission that would use industry experts to write modern, up-to-date software. The hardware and software should come from a coalition of software and hardware vendors to prevent an individual company from having the ability to manipulate election results. Their software should be completely open-source so that everyone can be sure of its authenticity.

2. This software should use the latest encryption technologies.

3. Each vote should create a paper receipt as well. These paper votes could be counted in a small percentage of precincts to ensure that the electronic totals are correct. And, in the event of the need for a recount, the paper receipts would ensure that the public had confidence in the results.

Dan Ciruli
Oakland, California


From the November/December 2003 Issue

Progress Undone

Everyone who still believes in the Bush administration's propaganda should read "Dirty Secrets," by Osha Gray Davidson. I have worked as a biologist and environmental educator for more than 25 years to strengthen and protect what little remains of our ecosystem. And I have watched astounded as the small amount of environmental progress that has been made in that time has been destroyed in less than two years. What legacy will the Bush administration leave our grandchildren? And how long will it take to clean it up again, if we can?

Katerine McLaughlin
Chenega Bay, Alaska


Wetlands to Order

I chuckled when I saw the words "create," "mitigation" credit, and "wetland mitigation" in Ted Williams' excellent expose on the gutting of our wetland-protection regulations (" Down Upon the Suwannee.") These concepts have become an ecological joke. I was recently taken to what was supposed to be a "mitigation bank" for coastal sage scrub but is really a barley field. The poor preserve manager has been charged with "creating coastal sage scrub" in this agricultural wasteland. How about the "wetland creation" projects where nearly any place is a great place for a wetland, even if it requires the installation of irrigation systems, pumped-in water, and "long-term monitoring"?

Developers love ecosystem-creation projects because they allow them to develop more land, but any ecologist knows ecological systems are not that simple and never will be. They are systems, but somehow we have gotten to the point where we treat them like items in a catalog -- we just select and order up another one.

I applaud Ted Williams for the placement of those quotation marks, and all they imply.

Virginia Moran
Julian, California


Port Arthur's Sweet Smell

I have lived in Port Arthur (" No Clear Skies.") all my life and retired from the Fire Department after 36 years. Growing up, I knew which way the wind was blowing by its smell. A southeast wind brought the smells of the Texaco and Gulf refineries, and a north wind brought the sweet smell of fresh air.

During my years as a firefighter, we made countless "odor in the area" calls. All we could do was drive around and call in to report if there was an "odor." Sometimes we would meet a refinery worker who would call the plant to report. But most times no one from the refinery would come out.

Port Arthur was born and raised by Big Oil, so whatever the oil companies decide to do about air quality and health conditions will be minimal. With George Jr. on their side, all Port Arthur has to look forward to is becoming a big "Brown Field."

John Gardemal
Port Arthur, Texas


Remembering Rachel

It is rather baffling that Mother Jones would accept, at face value, a story about the internationalists in Palestine (" The Death of Rachel Corrie.") written by the Jerusalem bureau chief of Newsweek, Joshua Hammer. He states that Rachel is largely forgotten. A peace center has been opened in East Jerusalem in her name, though the Israelis have threatened to destroy it. There have been several celebrations of Rachel's life in Los Angeles and others around the country.

The Israelis want no one to bear witness to what they do. They have targeted U.N. workers, photographers, and anyone who supports Palestinians.

Rachel Corrie believed that Palestinian lives, Israeli lives, Iraqi lives are all as valuable as our own. She lives on in our quest for peace.

Patricia Hemm
Sylmar, California


Your story raised the question of whether Rachel Corrie was a martyr or a fool. This is irrelevant. What the story of Rachel Corrie stands for is action and integrity. Here's someone who, instead of sitting on her butt and complaining, went into a war zone to try to do something about it. That takes courage and vision. Her story is frightening to people who expect a fairy-tale ending as a reward for courage, when in truth, to live a life free of regret, knowing that you did all you could, is reward enough.

Lynn Renor
Dodgeville, Wisconsin


It's a shame that the accuracy and effectiveness of all your fine articles are called into question by your anti-Israel slant in the editing of one article. How can I believe what you say about issues that I know little about when your reporting on an issue I am familiar with is so biased?

Louis Berlin
Miami, Florida


Joshua Hammer's excellent article was both illuminating and informative. I viewed Rachel Corrie's actions as courageous as well as heroic. When the photo of a lone protester standing in front of a tank near Tiananmen Square was flashed around the world, I didn't recall hearing the words "deluded" or "foolish."

Charles Reina
Lloyd Harbor, New York

CORRECTION

"The Death of Rachel Corrie" incorrectly stated that a memorial service at which mourners were tear-gassed by an Israeli tank was sponsored by Yasser Arafat's Fatah Party. In fact, the service was sponsored by the International Solidarity Movement; Fatah had held a different memorial event for Corrie two days earlier.


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