Taking-on the Taxman

I defy anyone interested in Bush for four more years to give me one good reason that anyone should support the administration ("Trickle-Down Shakedown"). Kerry was wrong about them being liars and crooks. They are "blank-blank" liars and crooks. They should be seen for what they are: throwbacks to Reagan and Bush the first, locked in corporate greed, seeking only to ultimately "change baseball" as we know it. Well, George W., get on with it! Move on the baseball and the commissioner's job.

Michael Wasielewski
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

The time is right for a more fair tax system - the flat-tax system. I think that enough people are furious at how unfair our tax code has become and there is enough support now to get such a system approved. Of course, congress no longer votes the way their constituency wants them to vote so it will never happen.

JuLayne Trimble
Bartlesville, Oklahoma

The question is "what can we do about it?"

What stood out in this article is the fact that both the Democrats and the Republicans are responsible for this disgracefully unjust taxation fraud upon the middle class. I wonder how long it is going to take for voters to open their eyes to the fact that the only hope middle class America has is a third political party, who gains enough membership and enough votes to overthrow both political parties out on their ears.

Just think of what a great country we could have if we had a new third political party in control in Washington, D.C. who cared about the outsourcing of American jobs, the environment, our children's education, fair taxation, affordable healthcare and last but not least, real and safe homeland security.

We cannot (in the towns and cities here in the U.S.) break into our neighbor's home, take control of their financial and material resources, kill members of their family and return to our own home expecting to live safely, securely and free of retaliation. What allows our government to think we can do these things to our neighbors abroad? We, the American voters, allow this. We not only allow this, we encourage these barbaric actions against our foreign neighbors by simply refusing to vote. We could correct the problem easily by backing and voting for a third party who will represent the values of fairness, equality and justice for all Americans.

It's also important to remember that we the voters gave a particular representative his or her job, and we can take it away if they don't represent our wishes. Lobbyists' control of government will be short-lived when the voter assumes control and determines that only those who represent the views and values of middle class and lower income Americans will remain in office. It only takes a few minutes to go to the polls and vote in the primary elections and a few additional minutes later in the year to vote in the national elections. Unless we make up our minds to vote for a party and persons who will correct the problems that we're now living with, then we have no room to complain. Please vote and make that change! You'll be so proud and happy that you did.

Jane Beattie
Boyertown, Pennsylvania

Sierra Club Split

I think this is one of the most biased, misinformed, unresearched articles I have ever seen ("The Siege of the Sierra Club").

The "old guard" members currently "controlling" the Sierra Club have misrepresented the positions of the "petition candidates" and manipulated the "democratic" process of the club.

These candidates merely want to add to the other environmental endeavors of the club an awareness of the vast flood of illegal aliens and excessive legal immigrants that are more than the U.S. can absorb; more than any other country accepts.

There has been an increase of 44 million since 1990. Please see www.susps.org and www.numbersusa.com for U.S. Census Bureau stats.

Also, there will be an additional explosion of environment destruction when we have wars to control remaining fossil fuels which will be depleted around 2035: see, "The Solar Economy; Renewable Energy For a Sustainable Global Future" by Hermann Scheer. Dr. Scheer is the president of Eurosolar, general chairman of The World Council for Renewable Energy and a member of the German Parliment.

A statement in support of a Sustainable Population, by the Sierra Club, is what these "petition candidates" are asking for in addition to the usual efforts on behalf of nature conservation.

John Gamble
Independence, Missouri

I think it is very sad that we, a nation of immigrants mostly, should have people that are so hostile and mean-spirited toward other immigrants. They certainly have no conception of the past and seem hostile and arrogant about the future. It's depressing, to say the least. But this is not the first time this nonsense has surfaced; it happened before and during the first World War and the second....."We don't want these people in our nice clean safe pure perfect country."

Our country, my country is really none of the above, though many of us try to make it that way, or as close to it as possible.

Here's a quotation from Annie Lamott that I think is relevant: "Don't give up. Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you first show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You will wait and watch and work. You don't give up."

Jan Overstreet
Murphys, California

You have been duped by the Sierra Club's "old guard". There is no hostile takeover by right wing racists. What is occurring is a classic power struggle - within the club. The "old guard" are worried about losing their power and frequent flyer miles. They are fighting tooth and nail and using every dirty trick in the book to discredit highly qualified petition candidates running for the Sierra Club Board of Directors. These tricks include allowing fake candidates (including Morris Dees, Southern Poverty Law Center) to run solely to discredit other petition candidates.

Fred Elbel
Denver, Colorado

As a former member of the Sierra Club, I just rejoined because I do NOT want it to be taken over by those whose interest is to change its original and important purpose. I personally will do all I can to thwart the attempted take-over of an organization that is important to all humanity.

Rod Grieg
Rogers, Arkansas

It is currently impossible to discuss the overriding environmental threat population has on the U.S. and the world. Indeed, Americans, whether born in the U.S. or somewhere else, have a greater impact on the health of the world's environment than any other nation because of our consumption levels. Plus we are serving as an example to the rest of the world. We talk neither about consumption nor population.

Population growth in the US - as high as many third world nations - has become a taboo topic. We need to stop calling anyone who wants to talk about population a racist. How about a thoughtful realistic discussion about what continuing population growth has done to our jobs, our schools, our health care and habitat. Just because you believe it is time to talk about immigration does not mean that you are anti-immigrant.

Shame Mother Jones!

Candice Guth

Week of March 8 - 15, 2004

Machine Politics

Surely the most technically and scientifically advanced country in the world --capable of Mars exploration and Moon landings -- is capable of providing its citizens with the means to conduct a fair election with a fair result ("Diebold's Political Machine").

Arthur Mitchell
Atlanta, Georgia

Why are the Republicans in Congress making a paper-trail audit impossible? Why can't Diebold make its stupid electronic voting machines more like its ATMs? Why are the access keys to these machines a joke? It's simple: Republicans have to steal this election because they have nothing to run on. Zip.

What is it going to take to make voters aware of this nightmare waiting to happen? Election Day 2004 could make Florida in 2000 look like a day at the beach. Are Democrats expected to accept the line from Diebold, a company full of Republican backers, that their machines "sided" with George Bush? Commentators can talk all they want now about a "polarized" electorate, but paperless voting could easily destroy our democracy.

Is the Republican Party so corrupt that it doesn't care about the U.S. becoming a banana republic?

Ryan Raisio
Durham, North Carolina

I think it is ridiculous to make the assumption that because, apparently, Republicans are in charge of companies manufacturing voting devices, they will inevitably use them for the purpose of skewing elections in favor of Republicans.

All that would have to happen is for these Republican owners be caught once using their position as voting system manufacturers to skew an election and they would be out of business. No one would ever buy their machines again, not to mention the criminal charges or penalties that would follow. It's my guess that these owners would go a long way out of their way to ensure their voting systems would be completely above reproach, knowing that there are elections officials and opposition party members that are watching them like hawks.

The point is that simply because someone has the opportunity, it doesn't necessarily follow that they will be dishonest and take advantage of it, Republican or Democrat.

Gerrit Kuiken
Lynden, Washington

Weapons Game

This is the kind of thing that eventually comes back to plague us (no pun intended). The best security against such things is not to invent them in the first place ("The Next Worst Thing").

We seem to forget that trying to stay ahead of the "enemy" is like a dog chasing his own tail. He never catches it and all he ends up doing is exhausting himself. To develop bio [weapons] in order to find a way to combat them is in the same vein. An enemy can't use it against us if it does not exist. The whole concept is self-defeating.

Lee Hutchings
Palacios, Texas

Week of March 1 - 7, 2004

Sizing-Up San Francisco

I think a toast is in order ("San Francisco's Winter of Love").

"Here's to San Francisco, the city by the bay. The city that has been and continues to be the beacon for tolerance. A city with a positive view. A city that believes that every human has value."

The proof is in the pudding, as they say. Not only does your fair city espouse these beliefs, it shows the world that it talks the talk and walks the walk. Pardon all the cliches, but sometimes a cliche fits.

During this period in our nation's history when the leaders of our government think they are the oracles of morality, It is refreshing to find a city that says, 'this is not what America is about. We object!'

Diana Greene
Las Vegas, Nevada

I would like to condemn the Mayor of San Francisco for violating the law instead of working for change in a constructive way; for seceding from the Union; for throwing out the process that makes the law we all live by. I can hardly resist the urge to fly to the city of my birth, light up a cigarette in city hall, and call it civil disobedience.

I'd like to do those things, but I can't. The image of Rosa Parks keeps getting in the way. Why does an entire class of people have to wait for legislators to walk in their shoes before they get plain justice? And where the hell does anybody get off telling another adult if they are "allowed" to marry?

If you oppress people for living their ordinary lives in ordinary ways, for just being what they are, you can expect trouble. If that trouble comes in the form of civil disobedience instead of violence, it's a positive signal about their good character. I hope we're not doomed to have to keep relearning the lesson each generation, like Sisyphus pushing that boulder up the hill. Like each of us, freedom is to be embraced, not feared.

George Wiman
Bloomington, Illinois

Let me understand what you're saying: one of the traits that has made this country great and strong is - if you don't like a law established by the majority, just ignore it.

Charles Koberg
San Angelo, Texas

Again, Mr. Morford is speaking volumes to those who need to hear some words of encouragement. This article (particularly one line: "You know, just like "real" Americans -- only, apparently, evil") totally touched my heart.

As I sit in a small central Florida community, as "normal" a person as I can manage to be, I'm a non-person. The city that takes my tax dollars, but my life partner and I cannot marry. We cannot adopt, we can't even date, I suppose, though we share property, and love, and a life.

I grew up in Southern California, but as a child the greatest gift my parents gave me were trips to my favorite city in the world, San Francisco. I've been there a dozen times over my life, and each time, felt so totally at home, so fully surrounded by the best that is America. I love every street, hill, human story, that makes San Francisco so alive. I've traveled to other countries, never finding a city with more charm, more heart, more laughter, than San Francisco.

Blessings to the greatest city on earth, and her people.

Susan Holm
Leesburg, Florida

I find it ironic that most liberal Democrats are supportive of these marriages and supportive of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, while they are handing a perfect issue for Bush to beat Kerry with. Karl Rove could not have dreamed up a better story line than this!

Newsom has become far more dangerous to the efforts to defeat Bush than Ralph Nader. Nader will probably poll about 1 percent this year if he is lucky and practically no one who will vote for Ralph would vote for Kerry if Ralph wasn't running.

As much as I support full civil rights for all people, Newsom's actions are heralded as heroic, while they appear transparently and selfishly political to me. At the same time, many of these same folks who support Newsom's actions are castigating Nader as an egomaniac for having the temerity to challenge the corporate influence on our political system.

Nader may or may not be the best strategic vehicle to advance the progressive political agenda this year, but if all that matters is defeating Bush, then Newsom and his supporters should have waited until after November.

Robert Silber
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Nader Dilemma

As stated over and over, the most important thing in this election cycle is simply to remove GW and his administration ("Please Ralph, Not This Year"). I voted for Nader last time around and he puts undeniable truth on the table. Sadly however, if he distracts the Democrats it's going to be four more years of Bush. If that happens, God help this country, the world, and its people.

Greg Hails
Buford, Georgia

The hysteria over Nader running this year masks the role Nader is going to have. Nader really gave birth to Dean, who really gave birth to Kerry. Do you think Kerry, who voted for the war, the patriot act and NAFTA, suddenly decided to be to the left of the DLC? Dean made him do that and even Edwards made him do that.

And with Nader in the race, Nader will figuratively hold Kerry's feet to the damn fire, so that Kerry can win. Gore lost the last election for a myriad of reasons, but the central political one was his right-wing politics, not just the Jim Crow tactics of the Republicans in Florida (new South, my ass). Few will vote for Nader, but politically, Nader will actually help Kerry win.

Greg Gibbs
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Bush must go. As a Nader voter in 2000 I will not vote for him in 2004. As a teacher or senior high school students, I hear too many of them saying they will vote Nader this year. The new voters see things in pure black and white and they see Nader as the guy in the white hat. If Nader was not in the race they would vote Democrat. This election the 18 year-old vote will be very important.

Does Nader not see that Bush wants Nader, and will use him so many ways it will make Ralph's head spin?

Mark Lammie
Toledo, Ohio

March/April Issue Backtalk

Free Market Fantasy

"The Soul of the New Machine" by Michael Scherer left me with one reaction: Grover Norquist— whose "ideal citizen is the self-employed, homeschooling, IRA-owning guy with a concealed-carry permit because that person doesn't need the goddamn government for anything"—is a self-serving hypocrite. Presumably, Norquist's fantasy citizen would be glad for a road on which to drive to the local store for cheap food and clothing (brought by federal highways, subsidies, and trade supports), safe drinking water (protected by laws prohibiting contamination of the aquifer in which he sinks his self-sufficient well), and top-notch hospitals (currently kept afloat by federal dollars) to treat his children should they develop cancer from the toxic waste delivered to their doorstep by leave-us-alone businesses. But neither Norquist nor private enterprise will protect the commons. Laws and government regulations are necessary to preserve public health and safety and our environmental resources and to enforce fairness in the commerce of the strong with the weak. A strong government responsive to the citizens can do that; a weak one controlled by the few cannot.

Joel Nigg
East Lansing, Michigan

Grover Norquist and the "conservatives" who hang on his every word do not truly care about the size of the government. Their concern is to redirect the government's power to benefit their moneyed interests. Given his eagerness to go to bat for any corporation that comes calling, Norquist's (and, by extension, the GOP's) true loyalties are evident. Sadly, the Democratic Party serves the same masters.

And that is the real tragedy of American government: a system where transnational corporations merit more representation, protection, and rights than living, breathing U.S. citizens.

Steve Hosch
Gilbert, Iowa

No Conspiracy

Robert Dreyfuss and Jason Vest's "The Lie Factory" contains this quotation from me: "Schmitt…says that he can't say much about it [the Pentagon's Iraq intelligence cell] 'because one of my best friends [Abram Shulsky] is running it.'" In context, the suggestion is that I do know something about the so-called cell and that, as part of some conspiracy among Washington neocons, I was reluctant to talk about the Pentagon's efforts because one of my friends is supposedly in charge of it. As Dreyfuss knows from talking to me for 30 minutes, I was more than willing to discuss why, in theory, the Pentagon would want such an effort given the history of intelligence failures by the CIA and others, but that it was precisely because Mr. Shulsky and I are friends that we have studiously avoided talking about his work in the Pentagon. Shulsky is a public official entrusted with the nation's secrets who will not share that information with individuals who don't have security clearances, like myself, and, to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, will not talk about his job with friends who routinely talk to the press. As Dreyfuss knows, that was the point of the quote.

Gary Schmitt
Executive Director, Project for the New American Century

Washington, D.C.

Wrong Motivation

Laurie Abraham's "Anatomy of a Whistleblower" should have been a story about the behavior of the Justice Department, which ignored its own ethics unit and suppressed evidence. But that story was buried by a dissection of Jesselyn Radack's motivation. Mother Jones is a political magazine, not Psychology Today. I assumed the writers and editors of Mother Jones to be kindred spirits, but in fact the article on Grover Norquist shows greater respect for its subject than you had for Radack.

It is a sad cultural commentary that a story in Mother Jones labels standing up for what you believe is right, ethically and morally, as "narcissistic rage." Well, here's a psychological profile for you: There are people who believe there is something more important than their own individual experience. They may well be an anomaly in this society, but that does not mean they are the ones who are screwed up.

Susan Haslam
New Fairfield, Connecticut

Editors' Note

"Death by a Thousand Cuts" by Stephanie Mencimer (November/December 2003) inspired many readers to respond. The article reported on the impact of the Bush administration's social-spending cuts by examining Vance County, North Carolina, where Sam Jefferson lost his job of 30 years after the local textile mill closed. One anonymous person sent a check for $8,000 to be forwarded to Jefferson's daughter Tiffany, who was unable to afford college. "I am very concerned about the policies of our government," the donor wrote, "and feel it is a great injustice when young people, such as Ms. Jefferson, don't receive the opportunities they should just because the wrong people are running things. I would like to see her, at least, have her first year in college next year."


A chart accompanying "The Lie Factory" incorrectly stated that Harold Rhode left the Pentagon in mid-2003 to work as a liaison to Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi. In fact, Rhode remained employed by the Pentagon while working with Chalabi. We regret the error.

Week of February 23 - 29, 2004

Debating Nader's Decision

Everything and everyone has a time. The time for Nader ("Please Ralph, Not This Year") to spearhead a public campaign is past. The chance of a lifetime is here to use the Internet to reinvigorate grass roots participation but will not last long before the larger interests figure out how to use it. Nader will continue to be useful in defining issues, but needs a better national message.

Bob Moore
Science Hill, Kentucky

Because of Nader, the Democrats had control of the Senate for the first two years of the Bush administration, giving them an absolute veto over Bush's agenda. Even now, they have enough votes in the Senate to sustain any filibuster. What part of the Bush agenda have they used their veto power to stop?

Kerry voted for the illegal invasion of Iraq not because he thought it was right, but because he wanted to remove it as an issue in the 2004 presidential race. Who is more evil? The true believer, or the one who goes along for political convenience?

People have been trying to reform the Democratic Party since 1870, when it basically adopted the same economic principles as the Republican Party. How many more centuries of failure does one need before you try something else?

The Democrats have repeatedly sold out progressives on every important movement for the last century.

People need to stop living in a fantasy world about the Democratic Party.

Mark Dunlea
Poestenkill, New York

It makes me want to cry. Ralph Nader is virtually a hero to me and has been for decades. I've so long admired the man and his courage. I'm now heartsick at this most recent decision.

Browns Valley, California

I have yet to hear a good argument about why Nader shouldn't run.

The reason the country is so split down the middle, the very reason why Nader could be seen as a "spoiler", is that we have no choice for president. We need more choices. Stop telling people not to run and start telling people to run.

Does everyone still think Nader "stole" the election from Gore? Nader is not a thief and the only person getting ripped off is the voter, as long as the Republicans and Democrats are in control. Nader is the only person championing democracy, why do we have such a hard time supporting him?

Benjamin M. Foster
Warrington, Pennsylvania

I think Ralph Nadar is exactly what our country should have instead of what it does have. I voted for Ralph Nadar in the 2000 election and I'll vote for him in the upcoming election. Ralph Nadar correctly describes the Republicans and the Democrats as being exactly alike and voting for a candidate from either of those two parties is voting for the lesser of two evils. I hope America wakes up and smells the trouble we're in.

Jane Beattie
Boyertown, Pennsylvnia

I regret having to agree with those who are saying "Not this time!" to Ralph Nader. Not only did I vote for him in 2000, I worked strenuously and joyfully on his election campaign. NOT THIS TIME! So much has changed in this country and the world since Bush and company seized the White House, we must remove them and make that a first step toward reclaiming America.

F. J. Pappas
St. Paul, Minnesota

I am 20 years old, and I go to the University of California, Santa Cruz. As I learn more and more about the politics of this nation, I feel accumulated tension about how to vote.

The ideological side feels that Nader is, by far, the best candidate because of his progressive and liberal views on just about everything. However, as much as I would like to vote my conscience, and elect someone I truly stand behind, the pragmatic side of me takes dominance here.

Angela Kelly
Santa Cruz, California