July/August 2004 Issue
Starving the Schools
David Goodman's story about the tax-starved Oregon public school system ("Class Dismissed") shows what happens when the forces that are determined to starve the beast prevail. As long as government is depicted as an ogre and markets are characterized as the savior, public schools will slowly deteriorate until they become a dumping ground for the most impoverished, special education, and other hard-to-teach students. That day may be closer than most of us believe, judging from the growing number of parents in Oregon who are now pulling their children out of underfunded public schools and enrolling them in private schools.
Los Angeles, California
"Class Dismissed" presents an overly bleak picture. Although conditions in many Oregon school districts are indeed deplorable, citizens across the state are organizing to change the situation. In the past two years, highly effective grassroots campaigns in Multnomah County, Beaverton, and Eugene have bucked the bad economy and anti-tax opposition by passing local tax measures to protect students from the painful consequences of funding cuts.
The future of public education in Oregon and elsewhere is far from fixed. So don't mourn what's happeningorganize.
Stand for Children
The Other Prison Outrage
In "One Liberty at a Time," Anthony Lewis writes, "There is no reason to believe that Guantanamo prisoners have been tortured in, say, the horrifying ways that Saddam Hussein used in Iraq." However, interviews of former prisoners, conducted by Human Rights Watch, suggest that the torture there is only slightly less horrifying. Abuses include muscle paralysis by injection, sedation, sleep deprivation, shackling prisoners in painful positions for long periods, tossing shackled prisoners down stairs, and routine beatings.
It is incredible that these interviews have received little attention. One can only hope the abuses of prisoners in Baghdad will lead to much-needed investigations at Guantanamo.
Idaho Falls, Idaho
George Packer ("The Revolution Will Not Be Blogged") blames the blogs for not delivering the message he wanted to hear: "In 2004 the public seems to have rediscovered politics. But I had to go to New Hampshire to find out." For Packer, large crowds of people showing up for a primary counts as "rediscovering politics." So what does he call thousands of citizens obsessively posting, linking, and discussing politics, polls, strategies, and historyand the hundreds of thousands more reading these blogs daily? That's not "rediscovering politics"? Pretty narrow definition, if you ask me.
There isn't enough time to read thoughtful writing, so why do people waste so much time reading the self-conscious ephemera of blogs? Forget the latest technology-induced trends. Just because the bloggers of the world can make their every word known to the public doesn't mean we should pretend that their thoughts somehow matter.
Defending the Airwaves
It was nice to see the interview with Lizz Winstead of Air America Radio. I've been listening to Air America and following its press. The drubbing it has received from the pundits, including a few from the left, has been utterly mercilessand unwarranted. I expected Air America, like Conan O'Brien's show, to have some problems finding its rhythm, but I've been pleasantly surprised at how entertaining and absorbing it can be. I think this is exactly what I'm going to need to get through the upcoming election without pulling my hair out.
Keith George Jr.
Binghamton, New York
From Russia With Love
"The Russians Are Coming" contains a thinly veiled suggestion that mining at the Stillwater Mine will yield the same environmental concerns that surround mining in Russia. The Stillwater Mine is operating under the strictest environmental regulations in the world and producing a commodity (platinum/palladium) to help us all breathe a little easier.
The NIMBY attitude of wanting clean-burning fuel but not the raw material that is needed to produce it is untenable. It is time Americans supported the domestic mining industry and the high-paying jobs and environmental protections that go with it.
Montana Mining Association
The chart that detailed the credit card industry's support for Bush was a real eye-opener ("What's in Your Wallet?"). I unknowingly had an MBNA credit card and have now switched. Thanks once again for pertinent information.
Due to an editing error, the Contributors (May/June) note for Arthur Allen was incorrect. Allen has not written for the New Yorker.