Jacques Leslie's "The Last Empire" is the best article I've read in the last 10 years—on any subject—in any magazine. It brings to focus the huge problem we have: China's massive population becoming more and more Westernized and how any decision it makes is compounded 1.3 billion times. Scary, indeed.
"The Last Empire" unfairly characterizes Armstrong's wood-purchasing policies. Armstrong is the country's largest manufacturer and seller of wood flooring. We are absolutely committed to protecting the resource base that is so important to our livelihood. We require our suppliers to provide documentation certifying that flooring is made from legally harvested logs and produced in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations (national and international), including those covering raw materials and labor. For example, we sell merbau flooring—in an amount that is equivalent to 110 trees per year. Given the substantial evidence of illegal logging of merbau, we engaged an independent third party, the Tropical Forest Foundation, to audit our purchases and tff confirmed that the lumber used to manufacture Armstrong's merbau flooring was acquired in accordance with Indonesian law.
Vice president, corporate communication
Armstrong World Industries, Inc.
The editors respond: The story stated that Armstrong "sells endangered Indonesian merbau, and declines to join the certification plan." Both are correct. Regarding the merbau logging audit, it should be noted that an Armstrong ceo sits on the Tropical Forest Foundation's board of directors.
Blame Us, Dodd
In "Assume the Position" you give Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards each a column and then one to "Other Democrats." I suspect you followed the mainstream press' pernicious presumptions that equally covering the candidates is a waste of time because voters can't process so many choices, and that most will drop out soon enough. In so doing, Mother Jones furthers this self-fulfilling prophecy.
Regarding Nicole McClelland's "SugarDaddy.com" I'm extremely disappointed that Mother Jones would print such an article. I can think of a vast number of reasons why prostitution is wrong, but I suppose we're not allowed to list any "moral" reasons. I find it tragic that after women fought so hard to win the rights to vote, to an education, and to fair wages, they would feel that prostitution is a career alternative. P.S. And in case anyone is wondering, yes, I'm pretty, and no one pays my bills!
As a former community-newspaper editor who effectively resigned in protest, I could have written a nearly identical essay regarding the sorry state of newspaper journalism in America. While the industry faces understandable cost cutting, it's unfortunate that what suffer are the editorial divisions. Gone is the copydesk and the graphic-design department. A handful of editors and reporters must do everything, without regard for the toll this takes on the staff and the finished product. I have witnessed executives lauding the benefits of "citizen journalists" as a solution to an underpaid, understaffed newsroom. In recent years the public has lost such respect for the "media" that many feel they could do a better job. What many readers and newspaper ceos forget is that journalism is a profession with very real societal responsibilities. News reporting is not a hobby. It is serious work for serious people. Any other approach does a grave disservice to our democracy.
You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again
Nick Baumann's review praises my book Free Lunch for exposing hidden giveaways to the rich, but then goes off track with a factual error. I didn't write that ceos worry about sullying their reputations. The line is about think tanks like Cato and Heritage that spout about the horrors of government spending while relying on donors who gorge at hidden troughs of government largesse. Baumann also dismisses the fundamental reform I propose to free Congress from the political-donor-class' grip. Corporate jet trips, meals, and other favors give corporations and the superrich access to pitch more laws favoring them. This costly free lunch is unhealthy for the vast majority. Free Lunch suggests that we pay all the costs of Congress, require detailed disclosure—and in return impose prison terms on those who take any gift, even a shot of free whiskey. Call it zero tolerance for legalized bribery. I hope Mother Jones will stimulate debate on this crucial issue.
david cay johnston
Rochester, New York