Backtalk

Torture Hits a Home Run
I was overcome with admiration for your March/April 2008 issue. The editors' note was some of the most beautiful writing on the subject of American values that I have ever read and is worthy of being compared to the writings of Thomas Paine. I thank you for bringing these hard truths to our attention, and I hope and pray that more Americans read your magazine. This is what journalism should be.
joan kenneke
Bethesda, Maryland

Just read the editors' note on torture. Well said. Just one question: You say "the nation let out a collective yawn." How, with an indifferent and cocooned administration, do we do otherwise? Most people I know are upset with what America is becoming, but we don't know how to get anyone in power to even listen, let alone change. Request: When you document yet another abuse, can you offer your readers guidance as to how and to whom to speak out?
christopher b. sanford
Durham, North Carolina

Cypress Hell
It comes as no surprise that a state that has been as devastated by nature as Louisiana chooses to ignore the help that nature offers ("Mulch Madness"). The vital, protective role of the cypress forests has been made abundantly clear by their absence, an irony that still appears to be lost on many.
ron thuemler
Tampa, Florida

As a dedicated environmental supporter and a geologist, I am greatly appreciative of the light shed on the devastation in the Atchafalaya Basin. It's true that these beautifully immense trees can be Louisiana's lifesaver and that logging is putting them at great risk. However, if we're going to point fingers at industry for not allowing the basin to maintain its "natural delta" environment, let us look back decades at the blocking of the Atchafalaya River itself by the Army Corps of Engineers. This was in response to a needed rise in the Mississippi to keep ships and therefore industry afloat and was done despite warnings from geologists and biologists. The river was robbed long ago of its natural shape, flow, and ability to sustain its great jungle of cypress trees. Everyone else seems to be just grabbing at what it has left.
jenny hord
West Brookfield, Vermont

Iron Age
"Dumping Iron" illustrates quite well the controversy over iron seeding the oceans in the hopes that it will prompt plankton that absorb CO2. History is full of examples of humans coming up with solutions to man-made problems that turn out to be even more destructive to the environment. If iron seeding is a viable approach, it must be guaranteed to not cause damage to marine ecosystems, and the answers must be found first in the laboratory.
captain paul watson
Founder and president
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Plowed Under
The photo essay "Depth of Field" was just like going home. Everything depicted is true, but the real driver for the exodus from Iowa is not just the lack of jobs—it's the tremendous cost of staying. The price and sophistication of tractors, for one, is astronomical. It's not unusual to find eight-wheel diesels pulling equipment that tills 80-foot swaths and is gps-navigated—costing as much as $200,000. Some people complain about federal farm subsidies. I feel that if they go to family farmers, they are not near enough.
jim timm
Portland, Oregon

Art Imitates Art
I'd like to clarify one of the criticisms raised in your Q&A with artist Shepard Fairey. As an archivist and political-poster scholar, my largest complaint about Fairey is his disregard for formal acknowledgment of source materials. Unfortunately, he's not alone. A casual attitude toward "recycled" images has become accepted practice and accelerates our historical and political amnesia. The simplest act of artistic ethics involves a tiny credit line and is the first step in keeping movement iconography in the public domain. The image credits for the article itself reveal the David-vs.-Goliath stakes: Fairey's photo is from one of the two gargantuan stock-photo corporations already privatizing massive amounts of our visual heritage. Obey Giant, indeed.
lincoln cushing
Berkeley, California

If I Had a Hammer
In "Chasing Darfur's Guns" Daniel Pepper says he "cocked and uncocked" a Glock pistol. With work experience in homeland security, I can say with confidence he did no such thing. No Glock has a hammer that can be cocked and uncocked. How can a person have confidence in this article?
joseph l. bass
Suffolk, Virginia

The editors respond: Though some gun enthusiasts and rappers (to wit: OutKast) like the sound of "cock" with "Glock," it is indeed more accurate to say that the "slide" of a Glock is "racked."