Backtalk September/October 2009 Issue

Drug War Fail

Charles Bowden's "We Bring Fear" should be submitted to every organization that grants journalism awards—including Pulitzer. Extremely well written, insightful, personal, captivating, and certainly educational.
GLEN BLOUIN
Gatineau, Quebec

It's always been difficult for journalists to operate in Mexico. (See my upcoming book, Mexican Roulette: Last Cartel Standing.) Over the years, numerous journalists in Mexico have been fired, sued, or killed for reporting the truth. Others have attracted similar fates for accepting bribes or extorting sources.
DIANA WASHINGTON VALDEZ
El Paso, Texas

Your articles about drug war failures were most refreshing. However, as a cop on the front lines for 34 years, I take issue with your editorial claim that a "fact-based drug policy...would likely leave in place the prohibition on 'hard' drugs." Until we legalize and effectively regulate all drugs, criminals will continue to gun down rival traffickers, police officers, and innocent bystanders. And as long as we incarcerate so many people on possession charges, we won't have enough resources to tackle substance abuse.
NORM STAMPER
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Kevin Drum's "The Patriot's Guide to Legalization" left out the issue of public safety. While my colleagues spend all their time with their heads buried under some kid's front seat, the DUIs are able to kill more innocents. As detectives fly around in helicopters searching for a pot garden, they're not finding child predators. During my 18 years of police service, I was sent to zero, nada calls generated by pot's use.
OFFICER HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE (RET.)
Fort Worth, Texas

Tea With Dmitry

So glad to have graced your magazine's celebrity gossip page! "Dmitry Orlov is a collapsitarian," said a radish to a parsnip, so it must be true. Actually, this neologism's proper usage is rather restricted: It was created by James Howard Kunstler to describe what James Howard Kunstler is not. Nevertheless, Virginia Heffernan ("Let the End Times Roll") was able to determine exactly what it would be like to be this imaginary nonentity. For instance, we collapsitarians "know how to ask for money." My blog only made $3.46 in ad revenue today; perhaps I have not asked politely enough?
DMITRY ORLOV
Author, Reinventing Collapse

Hypocritical Oath

Justine Sharrock deserves great kudos for "First, Do Harm," an excellent article about medical professionals' role in torture and the convoluted reasoning and actions of professional associations and physicians.
STEPHEN N. XENAKIS, MD
Brigadier general (ret.), US Army

Unmitigated Galt

There's not space to correct all of Amy Benfer's confusion regarding Ayn Rand's Obama-era renaissance ("And the Rand Played On"). But the phenomenon is really quite simple. Living off the labor of others without their consent is slavery. When people talk about "going John Galt" rather than working to fund Obama's patronage machine, that's what's going on. And when those who like to live off others' labors complain about this resistance, well, that's what slave masters do—complain that their chattels are lazy and undisciplined.
HELEN SMITH, DRHELEN.BLOGSPOT.COM
Knoxville, Tennessee

Landmark's the Spot

Some of the most groundbreaking philanthropic work in the past several decades has been done by Landmark graduates who've realized that once you get your own stuff in perspective, what's left is helping others. But you have to bring something to the party. If all you have at stake is proving how right you are about how wrong it is, you'll probably end up with a result very similar to Laura McClure's ("42 Hours, $500, 65 Breakdowns").
KATHRYN COMPTON
Overbrook, Kansas

I am the chairperson of the Research, Design, and Development Team that is responsible for Landmark Education's programs. A longtime fan of Mother Jones, I respect and appreciate journalism that is tough, smart, honest, and balanced. This article failed to meet those standards. While your reporter was busy counting the number of public displays of emotion, she missed reporting on the countless results people produced including strengthened relationships, community projects, acts of forgiveness and generosity, the presence of intellectual rigor, and breakthroughs in peace of mind. Had she reported on those, she would have given readers some insight into why more than 1.1 million people from all walks of life have taken the Landmark Forum and, when surveyed, over 94% agreed that the Landmark Forum has made a profound and lasting difference in their lives.
DR. JOSEPH DIMAGGIO
Chairperson, Landmark Forum

Realty Check

In "Flip This Project" Adam Matthews gets virtually everything wrong about San Francisco housing development Parkmerced. Stellar Management will "provide any who live in apartments slated for replacement with new onsite apartments at the same rent-controlled rate of their existing units." This pledge is in plain view on our website. Also, Stellar hasn't been the target of any litigation or major tenant disputes since taking over Parkmerced, and has spent more than $135 million addressing deferred maintenance left by previous owners.
P.J. JOHNSTON
Parkmerced spokesman

Adam Matthews responds: I erred in not citing Stellar's pledge. But Stellar was indeed targeted in a lawsuit alleging unlawful rent manipulation. It also subpoenaed an apartment-ratings website to obtain names of people who had criticized Parkmerced. In addition to scores of online complaints, residents told me unequivocally that caretaking has been subpar.