Backtalk

May/June 2010 Issue

Patriot Pacts

The so-called "patriots" profiled in Justine Sharrock's "Age of Treason" claim to be organizing for the day they'll refuse orders from their commander in chief to shoot, arrest, or torture their fellow Americans. Where were these liberty-minded people when Bush was doing many of the acts they claim to abhor?
PAUL KOTTA
Livermore, California

In the age of drastically increased federal power, almost complete disregard for the 10th Amendment, the Patriot Act, militarization of police forces, and a general indifference towards the Constitution by elected officials, is it so strange that people have concerns about the health of our political system? You highlight the fringe that doesn't represent those of us who are just fed up and fearful of the direction our country has taken. I'm a college-educated Marine Corps veteran and a reasonable person. I and many others are ready to confront political realities via peaceful means, but also to confront a political system that has deemed us irrelevant.
MICHAEL P. CARTE
Charlotte, North Carolina

Your editors' note ("Patriot Games") says politics has gone too far in attacking the president. Would you have written such a piece when George W. Bush was under personal attack? The president is both the head of state and the head of government. As the former he deserves respect in those functions, but as the latter he's just one more politician. It was an overreaction when Ann Coulter went around crying "treason," and it's an overreaction when you do.
HANK COINER
Miami, Oklahoma

You assert a moral equivalency between the paranoid right wing, the venal, obstructionist Republican Party, and people like myself ("kill-the-health-care-bill lefties"). We may be wrong in whole or in part, but you're wrong to scold us instead of responding to specific points. We were part of the coalition that helped bring Obama and the Democratic majority to power, and to alienate us is a recipe for electoral and policy failure. (See: Massachusetts.)
IRA EDELMAN
Springfield, Missouri

Never Surrender

When I first got a subscription to Mother Jones years ago, I was unimpressed. The stories were too often like brushing a turkey while it's roasting: You know there's something good there, but all you see is drying, cracked skin. But then, quite suddenly, the magazine became excellent. On that note, I cannot recommend enough Mac McClelland's "For Us Surrender Is Out of the Question." Its familiar narrative structure of a naïf being introduced to the horrors of the world could have undermined her subject, but McClelland keeps her focus tight on the Karen people's struggles and the junta's genocidal actions.
GREG BALES
Iowa City, Iowa

While I have no objection to the journalist inserting herself in the piece and having her own style, it shouldn't be to the detriment of content. I found McClelland's tone highly irreverent and quite offensive in places. I'd hope that an esteemed publication such as yours wouldn't insult your audience with such dumbing down of journalistic writing.
JAYSHREE BAJORIA
Asia staff writer, Council on Foreign Relations

This is some excellent journalism from a place that makes Pol Pot's Cambodia look like Disneyland. Great work by MoJo putting McClelland on the human rights editorial desk. My subscription renewal has hereby been deserved, for this ongoing commitment to giving the bastards hell.
STEVE STEELE
Portland, Oregon

McClelland blames US sanctions for pushing workers out of factory jobs and into sex work in Burma. Instead, the regime's exercise of crony capitalism, mismanagement, nepotism, and corruption should be blamed. I agree that current sanctions in Burma aren't fully effective due to increased trade with, and investment by, China, India, and ASEAN nations. But sanctions could effectively prevent nearly $1 billion from going to the regime, and without sanctions it will spend more on its military, and there will be more crimes against humanity.
AUNG DIN
Executive director, US Campaign for Burma

The First Cut Is the Deepest

Bravo to Nikhil Swaminathan ("Much Ado About Cutting"). I've been a pediatrician for 33 years and have yet to be convinced that there's a real benefit to the Bronze Age ritual we call newborn male circumcision. The problem is that "routine circumcision" is so much a part of the public's mindset that I've never been able to talk a parent out of it. And believe me, I've tried.
HOWARD FISCHER
Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan