There’s no place like Kazakhstan

RE: “Down and Out in a War Zone


Having spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kazakhstan, I can giddily relate to this twisted and bizarre tale. My experience was anything but the “Kumbaya” singalong that many envision the Peace Corps to be.

Kazakhstan was weird on a daily basis. Dead bodies, diarrhea, bribery, and creaky bus trips were all part of the scene.

The Soviets were onto something when they decided to do their nuclear testing there — if testing had to be done, this was the best place to do it. The land is desolate, to say the least, and regardless of nuclear blasts, the landscape is a seemingly never-ending tedium of dirt, grass, and barnyard animal droppings that a couple hundred megatons of uranium couldn’t make much worse than it was to begin with.

Hey, I can’t say my two years there were the most jolly ones of my life, but the memory gets better with time. Thanks to Ted Rall for writing this and for letting someone who’s Been There know that he may understood just a little better when going off on those rants that make the others in the room a wee bit nervous.

Ian Miller
The Hill
Washington, DC

So bad you have to laugh

RE: “Uzbekistan’s Not-So-Holy War


You really made my day with this. Working on human rights in the region, it’s not often you get to chuckle at the situation. Thanks a lot.

Cassandra Cavanaugh
Senior Researcher for Central Asia
Human Rights Watch

Franti rocks, Mate

RE: “Active Vibrations


Great to see a musician with a social conscience, not self-absorbed and status-obsessed like most. At least someone still believes music can be a force for change.

Michael Franti is a hero and all of us in Australia who caught the Spearhead tour were knocked out. Please come back for the Byron Bay festival next year (and don’t forget Melbourne — you’ve got a lotta fans here too!)

Peter ‘Oz’ Hosking
Melbourne, Australia

Support for Otpor

RE: “The Kids Who Could Topple Milosevic


I think we need to support them as much as possible. Non-violence, coupled with intelligence, compassion, and energy are formidable opposition to dictatorship, but things could get nasty. I only wish I had the opportunity to go and join them.

Pam Twardy
Amherst, Va.

PR won’t cure pollution

RE: “Sony’s PR War on Activists


I think that if these industries would spend the amount of time and money making this planet safe for their and our children as they spend on trying to control our elected officials, we would not have the chaos that is sure to happen. When our children look back on the decisions that were made today, they will see exactly who the bad guys were. The overwhelming evidence is in front of our faces.

The problems from pollution will not just go away with good public relations, no matter how brillant the commerical. Poor and rural people suffer most from environmental injustice.

Julia Bonds

They may look like kids …

RE: “The Kids Who Could Topple Milosevic


Joe Rubin implies that it is absurd to think that the US or British governments would have anything to do with funding a group like Otpor and that calling them a “terrorist organization” is absurd.

I think it is extremely naive to believe that the CIA (or some entity of the US or British governments) has not been involved in trying to agitate the situation in Yugoslavia. Groups like Otpor reek of US involvement.

As for your “hero” kids: Should Milosevic ultimately fall from power, we shall see how democratic they truly are. I suspect they are no more democratic than the fascist hypocrites that are now in control in Russia. I remember quite well when they also wanted to join the rest of the world.

Rodrigo Zamora

A call to arms for the nonviolent

RE: “Prague Prepares for Siege


I am writing the day after the Molotov cocktails were thrown by demonstrators, after bystanders were hit by stones from demonstrators, and after the rest of the events that showed the anxieties of Czech authorities to be fully justified in every respect.

It is no longer acceptable for nonviolent demonstrators to be used as a shield or a distraction by those who view the anti-globalization movement as simply an opportunity to wage low-intensity war. Those who believe in nonviolence must do more than wring their hands — they must actively shun and stand aside from those who wish to practice the politics of violence.

When will we learn that the world we seek is not to be secured by bombs and assault?

Dan Raphael
Seattle, Wash.

At least he pays his own way

RE: “Cheney’s Checkbook Democracy


Of course Cheney would support right-wing politicians. The big story would be if he supported left-wingers. So his contributions weren’t illegal. Is there something ethically wrong with giving contributions? As for his voting record — Sure, I would like to see him vote more often, but a large percentage of Americans don’t vote.

William F. Kipp

Clean up your own mess

RE: “Sony’s PR War on Activists


If we as a species have decided to make use of gadgets designed for no other use than to fill in time, we are responsible for our own mess. Each individual, instead of leaving clean up to local government, should ask themselves “What can I do to prevent the accumulation of hazardous waste?”

The biggest problem with industrial waste is the cross contamination of food waste packed in plastic bags. Food acids developing from micro biological activity causes the leaching out of dangerous chemicals. Landfills are notorious for leaking poisons into groundwater aquifers, and I have often wanted to know why local authorities are so hell bent on mixing these materials when they know full well that the only remedy is to separate organic from inorganic waste.

Ren Berghuis

Against pay to play

RE: “Missing the Forest for the Fees


Thank you for the informative, detailed article on fees for our forests. If the fee was actually used for its supposed purpose, I would support it. However, it sounds like the only purpose of the fee is to create more administrative jobs. This summer I drove half way across our country and I had to pay many fees to stay on our public lands. Often it was cheaper to stay at private camps than public ones.

Our forests are a wonderful place for our children and adults alike to relax, get to know their country, and enjoy life. I am lucky enough to be able to afford a low fee in addition to paying taxes to go to these places. But if the money is misallocated, corporations are making money off our land, and only people with money can go to our parks, then the fee is a disgusting exploitation of my (and others) desire to improve our beautiful lands.

Heather Quinn

Salute to Otpor

RE: “The Kids Who Could Topple Milosevic


I had never heard of Otpor before reading this article, but now I want to track down every article I can about the group. I find their non-violent yet focused methods inspirational and reaffirming. Sitting here reading the article in my cubicle, I couldn’t help but raise my fist in salute to them.

Annie Murphy


I am very impressed with the aspirations of these young men and women in their effort to bring down such a big figure as Milosevic, and I salute them all! My support and prayers are with them. “He’s finished! It’s time for him to go!”

Ahmad Fahmi

The kids aren’t all right

RE: “The Kids Who Could Topple Milosevic


Joe Rubin’s article certainly paints a glorious picture of those courageous and “super-cool” kids in Otpor, standing up to The Man and fighting for what’s right. However, I would bet that a solid majority of Otpor adherents are nationalists who hate Milosevic not because he led Serbia into murderous conflict and war, but because he lost. That this story unreliably focuses on how fashionable and hip the protesters are, without much analysis of what they’re marching about, reveals a shallow view of Serbia and its internal conflicts.

Mark Nuckols