Our Aug. 11 chronicle of America's South in a year of a historic election fascinated many. A longtime denizen cringed and cheered for his "confounding and alluring" region. A Northerner wondered why talk of "the old Confederacy, a lost cause"? And another credited Barack Obama with "the Confederacy's demise."
American Region Defined by History
I grew up in the '60s and '70s in rural Georgia and found myself both cringing and cheering as I read Christopher Dickey's "Southern Discomfort" (Aug. 11). America's South is no doubt confounding and alluring. I have spent a great deal of my 50 years trying to make sense of a childhood riddled with images of poverty and degradation, heroism and faith, great irony and a painful sentimentality. Dickey did a masterful job capturing my home and its peculiar brand of American politics.
Maybe as a lifelong northerner I just don't get it, but why in 2008 are we even talking about "the old Confederacy"? It is astounding that a lost cause, defeated and discredited more than a century ago, can hold any currency at all in America's South today. As a cause doomed from the start by its moral, political and economic bankruptcy, I would think that Southerners would rather forget that it ever existed. Christopher Dickey states, "There is a sense that a world is ending, maybe not this year but inevitably." It should have ended 100 years ago.
I am a conservative oak, white male from the Bible Belt who is supremely proud of my numerous Confederate ancestors. Your well-reasoned piece "Southern Discomfort" accurately indicates that classifying Southerners as either Barack Obama or John McCain supporters is difficult. I have no doubt that the vast majority of white Southerners are willing to vote for a black candidate if that candidate accurately reflects their values. I refuse to vote for Obama because of his ultraliberal politics, not because of the pigment of his skin. And while I don't believe he is a Muslim, I do question his choice of a Christian church that reeks of antiwhite bigotry. I will support a candidate who shares my values, loves the United States, disdains intrusive big government, desires to protect our borders and will help us become energy self-sufficient, even if it requires drilling and nuclear energy.
What Christopher Dickey witnessed was not the end of the South but perhaps the end of the Confederacy. The South was formed by the institution of slavery. Africans taught Southerners of British descent how to talk, how to walk, how to eat and how to sing and dance. It doesn't matter how many Yankees, Mexicans or Hindus move into the region. As long as there is a substantial African-American presence, there will be a South, and we will define it. The Confederacy, on the other hand, was the institutionalization of the political and economic power of the planter class and their supporters. The Confederates lost the war but won the peace. Race and racism, Jim Crow and the Republican "Southern strategy" were merely means toward the end of continued planter hegemony. In recent times, after blacks regained the franchise, four-time Alabama governor and presidential candidate George Wallace and eight-term senator Strom Thurmond abandoned the Confederate cause. The late senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina was the last great Confederate politician. Even if he loses, Barack Hussein Obama has set the stage for the Confederacy's demise.
The Africana Studies Program
New York University
New York, New York
Effective Labor Unions?
The August 11 economics story "Up, Up and Away …" examines how the world is living with double-digit inflation, with boom giving way to bust. You report on the "declining clout of Western labor unions." In France, few workers are card-carrying members of a labor union. I personally don't care to pay monthly dues and, frankly, consider most labor unionists lazy and corrupt. But even if we don't trust our labor unions, when workers feel wronged and sense there is scant recourse, the populace in a grass-roots surge will suddenly explode in anger. Remarkably, when the labor unions call a strike, 2 million or 3 million people—students, teachers, the elderly, state workers and others—can appear in the streets.
I was pleasantly surprised to see your August 11 report "Incarceration Nation" on how French prisons are becoming an embarrassment for the self-proclaimed "homeland of human rights." The European Court of Human Rights has cited Paris for "inhumane and degrading" treatment of prisoners. As a foreigner incarcerated in France, I have firsthand experience and see daily instances of human-rights violations. I would like to ask President Nicolas Sarkozy and Minister of Justice Rachida Dati a question on behalf of other foreign prisoners: how do you dare to speak of human-rights violations in other nations when your own country crosses the line on an ongoing basis? The French judicial system must monitor its standards at home before preaching to others.
St. Genevieve Des Bois, France
Worldwide Economic Woes
Eric Chaney's article on the parallels between the collapse of the European monetary system in 1992 and today's economic troubles is fundamentally inaccurate ("European Recession Redux?" July 21). The Bundesbank's fierce tightening of monetary policy in the early '90s had little to do with business cycles. Rather, the unique historical circumstances of reunification led to the macroeconomically costly but politically impeccable decision to value the eastern and western Deutsche marks at 1-1, when the dilapidated state of eastern Germany's productive apparatus made it clear that the real exchange rate was about 1 to 10. It was only the consequent imposition of prohibitively high interest rates to fend off the inevitable inflationary pressures of too much money chasing too few goods that led to a ferocious round of speculation on the currencies pegged to the mark, such as the pound and the lira. Unfortunately, then, the analogy does not hold. It seems that the turning of the wheels of history, even in economic affairs, cannot be reduced to the mere fluctuation of surpluses and deficits.
Eric Chaney replies: Eugenio Carlucci is perfectly correct on his main point: the 1992 recession in Europe was the byproduct of exceptional circumstances that are not repeatable. When German Chancellor Helmut Kohl opted for a 1-1 conversion of the eastern mark, the Soviet Union was still there and the Red Army was occupying eastern Germany. It was therefore wise to integrate eastern Germany as quickly as possible, even if the cost was a bad economic decision. Yet my point remains intact: each time monetary policies across the Atlantic diverge significantly, whatever the reasons, macro risks rise in Europe, especially for countries showing large external imbalances. It is not a coincidence if Spain and Ireland, which are running very large current account deficits, are the most badly hit by the current downturn. It is not a coincidence either if Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the Eurogroup of finance ministers, is now talking about a "technical recession" in Europe. Let's hope he is right to add the adjective "technical."
Chaneyis chief economist for Europe at Morgan Stanley.
Israel's Separation Barrier
"Jerusalem Up Against the Wall" (Aug. 11) implies that for a young Palestinian who can't afford to buy a house and is angry at having to work for an Israeli-owned company, murdering innocent Israelis may not only be understandable, but even justifiable. You decry the "separation barrier" as well as the Israeli crackdown on "the Islamists in the name of security" while barely alluding to the hundreds of terrorist acts that have been attempted and/or perpetrated against Israeli civilians since 1992. Your article blames the Israelis for the tragic plight of the Palestinian people, while ignoring the fact that billions of dollars in international aid have disappeared into Palestinian coffers. Furthermore, the Palestinian leadership has rejected proposals that would return 95 to 98 percent of the land they demand in exchange for peace. So the questions to ponder: If terrorists stopped lobbing bombs into Israel—and Palestinian leaders opted for peace over terror—do you seriously believe that the Israelis would continue to launch military actions against refugee camps and build security barriers? But if Israel halted all military action and dismantled the fence, do you think that terrorists would stop trying to murder innocent Israelis? To bring this home: many Americans favor building a fence to keep Mexicans from entering this country in search of work. Can you imagine how we would react if they started lobbing bombs over the border into Texas schoolyards?
Jane E. Hughes
Kevin Peraino's article on Jerusalem made me angry. Angry at the foolhardiness of Israelis in thinking that they can ensure the security of their state given the hatred and hopelessness that is engendered in East Jerusalem, in Gaza and in the West Bank. My grandfather, who escaped from the pogroms in Bialystok, Poland, 100 years ago, to settle in Liverpool, England, prayed daily to keep alive the eternal hope of a Jewish homeland to be reborn in Palestine. He, like me, would have been abject in his sorrow and despair.
One would never guess from Kevin Peraino's article that Israel is the only democratic country in the Middle East. It affords its Arab citizens with rights and freedoms unheard of in neighboring Arab countries. In fact, a recent survey by the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University found that nearly 77 percent of Israel's Arab citizens would choose to live in the state of Israel over any other country in the world.
Neil A. Friedman
Miami Beach, Florida
The problem with Palestinian suicide bombers is not the fence that separates Arabs from Jews in Jerusalem or throughout Israel, but the teaching of intolerance toward the state of Israel and Jews that encourages suicidal attacks against Israeli civilians. The restriction on teaching of hate in Arab schools was one of the keys to a peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, as outlined in the Oslo accords. Nearly two decades later the textbooks for not only Palestinian but Israeli Arabs continue to feature negative portrayals of Jews that are reinforced by the Arab media.
Silver Spring, Maryland
s Military Capability
Let us review what Fareed Zakaria omitted from his analysis "China Shouldn't Be Inscrutable" (Aug. 11). China is now believed to have some 62 submarines versus 71 for the United States, with a build rate of about twice that of America's. Some Chinese submarines have long-range nuclear-missile capability; all newer ones do. China will install the latest Russian air defense system (SA-20), matching another "peaceful" country, Iran. Chinese military planners have openly stated that China deserves and will have blue-water capability (specifically in the Pacific Ocean). Zakaria writes that China "is not directly competing against American military power." If so, I can only state that Mexico, Canada and Australia had better beware.
Harold Bernard Reisman
Where Great Wealth Resides
Your graphic "Where the Billionaires Are Booming" (June 21) is both fascinating and interesting. Great wealth is not necessarily accrued in scrupulous ways. By the same token, big bucks don't equal a lack of honesty or diligence. Luck and opportunity clearly play a major role. Transparency International puts Russia close to the bottom ranking in honesty. There are 18 superrich Russians worth $10 billion or more. Imagine that only 20 years ago, prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, there were none. One could thus plausibly conclude that many could have become wealthy via fraudulent practices or covert political connections. Of course, this isn't the case only for Russia. In other countries, people get rich via wars or illegal channels. Indeed, one wonders how many of the world's 83 billionaires made their money in an honest way.
This Mother Is a Winner
I was elated to see Dara Torres at age 41 swim in her fifth Olympics ("The Tale of 'Supermom'," A VIEWER'S GUIDE TO BEIJING, Aug. 4). At 40, I churned out 10,000 sit-ups on Health and Sports Day (a national holiday in Japan to commemorate the 1964 Tokyo Olympics) in Sapporo, just to prove that the milestone "four zero" wasn't the end of physical vigor and stamina. Torres's silver medal put teeth into her fairy tale.
Michael G. Driver
More on Nuclear Technology
Patrick Moore of Greenpeace accurately explained the safety of nuclear power, and the huge difference between nuclear weapons on the one hand, and nuclear energy and nuclear medicine on the other ("A Nuclear Renegade Against Greenpeace," May 26/June 2). But one major point was not made: there are two basic forms of nuclear energy. Conventional nuclear energy is made in nuclear reactors based on the splitting of the atom—usually uranium—and is termed "nuclear fission." This form of nuclear energy is the basis of all operating nuclear plants worldwide today and for the near future. However, there is another form of nuclear energy, based on the fusion of hydrogen atoms (or their variants, or isotopes). The amount of energy that can be generated by the fusion system is beyond enormous, and is the basis of the sun's heat and the hydrogen bomb. Nuclear fusion is clean (essentially no nuclear waste), has an unlimited raw material base (dirty water can do the job), cannot blow up, cannot be converted to weapons production, has no raw materials to attract terrorists, etc. The technology for controlling the thermonuclear reaction, the basis of the fusion system, is extremely complex, and has been under development over the past 50 years or so, with limited success. But during the past 10 years very significant technical progress has been made, and several crucial steps have been taken to now justify creating a commercial-scale operating fusion reactor. Steps include the consensus that's building among most experimenters in the fusion R&D community on a single design for a joint reactor to be built in Cadarache, France (the site of the French Atomic Energy Commission and center of most of the French nuclear-development activities). Fusion research in many countries will now be aimed at constructing this joint International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. In 2007 a commitment by the European Union (with Switzerland), the United States, Japan, Russia, South Korea, India and China was made for a €10 billion program to build the experimental reactor on the Cadarache site, and for it to be operational by 2016. Engineering plans have been completed, organization infrastructures have been established and manned, first purchase orders for components have been signed, and site preparation work is already underway. A December 2007 meeting in Nice, France, attracted some 900 delegates to the first business forum on ITER; many were from major engineering supplier firms that have already tendered for supply contracts. Fusion energy is the only possible source for large-scale conversion to the Electrical Generation, and it will happen!
He Too Was a Jesuit School Alumnus
The list in "The Classroom Reality" (Aug. 18/Aug. 25) naming Jesuit school alumni omits the most infamous: Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister of Propaganda.
Paul R. Woods