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Time for Reparations?

I was disappointed with Bill Berkowitz's article on David Horowitz ("The Horo-Witch Project," April 30). The students who stole the papers that contained his ad against reparations need to study their Voltaire. With that said, what are the issues of the debate that "has begun to gain steam around the country"? Berkowitz doesn't say.

Reparations are wrong because it is simply too late. (Besides if anyone deserves reparations from the U.S. government, it's the American Indians.) How arrogant is it that the government thinks it can abuse people for generations and then simply write them a check? How about improving life in inner cities and schools or addressing the imprisonment of African-American youth?

Donna Smith
Madison Heights, Virginia

 

The attacks on David Horowitz have been worse than anything he said in the ad. First, protesting a newspaper for choosing to run a political ad is incredible--and at Berkeley of all places.

Second, Horowitz makes the point in the ad that race is something we should leave out of the equation in our politics. Radical? Maybe. True? Absolutely. Now is the time for black, white, yellow, green and purple progressives to come back to class--not race.

We would do well to remember that breaking up into ethnic grouplets (Black Radical Congress, Hispanic Progressives, Asians for Justice, etc.) is a divisive error. We must stand together and fight the fight against corporate dominance of our culture.

David William Dean
St. Louis

 

I'm still waiting on my 80 acres and a mule.

On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves. On that very same day, Congress enacted the Homestead Act of 1862, which gave away 160 acres of land per person or family. Two million white Americans received more than 270 million acres of land with the only stipulation that they had to "homestead" the land for five years before it would be theirs. The settlers didn't even have to be U.S. citizens to qualify, only working on becoming one.

In 1866, Congress amended the Homestead Act for public lands in the South. There was no distinction for race or color. Settlers were to receive no more than 80 acres. But in 1876, this second act was repealed.

The U.S. government could give away 160 acres of land free, even to non-citizens, but could not give 80 acres, as enacted, to people who provided them 200-plus years of free hard labor. Instead, my people got 100-plus more years of hate, Black Codes, Jim Crow laws, the KKK, lynchings, segregation, oppression, miscegenation, poverty and more hate. Would America be a better nation if we'd gotten our acres, as promised? Hell, right now, I'd take an acre and a chicken.

Pamela A. Hairston
Washington

 

A Wiser Investment

While I am an admirer of Bill McKibben's work, I would like to take issue with some of the narrow set of solutions he, along with most environmental groups, poses to the problem of climate change ("Now or Never," April 30). I don't want to disregard the importance of urging people to change their consumption patterns, particularly when it comes to SUVs, but this isn't enough.

The U.S. government is the No. 1 financier of climate-changing fossil fuels abroad. Our tax dollars are investing in more greenhouse gases than China, India, Mexico and Brazil emit each year. Since the Climate Convention was crafted at the Earth Summit in 1992, two of our government-backed export credit agencies, the U.S. Export-Import Bank and Overseas Private Investment Corporation, have invested $28 billion in fossil fuel projects around the world, and about $462 million in renewable energy projects.

The World Bank, in which the United States is the biggest shareholder at 17 percent, is also a heavy investor in fossil fuels. This bank is getting better at financing renewables: their ratio of fossil fuel to renewable energy investments is now only 16-to-1.

These institutions are investing our money in exactly the wrong sorts of investments: pipelines in Chad, oil drilling in Azerbaijian, oil fields in Angola, coal burners in China, India and Indonesia.These investments are wrong not only on environmental grounds; they also help feed repressive regimes who then turn around and oppress, torture or kill environmental activists in their own countries.

While I do not subscribe to the argument that developing countries must sign on to the protocol for the United States to sign on, I do agree that we need to be considering the problem of future greenhouse gas emissions from developing countries now. And if we want to ensure that these developing countries do not become locked in to a development path that requires fossil fuels, and repeat the same mistakes we have made here in the United States, we need to invest now in alternatives in these countries.

For further information, please visit our Web site at www.seen.org

Daphne Wysham
Sustainable Energy
and Economy Network
Washington

 

Cancer Countdown

At our last family reunion, we noted that among 30 cousins, we were "missing" a leg, a breast, a larynx, female reproductive organs, a brain tumor, my father, and saddest of all, a child, due to cancer ("The Myth of Living Safely in a Toxic World," April 30). It isn't genetic, we aren't defective. Some of the victims married into the family. The youngest was 2 years old, the oldest two were in their sixties and the rest in their thirties. And that count didn't include my cousin with breast cancer or her husband with lymphoma. We don't work in or live near toxic waste dumps or chemical plants. Our risk factor is simple: We just eat food, drink water and breathe the air. Bring on the arsenic, we can take it.

Beth Birnbaum
Forest Hills, New York

 

Correction

Steve Weinberg's latest "Accuracy Watch" ("Convenient Inventions," May 28) reported that anthropologist Eug¸ne Dubois had joined the Dutch East India Company to pursue his fossil research. In fact, he joined the Royal Dutch East Indian Army. We regret the error.

 

 

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