The Partial-Birth Fraud

Chris Black's article "The Partial-Birth Fraud" in
TAP's fall supplement "Body Politics" [September 24-October 8, 2001] was
very instructive. Nonetheless, as liberals continue to debate which strategies
can best protect Roe v. Wade without jeopardizing progressive candidates'
survival, I think it is essential to connect the dots on two key points, both of
which Black makes quite clearly but does not explicitly connect.

As she notes, I differed strongly with some other supporters
of full abortion rights; I believed it would be an error to force pro-choice
candidates to vote a mere yes or no on the issue as it was framed by the
anti-choice forces. For two reasons, I insisted on offering a physical-health
exception to the ban for women seeking a late-term abortion: (1) it was clear
that such an exception would have zero negative impact on their ability to
undergo such an operation, and (2) the insistence of our opponents on a total ban
on the procedure would lead them to refuse to accept such an amendment. For
reasons that continue to escape me, some of my colleagues objected to this and
insisted that pro-choice Democrats from marginal districts should have to vote on
the measure in the form that made them most vulnerable to right-wing attacks.

Black also correctly notes that President Clinton vetoed the ban in the midst
of the 1996 election campaign because it had no health exception and "paid no
political price" for it. But this does not mean that the health-exception
amendment was politically unnecessary. The president's veto message rejected the
bill largely because it lacked such an amendment. Demanding the health exception
forced our opponents to admit that this would deny women the right to the
procedure even if it jeopardized their health. I did not understand then and do
not understand now why some of my pro-choice colleagues think that this approach
in any way undermined our efforts. I believe that it in fact contributed very
much to our ability to repel this attack on abortion rights.

Rep. Barney Frank

Fourth District, Massachusetts

Washington, D.C.

Home-Court Advantage

Michael Massing did an excellent job of pointing
out the major differences between the war on drugs and the war on terrorism
["Home-Court Advantage," December 3].

Afghanistan's brutal Taliban regime profits from the heroin
trade because of drug prohibition, not in spite of it. Attempts to limit supply
while demand remains constant only increase the profitability of drug
trafficking. Here in the United States, the drug war distorts market forces to
the degree that an easily grown weed like marijuana is literally worth its weight
in gold. In South America, the various armed factions tearing Colombia apart are
all financially dependent on the obscene profits created by America's $50-billion
war on consensual vices. The drug war is the problem, not the solution.

Heroin produced in Afghanistan is primarily consumed in Europe, a continent
already experimenting with public-health alternatives to the drug war. Providing
chronic addicts with standardized doses in a treatment setting has been shown to
reduce drug-related disease, death, and crime. Also, expanded prescription heroin
maintenance would deprive organized crime of its core client base. This would
render illegal heroin trafficking unprofitable, spare future generations
addiction, and significantly undermine the Taliban's funding. Harm-reduction
policies have the potential to reduce the perils of both drug use and drug

Robert Sharpe, M.P.A.

The Lindesmith Center- Drug Policy Foundation

Washington, D.C.

If we fight the war on terrorism as we've fought
the war on drugs, can we expect the same results? Will terrorists multiply
exponentially, be cheaper to deploy, and become far deadlier? Can we expect
terrorists to flood across our borders in an unstoppable deluge? Will the few
civil liberties remaining after the war on drugs now fall prey to the war on
terrorism? How will the definition of a terrorist evolve, and will it change on
the whim of some anonymous bureaucrat, as it did in the other war?

Mike Plylar

Kremmling, CO

American Anointed

In "American Anointed" [November 19], Rashid
Khalidi posits that American interference in the Middle East is the source of
problems in that region.

It is easy to point at the United States as the single
malefactor. But there is no shortage of Islamic polities that brutally repress
Islamic citizens in the name of Islam. Mr. Khalidi sees these atrocities in
power-hungry and greedy Islamic states but fails to blame weak and corruptible
Islamic leaders. He would do well to include "taking responsibility for its own
actions" in his curriculum on the Middle East.

T.J. Night

Waco, TX

Rashid Khalidi spouts typical Islamic half-truths about America and Israel.
Granted, our foreign policy has left plenty to be desired, but to imply that this
is a major cause of terrorism insults the reader's intelligence. He claims that
it is our own fault that thousands of innocents were slaughtered. That sounds
very much like the battered-wife syndrome. As for Israel, that country may well
have reacted harshly to constant suicide bombers, but Islamic jihad would deny
Israel's right even to exist.

Abraham Salkov

Baltimore, MD

Trouncing the Taliban

While i agree with many of the points Robert B.
Reich raised in his article "Trouncing the Taliban" [December 3], I was
disappointed with his failure to contemplate the root cause of the terrorist
attacks. Human suffering--in the form of hunger, exile, imprisonment, torture,
death, and disease--caused by the policies and actions of the United States and
its "friends" must be eliminated. Failure to do so will only cause future
generations to take up arms against the cause of their suffering. A commentary on
the current situation that ignores this central fact is hollow and ineffectual.

Andre Prassinos

Wanaka, New Zealand

Foreign Policy and TAP

First, I want to praise many of the articles that
have appeared in TAP in relation to domestic policy. However, in reference
to your recent coverage of foreign-policy issues, I find a spectrum ranging from
unreconstructed Cold Warrior to moderate, establishmental thought.

If the current tragedy does not kindle a vigorous debate on
foreign policy, nothing will be learned or gained. It is a terrible lesson to
learn that terror by America or its surrogates is largely responsible for the
making of the September 11 events. How can we sweep the dark, ugly history of
U.S. foreign policy over the last 50 years under the rug? How can we forget the
5,000 Iraqi children dying with American-enforced sanctions every month? No
administration has threatened to withhold the billions of dollars in military aid
from Israel despite its illegal and brutal occupation of Palestine.

Glen Risdon

San Francisco, CA

The Oprah Wars

Chris Lehmann's piece "The Oprah Wars" [December 3]
is without question the shrewdest commentary I have read on the subject of Oprah
Winfrey and her quasi-intellectual retinue.

John Summers

Cambridge, MA

Economic Casualties

In their article "Economic Casualties" [December
3], Jared Bernstein and Ed Lazere properly note the nation's shredded safety net,
including unemployment insurance (UI). The authors recommend changing eligibility
rules to allow "those with only limited job tenure to qualify" for UI benefits.

This shorthand description is a mischaracterization of the
"alternative base period" (ABP), a UI reform included in both the House and
Senate Democratic economic-stimulus packages and already in place in 12 states.
ABPs take into account more recent earnings than those used to measure UI
eligibility under traditionally defined base periods.

ABPs have been incorrectly described by their opponents as helping workers
with "limited job tenure," but their virtue is in providing UI benefits to those
workers with wages sufficient to meet the standard but who are currently denied
benefits because their earnings are too recent. I'm sure that the authors would
not wish to discourage the likelihood of the adoption of ABPs by inaccurately
summarizing the reform's intent.

Rick McHugh

National Employment Law Project

Dexter, MI