Mail Call: A Tragic Legacy?

Republicans' Post-Bush Prospects
I read your excerpt from "The Bush Tragedy" by Jacob Weisberg ("Fishing for a Way to Change the World," Jan. 28). Tragedy requires the downfall of a hero, someone more than life-size destroyed by a fatal flaw. Few could argue that George W. Bush would qualify as heroic or larger than life, despite awkward attempts to package him as such. (Who can forget the flight suit of the unfortunate "mission accomplished" moment?) Many of us are flawed. We may exhibit pride, greed or a penchant for denying obvious facts, but such shortcomings do not make us tragic, only ordinary. A great nation peopled by generous and energetic citizens brought to its knees by an administration whose hallmarks have proved to be arrogance, acquisitiveness and denial is truly a great tragedy.
Ken Winkes
Conway, Washington

There are many of us who simply don't see Bush's years in office as a "tragedy." We could be in far different circumstances post-9/11 than where we are now. I was able to buy my first home because of the strong housing market we had along with the great economy. You'll never rewrite my perception of the last seven years.
Carol Hono
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

What we are living with today is not "The Bush Tragedy," as Jacob Weisberg calls it, but an American tragedy. After all, Bush's children are not being maimed or killed in Iraq. Bush and his extended family have not lost their homes as victims of predatory lending policies. Bush and his friends have not had to declare bankruptcy because of our economic decline. And it is an American tragedy because we elected him. No matter how one feels about the 2000 election, Bush got a majority of American votes in 2004 to continue what he had already started. Those who voted for Bush, or didn't vote even though they disliked what he was doing, bear some responsibility. And since none of the major Republican candidates has repudiated Bush's leadership, the next election provides Americans an opportunity to end this tragedy or to perpetuate it.
Kent Koppelman
La Crosse, Wisconsin

Michael Gerson, former senior adviser to President Bush, states that the Medicare prescription-drug-care plan was implemented smoothly and is wildly popular among the elderly ("How My Party Lost Its Way"). Nothing could be farther from the truth. The plan was a mishmash of confusion for the elderly. Every insurance company offered a different plan. Elders who were not computer-savvy were lost. Many were so confused that they had to turn to help groups to navigate through the maze. The program is now in its third year, and I've changed companies each year because they change their formularies and raise fees: for 2008, the provider I'd used in 2007 doubled the fee.
Don Prillaman
Roanoke, Virginia

I agree entirely with Evan Thomas's analysis in his article "In the Shadow of Bush" (Jan. 28). Had such an insightful story been published five years ago, Bush might have been enlightened and the calamity in Iraq could have been averted. The fact that billions have been squandered in a war that only Bush decided to wage has not only affected America's image worldwide, it has started to impoverish people with a precarious future in the greatest country on earth.
Dan Chellumben
Amboise, France

Europe, Making Itself Heard?
Timothy Garton Ash makes the kind of error in his article "The Crisis in the West" (Issues 2008) that is typically seen among U.S. neoconservatives: a refusal to accept the answers given to questions proposed. For instance, he says: "If Europe wants collective action on climate change, it should figure out how to make it happen." Excuse me? The European answer to this question is crystal clear; what does Ash want Europe to do to bring the United States up to speed? Should Europe attempt to threaten the United States to comply? Would such an answer be heard? What can Europe do? What was the U.S. answer in Kyoto or Bali? The truth is, the United States did not respond to answers given by the rest of the world. Instead it stalled multilateral progress. Similarly, why was weapons inspector Hans Blix not allowed to complete his work in Iraq? Because the U.S. government would not accept the answer to the question "Does Iraq have weapons of mass destruction?" The European answer to bad relations between the Middle East and the West is also crystal clear: solve the Israel-Palestine conflict and everything else will become much easier. Why does the United States continue to support Israel, even when Israel does not live up to its responsibilities with regard to ensuring peace, as has happened again and again? The real question that Ash should be asking is this: when will the United States begin listening to words of reason, in earnest? If the United States does not, it could entail a fatal crisis between Europe and the States, not likely to be overcome for many years.
Halfdan Abrahamsen
Aarhus, Denmark

A Tale of Two Presidents
Your Periscope global graft report "Why Voters From Kenya to Korea Embrace the Accused" (Jan. 28) cannot go unchallenged. You put Kenya in your headline but fail to elaborate on the issue regarding the country in the text. Including South Korea, South Africa and Thailand is understandable. However, Kenya's case is different. We elected a graft-free president (Raila Odinga), but the vote was rigged in favor of the incumbent (Mwai Kibaki), who has a string of corrupt people in his illegitimate government. Do set the record straight and enlighten the rest of the world, which is in the dark about the real situation in our country. We'll fight for truth and justice until our popularly elected president, Odinga, is installed in office legitimately.
Christopher Kims
Nairobi, Kenya

Daring to Have Children
I am writing in reference to your article "China's One Child Left Behind" by Melinda Liu (Jan. 28). China's strict implementation of its one-child policy was the beginning of the harsh ordeal for China's rural poor. But the urban rich came up with novel ways to conveniently avoid the implications of breaking the law. In fact, Asia's rich and powerful, whether in India or China, somehow manage to find an escape route. It is shocking that corrupt officials abducted unregistered children and demanded large "fees" for their release from families who dared to have more than one child. No doubt the one-child policy has stabilized and controlled population growth in China, but it has also made trouble for ordinary people.
Arvind K. Pandey
Allahabad, India

A Coal Miner's Life in China
In your Dec. 17 Periscope item "Panda Lovers Love Coal," you reported that the World Wildlife Fund's climate-change program head in Hong Kong believes that coal should continue to be used over the next three decades. Experts on the environment will be able to evaluate the cost of this to the region's already failing air quality. I would like to draw attention to the human cost. In China, thousands of coal miners die in horrific underground accidents each year. Many more are maimed or permanently incapacitated while undertaking their daily unhealthy work. Legions of other miners will live a shortened life only to die a painful death as a result of lung diseases, such as emphysema, contracted in the mines. Few of these miners have any alternative employment options, and their wages are very low in comparison with the remuneration deemed appropriate to other dangerous jobs, such as those of oil-rig workers. Nor, sadly, are their bereaved relatives generously looked after. Clearly, China's rapid industrialization comes at a great human cost, and it is China's miners who pay that price. While large sums are spent on preserving the panda and other animal species, thousands of Chinese miners meet their deaths at work each year, after short and unenviable lives. Those situated in comfortable Hong Kong offices may be cocooned from this unpleasant truth. Are we spending more on protecting some endangered species of animal while blind to the degradation of human life, which every coal miner knows all too well? It is high time that non-mined sources of energy were developed—not only for obvious environmental reasons, but also to put a stop to future generations of Chinese miners living in misfortune and dying in despair. One would have thought that the World Wildlife Fund should have been the first to say so.
Paul Surtees
Hong Kong

Reflecting on the Rising Price of Oil
In "How Hot Money Is Pushing Oil" (Nov. 26), NEWSWEEK reports that oil's mad rush to upwards of $100 per barrel marks a pivotal transition. This dramatic jump in price—more than 30 percent since last September—has sent the world a chilling warning. In the meantime, conventional wisdom keeps pointing the finger of blame at the exceptional demand from Asian countries, thanks in part to the meteoric growth of India's and China's economies. But there are other factors also: an untimely shortage of reserves in the United States, OPEC's reluctance to push up daily production, the weak greenback that continues to slide steadily downward and the jittery political situation in Iran. Notwithstanding the fact that each of these reasons could be a contributing factor, we seem to forget that the rich nations continue to ignore their own excessive and extravagant consumption and the energy they waste to maintain their luxurious lifestyles. When the affluent nations across the world learn to use less oil, up-and-coming countries will become more efficient in their energy use, too. The search for alternative, renewable energy sources will speed up, and then no one will worry if the price of oil shoots up to $200.
Tan Boon Tee
Penang, Malaysia

A Field of Mirrors to the Rescue?
Your Nov. 26 article "It's All About Energy, Stupid!" quotes physicist David Mills as saying, "A field of mirrors 91 miles square could power the entire United States." Your writers then add: "Though that field is unlikely to ever be built—strong-enough transmission lines don't exist …" But apparently they do. The World Bank has published a technology review of an innovation in power transmission called high-voltage direct current. The article, by Swedish and American researchers, can be found at, the World Bank's Web site. Of course, traditionally all electrical transmission is by AC, alternating current. Older technologies meant that direct current, DC, could be sent only short distances with low voltages. The World Bank claims that new DC cables made of extruded polyethylene that transmit higher voltages could now make economic sense over as little as 60 kilometers. A graph in the aforementioned article shows AC costs exceeding DC costs beyond about 650 kilometers. Most important, though the initial electricity loss on a DC line is higher, it does not increase with distance. On AC systems, by contrast, the longer the line, the more you lose. There is no inherent limit on the length of a DC cable. Already there is a line in the Democratic Republic of Congo that is 1,700 kilometers long. Perhaps someone should inform your writers.
Alan Lew
Rihov, Czech Republic

You are absolutely correct in saying that the development of renewable energy resources "is especially attractive in California, where public utilities are required to get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources." However, a California law (which I authored in 2006) requires that 20 percent target to be reached by 2010, not 2015, as NEWSWEEK reported. As your story rightly points out, renewable energy sources can and will be developed when and where the market exists. California's "20 percent by 2010" is an ambitious but achievable goal. I believe it is a catalyst that spurs investment and drives innovation. The next logical step is a commitment to 33 percent by 2020. Legislation to that effect has cleared the California State Senate and awaits action next year in the California State Assembly. Stay tuned, NEWSWEEK.
Joe Simitian
State Senator
Palo Alto, California