Take heed of Pauling

Linus Pauling, Nobel Peace Prize winner and peace activist, wrote in his book “No More War”:

“Man has developed admirable principles of morality, which in large part govern the actions of individual human beings. And yet, we are murderers, mass murderers.

“Does the Commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ mean nothing to us? Are we to interpret it as meaning ‘Thou shalt not kill except on the grand scale,’ or ‘Thou shalt not kill except when the national leaders say to do so’?

“I am an American, deeply interested in the welfare of my fellow Americans, of our great Nation. But I am first of all a human being. I believe in morality.

“I believe that there is a greater power in the world than the evil power of military force, of nuclear bombs — there is the power of good, of morality, of humanitarianism.

“I believe in the power of the human spirit. I should like to see our great Nation, the United States of America, take the lead in the fight for good, for peace, against the evil of war. I should like to see in our cabinet a Secretary for Peace, with a budget of billions of dollars per year, perhaps as much as 10 percent of the amount now expended for military purposes. I should like to see set up a great international research program involving thousands of scientists, economists, geographers, and other experts working steadily year after year in the search for possible solutions to world problems, ways to prevent war and to preserve peace.”

Pauling speaks from both the head and the heart. I say let’s take heed.

Stan PennerManitoba, Canada

Capitalist bureaucracy

Regarding Greg Godwin’s “The myth of capitalist efficiency” (PWW 2/12-18), the word “bureaucracy” in the capitalist world has been turned into a pejorative word especially relative to socialism. It has been made to mean endless waits, miscommunication, frustration and resentment that are alleged to be typical of socialist governments. The corporate organizations of the capitalist world have a bureaucracy, in that sense, of their own.

If you don’t believe this try to get instructions for the return, repair or a refund on a defective product. Or try to get correction of an incorrect or unfounded bill. You will get the mechanical answer to your phone calls listing many possibilities except the one you are calling about; the cut off of your line when you are being transferred to another phone; being shunted from person to person or bureau to bureau; the threat to wreck your more than pristine credit record of 50 years.

Finally, if you are lucky and persistent, you will find a small dealer who will acknowledge the obligation assumed by taking your money.

The corporate world contains its bureaucracy too.

Fred DiDomenicoHoney Brook PA

‘Jim Crow’ and taxes, too

James Bradford’s article about Alabama’s Amendment 2 (PWW 2/12-18), which would have stricken racist “Jim Crow” language out of the state constitution last fall, would have been more complete had it also mentioned many people’s purported reason for voting against it: fear of higher taxes.

Granted, some voters probably voted for racist reasons. But probably what really killed its chances was the fear of taxes that was stoked by the latest state demagogue, former chief justice Roy Moore.

I am not claiming that the fear of taxes was a good reason for voting it down. Or even a rational reason. But that seems to be the consensus of what happened.

I do agree with Bradford that with everything else going on that Election Day, this one did seem to slip by most of the national media.

A readerTuscaloosa AL

Raise the cap

The description of protests against Social Security privatization in the “red states” in the Feb. 12-18 PWW was encouraging, but it was disturbing to see that some opponents of Bush’s plan still accept the claim that long-term reforms are required to maintain Social Security. The projections of a shortfall in 2042 or 2052 are doubtful, at best. They are based on assumptions about changes in population, economic growth, wages, and price fluctuations. These assumptions are highly subjective because economic factors are not predictable so far into the future. As a former head of the American Economic Association, the late Robert Eisner, said, “Making projections three decades and more ahead is, to use a gentle word, dubious. Even relatively short-term forecasts can be notoriously inaccurate.” Thus, there is no reason to think that Social Security needs to be “fixed,” but it can be improved. One way to improve it, and increase benefits, is to tax income over $90,000 a year, which is currently untaxed.

Kevin LindemannWinfield IL

Wal-Mart and NPR

As an occasional listener to National Public Radio, I noticed that Wal-Mart was a corporate sponsor. Given Wal-Mart’s questionable practices that strain the social system and may harm the good of the public, I found this relationship curious. I wondered if Wal-Mart consciousness might be trying to influence my opinions on public radio.

The following correspondence to NPR’s Ombudsman resulted after I heard Wal-Mart mentioned positively in an NPR commentary:

“I might be wrong on this, but it sounded like you ended a story yesterday evening on All Things Considered with the comment that ‘if you can’t buy it at Wal-Mart, you didn’t need it anyway.’ Following that, one of the NPR sponsors mentioned was Wal-Mart. My reaction is that your taking payola from Wal-Mart to support honest reporting is like a story covering the Iraq war sponsored by the Republican Party. While I can appreciate the current ‘news for sale’ climate, I never would have expected this from a news source I’d really like to trust. Either you were asleep on that Wal-Mart goof or else you need to re-examine your moral values.”

Jeffrey Dvorkin, NPR Ombudsman, replied: “Thanks for your note. What you heard was a commentary — on the humorous side — about what is really important in life according to the writer. It was unfortunate that it was followed by an underwriting message for Wal-Mart. I’ll remind the producers to be a little stricter with the editing.”

Scott WebbNashville TN