THE WAR, VIOLENCE, AND CASUALTIES
The pictures of prisoners being threatened (and maybe bitten) by dogs reminded me of Nazi Germany 59 years ago and the stories that liberated prisoners would tell us of the torture tactics used by the Nazis.
We combat infantrymen were the first to reach the prison camps and see and hear about the horrors perpetrated upon the inmates. We freed many, many camps in several different locations, but the stories were similar. This said to us that the orders came from the top... that the methods were systemic.
The ordinary enlisted man (or woman) takes and follows orders that come down the line, especially for procedural matters. If they don't, they risk punishment --- yes, including court martial.
So what's going to happen now? If the enlisted personnel were told to "soften up" the prisoners and didn't, they could face court martial. Those who did now do face court martial. Some of the people "up the line" have been "admonished."
Those at the top --- Bush, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Tenet, et al --- can continue their current policies and nothing will happen to them.
Harry Truman said, "The buck stops here." I wonder where the buck will stop this time.
Frank Bellomo, Irondequoit
Thank you very much for running the casualty list. I have many acquaintances and friends serving, and am not in most cases close to their family or friends who might notify me. The idea that any of them could be killed and many of us who cared about them not find out until much, much later by chance is a dreadful notion.
Thank you for this valuable (and brave) service.
Erika Juhlin, Graham, North Carolina
The abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers bears a striking parallel to our abuse of animals in factory farms and slaughterhouses. In fact, a recent Washington Post article notes that some of the photos showed a cow being skinned and gutted and soldiers posing with its severed head.
The abuse of Iraqi prisoners is merely a manifestation of our culture of violence and our insensitivity to the suffering of those we view as "the others." It matters not whether these are Iraqi prisoners, Vietnamese villagers, or animals raised for food. It's a culture that gives otherwise kind and gentle farmers a license to keep dairy calves, pregnant sows, and laying hens in cramped cages, drugged and deprived of natural food and sunshine. It's a culture that leads otherwise normal slaughterhouse workers to skin, dismember, and disembowel cows and pigs while they are still conscious.
Punishing a dozen soldiers and apologizing to the Arab world merely places a Band-Aid on a cultural scourge that will rear its ugly head again and again, whenever otherwise normal people feel they have the license to unleash their violent and insensitive leanings.
The only effective long-term solution is to instill in our children the notions of kindness and sensitivity to all suffering. A good time to start is when they first ask where hamburgers come from.
Shane Hummick, Lawton Street, Rochester
THE FACTS ON GREEN ENERGY
In response to Erik Grzelak's letter "Green Results" (April 28), regarding the negative impacts of wind and solar energy on the environment and his call that people be informed before adding their support, I ask that he heed his own advice. He is misinformed.
He correctly states that solar panels produce electricity only during the day, but goes on to say that "they only produce on days with direct sunlight." In fact, solar cells will produce electricity in all but the very cloudiest of days, although maybe not quite as much. And that solar does produce electricity during the day is one of its greatest attributes. That is when usage reaches its peak, and the utilities struggle most to keep up with demand. (Note when brown and blackouts occur.)
Mr. Grzelak claims that the energy used in producing a solar cell creates a negative impact on the energy market because of the time it takes that cell to generate the electricity required to create the cell. That is absurd. The energy payback of a photo-voltaic cell is usually about two to three years, depending on the location and its usage. The lifespan of a solar panel will be 25 to 30 years or longer, which even the greatest skeptic would have to agree is a pretty good payback.
The manufacturing process of solar cells is similar to that of computer chips and circuit boards, and produces very few byproducts. Like these industries, however, great care must be taken to minimize, reduce, and re-use as many of the byproducts as possible.
As for wind energy: commercial wind farms are normally placed on land already used by farmers or up on ridges to minimize their impact. And to say that the land required for them is huge is to be very selective. Huge compared to what? The space required to erect a coal-burning plant, (not to mention the mining that goes with that plant), a nuclear power plant, or a hydro-electric power plant?
And contrary to Mr. Grzelak's claim that wind turbines will produce only in areas of high wind far from human inhabitants, modern commercial wind turbines perform very well at speeds as low as 13mph, and residential turbines at speeds lower than that. In fact, New YorkState has some of the best wind potential in the country, and there are several functioning commercial wind farms not far from Rochester.
While I share the writer's concern for the avian population, modern wind turbines are not detrimental at all to birds and spin quite slowly. Studies sponsored in part by the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society prove that wind turbines' being "incredibly detrimental to avian populations" --- as Mr. Grzelak so eloquently states --- is incorrect, especially when compared to power lines, pesticides, smokestacks, and windows, each of which kill exponentially more birds than do wind turbines. (Not to mention domestic cats, which kill more than all of the others combined.)
Nonetheless, great care is taken by manufacturers and installers to improve on their record even further.
The points I make here are not my opinions, but are facts, which can be found on the Department of Energy web site. Renewable energies will in no way eliminate the need for fossil fuels any time in the near future, but along with more progressive ways of thinking, such as conservation and efficiency, renewables can greatly reduce our dependence on them.
People must also understand that no form of energy production is without its negative aspects. And especially when compared to the devastating environmental impacts involved with the mining, transporting, and conversion of coal, oil, and nuclear energy, it is imperative that renewables be given a high priority. We owe that to future generations.
Richard Kusminsky, Beverly Street (Kusminsky works with Prime Energy Solutions, Inc., a renewable energy company that specializes in solar and wind energy installations, and building performance analysis.)
Reading Jack Spula every week in City was a quality-of-life issue. Rochester has gems like WGMC, the Bop Shop, EllisonPark, McGregors, the Abundance Coop. Jack is one of those gems.
The articles I remember the most are the ones Jack wrote about the environment (and I don't even like hiking or canoeing). He just had a way of communicating his reverence for the outdoors. And Jack's elucidated reporting on this region wove together the nitty-gritty specifics and the larger issues that humanity has always struggled with.
Jack's pieces were nourishing and fulfilling. When Jack wrote about geopolitics he had absolutely no equal. He dug to find the sources that were missing from the prevailing discourse. Like the legendary reporter IF Stone, he turned over the rocks that revealed the lies of the ruling class. I am going to miss Jack's intellectual breadth and depth in the pages of City.
Jon Greenbaum, Rochester
I wish to join those readers who have expressed sadness, dismay and outrage at the dismissal of Jack Spula from your staff. Jack's role as the pivotal media resource available to the progressive community of this area is irreplaceable, given his deep understanding of key issues and his superb writing.
His forced departure, without explanation, leaves many of us wondering what City has become. With your recent insistence that City's editorial policy and direction has not changed, the community deserves a further account of his dismissal. Since this is a matter that impacts especially the "alternative community" that relies on your "alternative newsweekly," I urge you to address this matter more forthrightly and publicly.
Douglas D. Noble, Brunswick Street, Rochester
THE NADER SPLASH
Many of Nader's supporters have recited the mantra that Nader did not steal the election from Gore, but it's time that we Nader supporters speak the truth. Damn right, we took votes from the Democrats in 2000, and we plan on doing it again, and there is no need to apologize for this.
Yes, Nader had a part in Gore's loss, because Gore and the Democrats ran an incompetent campaign that demonstrated that the Dems are out of touch with their constituency. Conservatives have rightly accused liberals of being whiners who blame everyone else for their problems, and Democrats have done an outstanding job of proving them right. If it isn't Nader who causes your problems, it's Supreme Court judges, or a Florida election system rigged by Bush's brother.
Well, while you're feeling sorry for yourselves, you could be organizing an effective campaign and figuring out how to reach the voters who went Green in 2000. Instead, you put up a wishy-washy puppet chosen for his "electability," and you're dooming yourselves to another loss. And, frankly, that's your problem.
I'm voting Nader again, because he represents my interests. Blame me, curse me, and accuse me, if you haven't had your fill of self-pity. We Greens and Nader supporters aren't responsible for Democrats' problems. I hope we take even more of your votes away this year.
Paul Blackburn, Lake Avenue, Rochester
While supporting third-party candidates for national office or even being a third-party candidate causes the big splash, it is just the beginning of a drowning. You are not going to be elected.
Choose which major party comes closest to your feelings, join it, and work from within to have it meet your wishes. Less splash, more effect.
Raymond Zahn, Sperry Drive, Henrietta
WRITING TO CITY
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