On the September issue:
Parents vs. Schools
To the Editor:
Robert Pondiscio offers a good analysis of the problem facing American parents of school-age children (“Schoolchildren Are Not ‘Mere Creatures of the State.’” September). I have in fact started my own resistance group. What we all need is a better scope of the legal resources that can be used against schools in this matter. Nothing will change until the offending teachers, principals, and administrators are dragged to court and removed from education permanently. Additionally, legal action needs to be taken against teachers’ colleges and the “consultants” who provide educators with these insidious ideas about gender.
Rye, New York
To the Editor:
As ever, Robert Pondiscio puts his finger on the pulse of the culture in his much-needed article on the practices of American schools. In a systems point of view, schools are victims of organizational practices that have their roots in the separation of staff, students, and parents. Even in the United Kingdom, I find the idea of collaboration between participant actors much lauded but empty of substance. Add hysteria to the mix and things go wrong fast in the absence of leadership.
Peter A. Barnard
Robert Pondiscio writes:
Thank you to both Bozidar Jovanovic and Peter A. Barnard for the kind words. Both will likely nod knowingly at an interesting coda to the piece: In Virginia last month, the state’s department of education told schools they must “keep parents fully informed” on all issues related to their children’s health and psychological development, and that they must not “encourage or instruct teachers to conceal material information about a student from the student’s parent, including information related to gender.” Yet this official guidance—sensible and legally sound—was roundly criticized by educators and the media. The New York Times, for example, characterized it as “reversing school protections for transgender students” but elided the obvious question: Protection from whom?
To the Editor:
I am a retired Reactor Inspector and Senior Public Affairs Officer with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. I don’t pretend to speak for the NRC, of course, but I can affirm that what James B. Meigs wrote about nuclear waste in the September issue is accurate (“What a Waste”). As a PAO, I had to deal regularly with the anti-nuclear movement. Yes, it’s a religion, not a rational, scientific enterprise. Yes, America’s nuclear-waste problem is a myth. It’s the result of a conscious effort to kill nuclear power through “constipation,” as the anti-nuclear movement conceives it.
An aspect of the problem that Meigs might have mentioned was Harry Reid’s role in preventing a solution to the nuclear-waste issue. Reid was offended when other states that were being considered for waste repositories voted, in Reid’s eyes, to “shove nuclear waste down Nevada’s throat.” In 2005, Senator Reid managed to have President Bush appoint one of his aides, Gregory Jaczko, to become an NRC commissioner. In 2009, President Obama elevated Jaczko to chairman, likely on Reid’s advice. Jaczko, probably the only anti-nuclear activist ever to serve on the NRC, was a disaster. Within a couple of days of taking over as chairman, he ordered a complete halt to the NRC’s work reviewing the DOE’s Yucca Mountain proposal. This, of course, was highly illegal because, as Meigs points out, the DOE is required by law to accept nuclear waste, and the NRC is required to review proposals for safety. Jaczko was such a problem that all four commissioners ended up in front of a congressional committee hearing to complain about his behavior—an unprecedented occurrence. Nevertheless, Jaczko managed to delay the project significantly before he left the NRC in 2012.
A second issue to consider is an obscure but crucial scientific theory called the Linear No-Threshold theory (LNT). This theory posits that humans are damaged by radiation even in small doses—the scale of damage is linear from zero all the way up to extremely high doses that are known to be deadly. The NRC and most of the scientific community know this is false. The human body can repair any damage from relatively low doses of radiation with no harm. This is why, though anti-nuclear activists predict tens of thousands of premature deaths will result from an event such as Chernobyl, the deaths never happen. Yet the NRC clings to the LNT as its regulatory model. LNT affected Yucca Mountain because it forced the project’s designers to try to prove that the public would be protected from trivial doses of radiation under worst-case scenarios for 10,000 years. That, of course, is an impossible task, but they came up with something plausible, which the NRC is currently preparing to review, after delays of a decade or more.
The story of nuclear waste is a fascinating tale about scientific malfeasance, the use of a regulatory body for a personal vendetta, and the denial of a solution to a mythical problem.
Breck W. Henderson
James B. Meigs writes:
I thank Breck W. Henderson for providing this informative background. President Obama’s decision to elevate an avowedly anti-nuclear activist to the chairmanship of the NRC did enormous damage to the nuclear-power industry in the U.S. Not only did Jaczko work to scuttle the Yucca Mountain project, but he also opposed the construction of new nuclear plants in general. Jaczko’s obstructionism wasn’t the only reason U.S. power companies stopped building nuclear-power facilities, but it certainly didn’t help.
As Mr. Henderson also points out, the notion that exposure to miniscule levels of radiation poses life-threatening health risks has been scientifically debunked. (The United Nation’s nuclear-health agency, for one, rejects the theory.) Nonetheless, the LNT model remains the basis for too much U.S. nuclear policy. By clinging to this outdated model, regulators impose costs on the nuclear industry and the public, while achieving no improvement in public health. This situation is all too typical of how nuclear power is regulated in this country.
An Ordinate Fear of Communism
To the Editor:
As Gary Dreyer indicates, most young Americans have no true sense of the dangers of Communism or the effects that the USSR had on the world stage (“Why and How to Revive American Anti-Communism,” September).
Boomers went through duck-and-cover exercises in grammar school. They were aware of bomb shelters, Sputnik, the arms race, Checkpoint Charlie, and the isolation of Eastern Europe.
Do schools even teach about the lies and hypocrisy of genuinely oppressive political systems anymore? Looking at the current state of the university and our political culture, one must conclude that the answer is no.
As for me, I married into an amazing family that knew the oppression of Communism firsthand. My in-laws fled Lithuania during World War II, embraced Western values, and thrived here in a free society. My mother-in-law visited her surviving family in Lithuania a number of times, but my father-in-law refused to revisit his homeland, so strong was his fear of any lingering Communist sympathizers in Vilnius.
Gary Dreyer writes:
I very much appreciate Bob Skilnik’s letter. If he has not had the chance to visit Vilnius or the Baltic states more broadly yet, I strongly encourage him to do so. These countries have done a remarkable job of commemorating the Soviet and Nazi occupations of 1940–91 and are today stalwart defenders of Western values. Lithuania in particular has been the subject of Beijing’s ire because of its vocal support for Taiwan. Perhaps someday soon, philanthropists will start organizing trips to the Baltics and the former Eastern Bloc states to educate American youth about the crimes of totalitarian regimes, as these subjects continue to be largely excluded from curriculums.
The Godfather Won
To the Editor:
Reading Rick Marin’s article on The Godfather reminded me of an experience I had a long time ago that has always colored my thoughts on the film (“The Godfather at 50,” September). In 1971, I worked in Brooklyn in the Neighborhood Action Program, which was part of the mayor’s office. While there, I had an intern who had run afoul of the Mafia by loan-sharking. He was called for a “sitdown” and asked me to drive him to an Italian restaurant in South Brooklyn. He went to his meeting, returned in half an hour, and said he was fine. But he also told me that in the car behind us was “button man” who was to kill me if he didn’t come out of the restaurant.
The Godfather was terrific, but it created a genre in which Mafiosi were heroes to be respected and honored. The genre completely replaced the Western and engendered
the pathological interest that many Americans now unfortunately have in organized crime.
Clarksburg, New Jersey
To the Editor:
Rick Marin’s article on The Godfather was terrific. At various salons and kibbitzing sessions, whenever I’m asked to name my favorite movie, I never hesitate to say The Godfather. Marin’s dissection of the film explains why I and so many others feel the way we do about it. Immense talent, craftsmanship, sweeping drama, a sense of history, and detail-oriented perfectionism—it’s all there on the screen.
The movie came out while I was on leave from the Army, and I was still in uniform when I raced to see it. I recall walking out of the theater mesmerized at how humans can accomplish such great feats.
Robert Kotler, M.D.
Beverly Hills, California
To the Editor:
Christine Rosen has, as usual, nailed the essence of the media’s bias problem (“Republicans Pounce on the Liberal Media,” September). And the problem has been getting progressively worse each year. I no longer consume any mainstream media. Is that what these broadcasters want? Do they not see what is happening?
Many seem unable to hold two truths in their mind at once: one, that the media is intolerably biased to the left, and two, that much of the right supports a man so clearly lacking in ethics and morality that a modicum of objectivity would cause one to shade his eyes from the obviousness of the spectacle. Neither truth justifies the existence of the other, nor does either one negate our responsibility to condemn what is clearly wrong, no matter where we see it. These are very disturbing times for those of us brought up to think critically, be objective, and adhere to a personal level of integrity for no other reason than because it is the right thing to do.
Lawrence J. Feldman
Lake Oswego, Oregon