[Letters] Letters | Harper's Magazine
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In Memoriam

Harper’s Magazine is deeply saddened by the recent deaths of two good friends. George McGovern had served on the Harper’s Magazine Foundation board of directors since 1990, Nikolai Stevenson from 1983 until earlier this year; both brought insight and wisdom to their positions. Although McGovern was best known for his political career, he was also a serious writer and historian who frequently contributed to Harper’s. Stevenson, a successful businessman, provided crucial advice and support during the early years of the magazine’s redevelopment. Both men served with distinction during World War II—McGovern as a bomber pilot, Stevenson, who earned a Silver Star at Guadalcanal, as a Marine—and both devoted the remainder of their lives to arguing that war is, for the most part, useless and wasteful. We will greatly miss their faith in and loyalty to the magazine.

Meijer Ink

Alec MacGillis’s report on Meijer Inc.’s illegal attempt to usurp a local government in rural northern Michigan [“The Acme Corporation,” Letter, October] recalled for me the resistance we faced in telling the story of the retail chain’s flagrant subversion of state campaign-finance laws when I was editor of the Traverse City Record-Eagle. Locals who stood up to the corporation received little help from state politicians, many of them flush with Meijer campaign contributions, or from other Michigan journalists. Democracy took a back seat to cronyism.

Coverage of the story statewide was scarce—and when news outlets did report on the company, they often did so fawningly. A newspaper in Meijer’s hometown referred to the retailer’s crimes as “missteps.” In the midst of the controversy, one Detroit paper ran images of a senior executive from a Meijer photo op; no mention was made of the firm’s skulduggery.

I’m certain that news organizations were focused on their bottom lines as they tiptoed around the story, fearing the kind of reprisal the Record-Eagle received for digging into the scandal and disclosing the corporation’s wrongdoing. Meijer pulled their Sunday ad circular from the paper and sent their advertising dollars to another media company less interested in the messy business of journalism. Local politicians had already traded on connections to Dow Jones & Company, then the paper’s owner, in an attempt to throttle the Record-Eagle’s coverage and have me fired.

Our paper stood up to Meijer at a time when other news outlets would not. The story of the company’s interference with the democratic process was vitally important to our readers—and we told it.

Bill Thomas
Former editor, Traverse City Record-Eagle
Traverse City, Mich.

Ballot Initiative

In his essay on the value of voting [“Why Vote?,” October], Kevin Baker leads his readers to the provocative conclusion that they should reject the country’s failed two-party system, but he eventually backs off and endorses President Obama. Though he understands that “democracy is indeed no longer part of the culture of political parties,” he insists “we will have to build the new political parties from the dried-out husks of the old ones.”

In fact, with the vibrancy of the Occupy and Tea Party movements, this appears to be a prime moment in our nation’s history for a third party to create a new paradigm in American politics, one we can bring to the ballot box the next time we vote.

Jeremy Landau
Cedar Crest, N.M.

Austerity Measured

In his inaugural Anti-Economist column [“The Austerity Myth,” October], Jeff Madrick makes a capitalist’s argument for government stimulus. Far from the socialist practice it is often depicted as being, stimulus spending is like the venture capitalist’s private investment, in which short-term debt is purposefully accrued in expectation of long-term gain. Austerity measures, on the other hand, are contrary to the principle of investment and, by extension, capitalism. The ideals of competition and economic growth should discourage such restraint and instead encourage us to make careful investments in our future.

Christopher Nowlin
Vancouver, B.C.

Madrick suggests that those of us who support reduced government spending believe such measures promote growth, but to promote deficit reduction is to offer something different. Austerity measures are intended to prevent bankruptcy and ruin and to save the dollar from collapse; economic growth is then the result of other policy initiatives. A government that does not control its spending will eventually stretch its budget too thin and will be impotent when faced with a flagging economy, as we are today.

Peter Mangan
San Diego, Calif.


In his New Books column [October], Joshua Cohen stated that I was once married to Geraldo Rivera. i have never, ever remotely been married to geraldo rivera! I have been married to the same man, Scott Prior, for thirty years. In the grand scheme of things, my sister Edith was married to Geraldo for about one minute. She warned me that this rumor about Geraldo and me was afloat and said, “Tag, you’re it!”

Nanette Vonnegut
Northampton, Mass.

Editors’ note:
Nanette Vonnegut is correct. We regret the error.