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Comments: Week of September 21, 2015


1. In the last issue’s cover story, Jonathan Chait argued that the world may yet avert the most feared climate outcomes (“The Sunniest Climate-Change Story You’ve Ever Read,” September 7–21). Unsurprisingly, some readers took issue with Chait’s sanguine assessment. Vox’s David Roberts agreed with Chait that “for the first time in my lifetime, it looks like it might be a real fight” to mitigate climate change, but he disagreed with Chait’s overall optimism, in particular his assertion that “the global poor can create a future of economic growth for themselves without burning the world.” “That’s a lovely idea,” Roberts wrote, “and I hope it’s true … It is very difficult and expensive to extend the central power grid to poor people in the rural hinterlands of Africa and India … So sure, the 2 billion or so who lack energy access can get started, now, with distributed clean-energy technology. But that’s a very different undertaking than lifting all those people — or empowering them to lift themselves — to a level of energy access and affluence that matches, or even approaches, that enjoyed by citizens of developed Western nations.” Climate-change economist Gernot Wagner tweeted that Chait’s argument was “well-reasoned climate ­optimism. We won’t solve this, but we’re turning [a] corner.” Al Gore got in on the conversation as well, tweeting: “Progress on #ClimateAction is accelerating, but more must be done.”

2. “Sheldon Adelson Is Ready to Buy the Presidency,” read the headline of Jason Zengerle’s piece on the pro-Israel casino magnate (September 7–21). “He just hasn’t decided which Republican candidate to back.” Zengerle’s story details the efforts of Republican-primary candidates to win the financial support of Adelson, who in the last presidential election gave millions to the campaigns of Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. Salon’s Elias Isquith felt that Adelson’s power represented a deeper problem: how “the Supreme Court’s conservative majority has weakened American democracy,” he wrote. “What I resent instead is how, ­because of the Court, paying attention to this nasty extremist has become just another ­requirement of the active, ­engaged ­citizen. Because Adelson has tons of money … and, as he proved last cycle, by almost single-handedly floating Newt Gingrich’s ludicrous presidential campaign, he’s willing to spend it.” Zengerle’s account, Isquith added, shows “how an unregulated system of campaign finance can give people like Adelson an effective veto on major U.S. policy.” The Washington Post’s David Bernstein quibbled with Zengerle’s assertion that Adelson is “most responsible for” the GOP’s unconditional support of Israel: “The person most responsible for making support for Israel a core Republican issue is Osama bin Laden, with a supporting role played by Yasser Arafat. Gallup polls from the past 25 years show that Republicans were already leaning somewhat more in favor of Israel in early 2001 than were Democrats … But the difference in partisan attitudes accelerated after 9/11,” Bernstein argued. “9/11 made Americans more sensitive to Israel’s terrorism-­related security concerns, and Arafat’s decision to continue and accelerate the terrorist Second Intifada, replete with bus, cafe and synagogue bombings, was hardly likely to endear the Palestinian cause to Americans after 9/11. But these factors had a greater influence on Republican opinion than on Democratic opinion … In short, you have a Republican Party in which 80 percent of the grassroots membership supports Israel, and a significant percentage of that 80 percent consider it a litmus-test issue. Meanwhile, the current Democratic administration has engaged in open rhetorical warfare against an Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Democrats tend to loathe and Republicans tend to admire. Under those circumstances, while it’s plausible that a candidate might modify his pro-Israel rhetoric in subtle ways to appeal to big donors like Adelson … it’s really not possible given grassroots Republican opinion to imagine any scenario other than the GOP, and all its major presidential candidates, offering Israel strong support.” Yet many readers felt the piece gave important insight into Adelson’s power. “Great Zengerle piece on surreality of Adelson world,” tweeted The Atlantic’s James Fallows. BuzzFeed Politics’s Andrew Kaczynski responded even more succinctly: “Oh boy.”


3. “What does it feel like to get out of prison after serving decades for a crime you didn’t commit?” asked Jada Yuan in introducing a series of interviews with eight exonerated prisoners on their first week on the outside (“That’s When I Knew I Was Free,” September 7–21). “Since 1989,” she continued, “1,655 convictions have been reversed nationwide.” “I can bet that if 1,600 have been released, there’s probably several times that many innocent people wasting away in jail,” wrote commenter veritas723. “I cannot imagine how these men are not eaten up by bitter anger and bile,” wrote not2day. “To know you are innocent and to have been so thoroughly screwed over … We don’t even want to know what life inside was like for them.” “Our justice system gets it so wrong, so often,” tweeted Ali V.Z. Mayeda. “Are there no penalties for the police and lawyers and judges whose crappy work put these men in jail?” asked commenter brae. “Lost rape kits … a receipt in a casework file … DNA evidence that didn’t match at the time of trial. Who takes responsibility for robbing someone of their freedom for decades?” Others were simply overwhelmed by the men’s accounts. “I am crying,” commented FrenchBette. “I cannot stop crying.”

Correction: St. John’s University will present a St. John’s Bible to the Library of Congress, not Pope Francis as was stated in “The Bipartisan Pontiff” (September 7–21, page 13).


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