The Great Error
Quick! Name one of the hundreds of gulag prison camps set up across the United States by George Bush to imprison millions of American citizens for being an "enemy of the people."
Name one outlet of the alternative media that has been shut down, its staff exiled to Alaska for seven years of hard labor, and its owners murdered by the CIA for criticizing Dick Cheney.
Name one, just one, member of the Democratic Party who has been tortured, paraded on show trial, and then summarily executed by the FBI for opposing the recent "surge" in Baghdad.
If you, like me, are having a hard time providing an answer to just one of these scenarios, then perhaps it is time to ask Tim Robbins, Michael Sullivan and, by extension, your reporter Tom Laskin to explain more fully the similarities that they see between present-day America and the Soviet Union circa 1937.
Tim Robbins might believe that "we're not far off" from becoming a Stalinist police state ("Big Brother Is Acting," 4/20/07), but such comparisons are ridiculous and disrespectful to the victims of the Great Terror.
Behavior mod - or not
Regarding "The New Supermax" (3/30/07): I am concerned about the lack of context in its description of behavior modification, more accurately called "applied behavior analysis." What the article described is not applied behavior analysis; it is a practice of torture that predates any science of human behavior. Your article presents an uninformed and biased view of a set of interventions that have benefited many people with and without developmental disabilities.
Behavior analysis emphasizes the use of positive reinforcement or contingent "rewards" for a specified, observable behavior. The prison, as described in the article, has created an aversive, punitive environment that had arbitrary "rules" about how to remove those conditions.
These prisoners would not likely come out of the Supermax able to function in society and would likely return to the system rather quickly. While theoretically prison is intended as punishment, the prison system was also intended to rehabilitate the prisoners and create "better citizens." I think the Department of Corrections should clarify its mission.
David Hessler Psychological associate Winnebago Mental Health Institute
Please do not get rid of the birthdays and noteworthy items on the This Week centerspread, as suggested by "A Puzzled Reader" (4/13/07). Those items provide a valuable context to daily life and help us realize we are a part of something bigger. Astrologically, these facts are very interesting, because every month has a different flavor to it, epitomized by the lives of the famous people born on specific days.
Regarding the May 4 opinion piece "Profiles in Cowardice": The author takes the Fair Housing Center of Greater Madison to task for not disclosing the names of housing providers who have broken the law in cases where the victims of discrimination have chosen to enter into confidential settlements of their complaints.
Experiencing discrimination in the housing market can be humiliating, exhausting and deeply painful. I know because it has happened to me.
Understandably, some victims choose to put these feelings behind them as quickly as possible. They elect not to display their injuries for the world to see. Discussing and exposing the experience can, for some, feel like a second violation, as in the case that was referenced in the article.
On the other hand, some victims feel comfortable or even empowered by discussing the facts of the case afterward; their settlements do not contain confidentiality agreements. When this happens, the Fair Housing Center helps to publicize a settlement.
Indeed, in the nine years of the center's existence, it has issued many press releases that describe individual instances of discrimination and the consequences that housing providers face when they break the law.
Carol Lobes Chair Advisory Committee of the Fair Housing Center of Greater Madison
In your story "Pro-Israel, and Pro-Armageddon" (4/27/07), Evangelical Christian support of Israel is criticized for its connection with theological and eschatological concerns - Armageddon and such.
But, in fact, Christian Zionism is a much broader movement, going back to the 19th century and even earlier. This movement involved a range of Christian denominations and had little to do with Armageddon. Its impact is evident in the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the international recognition of Israel in 1948; Christians United for Israel, with the event it sponsored on May 6 in Madison, continues this long tradition.
Another factor in the positive orientation toward Jews and Israel by Evangelical Christians is that, in American society, Evangelicals have shared with Jews the experience of being outsiders looking in - noses pressed to the glass, as it were - and looking for ways to do better in the system. Israel, as well, is seen as kindred in being a feisty newcomer, trying to establish itself in the international order.
Change the system
Regarding Dennis Redovich's challenge of our 60-year-old high school educational model that focuses on college preparatory courses ("To Hell With Algebra," 4/20/07): About 50% of our students go on to universities; I feel the other 50% should graduate after 10th grade and be offered two years at their local technical college or receive other vocational training.
The savings could be redirected into preschool programming. We need to get our high schools out of the 1950s model. In short, we need more change, not more money for the same old school system.
William P. Rowe