Saturday, March 26, 2011


Japan’s Lessons for U.S. Nuclear Power

To the Editor:
Philipp Hubert

Re “Japan’s Nuclear Crisis Does Not Signal Urgent Changes for U.S., Regulators Say” (news article, March 22):
It is unfortunate that more studies on nuclear plant safety and methods to dispose of spent nuclear fuel have not been carried out since the first commercial reactor went online in 1958, over 50 years ago. Instead, power companies, in their greed, focused on profits.
What could the power companies have been thinking when they built reactors on geologically active faults both in Japan and California? Although reactors need to be near a large body of water for cooling purposes, there are many such locations without active faults.
Nuclear power can be a safe source of power, without carbon emissions, if we would only spend the money to make it safe. Since many countries have reactors, it makes sense to form a nuclear reactor consortium, financed by those countries with nuclear power, to do research on how to build safe reactors and how to dispose of nuclear waste.
Too much time has already been spent on dealing with accidents that could have been avoided if we had the proper knowledge, and we are continually frustrated by the lack of a solution for waste disposal.
Robert Ackerberg
Massapequa, N.Y., March 22, 2011

To the Editor:
Contrary to what Frank N. von Hippel writes in “It Could Happen Here” (Op-Ed, March 24), America’s nuclear power plants are well equipped to handle the impacts of severe events, whatever the cause. In recent years, nuclear plants have maintained safety in the direct path of Hurricanes Katrina and Andrew. Nonetheless, our industry is taking steps to make nuclear energy facilities even safer.
Companies are verifying each power station’s capability to withstand conditions that result from severe events, including the loss of significant operational and safety systems. They are also verifying that the capability to maintain safety of reactors even in a total loss of electric power is proper and functional.
The global nuclear industry is providing technical assistance and equipment as Japan continues to restore cooling systems at the Fukushima reactors. Significant changes after Three Mile Island have led to high safety and reliability at 104 reactors in the United States. As utilities do after significant events such as this, we will apply safety and security upgrades as warranted as part of our commitment to generate electricity safely and reliably.
Scott Peterson
Senior Vice President
Nuclear Energy Institute
Washington, March 24, 2011

To the Editor:
Are we to take seriously Frank N. von Hippel’s argument that the ultimate deaths of a mere 10,000 people as a result of Chernobyl, compared with the tens of thousands of people killed by particulates from coal, suggest that the nuclear industry is “remarkably safe”?
Mr. von Hippel’s assertion that running nuclear power plants is “relatively cheap” once construction costs have been paid conveniently ignores the costs of decommissioning, security for the plant post-closure and radioactive waste storage in perpetuity. Advocates for nuclear power who fail to address this staggering legacy of hidden costs are misleading the public.
H. James Quigley Jr.
Stony Brook, N.Y., March 24, 2011

The writer is a lecturer in the Sustainability Studies Program at Stony Brook University.

To the Editor:
The detection of radioactive iodine 131 in Tokyo’s drinking water (“Anxiety Up as Tokyo Issues Warning on Its Tap Water,” front page, March 24), in amounts considered unhealthy for children, makes clear that potassium iodide must be administered if children are to be adequately protected against thyroid cancer caused by ingested and inhaled iodine 131. Interdiction of milk supplies, though important, is plainly insufficient.
Japan’s apparent preparedness with potassium iodide contrasts with the situation in the United States. In response to 9/11, Congress passed a law to create stockpiles of potassium iodide for populations within a 20-mile radius of nuclear reactors, rather than the 10-mile radius within which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission offers it to states that request it.
But the N.R.C., which had opposed the law, fought successfully to keep it from taking effect. In 2008 President George W. Bush’s science adviser, John H. Marburger III, declared that potassium iodide was not needed beyond the 10-mile radius, and that the law therefore would not be implemented.
The events in Japan demand that the Obama administration act quickly to reverse this unjustified rejection of a sensible law.
Peter Crane
Seattle, March 24, 2011

The writer is a retired lawyer with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.


Fashion & Style »
Washington’s New Brat Pack Masters Media
Washington’s New Brat Pack Masters Media
Books »
Oprah Magazine’s Adventures in Poetry
Greenpoint Journal

It’s the Final Sale for a Longtime Furrier

Robert Stolarik for The New York Times
Irving Feller, 81, is closing Manhattan Furrier, a fixture on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint since his family opened it in 1916. More Photos »
The door opened into a space stuck in another century, a dingy, narrow store inhabited for six decades by Irving Feller, his art and his animals on hangers: minks, rabbits, skunks, Spanish lambs and beady-eyed stone martens with tiny claws going nowhere fast.
Robert Stolarik for The New York Times
Mr. Feller instructed Mary Ann Lettieri, 71, to return with cash, not a check, to collect a fur from storage last Saturday. More Photos »
“Irving, baby!” Mary Ann Lettieri said last weekend as she burst into Manhattan Furrier in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, relieved to see Mr. Feller back after his shop had been shuttered for months.
“Don’t leave without me!” Ms. Lettieri, 71, shouted anxiously. “My coat is still there!”
The store, a fixture on Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint’s once-bustling merchant street since Mr. Feller’s family opened it in 1916, is closing.
From the outside, the shuttering of a business as anachronistic as its neon sign speaks to the gentrification of a once-Polish neighborhood now dotted with organic cafes and young artists. The three-story building, with apartments above, has been sold.
But from the inside — cluttered with about 200 furs, a display case of American Indian jewelry, old telephone books, piles of sketches and an antique sewing machine — Mr. Feller, 81, tells a simpler story.
“I know the gig is up,” he said with sunken eyes. “It’s time to leave. You get tired.”
His store, at 685 Manhattan, was padlocked for most of the winter and late fall, the phone disconnected. Customers and neighbors feared that he had died.
“I just didn’t feel like coming,” Mr. Feller said.
Mr. Feller also did not feel like paying the rent, which remained $1,600 a month for years, and so he was asked to leave. After his wife, Selma, died of cancer in 2007, he withdrew and grew frail, his family said.
His daughter, Debra Mintz, 59, has been overseeing the final sales, the last of which will be on Saturday.
“I think he was running away from it, and now he’s O.K. with it,” said Ms. Mintz, an art teacher at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts. “He’s been up and down a lot. He sees it all connected, coming at the end of his life.”
For the past two Saturdays, Mr. Feller has been in his glory, and also in despair, alternately regaling friends and scolding customers as he prepared to pack up his life. He talked of being an artist before becoming a furrier, of being a proud Jew and a friend to young artists. He tried not to think about what was next.
“You do what comes up, day by day,” he said with a shrug.
Todd Eaton, of Williamsburg, bought two of Mr. Feller’s self-portraits in colored magic marker for $20 each. “It’s a shame, everything in Greenpoint is turning into cafes or vintage stores,” Mr. Eaton, 41, said. “It’s nice to see an older generation.”
Mr. Feller said he took the store over from an uncle in the 1950s; a yellowed certificate of ownership dating back to 1953 hangs on the wall. His father, who immigrated from Ukraine and had a fur store in Astoria, Queens, taught Mr. Feller the business.
After serving in the military during World War II, when he designed Army posters warning soldiers about syphilis, Mr. Feller attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and then took classes at the Art Students League in New York. After he married Selma, she gave him $900 from her job as a typist in Manhattan to buy the business.
The couple sewed and hammered the furs, and Mr. Feller painted in his off hours. Only his two most prized artworks remain in the store: an impressionist-style painting done by his mother, Anna, and an oil portrait he did of his wife.
Ninety-seven other canvases he painted from 1947 to 2008 are now stacked in the Greenpoint bedroom of Jennifer Nielsen, 31, an artist from Columbus, Ohio. She said that she would like to organize an exhibition but that she had been occupied the last two years on a documentary film about Mr. Feller.
He and Ms. Nielsen became close friends after his wife died, and Ms. Nielsen even accompanied him on one of his many summer visits to Indian reservations to trade furs for jewelry. “I was drawn to him as a mentor, someone dedicated to his work,” Ms. Nielsen said, taking a break from filming at the store. “It just so happened we both needed a friend in that way. We would talk and draw each other’s portraits.”
But Mr. Feller never sold his Kandinsky-like canvases to major New York museums, though he has a tin full of rejection letters to prove his effort.
“People pay money for fur,” he said. “They don’t like to pay money for art.”
Lately, nobody was paying for furs, either, but he refused to talk finances. “This is about art,” he yelled, “not business!”
Minutes later, Slawomir Kurzyna, who bought the building in September, came by to try to collect months of rent. Instead, after haggling, Mr. Kurzyna left unsatisfied, without any money, but with a 20-year-old blond mink coat for his wife, Alina.
Ms. Lettieri, of Williamsburg, was about to pay Mr. Feller with a check for the silver fox she had stored since 2009. But he insisted on cash, as a faded sign on the wall demanded.
“You need to do it today!” Mr. Feller shouted, before she left to get the money.
“It is an end of an era,” she said, closing the door behind her.
March 25, 2011

Oprah Magazine’s Adventures in Poetry

The signs of the coming apocalypse are many, but none are starker than this Web headline in the April issue of O: The Oprah Magazine: “Spring Fashion Modeled by Rising Young Poets.”edited by the noted verse aficionado Maria Shriver and including interviews with “all-star readers” like Bono, Ashton Kutcher, the gossip columnist Liz Smith and someone named James Franco, who is apparently an actor. Yes. Spring fashion. Modeled. By rising young poets. There follows a photomontage of attractive younger women — some of whom are rising poets mostly in the “I get up in the morning” sense, but all of whom certainly look poetic — in outfits costing from $472 to $5,003. This is all part of O’s special issue celebrating National Poetry Month,
Let’s get a few things out of the way. First, only a snob or an idiot complains when the magic wand of Oprah is flourished in his direction. (I have a book about poetry for general readers out next month, and my publisher broke land speed records attempting to get copies to the Oprah people before their issue closed. Alas, we were too late, which means the world will never know how I look in a Kiton suit — for the record, the answer is “grateful.”) Second, O has been running an intelligent and professional book section under the direction of the former Publishers Weekly editor Sara Nelson for some time now, using excellent critics like Francine Prose. You could do considerably worse than get your book news from O. Finally, it’s all too easy for Important Literary Folk to sneer at anything involving fashion. It’s so girly, you know, and real writers are never girl — ah. So the lingering gender biases of the literary world are often at play when readers cringe at the pairing of poetry with the stuff of women’s magazines. There is also a regrettable tendency to underestimate the wit and perceptiveness of the fashion industry — which is a silly business, true, but certainly no sillier than publishing, as anyone who’s read “The 4-Hour Body” should be aware. (The Times’s own T Magazine has seen fit to outfit the poet Terrance Hayes in Dolce & Gabbana.)
And yet. “Spring Fashion Modeled by Rising Young Poets.” The words are heart-sinking. For some readers, this will be because poetry represents a higher form of culture that can only be debased by the commentary of Oprah Winfrey and the pencil skirts of L’Wren Scott. But this isn’t quite right. Any critic knows there are dozens of poetry collections published every year that are considerably less culturally valuable than Winfrey’s many enterprises and that could only be improved by pencil skirts, preferably by being wrapped in several of them and chucked in the East River. The problem is that poetry can’t approach the world inhabited by O and fashion design — that is, the world of American mass culture — with the same swagger as other fields do. When Terrell Owens holds forth on poetry in O (yes, he does), much of the audience knows that Owens is a football player, and has at least a vague idea of what football is, what it means and why it inspires otherwise reasonable people to put Styrofoam cheese slices on their heads. But poets and poetry readers . . . we can’t bring our context with us. We’re at the mercy of someone else’s display. The sad thing about “Spring Fashion Modeled by Rising Young Poets” is not that the photos are a debasement of Art. The sad thing is that they capture an inevitable and impossible yearning. The chasm between the audience for poetry and the audience for O is vast, and not even the mighty Oprah can build a bridge from empty air.
But at least her magazine makes an effort, sort of. Sure, the issue includes plenty of stuff that does credit neither to poetry nor to readers of O — there’s a bunch of talk about using poetry to overcome personal challenges (if it worked as self-help, you’d see more poets driving BMWs); there’s the aforementioned Ashton Kutcher; and roughly a fifth of the coverage is devoted to Mary Oliver, about whose poetry one can only say that no animals appear to have been harmed in the making of it. But there are at least two admirable features. The first is a profile of W. S. Merwin by the magazine’s editor, Susan Casey. Casey obviously likes Merwin, has read him and makes a genuine effort to talk about one of his poems despite her lack of expertise. If more journalists would try things like this, the chasm would still gape, but maybe less widely. The second is a list of “20 books no reader’s library should be without.” The list is idiosyncratic, to say the least — Rumi but not Shakespeare or Yeats? — but as a starting point it’s not bad.
The magazine also encourages a number of poets to discuss the art, although mostly in one- or two-sentence asides. Unfortunately, they’re opining on topics like “where poems come from,” and this is exactly the kind of abstract speculation that summons forth Magical Poetry Talk — comments that make poetry sound like God’s own electric Kool-Aid acid test — from even the smartest writers. Easily the most peculiar remark in the “all star” section comes not from any of the bold-name celebrities but from the only actual poet, Margaret Atwood. She declares that “the question ‘What is the role of poetry?’ is like asking, ‘What is the role of eating?’ ” I’m both an Atwood fan and a poetry critic, but even for me, it’s hard not to notice that people who don’t read poetry seem generally to be healthy and happy, whereas people who don’t eat seem generally to be dead.
Yet one must fill the yawning chasm with something: Magical Poetry Talk, a fashion shoot, some lists, the wisdom of Sting, whatever. I wish, though, that they had found space for someone — not a critic, necessarily, just someone willing to be honest — to talk about the actual experience of reading a poem. Not why poems are good at rehabilitating people. Not where poems come from. Not what they can help us do, or forget, or remember. Not what the people who write them are wearing. Just what reading one of them is like to one person. If the chasm is to be ever so slightly narrowed, it seems to me this is how it will be done. I find myself turning again to the fashion shoot: there is Anna Moschovakis, whose work I know. She’s a fine writer, a translator, an editor at the thoroughly admirable Ugly Duckling Presse (publisher of the dryly antic Eugene Ostashevsky, among others), and she’s wearing a “supple suede jacket (Haute Hippie, $995).” It’s impossible to say what Moschovakis was thinking during this shoot — I certainly hope one of her thoughts was “I better get to keep this damn jacket” — but perhaps we can guess. Here is the end of her poem “Untitled”:
I wish I could be inanimate,
banged-up and appreciated
for all my surface qualities
without ethics getting in the way. I seem to remember
being ethical. I seem to act along some kind of line
albeit a kinky one. I wonder when kinky became
pornographic and whether that aspect is
subtractable. I don’t remember my grammar
rules. I don’t think English is very good
for a certain kind of inventioning. I gather
some readers don’t like being
confronted with the language in every word.
I want to be a word. I would be abstract
with an inscrutable ending.
But that’s precisely the trouble: for an overwhelming majority of the culture, almost every poem has an inscrutable ending, even the ones that aren’t actually inscrutable. How can we seem inscrutable when we are inscrutable? The chasm is vast; it yawns. All poets and their readers can do is stare half-longingly, half-fearfully across that great divide at the golden palace of mass culture (portcullis, Fendi, $4,500) and sigh. Oh, Oprah. Oh, poetry. 

David Orr writes the On Poetry column for the Book Review. His book “Beautiful and Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry” will be published in April.

Washington’s New Brat Pack Masters Media

Matt Roth for The New York Times
Brian Beutler of Talking Points Memo at work in a bakery.
Matt Roth for The New York Times
Dave Weigel, a political reporter for Slate and contributor to MSNBC.
ONE winter evening, Brian Beutler, 28, a reporter for the online publication Talking Points Memo, sat with his friend and roommate Dave Weigel, 29, a political reporter for Slate and a contributor to MSNBC, at a coffee shop on U Street. Recovering from a cold as snow fell outside, Mr. Beutler spoke about his younger — well, relatively younger — days in the city.
“Everyone’s gotten a little bit older and a little more boring,” Mr. Beutler said, speaking of a wave of Washington bloggers who have come of age together. “Four years ago, we were far less professionalized, and the work was less rigorous and less stressful. So in addition to being younger, we were also a bit less overwhelmed. That all has changed.”
In only a few years, these young men and others like them have become part of the journalistic establishment in Washington. Once they lived in groups in squalid homes and stayed out late, reading comic books in between posts as more seasoned reporters slogged their way through traditional publications like “The Hill” and “Roll Call.” Now the members of this “Juicebox Mafia,” as they were first called by Eli Lake of The Washington Times, in a reference to youth, have become destination reading for — and respected by — the city’s power elite. Indeed, arguably they are themselves approaching power-elite status (as well as, gasp, age 30).
“I look at those guys and call them ‘Facebook pundits,’ ” said Tammy Haddad, the venerable Washington hostess and cable news veteran. “They’ve risen up the media food chain. They’re acknowledged by the White House. They measure their success in a different way than the old guard in this city used to.
“It’s a whole new stream — a new vein of voices engaged and engaging with the power centers in Washington,” added Ms. Haddad, known for the boldface-name-dotted brunch she holds annually before the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner.
There is precedent for such packs of smart, self-important young men in other capital cities. More than 50 years ago, Gay Talese wrote of “the witty, irreverent sons of a conquering nation,” led by George Plimpton, who once tromped through Paris.
Of course, Washington is not and never will be Paris. In a city where Ms. Haddad’s brunch is known simply as “Tammy’s” and where young Congressional staffers and reporters still cling to the bars on Capitol Hill, the scene these young men inhabit is as foreign as Mars. On Friday evenings it’s not uncommon to spot them at rock places like Black Cat or the 9:30 Club, or (juice boxes forsooth) drinking overpriced beer from cans — or even Mason jars — in grungy enclaves like the American Ice Company. But they’ve also rerouted the aspirations of young journalists here, for whom a job in print media was once the holy grail.
“This is the age of the individual voice, liberated by the new media,” the former New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan — whose reinvention as a prodigious, immensely well-read blogger has inspired many to take to their laptops — said in an e-mail. “Anyone in the younger generation who yearns for a column on the Washington Post op-ed page is seeking oblivion.”
That hasn’t stopped traditional outlets from reaching out to them — with mixed results. In the years surrounding the 2008 presidential election, The Washington Post employed Mr. Weigel; and The American Prospect and then The Post made his peer Ezra Klein into a multiplatform superman of blogging-twittering-column writing. The Atlantic and then Think Progress — the online arm of the liberal Center for American Progress Action Fund— transformed Matt Yglesias from a formerly bored Harvard kid who hated reporting into an Internet star.
They are cognizant of their evolution.
“I came here, and I had no professional affiliation,” Mr. Klein, 26, said over lunch at Potenza, a decidedly grown-up restaurant in downtown Washington. “I just had a blog that was mine, but I came out here and was trained as a magazine writer, and that was just a much more formalized way of journalism. You made calls. People answered calls. You took down what was said in a respectable account, and that began to influence my blogging. It became a lot less of an ‘Ezra affair.’ 
“I think you can accuse me of having a much more staid tone than I had in college,” Mr. Klein said, “because I’m a bit older, and you learn when people are reading your work you should be much more careful about what you say and what kind of motives you ascribe.”
Matt Roth for The New York Times
Ezra Klein works for The Washington Post.
Yet this newly discovered caution didn’t prevent Mr. Klein from attacking Senator Joe Lieberman during the health care debate when he wrote that Mr. Lieberman was “willing to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in order to settle an old electoral score.”
“I’ve said before, I’ve regretted using that phrasing,” Mr. Klein said. “What frustrated me was so many people talked about how long that health care bill was, but didn’t take the next step to say, ‘O.K., I really need to work hard to explain it to people.’ Usually when people talked about the bill’s length, they talked about it not as part of their job, but they tended to see it as a failure of someone else. And that’s not the way I look at complicated policy. When I look at complicated policy, it’s up to someone like me to explain things clearly. If that takes a lot of time, so be it. I have a blog, and I’ve got a lot of space.”
Being in the Brat Pack of the moment doesn’t protect its members from public comeuppance. After the Daily Caller — a conservative Web site run by Tucker Carlson — published e-mail that Mr. Weigel had written in an off-the-cuff, off-the-record manner for the listserv “JournoList,” he resigned from The Post, under pressure.
Betsy Rothstein, editor of the media Web site FishbowlDC, has relentlessly accused the Juicebox Mafia of arrogance (Mr. Klein has blocked her site from his Twitter feeds). “Their sense of themselves is so inflated,” Ms. Rothstein said. “I sometimes think they do good work, but if you’re in their pack, even if what you say makes no sense, you’re golden. I think their popularity is a myth.”
And Douglas Brinkley, the Rice University professor and historian who is working on a biography of Walter Cronkite, expressed nostalgia for an earlier, more in-the-trenches generation of correspondents who didn’t rely on tweeting and linking to generate content. “I’m not making a judgment,” Professor Brinkley said. “What I don’t like is that before, people would start in foreign bureaus all over the world before making their way to Washington. You would be pushing into your deep 20s and have a really deep global background. What you’ve seen is a devaluation of serious journalism in favor of reporters who are able to create a brand identity.”
Mr. Sullivan, 47, disagreed. “I think they are more talented than the journalists of my generation and less self-important than the boomer generation,” he wrote. “People forget how hard it was to get a platform of any kind in the old days. The gatekeepers were few and strict. Lots of talent never got a chance, and I admire the way these bloggers have opened up the D.C. conversation.”
Sitting in a darkened bar not far from the Washington Convention Center, drinking bourbon, Mr. Yglesias, 29, wistfully recalled his days as a student in Cambridge, Mass., where he developed his own blog with the help of his college roommate, who knew something about this new thing called HTML. It was through this blog that he found, among others, Mr. Klein — like-minded policy obsessives who had found an outlet in the early part of the last decade.
“I’m actually glad I was able to avoid a certain amount of dues-paying,” Mr. Yglesias said. “But I flatter myself and would be completely egomaniacal if I didn’t think that there was a certain amount of luck involved. There’s a reason why dues-paying is normally involved in this sort of thing.
“I always think of myself as an explainer,” he continued. “I just try and put sophisticated ideas into the news cycle and connect people with smart ideas that are relevant. One person can only make so much of a difference. I made it my mission years ago to address filibuster reform, and now they’re debating it on the Senate floor. I consider that an achievement I played a part in, and if it succeeds, it’s even more of an achievement.”
In an ending worthy of “St. Elmo’s Fire,” Mr. Yglesias now lives with his girlfriend, Kate Crawford, 27, who works at a trade association for science museums. Mr. Klein is engaged to Annie Lowrey, a 26-year-old reporter for Slate. “They’ve grown up,” Ms. Lowrey said of her fiancé and his cohorts. “They’re not spring chickens anymore.”
Back at the coffee shop, Mr. Weigel noted another way the group’s behavior had shifted since its early days in Washington.
“We had a weekly trivia team, and Ezra was often on it,” he recalled. These days, he said, “I think functionally you couldn’t commit to that on a weeknight, because Ezra’s on TV four times a week.”
March 25, 2011

Free Speech Worth Paying For

ON Monday, the Supreme Court will consider its first campaign-finance challenge since Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the 2010 ruling that permits corporations and unions to spend as much as they wish to promote or defeat political candidates. Based on Citizens United, it might appear that the court would be inclined to wipe away all regulation of campaign finance. But that view would be mistaken.
The court will hear a pair of challenges to an Arizona law that provides public financing for candidates who agree to forgo private contributions, including their own. Under the law, adopted in 1998 as a citizen initiative in the wake of election scandals, Arizona allocates additional money to publicly financed candidates when their privately financed opponents spend more than a specified amount.
These challenges are being brought by political action committees and candidates for state office who say that the law violates their free speech rights. But it is the defenders of public financing schemes like Arizona’s who have the First Amendment at their back. And they have Citizens United, with its broad protection for speech in the public square, on their side. (We submitted an amicus brief supporting the Arizona law on behalf of a bipartisan group of former elected officials.)
The First Amendment forbids any law “abridging the freedom of speech.” While fearing the corrupting effects of unrestrained campaign spending, the people of Arizona abridged no speech, forbade nothing, restricted nothing. Instead, they followed the principle, set forth by Justices Louis Brandeis and Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. in the 1927 case Whitney v. California, that the remedy for speech that is threatening or inconvenient is “more speech.”
Contrary to the challengers’ claims, the Arizona law doesn’t prevent privately financed candidates from speaking or spending as much as they like, or from raising as much as they like, or from raising as much money as they need. Nor does it place any limits on how much anyone may spend in support or opposition to a candidate. The law simply ensures that, when a candidate relying on private money speaks, the publicly financed candidate has the money to answer.
The notion that more speech inhibits or corrupts public debate contradicts the very premises of the Citizens United decision that government has no business limiting the source, content or quality of the speech deployed in debate. Indeed, decades of free speech opinions proclaim that the government has no business shutting down speech no matter what it says or who is saying it; it will not prohibit hate speech, for example, or speech glorifying the sexual subjugation of women. Our First Amendment law trusts the people to choose what they will listen to and whom they will believe.
That noble, deep tradition has stood up against every claim that certain speech will confuse or mislead or drown out the more virtuous speech of others. The Arizona challengers in the two cases — McComish v. Bennett and Arizona Free Enterprise Club v. Bennett — believe their speech will be swamped by publicly financed candidates. That “drowning out” argument may be accepted in other countries, but our First Amendment denies that more speech silences the speech it challenges: it only answers it.
Of course, because publicly financed campaigns involve the government’s footing the bill for answering speech, that speech is portrayed as being in a different category. That too is an argument that runs against our free speech law. Over and over — whether it is financing artistic creativity, or campaigns against smoking or for premarital abstinence — the Supreme Court has insisted that government may add its voice to the private debate without being thought to inhibit or drown out the message of private speakers. And the Arizona law does not even pick the message, but merely adds to the voice of any qualifying candidate.
The broadest attacks on the Arizona statute, outlined in amicus briefs before the Supreme Court, would make any provision of public financing unconstitutional. But public financing — provided by 16 states and numerous local governments, including New York City — remains an important option for governments interested in providing candidates with an alternative to dependence on private contributions.
To suggest that this facilitation of speech by the government itself violates the First Amendment is perverse, and deeply antithetical to the nation’s First Amendment tradition. To prevail in this case, the challengers would have to countermand the very principles of the wide open, free and uninhibited nature of our campaign finance regime which in other contexts they celebrate. The principles of Citizens United should lead the Supreme Court to uphold Arizona’s campaign finance law. 

Charles Fried, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard, was the solicitor general in the second Reagan administration. Cliff Sloan, a lawyer, is a former publisher of Slate.
March 26, 2011

U.S. Survive Messi's Masterclass to Draw With Argentina

EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Reuters) - American teenager Juan Agudelo pounced on a rare defensive mistake from Argentina to earn the United States a 1-1 draw in a friendly international at the new Meadowlands Stadium on Saturday.
Argentina dominated the match from start to finish, with Lionel Messi teasing and tormenting the Americans with his full bag of tricks, but they only converted one of their numerous chances.
That came late in the first half when Messi threaded the ball between the legs of the U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra and Esteban Cambiasso blasted home a rebound from the edge of the six-yard box.
Despite being heavily marked, Messi threatened to extend his team's lead on several occasions, but the Americans scrambled well in defense and then snatched an equalizer in the 59th minute against the run of play.
"I think we had a great first half. At times, we were brilliant," Argentina coach Sergio Batista, speaking through a translator, told a news conference.
"I think the soccer we want to see was there.... but we didn't finish that well."
A lapse in concentration was all it took for the Americans to square the ledger in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 79,000, which had been bolstered by the appearance of Messi.
Carlos Bocanegra headed a free kick from Landon Donovan straight at the Argentine goalkeeper Mariano Andujar, who fumbled the ball at the feet of Agudelo.
The 18-year-old, who came on as a second half replacement, reacted first, slamming the ball into the net to register his second goal in just three international appearances.
"He's had a knack now for turning up in some good spots to score goals," American head coach Bob Bradley said.
Bradley admitted his team had been mostly outplayed by an Argentina side that controlled the ball for long periods, leaving the home side to survive off scraps off possession.
Messi had provided Bradley and his tacticians with headaches in defense but the coach said he was impressed with the way his players coped while under constant pressure.
"We came away with a good result against a very good team," Bradley said.
"We understood that the first half didn't go the way we wanted, but I was pleased with the way we responded."
For both teams, the match was the first of two games they are playing in three days to help prepare themselves for their respective continental championships they are hosting later this year.
The U.S., hosts of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in June, face Paraguay in Nashville on Tuesday while the Argentineans will travel to Costa Rica as part of their build-up to the Copa America in July.
(Editing by Patrick Johnston)