Regarding the opinion-page article "The Rights of 'Nations April 24: Finally someone has the sense to speak out on behalf of the moral right to self-determination of nations in general, not just the 160 or so represented in the United Nations. His views in support of the liberation of oppressed peoples are in sharp contrast to the amoral, and at times immoral, Realpolitik of some politicians in Washington, whose befuddled thinking leads them to prefer the "stability" of dictators in Baghdad, Beijing, and elsewhere to the uncertainty of democratic alternatives, under which national groups heretofore denied a voice in their own affairs would have an opportunity to exercise it.
It strikes me that what must be done to overcome this impasse is to develop the United Nations into a democratic world federation in which all nations are represented and have an opportunity to cooperate for the mutual benefit of all their peoples.
John O. Sutter, San Rafael, Calif.
Behind corporate giants' images
Regarding the article "Exxon Holds Next Move in Tangled Oil Spill Settlement Case," May 1: The line should be drawn as to how far the criminalization of unforeseen accidents should go, regardless of how large, rich, and seemingly vulnerable the defendant may be.
Exxon agreed to pay $100 million for the environmental fine, one of the largest such sums on record. And Exxon agreed to pay $1 billion to settle civil claims with the US and the state of Alaska. Now United States district court Judge Russel Holland refuses to accept the plea agreement, with Washington-based federal appellate-court Judge Stanley Sporkin close behind, threatening to undermine the possible settlement with Exxon on the grounds that it is better to leave the door open for future claimants.
Exxon paid $2 billion to clean up the mess long before the political doors were swung open. Isn't it time for judges, politicians, and juries to look beyond the impersonal image of corporate giants? To see and weigh carefully a decision that is often unfair? Especially to the real owners of corporations, the many thousands of average people whose savings help build American industry?
It is these people in the final analysis, and not an impersonal corporate entity, who receive the brunt of unfair decisions.
Charles J. Allison, Hershey, Pa.
Nietzsche and anti-Semitism
The editorial "A Flaw in the Icon," May 1, has some of its facts wrong.
Richard Wagner was the age of Frederich Nietzsche's father; he appreciated Nietzsche's early admiration, but he did not "embrace" any of the younger man's "theories," except in trivial ways.
If what you had in mind was anti-Semitism, Nietzsche called it a "swindle" and attacked it regularly in print. Wagner was the anti-Semite, not Nietzsche. For confirmation, you might look at Walter Kaufmann's influential scholarship.
As to whether any of Nietzsche's theories were "hate-engendering," that is a more complicated matter; "contempt-engendering" might be more apt. Scholars debate the nuances here, and quarrel about what he meant; "tough" and "gentle" interpretations of Nietzsche are still intellectually respectable. If you accept a "tough" interpretation, you might argue that his message was a dangerous one; he called himself "dynamite." But his message was not anti-Semitism, and he was not responsible for Wagner.
John T. Wilcox, Binghamton, N.Y.,
Prof. of Philosophy, State Univ. of New York
This editorial articulates a most sober and reasonable view. Nevertheless, one comment is striking in its sheer disregard for what I took to be the very point of the editorial.
If you are urging that we consider those writers of lasting impact in an unbiased way, so as to judge fairly their relationship to the cultural practices of their time, how are we to make sense of your calling Frederich Nietzsche a purveyor of "hate-engendering theories"?
If your reading of him goes no deeper than this, surely you will not be in a position to understand the complexities involved in discerning "types of bias."
Sanford Goldberg, New York