Helping Afghan Women

Letters to Insight – San Francisco Chronicle

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Helping Afghan women

Barbara Lee is right. Women’s rights in Afghanistan are not being protected by the U.S. military occupation (“Rights advocates fear for women if U.S. withdraws,” July 22) because organizations that could benefit women are, for the most part, restricted to Kabul because of the war. NGOs using a “soft” approach and respectful of Afghan culture would be much more effective without U.S. troops.

T.T. Nhu, Berkeley

The writer helped found Parwaz, the first Afghan-run microfinance organization.

“Climate Change” vs. “Global Warming”

San Francisco Chronicle – Letters to the editor

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Worse than warming

Words matter, and it is misleading of The Chronicle to frame “Climategate” as, simply, a “warming debate.” CO{-2} increase in the atmosphere results in multiple climate changes as temperature and air and water currents are affected, resulting in different and more violent weather patterns, higher sea levels, changing precipitation and failure of species (including humans) to adapt.

It is these multiple effects scientists are working to understand, and which the rest of us ignore at our peril.

Tom Miller, President of the Green Cities Fund, Oakland

Rebuilding Haiti

Letters to the editor

San Francisco Chronicle – Friday, January 22, 2010

Prayer in Port-au-Prince.

Let’s do it right

Given the long history of U.S. domination of Haiti and support of its corrupt dictators (described in detail by Dr. Paul Farmer in “The Uses of Haiti”) and its more recent direct involvement in the 2004 overthrow of its democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide (documented by Naomi Klein’s August 2005 article in The Nation and author Peter Hallward’s carefully researched “Damming the Flood”), it is important that U.S. involvement in the relief effort not appear to be an occupation.

The Haiti tragedy represents an opportunity for President Obama to show how an inclusive foreign policy can result in the rebuilding of Haiti in the right way through international cooperation and, most important, with local, grassroots participation.



Haiti and Afghanistan

Provide help where it’s wanted – San Francisco Chronicle 1/15/10

The United States should end its disastrous occupation of Afghanistan, which is only producing greater and greater resentment among the Afghan people, and turn to Haiti, where it would be welcomed as a partner in rebuilding the country into a sustainable economy.

Nothing could benefit our security more than showing the world that the United States knows how to help in the right way and recognizes when it is wrong.


San Francisco Chronicle – Insight Letters 9/20/09

New threat: atmosphere of corruption in Kabul

Tamim Ansary’s conclusion that U.S. aid has failed to reach the grass roots and instead is going into the pockets of foreign contractors is a sad truth (“Finding a way out of the quagmire,” Insight, Sept. 13), but reaching the grass roots is easier said than done as the atmosphere of corruption in Kabul has become a greater threat than the Taliban.

With the help of Global Exchange and private donors, Parwaz Microfinance Organization was established as the first Afghan-run organization of its kind, employing no high-priced foreigners as it provided small loans to widows and other women in need. Alas, when an employee was caught stealing, it was the Parwaz director who fired her who went to jail. The embezzler, who had a relative who was a bodyguard to the vice president, remains uncharged in spite of meetings with the Ministry of Justice, and Parwaz has had to hire a high-priced foreigner for protection, while its Afghan American founding director, who now heads all microfinance in Afghanistan, must travel in a phalanx of armored cars to avoid being kidnapped, not by the Taliban but by thugs working in collusion with the Kabul government.

The United States needs to help dedicated Afghans save their country – but mostly from the election-stealing Karzai government it has created.

Tom Miller, General Counsel, Global Exchange

Letters to the Editor – Berkeley (California) Daily Planet

Thursday August 20, 2009


Editors, Daily Planet:

The debate over Berkeley’s downtown plan might become more grounded in fact if the city were to follow the lead of cities like Havana, which has a three-dimensional scale model of the city, showing any proposed changes to citizens before any changes are made.  Such an important decision merits a website with images of the competing proposals which all can see.
In the meantime, more information and commentary is located at where advocates of the petition opposing the Bates plan have collected a number of thoughtful commentaries.

Tom Miller
President, Green Cities Fund

Time for Leadership – NY Times 8/14/09

August 14, 2009

Time for Leadership

To the Editor:

Re “Senator Goes Face to Face With Dissent” (front page, Aug. 12):

If there ever was a time for leadership, now is the time for President Obama to make his case to the American people in clear and uncertain terms about what changes he believes are needed in our health care system, and why these changes need to be made.

Backroom deals and a policy of letting Congress work it out have led to fear and apprehension on all sides. Americans are waiting for President Obama’s “closing argument.”

Tom Miller
Oakland, Calif., Aug. 12, 2009

(NYT) Letters: The Public Option in Health Care Reform

The Pitfalls of the Private Option

Link to article

Re “The Pitfalls of the Public Option” (Economic View, June 28), in which N. Gregory Mankiw favored a “lightly regulated” private insurance system over one where a public option is included:

Would the system he advocates include a requirement that private insurers accept all applicants? As long as private insurers are allowed to pick whom they insure, there can be no universal health care system.

Only by spreading the health care burden can such a system exist. The basic question is whether we, as a society, want universal care.

Tom Miller

Oakland, Calif., June 29

(NYT) From Acts of Defiance, Democracy May Grow in Iran

The New York TimesLink to article

Published: June 17, 2009

To the Editor:

President Obama is wise to observe discretion with respect to commenting on the unrest in Iran (“Obama Warns Against Direct Involvement by U.S. in Iran,” news article, June 17).

The C.I.A. overthrow of a democratically elected leader, Mohammed Mossadegh, in the 1950s is still an open wound in Iranian society, and the appearance that the United States was backing reformists today would play into the hands of those who oppose them. Let the Iranians determine their own future.

Tom Miller
Oakland, Calif., June 17, 2009

(NYT) LETTERS: America, What Comes After Torture?

The New York TimesLink to article

To the Editor:

Re ”In the Spirit of Openness” (editorial, April 23):

Americans and the world deserve a complete and thorough investigation of the Bush administration’s use of torture, and if this is to occur, it must be by a special prosecutor and not a ”bipartisan” commission, which, if the past is prologue, will end up with a fuzzy whitewash.

If, as former Vice President Dick Cheney claims, torture produced valuable information, we need to know. If torture produces unreliable information, as interrogation specialists claim, we will know that torture is doubly wrong, violating morality, the law and degrading the United States before the world.

Tom Miller
Oakland, Calif., April 23, 2009