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EYE OF THE BEHOLDER DEPARTMENT

About the Author

Jim Sleeper
Jim Sleeper, a lecturer in political science at Yale, is the author of Liberal Racism and The Closest of Strangers:...
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Letters submitted by our readers are read and published in the magazine.

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Randall Kennedy is fascinated by a paradox: the color line's persistence and its seeming implosion.

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Saving the venerable NYPL… cooperation, not capitalism… a jewel in the dross… you could look it up…

Whitmore Lake, Mich.

What's with those soulless zombie eyes in the November 26 issue? Steve Brodner's caricatures are hideous! I couldn't believe they were illustrating essays that were endorsing the candidates. The issue itself, however, was spectacular.

TRAVIS ROY


New York City

What a delight it was to see Steve Brodner's caricatures of the candidates on your cover. Each one was dead on, and marvelously witty. Really remarkable.

EDWARD SOREL


HOLD THE SEQUINS

New York City

Graham Usher, in "Musharraf's Emergency" [Nov. 26], writes that Benazir Bhutto "wears the soul of Pakistan like a sequined gown." I'm all for colorful writing, and this is definitely the memorable phrase in a rather gray piece, but what does it mean? When I see photos of Bhutto, she is wearing nonrevealing robes and a headscarf. Does she have a secret life as a Cosmo cover girl? Does the soul of Pakistan, whatever that is, long to fling off its traditional garb and go to the Oscars? Is Usher saying that Pakistanis are as mesmerized by Bhutto's claim to represent their aspirations as a pop star's fans are drawn to her sultry, but tawdry, beauty? Or is his point that Bhutto has taken something organic and profound--the soul of Pakistan--and transmuted it into something Western and self-dramatizing? Are sequined gowns bad or good? Whatever, Bhutto has enough to answer for without being saddled with sexualizing metaphors.

KATHA POLLITT


CIVILIZED VERSUS SAVAGE

Vienna, Va.

Re "Voting for Torture" [Nov. 26]: since refusal to recognize waterboarding as torture seems acceptable in our Pax Americana, I suggest revisiting history. After the Spanish-American War, hearings before Henry Cabot Lodge's Senate Committee on the Philippines, in 1902, caused national outrage when brutality by some US officers and soldiers was revealed. Witnesses testified on widespread use of the "water cure" developed by priests during the Inquisition. "His suffering must be that of a man who is drowning but who cannot drown." President Theodore Roosevelt was outraged, too: "Great as the provocation has been in dealing with the foes who habitually resort to treachery, murder and torture against our men, nothing can justify...the use of torture or inhuman conduct...on the part of the American Army."

DON W. LONG


SMILE WHEN YOU CALL ME PRE-EMPTIVE

New York City

In "Hawking War Guilt" [Nov. 12], Jim Sleeper carelessly includes me in a list of journalists who, before the Iraq War began, "struck pre-emptively at many who foresaw reruns of the Vietnam War's trumped-up pretexts, overkill and quagmires." He doesn't cite specifics, and in my case he can't, because I never did strike "pre-emptively" at anyone, except those who thought the war was a good idea. In fact, I praised Al Gore in Slate for his excellent antiwar speech in October 2002 and, as a brand-new columnist for Time in 2003, was extremely skeptical about the war. I foolishly expressed grudging support for the war once on Meet the Press on the eve of the invasion, but I never wrote anything in support of the war or against those who opposed it.

JOE KLEIN


SLEEPER REPLIES

New Haven, Conn.

Joe Klein is half right. He voiced doubts about the war during the run-up and so doesn't belong on my list of pundits who "struck pre-emptively" at dissenters. But he leapt to triumphalist nation-building when Saddam's statue fell and has been thin-skinned ever since about his boosterism for what he now calls a disaster born of others' arrogance and stupidity.

Wasn't it Klein's responsibility to call it that earlier? Google "Joe Klein" and "anti-war," though, and see a man who cannot stop excoriating the supposed strategic follies of a "left" that actually was powerless and whose members he never names. For instance, he replies to criticism in Huffington Post in 2006, "What I actually said was 'the hate America tendency of the [Democratic Party's] left wing' had made it harder for Democrats to challenge Republicans on foreign policy." Klein's writhing exasperation with the left (which I sometimes share) is a pivotal default position for him, his way of ducking the hazards of being a pundit who cannot bear to be wrong.

Where he does belong, as I reported, is among those who not only can't acknowledge their responsibility but applauded Peter Beinart, who did strike pre-emptively at dissenters and continues to do so in a book Klein coronated in the New York Times.

JIM SLEEPER


STANDING AGAINST JEWISH MCCARTHYISM

Berkeley, Calif.

Thank you for Larry Cohler-Esses's "The New McCarthyism" [Nov. 12]. That an editor of Jewish Week is standing up to the enemies of academic freedom is a sign that more and more Jews are sick of the intimidation of people, on and off campuses, deemed to fall outside the narrow range of acceptable discourse about Israel.

In Connecticut a Palestinian dance troupe performance is canceled. In New York the United Jewish Appeal Federation withdraws its support from a film festival about Israel's Arab citizens. In Sacramento a Jewish publication refuses to advertise a book tour by Dr. Alice Rothchild, author of Broken Promises, Broken Dreams: Jewish and Palestinian Trauma and Resilience. On and on it goes.

All these stories are followed on Muzzlewatch (www.muzzlewatch.org), a project of Jewish Voice for Peace (www.jvp.org). It is a must-read for those standing up for open debate about US-Israeli foreign policy.

HENRI PICCIOTTO, chair
JVP National Board


THE CAPTION, THE NAME & THE 501(c) 3,4

The caption for the photo above Jonathan Schell's "A Colder War" [Dec. 10] misidentifies it as the first meeting between Gorbachev and Reagan, at the Geneva Summit in 1985, instead of as their meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1986.

In the same issue, in Laila Lalami's "Beyond the Veil," the last name of Joan Wallach Scott was given as Wallach Scott. It should have been merely Scott.

Re Ari Berman's "The War Comes to Iowa" [Dec. 17]: Iowans for Sensible Priorities did not endorse John Edwards; its 501(c)4, Caucus4Priorities, did. Similarly, John Nichols's piece on Joe Biden [Nov. 26], mentions ratings put out by a 501(c)3, Americans United for Separation of Church and State. It cannot rate candidates, but other groups do, based on its information.

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