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Lauren -

I admit that in my response I did you a disservice, with snarky ad hominem remarks; and I muffed my point, to boot.

Let me point out, though, that I never mistook your use of "charity" for the common one, and didn't mean to indicate something given or granted. I meant instead to deny, in interpreting Biden's comments re Obama, that this 64-year-old attorney and Senator had shot far of the intended mark, in speaking. I'll cop to the same "rejection of that more simple interpretation in favor of the more complex" which you attributed to Patricia Williams: Biden's remark was discriminative (in the very general sense), and not some great bearhug of the all-inclusive America-to-be.

Here's the lesson Biden failed to learn (he seemed only slightly chastened, when he appeared on Bill Maher's "Real Time"): picking out a prodigy from ANY "minority" to cite the specimen for his/her certain bright spots - the clean eloquence of Obama; the ballsy resolve of a female executive; or the butch/un-flamboyant demeanor of a gay man, and so on - lands you immediately in the mire of intolerance & stereotype. The self-conscious graciousness in the offer of the compliment does not extend to, is not shared by, the compliment’s object (Clarence Thomas or Dinesh d’Souza or Ann Coulter aside). This may hurt, if ever you’ve offered such a compliment only to be rebuffed, and even many full-blown racists are stung to be recognized as such—but them’s the breaks. To grant approbation to that one black-man-who-isn't-really-"black" is to reject even that rare prodigy or ideal specimen--a kind of socio-political "observer's effect"...

With regard to what I said regarding work, housing, health care, and so on: I meant to say that those things ARE the sum of race, of being "black." And a call for transcendence of differences in skin color/tone, or for a bridge between "cultures" doesn't approach the plain reality of American racism, which is all in the numbers. Differences in color, dress, speech, mores or whatever mean nothing when compared with matters such as zoning, Congressional districts & budgeting, environmental issues, bank lending patterns, quality of health care, policing, etc. I think that it is only at the level of those things that talk about "race" becomes more than a discourse on angels on the head of a pin.

Greg Little

North Plainfield, NJ

Mar 7 2007 - 5:23pm

Rushed Primaries

I applaud your taking this position. The front-loaded primary process funneled the Democratic Party into a hasty decision in 2004. Its nominee had time to raise more money as a result, but in the end the extra money didn't matter. So far, 2008 looks like even more of a circus.

The greatest evil of our current system is the media's propensity to declare a winner when only a few mostly rural, mostly white people have had the chance to vote. Rotating regional primaries should give non-white, urban people a voice--while frustrating the mainstream media.

Maybe then they'll continue to report on multiple candidates in the spring, although always below the celebrity scandal du jour.

Mark Graham

Cheverly, Maryland

Mar 7 2007 - 2:41pm

Edwards Gets a Boost

Ann Coulter was lynching the presidential candidate when she said, "I would comment on John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word ‘faggot.'" Her verbal lynchings continued when she announced, ""Our blacks are better than their blacks." Ann Coulter has forgotten basic human decency as well as the Emancipation Proclamation, the Civil Rights movement, and the individual liberty of all Americans.

If every "faggot" left the armed services the US would need to reinstate the draft. Does she not think about the gays and lesbians on the casualty lists for her wars--wars fed by conservatives?

We are often guilty of attacking the person instead of attacking the issues, but there are two issues involved that would have angered many despite the speaker.

1. The word "faggot" was used. The nation is divided and uncertain. We can't create more divisions by using words designed to inflict pain.

2. African-Americans were objectified, made to look like property belonging to a certain person or group. In a country where our civil liberties are being stretched paper thin we cannot begin to think of people as objects.

Would I be mad if Hillary Clinton had made the statements? YES. I'm loyal to my friends and will continue to fight for their civil liberties and mine.

Mr. Edwards deserves the opportunity Coulter has given him to clarify his position on the issues, but he doesn't deserve personal attacks.


Jerie Leep

Tenkiller, OK

Mar 7 2007 - 1:59pm

When's the Idea Primary?

Those of us who support Congressman Dennis Kucinich for president find these kinds of columns very frustrating. Everything Borosage laments as being lacking in the campaigns of Clinton, Obama and Edwards can be found in the Kucinich campaign.

Kucinich has been tested. The multi-termed Congressman from Ohio has an outstanding voting record on the important issues of the day. His policies and proposals are rock-solid.

Dennis Kucinich not only favors national healthcare, Medicare for all, (compared to Edwards' national health INSURANCE plan), but he has joined with Congressman Conyers to actually sponsor such a bill, HR 676, now in the Congressional hopper. Kucinich has been advocating this approach for many years, he was ahead of public opinion in 2004, but now he's right in the mainstream, according to all polls on the issue. Kucinich has tagged as a "fault line" the struggle within the Democratic party to admit that private, for-profit health care plans are the sticking point in getting real health care for all Americans.

Kucinich voted against the 2002 Iraq War Resolution and every war-funding bill since then, obviating the necessity for an apology to anyone. Unlike his opponents, he has a detailed 12-point plan for getting us out of Iraq. He was the only presidential candidate to speak at the massive anti-war rally in DC in January. He's been given an award by Military Families Speak Out. He was ahead of the crowd in 2004 on this issue, and now he finds himself in the mainstream of public opinion.

Yes, "activists, particularly in the early primary states, should continue to demand more" of the three candidates you name. Better yet, those activists should turn their attention, and their efforts, to the Kucinich campaign. Check out his web page: Kucinich.US, to find his take on the issues you say we should be caring about, "our global strategy, our imperial commitments, our trade and investment policies, on how to make this economy work for working people, on how to meet threats, from Al Qaeda to climate change." No need for training, Dennis Kucinich is already on top of all those critical issues.

Jean Hay Bright

Dixmont, Maine

Mar 7 2007 - 1:02pm

The Persecution of Sami Al-Arian

Characterizing Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg as an "Islamaphobe," Alexander Cockburn notes Kromberg's prominent role in prolonging the incredibly harsh incarceration of pro-Palestinian activist Dr. Sami Al-Arian. Melva Underbakke's article in the March-April issue of Washington Report on Middle East Affairs clearly documents Mr. Kromberg's anti-Arab, anti-Muslim biases, which the Virginia prosecutor repeatedly plays out in public conversations as well as in heavy-handed courtroom behavior:

• In 2003, Kromberg was accused of using "unlawful coercion, threats, and intimidation" in his prosecution of naturalized U.S. citizen Abdulkadir Ali.
• In the trial of Masaud Khan, Kromberg presented the jury with blatantly unfounded, inflammatory closing remarks in a devious attempt to link the defendant with the events of 9/11.
• In the case of Ahmed Abu Ali, Mr. Kromberg reportedly scoffed at the torture in Saudi Arabia of the Virginia student . When asked if Ali should be returned to the U.S. to avoid further torture, Kromberg reportedly responded, "'He's no good for us here, he has no fingernails left.'"

Of great concern is Mr. Kromberg's history of setting perjury traps by summoning already acquitted defendants to appear before a grand jury, then questioning them on unrelated matters. In 2004, he successfully used this underhanded tactic with Sabri Benkahla. Clearly aiming to prolong Dr. Al-Arian's incarceration, perhaps indefinitely, Kromberg is once again up to his old tricks.

Enough is enough. In the name of American justice, Attorney General Gonzales must be called upon to reign in this rogue prosecutor, to honor the government's plea agreement with Dr. Al-Arian, and to release Sami as promised.

Lois M. Price

Tampa, FL

Mar 7 2007 - 9:54am

Rushed Primaries

It does not matter a tinker's damn when or where there are primaries until the day comes when there are candidates that represent the needs of the common people.

Matt Drayton

San Francisco, CA

Mar 6 2007 - 11:29pm

Cheney's Henchman Gets His

I'm sorry but you neglected to include"Deputy deputy to the deputy" as part ofyour litany.

It is one of the more important titles with a nice a ring to it as well. Please check this out!

Johnny Federici

New Lebanon, NY

Mar 6 2007 - 7:31pm

The Alito Failure

It is quite comical of you to echo the declaration of various liberal organizations that "We are entitled to consensus nominees." The president is not obligated to do any such thing.

Moderate nominees are chosen for two general reasons. In one scenario, the president concludes that it is his best interest (and maybe the "country's" as well) to select a nominee that will get a virtually unanimous confidence vote at confirmation. In the other case, the opposition is in the Senate majority, and is in position to deny candidates it deems "extreme."

Elections are the X-factor in judicial nominations, not the "out of the mainstream" diagnosis. It was President Reagon's prerogative to elevate William Rehnquist to Chief Justice and appoint Antonin Scalia to Rehnquist's vacated seat, when he was re-elected in 1984. The Democrats used that same privilege following the 1986 midterm victory, when they turned down Robert Bork. Perhaps you also recall that President Clinton's mandate to reshape the High Court was undisputed. In fact, Senator Hatch recommended the staunchly pro-choice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to replace Justice Byron White, a Roe dissenter. Amazingly, the Democrats only had 55 senate seats!

When the chessboard is reversed (Republican president and 55 Republican seats), the president needs 60 seats to put his imprint on the judiciary? The majority of the Democrats had the wisdom and humility to admit this notion to be absurd. If you are wondering why your allies failed to stop Alito, you are wasting your time and breath. The effort was doomed in Nov. 2004, when the Republicans took four senate seats in addition to four more years for President Bush. Progressive groups lost the short-term judicial fight when Senator Daschle's rump was greeted by an elephant's penis, instead of a warm, 6-year seat.

Logain McMoore

Chico, CA

Mar 6 2007 - 5:39am

Ayatollah D'Souza

"9/11 was provoked by feminism, birth control, abortion, pornography, feminism, Hollywood, divorce, the First Amendment, gay marriage, and did I mention feminism?"

Actually, it was a pastor-supervised church dance in 1950s Greeley "Go West..", Colorado that did us in, Bin Laden being philosophically a Saudi son of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and a student of Qtub's familial brother. Everything since then has merely confirmed the original diagnosis. That and the demise of aspirational and secular communism, whose place naturally filled with masses of opiate.

"Baby, it's cold outside" indeed. Sadly, D'Souza's argument seeks common cause with Al Qaeda. But to the "conservatives," Al Qaeda was never an enemy they wanted to fight.

Tim Sassoon

Venice, CA

Mar 5 2007 - 10:22pm

Remembering Norma Rae

Somehow I missed this article till now!

I remember a time during the Reagan years when we workers were told we were about to become, in essence, "entrepreneurs" which was shorthand for a new minimum sense of responsibility employers were going to be permitted to take for their employees. That has come to pass, I think--in fact, a large percentage of the work force has not known it any other way.

Workers don't really identify themselves as workers anymore--each in his or her own way is pursuing a dream, the American Dream some might say, but I think not. The American dream was practical, assumed a kind of happiness in ordinary life: a house, a car, the ability to provide for a family--a chicken in every pot. Today we workers are placing our hopes on American Idol, the lottery, the flimsiest kind of dreams.

Likewise, I am a Berkeley carpenter who has won awards for poetry and published a book called Hammer about the construction industry which was well-reviewed in the New York Times Book review: Mark Turpin.net.

Mark Turpin

Berkeley, CA

Mar 5 2007 - 4:27pm