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We should be beyond tokenism and onto equality

Published Oct. 9, 2005

It was an ideal coincidence to have the 25th commemorative articles on Robert Kennedy's death alongside Carl McClendon's on Lani Guinier.

I like to think that Robert F. Kennedy, who as Anthony Lewis notes, "decided issues on the basis of justice and American values, regardless of political consequences," would have stood at Lani Guinier's side.

We, as a country, citizens, members of government, religious leaders, CEOs, educators, parents, students, etc., need to address our inner feelings and understandings on justice and equality. We should by this time be beyond the "tokenism" acts of legislation so far enacted and onto the equalities of one mankind so envisioned by any true thinkers/believers.

Rebecca Lanigan, Inverness

Robert Kennedy's tragic death 25 years ago was the beginning of the end of the tumultuous '60s. In death, just as in life, he inspired a generation of Americans to hope, dream and work for a better tomorrow.

Many of us who are committed to bringing about social and economic justice, and are compassionate about our fellow man, do so out of a sense of responsibility and courage he gave us. By doing so, we honor a man who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Ted and Barbara Pafundi, Palm Harbor

Re: Lani Guinier: dared to deal with empowerment, by Carl McClendon, June 6.

I must confess that I, too, believed the

disinformation spread by the media and others about the writings of Lani Guinier.

I was prepared to dismiss her views as radical until I read Carl McClendon's column. Thank you for setting the record straight and taking the time to explain the real dynamics that undermined Guinier. Of course, there would be an uproar over her nomination. Any black person like Guinier who advocates real empowerment to blacks in America will make most white conservatives furious and cause some white liberals to back away.

The lack of black political representation at the county level in Pinellas proves, in my view, that Guinier is right on target with her writings and analysis.

Gerald M. Syrkett, St. Petersburg

I have just read Carl McClendon's column in the June 6 Times regarding the Guinier almost-nomination. It is the clearest and most rational

discussion of the matter that I have read or heard. Many pundits _ whether inspired by racism or the desire to attack Clinton (both for intending to nominate the lady and, second, for deserting her) _ who have written or spoken on the subject have really missed the issue _ as McClendon has not.

For the nation's sake, I hope and pray that you and others who have the opportunity to educate and help us find our way will have the courage and intelligence to do so. In my view, this means resisting the temptation to join with the Republicans, the racists and the confused followers of the "Ears of Texas" in denigrating our president, however immature some of his acts may seem. We all lose if gridlock _ a la Dole _ wins.

Meanwhile, my congratulations to McClendon for a fine piece of work _ and to you for printing it. I suggest all your writers read it, too.

John O. Bell, Temple Terrace

Re: Guinier: "I have always believed in democracy," June 5.

The politics of the Lani Guinier situation aside, it is discouraging to note that a Yale graduate, now a law professor, cannot communicate well enough, clearly enough and precisely enough that her message is received as intended. Guinier has admitted that "the president and others have misinterpreted my writings, which were written in an academic context, which are very nuanced, which are very ponderous." Her writings also cited at least one source whom she later said she had not meant to single out.

Perhaps one of the reasons our society has become so confusing is that our communication has become confusing. A straightforward, honest, open statement of beliefs, feelings, thoughts or facts is neither desirable nor acceptable. Instead, we must communicate on command, the "command" being some ill-defined notion of propriety set forth by some nebulous "authorities." And when it is appropriate to attribute, we must hedge our bets so that the widest possible interpretation can be applied.

Is it any wonder that high school graduates cannot read, spell and write when a Yale-educated law professor cannot clearly state her message? Are we surprised that properly citing sources is difficult when someone of Guinier's educational background seems unable to correctly apply attribution? Have we become so inept at communicating that our written word must be further corrected and clarified verbally before the message can be understood as intended?

Perhaps we ought to consider the radical concept of saying what we mean, writing what we think and making sure it is grammatically correct. Then we might not spend so much time correcting others' interpretations, but rather investing in a mentally stimulating, emotionally challenging give-and-take of information where both sender and receiver are enriched.

Wendell M. and Kate Howze, St. Petersburg

Perhaps I missed a point, but the issue in the controversy over the nomination of Lani Guinier seems to me not as to whether her views are outside the mainstream of current political thought, but whether the Voting Rights Act was ever intended, as she seems to claim, to give her the authority she requires to make her views effective.

I suspect that the framers of the act and those who supported it in Congress would be amazed to learn that they also supported, for instance, mandatory cumulative voting in situations that the civil rights decision of the Justice Department felt were warranted. It is not that Guinier's views are "far out." They are debatable _ and should be debated. The fatal obstacle to her appointment, I suggest, was her willingness to twist an existing law to achieve a result _ a desirable result, according to many _ that the law was never intended to accomplish.

We have a quaint system in this country which I would be loath to see abandoned. If a government official needs a law to perform his or her duties more effectively, she (or he) does not legislate it herself by a tortured construction of an existing law never designed for that purpose. He (or she) should seek openly to persuade the appropriate legislative body to pass such a law.

Guinier apparently is so taken up with her social and political objectives that she would ignore this vital step in the democratic process.

Howard J. Snyder, St. Petersburg

Guinier's former friends is not a matter of friendship, nor a matter of keeping one's word as your editorial of June 4 has it. It is a matter of corralling enough votes to win deficit reduction, a national health plan, and reordering national priorities.

The president now shows that he has his eye on the target, his priorities in order, and he will do what he has to to restore a neglected nation.

To lose a friend, or to go back on your word is sad, but under these circumstances, secondary.

When the deficit is reduced, and the health plan is in place, Lani Guinier will make up with Bill Clinton.

Saul Besser, Tampa

A worthy sacrifice

Re: A winged memorial to a fallen soldier, May 30.

I am disturbed about two things that Joan Rutledge stated or implied in her article.

I strongly disagree that Joe's death was "senseless," and if he held the same opinion that all soldiers I've known have, then he, too, would disagree. Soldiers are willing to give their lives for the sustainment of liberty, and to think that Joe's life was wasted is degrading to his memory and to all the soldiers who died for freedom. It is sad when anyone dies in combat, but to describe Joe's death as "pointless" says his contribution was worthless. Without the sacrifices that thousands of soldiers like Joe suffered, the freedom that Joan Rutledge enjoys would not exist.

She seems to indicate that his death was "senseless" because it occurred only two days before the armistice. Does she think it would have been more acceptable if he had died during a major battle?

Regarding the official notification of death, bizarre and unexplainable things happen in war. "Missing in action, presumed dead" was probably the best explanation that could be given at the time, especially if no body existed or if it was so badly damaged as to be unidentifiable. After battle, a roll call highlights who is missing and if they never show up, they are "presumed dead."

My second disagreement with Joan Rutledge is her implication that being a writer for the Manchester Guardian is more important than being a true guardian, a soldier. I assure you, being a writer is not more important, noble or "promising" than being a soldier. In case she hasn't noticed lately, the press is rated with lawyers and car salesmen in prestige and trustworthiness.

Should I die in combat, as the first to die, the last to die or anywhere in between, I pray that none of my relatives degrades my death in the manner that Joan Rutledge degraded Uncle Joe's death. The article was inappropriate at any time, but especially during the Memorial Day weekend.

Stan Sutterfield, Valrico

The key word is "bordering'

Re: The Bo's Bridge lookout.

Since the beginning of this year, I have been a frequent visitor to the Clearwater community and expect to continue my assigned business through the remainder of this year. On each of my visits to the area I have truly enjoyed reading your newspaper having found it to be highly informative and varied in its content. Until this date, I have had no reason to doubt your reporting as being anything but factual and objective. Your editorial in the May 4 edition cast doubts about your paper's factual content.

I fully realize editorials contain opinions of your staff. Readers can accept or reject conclusions your editors draw. I do not believe it to be fair, however, to

express perceived facts within an editorial which contribute to an overall misleading conclusion to that editorial. I reference the editorial discussing a proposed bridge crossing Pensacola Bay which you referenced as a pet project of Speaker of the House Bo Johnson. In that article you implied the bridge was being ramroded through the permitting process at the expense of running it "right through the heart of one of the state's largest remaining wet prairies."

I acknowledge I do know Rep. Johnson, but I am not in his legislative district nor do I have any close ties to him. I have known him for many years and respect his position. I might add I have never witnessed his conducting affairs of office in any manner other than proper and expected of him as an elected representative of a legislative district.

I have attended meetings of the Santa Rosa Bridge Authority. I have inspected maps detailing the proposed bridge corridor. I have also served on the Metropolitan Planning Organization as a previously elected official and also been privy by virtue of that position to other Department of Transportation information giving me the facts regarding this proposed bridge. Never in any of the meetings or presentations have I witnessed the proposed corridor of the bridge "running through the heart" of the delicate wetlands area bordering the bridge corridor. The key word here is bordering. The bridge corridor does in fact run westerly of a wetlands area deserving of protection. Any planning of this bridge has been with sensitivity toward the adjoining wetlands area. No one, including the powerful Rep. Johnson, has ever proposed the corridor running through the "heart" of this wetlands preserve.

Finally, allow me to express my opinion as to the need for this bridge. I have witnessed the failure of the only artery connecting this peninsula to the mainland. I have also been responsible for hurricane evacuation efforts which backlogged the only bridge and two-lane artery available to the residents. This bridge is intended to relieve a currently backlogged facility, the Pensacola Bay Bridge, which possesses one of the highest traffic count roadways in northwest Florida. Many people have argued what pathway the bridge should ultimately take; very few have argued the need for an additional transportation facility which, by the way, will be predominantly paid for by the users of the bridge as it will be a toll facility.

Ed Gray, III, Gulf Breeze

Dolphins released successfully

Re: "You just can't "loan' a dolphin," May 30, by David K. Rogers, informed us that the Navy is lending its dolphins out because of military budget cutbacks. The Navy says the dolphins could not survive if released back to their native habitat. The fact is that upwards of 50 dolphins have returned to their environment successfully. Some of these successful returns have been escapes from the Navy.

Few of us are aware of how these creatures are chased, trapped and incarcerated. Capture crews routinely hunt down, and often kill, animals as young as 2-years-old. One capture crew has a "90-Day Replacement Guarantee" since there is an extremely poor rate of survival among juveniles.

Dolphins are made to live in chlorinated water. Scott Trimingham described dolphins where all he could see were "dark, puckered holes where their eyes should be. These creatures must all surely be blind or nearly so," and Dr. Paul Spong remarked that he saw dolphins in a display tank with their eyes nearly shut.

Dolphins normally live in a world of sound and use a kind of sonar. Putting them in small concrete pens has been likened to putting humans in an enclosed room with mirrors all around us. They are fed fish whose food value is compromised by freezing and kept from traveling great distances as they would in the

wild. It is not much of a mystery why their lives are drastically shortened. Every seven years, half of the dolphins in captivity die.

Jacques Cousteau has stated, "No aquarium, no tank in a marineland, however spacious it may be, can begin to duplicate the conditions of the sea. And no dolphin who inhabits one of those aquariums or one of those marinelands can be considered normal."

Our civilization has indeed gone backwards from the time of the ancient Greeks, who would have meted out strong punishment to anyone who dared to treat these magnificent beings the way we do.

Isabell Spindler, Coordinator, Animal Rights

Foundation of Florida Inc., Beverly Hills

Nobody is fooled

I note Ellen Goodman's May 29 column mentions people who yell at the television set. I didn't know other people did that.

All week I have been yelling at the TV. They are selling a new car for "sixteen-thousand nine-ninety-nine," and I keep yelling, "Seventeen thousand, you stupid jerk."

Do they think they are fooling anyone? Do they think we are all idiots who can't count? I get so sick of the interminable ads _ instead of a simple $10, it's "nine ninety-nine," "nine ninety-nine," "nine ninety-nine"Don Thomas, Dunedin

Rewriting history?

Re: Ethnic perspective appreciated, letter to the editor, May 31.

The article to which the letter writer referred was written by the chairman of the German-American National Political Action Committee refuting a statement contained in a State Department press release which compared the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia to the atrocities carried out by the Nazis. The so-called facts contained in the article failed to mention the 12-million people who were systematically murdered by the Nazis because of who they were: Jews, Poles, gypsies, homosexuals, etc. I believe this qualifies as ethnic cleansing. We all have pride in our own heritage and we would like to be reflected in a positive manner. However, this pride should not result in rewriting history in favor of a particular group's "ethnic perspective."

Randy Crouse, Safety Harbor

Behavioral changes needed

Re: Remember medical research, May 14.

Sen. Tom Harkin's suggestion that we create a medical research trust fund with $5 contributions from each household is just a token gesture, not a solution.

It's true that some of America's health problems can only be solved through research. Yet America's top five killers _ heart disease, cancer, stroke,

accidents and lung problems _ are largely the result of ingrained behaviors. If we don't change our behavior, research is just billions of dollars down the drain.

Cancer is a good example. Epidemiologic studies have established that diet accounts for 35 to 60 percent of cancer deaths, and smoking accounts for another 30 percent. Yet the American population is so addicted to dietary fat and smoking that continuous warnings of their toxicity have made only a tiny dent in the nation's habits. After all the billions already spent in the "war on cancer," the cancer death rate is still increasing. We are losing, and will continue to lose, until we change our priorities.

It's not surprising that Sen. Harkin thinks research is the answer. We'd all like to find a magical elixir to cure the problems of our own making. However, coughing up $5 per household will not produce a pill to permanently unclog arteries or cure most cancers.

Instead of a $5 contribution to research, how about finding a way to give a $500 refund to every family that adopts a preventive lifestyle? That would make a lot more sense.

David B. Wasser, Communications Director,

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine,

Washington, D.C.

Gergen is a professional

Your June 3 edition quotes a New York Times editorial, Gergen's not good news, lamenting that "this appointmentpoints up a deterioration of political values and an erosion of journalistic standards

in the capital," followed by George Will's Hard choices made by Democrats look like so much mush" denunciation of "the amazingly adaptable David Gergen who, having served Ronald Reagan, now serves a president who vows to "reverse Reagan.'

" This was followed by Robert Reno's, It's not a popularity contest observation that, "Most people who voted for Clinton, if they knew what they were doing at all, imagined that at least it was a vote against Gergen and the crowd he ran around with."

What seems to have escaped the notice of these varied pundits is that, while he maintains his private political identity as an "Independent," Gergen is a professional in two areas: one, as a practicing political spin doctor, the other as a practicing journalist and political commentator. Unlike Will, who masqueraded as an objective journalist while clandestinely preparing candidate Reagan for his 1980 debates with Carter, Gergen has always been up front with what he was doing, whether pursuing a public relations activity as director of communications in the Reagan administration, or, subsequently, as an editor-at-large for U.S. News and World Report and commentator on the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour.

Those who would castigate Gergen for his present role change would seem to fall into the same category as those who condemn Charles Barkley for moving from the Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers to the Phoenix Suns. And perhaps no one would care what either of them did if they weren't so good at it.

Ben Tutoli, St. Petersburg

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