Um, Thanks?

Wine and roses: Please give Christine Biederman a dozen roses, a gold star, a bottle of champagne and any other praise we can think of. Her March 15 column "Still Wannabe" was perhaps the most courageous, individualistic, intelligent, perceptive and commendable column on today's Dallas art scene that I have ever seen. She and Robert Hughes are the only two voices in the establishment-wilderness proclaiming the truth.

Please thank her for lighting a candle in our Dallas darkness of sheeplike ignorance.

Ann Cushing Grant

Cry Havoc

Chemical brothers: Whenever I read an article like the one by Mark Donald ("Joint Effort," March 22), I marvel at the extraordinary power of the chemical agents in question. Use or sale of them is in most cases a felony. That means use or sale can result in severe reprisals including heavy fines, significant jail time and compromised futures. Yet despite the sanctions, people flock to the drugs. As a consequence, social, economic and judicial structures are distorted, and criminal organizations powerful enough to challenge governments have been born. If people are willing to pay such costs and run such risks to use a "relatively safe" drug like marijuana, imagine the havoc these drugs could wreak were they legal.

There is a second issue that needs to be considered as well. Keeping drugs illegal helps those in recovery stay clean. The alcoholic is constantly confronted with the package store or the bar, which makes "slips" easy and practically ensures they will happen. This of course complicates, and in some cases dooms, the alcoholic's recovery. The illegality of other drugs is a potent incentive in the healing process of addicts. It is significant that notwithstanding this, addicts have a high recidivism rate. That emphasizes how much more difficult recovery would be were drugs legal.

Despite rare exceptions like George McMahon (for whom, one notes, the government allows an exception), "medical marijuana" is a canard. The real goal is general legalization, as proponents well know. Their appeals to compassion are as false as their reasoning is flawed. True compassion requires that the drugs remain illegal. Society in legalizing them would do its members great harm. Incidentally, we have at least one clear historical example of this: China in the 19th and early 20th centuries. I recommend an excellent, though little read, book on the subject: Kathleen L. Lodwick's Crusaders Against Opium.

Mike Carter

Straight Talk

Race card: Let me set the record straight. Some folks are trying to camouflage ulterior motives. (Letters, March 8)

The truth is race can be a factor in redistricting. People drawing district lines are always aware of where people live and usually know their race and ethnicity. Race is always a part of the redistricting process, and being race conscious or aware of race during the redistricting process is legal and acceptable. Moreover, states and local jurisdictions must be race conscious enough to make sure that the redistricting plans they create do not dilute minority-voting strength. A redistricting plan will not necessarily be held invalid simply because the "redistricting is performed with consciousness of race or because a jurisdiction intentionally creates a majority-minority district."

Local jurisdictions may intentionally create majority-minority districts and may otherwise take race into consideration without coming under strict scrutiny. Only if traditional districting criteria are neglected and that neglect is predominately due to the misuse of race does strict scrutiny apply. Therefore, race is one of the many factors line drawers may consider in redistricting. However, even though race can be a part of drawing district lines, it will be particularly important when this occurs to avoid violating "traditional redistricting principles" when creating redistricting plans.

In United States v. Hays, the court said "the legislature is always aware of race when it draws district lines, just as it is aware of age, economics status, religious and political persuasion, and a variety of other demographic factors. That sort of race consciousness does not lead inevitably in impermissible race discrimination."

Likewise, state and local jurisdictions are permitted to express and meet goals even if the result is the creation of majority-minority districts. It is clear that a state may draw districts for political reasons, such as to ensure the success of one political party over another, and include in that district the most loyal voters for the particular party. The state may do this even if it is aware of the race of those voters. For example, in Hunt v. Cromartie, the court said jurisdictions may engage in constitutional political gerrymandering, even if it happens that the most loyal democrats happen to be African-American Democrats and even if the state was conscious of that fact.

Drawing sufficient conclusion from an insufficient premise and attempting to support it with factually incorrect assertions does great harm to a community and can only serve to perpetuate polarization and feelings of distrust.

I hope this correspondence will clarify the role of race in the redistributing process.

Joe May

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