Letters Neal Conan reads from listeners' letters and e-mails.



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Neal Conan reads from listeners' letters and e-mails.


It's Tuesday, the day we read from your e-mails. A week ago, we marked the one-year anniversary of the day Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans and along much of the Gulf Coast. There was a conversation about what the hurricane and its aftermath taught us about race in the United States.

Carolyn Mitrovich(ph) e-mailed us from San Diego.

What happened in New Orleans last year exemplifies the racial prejudices that still exist in America, she wrote, as well as the prejudice against the poor. I think many America were appalled at our government's inaction and uncaring, but most Americans cannot rouse themselves out of their own self-centeredness to truly do something about it. And all this is complicated by the long-held attitude in this country that those who are poor are poor because they deserve to be.

David Lamb(ph), another listener in California, took a different view.

Many people in America, he wrote, are simply tired of hearing about race for every single ill that faces our seemingly overwhelmingly downtrodden people, as Dyson, Jackson and Sharpton paint us. The world is flat, it is changing. These old-school black thinkers and leaders are still fighting the fight of 1950's Selma, while entry-level American jobs are being farmed out throughout the world via the World Wide Web. The politics of 1950's Selma got us the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That job is over. The politics of application and doing the work will get us through the 21st century and beyond.

Yesterday, we celebrated Labor Day with a show about state fairs. Many listeners wrote in about the way I quickly let a caller go after she admitted she'd lied to the screener just to get on the air. Gary in Ohio was clearly put off.

I was shocked in the manner in which you dismissed the woman who called in under false pretenses during the discussion of state fairs. I found it to be rude, discourteous and totally out of character.

Keith David Reeves(ph) in Haymarket, Virginia had a different response.

While I was curious to hear the rest of the story that the caller who lied was interested to tell, I appreciated your cool, to-the-point and totally appropriate reaction. Thanks for not teaching our children that lying is ever okay.

We do understand that it can be frustrating to call in to the show and not get on the air, and it's never our intention to be discourteous in the way we speak with callers. If you'd like to know more about the hows and whys of screening calls, you can visit the TALK OF THE NATION page at npr.org.

Last year, we called on Robert Paxton to explain the use of the word fascist in connection with Islamic extremists. Professor Paxton said it was a misuse of the term, but Christopher Fowler(ph) in Portland, Oregon e-mailed:

Mr. Paxton's comments are a bit too scholarly. Most people think of fascists as people who want to push their views on others through use of force, etc. Don't over-think it. The term may not be technically, absolutely correct, but it aptly describes something that is going on. Most of us get that.

We ended last week with a conversation about star power in Hollywood and whether a big name is enough to separate you from you from your $10 at the box office. Alex e-mailed from Wichita, Kansas to tell us people are being too hard on his favorite actor.

I love Tom Cruise, he wrote. I think he's a great actor and an action hero. Who cares if he jumps up or down on Oprah's couch? I don't pay money to see him act like a fool. I pay money to see him as an action hero, and he does a great job at that. But, he wrote, my girlfriend hates him.

If you have comments, questions or corrections for us, the best way to reach us is by e-mail. The address is talk@npr.org. Please let us know where you're writing from and give us some help on how to pronounce your name.

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