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Un-fair play
Bob Burtman's article criticizing the N.C. Department of Agriculture falls into the category of piling on ("Freak Show," July 30). After two years of scandals and negative publicity, the department finally is on the right track. Burtman's article kicks them while they are down--or more appropriately, getting up.

In particular, Burtman's characterization of Commissioner Britt Cobb as a "drone" epitomizes the progressive media's inability to reach beyond its audience of academics, trust-funders and professional activists. It shows a condescending disdain for qualities most of the people in the state admire.

Cobb has spent 30 years as a loyal public servant to the people of this state. He's respected throughout state government as a competent administrator whose personal integrity is unquestioned. Gov. Mike Easley's appointment of Cobb recognizes the need to put politics aside and instate someone who can restore stability and credibility to the beleaguered department.

Cobb understands that the primary purpose of the department is to promote agriculture and protect the interest of farmers. The state fair plays only a small role in this mission. Cobb acted quickly, decisively and wisely, putting the issue to bed so the department can begin to move beyond the scandal.

Finally, tying the state's fair earnings to attendance will almost double the revenue for North Carolina. In addition, Strates, the fair vendor, has an incentive to improve the rides and amusements since that is where they will now make the bulk of their money. It's a good deal for both the Department of Agriculture and the people of North Carolina. At a time when things are finally looking up, the Department of Agriculture needs a pat on the back and a hand up, not a kick in the teeth.
Thomas H. Mills
Chapel Hill

Musical freedom
I was glad to see props given to the late Afro-Cuban musical legends Compay Segundo and Celia Cruz by my friend Sylvia Pfeiffenberger ("Latin Beat," Aug. 13). But I was sorry to see it so one-sided. I would like to add some points as someone who loved both singers, is proud of his Cuban ancestry, and is frustrated at the divide between homeland and diasporic Cubans, the U.S. Cold War against the island and Cuban government intransigence.

The Cuban government missed a golden opportunity to bury the hatchet after Celia died, but Cuba's love for Celia's music was no secret. Univision TV interviewed a number of musicians and fans in Havana right after her death who testified to that.

It was also no secret that Celia vociferously opposed Fidel and the Cuban revolution. Yet her song "Isadora" got her in trouble with right-wing Cuban exiles (who try to silence dissent among Miami Cubans) because Isadora Duncan had been a communist. Among those exiles who wished Celia "rest in freedom" were no doubt some who had picketed and made bomb threats when Compay Segundo tried to come to Miami to perform a few years back. Fortunately, nobody tried to stop Compay from playing an incredible concert at the Raleigh Art Museum in 2000, although the Bush administration now regularly holds up visas to keep Cuban artists from touring or accepting awards in the U.S.

For its part, the Cuban government was slow in recognizing Compay's contributions until 1997, the year that he recorded "Son de Negros en Cuba" as part of the centennial honoring Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca. Lorca's lyrics included this line: "When the full moon comes/I'll go to Santiago." The moon was full in July when Compay and Celia left us.

Descance en paz.
Phil Rubio
Durham

America's most dangerous
Shortly after the Patriot Act was passed and John Ashcroft began his power trip, I made the statement in a social gathering that he was one of the most dangerous men in America. This produced such a foaming at the mouth from the group's token conservative that he looked like a Great Dane chewing an Alka-Seltzer.

So I was quite pleased to read Hal Crowther's characterization of the George W. Bush wolfpack as "most dangerous" ("Counter Intelligence," July 30). I see Bush as the Manchurian Candidate of the 21st century. His neo-conservative handlers will stop at nothing to advance their ideology, and I don't rule out political violence. Look for Karl Rove to play Angela Lansbury's role.
John R. Davis
Carrboro

Correction
The photograph of Fin Fang Foom in the Aug. 13 edition should have been credited to trianglerock.com

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