I am disturbed by the opinion-page column "Diversity on the Supreme Court," July 17. I agree that intelligence and discernment should be the primary qualifications for a nominee to the Supreme Court. Yet about Clarence Thomas's record we hear only that it "has been middling." We are given no information about what "middling" precisely means.One might suspect that "middling" includes not liberal. For if intellect were the primary qualification then one obvious nominee would be Robert Bork. But Bork was not confirmed and the reason was clearly his stand on the political right. The Thomas nomination threatens the left in this country. Not only will Thomas consolidate the conservative majority on the Supreme Court; his mere existence as a black who decided (based on his upbringing by poor sharecroppers in Georgia) to support a conservative approach to civil rights threatens the liberal claim to advocate what is best for minorities in this country. Gretchen Starr, Ann Arbor, Mich.
The statement that Thomas "lacks the distinguishing passion for justice for American minorities that has characterized the career of Thurgood Marshall" is surely an assumption on the writer's part. Just because he has opposed programs, supported by Marshall and other liberals, that have kept blacks on welfare and in the ghetto does not mean he lacks a "passion for justice." It perhaps means just exactly the opposite! With reference to the comment regarding Thomas's "mid-class Yale" performance, how good was the collegiate performance of the present (and past) members of the court? William Roberts, Laguna Beach, Calif.
Giving credit where due Regarding the book review "A Banquet of a Book," July 24: The reviewer praises author Erik Orsenna's prose in "Love and Empire" as "sweet and smooth" and "light as mousse." But the prose she quotes in support of her judgment is that of the translator, Jeremy Leggatt. The credit should be given where it is due. Philip Dacey, Lynd, Minn.
Northern Ireland's statistics The article "Crime Bills in Congress Are Said to Offer Only Incremental Change," June 20, includes a reference to US murder rates as "far higher than those of any other country that keeps records except Northern Ireland." As representatives for the Industrial Development Board for Northern Ireland, we feel compelled to offer you updated information regarding the actual crime rates in Northern Ireland. The author's reference was based on 1984 homicide statistics from the Bureau of Justice Statistics' Special Report on International Crime Rates and was misreported in the story. Northern Ireland's actual homicide rate is roughly half that of the US - 4.0 per 100,000 people as compared with 7.9. In addition, the author failed to mention that Chile, at 5.8 per 100,000 people, has a higher homicide rate than Northern Ireland. Dawn Murphy, Los Angeles