I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know of some editorial practices of The Baltimore Sun of which I heartily approve.
I have, on occasion, considered switching to other newspapers, particularly since I work in Washington and am interested in the district's local news.
The content of The Sun, however, as well as the flawless delivery service I have received, has caused me to remain loyal to The Sun.
I particularly enjoy The Sun's willingness to publish encouraging articles of positive people and events. Examples which immediately come to mind include:
The local youth who is producing tee-shirts with a positive message.
Reports on Habitat for Humanity activities.
The "trucker church" in Jessup.
The health center that serves disadvantaged people.
Although this list does not come close to exhausting recent examples, the mere fact that many articles so easily come to mind reflects favorably on your newspaper. The existence of an abundance of bad news in the world and in this geographic area does not exclude the presence or newsworthiness of good news.
The exclusive reporting of blood, gore and scandal is not required to sell newspapers, and your awareness of that fact is appreciated. Keep up the good work.
Slur on Bikers
That sure was a funny Mother Goose And Grimm cartoon (Aug. 23). What a great idea, to make us motorcyclists the butt of joke about "animals you can't domesticate."
After all, everybody knows that all "bikers" are hairy, bearded, tattooed, illiterate, sub-human, knuckle-dragging dirtballs anyway. And anyone who thinks differently just hasn't read The Sun enough.
Gee, I wonder: What would The Sun's editors have done if cartoonist Mike Peters had decided that some other group of people should be described as "animals"?
Suppose he had targeted folks distinguished not by their mode of transportation, but by their race or ethnicity or religion or national origin? Somehow, I doubt such an attempt at "humor" would have been printed in The Sun.
Giffen B. Nichol
I cannot recall anything more nauseating than the news coverage given Michael Jackson.
What does your sportswriter John Eisenberg have against waitresses? I am referring to his column of Aug. 17. He was speculating on possible names for a football team, if indeed we are fortunate enough to get one.
There has been some talk about naming the team the Hons. In which case he said that the team mascot would be a 65-year-old waitress with a hairnet.
Personally I found his remark to be rude, insulting and totally unnecessary.
I have no idea where he eats, but I happen to have been employed in one of East Baltimore's nicest restaurants for 13 years. I can assure you that the ladies I work with, including myself, are intelligent, articulate and polite. We address our patrons as "sir" and "ma'am," are not 65 and do not wear hairnets.
We are hard working, sincere and try to please our customers. Not one of us to my knowledge has ever addressed any one as "Hon."
Perhaps if we do get this franchise, it could be named the Barbarians, and Mr. Eisenberg could be the team mascot.
Elaine E. Hupfer
The letter was signed by 12 other waitresses.
It was keen interest that I read the article "Art Alfresco" by John Dorsey, Aug. 23.
After reading the piece to the end, however, I was disappointed that no mention was made of the beautiful collage of neighborhood scenes at the corner of Bentalou Street and Frederick Avenue in Southwest Baltimore. The section is called Carrollton Ridge. The artist was James Volshell and an assistant Kim Christopher.
The remarkable quality of these murals is that they have not been vandalized. I wish this particular painting had been included.
What Olesker Said About Chavis
"Some of us are not black," Michael Olesker's column declared Aug. 22. But some of us are tired of white people who sit in such comfortable judgment upon black people and black organizations.
As for whites wishing to talk about Ben Chavis and about blacks but being afraid to, as Olesker claims, one needs only to tune in to talk radio stations to hear white men doing just that with no difficulty at all.
I am tired of white people on the radio, in the papers, in offices, in schools, in laundromats and markets, who sound off about "black criminals," "black racists," "black welfare mothers," "blacks tearing up their own neighborhoods," "those" people who are threatening our suburbs, etc.
I hear this all the time. I patiently confront these bigots and try to point out that their complaints ultimately serve to exempt them from having to examine themselves and from owning up to racism as a white institution.
I challenge Michael Olesker -- and anyone of whatever race who is tempted to add his or her voice to the general accusing whine that is currently fashionable -- to truly educate themselves about white bigotry. Read "The People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn and other books which offer history from different perspectives.
Discuss what you find with your children. Stop making excuses for brutal police actions -- as Olesker does -- and recognize that these police reflect the level of bigotry (racist and classist and sexist) among the powerful in this country. Speak out against brutality and support the Rodney Kings when they seek justice.
I invite Olesker and others to try to make things better, not worse. Confront your own racism/classism/sexism -- and then confront these in their institutional form.
I object to Michael Olesker criticizing Ben Chavis for saying Rodney King is a hero. He also presumed to dictate those areas, issues and concerns which would be more appropriate for Dr. Chavis to address. For example, black on black crime.
Dr. Chavis neither created the issues outlined by Mr. Olesker nor should he be held responsible for correcting or resolving them. ,, How about a little positive reinforcement for a refreshing change?
Until our society develops a will to combat crime, violence, senseless killing, the flow of drugs into this country, we will continue the status quo.
Mr. Olesker used his influence and position to discredit Dr. Chavis -- totally irresponsible in my view.
Barbara B. Smith
Michael Olesker accused Benjamin Chavis of "skirting the edges" instead of speaking out about black crime as Robert C. Gumbs did in a letter to The Sun (April 6). Olesker would have us believe that the executive director of the NAACP has spent his brief tenure in office worrying about football and praising Rodney King. Such is not the case.
Instead of talking about what should be done regarding black crime, Dr. Chavis has put himself "in the damaged streets of America's economic ghettos." Within days of his appointment he moved into a housing project in Watts.
He met with former gang members and youth leaders in an effort to keep the peace as a nervous city awaited the verdict in the Rodney King case. Furthermore, he hosted a gang summit in Kansas City in an effort to defuse violence in black neighborhoods.
One of his priorities is "to fight neighborhood crime by having a greater presence in trouble communities." Another is to launch a membership drive designed to attract more young people to the organization, hold on to older members, and use the talents, skills, and wisdom of both groups to achieve an intergenerational mix.
The "fair share" agreement negotiated with Charlotte was not about football but about providing employment and business opportunities for African-Americans. It is important to remember that Dr. Chavis is the executive director for all NAACP branches, not just Charlotte and Baltimore.
Olesker's statement, "This is why there is such anger about Dr. Benjamin Chavis, the executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People," refers to white anger and serves only to fan the flames of resentment in both racial groups.
Some of us are not white, but are angry, too. We resent the efforts of columnists to malign our leaders by distorting their remarks. We disclaim the right of people like Olesker to designate for us who our "symbols of fighting injustice will be." We wonder what qualifies Michael Olesker to set the agenda of the NAACP.
Magdalene B. Fennell
Harold F. Fennell
Hats off to Michael Olesker. He tells it like it is, states the facts and the truth.
Good Reasons to Legalize Drugs
In his letter (The Sun, Aug. 21), George Gammie misrepresents the position of those who propose the legalization of drugs.
Few proponents of legalization argue that it will "cure" our substance abuse problems. In fact, most of them believe that at least initially, legalization is likely to increase drug use.
Similarly, during the 1930s, people advocating the repeal of prohibition did not believe that ending prohibition would reduce alcohol consumption. They urged repeal for other reasons.
The primary objectives stated by most advocates of drug law repeal are:
* To take away the huge profits which corrupt drug law violators and enforcers alike;
* To save billions of dollars we now waste in ineffective drug law enforcement and instead spend more money on positive measures to reduce drug use through education, help and treatment;
* To reduce the enormous burden that drug law enforcement places on our courts, prison systems and law enforcement agencies;
* To affirm fundamental American principles concerning government interference in people's private lives.
Americans accept the idea that protecting one individual from another is a legitimate function of government but oppose the use of force to save individuals from themselves.
We, for example, are not trying to prohibit smoking, drinking and eating excessive amounts of fat in the privacy of one's home, deadly as these habits are.
When we responsible and disparate a group of people as Milton Friedman, William Buckley, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, George Schultz, the local NAACP and a number of federal and local judges say that prohibition is the wrong way to go, shouldn't we be listening?
aniel S. Lynch
In the ongoing debate regarding the legalization or "medicalization" of currently illegal drugs. I felt compelled to respond to a recent letter written by Mr. George Gammie.
I am not a "bleeding heart liberal," as Mr. Gammie puts it, but I am opposed to his suggestion of superseding the rights of lawbreaking elements in the name of "drug war", rights that are guaranteed to all elements of society.
One would hope that those opposed to legalization are sincere in their convictions in solving the country's " drug problem," but one has to wonder about whether they would ever advocate the drastic measures that are necessary action to stop the flow of drugs into the U.S.
Actions like blowing up ships and shooting down planes merely suspected of carrying drugs, cutting off aid to drug-growing countries and publishing the names and addresses of all drug users ... are necessary to cut drug trafficking and use, but we all know that none of these steps will ever be taken.
He chides the NAACP and Mayor Kurt Schmoke for advocating the legalization of addictive drugs, but actually the two most addictive drugs, alcohol and tobacco, are already legal.
Furthermore, those two drugs together kill tens of thousands more people than all of the illegal drugs put together. As to his "three things which militate (sic) against the success of such an undertaking," I offer the following:
* Present (and future) users of the newly legal drugs would no longer have to resort to violence or robbery to get the drugs because the actual cost of such drugs is so minimal that they would be easily affordable.
In Great Britain and The Netherlands it's been proven that addicts can hold responsible jobs and still maintain their habits when the drugs are available at minimal cost.
* Sales or distribution of any nearly decriminalized drugs would of course be prohibited to minors just as alcohol and tobacco are at the present. With the black market in rugs now eliminated minors would have only legitimate utlets to get these "products." The penalty for sales of drugs to minors should be swift and severe.
* Regarding Mr. Gammel's final point about the white, middle and upper class being reluctant to be seen going to their "neighborhood legal drug outlet." I must remind him that this group doesn't seem to mind going to a liquor store or grocery store to get alcohol and cigarettes.
Moreover, when he equates "recreational" use to addiction, is he suggesting that those of us who enjoy an occasional beer or glass of wine are addicts?
In our drug war many innocent as well as guilty people are having their constitutional rights violated on an increasing basis.
Consequently, the jails are overloaded with non-violent drug offenders, while those incarcerated for violent crimes are being pushed out on the streets long before their sentences are up.
It's obvious that drug users are not deterred by the current severe laws and penalties against drug posession and use.
These laws have failed for decades, so it makes sense to allow users get the drugs legally but with a hefty tax imposed.
Perhaps this tax, which would reap billions of dollars annually, could be earmarked for health care reform.
Incidentally, I too am an American who happens to be a middle class white."
White Marsh, Md.
Mental Patients' Rights
As a psychiatric social worker at a state hospital for more than 20 years, I am deeply offended at your editorial suggestion Aug. 25 that "those agencies responsible for the mentally ill" are negligent in showing enough "concern" for the patients entrusted to their care.
I agree that the current system to deal with the psychiatric patient who leaves the hospital without permission has many loopholes, in terms of protecting both the public and the patient. (We call it "elopement," rather than "escape.") These are largely carved into stone by court decisions and similar actions designed to protect the constitutional rights of the patient.
I think we can all agree that such protection is a good thing, particularly on the "There but for the grace of God . . ." principle.
These loopholes are not a product of lack of caring on the part of state hospital staff (and remember that the same principles apply to private psychiatric hospitals). They are a product of the actions over the years of the same advocacy groups now screaming about "senseless" policies.
A patient admitted to any psychiatric hospital in Maryland, even on an involuntary basis, must by law be advised of all constitutional rights, and that he or she has not lost any by virtue of an involuntary admission.
Unless they have been declared incompetent and had a guardian named by a court, they are presumed to be adults and capable of handling their own affairs within the limits of the involuntary commitment. This requires that, within 10 days, the hospital show to an administrative law judge that the patient:
1. Is mentally ill.
2. Requires hospital treatment as against a lesser form of intervention.
3. Without hospital care would pose a danger to his or her own life or safety or that of others.
4. Is unable or unwilling to be a voluntary patient.
All of this must be proven by a standard of "clear and convincing" evidence, and the patient has the right to give his or her story with the help of an attorney, either from the public
defender's office (one of whom attends all such hearings) or private counsel.
Should the patient be committed by the administrative law judge, there is not any significant difference in the treatment from that of voluntary patients.
The commitment is only for purposes of getting into treatment those whose illness has sufficiently affected them as to impair their ability to recognize their need for treatment, or to trust enough to allow others to provide the necessary treatment.
As part of the treatment process, each patient will be allowed increasing levels of freedom based on the treatment team's clinical judgment as to the patient's ability to handle the responsibility of such freedom, mostly on the grounds of the hospital.
Key to the process are the complementary concepts of privilege and responsibility. Since most mental illness impairs a person's ability in these areas, rehabilitation calls for gradually enabling the person to relearn.
The hospital's goal is to enable the patient, as a constitutionally self-responsible adult who due to illness has lost the ability to exert that responsibility, to relearn it.
The process should be likened to the case of a person with a badly shattered leg (in our case, a mind) hospitalized to allow the leg to heal, and to learn how to walk again.
This parallel, in relation to the eloped psychiatric patient, is an exact one. Such a patient in a general hospital who decided to walk out before the hospital felt he had enough therapy to walk properly would engender a great deal of concern from the hospital staff. But they would not -- nor legally could they -- send the police to scour the area for their patient.
The image in your editorial of police searching for a lost child or a nursing home patient with Alzheimer's is a totally false analogy for that reason.
Such people are not constitutionally self-responsible adults.
If you can come up with a constructive way to reconcile the protection of the rights of our patients while at the same time better enabling us to protect them, please let us know.
In the meanwhile, name-calling bombast such as your editorial only serves to inflame feelings in people who do not know the whole story.
Richard V. Runge