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InsensitivityI was astonished to read your very...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Insensitivity

I was astonished to read your very muddled June 25 editorial, "Lessons Still to be Learned."

Purportedly you intended to attack what you called "man's insensitivity to man" (why the sexist language, I wonder?). But in fact the editorial was in itself simply another example of the insensitivity you avow to oppose.

First, it is not at all clear that the young priest in question ever used the phrase you ascribe to him.

He has denied it and, in fact, the collective noun, "the Jews," occurs in the text from the Gospel of John read that Sunday. So it is most likely that he did not initiate the usage, but simply paraphrased the Gospel as preachers around the world, Catholic and Protestant, were doing that day.

Why did The Sun choose to pick on him and impute to him an anti-Semitic motivation that was clearly not his?

The problem of collective language with regard to the Jews goes back to the New Testament. It is a problem well known to the Catholic church.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council's corrective statement on the Jews. The then archbishop of Baltimore was one of the leaders of the successful fight to approve that document, and his successors have been in the forefront of Catholic efforts to implement it. Simply put, you have confused the problem with its solution.

Even if he had said the alleged phrase, questions of journalistic ethics remain. Why did The Sun lump this single misunderstanding, immediately apologized for, together with the anti-Semitic preachments of Martin Luther in the 16th century and of a Polish priest today? Distinctions must be made.

The most superficial reading of the rantings of Luther's late writings and the grim conspiracy myths evoked by the Polish pastor would have revealed to your editorial writers that a serious category mistake had been made by them.

Likewise, to mention Luther and fail to mention the condemnation of Luther's anti-Semitic writings by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America -- and to mention the single Polish priest while failing to mention the condemnations of his anti-Semitic comments by Polish and American bishops -- is to fail to give your readers facts necessary to the story.

I believe The Sun needs to re-examine its policies. And it needs to apologize to both the Catholic and Jewish communities of Baltimore which have been, even if inadvertently, seriously deceived.

Eugene J. Fisher

Washington

The writer is associate director of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

A to B at 75

I am getting sick and tired of your paper running articles criticizing the increase in the speed limit. Enough is enough already.

The State of Maryland has finally come around after almost 10 years of studying the matter and succumbed to the motoring public's thumbing their nose at the 55-mile-per-hour limit.

As anyone can attest, you would be hard pressed to drive on an interstate and find someone not breaking the law.

Citing safety as the reason for keeping the speed limit down is a crock. These highways were designed decades ago for cars of that time to whiz along safely at speeds in excess of 75.

They are the same roads today, improved by superior surface materials. Automobile technology and safety features are vastly improved.

Just as the adage goes, guns and bullets don't kill people, people kill people -- cars and speeding don't kill people. It's the individual behind the wheel that kills.

If the police would spend even a fraction of the time they spend catching speeders going after those who do not use turn signals, fail to yield, make a personal lane of the shoulder when there's a backup and violators of all the other motor vehicle laws, then I believe we would see a tremendous drop in accidents.

Those of us who follow all those rules of the road but chose to travel from point A to point B at speeds the roads were safely designed to handle should not be penalized through speeding tickets when the true culprits go about their business causing accidents.

Ken Walker

Westminster

No Case

I am at a loss to understand the point of your July 2 front-page article, "Law firm with ties to mayor doubles income from city."

Normally, an article with a headline like that can be expected to detail the various improprieties of the firm under scrutiny and ultimately to conclude that the relationship between the city and the firm is corrupt.

This article failed to prove any such case and in fact was simply a gossipy, illogical and ultimately unfair account of the city's relationship with the law firm of Shapiro and Olander.

The majority of quotes regarding Shapiro and Olander indicated that the fees being charged to the city or to loan customers are entirely reasonable.

The article led me to believe that there is no pattern of misconduct on Shapiro and Olander's part.

One could continue detailing the logical fallacies in this article.

I would simply suggest that if you're going to run an article that suggests some level of wrongdoing, you wait until you have actual facts to make the case. From the facts presented in this article, I would say there is no case to be made.

Matt Richards

Parkton

It's Not That Easy

I have four points on Theo Lippman's review essay on Peter Laufer's book about talk radio (July 2).

One, it seems obvious that most of the criticisms Lippman has of talk radio could apply equally to newspaper editorial pages. Surely he will not deny that many columns and editorials, which newspaper readers also tend to believe, are either false or, at best, written by persons who are "way out of their depths."

Two, H. L. Mencken is quoted in a book edited by Mr. Lippman as saying, "Most men are convinced, not by appeals to their reason, but by appeals to their emotions and prejudices. Such emotions and prejudices are not necessarily ignoble. It is just as creditable to hate injustice and dishonesty as it is to love the truth. One of the chief purposes of The Sun, as I understand it, is to stir up such useful hatreds."

I submit that many radio talk shows are doing precisely that, likely no worse than many newspapers have ever done.

Three, editorial writers, book reviewers, and every other "traditional journalist" who makes a living by writing, have a great advantage over those who make their livings on live radio. Had Mr. Lippman been required to express his opinions on talk radio on talk radio -- i.e., extemporaneously, as opposed to carefully editing and rewriting his prose before hitting the key to print -- he may not have sounded quite as erudite, literate or informed. It's not that easy.

Four, the point missed by all the experts, including Messrs. Laufer and Lippman, is that talk radio for AM is a phenomenon of survival, far more than one of politics. In the 1960s, the FCC refused to license AM stereo (tested at Baltimore's WFBR), because it believed the AM band was already strong and didn't need "help." As a result, FM got a stereo monopoly, better receivers and, eventually, ratings.

We all shudder from time to time over what we hear on talk radio, but we have shuddered as well -- more violently -- over breakfast coffee reading the polished prose of newspapermen, including some whose special interest at their "big-city" newspaper's expense is government and national politics.

The danger is not talk radio; it is elitism, the kind unwittingly expressed in Mr. Lippman's review.

Richard William Wilcke

Monkton

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Theo Lippman's "Talk Radio ignores its own ignorance" is really more an attack on conservative talk radio by a liberal Sun writer than it is a review of Peter Laufer's "Inside Talk Radio."

Mr. Lippman groups all of talk radio as one monolithic voice lecturing to an audience that cannot think for itself. In fact, there is a much greater diversity of opinions and ideas expressed every day on talk radio than there is coming from The Baltimore Sun, whose news reporting, editorials and columnists all promote a left-wing, big government agenda on a daily basis.

To quote Christopher Wood, editor of the Economist (in a Wall Street Journal article last year), "While the liberal media elite sit up in their ivory towers in New York and Washington, speaking only to each other, America listens to talk radio and thinks for itself.

Ray Gordon

Baltimore

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