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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Poem carries whiff of anti-Semitism

Despite Will Englund's attempt at cleverness, the "Merry Christmas" poem (editorial, Dec. 25), contained a reference that has been historically perceived as anti-Semitic.

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While lobbyist Jack Abramoff has yet to be judged, comparing him to Charles Dickens' character Fagin perpetuates stereotypes and anti-Semitism.

Anti-Semitism, ingrained into Victorian English society, manifested itself in Dickens' depiction of Fagin, the head of the thieves in Oliver Twist.

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In the novel, Dickens repeatedly describes Fagin as "the Jew" (in fact, more than 250 times), and Fagin represented a vicious, intentional stigmatization of the Jewish people.

When challenged later, Dickens said that he had made Fagin Jewish because "that class of criminal almost invariably was a Jew."

Dickens later acknowledged he knew no Jews; rather, he was spouting his ignorance laced with ancient malice.

Years later, after coming to know some Jewish people, Dickens realized that he was wrong to portray Fagin as he did and to insinuate that Jews had a villainous nature.

Arthur C. Abramson

Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council.

Kick out developers who won't save sites

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If one group of developers does not want to be bothered with saving irreplaceable Baltimore buildings ("Block plans under debate," Dec. 26), it's time for them to move out of the way and make room for a developer who can deliver the project as promised.

There are plenty of developers in this city, in this region and around the country who would welcome the chance to take the lead on a prime development project with a major preservation component.

Baltimore should be horrified at the idea of ripping down entire blocks of prized historic architecture. But it should not hesitate to toss out developers who are trying to slither out of a commitment they made to the citizens of this city who want these blocks preserved and revitalized.

Susan Warren

Baltimore

Common ground on city's renewal

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The Sun's article "Block plans under debate" (Dec. 26) depicts the ongoing struggle between historic preservation and economic development in Baltimore.

I firmly believe that historic preservation and economic development are not mutually exclusive ideas. I am also a pragmatic preservationist.

While it is generally preferable to avoid preserving only the facade of a building, I do not see the benefit in preventing much-needed economic development in cases in which the interiors of the buildings in question have been drastically changed over the years or are simply mundane.

It is simply not feasible to save every old building in this city, nor can we save the interior of every old building.

We also cannot freeze our city in time.

However, we also should not tolerate the destruction of our architectural heritage in those cases in which historic preservation is a relatively minor inconvenience to developers.

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Too often, developers and historic preservationists refuse to seek compromise that would be beneficial to all.

We must not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.

G. Byron Stover

Baltimore

The writer is a member of the Mount Vernon-Belvedere Association.

Bush isn't building an 'enemies list'

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Pat Oliphant's Dec. 26 editorial cartoon was way off base and totally misrepresents the issue of eavesdropping on American citizens.

There is no evidence the president used surveillance to start his "own personal enemies list" or to "spy on 'em all" or to "sic the IRS" on anyone or for any purpose other than to protect our national security and win the war against terrorism.

Cartoons are a well-established medium for comment on issues of the day. But they must be based on truth.

And journalistic integrity requires that a responsible newspaper exercise editorial discretion and not publish a scurrilous and incorrect cartoon.

Evan Alevizatos Chriss

Baltimore

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Downhill from days of Nixon's scandals?

Pat Oliphant's editorial cartoon (Dec. 26) depicting the ghost of President Richard M. Nixon coaching President Bush ("So this is power!" "He's got it!") provoked some mixed feelings for me.

True, Mr. Nixon and the present president share certain characteristics regarding "enemies," but there are some things Mr. Nixon "got" that Mr. Bush hasn't yet: With the exception of Vietnam, Mr. Nixon conducted a rational foreign policy (for instance, opening up a dialogue with China); he also showed a concern for the environment.

As someone who broke open the champagne when Mr. Nixon announced his resignation, I find it unsettling to say that compared with today's crop of conservatives, Mr. Nixon was downright liberal.

We've come a long way since his day - and evidently it's all been downhill.

Steve Stiles

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Randallstown

Immigrants enrich culture, economy

Am I mistaken when I detect the racist aroma of Ku Kluxism in the howls of right-wingers against the undocumented workers from Mexico and Central America?

The newest indecency is a proposal that would deny citizenship to their babies born in the United States ("Renewed debate surrounds right to citizenship by birth," Dec. 27).

Many Latinos have traveled thousands of miles from their hometowns and impoverished villages in order to find work in this country, often hard labor at low pay.

Tens of millions of undocumented workers are in our country. They are a vital source of labor for many businesses, and they pay taxes.

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Legislative proposals to eject these workers and seal our southern border would damage the American economy.

Any sane immigration reform would allow these workers to obtain legal status and eventually apply for citizenship.

They enrich our culture and are important to our economy.

Raymond S. Gill

Crownsville

School isn't place for Army recruiters

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The writer of the letter "Parents bypassed on abortion, too" (Dec. 27) compares two controversies - parental notification about military recruiting and parental notification about abortion - and then implies that this comparison should be of great concern to any moral observer.

That might be good rhetoric, but the comparison is empty.

Any teenage girl who has become pregnant has either made a mistake, had an accident or both.

If she loves and trusts her parents, she'll tell them herself. If her parents' incompetence and neglect is a root cause of the pregnancy, the last thing the girl needs is government harassment that throws her back into their care.

The armed forces' aggressive recruitment tactics have nothing to do with this issue.

School is for reading, writing, arithmetic, sports and forming friendships. Army recruiters aren't teachers, coaches or kids. Keep them out.

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Keith Crouse

Timonium


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