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Sailabration brings out the mobs

It was a big, beautiful weekend for Sailabration in the city of Baltimore, with superb weather, tall ships, Blue Angels, sailboats in the Inner Harbor (and at least one canoe), even a reason for the party (War of 1812 commemoration). And while I'm sure the opening of the new Wegman's in Columbia was exciting, it couldn't compete with Sailabration.

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But all those people — gobs of people, mobs of people in downtown Baltimore! They were absolutely everywhere during Sailabration, crowding the promenade and the bridges connecting the piers. So, thank you, Pat McDonough, for the warnings. The blustery state delegate and talk-show host pointed out the downtown mob problem just a few weeks ago, and I thought he was exaggerating to gain attention. He said he was going on national television to tell people to stay away from Baltimore because of the mobs. You know, sometimes it takes someone like Pat, a city Democrat who became a suburban Republican, to shed light on a problem in our midst. I had no idea the mobs could be this bad. No wonder nobody wants to go downtown anymore.

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Since the War of 1812 didn't really hit Baltimore in a big way until September 1814 — Battle of Baltimore, Francis Scott Key and The Star-Spangled Banner — here's hoping we do it all again in two years. Here's to Sailabration II, and even more mobs in Mobtown.

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Coming up next: A Fortnight of Freedom, a celebration of religious liberty promoted by the Archdiocese of Baltimore, with an opening Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption on Thursday evening. There are several events planned in connection with this celebration through July 4.

It was brought to my attention by Jeff Ross, a Catholic who, in a powerful letter to Archbishop William E. Lori, protests the inclusion of a so-called "Patriotic Rosary" in the Fortnight events. What disturbs Mr. Ross, and should disturb every Catholic, is the customized rosary's inclusion of a quote from Gen. Robert E. Lee, leader of the Confederate Army in the Civil War, imploring his soldiers to "beseech the aid of the God of our forefathers in the defense of our homes and our liberties, thanking Him for His past blessings, and imploring their continuance upon our cause and our people."

Of course, the "cause," in this case, included slavery.

"Slavery is the institution that General Lee labored to preserve," Mr. Ross wrote the archbishop, "and no amount of exegetical ingenuity can remove slavery from the category of 'liberties' and 'cause' invoked by General Lee and repeated in the Patriotic Rosary. ... There is no way of purifying General Lee's words on prayer from the blood he was instrumental in spilling so that slavery might continue on our soil." The use of Lee's words in this context, Mr. Ross says, "defiles the rosary and discredits the church." As of Monday, Mr. Ross was awaiting the archbishop's response.

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A few facts, for comparison purposes, about Pennsylvania, with its 11 casinos (and more to come) and a 2006 tax relief law said to have made life in the ol' Keystone so superior to ours that it has attracted former Marylanders to its southern, over-developed, billboard-blighted frontier:

•The mayor and city council of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's capital city, are fighting for the right, under state law, to declare bankruptcy;

•Scranton is about out of cash, and its public employees may lose pay and health insurance;

•Reading laid off 65 teaching assistants, 22 secretaries and 110 teachers while leaving 65 more teaching positions unfilled. Five schools are being closed, and the pre-kindergarten program is being dropped, according to the Reading Eagle;

•York and Harrisburg are considering dropping kindergarten.

According to the Associated Press, state aid for public schools in Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's first budget year shrank by about $860 million, more than 10 percent. This year, according to the York Daily Record, Mr. Corbett's proposed budget eliminates a $100 million block grant program used by school districts to pay for full-day kindergarten, tutoring and reducing class sizes. Kindergarten is not mandatory in Pennsylvania. It is in Maryland, for both public and private schools, and has been since 1992. Education Week ranks Maryland's public schools No. 1 in the nation and Pennsylvania's 13th. But they have way more casinos than we do, and "tax relief."

Dan Rodricks' column appears each Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. His email is dan.rodricks@baltsun.com.

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