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Profit Before People

Posted 8/10/2005

Thank you to Edward Ericson Jr. for his investigative, poignant, and well-researched feature article on the widespread “flipping” market that exists in Baltimore (“Flipping Out,” Aug. 3). Though many investors would make the argument that this method of profit is capitalism at its finest, it is terrible for the city and its residents. All too often, many of these flippers are out-of-state investors who walk away with huge profits that do not benefit the buyer, original seller, or the community.

Because they are so profit-minded, they often rehab houses into proverbial “sore thumbs,” or let their properties fall into a state of such disrepair that it tarnishes our fine, historic neighborhoods and discredits our real-estate market. They have no concern for Baltimore, its history, or its reputation, and home buyers and sellers should be more aware of the damage they wreak.

Emily Arnold
Baltimore

Stop Wussin’

Brian Morton is perfectly right in calling the Democratic Party the “Wuss Party” (Political Animal, Aug. 3). However, he doesn’t explain the reason why the pseudoliberal Democratic Leadership Council and the tepid wusses it produces are the way they are.

In plain English, they are scared shit.

Does anyone believe that if Maryland congressmen Albert Wynn (D-4th) or Dutch Ruppersberger (D-2nd) were to have the balls of A. Robert Kaufman they would talk about social justice, economic justice, and human rights in countries that we like—as in Equatorial Guinea or Saudi Arabia—other than just ones we don’t like, as in Iran or North Korea?

Simple answer: They wouldn’t get the big bucks that the corporations fund their campaigns with. And here’s another reason: Wynn and Ruppersberger are as conservative as Helen Bentley and Roscoe Bartlett.

It remains to be seen whether Ben Cardin or Kweisi Mfume will be brave enough to buck the screaming local hyenas on AM talk radio who (just as I expect a duck to quack) will poor-mouth anyone to the left of Rush Limbaugh.

Democrats can shake the “wuss” image if they mount grass-roots campaigns for social and economic justice; they will find that they have more allies than the idiot right.

To misquote Jim Hightower, “there ain’t nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead possums.”

Years ago, when we lived in the city’s 2nd District, I was forced to choose between a conservative Republican, Helen Bentley, and a just-as-conservative Democrat, Joe Bartenfelder. I wrote in Fidel Castro and slept well.

Gerald Ben Shargel
Baltimore

In Memoriam

I was mortified to read in the Aug. 3 issue of Murder Ink the circumstances in which you reported my father was murdered. My father, Ernest N. Pope Sr., was murdered on Wednesday, July 27, 2005. Contrary to what was reported, he was shot in the chest and not in the head.

As painful as it is for me to recall these details it is even more painful for me to see him portrayed in such an airy way. It is important for you to know that he was a hard-working father of nine, who made his mistakes but still earned the respect of his children and a number of friends and family members. Mr. Pope leaves to mourn his wife, his children, and his grandchildren.

I am a fan of City Paper, as are others in my family. This lapse in judgment has been a painful lesson for me to endure, and I hope that in the future you are more careful when you are doing your research. If any of your reporters who were circling my father’s house that day would have stopped and asked some questions, we would have been more than generous to comply. So please, if you don’t mind, try and make an attempt in the future to portray an African-American with a little more respect. Such delicate information should not be reported with such a bitter tone.

Tavon Nathaniel Pope
Baltimore

Editor Lee Gardner responds: The location of Mr. Pope’s wound, like all information about specific killings reported in Murder Ink, comes from the Baltimore Police Department’s Public Information Office and is compiled on the day before we go to press, precluding in-depth reporting on each incident. A call to the Public Information Office before this issue went to press confirmed that, as far as BPD is concerned, what we printed are the correct details of Mr. Pope’s death. Regardless, I am genuinely sorry for your loss.

Bush is better than Saddam

Letter writer Max Obuszewski’s criticism of Russ Smith’s “simplistic comments” (“Terror Not Random,” The Mail, July 27) invites a few plain ones of my own. To wit: The only al-Qaida response to an American withdrawal from Saudi Arabia (one of Osama bin Laden’s stated aims) has been to increase its bombing of Muslims in Iraq and Christians in London. The lack of suicide-terrorist Tibetans taking aim at the Chinese occupation of their homeland, or Lebanese martyrs in Syria, begs a basic re-examination of Professor Robert Pape’s thesis. Better yet, if American “world dominance” were to actually materialize, maybe the United States would cease paying rent for the privilege of protecting global economies of “occupied homelands” like Germany, Japan, and South Korea.

Perhaps we’d get even more bang for our buck if our dollars of “foreign aid” stopped making their way to “counterproductive” areas like Egypt, Pakistan, and Israeli UNOCCUPIED Palestine.

Whatever the gripes against President George W. Bush, one remains hard-pressed in letting Congress off the hook. Remember, representatives from both political parties voted on over 20 counts (not just WMDs) to invade Iraq. Bush’s policies, however “abominable” Mr. Obuszewski finds them, have achieved tangible results. One doesn’t have to be an “administration mouthpiece” to recognize that 30 years of theocratic failures in the Middle East have produced no peace, no democracy . . . no end in sight to the misery of a well-educated middle class in countries like Iraq, Iran, and even Afghanistan. The price for purchasing oil, not just seizing it like a Roman or Ottoman empire would, pretty much contributed to 3,000 dead U.S. citizens on Sept. 11, 2001. Many Americans, frustrated at such pathology, would prefer an easy, popular solution. To quote: “Kill ’em all, and let God sort ’em out.”

So far, there’s been no evidence that the president or his administration supports such a jaded worldview. Bush might have withstood the pressures of inaction. Cynicism and doubt, however, are assuredly easy to display in light of grand utopian designs. Accomplishment, though, is something else. I wish him success.

Daylin C. Louderback
Whiteford

Nebbishes Have Rights Too

We all know disputes happen, especially when it comes to real estate (“Creative Differences,” Mobtown Beat, July 27). The fact that there were a lot of artists involved in this case may have made things worse. But personality aside—and when it comes to resolution of disputes, personalities have to be put aside—Bernhard Hildebrandt should have been allowed to stay or been reasonably compensated for his share of the building.

The judgment, eviction without compensation, reeks of profit motive and/or personal grudge-letting by the other shareholders. It’s wrong, and the Maryland courts should take a hard look at this case. Otherwise, you could find yourself homeless and penniless just because your neighbors claim “this guy is impossible to deal with.”

Robert Dowling
New York

An Entirely New Penguin

While the story line was kind of bland and repetitious, for me March of the Penguins provoked numerous philosophical ruminations (Film Clips, July 6). I left the theater asking myself both What is the meaning of our lives? and From where spring our feelings of affection and love?

As shown in the movie, the only meaning in the penguins’ lives was gross physical survival. Given their Antarctic ice-shelf environment, the minute-to-minute effort required of them was truly staggering. The penguins had no cultural overlay, none at all . . . zilch. It was 24-7 survival. I guess the following sounds nihilistic (“the denial of intrinsic meaning and value in life,” Webster’s Dictionary), but at rock bottom, are our lives all that different from those of the penguins? Absent our cultural overlay, would we also be a species simply slogging to survive? Are our cultural achievements only icing on the cake? In the grand scheme of things, what difference does our cultural overlay make, especially if we are ultimately doomed to annihilation by our own hands, a virulent bird-flu pandemic, or an errant asteroid?

As for the love and affection department, after witnessing the penguins’ inspiring expressions of tenderness for each other as they snuggled and coupled to reproduce, I was totally floored to learn that it lasted for only one mating season. They are serially monogamous. Each new mating season the penguins repeat their beautiful, heartfelt, made-forever dance of love, but with an entirely new penguin! It left me wondering if, despite appearances, when we humans fall into reproductive-type love, are we basically just following our hormones’ marching orders to survive, as was clearly the case with the penguins?

Using the penguins’ example, maybe it’s time for humans who are so inclined to launch a penguins singles club. Members will recognize each other by how they answer the question, “Are you a penguin, too?”

Herman M. Heyn
Baltimore

Ed-head

I want to thank Terrie Snyder and City Paper for the two-part feature interview with former Baltimore police commissioner Ed Norris (“Eddie,” June 1 and June 8). Besides the tragedy that befell Mr. Norris, the interview pointed out the severe slant of The Sun and other major media.

Paul Misfeldt
Westminster

Correction: We misspelled artist Jackie Milad’s name in our critical survey of the visual arts of ArtScape (Art, July 20). Sorry ‘bout that.

Editor’s note: Russ Smith is taking the week off; Right Field will return next week.

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