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King Me

Posted 6/28/2006

Amen, amen, amen, Vince Williams (Social Studies, June 21). Once again you have written exactly what I was thinking about the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. My daughters and I are Tom Joyner Morning Show Christmas Wish winners, so when Tom asked his listeners to “cut a check” for Katrina victims, I did. My daughter has benefited from a wonderful education at the Baltimore School for the Arts, so when a letter arrived asking for a chance for her name to be on a Walk of Fame tile and expand the school for other children, I “cut a check.” See, I want my daughters to know life is about giving back so others can move forward. It’s pretty lonely at the top.

The King papers should stay in the family. I have often wondered how other’s family members were able to brilliantly market a memory. (Lord knows Tupac Shakur still makes millions.) King’s legacy is worth billions. Oprah Winfrey shouldn’t have had to purchase a place for his widow to live. This is not the time to take his children to task? I agree a fund needs to start to keep his legacy alive and in the family. If the family is a black family or the King family, so be it! Let me know when to “cut the check.” He left a village (his legacy) to uphold our race.

Sharon Wright

Prescription for Addiction

Edward Ericson Jr.’s article suggests that the case for drug treatment in Baltimore is motivated by politics (“Scoring Data Points,” Mobtown Beat, June 14). In fact, it is based on evidence.

Over the last decade, public funds for drug treatment in Baltimore City have increased by about 150 percent (adjusted for inflation). The number of people receiving treatment each day in publicly funded slots has increased by more than 3,000.

Over this period, the number of deaths of city residents due to illicit drug intoxication rose to a high of 328 in 1999 and then fell to a 10-year-low of 218 in 2005. These data come directly from a consistent analysis designed and performed by Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. This is the expert agency in state government that determines causes of death.

Another way to look at deaths due to illicit drug intoxication is to count everyone who was declared dead in the city. While the chief medical examiner advised me that this measure is not as reliable as deaths to city residents, in part because people may be pronounced dead in city hospitals who actually died elsewhere, it also fell to a 10-year low in 2005.

According to the federal Drug Abuse Warning Network, emergency department visits related to cocaine or heroin dropped by 39 percent from 1995 to 2002 (when the data stopped being collected). According to the Maryland AIDS Administration, new HIV diagnoses in Baltimore City have fallen 25 percent since a peak in 1998. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, syphilis cases are down by 70 percent from levels in the mid-1990s, and gonorrhea cases are down by about half.

As I explained to Mr. Ericson, no one statistic can perfectly capture the effect of drug treatment, and at a city level there are always other factors that can affect these kinds of outcomes.

Nonetheless, citywide data from independent and diverse sources is strikingly consistent and supports the results of a major research study conducted in Baltimore. This study followed 991 city residents and found that drug treatment was associated with a 69 percent reduction in heroin use, a 48 percent reduction in cocaine use, a 69 percent reduction in illegal income, and a 38 percent reduction in imprisonment.

The evidence demonstrating Baltimore’s progress against addiction is not liberal or conservative, Democratic or Republican. That is why it is no coincidence that so many from across the political spectrum support further expansion in access to drug treatment.

Joshua M. Sharfstein, M.D.
Baltimore City Commissioner of Health

Edward Ericson Jr. responds: My story focused on a single claim trumpeted by the city Health Department and the Open Society Institute: that increased spending on drug treatment caused a decrease in overdose deaths. The statistics underlying that claim are unverifiable—indeed, the medical examiner asserts that his database is secret by law—and the claim of causation is questionable.

I was not invited by George Soros’ Open Society Institute to attend its recent weekend “wine and coffee” drinking soiree, “in the Corinthian room of the Tremont Grand Hotel,” to discuss the advantages of drug treatment and to praise Mayor Martin O’Malley.

I, of course, favor drug treatment as an alternative to incarceration for the same reason I support motherhood. But that’s not the real issue.

The real issue is:

A) Why didn’t such a conference seriously examine why the United States has the highest drug addition rate, by far, of any industrialized nation?

B) Why do so many low-income people “medicate” themselves with illegal drugs?

C) Since alcohol is responsible for 10 times more deaths every year than all illegal drugs combined, and tobacco kills about 10 times as many folks as alcohol, why is it that alcohol and tobacco are legal and heroin, cocaine, and marijuana (the most harmless of all) are illegal?

D) What kind of community and employment can such “cured” addicts expect to return to that would offer them an alternative lifestyle?

I’ve been writing, teaching, and campaigning for two decades to take the profits out of drugs and treat addiction as the serious public health problem that it is.

Addicts should be able to visit well-distributed health clinics, some open 24-7, to purchase, at cost (or at no cost to the penniless), any drug they choose.

Such clinics could provide:

A) “clean” drugs, clearly marked as to potency and without the harmful additives drug users are likely to get on the street—results: fewer overdose deaths;

B) an option to ratchet down to less damaging drugs; and

C) full treatment on demand.

What would this accomplish?

A) It would eliminate the huge profit incentive, all up and down the line, that encourages drug addiction;

B) the drug pushers would be out of business the next day;

C) addicts would not need to steal everything in sight; and

D) most drug addicts could hold down a job—just as most alcoholics and cigarette fiends do.

But none of this would work without:

A) universal health insurance;

B) all people arrested for possession or distribution of illegal drugs being released from punishment and their records expunged so that they may vote, obtain employment ,and be eligible for student loans; and

C) a federal jobs and job training program, reminiscent of the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps camps of the New Deal.

Perhaps now the reader can understand why billionaire George Soros’ organization didn’t want the likes of me around.

To really solve the problem it will take more than the support of a liberal billionaire—made rich by the same capitalist system that drives million to addictions. It will take a serious political movement of the tens of millions of American working people who in the not too distant future will get together, take to the streets, organize a political movement, and create a new reality.

A. Robert Kaufman

The author is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.

Covering the Bases

I would like to take issue with your statement that “not enough of the World is interested in Baseball” (Mr. Wrong, June 14). You may not be aware of it, but a very large and growing proportion of Major League players are citizens of countries other than the United States and Canada. They are mostly from Caribbean and Latin American countries, but a lot are also from Asia and other areas of the world.

You may have missed it, but this past winter saw the inaugural playing of the World Baseball Classic, which featured 16 countries, each of which had Major League players on its team. The Classic was won by Japan, while the U.S. and Canada were both eliminated before the quarter-finals.

Tzadik Vanderhoof

Rusty Metal

Has Jess Harvell ever listened to metal? This article is more a joke than This Modern World (“Fresh Blood,” No Cover, June 7). First and foremost, no one really cares about Misery Index. It is the band that opens for the one everyone came to see. The crowd stands outside, socializes, goes to the bathroom, etc. The only real use for your page-long article is bathroom reading material for those waiting for them to finish. Additionally, the only worthwhile releases Dying Fetus ever put out were Purification Through Violence and Killing on Adrenaline, which Sparky Voyles had naught to do with. Everything after that sucked, so thanks for nothing, chum.

The very idea that a journalist would go to the Maryland Deathfest and focus on such a forgettable act is repugnant. I’m sure everyone in attendance was doing the usual mulling around during Misery Index’s set. With greats like Sanitys Dawn and Yacopsae on the bill, you’re chatting with a space filler.

Secondly, several corrections are necessary. The Exodus quote is “bonded by blood,” also the name of the song and their most prominent album. Grind is never “midtempo.” There is no such thing as a “double-bass drum blastbeat.” Breakdowns are not interesting, they’re boring and unmetal. And who decided Misery Index is all of the sudden a grind band in the first place?

City Paper needs new forces behind its metal articles, and I suggest myself as a candidate.

Pat Chenoweth

The Kids Are Alright

Dear Rahne Alexander,

Hearing attitudes like yours (“The Sanctity of Queer,” Queer Issue, June 14) used to make me feel really sad, but lately, since my daughter has grown up so much (she is 18), I have been less affected by daily motherhood oppression issues, so I feel less vulnerable. Plus, I feel progress in the radical community when it comes to children and child-raising issues, which makes me feel hopeful. I’ve been doing a series of workshops this summer called “Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind: Anarcha-Feminism and Supporting Mothers and Children” that has been well-received. I think it’s really important to realize places where all our movements overlap and to be allies to each other.

The best way to thwart the ills of the nuclear family is to set up alternative support networks, and for many, friends are family. The last thing radical parents (who don’t fit into the mainstream) need is to feel excluded from the political and cultural movements that became their home before they became a parent. I think we need a culture of resistance that can include the young to the old; to benefit from being all-ages in this Western society where we are so often compartmentalized and cut off from each other.

Because I felt less personally affected (a funny feeling), I could listen better to your interesting article and experiences and get over how you opened it, which seemed to me to equate having kids with part of selling out. (And the whole thing about generally disliking kids—I always kind of feel that is wrong when people can dismiss a segment of the population by saying: Well, I just don’t like the stereotypical “them”; that those who feel this way should examine their own psychology, since our own childhoods influence who we are, including our adult reaction to children; what often drives us crazy about kids is when they do the things we were told not to and punished for doing when we were a kid. Also, a lack of familiarity with a segment of the population can cause trepidation in how to interact; and people can find out they can be real with kids and not a Disney version of themselves. Also, I don’t feel you have to “like” children, or choose to have children, in order to respect/support their rights as individuals.) But when you closed your essay with saying that you would never baby-sit for your friends—an impish part of me wanted to invite you to be a child-care helper at the Kidz Room—’cause how great would that be?! I think it’s cool to try things that you never thought you would, and also the whole expression: Never say never.

However, I realize that may be stretching it and uncomfortable. So I just want to ask you to reconsider some of your viewpoints; and to tell your friends about the Kidz Corner that is happening at the Mid-Atlantic Radical Bookfair, June 30-July 2, at Center Stage—that there will be a spot welcoming to children with activities for them and perhaps that can support parents having access and time to browse the zines, books, and workshops.

See ya around (stop in the Kidz Corner and say “hi,” if you want).

China Martens

The country may as well give in. If any couple, same-sex or not, believes their inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness involves a genuinely recognized marriage, Americans will have to reconcile themselves to the dawn of what will become a new tradition.

There must be no law mandating one group’s religious beliefs over another. Personally speaking, I do not believe in an outside god micromanaging every aspect of life. I believe everyone alive can achieve enlightenment as we are, no preconditions attached. Any state banning same-sex marriage implies that gays and lesbians are not as worthy of pure happiness as the rest of us. This violates my First Amendment right to express my belief in the absolute equality of all living beings achieving pure happiness.

As for “civil union” bills, this smacks of the “separate but equal” fallacy of 100 years ago that fueled the hellish world of Jim Crow. I refuse to stand by and see homosexuals become the Plessey v. Ferguson group of the 21st century.

Society must not be shackled to the whims of people whose concept of a deity is nothing more than a personification of their own rage. Perhaps we should start a campaign to rescue Jesus from the clutches of American Pharisees who use him as a human shield behind which they take potshots at people they despise.

I can promise that even if I did believe in God, I’d never believe in some 6 billion-eyed monster staring up everyone’s underpants waiting to pounce like a piranha the moment anyone used his or her genitalia one degree beyond some impossibly narrow limit.

Perhaps we can return to matters that truly affect us all.

A toast to all happy couples.

Kimberly Sheridan

Correction: Our Queer Issue story about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered political issues and electoral activism (“Straddling The Vote,” June 14) erroneously reported that Equality Maryland, a GLBT-rights group, had endorsed Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan for governor. It did not. Progressive Maryland, of which Equality Maryland is an affiliate organization, had. City Paper regrets the error.

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