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Shuddup, Complainer!

Posted 11/26/2008

Sorry about the letter writer who lives in Charles Village and has to deal with drunks keeping him awake ("Shuddup, Drunks!," The Mail, Nov. 19), but I am 100 percent against the Baltimore City police in this incident.

Tell me, James Aguirre, how can you condone what the police did if they didn't even press charges? If it's not worth pressing charges over, then it's not worth arresting someone over. I'm sure Mike Hughes and the others arrested had the pleasure of missing work that Wednesday, because they'd gotten out of Central Booking probably about six that morning, if I guess the timing correctly.

The Baltimore City Police are only a small rung above Ireland's Black and Tans from the 1920s. Wearing a badge and having to meet arrest quotas does not give anyone the right to arrest someone without due cause. What was Mike's charging document going to say? "He approached the area with a cell phone to take pictures." Wow, thank god the officer didn't just shoot him down on the spot. Mike, next time, leave the lethal weapon at home, OK? You know cell phones aren't meant for anything but home use!

I moved out of Baltimore City and vowed never, ever to live within its limits again. Stories like this are a perfect reason why I made the right decision. I hope that Mike packs up and moves out to Baltimore County. It may not be paradise, but it's a damn sight better than the city is offering these days.

Mike Hughes is a great person and an ideal citizen. Baltimore City should apologize to him and that includes the arresting officer, Frederick Bealefeld, and Sheila Dixon. If ever Baltimore wants to moan about why residents are leaving the city, Mike's story is a perfect example.

Sorry for your troubles, Mike. Next time, if you go out to celebrate the end of a tyranny, kindly leave your cell phone at home and remember to empty your bladder first.

Patricia Haley

Veg In

I enjoyed reading Steve Gdula's story about dedicating one day a week to eating animal-free foods (Eat Me, Nov. 19.) He's right that a diet laden with animal products has been shown to negatively impact our environment. Animal agriculture is also responsible for causing a tremendous amount of animal suffering.

Every year, billions of animals endure horrific abuses simply to put meat, eggs, and dairy on our plates. Farmed animals are routinely subjected to intensive confinement and mutilations without anesthesia and most will never even set foot outside.

Fortunately, transitioning to a more compassionate diet is easier than ever. Veggie burgers, soy hot dogs, dairy-free milks, and, yes, even Tofurky, a meatless Thanksgiving feast, can be found at your local grocery store. Vegan cookbooks featuring everyday recipes to gourmet meals abound in bookstores and libraries everywhere. And restaurants all over the Baltimore area are now meeting the demand for healthier, earth-friendly, vegan fare--just check out to find a veg-friendly eatery near you!

Each of us can help protect the planet and animals with every bite we take, so why not make your next meal a vegan one?

Noelle Callahan
Outreach Coordinator, Compassion Over Killing
Takoma Park

Secret Agents, Man

This is a very timely piece on something that all Americans need to know about ("Secrets and Lies," Feature, Nov.12). Aside from all the areas covered in-depth, I thought it was a mistake to have a serving military officer--no matter how competent--to be head of the National Security Agency, much less to go on to head the Central Intelligence Agency later! Traditionally, both of these posts have been under civilian control, and should revert to that under the new administration.

Military men and women answer to their superiors in the chain of command, no matter what they tell Congress, and thus should be rightly excluded from such posts as these, as well as the FBI, in future. Anyone who has served in the military at any level and in any branch of service--especially as enlisted personnel--knows that the prime motivating factor at all times is to cover one's own ass. This carries over into our police forces and corporate board rooms when these same people leave the military for those pursuits. I recently asked a friend of mine who served in Vietnam with the Marines--as I did in the Army--and who then became a career policeman, what his definition of leadership was. His answer was illuminating: "Someone to take the blame."

Another aspect of our too many secret services is that--rather than compliment each other--they are actually rivals. Thus it was that the Pearl Harbor snafu occurred in part, and that the FBI covered up its connection to Oswald, as did the CIA. J. Edgar Hoover caught the Nazi saboteurs in 1942 only because one of them chickened out and turned informant on his own, betraying the other seven. As is the norm in Washington, Hoover took the credit for something he hadn't done. I believe that Sept. 11 occurred in much the same way, if--in fact--it wasn't premeditated, as was Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964, merely created to use as a pretense to go to war. This began at least by the time of Lincoln's assassination in 1865, if not earlier.

In January--for the first time in 16 years--the Maryland Congressional Delegation won't have a single former military service person as a Member of the House of Representatives. We haven't had a combat veteran as a United States senator since 1969. Does it matter? I believe that it does, as combat veterans like Rep. Wayne Gilchrest have a far better understanding of how the military works than any civilian I've ever met who never served a minute in any of them. We are thus on multiple dangerous paths simultaneously.

Blaine Taylor

The writer is an occasional City Paper contributor.

It was a delight to pick up City Paper and see a photograph of the National Security Agency above the title "Secrets and Lies: An Interview With National Security Agency Expert James Bamford" by Lee Gardner. I suspect most readers of the article have never been to the NSA.

But there is a group of activists who have been challenging the work of the Puzzle Palace since July 4, 1996. When we started this campaign, we recognized the agency's security apparatus would be interested in our future plans. Sure enough, Bamford, in his second book on the NSA, Body of Secrets, wrote that the agency labeled the Baltimore Emergency Response Network a "security threat group." During an August 2004 trial of two activists arrested at the NSA, we finally got the documents to prove the NSA was involved in surveillance of peace groups. Edward Ericson Jr. provided excellent coverage of the trial in City Paper.

Because of this trial and the subsequent involvement of the American Civil Liberties Union, we now know the surveillance was much more involved. In fact, the Maryland State Police has reluctantly revealed some of its involvement in surveillance of NSA protesters and other activists.

Despite the explosive revelations that the MSP was labeling activists as terrorists, City Paper has ignored this story. Why? It has all of the elements that should intrigue your readers--officers doing undercover operations, the sharing of data with the feds, the misuse of government money, the ever-changing reasons for this operation, and the refusal of the MSP to release all of the documents.

I am waiting for City Paper to pounce on this story as a follow-up to the interview with James Bamford. And for starters, try to get an interview with the director of the National Security Agency. See if Keith Alexander comes clean.

Max Obuszewski

Middle Way on Life

Cecil Adams' most recent column (The Straight Dope, Nov. 19) cited the lack of "a middle ground on abortion" and claimed that "the idea that a fetus becomes a person at some point between conception and birth was the prevailing view for 2,000 years." Both assertions are false.

The current abortion debate founders because of a fundamental flaw in the analysis: Its binary/FOX news approach to the matter: either/or--i.e., a fetus is either a full human being OR is of no value. Such is a false dichotomy.

The only cogent scriptural text on this subject is the one in Exodus 21, which recounts an incident when a pregnant woman, caught in the middle of a fight between two men, is hit by one of them and miscarries. The culprit pays a monetary fine for his action: If the fetus were considered a full human being, he would have been charged with murder, and if the fetus were worthless, he would have gotten off only with punishment for striking the woman. (FYI: Jesus never addressed this matter.)

In short, the Hebrew Bible takes a "middle view" on this matter, which is the position upheld by Jewish tradition: The fetus is "something," but not a full human being. It has property value and potential as life; but, in and of itself, is not life.

For Jewish rabbinic tradition, the theological issue is not when human life "begins" but, rather, when the soul enters the body, with views ranging from 40 days after conception to 30 days after birth. In practical, legal terms, "life" begins when the fetus is viable. Islam follows Judaism in this respect. Thus, the "2,000 year" figure cited by Adams is culture-specific, and unique to Christendom.

(Indeed, in Jewish law, when the mother's life is medically at stake, abortion is not merely allowed, but actually REQUIRED.)

I would argue that the majority of Americans prefer something more along the lines of such a nuanced "middle view."

Judaism's nuanced alternative and non-binary solution to this problem is not better known because many Orthodox rabbis--e.g., those in Pikesville--have knuckled under to the threat by the Christian Right to withhold support for Israel unless Jewish leaders mute their religion-based opposition to evangelical efforts to impose their anti-gay, anti-abortion agenda upon America.

Stas Cohen

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