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Spy and the Commie Stone

Posted 7/22/2009

I must take exception to Edward Ericson Jr.'s diatribe masquerading as a review of D. D. Guttenplan's American Radical: The Life and Times of I. F. Stone ("Mr. Independent Press," Books, July 16). I personally consider I. F. Stone a courageous journalist and Franklin Roosevelt one of our greatest presidents. Nonetheless, the accusation that, briefly during the 1930s, I. F. Stone provided information to the KGB should be examined on its own merits, and not dismissed out of hand, as Mr. Ericson does. Alexander Vassiliev, who had unprecedented access to KGB files, is the author of Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, mentioned in "Mr. Independent Press." He claims to have seen the records of the interaction between I. F. Stone and the KGB. It is true that, especially after Roosevelt's death, I. F. Stone viewed the New Deal as a kind of golden age, but--especially prior to the signing of the Nazi-Soviet pact in 1939--he did not view Stalin's Soviet Union nearly as critically as he viewed Hitler's Germany. Like all too many liberals (and conservatives) in that decade, he could not muster the outrage against Stalin's Great Terror, the gulag, and the (Soviet) man-made famine in the Ukraine that he could against Hitler's atrocities, and viewing fascism as "the major threat to civilization," often turned a blind eye, at best, or even supported, at worst, Soviet excesses.

Steven Shore

Edward Ericson Jr. responds: In fact, I did examine Vassiliev's evidence "on its own merits," the same way I examine the evidence of anyone who approaches me, in my role as a reporter, claiming to have "seen records." As in most such cases, Vassiliev's evidence is unconvincing.

Still Buggin'

My husband and I are also bed-bug sufferers. Our story is similar to those in the article ("Parasite City," Feature, July 1). We rent a rowhouse in Brewers Hill with neighbors that have landlords who do not keep up their properties. The house next to us is split into two apartments. During the winter, a family of Latinos moved in to the downstairs apartment. Over the next few months we started getting bitten. In May, our exterminator confirmed that we do have bed bugs. Our neighbors had four mattresses outside and there was a lot of evidence of bed bugs in and on all of them. We even have pictures to prove it. Our exterminator commented that we were doing everything right and are just victims of our neighbors.

We contacted the Health Department about the bed bugs, but were told that all they could do was try to contact the landlord and try to inspect the home. Their current approach was to educate people. They also suggested that we talk to the neighbors and their landlord to resolve the issue. Needless to say, this was not much help in treating the problem. To date, we have spent thousands of dollars, cleaning our clothes, packing our stuff up, and having everything professionally treated, not to mention the psychiatrist bills and the constant itching. Since we feel that even if we treat, we will never be rid of the bed bugs coming from next door, we are now also moving. Given our experience, I strongly believe something needs to be done to make landlords responsible for their property and who they rent to.

Kristen Baker

Joe's Cool

I sincerely want to say "thank you" to City Paper reporter Joe Tropea and cameraman Skizz Cyzyk for the internet interview of me--Larnell Custis Butler, Afrocentric feminist (City People,, July 1)

The professionalism of Joe Tropea and his cameraman made me feel comfortable in doing the interview for As a black woman, I believe that all of my good, and bad, experiences make me a better spiritual individual who must accept the pain of my past and the blessings I am receiving in the present. I refuse to scrape the bitter moments from my psyche, because I know the joy you see in me now is the result of injurious injustices done to me because I live to be a "raising hell kind of woman." I hope Jesus Christ forgives me for my plain speaking, because Jesus loved me when everybody else could not, and would not, because the Devil tried to make me a symbol of his lying character. I've put the cross of Jesus Christ on my life, even if you cannot accept the nigger in me, which I know you believe is who you hope I be.

I do not have a computer, cell phone, or internet service; no answering machine, no e-mail, no voice mail, no techno stuff. As a hermit, silence is the extended religion of Jesus, and I enjoy dwelling in the silence of peace in aloneness. That does not mean I want nothing to do with people. I want people to live without using me for their purpose. Free the mind.

Larnell Custis Butler

Mental Challenge

Kay Bhagat's online comments ("No Care for the Homeless," Mobtown Beat,, June 26) warrant a response, as her statements are sad examples of how the interests of the mentally ill are being misrepresented.

Ms. Bhagat's statements are filled with falsehoods and myths. It is laughable to think that the Walter P. Carter Center is decrepit and old, when the building is under 40 years old. The hospitals in Catonsville and Sykesville are older, and they are excellent facilities. The White House is older.

I am a registered nurse who is employed at the Walter P. Carter Center, and I can testify that the building is not unsafe. The facilities department spends money on maintenance, as allocated. The Carter Center is underfunded, and this has been the case before the announcement of the impending closure of the hospital. This has been noted by the families and friends of our patients, who have expressed that we do provide a therapeutic environment. Also, it is accurate to note that Clifton T. Perkins is the most restrictive setting, as it is a forensic hospital.

Understand two things here. First, mental illnesses are chronic, just as diabetes and hypertension are. Regardless of the alleged amount of community services in place, sometimes the person's symptoms necessitate a stay in the hospital. Often, before the [state] Department of Health and Mental Hygiene closed the hospital to civil and voluntary commitments, many of our patients were referred initially by community placements to emergency rooms because their symptoms were too acute to manage in an outpatient setting. Second, there are not enough placements or services in the community. This, I have seen, is the reason many patients remain in the hospital long after they have been stabilized.

Here is another ugly fact: I have also seen that many patients are not accepted back into the placements that they were in after stabilization. Consequently, they have to be referred to another placement. Imagine a cardiac patient being told by his cardiologist that he was tired of his angina and he had to find himself another doctor. The fact is that among the community services that do exist, many do not understand mental illness and its chronicity. Still, Ms. Bhagat seems to think that community services can replace mental hospitals.

The state wastes and loses money purchasing beds in the private sector, where these hospitals are selective in whom they admit and discharge before symptoms abate and placement is found, as is stated in the article. Meanwhile, the civil and voluntary commitments continue to frequent and languish in ERs and this continues unabated.

Clearly, it is Ms. Bhagat's ideas and positions that are old and decrepit and also bankrupt, and she and her organization [the Maryland Disability Law Center] have long forfeited any claim of advocacy for the mentally ill. It is sad that the uninsured mentally ill are being betrayed by persons and organizations that they should have been able to trust. It is both irresponsible and reprehensible that she is misleading the public as to the injustice being perpetuated on society and this defenseless population.

Lorraine Birt

Editor's note: This week, we begin running the Readers' Poll ballot for our upcoming Best of Baltimore issue (Sept. 16)--check out for all the details. As long as you vote by Sept. 1 and follow the rules, you can have a say in what we dub best around these parts.

Also, this week we begin soliciting submissions for our eighth annual Comics Contest. Head to for the full scoop and get to drawing.

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