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Needle Points

Posted 10/25/2000

The City Paper feature story "The Needle and the Damage Undone" (10/11) asks why, in light of the Baltimore City needle-exchange program's stunning success, "nobody wants to talk about it." This is an excellent question deserving excellent answers, which I'll now try to provide:

The program's success suggests that illegal-drug users are individual human beings who, like anyone else, act in what they perceive to be their own self-interest. Those who exploit the myth of the drug-user-as-monster for their own purposes probably would rather not be reminded of this.

Some might conclude from the program's success that addiction is a choice, not an uncontrollable disease. Some might further conclude that prohibiting the legal exercise of this choice does more harm than good and--looking at the broader picture--that Baltimore needs economic incentives and better education, not more police and jails.

The program's excellent results vis-à-vis the iffy results of so-called drug "treatment" may suggest that "treatment" is essentially a lucrative scam, at best providing a slight boost for those who intend to quit anyway, at worst serving up heavy doses of abuse and humiliation. (And doesn't every court-ordered referral to God-centered 12-step "treatment" violate the First Amendment's separation-of-church-and-state guarantee?)

The program's success could lead one to believe that drug use--like such other social phenomena as abortion, prostitution, teenage drinking, and guns--need do our society relatively little harm if regulated with a modicum of good sense, as opposed to futile attempts at prohibition.

Since these conclusions are undoubtedly disturbing to some--and any or all of them may be drawn by readers of CP's fine article--it's easy to see why needle exchange in Baltimore might be that rare thing: a success for which no one wants credit.

Jon Swift

Loving Your Car to DeathI want to thank Brennen Jensen for writing the most concise, most pertinent story about the Surrey System imaginable (Charmed Life, 10/18). He has caught the essence of it. I pride myself on my ability to express myself in telling English. I have tried for years to explain the Surrey System in terms that will engender favor. Yet the typical response is, "Oh, you want to take my ego-mobile away from me!"

Perhaps I am too close to it. Perhaps I can't see beyond the antlike, sheeplike mentality that refuses to appreciate the difference between efficiency and "keeping up with the Joneses."

But I can see that the time is ripe for a change in thinking. Common sense and environmental research are demanding we stop polluting the air, fouling the water, altering the climate, allowing runoff from parking lots to poison our streams until there is no more oxygen to breathe, only carbon dioxide; no more ozone layer, only skin cancer; no more prosperity because the price of a gallon of gasoline has risen so high (it's already $5 a gallon in some European countries).

Think about it...these scary developments can be stopped only by logic, not fantasy.

Jack U. Mowll
President, Surrey System Inc.


Happy FetusI was very happy to see Lee Gardner's review of the Dying Fetus CD-release party in last week's edition (Feedback, 10/11). There is a vibrant underground hardcore/metal music scene in the Baltimore area that, unfortunately, all too often gets overlooked by mainstream media and, dare I say, even City Paper. I was quite impressed with Lee's review of the evening's entertainment. It is apparent that he has a good grasp of the intricacies of the underground scene and did an excellent job of describing the bands and the positive atmosphere that pervaded even in the face of the apparent chaos of the mosh pit. I have been involved in booking hardcore shows, playing in two hardcore bands, Next Step Up and Wake Up Cold, and going to shows in the Baltimore area for the last 16 years, and finally we have a reporter at City Paper who can do justice to our hardcore scene. I invite Lee to come to some more hardcore shows at clubs like Hal Daddy's on the east side and of course the Sidebar to experience the thrill of a good interactive hardcore show! Thanks again to Lee and City Paper. I hope to see more fans out at the shows tearing it up in the pit.

J.R. Glass

That's Mister Cockroach, OK? Why in heaven's name does City Paper still run the sick, twisted, obscene crap from Joe MacLeod (Mr. Wrong)? If this cockroach is trying to make a point with his gibbering, I sure as hell can't find it.

Gerald Ben Shargel

An Oxford Education It was genuine delight that I noticed your selection of Oxford Class Ale as Best Local Beer (Best of Baltimore, 9/13). Since Clipper City Brewing Co. acquired/merged with Oxford Brewing Co. last January, we have worked hard to maintain the quality and integrity of Oxford Ale. It is encouraging to receive recognition from City Paper for a job well done.

We too lament that Oxford Class is so sparsely available, and I assure you we are working hard to correct the situation. Unfortunately, acquiring and holding tap space in various bars is extremely difficult, and Oxford Class, despite the quality of the product, has been a tough sell. I hope the CP Best Of will help in that regard.

I was distressed to see a letter (The Mail, 9/27) from Sam McColl blasting us at Clipper City for not, in his opinion, properly supporting and marketing Oxford Class. I would remind Mr. McColl that it is now Clipper City who produces the beer of which he is so enamored, and that I assume, since he holds Oxford Class in such high regard, that we are doing the job to his liking. The fact that Oxford Class is not more pervasive in the market, I can assure him, is not through lack of effort. No one wants Oxford Class to be successful more than I.

As for Mr. McColl's comments about Clipper City's brands being "drivel," our Reserve IPA received a rave review from Michael Jackson (the most renowned beer writer in the world) in the July issue of All About Beer. Also, our Clipper City Gold received a bronze metal at the 2000 great American Beer Festival (GABF) just last week. The GABF is the most competitive and prestigious beer event in the country, and a bronze is quite an achievement.

Also, just to correct a fact for Mr. McColl, we did not "terminate" the Oxford staff when we combined. Mr. Matt Menke, Oxford's last remaining brewer, has been with Clipper City ever since the merger. This was done specifically to reward his labors and to maintain product and brand continuity.

Perhaps Mr. McColl would be better served sharing his enthusiasm for products he likes, and helping to support them (ask your retailer to carry it), than by blasting those in the trenches trying to make it happen. I for one think we should celebrate the quality and diversity of all of our local beers rather than indulging in inaccurate propaganda and personal attacks.

Hugh Sisson
President, Sisson Management Inc., General Partner for Clipper City Brewing


Silver and Green Poor Howard Silverberg (The Mail, 10/11). His nose must be pretty numb by now. He's been holding it for some 64 years while voting for ruling-class presidential candidates. I wonder if all those stinking capitalists he's helped to elect appreciate how hard Howard has held his nose on their account.

You've got to hand it to our ruling oligarchy. It sure knows how to manipulate the sucker-voters. First they nominate an absolutely terrible Democratic candidate that few would vote for if they had a real choice. Then, to cover their asses, they nominate an even worse Republican candidate. And we're not supposed to mention the dominant corporations behind the curtain, financing both parties.

Heaven forbid the Silverbergs of the community should vote their own class interests for once--and give Ralph Nader his 5 percent. Far better to vote for the lesser evil all down the line until the "choice" is somewhere between Attila the Hun and Adolf Hitler.

A. Robert Kaufman

It's interesting that Marxism isn't completely dead, as reflected by Howard Silverberg's "Hold Your Nose and Vote Gore" letter of Oct. 11. He seems blissfully unaware that our two major parties, which he calls "ruling-class parties," enjoy the support of virtually all voting Americans, even many of quite modest means. His fantasy of building an "authentic people's third party" is exactly that. And this concept, a no-brainer even during the Great Depression, when the prospects of building one were theoretically greatest, is a nonstarter in the year 2000. It is also perversely elitist, as it implicitly assumes that Democrats and Republicans are not authentic people, and historically ignorant in its taking for granted that labor, all minorities (who in America is not a member of some minority anyway?), and his unidentified "progressive groupings" have more similarities than differences in common, or that, even if they could articulate a common program, that their needs would be so unique as to require their own party, rather than work more effectively through one of the major parties.

His suggestion that either George W. Bush or Al Gore is terrified of the people rising up and revolting is equally out of touch with developments in American life over the last 70 years. Both Vice President Gore and Gov. Bush are far more motivated by polls and focus groups in determining which programs and policies to advocate and how to advocate them than by any fear of proletarian revolt, especially after several decades of declining voter participation. It is Ralph Nader, in my opinion, who is far more out of touch with the average American voter than either Gore or Bush, and whose willful ignorance of American economic and political realities would cause far more suffering to working Americans than either Gore or Bush.

Steven Shore

Well, I have to hand it to Howard Silverberg--he just convinced me to be scared shitless come November. I find it hard to believe that by voting for Al Gore I will be giving myself and the rest of America better opportunities for change. If he is elected he can move straight to Disney World's Hall of Presidents after leaving office. That doesn't mean I think George Bush Jr. should be president. (Forget the George W. Bush jazz--he picked that up after he started his political career; I guess Junior conjures up too many images of a dopey little freckle-faced Alfred E. Neuman look-alike--oops, never mind.) I don't think any Democrat or Republican really gives a shit about me or anyone else without lots of money. I kind of dig Ralph Nader--I ain't his biggest cheerleader, but at least he has spent a good portion of his life working in the public interest.

I will be voting for Nader in November, and I know that, more than likely, he won't be victorious. But I will have voted my conscience. That, and the fact that I will have actually voted. I remember hearing in my high school German class over 10 years ago that the German people would practically shit themselves if they had less than 85 percent voter turnout. More Americans probably watched the Survivor conclusion than will vote this year. That's frigging scary. So I firmly believe that I might rather undermine Al Gore and see George Bush Jr. as president--not for Mr. Kaufman's reasons, but because I believe democracy is a privilege, not a luxury. Over 200 years ago, people fought for and founded this country ostensibly for the common good of most of the people. Over time that idea has grown to include blacks, women, and immigrants. Maybe we need George Bush, if only to scare people out of their chairs and into the streets. Maybe we need that kind of pain to appreciate the joy of this democracy.

Rob Nelson

Howard Silverberg claims that a vote for Ralph Nader is a vote for George W. Bush, and will usher in "the march toward the extreme right." Silverberg engages in the scare tactics typical of the Gore campaign. At the Waverly farmers market, some Al Gore supporters could be seen sporting a button that said IT'S THE SUPREME COURT, STUPID! There are a number of problems which this slogan, and Silverberg's rhetoric, exemplify.

1) The composition of the Supreme Court under George W. Bush cannot be predicted prior to its composition. Gore supporters must have some special clairvoyance here. The issue that concerns most voters who waver between Nader and Gore is reproductive rights. While voters should not assume that either Gore or Bush will keep to their pledges after election, Bush has pledged that he will not use opposition to Roe v. Wade as a litmus test for Supreme Court appointments. Concerned voters should also note that Gore in Congress consistently opposed federal funding of abortions for poor women.

2) It is not the general vote that determines the outcome of the presidential election. It is the Electoral College. For those Maryland voters who would like to vote for Nader to enable the Green Party to reach 5 percent of the general vote in order to receive federal funds in 2004, but who are afraid to contribute to a Bush presidency, it is important to know that a vote for Nader in Maryland is highly unlikely to give Bush Maryland's Electoral College votes because Gore has a commanding lead in the Free State (10 percent to 15 percent). A simple strategy is to check the polls for Maryland in the week prior to Nov. 7. If Gore has a comfortable lead, a voter with a Nader lean, but a Supreme Court fear, can feel comfortable voting for Nader and LaDuke on Nov. 7. If Gore does not have such a lead, then a vote for Gore instead of Nader is wasted, since if Gore does not take Maryland, a solidly Democratic state, he's unlikely to take the nation.

3) Both Silverberg and the Gore campaign as a whole are playing on people's fears while manipulating their perceptions of the reality of how the presidential election outcome is determined. This is dishonest. It is insulting to the intelligence of voters.

Voters who would like to see a "candidate who offers a sane and reasoned critique and a humane alternative direction for the United States" may want to read the Oct. 23, 2000, issue of The Nation. There a list of 276 academics, intellectuals, artists, and writers have indicated that they will vote for Nader as the only such candidate in the 2000 presidential election.

Chuck D'Adamo

Correction: Last week's Mobtown Beat story about hepatitis C misidentified the pharmaceutical company Roche as the maker of interferon-ribavirin combination therapy. Roche is one of several manufacturers of interferon; the two-drug combination therapy is solely produced by Schering-Plough.

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