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Posted 2/16/2005

The “Street of Dreams” (“Street of Dreams, Part 1,” Feb. 2) was a dream land. “Tiny Tim” Harris is so right: Segregation wasn’t without its benefits. Black people had a community that was much more unified and strong. That was a time when a black person could start a business and it would prosper anywhere in our community. That was a time when the black community had something like a 78 percent marriage rate. That was a time when the penal system was not overcrowded with our young black men. As a matter of fact, the majority of the prison population of that time was white. That was a time when Marcus Garvey appealed to the masses of black Americans, something no other black leader has been able to do before or since. Garvey had begun a movement to make black people in America, as well as in Africa, a united people. As a 71-year-old black man, my heart aches too when I reminisce about the Pennsylvania Avenue of yesteryear.

Leo A. Williams

No Thugs In Our House

Alexander D. Mitchell IV’s smug mini-screed a couple of weeks back (“Bring Back Context, Please,” The Mail, Feb. 2) was quite a crisp confirmation of the prejudicial dismissals cautioned against in the letter proposing excluding criminal records from Murder Ink entries; it showed just exactly how quick people are to write off the value of a human life as soon as a cursory history of petty crimes is attached. However, Sharon Wright’s letter (“Hooray for Dead Thugs,” Feb. 9) digs the hole that much deeper: “Funny how those of us who don’t deal or steal aren’t getting robbed and murdered” is easily the single most ignorant remark I have ever read on your letters page.

Sheldon Drake

Zorkonian Economics

Brian Morton is a little too flip for accusing Gov. Robert Ehrlich of vetoing the malpractice bill because “it doesn’t include every single thing you want in it, then run[ning] around crying when your veto is overturned (Political Animal, Feb. 2). Here are the facts: 1) State regulators allowed the Medical Mutual Liability Insurance Society of Maryland to increase its malpractice insurance premiums by 33 percent. 2) Doctors threatened to quit or leave the state. 3) Ehrlich increased the state subsidy of the premium increase by setting aside $30 million (plus more from Medicaid reimbursements).

Not a bad fix, right? Well, no, not if you’re House Speaker Michael Busch/Senate President Mike Miller and their loyal herd of Dems (mooooo), who, instead, passed a 2 percent tax increase and eliminated Ehrlich provisions such as capping lawyers’ fees and noneconomic damages in malpractice cases. (Typical: Dems cut, slash, and burn Ehrlich’s legislation, add taxpayer-funded bells and whistles, call it their own, then blame others if it doesn’t work out as planned.) Ehrlich warned that the tax would increase health-care costs for those who can least afford it and vetoed it. “We will override your veto,” sang the Busch/Miller duet. “Mooooo,” said the herd. “Hooray,” said the doctors who (under Busch/Miller) would get a full subsidy of the premium increase and wouldn’t have to move to West Virginia and live a pauper’s life in a refrigerator carton down by the tracks. “Baaaaah,” said the (f)lockstep media.

Pop Quiz: You’re a CEO and the legislature hands you a 2 percent tax increase. Your response is to: a) eat the tax increase because—notwithstanding years of evidence to the contrary—politicians know best how to spend our money, or b) pass the increased costs on to consumers.

If you answered “a,” freshmen Econ 101 students would look at you like you just popped in from the planet Zork. Nonetheless, the “Zorkonian” Dems were shocked that HMOs chose “b” and, since Dems never met a mistake of their own they couldn’t blame on Repubs, went after Maryland Insurance Commissioner Alfred Redmer for allowing the HMOs to do this. Now Mr. Morton goes after Ehrlich for “crying” about the veto override, neglecting (of course) the Dems’ role.

Oh, and what if insurance companies increase their premiums again next year? No worries: We can just pass another tax! Mooooo. Hooray. Baaaaah.

Paul V. O’Connell

Beer John Letters

I read your article about DeGroen’s closing with sadness (“Closing Time,” Mobtown Beat, Feb. 2). I’ve known of the closing, but seeing it in print really hit it home.

I’m relatively new to DeGroen’s, having gone for the first time in fall of 2003. Now, my boyfriend and I go every Friday night, and usually our friends gather and meet us there. It can be just the two of us or end up to be a crowd of 17. I celebrated my birthday there. I want to say that what makes DeGroen’s so special, besides the wonderful beer, is the staff. Spike, Homero, Tim and Angie, Brie, Alex, Chris—they became like family to us. We were invited to family functions and private affairs, shown vacation pictures, always greeted with hugs and hellos, our favorite beers poured as we walked in. The regulars are very warm and friendly; we always met someone new and talked like we’d known each other for ages. Even the band came and chatted with us and would tolerate our enthusiastic requests over and over for “that O Brother, Where Art Thou song.” They are the best of the best, and when the last keg is gone and that door is closed forever, Baltimore loses one of its brightest gems.

Maxine Erlwein

Similar to regulars who visit DeGroen’s, I was also reminded of being in Europe. Perhaps it was the dark, smoky atmosphere. Or perhaps it was the unsmiling and curt staff. Or maybe it was the elitist “mug club” members. But nothing will replace the overcooked food. Nothing reminds me more of Europe than waiting for a host who finally arrives only to allow us to seat ourselves. It would have made it easier to take if the server had a German accent when he couldn’t answer any of our questions about the menu—perhaps I could have blamed a language barrier. Maybe it was my American money that caused such a delay in getting service from the bartenders (talking to the mug club members) as well as the check.

In my opinion, DeGroen’s was never in it for the long haul. Parking? Customers like me walked. I recommend a little more marketing and a little less finger-pointing. It even blew the final selling opportunity: “We want people to come in and finish these kegs,” Spike Owen said. No kidding? I don’t suppose the prices will be any lower.

I believe in Baltimore. I love beer. I’m sorry to see a local business close, but if you can’t take the heat, try to do something before the kitchen gets too hot.

Jesse Stills

Professional ≠ Equity

I am a professional actor in New York City and had worked in the Washington, D.C., area for many years before moving here. I am very happy to see you reviewing these artists’ work.

But . . . Anna Ditkoff’s opening statement of the third paragraph of her review (“Dog in the Manger,” Stage, Feb. 9), “Teresa Castracane, the first professional actor to grace a CSC production . . . ” is simply incorrect. I have to assume that Ms. Ditkoff is using membership in Actors’ Equity Association as her guide to who is “professional” and who is not, and this is incorrect. Any actor who has been paid to do his or her work onstage can be considered a professional, and the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company has had several accomplished professionals in its productions. This is nothing against Ms. Castracane, who I have never seen perform, but in support of Scott Graham, Val Fenton, and a number of actors from past productions who have worked professionally for years but have chosen not to take membership in AEA. I do not intend disrespect for AEA, having been a member since 1997, but membership in this union is not the difference between professional and nonprofessional. I have worked with many non-AEA actors who have far outstripped a lot of AEA actors I have worked with in ability and work ethic.

Timothy Flynn
New York City

I Report, You Decide

Thank you for your generally positive review of my book Diet for a Dead Planet (Books, Jan. 26). I must correct one point, however. The reviewer asserts I have done “no firsthand research,” which is simply untrue. My book is a blend of original investigative reporting, extensive, meticulous research, and a detailed history of the American food business. In addition to citing a wide array of secondary sources—including reports and studies that have received little attention—my book contains my investigative reporting on meat-packing labor abuses, factory farm pollution, and the contemporary farm crisis.

Thank you again for the review.

Christopher D. Cook
San Francisco

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