Decadence and Decay

URBAN RUINS
Re: Conor Fiedersdorf’s The Wealth of Baltimore:

Anyone who watches The Wire and thinks it is even remotely about the failures of capitalism is either utterly naive or willfully ignorant, and this would includes the show’s creator, David Simon.

Like Simon (and, as much as I hate to admit it, Nancy Pelosi), I am a native of Baltimore, as are my parents, and their parents before them. As such, I feel uniquely qualified to comment on the city’s current status. Put simply, it’s a mess. Despite its much heralded “revival” (often ballyhooed by the renewal of Inner Harbor), the city has been utterly mismanaged since the late 1960s. The city government is bloated, inefficient, and dominated by cronyism and an unhealthy dose of racial politics. The poor keep getting poorer, crime keeps getting worse (exemplified by the city’s newest nickname “Body-more”), the schools are a disaster, and the affluent keep fleeing to the surrounding counties.

In short, Baltimore’s decay is a classic example of “urban renewal,” leftist, socialist policies promoted by Liberals for the last 45 years. This is not surprising, however, since Baltimore is a one-party city in a one-party state. Maryland is nothing more than another impoverished, northeastern fiefdom of the Democrat party, and until this death-grip is loosened, the city will continue its downward spiral.

Capitalism, indeed.
Gavin Valle
Peapack, New Jersey

Conor Friedersdorf does your readers a service in providing a concise, well-written introduction to one of the greatest shows on American television. The Wire accurately depicts the problems of the modern American city, but it is up to today’s citizens (and maybe a few dedicated viewers) to debate their policy implications — or whether we should just change the channel.
Andrew Guess

HOT UNDER THE COLLAR
Re: Paul Chesser’s The Southern Baptist Capitulation:

Mr. Chesser’s political views not withstanding, he should passionately avoid scriptural exegesis in public, lest he totally humiliate himself even further. We can earnestly debate whether man has caused this or that particular environmental ill, but theologically speaking, Genesis 1:26 does say that man is to have dominion (aka “rule”) over all the earth, and all its creatures. The Hebrew word (and the context in which the text was written) implies both rights and responsibilities. Stewardship is a fundamental concept throughout Scripture, which begins with the understanding that nothing belongs to us, all creation belongs to the creator, and the more one is given by God to care for, the more one is held accountable. From a purely practical matter, even if Mr. Chesser limits himself to Genesis 2:15, if God puts you somewhere for a purpose, it doesn’t take a great biblical scholar to understand it wise to consider that a command; after all, it did come from God.
Tom Bledsoe, Jr., MD
Calhoun, Georgia

In spite of the fact that many prominent Southern Baptists signed it, this is not an official statement of the Southern Baptist Convention and does not represent the views of millions of Southern Baptists. The official position embraces climate skepticism.

But Paul Chesser’s article does get one thing very right — not matter what the immediate issue, the underlying concern is adhering faithfully to the text of scripture so as to let it be our guide, not merely another excuse for us to do what we want.
Gary Martin
Platte City, Missouri

Mr. Chesser missed it entirely in his article, “The Southern Baptist Capitulation.” Southern Baptists have not adopted a statement on global warming. The statement he alludes to was written up by a student in a Southern Baptist School, but has no official sanction from the denomination itself. In fact, since the publication of the statement various denominational leaders have been explicit in distancing themselves and the Southern Baptist Convention from the statement. The title of the statement, “A Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change,” is unfortunate since it appears to be an official statement of the denomination. The student, no doubt will point to the phrasing “A Southern Baptist…” not “The Southern Baptist…” but the confusion is understandable.

Several stories explaining and correcting the misperception have been posted on our denomination’s news service, the Baptist Press (www.bpnews.net). These stories are “on top” today and available without doing an “archive search.”
Dr. Fred Smith

If Paul had done his homework, he would have discovered that the website mentioned and statement issued, is NOT endorsed by the SBC in any way. It was begun as students Seminary Project. Some signed on others not, as individual Pastor’s. That is all it was. This article did no research before being written. That is bad!
Tim Guthrie

As I read the article in which Paul Chesser chastised the Southern Baptist Convention for mis-interpreting scripture, I couldn’t help but wonder about his credentials as a Biblical scholar. Is Mr. Chesser fluent in the Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic and Latin, languages? One must know these languages to be able to read the oldest existing manuscripts of scripture we have. Is he aware of something as simple as the fact that when he reads the word “love” in his English translation of the Bible, he really should know whether the original word in the Greek manuscripts was eros, philia or agape? Is he aware of the fact that oldest manuscripts we have are not even the original copies of scripture? Is he aware of the fact that the existing copies we have are riddled with the clerical errors of medieval scribes who were either careless or who had intentionally changed the text? Mr. Chesser suggests he has a better grasp than the Southern Baptist Convention on of the meaning of the scripture he reads in one of several English language translations of manuscripts written in ancient languages that aren’t even the original copies of the text. Quite a claim!
Mike Roush
North Carolina

I am a devout Christian. However, I have not participated in organized religion for years. And the recent public position taken by the Southern Baptists on climate change is just one more example of why I left.

Organized religion used to be about saving men’s souls. Nowadays it more likely to jump into the political arena taking formal — and usually leftist — positions on the Iraq war, promoting the gay agenda, supporting open borders, and so forth. Now we can add man’s responsibility for climate change to that list.

With all this free time on their hands, apparently all of the Lord’s work is done. Nobody told me. Must have been announced last Sunday and I missed that. But of course, I wasn’t attending the service.
Garry Greenwood
Gearhart, Oregon

Paul Chesser needs to know that, although the people issuing this statement were Southern Baptists, the Southern Baptist Convention did not issue this statement. If Chesser wishes to know the position of the Convention at large, he ought to peruse the resolution we adopted just nine months ago on the same topic. The statement in the recent news was merely the reaction of a disgruntled few to the earlier resolution.
Bart Barber

Paul Chesser replies:
Are Frank Page, Jack Graham, and Daniel Akin, among many other current and past leaders, “disgruntled”? These top figures in the SBC certainly knew the will of the Convention at large and yet they signed on to the SBECI anyway, showing utter disregard for the will of the voting messengers. Surely by doing so they knew they would give the impression (especially with the media and outsiders) that the SBC backed the initiative, or at a minimum, would create controversy among their brethren. That’s why the overall SBC should have just left the issue alone.

GERRY CONTRARY
Re: George Neumayr’s Reverse Discrimination:

A very astute, clear-headed, thought-provoking assessment of the Ferraro dust-up.

Well done.
Mark Scheffler
Chicago, Illinois

Mr. Neumayr has put into words things my brain has been formulating while observing this Democratic campaign. I find it interesting to see Democrats accusing other Democrats of the things Democrats always say about Republicans. It’s obvious that it’s Democrats who harbor unexpressed anger at a base of their party: African Americans. And, if they don’t harbor that anger, then to have the race card thrown back into their faces must just seem so cruel to them. Well, welcome to our world, Democrats — what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If you propagate the “racism is running rampant in the U.S.” theme to stir up your party’s base in past elections, don’t be surprised when it comes back to bite you.

The word “Schadenfreude ” has been used appropriately in regards to the downfall of Eliot Spitzer. Here’s another instance where the same word applies. The ugliest side of the Democrats is being exposed in this election campaign, and I for one am enjoying the spectacle.
Deborah Durkee
Marietta, Georgia

George Neumayr writes, “Geraldine Ferraro’s remarks confirm that beneath left-wing paternalism lurks considerable racism.”

Remember the U.S. Supreme Court justice who could not define pornography, but knew it when he saw it? What might be Neumayr’s definition of racism? Or sexism? Here’s the tricky part of the definition: if you make it something intuitive, e.g., drawing absolute conclusions about someone first, foremost and perhaps exclusively on the basis of race (or sex), then the net begins to haul more than the usual suspects.

Recall the summer of 1993, when Dinkins and Giuliani were staging a mayoral election “do-over” in my home town, and President Clinton condemned those who would vote against a candidate because he was a “different color.” As a matter of fact, in the 1989 election, one race in NYC voted 95% for the candidate of that race, and another race put that candidate over the top. And in the election of 1993, the same race in NYC again voted 95% for the candidate of that race, but they were not the intended targets of Clinton’s condemnation. What possible definition of racism could exclude that 95%?

Hardly a day goes by without an article in a major paper that describes women offended as women by the difficulty Hillary Clinton the woman is having with Barack Obama the man. What possible definition of sexism could exclude those women?

Yes, of course, a definition could be put forth that achieved the desired result, that snared only the usual suspects, despite the ridiculous complexity of the definition, much like how the Ptolemaic description of celestial movements achieved the desired result, satisfying the requirement that every object revolve around the Earth. It took a while, but Copernicus got it right and Ptolemy got it wrong.

There is so much intense, systemic racism and sexism intrinsic in the Democratic Party that almost nothing the Democratic Party acts upon escapes an intuitive definition of the respective pathologies.

Not the usual suspects at all!
Frank Natoli
Newton, New Jersey

Regardless of the outcome, I hope that this Democratic primary has been instructive for American blacks. The Democrats are perfectly willing to take the ninety percent voting margins of American blacks, but that is as far as it goes.

In other words, blacks can polish the brass ring. However, they should not have the unmitigated gall to try and grab it.
Herman Ziebell
Illinois

If Senator Obama becomes, as it appears he will, the standard bearer of his party, then perhaps the Democrats largest and most loyal voting bloc will truly be free at last. I can’t help but think that this possibility, and not loyalty to Senator Clinton, is what is actually driving the likes of Geraldine Ferraro. Watching all of this transpire is delightful.
Pam Lange
Chagrin Falls, Ohio

BIG MAMA STATE
Re: Lisa Fabrizio’s Saying No to the Liberty Loathing State:

One of the most successful myths ever perpetrated in the history of this country is the idea that the gravest threats to individual freedom emanate from the right. That is an abject lie — with ample evidence from Nanny State, touchy-feely, do-gooders to refute it.

Why can’t parents educate their own children? Because liberals know that any child who learns about self-reliance, personal responsibility and the ability to think for oneself is lost to them
forever.
Arnold Ahlert
Boca Raton, Florida

Ms. Fabrizio’s article stressed the religious aspect of home schooling, but failed to mention something that leapt from the page of our local fish-wrap, the San Francisco Chronicle. This whole flap came about as a result of some home schooled child ratting his father out for punishment he (the child) deemed cruel. This brought about an investigation of the parents.

Leslie Heimov, executive director of the Children’s Law Center in Los Angeles, which represented the Longs’ two children in their case, was quoted as saying her organization’s chief concern was not the quality of the children’s education, but their “being in a place daily where they would be observed by people who had a duty to ensure their ongoing safety.” Big Mama is watching you.

So, it seems the Draconian solution to the dangers inherent in home schooling is to force home-schoolers to meet requirements a lot of tenured teachers in California do not possess. Send the kid off to public school where he can get beat up on the school ground for his lunch money.

Below are the requirements they hope to make law:

A bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited college;

Pass the CBEST test for reading, writing and math;

Complete a postgraduate college credentialing program, including student teaching;

Complete a course or pass a test on the U.S. Constitution (Mercy!);

Complete a course for computer technology skills in an educational setting;

Complete a comprehensive reading and language course.

One home-schooler said, “Let them come knocking at my door! I don’t have a teaching degree, but I’m a lawyer.

Let the wild rumpus begin!!
Diane Smith
South San Francisco, California

TENURE DENIED
Re: Mark Falcoff’s Strobe Lite:

To be sure, Strobe Talbott’s pompous and pedantic tome is as muddled and wrong-headed as the career of its pretentiously elitist author. For how many years has this one worlder foisted his idiotic views, suppositions, and tortured twists of illogic upon the public? I have always believed that a good education is the cornerstone of a successful life; however, Mr. Talbott must be the towering exception to that principle. If a tabula rasa such as the young Talbott must have once been can, through an Ivy League education, become as effetely dunderheaded as he has become, then perhaps I overvalue education.

I recall my Introductory Logic professor explaining to the class how some people can be educated beyond their ability to process logically. At the time I thought he was pulling our collective leg, but Strobe Talbott is the poster child for the intellectual shortcoming that good old Professor Weldon was talking about. I have but one prayer this Lenten season: God spare us from any further authorial adventures from Mr. Talbott.
Joseph Baum
Garrettsville, Ohio

EMPEROR CONCERTO
Re: Larry Thornberry’s The Sultan of Sanctimony Brought Down, Philip Klein’s Eliot Rex, and Reader Mail’s Number Nine:

The effect of “anything goes” law enforcement is to undermine the rule of law. Its practitioners know that full well, and don’t care.

What I cannot understand is why Spitzer is not up on a money laundering rap. To transfer small amounts of money for an illegal purpose, in cash, and pay under an assumed name to a phony corporation, which was itself serving as a smokescreen for a multistate illegal enterprise is the starkest textbook definition of a money laundering violation that could be imagined.

(Title 18 US Code section 1956 sections a, b, and c all at once, in fact).

From the time he removed that money from his bank account for the purpose of purchasing illegal services, it became “proceeds.” Certainly if Spitzer were prosecuting this case against somebody else, that would be his interpretation. Neteller was hung out to dry on far less evidence.

If this is not investigated, we will know that the double standard and self righteousness does not end with Eliot Spitzer.
Martin Owens
Sacramento, California

Right now, and probably permanently, it is difficult to think of anything good to say about Spitzer, but how about this for a try? At least he paid his own “freight,” as far as we know now, and didn’t prey on “poor little shop girls” and Arkansas state employees who needed their jobs to survive. That is more than we can say for a certain red nosed sociopath who later became President. Of course at that time he and his “beautiful wife” had not had an opportunity to complete their “rape” of the nation and become wealthy beyond their greedy little hearts’ desires. As someone more literate than I am once said we get the government and leaders we deserve.
Jack Wheatley
Royal Oak, Michigan

I have read my way through the letters regarding the disgraced Governor of New York. It is Wednesday morning, still he has not resigned. Predictably, the fluff of the sex angle is being used to cover apparent crimes of financial manipulation…having worked well to move the crime of perjury out of the public consciousness in the past.

It strikes me that a man of honor would not drag his wife along as a prop to whatever that 30 seconds before the cameras was on Monday. He would have stood in and borne his shame as he earned it…by himself. Beyond that, a man of honor would have resigned in that 30 seconds…maybe it would have stretched to 45.
Reid Bogie
Waterbury, Connecticut

Patronized the Emperor’s Club, did he? Would that be the Emperor who has no clothes?

And when are we going to stop feeling sorry for wives who stand by, with that glazed look that says, “You mean I have to give up living in the Governor’s Mansion?” or similar pathetic expressions on the faces of senators’ wives. It started with Gary Hartpence’s wife and it will never end.
Diane Smith
South San Francisco, California

GHOSTING COMCAST
Re: Peter Suderman’s Feed Comcast to the Lions:

I’m a little late reading this so I hope I don’t bore anyone. Ah, tuff…

We have Comcast here in Utah and, thankfully, I don’t have to deal with them. When we lived in Roy about 15 years ago, we used the precursor to Comcast, who provided less than stellar service. At one point, we had severe double image or “ghosting” problems. When I reported the problem, the cable company said it was an internal wiring problem. I figured OK, I do have a number of splitters so maybe that was it. I took them all out and the ghosting was still there. After a number of calls, and that’s a LOT more than 2-3, I finally got a commitment for a service guy to come out.

Similar problems occurred between the scheduled time and the actual arrival of the service guy. We’re talking DAYS here, not hours.

So he finally shows up on a Saturday, took one look at my TV, and said it was an internal house wiring problem. We argued for about 10 minutes and I finally convinced him to open up the neighborhood cable box and hook my TV directly to it. Son of a gun, there was STILL GHOSTING. A bit chagrined (and we’re talking minimalism here), the guy started checking down the street and came across a point where someone had cut the cable while digging in their yard and did their own (crappy) splice job. The service guy did the splice correctly and the problem went away. His inadequate apology was gracelessly accepted.

Shortly after that we had a power failure and the cable didn’t come back for DAYS afterwards. I switched to satellite and will never go back.
Karl F. Auerbach
Eden, Utah

MURDER, INC.
Re: Daniel Allott’s Safe, Legal, and Dishonest:

In Daniel Allott’s latest article, he attempts to defend the anti-choice position by essentially stating via Bob Novak that “”No serious anti-abortion legislation ever has included criminal penalties against women who have abortions…” This is true, no serious legislation in that area has included criminal penalties for the women. But I have to ask — why is that the case?

For those who thump their chests and cry out “Abortion is murder!” there is an odd quiet when you ask about the murderers. Its premeditated murder of the worst and most gruesome fashion, cold and calculated, and with the aid of a doctor nonetheless — some Mengele in a bloody lab coat! The point is that you cannot cry “Murder!” and then turn around and say you’re not going to punish the perpetrators; it’s rank hypocrisy. It’s a way to grasp at the vast percentage of middle America that is uncomfortable with abortion but in favor of keeping it legal, to use deceitful tactics to conceal the true agenda.

Start being honest and state that 1st-degree murder is 1st-degree murder, to be punished in the electric chair or gas chamber as is required by law. Anything less makes frauds of you all.
Chuck Gerner
Cleveland, Ohio

I’m late to comment on Mr. Allott’s article but I speak from the perspective of someone whose sister had an abortion and later committed suicide. Suffice it to say that the topic isn’t theoretical and, as Mr. Allott’s article illustrates, hers was not an isolated incident.
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