A modest suggestion: Feed poor despite law

December 01, 2005|By DAN RODRICKS

Should you need a license to give a sandwich to a poor man on the streets of Baltimore? The city Health Department apparently thinks so. Students from Loyola College's Center for Values and Service have been driving downtown to give sandwiches to Baltimore's poor and homeless for several years. On the evening of Nov. 14, a city health official told them to stop, according to Mary Ann Cappelleri, an assistant director of the center.

The reason? No hot and cold running water in the area where the students were serving the food, under the Jones Falls Expressway, near City Hall. The students were told they had to have a license to distribute the food, and that hot and cold running water was required so that they and the people they're serving can wash their hands.

"The students were very upset," says Cappelleri. "Not angry, but sad. The students have built friendships with some of the people they serve. There's a sharing of lives as well as food."

This week's City Paper reports that the Health Department is enforcing a new regulation that echoes a long-standing state law. "We want to make sure that food that's being served outdoors is as safe as any food being served in a restaurant," a city official, Melisa Lindamood, told the CP.

Cappelleri says the Loyola students wear sanitary gloves when they prepare and wrap about 140 sandwiches each week on campus. The sandwiches remain wrapped until after they are handed out. The Loyola effort, called Care-A-Van, has been suspended while the students decide what to do next.

I suggest civil disobedience in the holiday season, ladies and gentlemen. Let the O'Malley administration dare to put you in jail for trying to give food to the poor without a license.

Reasons for war?

Looks like the governor of Maryland is stuck on one of the deader-than-dirt reasons for the war in Iraq. But you know what I say? I say to each his own. Some people choose one brand of shampoo or toilet paper and stick with it their whole lives, no matter what. Others consider, accept, reject and move on.

Take me, for instance: I'm up to Reason No. 8: We're in the war because we don't know how to get out of the war. But, hey, that's me, and that's now.

A couple of years ago I went along with everyone else, generally accepting what the president and other pro-war officials and pundits said. They gave us so many reasons:

There was a link between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, and the attacks of 9/11; Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction; without Saddam Hussein out of the way, the Middle East will never become stable and peaceful; by neutralizing Iraq we reduce the threat of international terrorism; by knocking Saddam Hussein out of power we will promote democracy in Iraq and surrounding areas; by taking Iraq, we will secure the flow of petroleum from the Middle East, and maybe even use it to pay for the war; with the war in Iraq, we're heading the bad guys off at the pass or, as the president put it recently: "If we do not confront these evil men abroad, we will have to face them one day in our own cities and streets." (That last one might be the same as the one about "reducing the threat of international terrorism," but after a while they all start to run together.)

My count is up to about eight.

Like most Americans, I've dismissed most of these reasons for the war, and I've filled in the blanks with my own theory: The Bush administration wanted to look like it was taking bold, decisive and effective action in the wake of the devastation of 9/11, and Saddam Hussein was an easy target. Two and a half years later, our main reason for being there seems to be that we can't leave because of the mess we've created.

Not everyone agrees, and hey, that's our right as Americans, and, come to think of it, that's another reason I've heard for the war in Iraq: to guarantee our freedoms. So maybe I've actually heard something like nine or 10 reasons for the war.

But even the president and his supporters have backed off using some of these reasons in public - particularly the one about Iraq having had a direct role in the 9/11 attacks. There was a bipartisan commission that said, in short, that the al Qaida-Iraq-terrorism connection was bogus, that there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein's government participated in the attacks.

I guess the governor of Maryland missed this report. He still buys the Iraq-9/11 connection.

The other day, he linked the war with the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The American people, he added, need to realize that the people who flew the planes into the twin towers in lower Manhattan "are the same people who are shooting at us in Iraq."

What can we say? The governor also clings to the story about Oreo cookies raining on his lieutenant governor, Michael Steele, at a campaign debate in 2002. But, hey, to each his own.


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