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Going Postal

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MARTA is smarta
(In response to Think Tank, "Should the state take over MARTA?" Jan. 9): Chris Renaldo attacks MARTA on the ground that it "cannot continue to lose money." This stale argument is meritless on a variety of grounds.

First, Renaldo holds MARTA to a standard no other public service is held to, unless he expects other government services to "make money." Unless Renaldo's views are highly unusual, he does not expect the police department, the fire department, the military or food stamps to bring in revenue equal to their costs.

Second, MARTA (like other public services) creates public benefits not reflected in a simple comparison of costs and revenues, such as reduced welfare costs (because the car-less poor and disabled can get to work instead of staying on welfare) and reduced pollution and traffic congestion (because transit reduces the number of people driving to work). When these benefits are factored in, MARTA arguably pays for itself -- just as the police department arguably pays for itself when the public benefit of crime prevention is considered.

-- Michael Lewyn, Atlanta

We're still the World Trade Center
In your "Yearshot" article (Vibes, Dec. 26), you mentioned my band I Am the World Trade Center, and our name dilemma. I thought I would give you an update and a response.

The article said, "In the rush to show respect for the victims, did it occur to anyone that there's nothing particularly offensive about that name?" Of course, we knew there was nothing wrong with the name. However, the hundreds of people that wrote us sure didn't feel that way. We were getting hate mail from all over the world. We changed the name not only to appease the screaming masses, but honestly, to protect ourselves. Some of these messages were downright threatening.

As is often the case, it seems that time has healed this confusion. The only messages we receive now are ones of support. It is ironic that only four months later, people are now coming forward and insisting we keep our name. As this has always been our intention, we are keeping the name. Although it has lost its humor, it is still a very fitting symbol of our band and our music.

-- Dan Geller, one half of I Am the World Trade Center, Atlanta

Responsible Republicans
In "Adventures in babysitting" (Rant, Dec. 26), Luke Boggs takes issue with New York Times columnist Bob Herbert and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for campaigning to protect our children from the threat of chemical and biological terrorism. Herbert and Clinton apparently worry that such attacks would prove to be much more devastating to children, so they are raising this issue as an additional incentive for our nation to combat this threat. However, Mr. Boggs feels that no single demographic -- including children -- should receive any extra consideration regarding this matter. "[A]ll Americans deserve to be defended," he reveals. He does not believe that Clinton's concern is genuine. Rather, he argues that she is simply trying to polish her image for political purposes.

Appealing to our innate desire to benefit children has always been an effective means to evoke our involvement. Countless individuals have employed this tactic, not just the left wing. We all know that most people will take immediate action to secure or protect the welfare of children even if they would not do so for adults. Thus, why shouldn't Hillary Clinton take advantage of this tendency? If her appeal for the well-being of our children can inspire our lawmakers to be more determined to reduce the likelihood of chemical and biological terrorism, I see no reason to chastise her for it.

Through his previous columns, Mr. Boggs had already established his reputation as a staunch Republican. Nevertheless, I could not understand why he devoted most of this piece to bashing the Clintons. They have been out of the White House for a year. Since George W. Bush and the GOP now occupy it, they are responsible for whatever does or does not take place in the executive branch.

Thus, Mr. Boggs' criticism for allowing the military recruitment of single parents who have custody of their children should be directed at the Bush administration. However, nowhere in his column does he mention them. In fact, apparently to avoid assigning any blame to his beloved president, he inserts the euphemistic term "Washington." If Bill Clinton were still in office, Mr. Boggs would have admonished the administration explicitly for not enforcing policy.

-- D. William Durr, Lithonia

Home safe home
I had to chuckle reading Mara Shalhoup's article "(Semi) open records: Want to know what restaurants may have made diners sick? Too bad" (News, Jan. 2) about the local health department policy of keeping secret the names of restaurants that serve food responsible for food poisoning. I had just been in Charlotte, N.C., where on the evening news, there was a regular report of restaurant facility inspections. The local health department reported (complete with pictures of the restaurant named) the results of inspections highlighting both the low end and high end reports.

And as I thought, "Now that's a health department that really serves its community," I wondered what the Fulton County health department does in this area. Sounds like they keep it secret. I'm glad we like to cook at my house.

-- Ken Hunt, Atlanta

Float like a butterfly
(In response to Flicks, "Top of his game," Jan. 2): I, like many others, have seen Will Smith's performance as the champion boxer Muhammad Ali. Mr. Ali's life is a source of inspiration and admiration for me.

Overall, Ali was disappointing cinematically. For the first 45 minutes, I thought I was watching Spike Lee's Malcolm X. The remainder of the movie could have easily been an ESPN or HBO boxing special. The camera's in-and-out focus when characters moved closer to the camera made me dizzy.

Will Smith's performance mimicking Ali's movements and voice was excellent. I think Smith needs more diverse roles under his belt before he should be awarded an Oscar. However, his work is solid. I will continue to spend my $3.75 (matinee, of course) to see his movies. It is great to see African-Americans portraying African-American icons on film and I look forward to seeing more.

-- Imoan Braxton, Atlanta

Bah, humbug!
To those Atlantans (and others) who question Mayor Shirley Franklin's decision to spend sponsor money on kick-off parties, we Atlanta caterers offer a different perspective.

Let's remember that the hospitality industry continues to grow because we bring people together. Celebrating the best and worst of times -- life's beautiful and sometimes sad passages -- gives us ways to bring more meaning to our lives. Whether to honor loyal supporters, celebrate the holidays or nurture our employees, gathering around food and drink represents the best of our traditions.

Mayor Franklin has chosen to bring our citizens together at a time when we most need it. She has given her supporters an opportunity to celebrate a hard-won victory. In choosing to make those celebrations less formal, she has shown her desire to be more inclusive. We applaud her decision. Rather than "Bah, humbug!" -- we say: "Herroner rocks!"

-- Patrick Cuccaro, Mike Bankston, Bennett A. Brown, Off-Premises Caterers Coalition Inc.

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