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Advertise on the Tentacle

December 4, 2006

Haircuts and Headlines

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

Okay, I know. You don't pick a fight with a guy who buys ink by the barrel. Since Myron Randall is the guy who buys the ink for the Frederick News-Post, and opinion columnist Joe Volz is an "independent contractor, the old adage won't apply to this column.

Besides, Joe must have a sense of humor, and shouldn't take himself so seriously that a little sarcasm would hurt, right?

Joe, let's get things started on the right foot. You asked me, through your November 29 column, how I prefer you addressing me. The answer is "I could care less." You can call me Ray, or you can call me Jay, or you can call me Ronny, or you can call me Johnny. you get the picture.

To be technically accurate, though, and I know honesty is very important to you, I think I'd rather not be referred to by you at all. Now, given my status as a public official, and your role as a critic of public officials, that's just not realistic. So, go ahead and call me whatever you want. In fact, to make it easy, I'll offer some choices.

I weigh too much, so you might consider "Fatty." It's easy, cheap, and plenty demeaning. I'm a little sensitive about my glasses, so "Four-eyes" might work. I walk kind of funny, so maybe there's something to exploit there. I consider Blaine Young a good friend, so "good-old boy wanna be" might be appropriate. Wait, I also consider Lennie Thompson a friend, so the GOB thing might not work.

You see, Joe didn't like that I took him to task in a Letter to The Editor. He calls outgoing Gov. Bob Ehrlich "Bobby Haircut". I guess Joe doesn't like Ehrlich's hairstyle, since he refers to it as "atrocious." Joe's hairless dome must uniquely qualify him to render value judgments on other people's hairstyle, I guess.

I should ask a real expert, like local barber Walter Mills. Now there's someone who is truly qualified to offer haircut reviews. I think Joe might go to Walter for his hair care, maybe that's where he picked up his anti-Ehrlich haircut bias. As I recall, there's at least one Ehrlich photo hanging in Walter's shop.

That haircut must really represent a problem for Joe. Imagine, having to see that hairdo on the evening news, in the newspaper everyday, and whenever Joe goes to Walter Mill's barbershop. It must be like a Hitchcock horror movie, that haircut, filling Joe's every waking hour, mocking him!

I suggested in my letter that referring to Governor Ehrlich in that manner wasn't very dignified, and in spite of Joe's protestations, I still don't think it's appropriate. Easy, but not dignified.

Joe has a theory about public officials, which he uses his column inches to express. He believes that he has a right, maybe an obligation, to belittle disgraced public officials with petty name-calling and the use of nicknames.

As evidence, he offers two former Maryland governors, Spiro Agnew and Marvin Mandel, former U.S. Congressmen Randy Cunningham and Tom DeLay, and past Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

His theory is that each of these people deserves less respect in his writing as a direct result of their criminal or ethical lapses. He actually suggests that my request for a little dignity is somehow connected to other Republican officials who have brought disrepute on themselves and the nation.

He included past President Bill and his wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D., NY), but suggested that they don't mind being referred to by their first names. I guess he's suggesting that they're more like regular folk. Of course, Bob Ehrlich doesn't mind that, either. Everyone I know that knows Governor Ehrlich calls him Bob.

The issue might be different if Joe called President Clinton "Blue Dress Stain Bill", or if he referred to Senator Clinton as "Fat Ankles Hillary".

I guess I should be thankful that he even bothered to find a couple of disgraced Democrats to include as examples of his convoluted point. In my opinion, Joe missed a ton of equally funny nicknames and references to ethical and criminal lapses by both parties. I could write a whole Tentacle article on the list I just thought up, including newspaper columnists and reporters.

I'll save that column for the next time Joe shoots one over my bow!

I struggled to discover, using Joe's theory, why Governor Ehrlich warranted the disrespectful Bobby Haircut reference. I had to get to the last paragraph of his column to find out why.

Joe is still angry with Bob Ehrlich banning Baltimore's Sun reporter David Nitkin from talking to the governor's staff. Truth be told, Mr. Nitkin wasn't actually banned from talking to anybody.

The ban was in reverse, whereby the governor's staff was directed to avoid communicating with Mr. Nitkin. This act, prompted, at least in part, by the perception of biased reporting, had such a chilling affect on Mr. Nitkin's career as a reporter that he was promoted by the Sun to an editorial/managerial position.

In spite of the ban, Mr. Nitkin continued to write, including a string of very critical articles about Governor Ehrlich, while the ban was in effect. Joe also fails to mention that this ban was the basis for a high-profile lawsuit, and that the courts held that Governor Ehrlich had the right to decide to whom he did and didn't want to speak.

Another reason for Joe's wrath is the firing of thousands of state workers by a "hatchet man," as directed by "Bobby". Here we make a subtle transition from Joe just being sarcastic to Joe being just plain wrong. In fact, his statement is so inaccurate, I thought he might have gotten his information from reading the Sun.

Joe, if you can produce for me the list of names of the thousands of public servants that Bob Ehrlich had a hatchet man go out and fire, I'll kiss your bald head on the Square Corner at high noon.

Your premise is that public officials who fail to meet your standards of conduct will be subject to derision and disrespect in your columns. Good for you, call us whatever you like. If that's what makes you feel happy and fulfilled, I wish you the best.

I have a different proposition. I suggest that readers who see opinion writers who fail to include accurate information in their writing should be avoided, at least until they acknowledge their mistakes.

Remember this Joe. I'm out there, reading and writing. Old adages be damned!

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