Gerrymandering at Home

The concerns your editors express over Republican redistricting plans in Texas and Pennsylvania [editorial, Nov. 4] would have carried far greater credibility had they expressed the same moral outrage when Maryland Democrats eviscerated the 8th Congressional District two years ago for the sole purpose of defeating Connie Morella.

Democrats chose to do with a pencil and a map what they could not do at the ballot box. So now, instead of having a rational district that follows the boundaries of Montgomery County, we have one that breaks the county in half and then conveniently slides down into Prince George's County as far as Cottage City and Colmar Manor -- all to ensure the permanent election of a Democrat.

Before turning your guns on other states, your paper should start worrying about gerrymandering in its own backyard.

-- Neil T. Messick

Potomac

Excessive Exclamation

I read your paper every day from front to back. I even enjoy the comics, and one that I read (even though he is sometimes annoying) is "Mark Trail."

Would someone please tell Jack Elrod that no one speaks every sentence so that it ends with an exclamation point? Having grown up with English teachers, I find this enthusiasm a bit too much.

-- Mark Pfoutz

Purcellville

This Crash Wasn't Funny

The Metro train accident last week that John Kelly apparently finds amusing [Style, Nov. 9] injured nearly two dozen people, inconvenienced tens of thousands of riders for a week and caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage. There is no disagreement that Metro needs a serious overhaul and an infusion of cash. But Kelly's suggestion that his readers create humorous captions for a photo of a train wreck and the injured and scared riders is in the worst possible taste.

-- Vicki Thomas

Arlington

A Night at the Opera (Cont'd)

After reading Michael Klein's lambasting [Free for All, Nov. 6] of Tim Page's review of the Washington Opera's production of "Il Trovatore," I am compelled to write in Page's defense.

My opera buddy and I were somewhat dismayed at the review, since we had purchased our tickets long before, but we vowed to keep an open mind. We also figured that we might not notice the defects that the more experienced critic pointed out.

Were we ever wrong!

I re-read the review afterward, and every one of Page's criticisms was right on the mark. Denyce Graves's and the orchestra's performances excepted, having to sit through "Il Trovatore" was only a bit less excruciating than the alternative: watching election returns that night. (Several patrons apparently thought otherwise, since some didn't return after the intermission and others walked out during the performance.)

-- Mary Abate

Washington

Stumping for the Facts

The Nov. 1 Tom Toles cartoon portraying the national forests as a sea of stumps is so inaccurate that one can only conclude it to be simply a partisan political statement, having nothing in common with the conditions on the ground.

Here are the recent national forest numbers:

* Net growth, 19.970 billion board feet.

* Mortality, 9.675 billion board feet.

* Harvest, 1.830 billion board feet.

If the public understands that the growth of the national forests exceeds harvest by almost 11 times, and that even mortality exceeds harvest by more than a factor of five, a public sentiment based on politically neutral and actual conditions could evolve. A knowledgeable public offers the best hope for responsible forest policy. The media, it seems to me, should offer an effective conduit for accurate information.

-- Dick Pfilf

Alexandria

The writer is executive director of the National Association of Forest Service Retirees.