Your articles on the “rivalry” between Baltimore and Washington (“Romancing the Crab,” 9/10) was the literary equivalent of arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Conveniently ignored in the cultural mud fight is the fact that together the two towns have the second and third lowest life expectancies in the U.S. among men, are some of the only cities where the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis has actually gone up recently, and “enjoy” the reputation as having the two highest per capita murder rates in the nation. Throw in chronic regional traffic woes, thriving underground economies in heroin and prostitution, and local political systems that rely as much on help from outside as on their own self-reliance, and it makes little sense, except perhaps for a momentary, uncomfortable laugh, to be debating “crab cakes and Natty Boh” versus…uh, whatever passes for Washington’s cultural icons.

Mount Pleasant