Raise at the PumpsEditor: To many Americans,...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Raise at the Pumps

Editor: To many Americans, gasoline is a necessity. They need it to commute to jobs and to go to the grocery store. This is why Congress took the oil industry to task when the recent turmoil in Iraq resulted in a large price increase at the gas pumps. It accused the oil industry of "price gouging."

Apparently, Congress knew a good thing when it saw it. Congress promptly decided to add 10 cents to the price of gasoline. But this is not called price gouging. Read my lips, it's a tax raise.

Leslie Kuff.

Cockeysville.

Juvenile Justice

Editor: Thank God Judge Joseph Kaplan is battling for our juvenility. State juvenile officials may be worried when judges cross the line into their functions. What worries me more is the ineffectual system that turns young offenders into hardened professional criminals.

When our executive and legislative branches fail to effectively stem this recidivous tide, I welcome the balance brought to bear by our judicial branch. Juvenile Services officials are rightfully jealous when their authority is checked by the courts. However, their preoccupation with the cost of a for-profit reformatory has polarized the issue. Maryland cannot afford the increased expense of a penal system that does not work. Instead of political infighting, we should devote our energies toward making our Maryland penal system more effective; use these successful for-profit, systems as models.

The Sun's editorial, "Juvenile Battle," raises spurious issues about recent tax referendums, "to suit the court's fancy." The writer also asks rhetorical questions like, ". . . should judges have the right to pre-empt the executive branch, regardless of the cost, and become self-proclaimed juvenile experts?" I am disappointed with The Sun's perspective. This is a "trees and forest" issue. Fortunately, our appeals courts will be able to decide how far its reach needs to extend. Judge Kaplan has done us all a great service by forcing the question. That is how our government is supposed to work.

Karl Pfrommer.

Baltimore.

Cynicism or Statesmanship?

Editor: It is fashionable to adopt a politically cynical view and to accuse Gov. William Donald Schaefer of merely reading the election returns before taking a pro-choice position on abortion. I believe that does the governor an injustice. As a woman who is strongly pro-choice, I have respect for the depth of his personal dilemma and am grateful for his statesmanship.

Abortion is a difficult issue for most people. For many, parenthood is a sacred responsibility, requiring a serious commitment to nurture another human being. I cannot believe it is a high moral law to force a woman to become a mother when she is physically or emotionally unable to make that commitment.

What relevance does an abstract discussion about "sanctity of life" have to the real-life situations if she is substance-addicted and cannot get treatment, if she is living on the street because her family has thrown her out, if she is 15 years old and was raped by her step-brother who threatens to kill her if she tells anyone.

There are many ways to kill a child. It can be born HIV-positive, heroine-addicted or suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome. It can be born with a vast array of cataclysmic physical and mental disabilities that result from a lack of pre-natal medical care. The brief lives of these babies are little more than a prolonged dying. Those who speak with passion about "the rights of the unborn" would do well to remember the needs of the already born, to which our public and private response is totally inadequate, in spite of the heroic efforts of some agencies and individuals.

For six years, I was legislative liaison in Annapolis for the Department of Human Resources, whose unhappy task it is to try and hold these tortured lives together. In all those years of defending budget requests for pre-natal care, family services, foster care and adopting, and child abuse prevention and treatment, the pro-fetus lobby was nowhere to be seen.

It would be wonderful if our social and religious structures were so strong (and our contraceptives so reliable) that there would be no unwelcome pregnancies. It would be wonderful if we as a society were willing to provide the supports necessary for women who would prefer to choose parenthood but now cannot. But there will continue to be situations in which some of us would argue that abortion is the moral choice.

In separating his personal conviction from the power of government to dictate on this issue, Governor Schaefer has accorded every woman the dignity of making a personal choice based on the requirements of her situation and the dictates of her own conscience.

Dale Balfour.

Owings Mills.

Witchcraft and Values

Editor: Recent newspaper stories have described some parents' concern over two books available in school reading centers. One book deals with witchcraft, spells and magic. The other tells of a humorous or fanciful relationship with a devil.

I have not read either book. However, as a father and grandfather, I think these parents are missing a perfect opportunity to teach "family values" to their children.

Rather than demanding censorship by having the books removed from the schools, why don't parents take the time to explain to children why they do not feel the books are appropriate? If the parents' own values are secure, it should be an easy matter to explain that "we" believe differently and "our" religious beliefs do not condone such things as experimenting with witchcraft or making friends with devils.

By doing this, the child's ability to understand and appreciate the values and beliefs of a family or church would be enhanced and the child could better handle future situations when the parent might not be available.

There is an old saying, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." The same principle applies to values and morality.

John D. Malcomb.

Reisterstown.

Drawing the Line

Editor: I recycle our newspapers and go out of my way to drop off plastic jugs not picked up at curbside. However, I draw the line on diapers. Not just because it is convenient, but because I have the facts to back up my decision to use disposable diapers.

In a life cycle study of cloth vs. disposable diapers, the disposable diapers came out more environmentally friendly than cloth. Cloth diapers may require less raw materials. However, they contribute to more air and water pollution, they require more water and consume more energy. When you think about it, cloth diapers must be washed in hot water and rinsed not once, but several times and this uses our water and energy resources.

Maryland does not have to worry about a water shortage this year but what about states like California which do? The Environmental Protection Agency says it would be a disaster for areas experiencing a water problem to make a switch to cloth diapers. Let's not cause more problems while trying to solve existing ones. We cannot be so quick to make alternate product recommendations before life cycle studies are made.

As a health professional and mother, I do not want to give up the health advantage that the disposable diapers give my daughter. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the super-absorbent gel in disposable diapers can prevent diaper rash better than cloth diapers. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends disposables over cloth for use in places where there are many children, like day-care centers, to avoid the spread of infectious diseases.

Lisa Bellini Gergley.

Locust Valley, N.Y.

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Revive Pogo

Editor: We support Kathy Fuller's Oct. 9 request to bring back the comic strip "Pogo."

Even on days when the front-page news was dire, he and his friends made us smile. The strip which appeared at Halloween last year was so endearing we clipped it to send to our family living abroad at the time.

If you must reduce the number of cartoons, cancel "Luann" or "When I Was Short," but please bring back Pogo and his friends.

Dorothy and William Cronin.

Annapolis.

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