Editor: The Sun's March 8 editorial cartoon, depicting a strong international justice arm and a weak domestic criminal justice arm, was prophetic.
I recently attended a conference on crime sponsored by the U.S. Justice Department. While the president and the attorney general of the United States gave encouraging remarks, it was painfully obvious that neither they nor the Congress will take any meaningful initiatives to establish a criminal justice system capable of meeting the present criminal justice crisis.
Moreover, neither the legislature of this state, nor any other aspect of state or local government, is prepared to take the initiative to meet the tidal wave of criminal cases that is flooding the criminal justice system of the City of Baltimore and the state of Maryland.
It is regrettable that government can plan highways, educational systems and prisons, but government cannot recognize that our criminal justice system is in a state of crisis. Thus, even an accurate announcement of our current problem, titled "The Drug Crisis and Underfunding of the Justice System in Baltimore City," remains ignored.
Stuart O. Simms.
The writer is state's attorney for Baltimore City.
Editor: Your editorial of March 9 is an insult to the Maryland General Assembly and particularly those members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee so named therein.
To say that those legislators voted "for assault weapons" is even more revolting. It is intuitively obvious to the casual observer that so-called assault weapons are not the problem -- people are the problem, along with a judicial system that employs a revolving-door policy.
When are you people going to acquire the intestinal fortitude and integrity to point out the root causes of violence in society? Have you thought about drug profit, poverty, hopelessness, or even the virtually institutionalized ethic of lawlessness for profit that has developed within the sub-culture of the streets?
Calling inanimate objects terrorizing and blaming them for our problems is about as helpful and constructive as blaming automobile manufacturers for the behavior of drunk drivers. Will you ever get it? Show me a gun that ever committed a crime! You can't and never will.
Congratulations are in order to those Judicial Proceedings senators who have not been affected by your irrational and emotional foaming of the mouth and gave recent gun-ban legislation the "deep-six" it so richly deserved.
Your editorial was an insult to thinking people everywhere. Shame on you.
Dennis J. LaBare.
Editor: Now after 100 hours of the ground war, the "bleeding hearts" and liberals led by Sen. Edward Kennedy are silent and hard to find. If we waited and listened to them from the beginning of this crisis, we would still be waiting longer than a generation for sanctions to work. And what price in lives and cost, terrorist activity, and other ramifications related to this war world-wide?
Let us thank President Bush, his administration, the Defense Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the generals in Saudi Arabia, the armed forces and allies of the coalition.
Finally, let's give all the privates, corporals, sergeants, lieutenants, captains, majors and colonels our deepest gratitude and appreciation and a job well done. Let us never forget the best of our heroes who made the supreme sacrifice.
Editor: The aftermath of Desert Storm will test the soul of the United States in a way that war does not. Currently the U.S. Army in Iraq and Kuwait are providing safety, food and shelter to Iraqis who are fleeing civil war and Saddam Hussein's government.
This action is in accord with the highest values of the United States and reflects great credit on our soldiers, the Army, the government and the people of the United States. Because of this noble action we may be faced with the following choices:
* Return the Iraqis (POWs and refugees) to the tender mercy of Mr. Hussein.
* Leave them in the desert to die.
* Turn them over to a local government, Kuwaiti or Saudi, which will chose option 1 or 2.
* Provide asylum.
Our responsibility to our fellow humans does not end with the shooting. None of our brave soldiers, sailors, airmen or marines would wish our government to abandon anyone to Saddam Hussein's power; this would be a betrayal of the cause for which they just fought. In this case we should find some solution that does not require that we turn over to murderers people whose crime is that they would be free.
If we do not find them a place of asylum, we will be accessories in the treatment given them by Iraq. If no other option opens, then we must be true to our ideals and find space here for these people who yearn to breathe free.
Patrick J. Kelly Jr.
55 Is an Unreasonable Speed Limit
Editor: During the 1984 presidential election debates, Walter Mondale remarked that what bothered him about Ronald Reagan wasn't what the president didn't know, but what he thought he knew that just wasn't so.
I feel the same way when I read letters like that written by Mary-Paulding Martin (March 8).
Ms. Martin says it is "mandatory" that "the nation" and "not the states" restore the speed limit to 55 miles per hour. She claims that "This mandate will lose nothing. It will save lives along with oil."
Until 1973, when the 55-mile-per hour limit was mandated by Congress as a temporary emergency fuel conservation measure, setting appropriate speed limits had been rightly considered to be the responsibility of individual states. Today, states are permitted to set speed limits up to 65 miles per hour on rural Interstate highways, and Senate Bill 65, sponsored by Idaho Sen. Steve Symms, would remove federal control over speed limits altogether and return to the status quo prior to 1973.
At its best, the 55 mile-per-hour speed limit was never considered to be a truly significant fuel saver. The Transportation Research Board once estimated that the amount of gasoline saved by 55 was less than that which could be saved if all cars had properly inflated tires. Clearly, the fuel conservation "benefits" of 55 did not justify the massive propaganda and enforcement effort that was needed to try to make an unwilling populace obey it.
The free market provides a far better incentive to save fuel than an unrealistically low highway speed limit: consider the fuel efficiency of cars today compared with their counterparts of 20 years ago.
Ms. Martin's opinion that a return to 55 will save lives is unsupported by any empirical data. Forty states have increased their speed limits to 65 on rural interstate highways with no ill effects, and not one of those states is even considering lowering the speed limit again.
Nationally and in Maryland our fastest highways remain our safest, even as average speeds increase yearly. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, America's highway death rate hit a record low last year, continuing a long-established trend.
The notion that a lower speed limit is just naturally and logically safer than a higher speed limit begs the question: Why lower the speed limit only to 55? It is, after all, just an arbitrary number. When set by transportation engineers -- as they should be -- speed limits ideally should reflect the 85th percentile of driven speeds on a given highway, thus promoting the smooth uniform flow of traffic and thereby lowering the risk of a collision.
The costs of enforcing an unrealistically low speed are enormous, as police resources are misused and courts become jammed. And if the motoring public can be forced to drive at 55, a coast-to-coast trip takes a full day longer, adding appreciably to the cost of consumer goods shipped by truck.
The biggest cost of 55, however, is intangible. Americans have the right to expect that their laws will single out and punish only unreasonable and/or dangerous conduct -- and driving a vehicle at 65 or 70 miles per hour on our interstate highways is neither unreasonable nor dangerous. It is downright unconscionable for our government to make criminals out of citizens who are doing nothing wrong, and such a policy breeds disrespect for lawmakers, law enforcers, and the law itself.
Giffen B. Nickol.