Editor: John Sununu's private trips at the public's expense are both unseemly, unconscionable and unfair.
The self-serving, cavalier and meretricious response, to date, offered by Mr. Sununu as to why he has had to utilize public monies to defray his private and personal peregrinations to resorts and personal amusement, represent a colossal reductio ad absurdum.
Mr. Sununu, I believe, knows full well that the rationale he puts forth to abate or remove public criticism relative to his private trips is totally unacceptable and unfair.
He does not, at this point in time, seem to be able to curb his proclivity to travel at the public's expense. President Bush needs to move forward with celerity to end Mr. Sununu's trips at the expense of the public.
Samuel L. Banks.
Editor: In his June 10 Opinion * Commentary column, "Fairness to Old Sailors," James L. Kilpatrick says that merchant seamen should "receive the same benefits accorded other members of the armed services." The Merchant Marine is not an "armed service" -- although, like other male civilians, its members belong automatically to the Unorganized Militia and hence have a constitutional right to bear arms.
Not even a government service, the Merchant Marine does have a special relationship to the U. S. Public Health Service, authorized to wear Navy-type uniforms, like the surgeon general. Should Public Health employees get veterans' status? What about yachting organizations like the Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadron? What about the Sea Scouts, the Civil Air Patrol and the Salvation Army? What about the Red Cross?
This is not irony. The Red Cross and the Salvation Army served in combat zones during both world wars. And like all civilians who went overseas they were aboard merchant ships -- in precisely the same danger as merchant seamen.
Correctly or not, combat infantrymen like me were led to believe that merchant seamen were fantastically overpaid civilians -- typically draft-dodgers, who could quit whenever they pleased, at least in home ports, and take their chances with the draft, although many merchant officers had Navy Reserve commissions.
To evaluate the whole argument, ignorant people like me need more information. Just who was included when the Congress declared that members of the Merchant Marine -- and at least 14 other civilian groups, mostly female -- are now "veterans"? Is it right to conceal such matters from the taxpaying public?
Willis Case Rowe.
Pols Get Theirs
Editor: Roger Hayden and the Baltimore County Council have used the current economic climate as an excuse to deny county employees even the smallest of raises, not even a cost of living raise.
But in the 1980s, when the economy was healthy, county government refused to grant all but modest increases in wages and benefits to employees.
Government must offer competitive salary and benefit packages it is to attract and retain quality employees.
However, there is one sector of government that always gets theirs, regardless of economic conditions. The politicians.
Editor: The bridge that has been proposed by the State Highway Administration as a replacement for the old Severn River Bridge in Annapolis is truly a monster. It must not be built.
The design of the existing bridge is in keeping with the temperament of this community. It provides a lovely, measured entrance to the most beautiful state capital in the country. The proposed monster bridge, on the other hand, is incompatible with the size and scale of this wonderful city, and as such, it is completely inappropriate.
The monster will create an unneeded, high-speed, freeway-style access into this lovely 18th and 19th century city. It will mar the view from all sides, destroy wetlands, encourage increased river traffic, create noise pollution, intimidate pedestrians and bicyclists and bring more vehicles into a city that is already overrun with them.
Now is time for a reasoned approach. One which would dictate either repairing what we are so lucky to have or replacing it with something similar. Surely this sophisticated society can find an economical and practical way to do so.
ames D. Vance.
Editor: Are we ever going to stop inviting our young women to get pregnant with our system of financial support for them and their child for the next 18 years or not? Where are our legislators on this one? We can teach our young people responsibility only by showing them that we are determined in our efforts to cut costs and get a tighter rein on our expenditures by making them accountable for their own actions.
Put our tax dollars to better use. We need responsibility, not tax abuse.
Editor: I would like to reply to Rachel Wallach, whose Opinion * Commentary piece endeavored to explain the motivation of the so-called shotgun robbers.
The claim is made that alienation from society encourages violation of its norms. This may underpin wild fashion or music, but surely cannot include felonious assault.
It must be clearly stated that all members of all populations have a direct, personal interest in maintaining some universal, minimal level of civility. Human interaction is possible only when basic codes of behavior are established and maintained. These codes, I believe, preclude expressing displeasure at the status quo with a firearm in a supermarket.
I hope that in the future Ms. Wallach will turn her compassionate eye and pen toward a more worthy group than a gang of shotgun-wielding hooligans.
Arsenic and Old Zach
Editor: If Zachary Taylor's exhumation had disclosed hints of poisoning, fingers would have been pointed to his vice president, Millard Fillmore, as the suspect most likely to succeed, according to Theo Lippman Jr.'s June 19 column.
Of course, Taylor's irascibility and views incited a coterie of detractors, any of whom might have been tempted.
Though Fillmore was never consulted and often ignored by Taylor, Fillmore followers are convinced he would not conspire in an "Arsenic and Old Zach" attempt.
The writer is coordinator of the Society to Promote Respect and Recognition of Millard Fillmore.
VMI Does a Disservice to Its Cadets
Editor: As a newly commissioned second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, I feel the need to express my concern over the Virginia Military Institute decision to refuse admission to women. The judge said in his decision allowing this that he made it in part because VMI "marches to the beat of a different drummer." This claim is not an acceptable reason to deny any group of people admission to an institution. That's what the civil rights movement fought against. It would not be acceptable, in today's society, for a corporation to claim that it has a history of marching to a different drummer and thus is justified in discriminating against minorities. Why should different standards apply to VMI?
The judge asserted that VMI "provided a needed diversity in education and that changing the policy would alter the school's mission." This statement is inherently contradictory. The fact that it does provide a different kind of education suggests that similar educational opportunities do not exist for women elsewhere. Thus, by law, they should be allowed to participate.
The superintendent of VMI, Maj. Gen. John W. Knapp, expressed his "delight" at the decision and said he looked forward to "continuing VMI's exemplary service to the nation and to the commonwealth." What exactly does this mean? Does it mean that admitting women would decrease the service VMI could provide to the nation? Women have long fought for the right to participate in the military. In the late 1960s, they were allowed to join ROTC units across the nation, and in 1976 they were admitted to the service academies. They are required to go through the same basic training as men -- as officers, women actually do the training with the men -- and are required to meet the same intellectual demands. Women are evaluated by the same criteria, sign the same contracts and wear the same uniforms. In the Persian Gulf they, like men, left behind families and friends to serve their country and they, like men, made the ultimate sacrifice at times.
My uneasiness climaxed when the judge claimed that admitting women would "tend to impair the esprit de corps and the egalitarian atmosphere of the VMI experience." Is enrollment down in the service academies? Do men suddenly abandon their dreams of attending the Air Force Academy, the Naval Academy the Military Academy simply because women are now allowed equal participation? No.
Being a member of the U.S. military, regardless of what branch a person chooses, means being willing to selflessly serve one's country. It means long hours of preparation for the possibility of what most consider the gravest of all nightmares -- war. It means having to always be prepared to move at a moment's notice, including separation from family and friends. But it also means feeling the pride swell within you every time you put on your uniform. It means being proud of the commitment you have made to be a part of a greater cause -- the security of our nation. It does not mean separating men and women.
VMI needs to adapt its philosophy to the present and escape from the dark ages. The officers graduating from VMI are going to have to work with women in almost all operations. They will be incapable of dealing effectively with this situation if they are educated by the archaic belief that a man is more of a soldier than a woman.
The academies and ROTC programs have adapted their programs and philosophies to include women, taking special care to remind service people that the military of today is different from the military portrayed in the movies and discussed in history books. Women play an integral part in most military operations and are even fighting for the right to take part in combat roles.
The military of today is not better or worse than that of its predecessor -- it's different. The purpose of all military preparatory programs is to prepare young people for careers in the military. Maj. Gen. Knapp is doing all the cadets at VMI a great disservice by expressing his "delight" at the denial of those women who will someday be their co-workers.
Rebecca Louise Guth.