Don't Shift Gears
The members of the American Motorcyclist Association appreciate the May 24 in-depth article by staff writer Peter Jensen on the crisis facing the motorcycle-rider education program in Maryland, "Shifting Gears."
It went a long way toward explaining to the non-motorcycling public the value, importance and need for continuing this program. It also made it clear that Delegate Timothy F. Maloney has missed the point. The program is paid for by motorcyclists, not tax dollars.
The motorcyclists lobbied for it. They support it with a registration surcharge and course-registration fees. And it is necessary to "dedicate" the funds to protect the program from irresponsible legislators like Mr. Maloney.
The program has reduced accidents and saved health-care dollars. It deserves to be continued because of the direct cause-and-effect relationship between it and safer motorcycling. If Mr. Maloney's short-sighted "feeling is to cut them out entirely next year," as expressed in the article, we will be there to make sure Maryland riders get their money back.
The writer is vice president, government relations, of the American Motorcyclist Association.
The Maryland State Police is to be commended for its efforts to step up enforcement of the 55 mph speed limit.
It is doing exactly what the people of Maryland demanded of Gov. William Donald Schaefer when he vetoed a bill to raise the speed limit to 65 mph last year.
About one-third of all crash fatalities are a result of excessive speed. With nearly 700 traffic deaths in Maryland each year, that translates into more than 200 lives lost because drivers don't obey the speed limit.
Since the violent force of a crash doubles with each 10 mph over 50 mph, speeding also results in more serious crash injuries.
Just like drunk driving, speeding is a serious public health problem that must be eliminated if we are to reduce the carnage on Maryland's roadways. Since the public is not yet willing to accept this as fact, increased enforcement is the best way to save lives and prevent injury.
August P. Alegi
8, The writer is a vice president of GEICO.
To paraphrase Garland Thompson's recent column on Ross Perot, the closer people read the writer's thoughts on Mr. Perot and consider the inherent absurdities disguised as facts, the more likely they are to pull the Perot lever!
Mr. Thompson's attempt at skewering Mr. Perot with snappy, illogical and distorted rhetoric just does not work. His basic premise is that the electorate is better off with "a leader of [an established] political party" rather than some "near unknown." Why? Because the party leader can call upon the party faithful to "work for his programs."
Personally, I can think of no better reason to consider abandoning both the Republican and the Democratic parties at this time. There is nothing wrong with our two-party system other than the crop of candidates being offered up to the voting public.
I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Republican who is fed up with Iran-contra, farm guarantee loans to Saddam Hussein to buy arms, dilettante government staffers, congressional corruption and a $4 trillion debt that is increasing at $1.2 million per minute.
Presidents Reagan and Bush will have had the helm for 12 years and this country is way off course in any number of areas.
Give me a responsible, able and somewhat moral candidate from the other party and I'll pull the Democratic lever. Bill Clinton? Jerry Brown? Therein is my dilemma and that of many voters. What is our alternative?
Ross Perot may not be "the" answer to this voter dilemma but he is fast becoming the representative and standard bearer of that which is or, at least, might be. To dismiss him and what he represents at this time of failed and failing leadership is to be outside of reality.
The Ross Perot blip on Garland Thompson's radar screen is real, and the voters are making it brighter and brighter every week at the polls.
James F. Belluche
Population Bomb Is Not a 'Dud'
Ben Wattenberg's argument that the population "bomb" is a "dud" (Opinion * Commentary, June 2) is dangerously misleading on three counts.
Mr. Wattenberg bases his argument on the fact that total fertility rate, the average number of children a woman bears in her lifetime, has declined considerably in the past 20 years.
By extrapolating this trend, he says one can conclude that growth of the population will taper off toward the end of the next century.
The first problem with this argument is that it overlooks the fact that, because of high total fertility rates of the past, 50 percent of the world's population is under 20 years of age. Even with a lower rate, this generation, because of its huge size, will continue to produce babies in unprecedented numbers.
The result is that the world population is growing faster than at any other time in history -- more than 90 million people a year. For comparison, the total population of the United States is about 250 million. Furthermore, this growth will continue and will add another 3 to 4 billion people to the world's population over the next 40 to 50 years despite declining total fertility rates.
The second misleading aspect of Mr. Wattenberg's argument is the implication that the total fertility rate will somehow continue its decline naturally and automatically.
In fact, a decline only results from reaching young poor people of the world with family planning information, contraceptives and development aid that provides them with opportunities for economic advancement. Unfortunately, current U.S. policy seems bent on withholding these things.
Third and most seriously, Mr. Wattenberg implies that because mathematical extrapolations point to a stable population toward the end of the next century, there is nothing to worry about.
In fact, there is ample evidence of environmental deterioration -- potential global warming, loss of protective ozone and loss of forests and species, to name just three aspects -- under the weight of the current 5.4 billion people. Per-capita food production, which increased markedly over the '70s and early '80s, is now on a decline.
In the face of these facts, it seems dubious that the world will support the additional 3 to 4 billion people expected over the next 40 to 50 years.
In conclusion, the "bomb" is far from a "dud." Unless far more attention is given to providing contraceptive information and materials, providing acceptable economic opportunities for the world's poor and protecting the earth's environmental systems, we may see the "explosion" of massive environmental deterioration, ecological refugees (impoverished people leaving lands that no longer support them) and famines within the next 30 to 40 years.
Bernard J. Nebel
Rep. Ben Cardin, my representative by virtue of some ratheobvious gerrymandering, serves on the Ways and Means Committee subcommittee on health.
At the same time, according to an article in The Sun, he has recently received $48,250 in PAC money, $10,000 of which was from health-related interests: $5,000 from the American Health Care Association, and $5,000 from the National Association of Life Underwriters.
I believe this is a prime example of the "bought" Congress. Mr. Cardin is reportedly such a shoo-in for re-election that any campaign money he receives is obviously designed for something beyond just getting him elected.
This money represents serious conflicts of interest. Mr. Cardin now owes these contributors some consideration. Does this now limit his effectiveness in trying to find an equitable solution to the national health care dilemma? I believe it does.
As Charles Keating said, when asked if he did not think that his contributions to senatorial campaigns might not unduly influence those senators to give some preferment to his business interests, "Well, I certainly hope so."
NB I say -- let's throw all the bums out! It can't get any worse.