Playing The Lotto
In his June 6 letter to the editor, "Have More Lotto Winners," Fred Williams suggests that the Maryland Lottery Commission change the Lotto guidelines to add bonus numbers each week to jackpots over $10 million dollars until the jackpot is won.
Obviously, Mr. Williams has not taken into consideration the numbers of people who play the Lotto by subscription. These individuals choose or have randomly selected numbers chosen for them, and pre-pay into the Lotto for a specified period of time.
The addition of bonus numbers would not give them more of a chance to win. The Maryland State Lottery has the money in advance. Would subscription holders be able to request cancellation of their Lotto subscription?
Mr. Williams seems to be generalizing when he states that out-of-town gambling cartels take the money out of the state or the country; and added numbers will cause people to spend more because they feel they would have a better chance of winning.
I question his statement that "we all know the bulk of Lotto sales comes from people who are financially distressed and cannot really afford to play."
My thoughts on the matter are: One, keep the money in the state by requiring Lotto participants to have a Maryland residence. A Maryland residence is required for those who wish to play the Lotto by subscription. This might keep "out-of-town big gambling cartels from plunking down $7 million and taking the money out of the state or country."
And two, instead of adding more numbers, keep the Lotto the way it is, and pay those folks who just happen to keep hitting two or three numbers consecutively each week.
I wouldn't mind having a couple of extra bucks each week. This would be a sure way to keep the Lotto jackpot from getting up so high.
More people would play knowing they could win. Mr. Williams wouldn't have to worry about one person winning $10 million or more and it would make a lot of folks happy. This would probably wreak havoc on the federal, state and county tax people, though.
Although winning the lottery would definitely improve one's standard of living, playing the Lotto is gambling, plain and simple. Not everyone will win. That is the chance you take. I don't think our Lotto forefathers ever intended for the Lotto to be a form of social welfare.
Airline Fare Ads
After reading the June 2 article in The Sun on the Supreme Court's decision that states may not regulate advertising of airline fares, the reader can only be left with two impressions: that deceptive airline advertising is a rampant problem and that the federal government, through the Department of Transportation, is doing little to protect consumers from such practices.
First, deceptive airline advertising is not the pervasive problem your article suggests. Lawyers, consumer affairs specialists and investigators at the department routinely monitor airline advertisements. The vast majority of those ads, while not necessarily a model of simplicity and clarity, are neither false nor deceptive.
The number of consumer complaints received at the department supports those findings. Overall, complaints on airline advertising, which are few in number, only make up about 1 percent of the all airline-related complaints to DOT.
Furthermore, a review of these complaints shows that very few involve fare advertising and fewer still reveal actual violations of our advertising requirements.
Whether an advertisement is misleading can be a matter of opinion, and we sometimes disagree with state officials.
For example, several state attorneys general have objected to the airline advertising practice, which we permit, of listing government-imposed taxes and surcharges (typically $28 or less for international tickets) separately from the fare charged by the airline.
This practice has variously been portrayed by state officials or consumer advocates as false, deceptive or misleading. We, however, know of no state where taxes must be or are included in advertised prices for goods or services.
With the amount of taxes listed separately, consumers should be able to add them to the fare to calculate a total price to be paid. On the other hand, if we required airlines to include all taxes in their advertised fares, it could eliminate the ability to publish or broadcast multi-destination advertisements, with a resulting drop-off in competition and low fare offerings.
As to the article's incorrect implication that we do little or nothing to enforce our deceptive practice requirements, I can assure you we pursue enforcement action against airlines for deceptive practices when such action is warranted.
In the past year alone, we have issued 14 cease and desist orders and assessed over $410,000 in civil penalties in cases involving deceptive airline advertising. Four of those cases dealt specifically with fare advertisements.
Since 1987, we have assessed penalties of over $1.3 million in consumer protection cases against large airlines. Clearly, these enforcement actions are evidence of the high priority we place on consumer protection in the airline industry.
But the numbers do not fully reflect our enforcement and compliance activity. Not every case results in a penalty.
Both our consumer affairs and enforcement offices routinely issue warnings and obtain compliance, without imposing penalties, from carriers who are first-time, inadvertent offenders.
Moreover, consumers are almost always permitted to avail themselves of the benefits of printing errors and other advertising mistakes because of the informal efforts of department staff. We believe DOT does a good job of ensuring that the carriers conform with federal advertising requirements.
Perhaps this letter will help to correct some of the misconceptions your article may have conveyed.
Arthur J. Rothkopf
The writer is general counsel of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Was The Sun's School Series Unfair?
I resent your recent article, "When Teachers Fail, System Often Does Too." With one article over 6,000 quality teachers have been portrayed as incompetent. What an insulting article for those teachers who come to school every day to do what they were hired to do -- teach.
It is even more incredible that this article is misrepresented as a portrait of "teachers who teach."
There is nothing in this article about teachers who teach. Instead you depict a few poor examples and allow them to speak for an entire dedicated group of professionals.
Yes, there are some poor teachers in Baltimore City. And many are poor teachers because of the school system administration.
These teachers have been without any kind of assistance or help because it is too much trouble for administrators. They remain in the school system because administrators cannot or will not follow a procedure.
I am disappointed in The Baltimore Sun. I thought that this kind of sensationalism was reserved for supermarket tabloids and not for serious journalists.
I want to reassure the parents of students in this city that thiorganization is concerned about the quality of education their children receive.
In no way do we condone the retention of incompetent teachers. However, we will continue to make sure that all the "i's are dotted and the t's are crossed" before we allow someone to be fired from their job.
And I want to reassure the teachers in this city that I know you are doing an excellent job in spite of the many obstacles thrown in your way every day.
This year has been an especially difficult one, and yet you still came to work every day with a positive attitude. Since The Baltimore Sun won't acknowledge your achievements, I will. Congratulations on your continued professionalism in the Baltimore City public schools and for a job well done.
Irene B. Dandridge
The writer is president of the Baltimore Teachers Union.
After having read the articles thus far published regarding thstatus of the Baltimore City school system, I am ashamed for all of us. The shame, though, is not for the condition of school system, but rather for the values we seem to collectively espouse.
The education of the children of this city and of this state should (and must) be our number one priority. Yet this is not the case.
The nurturing of the children of this city and of this state should be our responsibility moral, ethical, financial. We have no greater resources than these young minds. It is into their hands that we place our own futures.
I, for one, would like to know that those are hands which have been educated to the best of our abilities.
This is how we should feel, and yet it is not. We prefer the construction of a multi-million dollar sports stadium to the revamping of the school system.
We build a monument that contributes nothing to the intellectual development of our children while those children sit in schools with inadequate tests, few supplies, ill-trained teachers (in some instances), threatening confrontations and a host of other horrendously difficult conditions (rain in the classroom?).
We cheer the efforts of a baseball team which does nothing to enlighten us; our money pays them millions of dollars to entertain us. Is our money not better spent in improving the education of our children? Certainly recreation should play a large part in our lives, but should not education always come first?
Where is our sense of responsibility? Where is our sense of logic? If we are not responsible to the children of Baltimore, if we do not educate them properly and well, if we will not devote the finances to improve their opportunities, can we then pretend not to understand the violence in our streets? Can we then pretend not to understand the rampant drug use and abuse? Can we then pretend not to understand the alarming rate of teen pregnancy and, consequently, the staggering number of teen abortions?
We were properly educated and yet we are absurdly ignorant. If the school system cannot offer these children a vista of those opportunities which may await them as functional adults, we may be dismayed when they turn to uneducated violence, substance abuse and sex.
The children of Baltimore City are seeking something. We have it in our power to provide it for them. Let us not glorify the sports and entertainment personalities. Rather, let us glorify our children.
Let us allow them to know that they are a vital force in our lives and in the continued success of this country. Only then can each child feel his or her worth.
We have shown them that a baseball stadium is more important than the quality of their lives (for school is a child's life for 12 years) and I believe that we owe them an apology in the form of a functional school system.
If this means added educational taxes (for the schools, not for studies), so be it. If it means replacing the current superintendent, so be it. If we must replace the mayor and the governor, so be it.
Their value is nothing compared with the value of these and all of our children. Let us do what we must, but let us do something. Let our shame become our pride.
Ann E. Regan
HTC I read your six-part series, "Bright Faces, Fading Dreams," with --
immense incredulity, disappointment and dismay. The series was jaundiced, stereotypical, invidious and flagrantly unfair to the preponderant number of students, teachers and staff who, under severe societal adversities and an enormous inadequacy of human and monetary resources, render steady, substantive and distinctive educational service.
The series, I believe, could be summaried thusly: "Can any good come from the Baltimore City Public Schools?"
The Sun's tendentious, disjointed and lugubrious series accentuated the violent-assaultive, irresponsible and reprehensible behavior of a small fraction of the 108,000 students enrolled in the Baltimore City public schools.
Moreover, many of the dreadful incidents reported in the series had already been reported in the course of the year in newspapers. Why, then, a week-long scatological and unfair characterization of students and teachers viewed as ineffectual and shoddy?
The Sun's series simply makes it harder for teachers, administrators and parents in Baltimore City as we work to provide the necessary knowledge, skills, hope and opportunity for Monumental City's most precious resource -- its children and youths.
Samuel L. Banks Ed.D.
The writer is associate superintendent directing the school system's Bureau of Instruction.
Abortion: Not Either/Or
Sandy Banisky's article of June 3 ("Overground railroad to roll") was an interesting one. According to it, if the Supreme Court restricts the right to abortion, a group of women volunteers will help transport women seeking abortions to states with liberal abortion laws.
One's first inclination is to disregard the enterprise, which is being organized partly by Mary Ellen McNish, an executive at Planned Parenthood. Though presented as a quasi-religious crusade led by Quakers in the tradition of the Underground Railroad, there is no doubt that the effort will bring in a lucrative trade to Ms. McNish's abortion clinic. Ms. Banisky's uncritical eye does not notice this.
There is nonetheless something admirable about the movement. The women involved are concerned about the unfair burden placed on women when it comes to child-rearing, especially when the father isn't around to take his share of the responsibility.
The desire of this group to help women faced with unwanted pregnancies is good. Their means of doing so, however, are flawed.
This group associates itself with the Underground Railroad, which helped slaves in the antebellum South flee to the North. In truth, these women belong to the same moral tradition as advocates of slavery: a tradition which claims that certain humans do not have rights because they are not "fully human" or do not have a "soul."
This is a long tradition in Western Civilization. When the Spaniards conquered the New World, they enslaved some of the indigenous peoples of South America, maintaining that indigenous peoples did not have souls.
Much the same argument was used in America by slave owners and their religious spokesmen, both Protestant and Catholic.
Kate Michelman, a spokeswoman for the National Abortion Rights Action League, calls abortion a legitimate religious option because denominations disagree as to when the fetus becomes "ensouled." Shades of Conquistadores. Now Quakers and Methodists and Presbyterians join them.
Curiously, pro-choice advocates consider themselves to be in the same tradition as those who fought against slavery and do, of course, belong to it in part. Their crusade to help women become full and free participants in society belongs to that tradition. To do so at the expense of unborn children contradicts it.
Why do people who are basically good err so grievously? How is it they are able to exclude an entire group of humans from moral consideration? Ought we not be widening rather than shrinking our moral horizon?
The problem is that the issue is viewed too narrowly: women's rights vs. the life of the unborn. Has no one realized it doesn't have to be an either/or choice?
Instead of battling one another, pro-choice and pro-life advocates should battle the forces in society that make abortion desirable for some women, that prevent women from equally participating in society, especially those who have children. To fight a social ill that represses women with abortion is to fight disease with disease.