Unfair CartoonOn March 20, you published in...

Unfair Cartoon

On March 20, you published in the Saturday Sun an editorial cartoon suggesting that federal civil servants are President Clinton's No. 1 problem. The cartoon was a cruel insult to the thousands of federal civil servants who make up a large portion of Baltimore's work force.


Are civil servants perfect? Of course not. We are human and have our share of shortcomings. We make mistakes and there are some bad apples among us. It is sad to see a normally skillful and incisive cartoon commentator like Mike Lane fire such a cheap shot.

The federal work force has remained at almost a constant level for many years -- years in which many federal programs have grown bigger and more complex. Any way you look at it, the productivity of federal employees has increased over the years.


Federal salaries and benefits are undeniably a part of total government, but President Clinton has already proposed major cutbacks both in numbers of employees and in salaries and benefits. One of the president's top budget officials publicly admitted that federal employees are being asked to accept a disproportionate share of deficit reduction.

Do federal civil servants resemble the mean, ugly rubber-stamping clerks Mr. Lane's cartoon showed? During Hurricane Andrew in south Florida, a group of Social Security Administration employees paid out of their own pockets for a plane to tow a banner telling stricken people how to get in touch with SSA for help. During the Air Florida crash in the Potomac River some ten years ago, federal employees jumped in the freezing water to rescue crash victims.

When you fly, your life is literally in the hands of federal employees, air traffic controllers, people who work under incredible stress and rarely make mistakes. Federal employees work every day to ensure that the food we eat and the drugs we take won't harm us. (Remember Thalidomide? It was a federal civil servant who led the fight to remove it from the market.)

Career foreign service officers face danger in many parts of the world: Remember the Iranian hostage crisis? The hostages were federal employees.

We don't claim to be perfect, but neither are we the No. 1 problem. I think Mr. Lane and The Sun owe a lot of hard-working federal employees an apology.

John H. Trout


Zero Debt


Despite his statement to the contrary, M.A.V. Auzingar (letter, March 19) must be aware that the loan guarantee for Israel mentioned in his letter does not incur any debt for the U.S. taxpayer or for our government.

The U.S. government has determined through its General Accounting Office that there should be a set-aside paid by Israel to insure the loan. The amount that has been stated is inordinately high, considering that Israel is an excellent credit risk and has never defaulted on any loan.

The only role that the U.S. government plays is similar to that of the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank, which has extended such loan guarantees at no cost to countries of questionable creditworthiness.

More to the point, no such set-aside was required from Iraq, which then proceeded to default on its loan, costing our taxpayers billions of dollars.

The cost of the loan guarantee to Israel to the U.S. taxpayer is zero. For Mr. Auzingar to state otherwise is false and is designed to mislead the American public.

Nelson Marans


Silver Spring

Russian Charter

The article March 24 by Will Englund, "Yeltsin can be ousted, rival says," has a revealing sentence which states that the constitution of Russia is vague, sprawling and filled with discrepancies.

There has been little discussion in the American media about the Russian constitution, its nuances, its flaws and its prospects for shaping a strong democracy. How can a truly democratic nation be founded on the current Russian constitution, which is a legacy of the Communist era?

Members of the Russian parliament's human rights committee have suggested that Russia's judicial branch is simply an extended arm of the Russian Congress. If this is true, then the Russian constitution lacks the separation of powers and the checks and balances of the American Constitution.

With no guards in place against seizure of federal government power by an individual or an organized group, Russia could be subjected to recurrent "constitutional coups."


Mr. Yeltsin believes that Russia's unwieldy and confusing constitution should be overhauled and reformed. Although he could be saying this to save his own neck, he is right.

Unless the Russian constitution is simplified and rewritten to suit a progressive democracy, America would be wasting its time backing Mr. Yeltsin or any other modern Russian leader.

It is not just market economy or capitalism that is the foundation of a stable country. The American Constitution is the bedrock on which a democracy was built.

I cannot understand how a nation can move from communism to democracy without fashioning a vibrant constitution to establish justice and secure liberty for all its citizens. What Russia needs is a constitutional convention, not constitutional brawls.

Usha Nellore

Bel Air


Signs of the Times

In your editorial "The Clock Ticks on Liquor Outlets," you point out that Baltimore City, and in particular its inner city neighborhoods, are "exploited by peddlers of products that are both addictive and hazardous to health."

I agree and argue that the greatest tool for the exploiters is outdoor advertising. Through billboards and store signs, the alcohol and tobacco industries create a demand for their deadly products with misleading messages primarily targeted to children.

Using sex, sports heroes, entertainers, cartoons and images of success, beauty and wealth, the alcohol, tobacco and billboard industries entice and trick our children into smoking and drinking. Your editorial deplores this situation, but questions whether government intervention is warranted and points to existing voluntary efforts to remove harmful ads by tavern owners.

Your assertion is only partially true. Yes, some tavern owners have removed their signs, but only to put them up again when their competitors fail to do the same. Some tavern owners want to support the community, but will do so only if all businesses play by the same rules. Consequently, the Korean Alcoholic Beverage Association and other tavern and package goods store owners support the total ban on outdoor advertising of alcohol products.

On the other hand, the billboard industry doesn't even try,


despite their arguments that they will remove alcohol and tobacco advertisements that are 300 feet from schools, churches and playgrounds.

Neighborhoods have asked Penn Advertising to remove their ads, and Penn does so only to replace them at a later date, as done in the 1200 block of Fulton Avenue.

Also, 300 feet is not far enough away from any of these locations. With these giant signs, children can easily see these billboards as they leave any of these locations, as is the case by Westside Elementary School. The sign is just over 300 feet from the school, yet it has a big "Bobby Brown It's a Bud Thing" Budweiser advertisement on it.

Bobby Brown is a teen idol. Most adults I talk to do not know Bobby Brown. This sign is just over 300 feet from this elementary school, easily visible by children as they walk to and from school, as they wait for the bus or as they are on school grounds.

Our children do not just go to school or church. In many instances, the first thing they see as they leave the house is one of the signs. In the 1900 block of Oliver Street, two signs, one for alcohol and one for tobacco, face a row of homes. Also, on Park Heights Avenue, three signs advertising alcohol and tobacco face the backs of houses. When the children who live there get up in the morning, they look out their bedroom window and see alcohol and tobacco advertisements. There are very few places in the city where you can put an alcohol sign that would not affect homes, churches, schools or other public institutions.

We believe that government intervention is not only warranted, it is also a public necessity. Over 80 community organizations, churches and business are urging the state legislature to pass Senate Bill 808. Only Penn Advertising, the alcohol industry and its paid lobbyist oppose it.


When there is a serious public health and community development risk, government has a moral duty to enact protective legislation. Misleading children into smoking and drinking is no less a crime then child abuse. Drunk driving or cancer is no less a risk to their health than physical blows. There are laws to outlaw child abuse; there must be laws to outlaw the exploitation and targeting of our children.

Bev Thomas


The writer is the chairperson of the City Wide Liquor Coalition for Better Laws and Regulations.