This is in response to Roger Simon's July 16 column, concerning his recent jury duty.
Jury duty is the cornerstone of American democracy. It is also the cornerstone of the American justice system. A juror's contribution to the legal system is invaluable and cannot be overemphasized.
Sensitive questions concerning a juror's background should be discreetly reviewed. If a juror has committed a criminal act that disqualifies him or her from jury duty, then this is screened through a questionnaire sent to all potential jurors before jury duty service begins.
If a judge needs to ask a question about the juror being the victim of any crime, this should be done individually before the judge at the bench and not so that all members of the jury panel hear the specifics of the response in open court. This is the practice of the judges of the Circuit Court for Baltimore County.
In Baltimore County, we pride ourselves on making jury duty a positive experience both in terms of how jurors are treated and the efficiency of how jurors are utilized.
Citizens should know that Mr. Simon's jury duty experience is not typical of the treatment of jurors in Baltimore County, and that if problems arise with jury service, complaints are handled by contacting the court at 887-2687.
Peter J. Lally
The writer is court administrator of the Circuit Court for Baltimore County.
Dismayed at Letter
I am writing to express my dismay with The Sun for its inclusion of Richard Lelonek's letter, "A Matter of Style" (July 9). This letter was a blatant personal attack on Samuel L. Banks. The Sun should have kept such a distasteful letter in the envelope in which it was delivered.
What was the true point of Mr. Lelonek's letter? Dr. Banks is an extremely intelligent, articulate, strong, African-American man, and if Mr. Lelonek cannot accept that, then let him keep his jealousy to himself.
Ellyne M. Brown
Unfair to Muslims in America
Your editorial of July 11 is unfair to the American public, American Muslims and in particular to Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, whom you have called a "troublesome cleric . . . who developed sudden notoriety."
The unfairness to the American public emanates from editors and commentators who write about Islam and its people without any depth of knowledge and familiarity with the subject.
However, to Muslims, the editorial adds to the unjustified and unwarranted wave of hate against them, and to Dr. Abdel-Rahman, because the editorial disapproved of his freedom of speech in this land that was founded on such freedom.
In comparison, the bombing, destruction and obstruction of abortion clinics did not call for the examination of where the perpetrators of these crimes received their religious education nor the church or synagogue which they attended nor the clerics who fomented them. Why, then, should this policy be applied only to Dr. Abdel-Rahman?
Contrary to popular belief, it is not strange for Muslims to attend a particular mosque since very few exist. There are only three mosques in Baltimore compared to approximately 1,200 churches and 70 synagogues.
The same scarcity of mosques applies to the New Jersey-New York area. If Muslims wish to worship, they are limited to the few mosques available to them.
Another injustice to Dr. Abdel-Rahman is that the editorial categorized him as a cleric only and ignores the fact that he is a university professor with a school of thought, who taught at Al-Azhar University, a school which predates Oxford, Cambridge and the American Ivy League collectively.
The man, Dr. Abdel-Rahman, by virtue of his education, research and position has a message to present.
It is important to note that Islam is a way of life and not just a religion. To grasp the passionate upheavals in the Muslim world, one must not forget that Muslim countries were liberated only recently from the most oppressive and damaging colonialism.
Muslims are at a stage of toil to adjust and establish themselves in the world community. We, as Americans, have to bridge the gap between the difficult communities. America can greatly benefit financially and spiritually from the Muslim world, its culture and approach to life.
The editorial further depicts Dr. Abdel-Rahman's attitude toward peace in the Middle East as "enemy of peace." I do not recall your editors using such a derogatory term regarding the Middle East when Mr. Yatzak Shamir and Mr. Moishe Ahrens of Israel refuted the Camp David peace agreements.
We think The Sun, as the only available daily newspaper in Baltimore, owes the community and Dr. Abdel-Rahman a chance to explain his ideas and philosophy of Islamic revival as he perceives it before calling him names.
M. Z. Awad
The Benefits of a Regulated Monopoly
Your July 5 editorial criticizing State Sen. Thomas P. O'Reilly D-Prince Georges for trying to influence the Public Service Commission still sits on my desk. Senator O'Reilly had every right to try to influence the commission. The laws to deregulate the electric utility, to separate generation from distribution, had already been passed.
The 140 megawatt gas turbine being installed at Perryman is the last generating unit BG&E; can build for itself. Senator O'Reilly was but a small player with the major damage having been done by elected officials in Congress.
Your criticizing Senator O'Reilly while at the same time embracing deregulation shows a lack of sensitivity to and understanding of what these laws mean to the consumer, the investor and to the ability of the Public Service Commission to protect both. What are we tearing apart?
The period between 1922 and 1929 was no different from the 1980s. Both were periods of mergers and buy-outs financed by cheap money. The Great Depression resulted because there were no checks and balances as there are today.
The big player in the 1920s was the House of Morgan. It not only helped to finance mergers and buy-outs in the billions of dollars, it fashioned U.S. Steel and created a monopoly by buying electric utilities.
The electric utility was just coming into its own. George Westinghouse had perfected the transformer. AC power was replacing DC. Higher voltages made it possible to transmit the same bulk power over greater distances with less line losses. The days of the gas light were fading.
State regulation of the electric utilities was meant to counteract monopolistic practices. The utility became a regulated monopoly serving the public, totally controlled by the state. The Public Service Commission carried out state law.
The regulated monopoly was essential for two reasons. Physically, there can only be one utility in a given service area, and one cannot separate generation from distribution without abusing Ohm's law and the laws of thermodynamics. The fine is higher electric costs.
Has the regulated monopoly worked for the investor and for the benefit of the public? Yes, but to what extent depends on local politics.
Here in Maryland, there has always been a spirit of cooperation between the utility and the Public Service Commission. As a result, between 1932 and 1970, the cost of a kilowatt hour remained at four cents. Bills climbed because the public used more kilowatt hours.
If an investor had bought a share of BG&E; stock in 1954 and held it, it would now be worth $150 with an income of $8.88. Under a regulated monopoly, both consumer and investor have prospered. Since 1970, the consumer has seen his costs double because of political interference.
What of the future under deregulation? Without controlling the cost of generation, the Public Service Commission can no longer effectively control the cost to the consumer. The pressure will be for costs to go higher.
The investor and the company are in a challenging position. As generating units age, the company must replace the investor's equity with equity earned in the highly competitive open market.
While other utilities have failed by jumping into banking and real estate with both feet, the cautious approach by BG&E; has paid off both as a learning process and as an addition to the income from the utility business.
If J.P. Morgan were alive to-day, he would welcome the deregulation of the electric utility. Denied by Congress then to create his monopoly, he would find a Congress more susceptible to his dreams. Every generation has a new J.P. Morgan.
What is desperately needed is for The Sun to publish a series of articles on the history of the public utility. Only then will the public understand the serious consequences of separating generation from distribution.