Bad ChoiceAs a daily reader of The...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Bad Choice

As a daily reader of The Sun, I am outraged at the fact that the only picture of the Rally for Women's Lives was of Denise Brown-Simpson hanging a tee-shirt for her sister, a victim of domestic violence (April 10).

What I'd like to know is where is the picture of the 85-year-old woman who endured the heat to be a member of the rally, or the picture of the many mothers and daughters who, like myself, went to experience the rally with one another?

What about the large number of students and National Organization for Women members who traveled hundreds of miles to attend the rally?

Why must we base everything around the O. J. Simpson trial? There are other newsworthy people in this world.

There were over 6,000 other white tee-shirts, each one representing women who were killed as a result of violence. Let us not forget them. They deserve our awareness.

Melissa Robin Wildman

Parkton

Necessary Changes

As a parent of a student at the Maryland School for the Blind, I couldn't help but be struck by the irony in The Sun's April 17 "expose" on the school.

On the same day the story ran, another article described how corporations and organizations increasingly are using interdisciplinary teams to plan and implement change.

MSB is a model for this innovative approach, with nearly a dozen such teams -- comprised of faculty, staff, administrators and parents -- tackling a host of issues.

is also ironic that some of the most outspoken critics of the school's recent restructuring are the very same parents who last year complained about a top-heavy administrative staff. Simply put, you can't have it both ways.

Change is difficult. Some good people who had devoted years to serving vision-impaired, multiply-disabled children lost their jobs. But, through these changes, MSB will be stronger and better prepared to meet the challenges it faces to continue its mission into the next century.

Jeff Valentine

Baltimore

Unjust Proposal

The proposed Armey-Shelby flat tax to replace the current income tax, as described in The Sun April 15, is unjust to civil service retirees.

The contributions to our retirement pensions were made with after-tax dollars, and currently we are able to recover these contributions on equal payments calculated over the span of our life expectancy.

Having contributed $58,550 during my career using my after-tax net income, and having a life expectancy of 260 months, I am permitted to recover this money (on which income tax has already been paid) at a rate of $225 per month until it is exhausted or I die, whichever comes first.

The flat tax pensions should not include that portion of pensions on which taxes have previously been paid.

The proposed Armey-Shelby flat tax is also unjust to those persons required to pay alimony. Currently, the payer of the alimony deducts the amount paid from income, and the recipient of the alimony adds the amount received to income for taxation purposes.

The proposed flat tax would shift the burden of taxes to the

payer of the alimony. This is equivalent to an employer being forced to pay the taxes of their employees and provide the employees with a tax-free salary.

Unless the flat tax permits the taxation of the recipient of the alimony income rather than the payer, then a corresponding federal law should be enacted which permits payers of alimony to deduct the 17 to 20 percent of taxes from all their alimony payments.

Not being an expert in financial matters, I am not sure I support a flat tax with a value added tax on consumer products, especially food. The current Maryland sales tax exemption on food seems reasonable in its concept.

Frank O. Long

Glen Burnie

Assessing Warhol

It is with great pleasure I read the article by John Dorsey, "Warhol portraits are incomplete pictures" (April 6), since I agree with him in all but one statement.

The first sentence of his article states that "Andy Warhol may be one of the great immortals of modern art. . ." That is far too generous a statement by Mr. Dorsey.

I would reluctantly accept the statement if it were modified to "pop" art. I would embrace the statement if it was changed to "commercial" art. There, I think he is king.

Lest anyone think I am an admirer of Warhol, my suggestion to the Baltimore Museum of Art is that when they are in need of funds they should consider cutting his "Last Supper" in half and selling it to another museum. The remaining half they could either reframe or sell that also if they could find a buyer.

Sanford Hershfield

Baltimore

One Race Only

Marilyn McCraven spoils an otherwise excellent rendering, "The Mitchell Papers: New Revelations" (April 15), by writing, ". . . when the races were even more polarized . . ."

Use of the word "races" is a grievous error and example of sloppy journalism which serves only to abet the ethnic polarization she decries.

For some time I have begged editors, journalists, elected officials and demographers to think, speak and write that there is only one "race," the human race.

As an editor, it is regrettable that Ms. McCraven is not aware of or does not agree with my arguments nor those of noted anthropologist Ashley Montagu in his classic 1941 monograph on the myth of races, wherein he asks that the term be dropped because of its divisive, incorrect and pseudo-scientific nature.

So, once more I ask (since habits are hard to break) that words like "races," "bi-racial," "interracial" and "multi-racial" be discontinued or enclosed in quotation marks to show that the user is aware of their inappropriate, divisive and incorrect nature.

We owe it to our children, who do not deserve to have to fight the unnecessary ethnic conflict we will leave them by our carelessness and slavish conformity to dehumanizing thought and usage.

Emerson C. Walden Sr.

Columbia

Robert McNamara's Cowardice and Stiff-Necked Pride

Robert McNamara's latter-day confession of his and his elite friends' Vietnam mistakes is unutterably odious.

Mr. McNamara knew and says he knew at least as far back as 1967 and by implication earlier, that the entire Vietnam adventure was a monstrous mistake. The only way he could have limited the damage was to have gone public, opposed the powerful figures in favor of that war -- then! What prevented him and the others who knew from doing it?

Cowardice and stiff-necked pride to admit he and they were wrong -- at the only time it would have made a difference to do so. This is what Mr. McNamara is really guilty of, what he either doesn't understand or still can't admit, and what he will never be forgiven for.

With his usual absence of sensitivity, not changed since his power days, he cannot understand why his deformed mea culpa is in such execrable bad taste.

The time for Mr. McNamara's confession closed on the day he stopped following his honest convictions and bowed to the gods of political expediency and cushy political rewards. From that day forward, the man should have remained forever silent about Vietnam.

The same is true for his fellow-travelers in the surreal nightmare that was Vietnam. At least, for the most part they have had the good grace to keep their mouths shut.

Lyndon Johnson, the man Mr. McNamara blames for so much of the catastrophe, did have the good taste to remain mercifully silent unto his death. It is another measure of Mr. McNamara's bravery to attack this man, who cannot now defend himself.

But now, Mr. McNamara has opened the grave of Vietnam. Unasked, he has invited us once again to look at the remains. As nearly intolerably painful as it is for us -- not for him, obviously -- we should take him up on it.

William Pfaff (Opinion Commentary, April 13) is not the only American living with an abiding fury in the acts, the motives, the political assassinations, the golden political parachutes awarded, the many thousands gone, and the mass misrepresentations of that entire episode which were made to the American public. There are lots of us.

Painful or not, we still do not know the full enormity of this macabre story, and if for no other reasons than to purge us, to get us done with this, and give us some peace of mind, we need to look at this again. Whatever we do, we should not let this misbegotten creation of Mr. McNamara's go unexamined.

Mr. McNamara has forced on us an opportunity to re-examine the entire matter, the ramifications of which not only persist but dominate large areas of our political and social thinking today. Mr. Pfaff is right, this country will never be the same after Vietnam. We need to understand why.

The generation of Vietnam needs to know its own history. Their children need to know why this America is so different from the one before Vietnam: why we mistrust politicians so implacably, why we suspect the government -- any government -- of the vilest villainy, why politics has the automatic qualifier "crooked" -- in the national sensibility.

Then, and only then, can we understand quite who we are, and why, after all of that, we still must have a government we can trust and political process; and we are in exquisite peril on account of that at this very moment.

There is a broad and uneasy perception in the land of a void in true and trusted national leadership. And it comes at a time when we feel in desperate need of powerful and believed leadership to help us heal our deepening divisions.

Mr. Pfaff and many other Americans have a lot to say about the power elite of the Vietnam days and the games they played and the rewards they earned.

Now that Mr. McNamara has raised the slab covering the Vietnam horror and in effect asked us to revisit the grave, we should do it. But Mr. McNamara should be prepared for the consequences.

Except for self-serving claque from his fellow elitist clique, no one is going to praise him for his lame analysis, and he will likely be damned far more than his limited insight has predicted he will.

But, this time around, let's hear the whole story, not just Mr. McNamara and his fellow elitists' versions.

It will be a cautionary tale for the politicians who have just been elected and are salivating to use their newly won power.

It will be also a sharp reminder to all Americans that the price of liberty is indeed, eternal vigilance; that power corrupts, and that

absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Daniel C. Wilkerson

Baltimore

Governor Glendening's Courage in the Tobacco Battle

I find it ironic that Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who helped lead the fight to make Maryland the premier anti-smoking state in the nation, should come under fire not only from the tobacco industry but also from the health advocates for being "wishy-washy" and "compromising."

It's sad that a public official who went out on a limb to protect the health and safety of his constituents should be hit from both sides.

I have first-hand knowledge of the enormous pressures which were exerted upon this governor.

I used to lobby for the Tobacco Institute.

I know the unlimited resources and funds which tobacco interests have available and the sophisticated computer network, phone bank and letter writing campaigns by which they can flood elected officials with complaints, threats and warnings.

I also know how other industries are either bankrolled by the Tobacco Institute or aided in their fight with the state when their interests coincide with the tobacco companies.

In June of 1994, Maryland passed regulations to protect its citizens in the work place from second-hand smoke. Protecting the workers made Maryland the most stringent anti-tobacco state in the nation.

The tobacco companies and their allies filed suit in Talbot County and obtained an injunction to stay enforcement of the regulations. They were convinced they would win.

Much to their surprise, the Maryland Court of Appeals, in the middle of the legislative session, overturned the stay and indicated there was no chance the tobacco companies and their allies could win their lawsuit.

The tobacco companies and the hospitality industry (hotels, motels, restaurants, etc.) made a very formidable set of plaintiffs. No one could foresee the extent of their loss in the courts.

Unfortunately for the governor, the sudden turnabout in events came after he had just been sworn in and before he had even gotten his staff in place.

Not only did we have a brand new legislature with many new members and a brand new governor, but the legislature was substantially into its session before the governor was even inaugurated. However, Governor Glendening did decide to tackle the issue head-on.

In a meeting with me, he indicated that he intended to allow most of the regulations to go into effect with minor changes which were needed and made sense. The legislature then saw first-hand what the tobacco lobby can do.

There was a telephone bank in place and every restaurant, bar, tavern, hotel and motel was called.

The hospitality industry was organized by scare tactics with claims that Maryland would lose millions, if not billions, of dollars in tourism spending.

By use of computers, the Tobacco Institute could target not only the bars, restaurants and taverns in each legislative district but even patch the calls through directly to a delegate or senators.

The legislature was lobbied to the point where a bill was introduced which would not only have rescinded the regulations but probably destroyed the local option. Pre-emption of local option and placing of all tobacco regulations at the state or federal level has always been the primary goal of the tobacco companies and the Tobacco Institute.

Parris Glendening exercised the leadership which was his obligation as governor.

He was able to meet with the pro-tobacco and pro-hospitality industry lobbyists and business community and work out a compromise which gave the anti-smokers 90 percent of what they wanted. This, of course, is a "compromise," but isn't compromise a synonym for statesmanship?

The regulations are now in effect with very minor changes which can certainly be modified in the years to come. Maryland takes the forefront in health advocacy, thanks to the works of Governor Glendening and his staff.

We should applaud him for what he has done, not castigate him for the compromises he was forced to make.

Thousands and thousands of lives will be saved because of the actions of this governor. We should be on our knees thanking him for this rather than criticizing him for having to make accommodations and changes in order to accomplish the greater goal.

I attended a private party when Al Burka was appointed to a federal judgeship in Washington. His father, a Jewish immigrant, stood up and made the following toast: "Here's to the United States of America. It couldn't have happened under the czar."

Well, here's to Parris Glendening. It would never have happened under Ellen Sauerbrey.

Victor L. Crawford

Rockville

Earth Day Lasts 365 Days Each Year

Bravo to The Sun for devoting two articles April 22 to the 25th anniversary of Earth Day.

Mike Klingaman did an excellent job of drawing together memorable events from the first Earth Day, while Tim Wheeler gave much-needed attention to efforts in the current Congress to roll back environmental laws passed after the first Earth Day.

Mr. Wheeler's analysis, however, left out one crucial element -- money in politics.

The efforts in Congress to undercut environmental standards through "regulatory reform" and other measures are well-funded by special interests which have invested more and more money in the law-making process since the first Earth Day 25 years ago.

In 1972, business political action committees contributed $8 million to political campaigns. In 1992, however, business interests contributed $295 million. In 1980, 9,000 industry lobbyists roamed the halls of Congress; in the 1990s this ballooned to more than 80,000.

The interests which make these contributions and pay these lobbyists have always had clout, but in the new Congress they have even more access to the levers of power.

Project Relief, an alliance which includes several Fortune 500 corporations, supplied crucial bill-drafting and lobbying assistance to the effort to pass a moratorium on regulations, including health and environmental standards, through the House of Representatives.

Companies forming the timber industry, which got a $1.5 billion taxpayer subsidy from 1987-92 by logging our national forests below cost and which gave $6.9 million in campaign contributions during that time, has recently convinced a budget-cutting Congress to allow them to remove even more wood from our national forests at an even lower cost to them.

If that were not enough, the Chemical Manufacturers' Association and the paper industry recently helped draft revisions to the Clean Water Act which have passed a House committee.

Not surprisingly, the bill would allow companies to dump more pollutants into our waterways while scaling back the law's original goals of making our waterways "fishable and swimmable." The Sun aptly labeled the measure a "Polluters' Bill of Rights."

This Earth Day, as in previous years, many citizens will take to their communities to do the important and gratifying work of planting trees and cleaning up local streams.

Others will go to rallies like the one on the Mall in Washington. Earth Day is an important chance to for us to celebrate our accomplishments and take stock of where we stand in our efforts to protect our environment.

If we are going to leave a planet for our grandchildren that is worth living on, however, we need to separate our legislators from the supply of special interest money that pollutes the legislative process.

Our elected officials need to know that our environment is not for sale -- not just on April 22, but 365 days a year.

Dan Pontious

Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Maryland Public Interest Research Group.

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