What country is this?I was jarred from...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

What country is this?

I was jarred from complacency during the recent congressional debates over proposed constitutional amendments. It was alarming to see how far democracy has drifted away from government by the people.

I was shocked to hear one representative declare, "Sometimes the American people are just plain wrong" and to see another vote against an amendment strongly supported by his constituents.

Just for a second, I wondered what country I was in. Who do these representatives represent?

There is something fundamentally wrong with democracy when issues supported by two-thirds of Americans are defeated by their "representatives." This is a disturbing violation of the spirit of democracy.

I was offended by politicians who, when they opposed an amendment, implied that any constitutional change is undesirable and reckless. Changes are good and necessary at times.

Indeed, the record of constitutional amendments is a steady march toward allowing greater participation in government by the people.

Like my fellow citizens, I revere the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. The Constitution "should not be changed for light and transient causes."

But when the overwhelming consensus of the people is that changes are needed, it is our fundamental right to make those changes. The Declaration states plainly, "It is the right of the people to alter or abolish our form of government."

If the people want a change, why do our representatives prevent it? It is the obligation of representatives to enact the will of their constituents when there is no unalienable right or unalterable principle at stake.

Representative democracy in America is slipping into dangerous territory when our very representatives are thwarting our will.

The time has come for the people to assert the most basic right of all -- to alter our form of government. It's time that political leaders supported this right, instead of obstructing it.

New processes are needed to allow greater citizen participation in government and to ensure that elected representatives truly represent their constituents. It's time to make the voice of the people the final authority.

Randall K. Jewell

Burtonsville

Punitive action

Regarding the Srebrenica attack in Bosnia, Pope John Paul II was quoted:

". . . [These attacks] testify to how Europe and humanity are still collapsing into the abyss of degradation. No cause, no goal can justify such barbaric actions and methods. These are crimes against humanity . . . the defeat of civilization!"

As a veteran of World War II, I cannot believe that 50 years after the liberation from the Nazis, the United States and our Western allies are allowing these things to happen.

The U.N. and NATO are worse than useless. They have given these poor people false hopes and then --ed them.

It is past time that our government teams up with its allies, if we have any, and take some punitive action against these Serb butchers; or at least remove the weapons embargo so that the Muslims can protect themselves.

Franklin W. Littleton

Baltimore

What next? Flags made in Vietnam?

I think it is about time that somebody calls a spade a spade in those flag burning arguments. Obviously the issue is freedom of speech and freedom of expression. We certainly have freedom of speech.

Or do we? Just how many have to apologize or resign their post because of something they said?

We admit that there must be some lines drawn and limits set. These lines are there, too weak to be felt, too strong to be ignored. One would think that when acts or deeds become means of expression, the limits would be even more clearly defined.

Buildings are blown up in Ayn Rand's novels for a principle; how far would anybody go if, as a means of expression of disgust for bad city government, someone blows up the City Hall?

To me, in principle it is the same like flag burning. The difference is that of degree. And that is where we start thinking of drawing lines.

Actually flag burning is no big deal. After all, the flag is, according to Mike Royko, another banner made in Taiwan (July 19).

Maybe we should apologize to the Taiwanese for asking them to do such a menial and debasing job as making American flags, or the Taiwanese could give us a lesson by protesting such remarks.

And one could not even imagine what would happen, if, following this "rapprochement" that goes on in Southeast Asia, we start getting American flags made in Vietnam. Business is business.

Another argument has been advanced, that "the American flag, stands for the right to be burned."

Following that logic, one may say that the front door in my home stands for the right of any burglar to break in.

But let us be serious. Why burn a flag? Why not a shirt? There should be the same satisfaction for burning something.

And this satisfaction could not be any more than the pleasure a little spoiled child gets taunting others so see how far he can go. If they do not burn a shirt, maybe it is because they happen to own one.

Certainly burning a flag, if nothing else, shows lack of grace and respect to other people's feelings, which could be very sincere. To some, it may be the equivalent of desecrating a church. We could show some civilization by respecting these feelings.

Some have expressed outrage at the Congress for trying to pass laws protecting the flag.

They only show their ignorance. Had they studied history, they would know that this is inevitable.

It has been repeatedly shown that every strong action in one direction provokes a strong action to the opposite direction. Which Will Durant both generalized and summarized by stating that "when Democracy becomes a license, dictatorship is near."

Peter C. Sotiriou

Baltimore

Mandated Health Care Creates Heavy Burden

For many years the powerful medical interest groups have had a perverse influence on the state legislature in imbeding mandated medical benefits into health insurance policies. Since utilization goes right along with the availability of benefits, the cost of these mandates has caused a significant increase in the cost of health insurance throughout the state. This is not only a hidden tax on the policyholders but it represents a subsidy to the health providers. The legislature never considers what such mandates will cost because they know that they will be hidden from public view because as part of the policyholders' premium.

Large corporations have found a way around these mandates by administering their own plans. The burden of paying for these mandates falls on the group insurance payer and the individual policyholders. There was a time when small- and medium-sized businesses paid the full cost of the employee's health insurance but no more. Increases are now passed on to the employee through increased premium sharing, larger deductibles and cuts in benefits. The little fellow ends up paying the bill.

The Maryland Hospital Association now proposes spreading the costs of uninsured patients in the inner city to the outlying hospitals thus equalizing their rates and costs. These higher costs are going to end up being paid for by the small policyholder because there is no free lunch. What is insidious about this is that the paying public has no say in whether the costs should be shifted to him or her. Why doesn't the legislature recognize that these costs should be funded through an increase in the state sales taxes so that the public will know how much is involved and so that the providers -- and the legislature -- can be held publicly accountable.

The thought of shifting the teaching costs of academic centers such as Johns Hopkins Hospital and the University of Maryland Medical Center to the outlying hospitals and eventually individual policyholders and group insurance members is outrageous and exposes the arrogance of the medical monopoly. What say will the paying public have and will the legislature find a way to imbed these costs in another mandate? . . .

William Pistell

Owings Mills

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