Columbia's unrest may help create a better...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Columbia's unrest may help create a better system

The recent turbulence in the Columbia Association (CA) can have a positive effect, if it helps the community establish a more effective system of governance.

A deliberative process, fostered and guided by the CA, to establish a commission of residents to review, examine, analyze and develop recommendations for better governance is in order.

This process needs to avoid quick fixes. Incorporation, for example, may be an answer, but before we rush to this or any other panacea for governance we need to take the time to realistically think through the consequences, intended and unintended.

The past few months can be a watershed in the development of Columbia.

The circumstances for including the community as an active partner with in a structured process will never be better.

CA will still be responsible for setting up the parameters of the process -- for establishing a realistic timetable, determining what resources may be required for an optimal democratic process and for final decisions.

Martin Berdit, Columbia

Efforts to help schools prompt plaudits

I believe the Howard County school system was very fortunate to have the strong support of Christopher J. Merdon and Allan H. Kittleman, who fought to restore more than $2.5 million to the education budget ("Council tries to restore budget," May 17).

I especially appreciated the way they worked with the school board to fund the school system's top priorities.

They went the extra mile in working with the board to make sure the class size initiative was fully funded and that four instructional positions were added for the county's middle schools.

I would like to let Mr. Merdon and Mr. Kittleman know how much we appreciate their efforts on behalf of our children.

Jerry Bialecki, Ellicott City

Israel's only crime is defending itself

I was surprised to read the essay about the Lebanese-Israeli situation by James Ron in The Sun "Making peace first means having to say you're sorry," (Opinion Commentary, May 29).

The statistics presented in the article are highly questionable and unsubstantiated by any reference to source.

But, numbers aside, I was most amazed at Mr. Ron's brazen assertion of who was the victim of the hostilities. He omits several crucial points.

First, Israel fought in 1947 only because its neighbors refused to accept the United Nations' decision to partition Palestine and attacked the nascent Jewish state.

Second, Israel was only in Lebanon because of repeated and bloody attacks across Israel's northern border.

Absent those attacks, which included the machine-gunning of schoolchildren at their desks, Israel would never have entered Lebanon.

If the Lebanese are victims of anything, it is of their inablility to maintain civil order and to prevent interlopers of various stripes (Palestinian, Syrian, Iranian) from using their territory to attempt Israel's destruction.

What war has no horror stories?

And what what nation need apologize for defending itself?

David Kross, Columbia

Veterans deserved more than holiday innuendo

In the editorial "Memorial to What?" (May 28), The Sun commented on an article written by Seymour Hersch in the New Yorker.

In this story, Mr. Hersch presents reports from the Persian Gulf war of American forces firing on civilians, on Iraqi soldiers attempting to surrender and on Iraqi army units in orderly retreat.

While the editorial mentions that these reports are in dispute, it then mentions the story of American solders firing on civilians during the Korean War.

In the Korean story, the investigation into the events was hampered because military records show the principal witness to the reported atrocity was not in the area of the alleged crime when it occurred.

In other words, The Sun, on the Sunday before Memorial Day, used two unsubstantiated stories of war crimes by American troops to make the point that war is bad and should be avoided at all times.

The Sun argued that "war is the ugliest of human acts."

This is wrong. War is horrible, but certainly not as bad as genocide or the acts of a tyrant who attacks a neighboring country.

In the Persian Gulf war and in Korea, tyrannical rulers were pressing hostilities on weaker countries just as Hitler did in World War II. In Southeast Asia, genocide broke out and thousands of Vietnamese faced communist "re-education" after U.S. troops were withdrawn.

On Memorial Day, we should consider how fortunate we are to have citizens willing to serve in the Armed Forces.

Since our nation was founded, we have relied on young men and women willing to fight for our nation's security and to help oppressed people in far off lands.

Readers of The Sun who have sons and daughters who have died in places like France, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia deserved better than The Sun's innuendo on Memorial Day weekend.

Douglas D. Wright, Ellicott City

The gun lobby grows increasingly outrageous

The recent Million Mom March in Washington and in other cities around the country has thrown a scare into the National Rifle Association (NRA) and others in the gun lobby.

The response from those groups has been both outrageous and hilarious.

At a particularly obscene moment at the recent NRA convention in North Carolina, the president of the organization, Charlton Heston, thrust a musket into the air and yelled, "This is for you Mr. Gore."

One would have to wonder about Mr. Heston's mental balance.

In an effort to ingratiate itself with the public and place themselves on the side of child safety, the NRA has come up with the idea of teaching "gun safety" in the schools.

No thank you: This smacks too much of a marketing scheme reminiscent of the cigarette manufacturers' efforts to "get them when they are young."

The NRA's constant carping about enforcing existing laws is also disingenuous at best.

It is that organization and its friends in Congress and the state legislatures that have seen to it that such preventive gun laws as do exist are riddled with loopholes that make many of them virtually unenforceable.

Kimberley S. Beatty, Laurel

Convicted or not, Linda's one bad Tripp

As a Maryland resident and a taxpaying citizen of Howard County, I am outraged that the wiretap charges against Linda Tripp have been dropped ("Tripp wiretap charges dropped," May 25).

I am further disgusted to know that my tax dollars have been spent to cover the cost incurred to protect Ms. Tripp and that this saga shall continue with Ms. Tripp's lawsuit alleging that her privacy was violated.

Whether or not Ms. Tripp had an immunity deal, she knowingly broke the Maryland law and is a criminal.

She should know that, convicted or not, in the court of public opinion she is still a criminal.

I applaud the efforts of State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli. But but I have no respect at all for Judge Diane O. Leasure, who has once again let a criminal get away with a crime.

As for Ms. Tripp, her name speaks for itself: She is a bad trip.

Reginald McClurkin, Ellicott City

More reader feedback would improve The Sun

C. Fraser Smith's column "Building trust in the press" (Opinion Commentary, May 21) deserves serious consideration from everyone who believes the press has a prominent role in society.

I'd like to expand on a few of Mr. Smith's ideas, particularly as they might be applied to The Sun.

Mr. Smith notes that "some editorial pages list the names of opinion writers to suggest the institution is at bottom a collection of individuals."

However, I believe newspapers such as The Sun can do even better: They can print at least an e-mail address at the end of a column, where readers can contact the writer and provide immediate feedback.

Other papers do this, and I see no reason why The Sun can't.

Contact addresses should also be published for opinions affiliated with think tanks.

Personally, I'd prefer to see no think-tank views published, primarily because they are sores on the body of a free press.

But if they must occupy valuable space on the opinion pages, at least provide an e-mail address so we can contact the authors when their screeds get outrageous.

Mr. Smith also mentions "community columnists" and I think this is a superb idea.

It definitely trumps columns from think-tanks, and provides an opportunity to expose and develop local talent.

A first step for The Sun in this direction would be to seriously consider frequent letter writers as possible candidates. Certainly, if The Sun publishes their letters they must have something to commend them.

And why not expand the letters section to at least two full pages?

Readers want to be able to interact and not be mere passive receptacles for "news." Many readers find the letters among the papers most interesting sections.

If the print media doesn't offer this sort of expanded forum, more and more of us will simply leave newspapers behind and take to the Internet, where we need undergo no filtering, screening process.

The expansion of the letters pages would also remove the need to limit letters to 200 words.

That limit is laughable, since many complex topics (i.e. corporate welfare, campaign finance) merit much more space than the equivalent of a "sound bite" in print.

Mr. Smith is quite correct when he avers that "if the voters don't trust the pres they may be ready to trash First Amendment rights."

But the good thing is that this is something the press can overcome.

Philip A. Stahl, Columbia

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