City juvenile center only getting worse
Once again, when faced with a report detailing dangerous and even unconstitutional conditions at a state-run juvenile justice facility, Kenneth C. Montague Jr., secretary of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services, claims that the findings are old news.
Mr. Montague says that the U.S. Justice Department report recently made public by The Sun pinpoints conditions at the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center from one year ago, and says that the revelations no longer reflect current reality ("Center endangers juveniles, U.S. says," Oct. 7).
He's right. Things are now worse.
According to the Quarterly Report of the Independent Juvenile Justice Monitor, the number of aggressive incidents at the juvenile justice center rose from 245 in the year's first quarter to 310 in the most recent quarter for which data are available, an increase of more than 25 percent.
Data comparing specific months in 2005 and 2006 also show dramatic increases in the number of assaults and in the incidents of staff use of force: In January 2005, there were 60 assaults (an average of 1.9 per day); this January, there were 82 assaults (2.6 per day).
By June, the center was averaging 3.5 assaultive incidents per day, nearly twice as many as 18 months previously.
Stephen Moyer, deputy secretary of juvenile services, is quoted in the article as saying, "The department is light-years ahead of where it was, and it's going in the right direction."
But if he thinks this is moving in the right direction, he's terribly wrong.
The writers are, respectively, deputy director of Advocates for Children and Youth and community outreach coordinator for the Maryland Juvenile Justice Coalition.
Overrating the risk guns cause to kids
We all share Dan Rodricks' revulsion over the Amish schoolhouse murder-suicide and other recent gun crimes. However, the sneering arrogance of his column "Gun news is 'white noise' in land of the NRA" (Oct. 5) is particularly ugly, especially when he taunts that readers need not respond, because he already knows what we think.
In other words, his mind is made up, so don't confuse him with the facts.
I'd nevertheless like to suggest that Mr. Rodricks consider the following facts.
According to economist Steven Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics, a residential swimming pool is 100 times more likely to cause a child's death than a gun. Yet Mr. Rodricks is not decrying swimming pools. And when was the last time a child drowning in a residential swimming pool made the front page of The Sun?
According to a 1999 report issued by the Institute of Medicine, as many as 98,000 Americans die each year as a result of preventable medical errors. Approximately 34,000 people per year are killed by guns. But is Mr. Rodricks urging a ban on doctors and hospitals?
In 2002, 42,815 people were killed in car accidents. Yet Mr. Rodricks is not urging us to scrap our cars.
Moreover, according to Mr. Levitt, the risk of death per hour of travel in an airplane is equal to that of automobiles. But Mr. Rodricks is not telling us to stay home.
The risk of death by a firearm in this country is minuscule compared with the risk of death from things we take for granted as part of our everyday lives.
Mr. Rodricks should consider the difference between overreacting to a low-risk scenario, because it's gruesome, and underreacting to a high-risk scenario, because the conventional wisdom promotes our complacency.
Salvatore D. Fili
Westminster works to meet water rules
The Sun's editorial regarding the water situation in Westminster requires clarification ("Westminster's water woes," Sept. 29).
City officials have long recognized the importance of safe, reliable water sources and the critical role prudent growth management plays in conserving limited resources.
The Maryland Department of the Environment's recent opinion that Westminster's water supply is insufficient for growth is a result of the new way MDE calculates water capacity.
And it should be noted that until last year, Westminster's growth and water supply management met MDE requirements, as is demonstrated by MDE's approval of all our prior growth decisions.
Westminster has limited growth for years and has been working with MDE to further tighten growth until our water supply meets MDE's new criteria for sufficient capacity.
After the 2002 drought, MDE recognized that the way it regulated water systems was inadequate, and Westminster happened to be one of the first systems to undergo capacity analysis using the new criteria.
However, we have the same amount of water and the same modest growth rate as before.
As in the past, Westminster continues to work collaboratively with MDE, Carroll County government and adjacent municipalities to find workable, economically feasible solutions to a complex and very expensive regional problem.
Thomas K. Ferguson
The writer is the mayor of Westminster.
Population growth taxes our resources
The degradation of the quality of life in St. Mary's County detailed in "Growing concerns" (Sept. 29) represents, in microcosm, the harm the population growth rate throughout most of Maryland and much of the United States will cause.
People in St. Mary's County are angry and dismayed. But these kinds of reactions will have to be seen soon in masses of Americans - otherwise, the whole country's resources will be permanently overwhelmed by population growth.
St. Mary's County has all the symptoms related to uncontrolled growth: water pollution and expected water shortages, overcrowded schools, rising costs, fire and rescue services spread thin.
This situation will soon be the case throughout the United States.
Congress is just now acting to try to get illegal immigration under control. But it is doing nothing about the rate of legal immigration. That rate is close to 1 million each year, which is way too large to allow us to stabilize our population.
But since there is no great outcry to demand a balance between people and natural resources, I'm afraid that nothing will be done to stop the slide of our quality of life.
Carleton W. Brown
World's warming poses biggest threat
While America's fondness for foreign oil unquestionably undermines our national security and international political objectives, our dependence on oil and fossil fuels is also greatly compromising our nation's health, environment and economic sustainability.
And the largest problem associated with Americans' dependence on oil was not mentioned in the column "Foreign policy begins in our garage" (Opinion
Commentary, Oct. 4). It is global warming.
The effects of global warming are evident here in our backyard. Maryland is experiencing rising sea levels, which will greatly affect the state's 3,100 miles of coastline.
Farmers are facing increasing economic hardship because of unpredictable precipitation and increased periods of drought.
We also face a public health threat, particularly for children and the elderly, as a result of more severe heat waves and poor air quality days.
Contrary to what some elected officials may argue, global warming is happening, and humans are causing it by burning fossil fuels that release billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.
Yet Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has not supported the Maryland Clean Car Bill, legislation that would require clean-car technologies that would reduce our dependency on foreign oil and global warming pollution.
Although our dependence on foreign oil is a great threat to our national security, we must not forget that the greatest threat to our way of life is global warming.
The writer is a communications and policy fellow for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
Wall is wrong way to buttress border
So Congress thinks it can solve the immigration problem by building a multimillion-dollar, 700-mile-long fence along the U.S.-Mexico border ("Unwelcome workers," Oct. 1)?
History has shown that walls built by countries to keep people out or in just don't work, at least not for long.
The Chinese emperors spent huge sums and sacrificed thousands of their people to build the Great Wall of China, which was supposed to keep the barbaric Mongols out.
The wall failed to stop the Mongols from eventually ruling China.
The Roman Emperor Hadrian ruled an empire that spanned much of Europe and the Mediterranean. Instead of expanding his territory, Hadrian decided that he would order his army to build a wall across Great Britain that was supposed to keep the barbaric Picts out.
Eventually, the Picts overcame Hadrian's Wall.
In modern times, the old "evil empire" that was the Soviet Union thought it could keep its people from fleeing (and keep the capitalists out) by building the Berlin Wall.
But even that horrid edifice came down, and the Soviet Union is gone.
History is replete with examples of vanished countries and empires that put faith in walls.
I don't know what the solution is to the immigration issue.
But perhaps we should try fair trade agreements that might bolster Mexico's economy and give Mexicans an incentive to work on their side of the border.
Stephen G. Gunnulfsen
Vote for principles we truly cherish
I was fascinated to read C. Fraser Smith's column "Thinking about race in the politics of Maryland" (Opinion
Commentary, Oct. 8).
Mr. Smith quoted the right source to get the response he wanted when he asked Democrats what they thought of Senate candidate Kevin Zeese's chances, just as he carefully inserted the quip from "opinion leader" Anne O. Emery.
But if Ms. Emery and the rest of the Democrats were truly interested in effecting change, they might want to look to history before deciding how to "strategically" cast their votes.
The same sort of "strategic" voting they recommend was a popular political strategy in the 1850s.
The issue of the day was slavery. The two established parties, the Democrats (who represented Southern plantation owners) and the Whigs (who represented Northern industrialists), both profited from slavery, the largest industry in the country.
Despite their vested interest in the slave tradition, the Whigs often exhorted their more "moralistic" constituents that a vote for the Democrats was a vote to ensure the dark future of human bondage.
It was not until several small abolitionist parties had run candidates for various levels of public office, often failing to capture more than 5 percent to 7 percent of the vote, that the new Republican Party was able to capitalize on the grassroots groundswell of disgust at what was (and still is) the greatest scourge of our democracy.
If we want elected officials who will represent us, we need to vote for politicians who stand for what we believe in.
If we continue to be manipulated by the two corporate parties into voting against the guy we don't believe in, we will continue to get the same old subversion of the great principles of this nation.
The writer is a volunteer for Kevin Zeese's Senate campaign.
Virginia Senate race offers ugly choice
I'm glad I don't live in Virginia and have to choose between James Webb and incumbent George Allen for the U.S. Senate - a choice between a sexist and a racist ("Academy's past is present in Va. Senate campaign," Oct. 3).
I was commissioned in the U.S. Army in 1979, a year before the first class of women graduated from the military academies, and I faced the same problems of pervasive sexism that the women entering the academies faced.
As a writer-in-residence at the Naval Academy, Mr. Webb should have accepted and supported the policy in place at the time. When he wrote his article "Women Can't Fight," he knew what the consequences would be and that they would be adverse for women.
His "apology" for this essay is politically convenient and just plain lame.
If he truly has changed his opinion and wants to apologize, he needs to write another article (one just as persuasive) for a major magazine - one supporting women in the military, acknowledging their contributions and explaining why their service is important to our defense.
I'm glad the only choice I have to make in our U.S. Senate race is about who likes puppies the most.
The writer is a retired U.S. Army major.
City lacks signals for pedestrians
I was intrigued by the photograph of Cecil Elementary School kindergartners celebrating Walk to School Day that ran on the front of the Maryland section Oct. 5 ("Taking strides toward safety").
I wonder what those children learned at that event; in particular, I wonder if they were told to always look at the walk signal to make sure it is safe to cross.
The photo reminded me that it's too bad Baltimore has a walk-signal problem.
I walk a lot through a variety of neighborhoods in this city, and I see an astounding number of missing or broken walk signals.
On the half-hour walk I make through Charles Village each day on my way to work, for example, I must cross at least three high-traffic streets where there is either no walk signal or the walk signal is broken.
Then there are the long stretches of roads where pedestrians are forced to walk far out of their way to cross at a light (where often there isn't a functioning walk signal anyway).
Small wonder that pedestrians of all ages, including small children, are tempted to jaywalk and find themselves trapped in the middle of the street by traffic.
This seems like a simple and relatively inexpensive problem to fix.
How about it, City Council?
Amish exemplify faith-fed strength
In addition to extending our prayers and sympathy to the Amish community, we feel a need to express our deep gratitude for the witness they offer us in responding to such violence in their lives ("When worlds collide," Oct. 8).
They are teaching us, and this whole country, what it means to extend forgiveness, to work toward reconciliation, to offer compassion to the family of the man who caused their suffering and to refuse to retaliate with the kind of violence to which they have been subjected.
There is no way that this can be an easy response for the Amish people. But to us it exhibits a deep strength, born of faith.
They are living a message we so sorely need in today's world. Our prayer is that we might learn from their witness to be this kind of presence in our world.
Aware of the intrusion all the media coverage has been into their way of life, it is our hope that the Amish can know that their willingness to let us see a bit of their lives has resulted in many of us coming to a deeper awareness of the possibility of meeting violence in this world with a response of peace and compassion rather than retaliation and more violence.
They have profoundly witnessed to what so many would have us believe is impossible in our world.
For this they deserve our profound thanks.
Sister Kathleen McNany
The writer is a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Baltimore.
'Tokyo Rose' still getting a bum rap
On Sept. 28, The Sun published a moving story from the Los Angeles Times detailing Iva Toguri D'Aquino's subjection to, and ultimate triumph over, what World War II Veterans Committee President James Roberts has called "a grotesque miscarriage of justice" ("Alleged Tokyo Rose dies at 90," Sept. 28).
Ms. D'Aquino was a young, native-born American trying to return home from visiting relatives in Japan when war began between the two countries.
Refusing to renounce her U.S. citizenship, and unable to leave Japan, she was given the job of working with American POWs on a Radio Tokyo show performing comedy skits and news broadcasts.
Fingered by American newsmen at war's end as "Tokyo Rose," she was cleared of any charges of aiding the enemy, only to be tried for treason after trying to return home to the United States.
She served six years in a federal prison.
Twenty years after her legal ordeal began, journalists helped clear her name, and she received a presidential pardon in 1977.
Therefore, I was dismayed to see Ms. D'Aquino described as "the last of the infamous World War II enemy propagandists" in Frederick N. Rasmussen's article on the death of Mildred "Axis Sally" Gillars ("The U.S.-born voice of the Nazis," Sept. 30).
Even a dead woman deserves the truth, especially one loyal to her country during horrific circumstances.
We need new allies to win war in Iraq
Los Angeles Times reporters Solomon Moore and Louise Roug describe quite a bleak picture of increasing hostilities in Iraq ("In Iraq, not one conflict but many," Oct 7).
While the conflict in Iraq involves a number of different groups fighting for a number of reasons, one can increasingly see that Iraq civilians are paying a very costly price.
As the article points out, in July and August alone, just in the city of Baghdad, more than 5,100 civilians were killed, with thousands more injured.
The United States is the cause of those losses.
Iraq has a power vacuum that has led to the different conflicts described in this article.
Bombs and tanks will not solve this issue; rather, boots on the ground must be used to halt the attacks of soft targets throughout Iraq.
With American capacity becoming weaker and Iraqi army forces still unable and sometimes unwilling to protect their country, we must implore others with a stake in the conflict to become involved.
Given the threat of radicalism, destabilization and Iranian influence, much is at stake for a number of countries.
Yet regional players such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates still sit on the sidelines with our European allies largely joining them.
The world has a political and economic investment in Iraq's future that the United States must tap into.
We no longer have the luxury of acting single-handedly. We must bring about stability. We must close the power vacuum in Iraq.
But when it comes to Iraq, does President Bush have the heart to set aside politics, to set aside his pride and ask for help?
The writer is a senior at American University.
Does privatizing pose public problem?
State Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan ought to be commended for his latest initiative to explore the feasibility of involving the private sector in the expansion of the Capital Beltway and the Interstate 270 corridor and potentially in the construction of express lanes on the Baltimore Beltway and Interstate 95 between Baltimore and Washington ("A new way to pay for Maryland roads," Oct. 5).
His invitation, I am sure, will be greeted with great interest by the private transportation and financial communities.
Equally important, by joining the efforts of innovative transportation leaders in Virginia, Indiana and Texas, the secretary and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. will be sending an important message to their counterparts in other states, to federal officials, to lawmakers on Capitol Hill and to the National Surface Transportation Commission.
That message is that political and transportation leaders at the state level are ready to embrace tolling and private-sector participation in highway development as an effective way to cope with shortfalls in local transportation budgets and to meet the nation's growing transportation needs, without increasing the tax burden.
C. Kenneth Orski
The writer is editor and publisher of Innovation Briefs, a transportation newsletter.
As The Sun's article "A new way to pay for Maryland roads" makes clear, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and his transportation secretary, Robert L. Flanagan, are vigorously supporting the building of toll roads throughout Maryland, including as part of the expansion of the Capital Beltway.
The beltway project would involve turning some of the currently free public lanes on the beltway into toll lanes.
My group has estimated that the toll lanes would likely cost commuters as much as $2 per mile during peak hours and that the cost of the project would still need to be subsidized by the taxpayers.
Moreover, such toll lanes would be feasible only if the rest of the Capital Beltway were to remain congested.
The citizens of Maryland should be very skeptical about whether the proposals Mr. Ehrlich and his transportation secretary are so enthusiastically backing are really in the public interest.
The writer is the coordinator of Citizens Against Beltway Expansion.
The Sun's article "A new way to pay for Md. roads" failed to mention Maryland's existing public-private mass-transit system - the MARC train line.
MARC is not owned by a private company; however, the tracks that it runs on are owned by CSX. And CSX holds MARC in a full nelson, refusing to grant Maryland commuters a good rail option to Washington.
Frustrating as it is, who can blame them? Public transportation is not profitable.
This is why we should keep transportation in public hands.
Mobility is a resource that exists for the people, not to fill the wallets of a tiny political elite.