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SATURDAY MAILBOX

The Baltimore Sun

Draft could corrode our resolve to fight

What Lawrence J. Korb and others who advocate reinstating the draft fail to recognize is that emotions should have nothing to do with fighting wars ("Burden should be shared," Opinion Commentary, Jan. 9).

Mr. Korb suggests that forcing 18-year-olds into the armed forces will cause families and friends of those forced into service to be so "emotionally involved" that they would advocate for an immediate cessation of violence.

Mr. Korb paints this as a good thing. In fact, it seems to me that it is just the opposite.

People will never be OK with sending their sons and daughters off to war; many people would rather see a foreign enemy succeed than see their child sacrifice his or her life.

The decision to go to war cannot be informed by such emotions. It must be made in a rational way with as little emotional attachment as possible.

Yes, a commander in chief must consider the lives of the young men and women that might be sacrificed - to do otherwise would be inhumane callousness.

However, at the end of the day, the decision must be made based on the facts - and on whether war is necessary or not.

Reinstating the draft would greatly hamper the United States' ability to go to war when doing so is necessary.

Aaron Gavant

Pikesville

Confronting sin is a higher priority

The Rev. Jo Bailey Wells' column "The Virginia Episcopal schism: a wound in Christianity's heart" (Opinion

Commentary, Jan. 4) offered an informative and interesting perspective, to be sure.

Yet there is a perspective she did not address that should be considered by any professing Christian: What does God command?

Pastor Bailey emphasizes the communion of believers and rightly places a high value on maintaining that communion. But I wonder what God values more - maintaining communion at all costs, or being obedient to Him and refusing to compromise with sin?

When the Bible clearly says there should not be a hint of sexual immorality in our midst, do we dare, for the sake of fellowship or communion, close our eyes to God's obvious prohibition against homosexual acts or put ourselves under the authority of one who practices such sin without repentance?

This is not a contest about being right. It is a test of fidelity to God by submitting ourselves to the boundaries He has established for our sexuality. God equates obedience with love; if we love Him, we keep His commandments.

That same love confronts sin and refuses to embrace or ignore it.

David Gilmore

Glen Burnie

Razing city's past won't boost future

Every trip I make north on Charles Street toward the Washington Monument is accompanied by a timeworn mantra - shame.

Shame on the Archdiocese of Baltimore, which prevailed in its bid to raze the Rochambeau Apartments.

The same mantra accompanies my southbound journey on Cathedral Street: Shame on the University of Baltimore for sacrificing the quaint and historic Odorite Building.

These are but two examples of a trend that has accelerated as downtown Baltimore has experienced an increase in property values and desirability as a destination.

Development led by the moneyed interests who presently control large parcels of downtown real estate continues to make our downtown an exciting and vibrant place. It enhances the city's desirability for business people and pleasure seekers.

But it should not be forgotten that part of what makes the city's downtown an interesting place to visit is its unique appearance.

The visual pastiche of old and new fa?ades interspersed with busy thoroughfares and shadowy alleys makes the heart of our downtown appealing.

As Mercy Medical Center considers its expansion plans and the demands of preservationists, it should think very carefully about how it wants to be remembered ("Hospital might spare one house," Jan. 5).

Mercy can help to preserve a piece of city history, or it can join the pantheon of shame that includes the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the University of Baltimore and City Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr.

A. I. Schneiderman

Baltimore

Save lives and souls before old buildings

In his column "Year-end musings on candidates, killings, demolitions" (Dec. 28), Eric Siegel questioned whether there is a trend for nonprofit groups to undertake demolitions - citing the University of Baltimore's razing of the Odorite Building, the Archdiocese of Baltimore's demolition of the Rochambeau and Mercy Medical Center's possible razing of some rowhomes.

He quotes Johns Hopkins, the executive director of Baltimore Heritage, saying, "It's the nature of the institutions to think that their mission is so important that it overrides any other aspect of anything."

This is an ironic assertion by one who represents a group of preservationists that has sued Mercy Medical Center to prevent it from building its hospital tower - a project critical to Mercy and to the health of the city and its residents ("Hospital might spare one house," Jan. 5).

The position of the preservationists, simply put, is that the preservation of old buildings trumps all other civic interests.

Rather than waste money fighting with such extremists, for-profit developers often take their investments to far-flung suburbs, moves that add to the region's sprawl and impede the needed revitalization of parts of our city.

Thus the litigious approach to preservation has two direct and intended consequences. First, it scares away private for-profit developers from developing underutilized properties. Second, it costs nonprofit groups many thousands of dollars in legal fees and other expenses just to do what they are legally entitled to do with their own property.

The University of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Baltimore and Mercy Medical Center have all spent large amounts of money rehabilitating and preserving old buildings when doing so was feasible.

Yet they have all recently been forced to divert money from their important missions to litigate demolition issues.

Buildings exist to serve people.

Saving lives, saving souls and educating our future leaders must override the understandable desire to save buildings, even if the buildings are old.

James L. Shea

Baltimore

The writer is chairman of a Baltimore law firm.

Closing Rosewood won't help disabled

How ironic that a lawyer for the Maryland Disability Law Center advocates the relocation of Rosewood Center's 150 developmentally disabled residents as a solution to the recent violence at the center ("Rosewood residents remain in jeopardy," Jan. 4).

While the letter writer is correct that the fragile residents of Rosewood must be protected from harm, she has ignored the obvious solution - removal of the population of approximately 50 violent offenders the state has recently placed in Rosewood as an alternative to incarceration.

The developmentally disabled residents of Rosewood and the other three state residential facilities have lived in these homes for many years and have received professional and compassionate care in a safe environment.

Most of the residents have multiple disabilities that require a higher level of attention than can be found in group homes.

The disabled residents and their parents and guardians have exercised their right to choose treatment in these residential facilities so that they or their loved ones can receive the care they need.

However, the advocates of across-the-board deinstitutionalization have seized on recent incidents at Rosewood to rationalize their agenda of involuntarily relocating residents of Maryland's residential facilities, regardless of the best interests of the residents and their families.

W. Marshall Rickert

Cambridge

The writer is the guardian of his disabled brother, who lived at the Rosewood Center for almost 30 years.

New taxes no cure for rising care costs

Let me see if I understand the argument in the editorial "Health care priorities" (Jan. 2).

Rising health care costs are making care too expensive - so the solution is to expand Medicaid, a taxpayer-funded government entitlement program?

Marylanders will still be stuck with rising costs that way, too. Does The Sun believe Marylanders should feel better about themselves if their money is going to Medicaid?

Expanding government entitlement programs in any form requires raising taxes. Higher tax burdens lead to slower economic growth, lower job creation and lower incomes.

So, essentially, the more you expand government programs, the more you need them.

As it stands now, a large number of those without health insurance qualify for government aid but don't bother to sign up - the BlueCross BlueShield Association estimates the number at 14 million nationwide.

A better approach would be to alter health insurance laws to make private health plans cheaper and more accessible

State mandates on health plans are driving up costs significantly, which keeps people out of private plans.

Shifting government programs to a structure modeled on consumer-driven health plans would be a more viable option than raising taxes to pay for a Medicaid system that is already broken.

Devon M. Herrick

Dallas

The writer is a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Don't spend more on electronic voting

Maryland must have a new voting system for 2008. That means we need legislative action early this year ("A 'trust us' system for vote count won't do," Dec. 28).

It is completely unacceptable to hang thermal-paper, continuous-roll printers on the Diebold touch-screen machines, with their secret programs no one but Diebold employees are allowed to see.

The state has been taken for too much (more than $100 million and counting) by Diebold and its apologists in state government to consider further dealings with that company.

We need to move to a system that voters - and election workers - can understand: hand-marked paper ballots counted by open-programmed optical scanners at each precinct.

For handicapped voters, we need to have one ballot-marking device on hand in each precinct that meets their needs.

And we need to require that every election be audited by hand-counting the ballots in a randomly selected sample of precincts.

But let's have an end to the talk of adding printers to the touch-screen machines.

That would just be throwing more money at a system that is fundamentally flawed.

Michael Berla

Columbia

Who needs to be so plugged in?

As I read the column "What will they think of next?" (Opinion

Commentary, Jan. 2), I wanted to ask: What world do these industry executives, media people and journalists live in? Could it perhaps be Aldous Huxley's Brave New World?

But it might surprise Steve Ballmer of the Microsoft Corp. to learn that the vast majority of people in this country, to say nothing of the world, have no need to be constantly connected with others by portable e-mail devices and cell phones.

Senior citizens, for instance, who are the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, have little need for immediate communication with coworkers and clients.

They want their phones, perhaps with an answering machine, not an elegant do-all communication device clipped on their belts.

The computer, the Internet and cell phones are useful tools to be used when needed.

I pity, however, those growing multitudes of the younger generations for whom such tools have become slave masters requiring them to be on call for their livelihoods 24/7.

Dr. Sidney Rankin

Baltimore

Focus on concepts helps pupils learn

Liz Bowie's article concerning the teaching of math in our elementary schools certainly hit the nail on the head ("Can less equal more?" Jan. 2).

At this time our, math textbooks are a huge smorgasbord of information, with far too many concepts for the student to digest.

As a teacher of future math teachers for many years, I have my students pivot around these five variables in each lesson: the issue of estimation, the creation of word problems, the use of representations or drawings, the use of everyday situations and the use of a variety of strategies in solving problems.

I also ask my teaching students to study their text for the 10 issues they would really like the students to delve into and process for the year.

That way, instead of knowing many things superficially, these future students will understand 10 things very well, which will give them the ability to build on that information. For example, students know that addition and multiplication have a relationship, as well as subtraction and division, so that if they are attempting to figure out how many pieces of candy are in five bags with 55 pieces in each bag, they could figure it out by using addition or multiplication or even by counting.

The National Council of Teachers of Math is right on the mark on this issue.

Eileen Quinn Knight

Chicago

The writer is a professor of education at St. Xavier University.

Police lab standards firmly established

The letter from Maryland's chief public defender and another member of the public defender's office that suggested that the accreditation of the Baltimore police laboratory is "probably worse than nothing" was appallingly shallow and uninformed ("Police lab's integrity still open to question," Dec. 31).

The American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) has been performing crime laboratory accreditations for more than 24 years, and has accredited 278 state and local laboratories, 21 federal laboratories, 18 private laboratories and 10 international laboratories.

New York and Texas use ASCLD/LAB to regulate all of the crime laboratories in their respective states. Oklahoma requires each of its labs to be accredited by ASCLD/LAB.

The U.S. Department of Justice's inspector general recommended that the FBI be accredited by ASCLD/LAB.

The federal DNA Identification Act of 1994 regulates procedures for DNA analysis, and ASCLD/LAB inspects crime laboratories to ensure that they live up to federal standards.

One thing that the letter from the public defenders did not note is that four years after the 1992 National Academy of Sciences report they cited, the NAS reversed itself and made a specific recommendation that DNA laboratories make every effort to be accredited by organizations such as ASCLD/LAB.

The public defenders should have at least known that ASCLD/LAB worked closely with the national Innocence Project to establish a means for ASCLD/LAB to conduct independent external investigations, pursuant to the federal Justice for All Act, into allegations of serious negligence or misconduct committed by crime laboratories.

It is also interesting to note that the public defenders rushed to judgment in the Duke University lacrosse case, excoriating the private laboratory director based on newspaper articles and allegations by defense attorneys in a hotly contested matter in which they are not involved, before the facts are fully known or the director has had his day in court. Public defenders, of all people, should not have to be reminded that allegations of misconduct are not proof.

The bottom line remains that the Baltimore Police Department's crime laboratory has a recognized quality-management system in place to help ensure that its scientific examinations yield valid and reliable results - not only to inculpate the true perpetrators but also to exonerate those who may be wrongly accused. For that, the residents of Baltimore should be proud.

Kenneth E. Melson

Alexandria, Va.

The writer is a member of the board of the ASCLD/LAB, a past president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and a prosecutor.

Jerusalem journeys aren't so perilous

I was happy to open my Sunday Sun to Tom Dunkel's "Journeying into Jerusalem" (Jan. 7).

Having spent at least two months a year for the last six years working in Israel, I have truly fallen in love with the country and its people, and toured the area extensively.

Mr. Dunkel's wonderful imagery of the Sinai, Jordan and Israel itself were right on the money. However, he ends his journey at the Western Wall to "the click of bicycle cleats ... and murmured prayers."

He also mentions that those seemingly innocent sounds have been replaced by bomb blasts as background noise.

It saddened me to read yet another member of the media portraying Israel as a bomb-torn and dangerous country. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Israel is a country slightly smaller than New Jersey.

With a population of more than 6 million, it has a murder rate of approximately 150 per year. This includes deaths from suicide bombings.

Since January 2000, there have been 147 bombings in Israel. This sounds like a large number by itself, but it comes to an average of about 21 bombings per year.

In all the time I have spent in Israel, I have not heard a single bomb blast or a gunshot.

My wife and I were there for the entirety of the war with Lebanon last summer, spending our time in Tel Aviv and in the south. Again, not a bomb blast was heard.

Obviously, Israel is a nation divided, and great troubles lurk there. But not great dangers to the casual tourist or curious cyclist.

Kevin C. Drost

From laughter to activism?

Courtney E. Martin's column "After laugher, action" (Opinion

Commentary, Jan. 7) decries the lack of desire on the part of people in Generation-X and Generation-Y for social and political change. But I have just one question: Where are we to find the impetus and example for such action?

I am part of this group of college-educated young people - one that has the money, the time and the resources to promote any sort of change we want in this world.

However, I also know that our demographic group has no viable example of how we can appropriately come together and show such activism.

Moreover, while Ms. Martin refers to "us" as the springboard for reform and action, she fails to address the issues that have created our attitude.

Our brothers, sisters and former college roommates are being cut down every day in the Middle East; the value of our voices and votes is diminishing; and the domestic issues that directly affect us, including the future of Social Security and the Patriot Act, are being pushed to the back burner.

We are apathetic. And no one who should notice this problem seems to do so.

So do not tell the audience of The Daily Show what it should it be doing.

Tell that to those who give The Daily Show its fodder.

Lauren Franco

Owings Mills

The writer is a junior at Towson University.

Courtney Martin's column on our social consciousness has a great point. As citizens of this great country, we should be more involved in the direction our government is taking and do more than just take some time out of the workday every few years to vote.

It sometimes does seem like our best political minds are in the business of entertainment rather than leadership. Or maybe they are just doing the job we pay them to do.

Whether it's our comedians, such as Jon Stewart, or other entertainers in the guise of media watchdogs, such as Bill O'Reilly (and yes, some of us get a good chuckle out of Mr. O'Reilly calling a liberal extremist a "loon" to his or her face), we pay them to take us away from the reality of life's anxieties by showing us how to laugh at ourselves.

Usually, the best humor is rooted in the truth, and these jesters are on top of their game if they are opening our eyes to the issues of the day.

Then again, after attempting to watch or read some of the mainstream news personalities who have long forgotten that the point of their profession is unbiased reporting about the events of the day, I can't blame people for changing channel.

This brings me to another point. I would have taken Ms. Martin and The Sun a little more seriously if this column didn't have such a liberal slant.

The column suggests that Mr. Stewart (a liberal) is sweet while Mr. O'Reilly (a conservative) is jealous.

Was Mr. Stewart as sweet eight years ago when he was cracking Monica Lewinsky jokes?

Finally, the word "action" is very powerful because it is life-altering and something you cannot take back. Democratic governments and large corporate structures are designed with this in mind - to at least slow down the few who possess the power to really act so that the issues and their potential solutions can be thoroughly analyzed before actions are taken. Such analysis and consensus-building take time and can lead to several conclusions. It's quite possible that some of the issues Ms. Martin raises will be taken care of by the systems in place to handle them.

Maybe another reason people are just laughing and not acting is because some of these issues just don't call for action in the first place.

John Pusateri

Westminster

Wow, did Courtney Martin get it right.

Watching The Daily Show and The Colbert Report is a guilty pleasure in my household. We stopped watching the "real" 11 o'clock news after President Bush was re-elected. The reality was too frustrating and depressing, and we needed the "therapeutic irony."

I applaud Ms. Martin for sharing her perspective and calling us to action.

Karen Teplitzky

Baltimore

Baltimore

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