SATURDAY MAILBOX

The Baltimore Sun

Army officer defied both law and orders

Paul Rockwell's column "Truth has consequences for soldier of conscience" (Opinion Commentary, Feb. 1) is misleading. Army 1st Lt. Ehren K. Watada is not facing charges for "telling the truth" or for making "public speeches on presidential decisions" or for exercising any of his other First Amendment rights.

Lieutenant Watada volunteered to become a soldier.

Along with becoming a soldier comes the duty to obey the law; in fact, Lieutenant Watada swore to obey and uphold that law when he received his commission.

Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice requires that soldiers abstain from using "contemptuous words against the president."

Article 88 is not ordinarily used for private conversations; however, the public platform Lieutenant Watada chose for his comments makes them suitable for punishment.

Moreover, Lieutenant Watada then refused to follow his orders to deploy to Iraq.

Mr. Rockwell believes that Lieutenant Watada "has a right, even a duty, to disobey illegal orders."

However, neither the law's dictate to refrain from using contemptuous language nor the order to deploy is illegal.

This officer knowingly engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer that violates the law. He now faces a court-martial for that conduct.

Is Mr. Rockwell unaware that there are consequences for the choices we make?

Douglas A. Dribben

Woodstock

The writer is a retired U.S. Army officer.

Prosecutors owe police an apology

The Sun's article "Rape charges dropped" (Jan. 27) reported that prosecutors dropped all rape and misconduct charges against Baltimore police Officers Steven Hatley and Brian Shaffer. More important, it revealed for the first time how badly the prosecution, in my view, mishandled the case.

These officers went through hell for the past year waiting for the case to be heard.

At least three times, the prosecution requested a delay. Meanwhile, these two young officers were suspended without pay, hung out to dry and painted by the state's attorney's office as common criminals.

I hope other readers were as shocked as I was to learn that the officers wanted to testify before the grand jury last year, but prosecutors declined.

Guilty people don't volunteer to go before the grand jury.

The officers also waived their right to remain silent and gave statements to sex crimes and internal affairs investigators. But they could not speak out publicly until now because of a gag order imposed by the court.

To me, this case has parallels to the Duke University lacrosse team rape case, in that the prosecution played politics with people's lives, disregarded facts that suggested these officers had committed no crime, and caused perhaps irreparable damage to the reputation of two of Baltimore's finest.

I was impressed with the way the officers and their attorneys handled themselves throughout this ordeal. I hope they can pick up the pieces and put their lives back in order.

This may be wishful thinking on my part, but at a minimum, it seems to me that the state's attorney's office owes these officers a public apology.

That could go a long way toward righting a terrible injustice.

Jim Scott

Arnold

Hemorrhage a rare dialysis dilemma

On behalf of the Maryland Commission on Kidney Disease, I am responding to The Sun's article "Dialysis deaths prompt warning" (Jan. 25).

Incorrect information was used in describing the public health alert concerning deaths caused by vascular access hemorrhage in dialysis patients over a six-year period.

There are approximately 7,500 dialysis patients in Maryland. The rare complication described in the article affects about four patients annually, or about 0.05 percent per year.

The Maryland Kidney Commission has been on record since October 2006 as recommending education for dialysis patients and the development of lifesaving measures to prevent deaths from vascular access site hemorrhage.

More research is required to identify and prevent the underlying causes of this potentially fatal complication.

Dr. Roland C. Einhorn

Baltimore

The writer is the chairman of the Maryland Commission on Kidney Disease.

Still far from equity for public officials

Karen Hosler's Editorial Notebook "Where the girls aren't" (Jan. 20) hits the nail on the head as to the primary reason that the United States and the state of Maryland do not have gender equity among elected officials.

As she explains, representatives in parliamentary systems - unlike our elected officials - do not have to mount expensive, time-intensive campaigns for office.

European countries with greater gender equity in political office also have high-quality child care programs and other policies that assist families with children, allowing women the time and energy to participate more fully in the work force and in politics.

In the United States, while the division of household tasks and child-rearing has become more equitable, women are still primarily responsible for homemaking and child care. Yet many of us volunteer countless hours to advocate for political issues and candidates who share our values.

Between home and community responsibilities, many women must wait until our 50s for the time and finances to run for office, while many men are free to run at any age, with the support of women at home and in their campaigns.

Until we have better systems and policies that enable men and women equally to balance time at home and at work, women's groups will have to strive to elect more women.

Only by achieving more equitable representation can we hope to see the very policies needed to sustain it.

Patti Flowers-Coulson

Baltimore

The writer is president of the Democratic Women's Political Action Committee of Maryland.

College students not just consumers

In The Sun's article about what students expect of their college professors, the author describes the rise of a consumer mentality in higher education ("Class War," Jan. 28).

According to a Canadian university professor, this mentality can be described this way: "We don't want to disrupt or disturb the student because there are some people who really believe in the student-as-consumer framework, and we want to keep the customer happy. Because without the consumer, there's no revenue, right?"

Towson University student Sean Smith apparently subscribes to this notion.

Mr. Smith, a full-time freshman, reportedly is financing his education by working six hours a day.

Mr. Smith is quoted as saying, about himself and his fellow students, "We pay attention when we want to. We have to spend all this money, so it shouldn't be our responsibility to have to teach ourselves the content. The teachers should try to make it interesting."

Well, listen up, students. You may be paying full tuition, but if you think you are paying the full cost of your education, maybe you should consume a few credit hours of Educational Financing 101.

None of you, whether at a public or a private college, pays the full cost of your education. The taxpayers pay a big chunk of that cost and, like you, we expect a return on our investment.

It is your professor's job to facilitate your pursuit of that education, not to compete for your attention with a multitude of high-tech distractions you bring to your classrooms.

This doesn't mean the professor shouldn't strive to make topics interesting and exciting.

But you students are not supposed to be passive "consumers" of education.

You are supposed to be active learners.

Bev Salehi

White Hall

Pimlico Middle saw better days

I see Pimlico Middle School in a different light than does the writer of the letter "Pimlico school earns no nostalgia at all" (Jan. 24).

When I attended from 1960 to 1963, the school was in its infancy.

The facilities were top-notch, and the students were the brightest and the best in the city school system.

The thugs were in the minority. The vast majority of us learned from an excellent staff of teachers.

The halls were filled with lively teenagers who, while learning the lessons of civics, English and beginning courses in foreign languages, also found their way in the social world.

Boys and girls mixed together and no one got pregnant. There were few fights and no guns. We listened to Motown music and watched Buddy Deane after school.

We learned algebra and read Shakespeare.

Most important, when we left Pimlico, we could read, write and speak in complete sentences.

Like most things, perhaps this is all about timing.

For me, Pimlico Middle was a good place at a good time. The decline that followed is much more about the decline in good parenting than about the school or the teachers.

And this has happened not just at Pimlico but everywhere in the city.

Jerry Gordon

Reisterstown

Act now to ease world's warming

Cars and trucks are a major source of air pollution and greenhouse gases as well as Maryland's largest source of smog ("'Clean car' law gathers steam," Jan. 28).

Maryland has the fifth-worst smog problem in the nation. A 2006 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Maryland is among the five worst states for childhood asthma.

Global warming is the greatest environmental challenge today. This increase in temperature is the result of elevated levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.

Continued increases in the temperature could lead to a three-foot rise of the water level in the Chesapeake Bay.

The clean cars law would reduce global warming pollution and put Maryland on a path to a cleaner energy future.

Eleven states have already enacted clean cars legislation.

We must take action now on this climate crisis and push Maryland forward to reduce greenhouse emissions for the sake of our children and future generations.

Madeleine Golde Lisa Lincoln Cheverly

The writers are co-chairwomen of the environmental action team for Progressive Cheverly.

Only single-payer is truly universal

I am pleased to see that Sen. Barack Obama has joined the fray by calling for universal health care.

In time, we will learn to which version of "universal health care" he subscribes. But in today's electoral climate, darn near every political hopeful claims to be for universal health care. However, few people advocate the path that would truly bring about health care for all - a single-payer approach.

A single-payer universal health care approach is the one concept that would eliminate the costly and unproductive components of our health care spending.

Depending on the figures one chooses, research indicates that by eliminating the bureaucratic overhead associated with "competition" and advertising, a single-payer plan could eliminate one-quarter to one-third of the expenses associated with health care coverage.

Some people wrongly think that it couldn't work here in the United States. I ask, why not?

Single-payer plans, in a variety of forms, work quite well in most other industrialized countries around the world.

There are many examples of national plans in other nations that could serve as templates for consideration.

We should not be afraid to look at what works well elsewhere to come up with a plan that would work well here.

Jim Baldridge

Baltimore

The writer is a member of the Maryland Universal Health Care Action Network.

Punish employers of illegal aliens

In recent days, The Sun has published several letters celebrating the arrest of 24 illegal immigrant workers or would-be workers and rebutting the protests and dismay coming from the Latino community.

One writer deplores "the government's coddling stance toward illegal aliens" ("Let's stop coddling illegal immigrants," Jan. 26). Another notes that "violation of a law generally results in a consequence" ("Breaking the law has consequences," Jan. 28).

They are right, of course, that people who come into our country without visas are violating our immigration laws.

They are right in noting that our government has for decades, through Democratic and Republican administrations, failed to enforce the immigration laws. Because of this laxness, we now have 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States.

Yet I sense a bit of hypocrisy in their indignation.

None of these letters, and none of the anti-immigrant "petitions" I've been seeing for many months, makes any mention of the employers of illegals. Only the immigrant workers are treated as the bad guys.

Don't the writers know it takes two to tango? Can't they figure out that you can't have employees without employers?

The most effective means of solving this problem would be to begin arresting and prosecuting the employers of illegal immigrants.

Then we would have more fairness in law enforcement. Then we would see the flow of illegal migration quickly reduced to a mere trickle.

I say: Let's stop coddling the employers of illegal immigrants.

J. Edward Muhlbach

New Freedom, Pa.

Let citizens choose our game of chance

I do not believe slots initiatives should be undertaken just because the horse racing industry says it needs help ("Pimlico Special halted, raising stakes on slots," Jan. 26).

What industry would say no to free money? What industry would say no to the government allowing it to put machines in its establishments that would net it millions of dollars?

Offer to put slots in shopping malls or restaurants. I wonder if they would say no.

The problem with the slots debate, and the gambling debate in general, is the massive hypocrisy on the part of many gambling opponents and state legislators.

Many of them apparently see no problem with your grandmother going to the local bingo hall and spending her Social Security or pension check on cards, instant bingo and other games of chance.

They don't mind the liquor stores in some of the state's most depressed and depressing communities shilling Pick 3, Pick 4, Match 5, Keno, Mega-Millions, scratch-offs and who knows what else these days, to people who don't really have the money to spare, by giving them their billion-to-one hope that they'll "strike it rich" and escape their lives of poverty.

Go to any store in the city selling lottery tickets on a Friday afternoon and see just how many people are there spending precious dollars on state-run and state-supported gambling.

Yet many of the same legislators who have no problem reaping these revenues from the lower classes of society with these games of chance fight against people who wish to exercise the same right to play slot machines and engage in other forms of gambling.

How can some legislators and slots opponents say that bingo halls are justified in taking your grandmother's money and that the state can take your lottery money but that I do not have the personal choice to spend the money I earn on slots, poker or whatever other form of gambling I wish to partake?

The horse industry does not deserve a free ride.

But Marylanders do deserve a free choice.

John Kantorski

Joppa

Protesters protect honor of warriors

The writer of the letter "Anti-war protest dangerous nostalgia" (Jan. 30) claims to know what was in the minds of the thousands of people who marched in protest against the Iraq war on Jan. 27 in Washington.

He says that we were trying to resurrect the protests of the 1960s by participating in "comedic, nostalgic recreations of past protests."

Well, the letter writer is wrong.

My dear younger brother, a Marine, was killed in Vietnam in November 1968. At that time, I believed that protesting the war would mean that he died in vain.

I believed - as so many do today - that if I protested, I would be dishonoring all of our warriors and giving comfort to the enemy.

Well, I was wrong. My brother did die in vain; his death served no purpose.

The deaths of the tens of thousands of military and civilian personnel who died after him because of that ill-begotten war were also in vain.

What unbelievable waste and stupidity

It is no different today. We are sacrificing our warriors and killing tens of thousands of innocent civilians in another ill-begotten war - one started by a president who simply wanted to be a "war president," a president whose hubris and arrogance knows no bounds.

Those of us who protest do so because we want to save our nation, our democracy and our Constitution.

We protest because we are appalled that the United States has become one of the most feared and hated nations in the world.

We protest to remind Congress that it is an equal branch of government and is not supposed to be subservient to the executive branch.

We protest because we have the right and indeed the responsibility to speak up when our leaders have lost their way.

We protest to save and honor our warriors.

Jana Hussmann Meacham

Laurel

Is death penalty a deterrent or an atrocity?

The news that Gov. Martin O'Malley would sign a bill to repeal the death penalty bill is no surprise ("Death penalty repeal sought," Jan 26).

As a Christian, I was long opposed to the death penalty. However, after seeing all the heinous, unnecessary killings by thugs over the years, I have changed my position on the subject.

If a person kills another human being during the commission of a crime, that killer should be executed.

A sentence of life without parole is not a deterrent.

I am fed up with my tax dollars paying for these murderers to have three square meals a day, plus shelter, TV, gyms, etc., while they are in prison.

Mr. O'Malley didn't have an answer to the murder rate in Baltimore when he was mayor, and as governor, he still doesn't.

LeRoy Ruhe

Columbia

I hope that this will be the year that Maryland steps out of the dark ages and puts an end to the death penalty.

Executing a killer does not bring back the victim.

On many occasions, a person convicted of a capital crime has later been proved innocent through DNA tests or when another person confessed to the crime.

The death penalty has also been shown to be unfairly administered and racially discriminatory.

It is more expensive than giving a convicted murderer a sentence of life without parole.

It is morally wrong to kill people who kill people to prove that killing people is wrong.

No one is born a killer.

Our money, time and focus would be better spent dealing with issues such as drug use and treatment, mental illness and abuse, providing good-paying jobs and job training, and ameliorating other environmental conditions that spawn criminals.

Justice would be better served and the victims of crime better honored through these actions rather than through the "eye for an eye" mentality.

The Rev. David L. Pollitt

Forest Hill

Now that Maryland has one of the most liberal governors in the nation, coupled with an unchecked liberal General Assembly, we can rest assured that the death penalty will be repealed by this session of the legislature, and that this will be immediately signed into law by the governor.

What great comfort that will be to those dedicated law enforcement and correctional officers who must deal with the worst of the worst criminal elements in the state - their most significant deterrent will be lost.

What will a life-termer in prison have to fear if only another term of life without parole can be imposed?

While we are at it, why not give the right to vote to convicted felons in prison - so that they can vote for even more legislators who appear to be more concerned about the criminal element than about law-abiding citizens?

Chuck Marks

Perry Hall

I applaud the effort of state Sen. Lisa A. Gladden and Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg to end the death penalty in Maryland.

Punishments, including life sentences without parole, enable the state to protect the lives of the innocent without taking the lives of the guilty.

In accordance with our church's teaching, the state "should do so because such means are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good, and with the dignity of the human person" (Evangelium Vitae, 56).

The state has an opportunity to set an example for society by promoting a culture of life and not a culture of death.

While I pray daily for those who suffer from the horrific crimes committed against them, I also pray that the leaders of our state will choose to affirm the dignity of human life and not compound the violence that is already so pervasive in our society.

Cardinal William H. Keeler

Baltimore

The writer is the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

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