The Baltimore Sun

Homelessness itself is the real trauma

The Maryland Senate was right to extend the state's hate-crimes law to include targeted violence against people experiencing homelessness, and the House of Delegates should swiftly follow suit ("Bill would help the homeless," March 7).

So-called bum-bashing and other deliberate attacks on our most vulnerable neighbors are heinous and must be stopped.

But if our work ends with passing of hate-crimes legislation alone, we'll have inflicted as much harm as we've prevented.

Contemporary homelessness is fueled by the historic and intentional erosion of affordable housing, health insurance, public assistance and the value of the minimum wage.

These policies themselves are inherently violent and cause more human damage than those who deliberately and despicably batter homeless individuals do.

The General Assembly has the opportunity this session to enact public policies that would reduce homelessness -- by expanding access to Medicaid for low-income adults, if not actually guaranteeing health insurance for all Marylanders; by creating an affordable housing trust fund and targeting its resources to help the poorest of the poor; by requiring a state "living wage"; and by increasing funding for the state's Emergency and Transitional Housing and Services Program.

I applaud legislators for taking steps to reduce violence against homeless individuals; I urge them next to reduce the violence of homelessness.

Kevin Lindamood


The writer is a vice president of Health Care for the Homeless.

MAIF financing rips off the poor

I read "Drivers may get break on policy" (March 4) with dismay because I think interest rates on auto insurance premium financing of as high as 30 percent amount to usury.

I thought Joseph A. Schwartz, a lobbyist for the Maryland Insurance Council, summarized the situation quite succinctly: "My people do not have a social justice mission. They are for making money."

Apparently, they don't have a social conscience, either.

To want to make money is understandable. To make it off people who are poor and really disadvantaged and have nowhere else to turn is hard for me to understand.

The very fact that these premium finance companies contributed $25,000 to lawmakers who sit on committees that consider legislation that affects their business should make us wary.

They must have a very profitable monopoly.

State Sen. Lisa A. Gladden says, "We have created a monster because now we can't change the law. The premium finance companies are too powerful; they are too strong."

If the finance companies, and their lobbyists, are so strong that the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund law can't be changed, perhaps we need different legislators.

David Gosey


No party can own social justice issue

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend feels that the Christian right has hijacked religion and indicates that "there are obviously the leaders of the Christian right who are really closely in bed with the Republican Party" ("Faith-based," March 4).

The interview about her new book indicates that Ms. Townsend feels disappointed and angry that the Catholic Church is not following the Democratic view of social justice and that Christian religious leaders are not speaking out more about global warming and suffering in Africa or raising taxes to help the poor.

I was raised in a Catholic and Democratic household.

I don't believe that either political party has a corner on social justice, or that the government can be as effective a provider to those in need as churches can.

And can Democrats deny that a major part of their social justice agenda involves providing access to abortions?

Can Ms. Townsend really expect the church to get in bed with Democrats like that?

Sandra Nettina

West Friendship

Bet the Democrats will now back slots

Under the Ehrlich administration, state House Speaker Michael E. Busch and other Democrats blocked slot machines in Maryland.

Now we have a Democrat as governor and a majority of Democrats in the General Assembly ("Miller awaits O'Malley's slots cue," March 7).

I bet eventually we will have slot machines at Laurel and Pimlico race courses.

Bill Arwady


A pattern of failure and buck-passing

The scandalous medical neglect of wounded veterans ("Army brass lashed over Walter Reed," March 6) falls in line behind a long series of failures of the Bush administration: multiple miscalculations in invading Iraq; torture at Abu Ghraib; failure of Federal Emergency Management Agency in the Hurricane Katrina tragedy; and the exposure of Valerie Plame.

In these incidents, I see two patterns.

One: incompetent, clueless leadership.

Two: the use of fall guys, such as I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby for the Plame affair, a handful of low-ranked soldiers in the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal and Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman for the Walter Reed scandal.

In each of these cases, the buck stops far from the top.

"Support our troops" is a frequent administration refrain.

But now is the time to truly support these broken men and women who have returned from Iraq with damaged brains, bodies and psyches.

Dorian Borsella


Would war foes cut funds to city police?

The Sun noted last week that 48 people were killed in Baltimore in the first 64 days of this year ("48 in city killed in 64 days of '07," March 6).

The Sun has, for months now, run many letters from people calling for cutting the funds for the war in Iraq and bringing the troops home.

We have lost a little more than 3,000 troops in Iraq in four years -- and that's in a war which involves the entire country.

During that same four-year period, more than 1,000 people have been murdered in Baltimore, a city that is less than half the size of Baghdad.

So I call for the immediate cutting of funds to the Police Department of Baltimore.

Bob Dickerson

Forest Hill

Illegal immigrants deserve no discount

What is it about the word "illegal" that lawmakers in Maryland and Washington seem not to understand?

On Feb. 27, The Sun ran a photo with people holding placards that read, "We are Maryland."

This was a photo of a rally outside the State House in favor of granting in-state tuition at state colleges to illegal immigrants living in Maryland.

Now stop and think about it for a moment: Why on Earth should people who flaunt their illegality in our faces be worthy of any special dispensation other than deportation?

There are ways to enter the country legally. Yes, that's a lengthy and tedious process. But if you can't abide by the laws of the land, you don't belong here.

Such behavior does not warrant any rewards.

So let's stop this charade once and for all.

Helene Breazeale


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