Funding bills let Iraq war continue
David Sirota's analysis of Congress' actions on the supplemental Iraq war appropriations bills is interesting as a civics refresher and partisan analysis ("Protesting and legislating to end the war," Opinion
Commentary, March 30). But the column has a fundamental flaw - it ignores the fact that the bills would not end the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
The House war appropriations bill, which President Bush has threatened to veto (a veto the Democrats would not have anything like the two-thirds majority needed to override), not only has an extremely long timeline for withdrawal from Iraq (starting Aug. 31, 2008) but its loopholes could allow tens of thousands of troops to remain in Iraq indefinitely.
Last November, the voters delivered a clear mandate for peace, not a mandate to continue shoveling hundreds of billions of our tax dollars into Mr. Bush's quagmire for close to another two years or to allow tens of thousands of troops to remain in Iraq into the next president's term.
If Mr. Bush does indeed veto the bill, the Democrats have a golden opportunity to end the war by fully funding a safe and orderly withdrawal of all U.S. troops, contractors and bases.
They should also improve benefits for returning troops and make a down payment on the enormous debt we owe the people of Iraq for reparations and reconstruction of their devastated country.
The only way to support the troops is to bring them home to their families as soon as possible - by the end of this year at the absolute latest.
The writer is executive director of Peace Action.
Withdrawing troops won't end conflict
Opponents loudly condemn the president for his handling of the war ("Bush assails Democrats over bill on war funding," April 4). He, in turn, has asked these Monday morning quarterbacks to present a better plan. They never could.
But now House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and fellow Democrats have a plan: Cut off funding for the war and start withdrawing our troops before the end of 2008.
Liberals want to save Americans by getting out of Iraq.
But how do the more than 3,000 U.S. casualties in four years of war compare with our loss of nearly that many citizens in one hour on Sept. 11, 2001?
Withdrawal from Iraq is not a solution; it is a surrender that would allow militants to claim victory and embark on whatever misadventures they desire.
Iran provides funding, munitions and other supplies to Iraq's militants. Its supply of warriors and suicide bombers is endless. And these fundamentalists, left unchallenged, will recruit, equip and train a whole new army of fanatics.
President Bush is dealing with a civil war that we did not start and do not want but cannot abandon.
The fact that many people do not like this war is irrelevant. It is here, and it is time for Americans to rally behind the flag and support our president.
We must continue taking the war to the militants or they will surely bring it to us.
John M. Hooligan
Rewarding illegals wastes resources
I was born in Maryland and lived there for 34 years. I started working at the age of 14 and paid Maryland income taxes for 20 years. I am a graduate of the University of Maryland and the University of Maryland School of Law.
Despite these significant ties to Maryland, my daughters are not eligible for in-state tuition at my alma mater because my employer transferred me to Pennsylvania in 2002.
In The Sun's article "O'Malley boosts tuition measure" (March 29), state Sen. Gwendolyn T. Britt said the students who would be helped by the legislation to allow illegal aliens who are Maryland residents to pay in-state tuition rates at state colleges and universities did not make the choice to defy U.S. immigration rules but typically were brought here by their parents.
Well, my children did not make the choice to move to Pennsylvania. My wife and I brought them here.
Under Ms. Britt's logic, my children should receive in-state tuition in Maryland, too.
Our nation's shores are open to those who want to seek opportunity - as long as they do it the right way.
I find it inconceivable that Maryland would dilute the scarce resource of taxpayer dollars available for public education by giving in-state tuition to people who do not have the legal right to be here.
G. Scott Riekers
Illegal workers pose threat to our port
Having witnessed firsthand the death, destruction, and mayhem in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, I am appalled to learn that local maritime firms have been hiring illegal immigrants to load and unload cargo at their Baltimore marine facilities ("Illegal workers arrested," March 30).
Some of these firms operate just hundreds of yards from Baltimore's Inner Harbor, and also near our revered Fort McHenry, the birthplace to our national anthem.
I find it amazing that these companies would hire and exploit illegal workers when some of the most productive workers in the country ply their trade on our public docks and work under the banner of the International Longshoremen's Association.
Baltimore's ILA members have to pass vigorous background checks as well as drug and alcohol tests to be employed in any of Maryland's marine terminals.
We are also asked to produce a driver's license, vehicle registration and port security clearance card just to enter a marine terminal.
Once inside, we are subject to random searches and inspections.
How ironic it is that if you work at one of the nonunion facilities in our port, none of these safeguards is required - or at least so one would surmise after reading The Sun's recent article regarding companies at the port exploiting these illegal immigrants.
As a member of the ILA, I ask: Why aren't the same procedures that are in effect for our members being enforced at these nonunion facilities?
And as a citizen of Maryland, I ask: Where is the patriotism of those who employ people who could jeopardize the safety of those who live and work in Baltimore?
Richard P. Krueger Jr.
Military rape issue a problem of power
As a woman, but more important as a human being, I find some of the comments in Kathleen Parker's column "Confronting the fog of rape" (Opinion
Commentary, March 30) outrageous.
One of the basic lessons one ought to have learned from living on this planet is that men dominate in many ways. Look at just about any company and you will see men in top positions; look at salaries (women always come out below men); look at the faces on our currency (mostly men); or look at the long list not only of American presidents but of world leaders (the list of female leaders is much shorter than that for men).
I could go on but it would be redundant. The point is that the reason rape often happens is because of this power differential - especially in the military, a place governed by hierarchy and the ethos of winning via aggression.
I think the biggest mistake in this column was that the author chose to stress the military definition of rape.
Ms. Parker wrote that "according to the Manual for Courts-Martial, rape is defined as 'an act of sexual intercourse by force and without consent,'" and then went on to explain why a recent rape case was "not quite rape."
However, most definitions of rape (including those in U.S. federal law and the laws of most states) include any sexual act, not just intercourse.
Although there are always some alleged rape victims who cry wolf, most do not.
And rape charges are not a simple matter of "he said/she said" when "he" is your boss and you have to live in a war zone with him.
The writer is a psychotherapist for the community psychiatry program at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.
Lyme bill backs dubious standards
The House of Delegates recently passed what looks, on the surface, like a worthy and innocuous Lyme disease education bill.
However, what the bill would really do is require the state to disseminate one of two competing sets of Lyme disease treatment guidelines, in effect championing one side of an ongoing, highly controversial medical debate.
Indeed, the guidelines the state would be supporting are suspect enough that they have attracted the interest of Connecticut's attorney general, whose office is investigating possible antitrust violations by the group that developed the guidelines, the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
Marylanders deserve to be made aware that another set of nationally recognized and accepted Lyme disease treatment guidelines exist, and in fact are followed by most of the physicians who actively treat Lyme patients.
Advocates for Lyme disease patients statewide are united in our belief that this bill would certainly cause far greater damage than benefit.
The writer is coordinator of the Greater Baltimore Lyme Support and Advocacy Group.
Zoo brings home wonders of the wild
I was amazed to read two letters to the editor suggesting that zoos are not the right places for people to experience the wonders of the wild kingdom ("Zoo in decline needs to find new mission," March 30).
Rubbish, I say.
The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore is an international treasure. It is easily the most beautiful and enchanting place to be on a spring day in this city, in this year or any year.
For the $15 admission price to the zoo, you can get close to more African animals than on a $5,000 safari.
You will also be delighted by the gorgeous setting, by the entertainment designed for the kiddies, and, if you care to look beyond the surface, by the dedicated people - volunteers and staff - who are keeping the fabulous animals as healthy and happy as can be.
The zoo also conducts unique international conservation projects - for Panamanian tree frogs and for mountain gorillas, to name just two.
Yes, the animals in the zoo are in captivity. (So are our cats and dogs.)
But can anyone have a real experience of feeding a giraffe or watching the habits of prairie dogs for an hour on a two-dimensional screen, no matter how the tape is edited?
I would argue that one cannot.
The zoo may not be perfect, but it has a serious mission beyond entertainment, and it is well worth saving.
'Green' design much more than a luxury
Thank you for Tom Pelton's article on the new "green" elementary school in Montgomery County ("School is first to go 'green' in Maryland," March 26).
The more our public buildings are built "green," the better off we all will be.
Not only does green design and construction often pay for its extra up-front costs with energy savings within a few years, but the buildings are usually healthier for the people who work (or learn) inside them.
As they use less electricity, use renewable resources and recycle products, those who use these buildings can contribute to global climate change solutions rather than be a part of the problem.
There are two other aspects of green design, however, that should be standard thinking for such public buildings.
First, location is important. New public buildings such as schools generally should not be built out in the middle of nowhere, as if they are isolated. The daily transportation-related pollution and energy expended in getting to the building can outweigh the energy and pollution savings from the building itself.
Second, green building is about more than just energy. For example, the way such buildings handle their rainwater runoff and the way their parking areas are designed around existing natural features are also very important.
Green building is here to stay.
We are beyond the point where sustainable design is a luxury.
Apology to natives also long overdue
While Maryland and Virginia (and other entities) apologize for unconscionable behavior and policies toward former chattels from Africa ("House of Delegates passes resolution acknowledging state's part in slavery," March 27), it is useful to point to an equal injustice perpetrated upon the original settlers of what is now the United States: Our country has acted with concentrated villainy for several hundred years against the American Indian.
In an almost unbelievable series of events - including land theft, multiple broken treaties, armed assaults, ambushes, massacres, even biological warfare - the European settlers ran roughshod over the indigenous population, rarely even giving lip service to fairness or equitable treatment.
In the rush for expansion, our country pushed ever-westward, laying waste to societies with centuries of civilization behind them (i.e., the Iroquois Confederacy). Mile after heedless mile, and tribe after blameless tribe, the newcomers moved to occupy the vast and little-known country in the name of Manifest Destiny, the Northwest Ordinance, the Louisiana Purchase and other instruments of conquest.
The descendants of many Native Americans have been marginalized and set aside onto reservations that are mostly arbitrarily configured to keep the Indians in their place and not bother the European-descended occupiers of the rest of the land.
So while it is long overdue for us to make some official statement abhorring the slavery of imported black people and their descendants, it is equally overdue that we make some similar expression toward the people who were here first.
Norman J. Stewart
The writer is a member of the Osage Indian Nation.
Restoring bivalve bounty to the bay?
I strongly disagree with the suggestion in The Sun's article "Oystermen reap federal bounty" (April 1) that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration simply passes congressional funding through to watermen with little oversight, and that the program lacks environmental and scientific merit.
These characterizations are not accurate and do not reflect the practices in NOAA's Chesapeake Bay office.
NOAA funding for oyster restoration in Maryland has been directed to enhance the ecological benefits of oysters as well as to benefit local watermen and their communities.
The president has included funding for oyster restoration in Maryland in his budget every year since 2002. The additional funds sponsored by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski simply accelerated and expanded NOAA's efforts to restore oysters in the bay.
Since its inception, the Oyster Recovery Partnership has planted more than 1 billion disease-free, spat-on-shell oysters and established more than 30 no-take oyster sanctuaries in Maryland's portion of the bay.
NOAA and University of Maryland scientists agree that these efforts have achieved real results.
NOAA fully supports the involvement of watermen in the restoration of native oysters in Chesapeake Bay.
Their involvement in the program has been critical to its success, and their local knowledge, equipment and commitment to restoration of the fishery have been a key component of the partnership effort.
Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr.
The writer is NOAA administrator and an undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
I would like to thank The Sun and reporters Rona Kobell and Greg Garland for exposing glaring examples of the problem-plagued oyster management in the Chesapeake Bay.
The Oyster Recovery Partnership's original mission was to promote "the ecological restoration of oysters in the Chesapeake Bay."
The restoration of our decimated oyster population is not compatible with their continued commercial exploitation. But scientists, managers and politicians continue to ignore this reality.
In 2000, the Chesapeake Bay Program established a goal of increasing Maryland's oyster biomass by the year 2010 to a level 10 times that of the 1994 biomass level.
The best efforts of federal and state agencies, the Oyster Recovery Partnership and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to meet this goal have resulted in only a fractional increase to date. It will require a miracle to achieve that goal.
Many of the factors that contribute to the natural mortality of oysters are outside of man's control. The one factor we can control is fishing mortality. But we have never had the political will to do so.
The Chesapeake Bay oyster's true value is its ecological role, not its worth on the half-shell.
I call on the state leadership to re-establish its focus on a realistic oyster restoration goal, and commit fully to achieving that goal.
However, the waste of scarce resources and dollars by misguided entities such as the Oyster Recovery Partnership does not serve the interests of Maryland's citizens or benefit our bay and its oysters.
The writer is chairman of the Coastal Conservation Association of Maryland.
The nerve of Rona Kobell and Greg Garland to write an article that makes it sound as if watermen are in a get-rich-quick scheme sponsored by the government.
I grew up in the watermen's town of Rock Hall. And I learned that working on the bay is rough, tiresome work.
If the watermen were rich, they wouldn't have to get up before dawn and come home after dark each night after such labor-intensive work.
Most of us get up each day knowing we have a job to go to and can count on our income.
The men and women who make a living on the water are controlled by Mother Nature. They don't work every day but only the worst days keep them home.
They work through the sun's rays beaming off the water and damaging their eyes and skin. They work through the bitter cold, ice and wet conditions of the winter.
Does anyone think of them when they sit down to a seafood dinner? No.
But let there be money involved and some people want to condemn every dollar that's allocated.
Maybe we should have more watermen involved in running the government, and then we would see a better outcome.
Thank you for finally exposing the failings of the so-called Oyster Recovery Partnership to the public.
This program has been nothing but a welfare program for the Maryland Watermen's Association, and certainly a waste of taxpayers' money.
The population of the Chesapeake Bay oysters is now at an all-time low. It is time for a moratorium on the harvesting of these bivalves.
I have had a fishing tackle business in North East for the past 45 years, and I have seen the bay decline in water clarity so much that most of the bay often resembles a cesspool.
Unless we can restore the oysters to help filter the water, our mighty Chesapeake will continue on its downward slide.
Neither The Sun's report "Oystermen reap federal bounty" nor the subsequent editorial "Who's minding the oyster bar?" (April 3) gave appropriate credit to the substantial scientific and practical advances made through Maryland's oyster restoration efforts.
Scientists from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science have worked with the Oyster Recovery Partnership to place an unprecedented 350 million spat in the bay last year and have been carefully monitoring the prevalence of devastating diseases and the growth and survival of these oysters.
As a result of these strategies, there are now restored reefs in the bay populated by 7-year-old, 6-inch-long oysters and full of marine life.
Our scientists have worked with Maryland watermen to help them understand the contagious consequences of previous practices of transplanting diseased oysters around the bay and the potential benefits of aquaculture in contrast to wild harvest. These scientists firmly believe that by building on these accomplishments, as well as learning from our mistakes, we will be able to achieve ever more effective outcomes in rebuilding oyster populations and the benefits they provide the bay.
Federal appropriations have been essential in getting us this far and will continue to be crucial as we move forward.
Donald F. Boesch
The writer is president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
Thanks to Rona Kobell and Greg Garland for a long-overdue investigation of Maryland's oyster restoration programs.
The Oyster Recovery Partnership they write about deserves credit for bringing effort, money and science to bear on one of the Chesapeake's keystone species. It would be a shame to dismantle it.
But the program, as The Sun details, puts too much emphasis on subsidizing watermen and too little on ecological restoration.
The Oyster Recovery Partnership's action plan states that it will "maximize" the ecological, economic and social benefits of oysters.
That's an impossible burden to place on a species whose populations and habitat have been ruined by disease, overfishing and pollution.
We can't have it all. Some hard choices are in order. The good news is that there's evidence that native oysters, if given time enough and protection, can rebuild, even with diseases still rampant.
Watermen, in the meantime, may have to be compensated, but not on the back of the hugely depleted oysters whose restoration should be the overwhelming goal.
The writer is a former environmental columnist for The Sun.