Episcopals find unity in diversity
On Monday, The Sun ran a front-page article describing a worship service held near Stevenson by a group of dissident Episcopalians under the auspices of the Diocese of Chile ("Churches form links abroad," May 28).
The article, of course, stressed divisions within the Anglican Communion - between the church in the United States and the church in the developing world - over a number of issues, including human sexuality.
On that same Sunday, the Feast of Pentecost, in which the church offers thanksgiving for the gift of the Holy Spirit's making us one people, a service was also held at the Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation on University Parkway.
It was a combined celebration that included a large number of Anglicans from Africa.
People from Nigeria, Liberia and several other nations sang with joy and praise and shared the sacraments with people of many different traditions, languages and theological perspectives.
The cathedral was full in numbers and in spirit. It was Pentecost.
As dean of the cathedral, I made a brief comment: "The next time you read an article about the division in the Anglican Communion, remember your experience here today" (not knowing that such an article would appear in The Sun the following day).
That comment was met with an immediate and spontaneous standing ovation (which is not a typical response in an Episcopal church).
Many of us have made a home in the Episcopal Church precisely because we found it to be a community of acceptance, healing and reconciliation for all people.
The Rev. Van H. Gardner
The writer is dean of the Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation.
Carson taught us dangers of toxins
Perhaps the authors of the column "Rachel Carson's legacy nothing to celebrate" (Opinion
Commentary, May 27) could re-examine their own arguments by simply reading an article on the front page of the same issue of The Sun.
"'Is it even safe to live here?'" (May 27) recounted the long history of a long-demolished pesticide plant that inflicts damage even today through toxic levels of arsenic in the soil of Swann Park and surrounding neighborhoods.
The toxic arsenic levels in the park's soil are 100 times the safe level - more than 30 years after the plant closed.
People who worked at the plant had three times the normal rate of lung cancer after just one year of exposure.
It is no coincidence that they also experienced nosebleeds, headaches, nerve damage and tumors after exposure to chemicals such as arsenic, lead, kepone, DDT and chromium - some of which have been known carcinogens for centuries.
This pesticide plant, long torn down and covered by cement, lives on in the soil, the water and the bodies of people nearby.
This is just the kind of thing Ms. Carson was talking about.
She brought public attention to the toxic effects of harsh chemicals that remain lurking hazards in the environment.
Some of these chemicals are not harmless insecticides; they are lethal poisons.
Just ask the 12-year-old with unexplained nosebleeds and headaches and his father with chronic tingling in his feet.
We are inextricably tied to our environment, and poisons for insects become poisons for us.
If you ask me, Ms. Carson's legacy is well worth celebrating.
The writer is a health sciences major at Towson University.
One big omission in positive review
Glenn McNatt's recent review of Art on Purpose's exhibit Speaking of Silence I was positive and mostly a pleasure to read ("What silence looks like," May 24).
One glaring omission, however, cries out for comment.
In his review, Mr. McNatt argues that the audio and photography piece "Youth & Silence" is "among the most compelling works in the show." Furthermore, the story is illustrated with two photographs from this project.
All this ordinarily would be quite gratifying to the artist who created the praised and well-represented work of art.
Trouble is, the artist who took the photos and spent hundreds of hours interviewing young people, transcribing recordings and (with sound editor Yutaka Houlette) weaving voices together to create a powerful sound piece was not once mentioned by name.
Her name is Beth Barbush, and she deserves credit.
The writer is artist/director of Art on Purpose.
Symphony explores the spirit of hip-hop
Rashod D. Ollison's critical review of Darin Atwater's Paint Factory exposes his failure to understand the essence of the composer's creative work ("Making rap nice is counterintuitive," May 21).
Mr. Atwater's work presents hip-hop as a work of art, expressed by colors representing a variety of sentiments the genre can convey.
Mr. Atwater seeks to expand the definition of hip-hop beyond rap, which is just one expression of that culture.
In the program notes for the symphony, Mr. Atwater wrote that Paint Factory is a "celebration of hip-hop on a grand scale," a coalition of music, dance and poetry, designed to be "a symphony of sound, sight and, more importantly, thought."
The project was, indeed, a hip-hop symphony. But not in the sense one might expect.
Through various elements of the program - from the striking chord progressions (which, by the way, were more than mere "glimmers" of melodic brilliance) and syncopated rhythms to the vibrant, casual couture of the musicians - viewers were encouraged to see, hear and feel the multiplicity of hip-hop.
The lyrical optimism expressed through Paint Factory was intended to provide an alternative to the correlation between hip-hop and malevolence.
To characterize this effort as "sap-encrusted" and "pie-in-the-sky" because it challenges the hard-natured, thug-like stereotypes characteristic of today's rap music only proves that Mr. Ollison himself has shoe-horned hip-hop into a culture that can only be authenticated by the glorification of misogyny, racism, selfishness and hostility.
Canceling field trips no boost to learning
Like the students at Dunbar Middle School whose trips were canceled ("Kids, parents angry over canceled trips," May 23), my English as a second language students at Northwestern High School have been looking forward to a field trip -Six Flags America - for a very long time.
We would like to express our disagreement with the decision by Marilyn Perez, the administrator who oversees the city's middle schools, to cancel such trips.
In our opinion, it's not necessary to go to Gettysburg, Fort McHenry or Washington to have an educational trip.
We believe any trip can be educational.
What's important is not the destination but the preparation students receive before the trip and the activities they are involved in during and after the trip.
For example, we were responsible for planning our trip to Six Flags. This gave us practice in organization and decision-making skills.
We have also been reading interesting articles about the history of amusement parks and improving our reading and research skills.
In addition, the trip would give us the opportunity to see people from different places and build friendships as we have a great time marking the end of the school year.
Possibilities for learning are all around us.
Canceling a long-awaited, long-promised trip will not ensure a quality education.
It will only ensure unnecessary disappointment and lost opportunities.
The letter was written by a city schoolteacher and some of the students in her English as a second language class at Northwestern High School.
Early-evening ads unfit for children
I'm afraid the author of the letter "Don't ask the state to do parents' job" (May 24) has never tried to watch a sporting event during the day or a show with a family during the family hour of 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.
After the homework is completed, my family, which consists of me, my wife and my 10-year-old daughter, will often watch a game or a family show together for an hour.
After that time, we are aware that shows may have adult content, and that it is our responsibility to decide whether our daughter watches.
However, the family shows are peppered with ads for forthcoming shows that are not appropriate for the family.
The ads are scaled-down versions of later shows, which frequently use the same mature-rated blood, guts and sex the shows offer to entice viewers.
Children viewing the age-appropriate show do not get the entire story or context of the adult program, just a 30-second melange of violent highlights. It's like going to a movie such as Shrek and seeing a preview for the next Die Hard movie.
I am not saying the government should step in to ban these promos. But the networks should consider the audience the shows are geared to and run ads appropriate for that group.
Speakers inspire Peabody graduates
I was disappointed with the tone of Tom Dunkel's article on commencement speakers ("A degree of banality at graduation," May 22).
I spoke to Mr. Dunkel on behalf of the Peabody Institute, commenting on our good fortune in having Quincy Jones as our guest speaker.
But Mr. Dunkel described Mr. Jones as a "man of few words" who is "known for trafficking in music."
This is not a fitting description of a man who has made a profound and diverse contribution to the landscape of American music - from touring with and arranging for some of the greatest jazz bands in America to film scoring, television scoring and record production - all while achieving 79 Grammy nominations, winning France's L?gion d'Honneur and raising $50 million for famine relief through his "We are the World" project.
We found Mr. Jones' speech to be inspiring to all of our graduates and our guests.
The article implied that Mr. Jones would have been a rare exception in an otherwise banal array of guest speakers.
Since Peabody started awarding the Peabody Medal in 1980, recipients have included Leonard Bernstein, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, Andr? Watts, Mstislav Rostropovich and Oscar Peterson.
And since 2001, Peabody has honored and received inspiring graduation speeches from Isaac Stern, Bobby McFerrin, Andre Previn, John Corigliano, George Crumb and Gilbert Kalish.
Not one of them would have failed to inspire our graduating class, and Peabody is honored to have had them all accept our medal.
The writer is director of the Peabody Institute at the Johns Hopkins University.
Small-car drivers should pay more
In response to the writer of the letter "Institute a safety tax on monster vehicles" (May 19), I would note that the owners of these "monster vehicles" already pay higher taxes than he pays on his midget vehicle.
These larger-vehicle owners pay more in sales taxes as well as higher gasoline or diesel fuel costs. These costs are not passed on to others but paid by the owners of larger vehicles.
I would suggest that the small-car driver should be the one to pay more for the costs to insure his car and his family because he prefers not to own a larger, safer vehicle.
As the "monster vehicles" the writer speaks of are not outlawed or illegal, I would say that if he believes his safety is at risk, he should feel free to purchase a safer vehicle.
Or perhaps he and other owners of these smaller vehicles could pay a tax to help meet the costs of the injuries sustained by tiny-car drivers and passengers.
This "safety tax" would be paid by the owners of small cars because they are the ones risking their lives getting into these death traps.
I also think my insurance rates should drop - it isn't me or my family who are going to the hospital because I wasn't enlightened enough to buy a safer vehicle.
Would I "buy safety at the expense of others," as the writer suggests SUV drivers do, when it comes to my family?
You bet I would.
Traffic troubles dim lacrosse celebration
Saturday was a gorgeous day for four superb college lacrosse teams to play two well-played matches. And in many respects, Baltimore did its job hosting the lacrosse finals well: offering side events, a clean stadium and other amenities ("City scoops up sport and scores with lacrosse faithful," May 27).
There was one major snafu, however: traffic control.
It took my family and me 90 minutes to traverse the distance from the corner of Lombard and Greene streets to the stadium's Lot J - a distance of about 14 blocks.
At Hamburg and Greene streets, I asked a traffic control officer about the holdup. She put it bluntly: "They have police officers guiding traffic when what they really need are traffic control officers."
She was on the money. The traffic officers, what few there were, were doing a fine job of moving traffic along. The police officers were far less adept.
There is a strong local effort to retain the lacrosse national championship here in Baltimore, where it belongs. The event offers a significant economic benefit for the city.
While so many other organizers did their job to perfection, traffic control was a disaster.
Somebody - meaning the mayor - needs to get the Police Department on board to do its job and do it well when we have big events like this.
Bush's presence an insult to troops
Seeing the picture of President Bush placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns infuriated me ("Bush honors newest 'heroes,'" May 29).
Our president avoided active military service in Vietnam.
This man, who is responsible for sending thousands of Americans to their deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan and thousands more who have been maimed for life, had no right to stand on the same sacred ground as those brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
His presence at Arlington National Cemetery showed disrespect to the families of those who died in Iraq.
And indeed, the president's participation in Memorial Day ceremonies is an insult to all Americans, because he initiated this endless war based on twisted misinformation.
There appeared to be some hope of ending this war and loss of lives when the Democrats won in the last congressional election.
That hope proved short-lived when the Democrats caved in on the war funding bill.
Now my disgust with Congress runs almost as deep as my disgust with the president.
NSA shows courage to confront its flaws
For more than 50 years, the National Security Agency has been essential to the defense of this nation ("NSA leaders pressed to explain report faulting agency culture," May 17, and "What's that again?" editorial, May 20).
It has exposed spies, revealed the war plans of enemies, discovered the policies and intentions of foreign governments and terrorist organizations and provided critical intelligence to war planners and war fighters from the Korean War to the global war on terror.
But since the late 1980s, the world has undergone a staggering expansion in telecommunications.
For decades, NSA's principal targets were lumbering politburos and people's armies.
Today's environment, by contrast, features a multitrillion-dollar telecommunications industry, 18-month product lifecycles, cheap and easily implemented encryption programs and the near-constant introduction of disruptive technologies.
Despite this virtual tidal wave of change, NSA continues to produce the critical intelligence to support military operations.
The agency's current successes - if only one could publicize them - are at times astonishing. Yet maintaining such success in the future will be its greatest challenge.
It is in this context that the NSA leadership commissioned an internal assessment of the agency's future architecture.
The teams involved in the studies were urged to be candid, even critical, and communicate their findings clearly and unequivocally.
Not all of the conclusions were pretty. But NSA's team did not hide or hide from the problems; they moved forward with recommendations to solve them.
Much of NSA's work is necessarily kept secret. But the existence of this study was not. I knew about the review, as did others in the intelligence and defense community's leadership and in Congress.
The teams' work and results have been widely distributed within NSA.
The use of internal studies as a deliberate technique designed to identify problem areas that need fixing reflects the candor and courage that leadership must provide.
James R. Clapper Jr.
The writer is undersecretary of defense for intelligence.
Does city need more police officers?
I want to thank Dan Rodricks for his column "The clue to less violence may be more police" (May 27).
I totally agree with him and made my position very clear at recent City Council hearings on the Police Department's budget.
While city officials have to be very careful to protect against overtime abuse, it is essential that we maximize our police presence, particularly in neighborhoods faced with extreme violence.
And I am very concerned that although we know police overtime expenses have required numerous supplemental budget appropriations from the city over the past few years, the city's fiscal 2008 budget fails to adequately address that reality for the coming year ("City has big plans for budget surplus," May 22).
The city remains woefully short of police officers as we, like most large urban areas, have had difficulty filling the ranks of our police force.
As we try to solve this problem, the city has no option but to offer overtime work to our current police officers.
Is this the best way to address this problem?
Probably not. The longer hours are tough on our officers. Serving on our streets is draining enough over 40 hours a week; the extra hours only increase the stress.
But until we can increase the ranks of the city police, we have no choice.
The writer is a member of the Baltimore City Council.
Bravo to Dan Rodricks for hitting the nail on the head.
I grew up in Baltimore and moved back to the city last summer. The city was no picnic in the 1970s and 1980s, but these days, the fear is palpable as the crime level rises because of gang activity and continued drug trade.
I live in Charles Village, and I woke up one Sunday at 6 a.m. to find a man stealing a computer in my bedroom.
My neighbors frequently experience such outrageous offenses, which usually don't even merit coverage in The Sun.
If more police are not put on the streets, the shootings and murders will spill into areas such as the one I live in that are now mostly plagued by burglaries and other nonviolent crime.
We are scared to death out here.
Many of those who can move out of the city do so. The rest of us install alarm systems, get dogs, bar the windows and hope for the best.
I'd like to hear from just one Baltimore resident who thinks spending money to fight crime is not worth it.
Dan Rodricks missed the point again in his column "The clue to less violence may be more police."
I believe that the city could double its number of police officers and have virtually no effect on violence in Baltimore because the primary problem is not the number of police officers but the number of career criminals walking the streets - criminals who would be in prison if we had a functional court system.
Yet rhetoric about more-effective prosecution and tougher judges never seems to generate tangible results. So I have a proposal to bring order and a measure of sanity to a broken and chaotic system.
Perhaps the state should implement a "career criminal" point system similar to the system used by the Motor Vehicle Administration to determine when a citizen loses his or her driving privileges.
Such a system wouldn't really be difficult to develop.
Let's analyze the last 100 murder convictions in Baltimore, eliminate those in which the perpetrator did not have previous convictions for life-threatening crimes - such as armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and homicide - (which probably isn't many) and construct a point system that would have taken the remaining individuals off the street permanently before they committed murder.
I suspect that more than half of the city's murder victims could be saved with such a system - without one more police officer.
There should also be a "bonus" point system that would penalize activities the state deems particularly detrimental to our fellow citizens and society.
As an illustration, if 20 points would permanently remove a felon from society, a criminal could get a five-point bonus for any crime committed with a gun.
Getting caught illegally carrying a gun could add one point, plus another point if the gun is not registered to that person and two more if it was stolen.
This is gun legislation that would work.
The system could also tack on three points for selling drugs to minors, and so on.
Such a system would help city officials target the greatest threats to public safety for additional focus.
And at least the police would know that they had a real chance of taking repeat offenders out of circulation - forever.