Voting shows faith in our community
It may be true, as Jean Marbella suggests in "Making the case against voting" (Sept. 11), that voting is an act of futility except in very close elections, since the individual voter's ability to affect the outcome is negligible. In that very narrow sense, apathy and ignorance may indeed represent rational self-interest and practical realism.
But determining the winner of a race is not the only reason people vote.
For some people, voting is a moral act and an expression of conscience - an opportunity to take a stand for what is right even if the prospects for victory are slim.
For others, voting represents the chance to advance a minority agenda in the hope that it will eventually gain support over the years.
For still others, voting is an affirmation of maturity, an outward sign that one has come of age and is willing to shoulder responsibility for one's neighborhood, nation and world. It is the political equivalent of the bar mitzvah declaration, "Today, I am a man."
For others, politics is grand entertainment, and voting is like rooting for the home team, even if they never have a winning season, and even if one's attendance at the game has no effect on the outcome.
For others, voting, like flying the flag on the Fourth of July, symbolizes faith in democratic values.
For still others, it is an expression of gratitude and respect for the men and women who fought and died for the right to cast a ballot.
And for every voter, whether he or she realizes it or not, voting is a powerful statement of support for one's country and solidarity with one's countrymen.
It is a declaration of voluntary membership in the community and commitment to the American civil compact.
Let the economists labor over their statistical tables and conclude that my vote doesn't matter. I know that it does.
Stop wasting blood, treasure in Iraq
On Thursday night, President Bush announced his decision to continue the war in Iraq for many years to come, despite the appalling lack of political progress there ("Bush sees success in Iraq," Sept. 14).
The costs of the Iraq war have been enormous - about half a trillion dollars so far after four years of war.
With this colossal amount of money, we could have done much better.
We could have invested it abroad and squelched the AIDS epidemic.
We could have used it to ensure that every American had access to health care.
We could have solved our energy and pollution problems. We could have invested in Third World economies to make them wealthier.
We could have invested the money in our schools and created the best education system in the history of humanity.
But we did not do any of that. Instead, we squandered the money on a war that has yielded nothing.
The chances of any kind of success if we stay in Iraq are pathetically small.
We need to end the war as soon as possible and put our resources to productive uses instead.
Send troop 'surge' to Pakistan instead?
In his Thursday night televised speech, President Bush said, "The success of a free Iraq is critical to the security of the United States. A free Iraq will deny al-Qaida a safe haven" ("Bush sees success in Iraq," Sept. 14)
So, Mr. President, what about Pakistan?
Mr. Bush has described Pakistan as an important partner in the war on terror. And yet a recent National Intelligence Estimate found that al-Qaida is gaining strength in part because it is operating freely out of safe havens in Pakistan.
So why aren't we sending a troop surge to Pakistan, Mr. President?
Hemorrhages cause more mothers to die
The Sun's article "Vitamin D protects during pregnancy" (Sept. 8), which discussed the relationship between vitamin D deficiency and pre-eclampsia, stated that eclampsia causes "as many as 70 percent of [maternal] deaths in developing countries."
In fact, the World Health Organization's 2006 analysis of causes of death showed that "hypertensive disease," i.e., diseases characterized by high blood pressure, of which eclampsia is one, results in 9.1 percent of maternal deaths in Africa and Asia, 25.7 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean and 10 percent globally.
So while eclampsia and other hypertensive diseases do play a part in the more than 500,000 maternal deaths each year, they do not account for 70 percent of these deaths.
Moreover, we should not lose sight of the major killer of women in childbirth - hemorrhages, especially postpartum hemorrhages.
Hemorrhages cause 33.9 percent of maternal deaths in Africa, 30.8 percent in Asia, 20.8 percent in Latin America and 31 percent globally.
The writer is director of maternal and newborn health at JHPIEGO, an international public health organization affiliated with the Johns Hopkins University.
Phony moderation won't settle debate
Rachel Graves claims to be a moderate, drowned out in the debate between the National Rifle Association and the Brady Campaign ("Rhetorical din on guns drowns out moderates," Opinion
Commentary, Sept. 9). It's funny, then, that her moderate solutions seem to parrot the Brady Campaign's agenda.
Is this the latest tactic of the anti-gun camp - to pretend to be the disenfranchised middle?
Here's a hint: If you want a compromise, you must offer something to both sides.
"Still supporting hunting" and not "putting gun companies out of business" aren't what gun owners want.
Laws that endorse the Castle Doctrine and establish national recognition for state-issued concealed carry permits are what many gun owners want.
Find the funding to cool all schools
I read the recent letter about the sweatshops some Baltimore County schools represent, and I have to say the writer is on the money ("Some local schools the real sweatshops," Sept. 12)
I work at a school with no air conditioning, and it is absolutely miserable on hot days. There is little air circulating at all, even with the small fans the teachers provide, and the kids and staff swelter.
Surely the county can find some money to help us cool off - especially as salary raises for the county's upper-echelon officers have been so lavish.
Until you have seen students dragging about the halls with scarlet faces and young, pregnant teachers with painfully swollen feet and hands sweating in their classrooms, you haven't seen the entire picture.
Come on, county officials, help us out a little: Air-condition all county schools by June.
The writer is a special-education para-educator for the Baltimore County public schools.