There is more to the letter and rope issue that needs to be addressed than was aired in "Firehouse incident with noose was a hoax" (Dec. 2).

The morning of the incident, it was being characterized as a hate crime by the leaders of the local branch of the NAACP, the Vulcan Blazers and Mayor Sheila Dixon ("Note, rope trigger probes," Nov. 22) .


But now that a black member of the Baltimore Fire Department has confessed to planting the noose, the matter is relegated to a "hoax," which will prompt no charges.

Along with this, Marvin L. "Doc" Cheatham, president of the Baltimore branch of the NAACP, and Vulcan Blazers President Henry Burris were saying that there was racism in the city Fire Department.


Mr. Cheatham went so far as to demand that the City Council introduce an "emergency resolution" condemning this hate crime.

Both of these men placed the members of the 25th Street firehouse at great risk with their vitriol.

The job of a firefighter is dangerous enough without having to look over your shoulder because of false accusations.

Mayor Dixon needs to address the community served by this firehouse and the entire city and let them know that our department may have some issues to deal with but that racism is not one of them. And that the men and women in that firehouse have been absolved of any wrongdoing and are dedicated individuals who, when the gong goes off, don't care about the color of the skin of the person in need and will show up and give them the care that is expected.

Michael Campbell


The writer is second vice president of Baltimore Fire Officers Local No. 964.

Noose incident more than a 'hoax'


As usual, The Sun has chosen to downplay a particularly unpalatable event through its headline ("Firehouse incident with noose was a hoax," Dec. 2).

Racial tensions continue to polarize our nation in general and our city in particular. We are still trying to digest and deal with incidents regarding Tawana Brawley, the Duke lacrosse team and the brutal beating of Zach Sowers.

Webster's dictionary defines hoax as a "playful joke." Nothing regarding this situation was either playful or funny.

It was an intentional, deliberate, inflammatory act of racism - and the whole situation remains quite a bitter pill to swallow no matter how much sugarcoating is applied.

Sally Miller



When is a threat not really a threat?

The third sentence of The Sun's article "Firehouse incident with noose was a hoax" (Dec. 2) said: "Sterling Clifford, a spokesman for the Police Department and for Mayor Sheila Dixon, said the man admitted to the hoax and will not face criminal charges."

For confused white people like me, could The Sun please write an article that explains when leaving a threatening note with a noose is a crime, and when it isn't?

It looks to me like it's treated as a crime when a white person does it but not when a black person does it.

Bill Scanlon

Ellicott City


Corporate tax hike drives jobs away

Recent tax hikes will eliminate a dozen high-tech jobs in my company - jobs with salaries approaching $150,000 ("O'Malley's risks not over," Nov. 20).

The 18 percent increase in the state's corporate tax rate will increase our state tax bill from $4.2 million to nearly $5 million. So we'll export five jobs out of state and eliminate plans to hire seven Marylanders.

Since Baltimore County receives just a fraction of the taxes that additional businesses and residents pay the state, I doubt that the tax hikes will cause meaningful improvements in teacher-student ratios, traffic congestion or public safety.

More money for the state will likely produce expanded funding for special interests, which will fuel political donations and increase incumbents' chances of re-election.

Steve Whisler



The writer is vice president of the Eastern division of an information technology firm.

Guns no defense against tyranny

Some arguments prove too much. Take, for example, the one that the Second Amendment was intended to arm individual citizens because those "who are armed have a louder voice" ("Armed citizens limit government power," Nov. 30).

Let us put aside the idea that an armed individual, even in 1791, as the Bill of Rights became effective, was able to make a revolution against the federal government. That's ludicrous.

Here is the real problem with the argument. If muskets and powder horns were effective weapons against King George, they are not effective weapons against a government today. Nor is an AK-47 or M-16.


What you would need is fighter-bombers with heat-seeking missiles, tanks, spy satellites and a whole raft of other stuff.

Do the claimants for finding individual rights to bear arms in the Second Amendment claim a private right to own an M1A1 tank or an F-16?

If not, then their claim that an individual right to own guns can be based on the need to limit government power fails.

Philip L. Marcus


Elitism is no cure for education woes


Elitist rhetoric doesn't do anyone any good. But unfortunately, it was the core of Thomas Sowell's column "Expanding college opportunities can diminish learning environment" (Opinion

Commentary, Nov. 28).

Our nation's system of higher education was built on an important public policy consensus - investment in students is good for everyone. This thinking has been the basis for such successful programs as the GI bill and Pell Grants.

Unfortunately, over the decades, many of these crucial supports have eroded and working families' access to college has declined significantly.

Today, what Americans need is greater access to a college education - not less.

Mr. Sowell may not like what that implies for the make-up of one of his classes. He should not, however, try to mislead the rest of us with his inaccurate predictions.


Edward J. McElroy


The writer is president of the American Federation of Teachers.

All soldiers deserve honor for sacrifices

One good reason to honor soldiers from a former foe is that soldiers from all countries should be honored ("Why honor soldiers from world war foe?" letters, Nov. 23).

Soldiers don't make war, governments do - all kinds of governments, from rogue ones such as the Nazis to inept ones such as the U.S. government that attacked Iraq.


Governments decide on war; soldiers do the tough job of fighting, even the ones who do not agree with their leaders.

Soldiers are the ones who do the fighting, the dying, the suffering; they and their families pay the price for war.

Honoring soldiers from a former enemy country is a noble thing for the U.S. to do.

Elke Straub