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The Baltimore Sun

Huckabee, Obama haven't won yet

I saw The Sun's huge headline on Friday: "Huckabee, Obama win" (Jan. 4). Of course, all they won was the Iowa caucuses, but you'd think they were the only two choices left for president next fall.

It is high time that this country had a nationally mandated single day for primaries and caucuses for all states.

I have nothing specific against the people of Iowa. But there is no reason that perfectly good candidates for office should have to give up if they somehow fail to excite the people of Iowa and New Hampshire.

While we're at it, there must be some way to limit fundraising and campaigning to the last four months before an election.

We should have no ads, no political fundraisers calling day and night, until July. Then we should have the primaries in early September and the general election in November.

Then we and the candidates could get on with our lives instead of being subjected to two solid years of speculating pundits, candidates jockeying for position and a desperate scramble for money before each presidential election.

Carl Aron


Small-state focus excludes most voters

I'm so glad The Sun's editors have decided who is a worthy candidate and who is not ("A careful screening," editorial, Jan. 3).

The rest of us can now relax, since the editors have saved us from the candidates unworthy of serious consideration.

The Sun had assistance from the major political parties, which have colluded so that two states with small, monolithic populations can vote first.

Candidates who get poor results in these two states - which represent a tiny fraction of all registered voters - often drop out, thus limiting the choice for the great majority of the nation's voters.

As much as the United States claims to defend free and open elections, this two-party system smells just as bad as many dictatorships do.

Only through aggressive action against the parties will millions of Americans ever get the opportunity to vote for the candidate of their choice in a free and open primary election.

Mark E. Rifkin


Fuzzy math inflates sales tax increase

I am appalled at the "new math" employed by the state of Maryland in calculating the 20 percent increase in sales tax that just took effect.

The Sun's article "Sales tax rise a pain in the cash register" (Jan. 2) reported that the state comptroller's office sent a tax rate chart that lists the new sales tax, and gave an example of a pack of chewing gum - "Chewing gum between 51 cents and 66 cents will now take a 4-cent tax."

Six percent of 51 cents is 3.06 cents. The normal math rounding rule is to round to the nearest whole number, which would make the tax on this 51-cent pack of gum 3 cents.

At 4 cents of tax, the effective tax rate is almost 8 percent, which is twice the 20 percent increase that passed in the special, hurry-up session last year.

If this is how the comptroller's office does math, it's no wonder the state budget has problems.

Douglas Dribben


Democrats get dose of own medicine

I simply can't understand why The Sun ("Much ado about little," editorial, Jan. 2) and the Democrats are so upset with the GOP lawsuit against Maryland's tax hikes ("Filing details GOP's claim," Jan. 1).

No one can deny that deliberate obstructionism was practiced time after time by the Democrats during former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s tenure.

I'd say the Republicans learned their lesson well and are putting it to good use by trying to quell the unnecessary $1.3 billion in tax increases passed by our tax-and-spend Democratic leaders.

Gail Householder


Public must know about sewage spills

Sometimes good news still stinks ("Md. sewage spills have ebbed with drought," Jan. 2).

One case in point: When the Maryland Department of the Environment reports that only 24 million gallons of untreated sewage spilled into our rivers and streams between January and September of last year, that was a lot better than the 352 million gallons that spilled in 2003, but still enough sewage to fill 40 Olympic-size swimming pools.

Who can we thank for this reduction? Not anyone here on Earth.

Sewage spills are down mostly because it hasn't rained much. But droughts end. And when this one does, sewage will once again pour into our water - unless we act now.

We need to start investing in our water infrastructure, and we need tougher public notification laws so we all know just what's in our water.

Right now, Congress is considering the Raw Sewage Overflow Community Right-to-Know Act, which would require the public to be alerted in the event of a sewage spill.

It's common-sense legislation, but disappointingly, only three of Maryland's eight representatives and one senator have signed on as co-sponsors.

When we finally know just what's in our water, voters will demand that their civic leaders clean it up.

When that happens, we'll all have some good news, and we won't even have to hold our noses.

Katherine Baer


The writer is director of the Healthy Waters Campaign for American Rivers.

Missing fathers hurt many black families

The Sun's editorial "Reverse course" (Dec. 31) implies that more programs and efforts - presumably run by the government - are what's needed to ensure the success of black families. But the missing ingredient here is often father.

The Brookings Institution report cited in the editorial indicates that women head a greater proportion of black families than of households of other demographic groups.

When half of the adult black family is often missing, it should not be a surprise that black middle-class families are losing economic ground.

Until black males accept their family responsibilities, many black families will continue to stagnate economically.

We certainly don't lack for government-sponsored wealth redistribution and assistance programs.

But this is really all about individual responsibility.

Craig R. Piette


Treatment can cure city's murder plague

The letter from a former president of the Tuscany-Canterbury Neighborhood Association seems cold-hearted ("Few city dwellers face murder danger," Dec. 26). But there is an element of truth in it.

Police statistics show that most of the city's murder victims and suspected assailants have criminal records. The criminal element is essentially eliminating itself.

Fortunately, few other citizens and businesses have been victims.

Unfortunately, however, that means that few citizens are concerned about curing the basic problem by creating enough drug-treatment slots to get all the addicts into treatment at once.

Fewer addicts would mean fewer dealers and fewer murders.

Harry Bennett Jr.


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