Public financing can curb corruption
State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller's recent announcement that he will support a ban on holding fundraisers during special legislative sessions should be seen as what it truly is: a fig leaf to conceal his staunch opposition to real reform of Maryland's campaign finance system ("Fundraising may see tighter limit," Jan. 23).
In 2006, the House of Delegates passed the bill that would have made Maryland the fourth state in the nation with a publicly funded alternative to the status quo for viable candidates for the General Assembly.
But the legislation lost on the floor of the Senate by one vote last April, primarily as a result of the vehement opposition of one man: the Senate president.
The public views the current campaign finance system as a giant influence-buying scandal, and too often it is right.
Taking baby steps to fix that may grab headlines, but the Senate president should not be allowed to avoid the real issue: the urgent need to pass public campaign finance legislation this year so that viable candidates for the General Assembly have the option of not becoming indebted to big donors.
Maryland deserves no less.
The writer is Baltimore region director for Progressive Maryland.
Obama has backed rights of consumers
I was very disappointed to see that Jay Hancock's column regarding Sen. Barack Obama's campaign contributions from Exelon Corp. virtually ignores his long record as a champion on consumer and environmental issues ("Obama's Exelon ties merit close look," Jan. 25).
Yes, Mr. Obama has taken a lot of money from Exelon, and yes, it is fair to raise questions regarding whether contributions buy influence. However, it is extremely unfair to assume, as Mr. Hancock does, that the contributions automatically buy such influence.
Mr. Obama's record in Illinois indicates that he is influenced by his core principles and beliefs in protecting consumers from powerful corporate interests. Moreover, those of us who have worked with him know this is true from personal experience.
Mr. Hancock is correct that consumers need strong regulation to protect them from the market risks associated with electricity.
Exelon has been fighting for more deregulation to allow the company to make higher profits on its generation, and we need a president who will stand up for consumers.
As a leader in the consumer and environmental communities in Illinois, I am absolutely certain that Mr. Obama will be that president.
The writer is president of the Illinois Environmental Council.
Oust the old guard to change capital
So now we have it on great authority that it is time for Sen. Barack Obama to be president, as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy says he "will be ready on day one" ("Kennedy backs Obama," Jan. 29)
Not that anyone should take Mr. Kennedy's word for anything, but if it is time for a real change, Mr. Kennedy and all the other veteran senators and representatives should be willing to leave their offices.
Let's really change Washington and vote out all incumbents who have been in office for more than 10 years.
A stimulus package for city children?
Am I supposed to feel sorry for the poor taxpayers who are salivating over the proposed $600, $1,200 or more (depending on the number of children one have) tax rebates, but resent paying poor city children $25, $35, $50 or $110 to help ensure that they graduate from high school ("Which student reward is best?" Jan. 28)?
Maybe we should call the idea of paying students for improving their test scores an economic stimulus package for disadvantaged youths.
Gaza reaps fruits of its own violence
Bassam Aramin's column "End the occupation - and get justice for its victims" (Opinion
Commentary, Jan. 24) was wonderful. But where did it mention the reason for the Gaza border closing - the rockets fired from Gaza into Israel?
If the Gazans want peace and prosperity, maybe they should consider beating their rocket launchers into plowshares.
The old adage still applies: "As you sow, so shall ye reap."
Surgeons don't need to practice on pigs
I applaud actor James Cromwell for speaking out against the Johns Hopkins University's pig lab ("Hopkins, put that pig down!" Jan. 23).
As a physician, I know that there is no need for medical students to practice surgical skills on live animals.
More and more surgeons-in-training are relying on non-animal methods to hone their skills, using state-of-the-art innovations such as box trainers, virtual reality simulators, life-like human patient simulators and even cadavers.
These are the modern and sophisticated types of training people should come to expect from medical education in the 21st century.
I graduated from medical school without ever participating in a live animal lab, and that has in no way affected my ability to take care of my human patients. Students at Johns Hopkins should be able to do the same thing.
Humane teaching tools can help these students become doctors while preserving the compassion and empathy that brought them to medicine in the first place.
Dr. Patrice Green
Repeal unfair tax on tech services
The new computer services tax will generate approximately $200 million in revenue ("O'Malley to look at computer tax impact," Jan. 23). But as a computer technician and a small-business owner, I know this tax will be passed on to all of my customers.
And I think that introducing a bill at 12:30 a.m. during a Saturday night legislative session is a sneaky way to tax Marylanders.
How can Maryland computer businesses compete with those in other states when we have to add 6 percent tax to the bill?
Why is the computer industry the only one being targeted for a sales tax on services? And what industry will next be taxed in the middle of the night?
We have to act now to repeal this tax.
J. Gary Middlebrooks
The writer is a member of the Republican State Central Committee for Anne Arundel County.
Finding good news in Bush's address
Reading about Monday night's State of the Union speech in The Sun, it strikes me that we should be thankful for at least one small thing: President Bush did not announce a plan to go to war with Iran ("In final agenda, a turn homeward," Jan. 29).
That was the major positive thing in the president's final State of the Union speech.
And I hope we get through another 12 months without Mr. Bush going to war with Iran.