LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

The Baltimore Sun

State a bigger threat to security of data

The Sun's editorial criticizing businesses for data security breaches overlooked several important facts ("Protecting private data," March 28).

One of these facts is that much of Maryland's business community has recognized the need to strengthen state laws regarding the handling of the private data of customers and therefore supported enactment of the Personal Information Protection Act of 2007.

The new law sets reasonable standards for maintaining data security, as well as notifying customers in the event of a data security breach.

However, the law left out one of the biggest sources of personal data security breaches - government.

Within the past year, The Sun has reported on a stolen laptop at the Baltimore County Health Department ("Computer containing personal data stolen," April 25, 2007), a lost miniature data drive at the Department of Natural Resources ("DNR names, SSN on lost data drive," May 4, 2007) and a stolen laptop at the Department of the Environment ("State laptop containing personal data is stolen," Aug. 31, 2007).

Businesses are already highly motivated to maintain their customers' personal data.

A data breach will cause a loss of goodwill and customers, a huge expense to investigate and remedy the breach and possible fines from the state attorney general's office.

Government, by contrast, faces no sanctions when it loses your private data.

And you can't take your government business elsewhere.

Rather than requiring more penalties for businesses, wouldn't it be a novel approach for state government to abide by the laws that it imposes on the private sector?

Kathy Snyder

Annapolis

The writer is president and CEO of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.

Democracy debased by elitist approach

Tim Hackler's column "Democracy isn't for everybody" (Commentary, March 31) raises a much more fundamental question than whether Alexander Hamilton's view of democracy was more right than Thomas Jefferson's view. What we should really be asking is whether America is a real democracy or not.

Vice President Dick Cheney seems to know the answer when he displays an arrogant contempt for the will of the people ("Poll positions," Commentary, April 1).

President Bush certainly knows the answer. That's why he has called himself "the decider."

The Supreme Court knows the answer, as it has ruled that money is a form of free speech, which legitimizes the totally undemocratic institution of lobbying and sets the stage for our lawmakers to be controlled by special interests.

Or just think back to the 2000 presidential election, and remember how a popular-vote plurality for one candidate was overturned by the anti-democratic Electoral College procedure, which unfairly over-represents lightly populated states that just happen generally to vote Republican.

And this is the brand of government that we are foisting on others?

Dennis Kaplan

Baltimore

More of the same is no solution for Iraq

It is fascinating that, in the shadow of Vice President Dick Cheney's recent expression of disinterest in the opposition of a large majority of Americans to the continuing occupation of Iraq, Kathleen Parker happily promotes the view of an Iraqi journalist that many Iraqis hope for a John McCain presidency so that the occupation of Iraq can continue ("Iraqi journalist wants McCain to finish the job," Commentary, April 1).

Apparently democracy is a principle some conservatives believe in only if the people want what conservatives want.

But the sad truth is that the invasion of Iraq was a disaster from the beginning. People such as Ms. Parker, who have believed that victory is just around the corner for years, are naive at best.

The solution will be difficult. But it's clear that continuing to dig the same hole will not get us out of it.

David Schwartz

Baltimore

Good schools boost area property values

Homeowners in Baltimore County should pay attention to the teachers' current struggle with County Executive James T. Smith Jr. over a meager pay increase, whether or not they have school-age children ("Teachers rally for pay raise," April 2).

It is in property owners' best interest to encourage Mr. Smith to keep public school teachers' salaries competitive.

High rates of teacher turnover can cause property values to drop, and at this time in our economy, none of us can afford that.

Joyce Caldwell

Nottingham

The writer is a librarian for the Baltimore County schools.

Administration adds to Head Start funds

The editorial "Killing Head Start softly" (March 25) asserted that Head Start has experienced a decline in federal support. That is not accurate.

President Bush's proposed budget for fiscal year 2009 does not advocate any cuts. It actually increases funding for Head Start by $149 million.

Additionally, from 2001 through 2008, the Head Start budget has increased by $680 million while enrollment has remained steady - a trend we expect to continue.

In the last 17 years, federal support has increased for Head start children from $2,869 to $7,326 per child - a 155 percent increase.

If President Bush's 2009 budget proposal is accepted by Congress, Head Start will be funded at its highest level yet.

Those numbers certainly indicate that Head Start is "a top priority" in this administration - a fact that the thousands of children who benefit from Head Start programs experience daily.

Daniel Schneider

Washington

The writer is an acting assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Screen all patients for oral cancer

I applaud The Sun for highlighting oral cancer in Thursday's edition.

But I would like to emphasize a point that may not have been evident to readers of the feature "Ask the expert - Oral cancer" (April 3): that early detection is one of the key ways to prolong the lives of those diagnosed with oral cancer.

Patients should routinely receive an oral cancer screening from their dentist and dental hygienist.

Many patients with no risk factors develop oral cancer; therefore, all patients must be screened thoroughly by their oral health care providers on a regular basis.

Jacquelyn L. Fried

Baltimore

The writer is a professor and director of the Division of Dental Hygiene at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry.

War protester set right example

I was sorry to read about the death of Tom Lewis, a Vietnam War protester I admired ("Activist and artist known as one of 'Catonsville Nine,'" April 6).

Although I never met Mr. Lewis, he and eight others, members of a group called the "Catonsville Nine" made history in 1968 when, in opposition to the war, they publicly burned draft records at the offices of the U.S Selective Service in Catonsville.

At the time, I thought this protest was rather objectionable. But as the Vietnam confrontation continued, I realized that it was an unnecessary war that could never be won.

Mr. Lewis and the protesters had enough foresight to realize the shortcomings of a war that served no purpose and was distorted by our politicians and military leaders from the start.

Elizabeth McAlister, the widow of one of the members of the "Catonsville Nine," noted that Mr. Lewis "was strongly opposed [to the invasion of Iraq]. He grieved over it, like we have learned nothing from all the death and destruction in Vietnam."

Mr. Lewis was a visionary. May he rest in peace.

David Boyd

White Hall

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