LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

The Baltimore Sun

Boomers contribute to nation's wealth

If columnist Jay Hancock really wants to have an honest discussion about our nation's current fiscal mess, let's start with the facts ("Boomers planting a debt bomb," April 30).

American workers and taxpayers who are between 44 and 62 years old (the baby boomers) didn't create our current budget crisis; the Bush administration and its allies in Congress did that.

President Bush inherited a budget surplus and a Social Security trust fund built up in preparation for baby boomers' retirements.

Now, after billions in tax cuts for the wealthy, an underfunded war in Iraq and six years of a Republican-led Congress following the president's "borrow and spend" lead, we face a record national debt and budget deficit.

Americans of all ages should be outraged at this squandering of our fiscal resources.

However, rather than put the blame where it truly belongs, Mr. Hancock rehashed the administration's generational divide-and-conquer strategy.

This divisive "greedy geezer" myth is just that - a myth. American workers, most of them baby boomers, have contributed $2 trillion to the Social Security trust fund in the past two decades, leading to a $190 billion surplus.

Without these baby boomer contributions, our debt picture would be even worse.

So don't blame the boomers or Social Security for the fiscal damage done by this administration.

Barbara B. Kennelly, Washington

The writer is a former member of Congress and current president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

Bad wiring simply obscene way to die

There can be no comfort in knowing your child was electrocuted while bathing in a shower constructed by "poorly trained Iraqis and Afghans paid just a few dollars a day" ("Faulty wiring killing U.S. soldiers in Iraq," May 4), especially when the job was contracted to KBR - a former subsidiary of Halliburton, which is making billions from the military.

To have your child die honorably in the war is one thing, but this is obscene.

Bobbi Casparriello, Baltimore

Silence tolerates rights violations

Sister Joan Serda is absolutely correct when she says that most Americans have given a collective yawn over the White House's authorization of the use of torture ("Where's the outrage over use of torture?" letters, May 3).

However, some of us here in Baltimore have been objecting for years. For instance, I stand every first Thursday at Charles and Centre streets dressed as the famous photo of the Abu Ghraib prisoner on a box to remind those passing of just what this government is doing to other human beings.

And several of us from the Pledge of Resistance Baltimore, along with others from around the country, entered the Supreme Court on Jan. 11 to bring the names of Guantanamo prisoners, who have never been charged or brought to trial, to the highest court in the land.

For daring to speak their names inside the Supreme Court, we face trial at the end of May.

I have never been as ashamed of my country as I am over its willingness to imprison without charge and torture with impunity.

To be silent about this is to be complicit in crimes against humanity.

Maria Allwine, Baltimore

Mall has become center of Columbia

I find it curious that in The Sun's editorial concerning Columbia ("A new town center?" May 1) and in recent articles about the plans for the so-called town center ("Town aims to redraw its core," April 28), little mention was made of the plight of hundreds of young and old area residents who have made the Mall in Columbia their source for art, culture and socialization and of how absurd this is in a community that prides itself on its excellent resources.

With all due respect to James W. Rouse and his magnificent vision, Columbia is, and likely will always be, little more than a mall surrounded by suburban housing.

As is typical in such an environment, the mall has become the de facto center of area life.

Columbia and the region would be better served if Howard County and the state invested in comprehensive transportation plans that afforded area residents frequent and constant access to real urban centers in Baltimore and perhaps Washington.

It is especially important that young people get out of the mall and experience the larger world that awaits them.

Likewise, it is critical for residents in the urban core to have better access to all the service jobs that have moved to Columbia and other suburbs.

Carl Hyman, Baltimore

Don't blame police for doing hard duty

Once again, the police are being criticized for their handling of a mental health crisis, and once again it is an unfair criticism ("Outcry over police shooting," May 2).

While my sympathies go out to the family of the woman in Columbia who was shot, the facts are that she had a knife in her hands and she lunged at the officer.

A knife is a lethal weapon, and a person who is near an officer with one can move quickly enough to cause fatal injury with the knife before the officer can get off a shot.

This has been proved in numerous studies and field training, and is why officers are trained to "shoot at mass" when threatened with a knife.

The dead woman's husband admitted that the subject had mental health issues and was suffering from hallucinations but said he doesn't understand why the officers shot her.

However, the woman easily could have slashed bystanders, her daughter or the officers and caused them to bleed to death.

The officers have a very difficult job, put their lives on the line, and don't deserve criticism in this case.

It is a tragedy, but don't blame the police.

Susan O'Connell, Baltimore

The writer's husband is a member of a local police force.

Use of deadly force protects onlookers

In the article "Outcry over police shooting" (May 2), Bobby Harris asks if wielding a knife at a police officer warrants shooting a 62-year-old woman. The answer is yes.

The right to use deadly force is granted to police officers when a person is believed to be an immediate danger to the people around him or her. The suspect in this case threatened and lunged at the officers with a knife.

Police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving.

One could make the argument that if the officers had been carrying Tasers, they could have used those first. However, neither officer had a Taser at the time of the shooting.

The only overreaction in this case was by the husband of the woman who was shot.

Matt Michels, Owings Mills

Play details dangers the workers faced

Sun theater critic Mary Carole McCauley would do well to do some fact-checking regarding the context of the new Center Stage production These Shining Lives before she posits the unlikely scenario of a company that "deliberately sets out to murder its workers" ("'Lives' takes up cause of workers," May 3).

While the company's underlying motive certainly was not murder but profits from the radium-painted watch faces it manufactured, the play takes place well into the second decade of deceit surrounding the growing body of evidence of health harm related to radium exposure.

"When did company officials know ... their paint was a hazard?" Ms. McCauley writes.

It knew years before and during the more than 10-year arc of this play.

In the play, this point is portrayed to the audience through a discussion of the high pay (especially for women's work) that the workers enjoyed as well as in the increasing discomfort the workers' immediate supervisor displays when he is confronted by his sickly work force.

Dr. Melissa A. McDiarmid, Baltimore

The writer is director of the University of Maryland School of Medicine's Occupational Health Program.

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