The Baltimore Sun

Real ID offers real protection

In her column "Real ID, real problem" (Commentary, June 17), Cynthia Boersma, the legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, rattles off the standard rhetoric against secure identification programs.

She claims that the Real ID program calls for "a national ID card" and that it will involve "huge costs of time and money" and leave us with "less, not more, security."

She conveniently fails to mention that the Real ID program - in addition to being a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission - was approved by Congress.

Rather than a federal mandate, the law is simply a set of minimum security standards that states must meet for their licenses to be used to board commercial aircraft or enter federal facilities.

States are in no way required to comply with those standards.

Another empty argument is that Real ID will increase identity theft and reduce personal privacy.

Information provided to state motor vehicle departments will receive greater protection under Real ID than is currently required by federal or state law. And secure licenses are harder to forge.

So Real ID, in fact, will provide real protection from identity theft.

And, in fact, all 56 U.S. states and territories have been granted extensions to meet the law's standards and are taking steps to meet its initial requirements.

This is in line with the views of the majority of Americans - some 82 percent - who favor secure identification.

Stewart Baker, Washington

The writer is an assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Scandal distracts from Dixon's work

Finally we have a mayor who loves the city and her job as much as former Mayor Clarence "Du" Burns did and, before him, William Donald Schaefer once did - one who gets things done and is out there involving herself in the city. Then what happens? A scandal ("More subpoenas in Dixon probe," June 19).

But how did any of us get hurt by Mayor Sheila Dixon's sister having a job with a city contractor?

We did not get hurt.

But in countless ways, every day, every one of us is helped by Ms. Dixon.

Yet The S un is loving this whole business because "scandal" supposedly sells papers.

Linda C. Franklin, Baltimore

Routine patronage poisons city politics

When Del. Curtis S. Anderson says Baltimore has been a patronage town for years, he is so right ("Inquiry threatens Dixon's momentum," June 18). But when he uses that as an excuse for Mayor Sheila Dixon's ethical violations, he shows what is really wrong with Baltimore.

Until the voters stop voting for the one-party machine in this city and start voting for independent candidates, our budget will continue to fall short of funding programs we desperately need, such as Peer-to-Peer Youth Enterprises and transportation initiatives.

Until voters connect the corruption of our elected officials to the misery in this city and throw many of our alleged public servants out permanently, Baltimore's systemic problems will never change.

Maria Allwine, Baltimore

The writer is chairwoman of the Maryland Green Party.

Fair must provide a forum for speech

The Maryland State Fair is a quasi-public institution that has in the past received significant financial support from the state and hopes to receive more in the future, particularly if slot machines are legalized ("Slots an issue at fair," June 16).

In seeking and receiving taxpayer support, it has surely assumed some obligation to respect the free speech rights of citizens.

I do not believe it should be allowed to practice censorship by denying a booth to an anti-slots group.

The fair manager's suggestion that the group would only be permitted a booth if a pro-slots group also wanted one would effectively give slots supporters veto power: They have only to say they don't want a booth and the slots opponents are denied one.

Katharine W. Rylaarsdam, Baltimore

Need to fight slots in every forum

The Maryland State Fair management should surely not be allowed to pick and choose who can rent a booth at the fair ("Slots an issue at fair," June 16).

In this case, the issue is the Nov. 4 referendum asking Marylanders to vote on an amendment to the state constitution about legalizing slots casinos across the state.

The well-known adverse effects of big-time slots gambling in other states give us legitimate reason to oppose the referendum in every public forum.

Just ask New Jersey residents how much slots casinos have reduced their taxes and improved their quality of life.

Dave Thompson, Elkton

The writer is Cecil County chairman for Stop Slots Maryland.

Poster program deters drug use

While I totally agree with The Sun's concern about politicians using taxpayer-funded programs to promote themselves, I think using Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger and the state's attorney's office's anti-drug poster contest as an example of this is way off base ("Just say Shellenberger," editorial, June 16).

I've had the good fortune to be involved with this program for nearly 20 years and I can honestly say it is one of the most successful and positive programs Baltimore County has ever conducted. Thousands of middle-school students have participated in this poster contest and put into poster form their anti-drug messages to their peers.

This is exactly the type of program we need to help reinforce our message that kids should be alcohol-, tobacco- and drug-free.

This program started under former Baltimore County State's Attorney Sandra A. O'Connor. And to his credit, it has continued under the current state's attorney, Mr. Shellenberger.

If Mr. Shellenberger were one of the politicians looking for free press, he would have started his own program. But he cared enough about the kids to support a program that works.

Mike Gimbel, Timonium

The writer is a former director of Baltimore County's Office of Substance Abuse.

Courts must check power to imprison

The writers of the letters "Justices usurp president's power" and "Need one more conservative judge" (June 17) seem to overlook that the prisoners in question are suspects.

The men held on U.S. property at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are suspected of being terrorists or "illegal enemy combatants."

The Bush administration's circular logic is that anyone it deems an illegal enemy combatant is therefore not eligible to question the legality of his or her own detention.

President Bush has reserved for the executive branch the authority to determine who is an illegal enemy combatant, and that includes U.S. citizens.

The basic protection of habeas corpus rights assures us that the president must operate within the law. We lose our moral bearings if he is allowed to imprison people without charge at his whim.

David Schwartz, Baltimore

Old doors open new era at BMA

My check is literally in the mail to the Baltimore Museum of Art now that it has announced its intention to reopen the original entrance ("BMA announces fundraising campaign," June 16).

Just as years ago I honored my vow to restore my membership when the original frames were reinstalled on the Cone Collection treasures, I once again, joyfully, will become a museum member in celebration of this reopening.

I clearly remember the first time I visited the museum, more than 40 years ago, climbing the grand stairs and being awed as I crossed the threshold into this breathtaking John Russell Pope-designed masterpiece.

And I very much look forward to making a brand new memory.

Donna Beth Joy Shapiro, Baltimore

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