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The Baltimore Sun

Bailout bill rewards bad debt choices

The Sun's editorial "Housing help" (July 24) praised the passage of the housing aid bill in Congress, describing the bill as one "that offers help for every group battered by the mortgage foreclosure crisis."

But as usual, The Sun's view of big-government bailouts is too broad, for the bill does not help "every group" affected by the current crisis. The editorial conveniently forgets the majority of Americans, who managed their finances responsibly and bought houses they could afford.

Rather than helping responsible people, Congress is attempting again to shield the irresponsible from the consequences of their actions, and the cost for such coddling will be billions in additional federal debt, which will ultimately be paid for in higher taxes on responsible, working Americans.

Someday, these costs will catch up to the American taxpayer, and there will be no more money available to bail out all those who fail to act responsibly.

Sooner or later, we responsible people will be tapped out; where, then, will the big government get the money to rescue those who refuse to take care of themselves?

Douglas Dribben, Woodstock

Vouchers subsidize sectarian schools

In his column supporting school vouchers, a pet goal of the religious school lobby, Steven Chapman spouts some familiar baloney ("On schools, Obama is enemy of change," Commentary, July 22).

Despite Mr. Chapman's argument to the contrary, there is no "public school monopoly."

We do all pay taxes for public schools, just as we do for our police departments and other public services.

But parental choice in education is not as nonexistent as Mr. Chapman implies. Parents do have a right to try to get their children admitted to non-public schools.

However, to the extent that such schools are religious, they are protected in their right to discriminate among prospective enrollees and to control what is taught in those schools.

Our public schools, on the other hand, are prohibited from engaging in discrimination, and the public, through our elected or appointed officials, controls the curriculum.

Making these schools excellent is our public responsibility, and if they are not excellent, it should our shame.

In some places, we obviously need to try harder to make them first-rate.

But why in the world should we be required to, in effect, pay the entry fee for religious or other non-public schools that serve religious or other private purposes?

Would Mr. Chapman also have us pay for somebody's private police force?

I just wish the religious school lobby and its friends were as interested in the constitutional right of the average taxpayer not to be required to subsidize religious education as in defending their own right to protection from governmental control.

Kenneth A. Stevens, Savage

Educators deserve kudos for test scores

A recent Sun article suggested that the rise in 2008 Maryland School Assessment scores for Maryland students was the result of changes to the test ("MSA changes may have raised scores," July 18).

I feel compelled to suggest that we instead celebrate the increased performance of our children and take into consideration the work of the staff at the Maryland State Department of Education and the principals and teachers in our local schools.

All of these individuals have been dedicated to providing a consistent, well-aligned curriculum for all students, tracking student progress and adjusting instruction accordingly, and creating environments where learning is a priority.

We are now seeing the results of hard work, dedication and focused efforts to increase achievement for all students.

My sincere congratulations go to state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick and her staff, our local superintendents, principals, teachers, students, families and communities who have persevered to ensure success for the children of Maryland.

Debbie Drown, Ellicott City

The writer is executive director of the Maryland Association of Elementary School Principals.

Chilly buildings still waste power

One cannot read the paper or watch the news without learning more about the energy crisis we are facing. Yet it is the middle of summer and I don't leave my house without a sweater because every public building that I enter is cold (or at least feels that way to me).

When are businesses going to take the lead in setting temperatures at reasonable levels?

I realize some people may be uncomfortable in a 75-degree setting, but setting a standard temperature in public buildings would be a big step toward reducing electricity consumption in this country.

Linda Fleischer, Columbia

Afghan war the one we really must win

When Sen. John McCain told a Baltimore audience that "I know how to win wars," he was repeating a phrase that in recent weeks has become the major theme of his campaign for the presidency ("McCain tells Md. Republicans: 'I know how to win wars,'" July 23).

I am sure that many Americans would prefer more emphasis on winning a peace, but Mr. McCain has a militant worldview.

He talks about winning in Iraq but cannot define what he means by that statement.

He has suggested a long-term American military presence in Iraq, even though Iraqi leaders and most Iraqi people want us to leave.

Meanwhile, American troops and allies are hard-pressed to subdue resurgent al-Qaida and Taliban forces in Afghanistan, the base from which the 9/11 attacks that took nearly 3,000 American lives in New York and Washington came.

Sen. Barack Obama opposed the Iraq invasion as a diversion from the task of subduing the real threat in Afghanistan, where American commanders are appealing for more troops.

Mr. Obama knows that forces committed to Iraq must be redeployed to Afghanistan to combat the real enemy.

If Mr. McCain wants a meaningful victory, Afghanistan is where he should seek it.

Raymond S. Gill, Baltimore

Leaders hiding true cost of war

The writer of the letter "Israeli mourning honors war dead" (July 22) makes an excellent point in her letter about the differing government responses in Israel and the U.S. to the return of our war dead. But I fear she is mistaken about the reasons our soldiers are brought home with no public ceremony.

I think it has nothing to do with any deficiency in our sense of respect, devotion, gratitude or soul. It has to do with the fact that our government wants to repress any awareness of the true cost of this wretched war in Iraq.

If we had seen the return of more than 4,000 bodies of our soldiers in their flag-draped caskets over the last five years on our TVs day after day, there would be considerably more vocal and persistent protest over this ill-conceived, ill-managed and unnecessary war.

Our government does not want us to feel any sacrifice being made because then we would begin to question more vociferously why this sacrifice has been made.

Joy Mandel, Catonsville

Law enforcement steps over the line

The fact that our state police have been spying on peace activists and death penalty opponents is repulsive on many levels, as well as a shameful waste of taxpayer resources ("Congress looking at police spying," July 24).

However, I have also tried to see this from a law enforcement point of view. And although they were horribly misguided, I suppose the innocent motivation behind the spying was to anticipate and be able to effectively respond to potential disruptions to law and order in our society.

The authorities involved in these indiscretions should be made aware that although their motivations may be understandable, their logic is flawed and their actions crossed over the line - way over the line.

My hope is that our law enforcement professionals eventually come to realize that, while we citizens sincerely appreciate their efforts to keep us safe, there is absolutely no appropriate role for paranoia and the invasion of our privacy in accomplishing the goal.

Jon Salkov, Baltimore

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