The Baltimore Sun

Why parrot attacks of right-wing groups?

Sunday's article "U.S. courts due for left turn with Obama" (Dec. 7) ends up quoting responses from representatives of no less than three right-wing think tanks.

The Cato Institute was first funded by the wealthy Charles Koch to defend free-market and libertarian principles. The right-wing Alliance Defense Fund was established to serve as a counterweight to the American Civil Liberties Union. And finally the article refers to the positions of the American Center for Law and Justice, which was established by a conservative preacher, the Rev. Pat Robertson.

Nowhere is a progressive critique presented of the 4th Circuit's record discussed in the article - including voiding the Violence Against Women Act, declaring that the Food and Drug Administration could not regulate nicotine as a drug, allowing the Virginia Military Institute to block women's admission, etc.

Instead, we hear from the right-wing think tanks that were established and well-financed specifically to influence public discourse.

This is like turning to a news channel only to find the coverage is constantly interrupted by paid commercials, in this case ones bought by the right wing through its think tanks.

But they cannot take over public discourse unless we allow them to. And why should we?

Drew Leder, Baltimore

The writer is a professor of philosophy at Loyola College.

Many teachers unions completely voluntary

After reading Tom Neumark's column "Free Maryland teachers from unions" (Commentary, Dec. 9), I must point out that his complaint against teachers unions is based on an inaccurate generalization that weakens the overall point Mr. Neumark is trying to make.

"Representation fees," which are also known as "agency fee provisions," exist only in some counties in Maryland. There is no state law that compels counties to impose them on teachers.

Many counties, including Mr. Neumark's own Frederick County, do not have an agency fee.

In fact, the small minority of teachers who opt out of participation in the Frederick County Teachers Association receive the benefits of the contract without paying a dime to the union.

Every member of the Frederick County Teachers Association voluntarily belongs to the association and agrees, without coercion, to pay the dues necessary to run our organization.

Gary Brennan, Frederick

The writer is president of the Frederick County Teachers Association.

Legislators missed a chance to save lives

Last year, Maryland legislators once again failed to pass a law prohibiting the use of cell phones while driving ("Driving while using a cell phone found to quadruple crash risk," Dec. 5).

What really needs to be done is change the legislation in question into a law that prohibits all forms of "inattentive driving."

This would include all cell phone use, including text messaging, as well as reading newspapers and magazines, putting on make-up, listening to loud music and even having an intense conversation with fellow passengers while driving.

I firmly believe that the state legislators bear full responsibility for all those accidents involving inattentive drivers that kill or maim and injure other innocent divers.

Their failure to act on this simple issue is a direct indication that they are incompetent to serve.

William J. Orsi, Ellicott City

New health rules violate no rights

The writer of the letter "Medical conscience rule will limit access to care" (Dec. 3) opposes the Bush administration's attempt to "push a 'right of conscience' rule" that would allow health care workers to refuse to participate in treatments they find morally objectionable.

For 30 years, federal law has protected doctors and nurses who refuse to perform abortions. The new rule would simply protect health care workers who could otherwise be forced to violate their consciences by providing information about abortion to patients.

Abortion, in fact, is not a "treatment" for anything. It is the deliberate taking of a human life.

Nothing in this proposed regulation would prevent a woman from obtaining an abortion, and no one's rights would be taken away.

Karen Kirychuk, Pasadena

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