The Baltimore Sun

Daschle's tax failures confirm our cynicism

I just heard that our president still backs Tom Daschle for secretary of health and human services despite his late payment of more than $100,000 in taxes ("Gregg pledges balance if he takes post," Feb. 2).

The behavior of many politicians lately, including the tax avoidance of new Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Mr. Daschle, combined with the fact that so many of our politicians overlook these transgressions, only confirms the belief that many Americans have that most, if not all, politicians are crooks and that if we are depending on them to keep our country viable, our country's future is bleak.

President Barack Obama now looks like just more of the same as an ethically challenged politician.

This isn't change we can believe in.

Murray Spear, Baltimore

Now a second potential member of President Barack Obama's Cabinet has had problems with the IRS.Secretary of Health and Human Services-designate Tom Daschle has paid almost $140,000 to settle with the IRS for unpaid taxes for 2005, 2006 and 2007.

So now we may soon have two Cabinet members with income tax problems (the first is Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner). And then there is New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, whose planned appointment as commerce secretary was stopped before it got to the Senate because of an FBI investigation into the sale of bonds in New Mexico.

Apparently it must be tough to find enough honest people to fill Mr. Obama's Cabinet.

R. A. Bacigalupa, Baltimore

Steele will return GOP to its roots

Michael S. Steele has won the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, and I couldn't be happier or more encouraged ("Steele's upbeat image may be his best weapon in reshaping GOP," Feb. 1).

Mr. Steele is a great choice for chairman, and I look to him to return the GOP to the conservative foundations that enable it to win elections.

The party has lost its way over the past few years, and I now look to Mr. Steele to provide the guidance, enthusiasm and direction that is required for it to regain leadership in Washington and state government.

Robert Appleby, Monrovia

Serial criminals make city unsafe

Peter Hermann's article "If a car's near, break-in artist is on the job" (Jan. 30) describes a serial criminal, Michael D. Sydnor Jr., who has been arrested 101 times and convicted more than 30 times.

This guy keeps getting caught and convicted, so how come he keeps getting out without doing hard time for a long time?

Isn't anybody in charge? Isn't anybody accountable to the citizens of Baltimore and those in surrounding areas who come into the city?

This is why I tell my wife I do not like to go to downtown Baltimore - doing so is not safe for me or my family or my property.

Allan Kaufman, Owings Mills

It isn't Michael Phelps we ought to repudiate

If anyone should be embarrassed about the recent photo that surfaced in a British tabloid showing Michael Phelps apparently smoking marijuana, it should be each American citizen ("Phelps: 'I am sorry,'" Feb. 2). And it is not Mr. Phelps we should be embarrassed by. Rather, we should be ashamed of our lawmakers who continue to support marijuana prohibition.

There are no more absurd laws on the books than those that criminalize the use of marijuana by responsible adults.

Billions of dollars are wasted annually in the United States as we wage a war on drugs, and they accomplish little - with the notable exception of creating a black market that makes some violent criminals very wealthy.

Ending prohibition would allow legitimate companies rather than gun-toting criminals to produce marijuana. This would create a safer product and a safer marketplace for consumers and allow the profits of those companies to be taxed like those of any other corporate entity.

I have never been a user of illegal drugs. But I am not self-righteous enough to use the force of law to tell other informed adults about what substances they can put into their bodies.

We all know how poorly the prohibition of alcohol worked decades ago, yet our lawmakers continue to prohibit marijuana today and expect a different result.

That's insane.

Steve Harbin, Woodbine

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