Don't minimize harm of pornography

In Monday's editorial "Smoke Free U" (Nov. 16), The Sun tries to make a distinction between its support of a smoking ban at Towson University and its opposition to regulating the screening of pornographic obscenity on University of Maryland campuses by claiming that "smoking is different" for two reasons. You go on to state smoking is different because smoking is addictive and because others suffer the consequences of second-hand smoke - clearly implying that both are not true with pornography.

Nothing could be further from the objective truth. First, many therapists who treat patients suffering from compulsive behavior with pornography feel that it can be just as addictive as any chemical or drug addiction. Second, there is ample evidence that pornography affects many others besides the viewer. For instance, there is an increasing association between the use of online pornography and divorce. There is also a known relationship between pornography and violent behavior, including sexual crimes, with the best-known example being Ted Bundy's admissions regarding pornography and the role it played in his murder of up to 50 women and girls. Finally, there is ample evidence that pornography alters the perception of women by many of its male viewers - in an unhealthy way.

While I agree that "there's good reason for schools to take strong measures to discourage smoking," schools should be sending the same message about the dangers of pornography. The medical consequences of pornogaphy should never be taken as lightly as the editorial page did Monday.

Dr. Andy Harris, CockeysvilleThe writer, a Republican, is a state senator representing Baltimore County.

Md. must cut spending

In his op-ed "Maryland must consider tax increases," Maryland Budget & Tax Policy Institute Director Neil Bergsman says Maryland has no other choice but to raise taxes. Mr. Bergsman is two years too late; the Maryland General Assembly voted in a 2007 special session to raise and expand the state's sales tax, create a new income tax bracket, raise the state's corporate tax, establish new taxes on property transfers, increase the state tobacco tax, expand the amusement tax and permit state-taxed slot machines. The new taxes were intended to raise an extra $1.4 billion each year for state government. But the new money has not kept up with Annapolis' spending. Only by cutting spending and growing the tax base can Maryland's budget problem be solved.

Compared to neighboring states, Maryland has very high marginal tax rates. This discourages investment and job creation. Raising these tax rates even higher will only impede our ability to recover from the current economic recession. Given that Maryland spends more on a per-capita basis than most of its neighbors, there is ample room to trim the fat from the state budget. There would be significant savings for the state if its per-capita spending were in line with our neighbors.

No, Maryland does not need to consider tax increases. Further penalizing businesses and individual taxpayers is the road to reduced economic growth, fewer jobs and a lower standard of living. Maryland needs to consider reducing the high spending and high taxes that are so popular in Annapolis.

Christopher B. Summers, RockvilleThe writer is president of the Maryland Public Policy Institute.

Trial gives platform to anti-American hatred

I wonder if President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have given any thought to the costs, both emotional and financial, of providing terrorist "suspect" Khalid Sheikh Mohammed a stage on which to spew his hatred for American infidels (that's us, folks!) and brag about his successfully masterminded attack on our soil on Sept. 11, 2001?

Do all the victims' families feel as eager to provide him a forum for his evil diatribe? This trial will be watched around the world.

And what of the cost of providing the vast amount of security for everyone involved: judge, jury, families, the prisoner himself and those would be witnesses?

Add to that the danger to New York City itself. I have already seen on CNN radical Muslims preaching and handing out inciteful information on a New York street corner. There was no attempt to be evasive. Their doctrine was shouted directly into the proffered CNN microphone.

Finally, if our intention is to gain favorable world opinion, I would rather we show them a strong, decisive president who would prioritize, study and evaluate our need for more troops in Afghanistan in far less than three months, while our volunteer troops wait, fight and die.

Phyllis Gemmell, Baltimore

If cards were gifts, why the small denominations?

Mayor Sheila Dixon must believe the jurors listening to her case have the IQ of my pet Yorkies. If someone is buying a gift card with the intent to give it as a gift, as Ms. Dixon's lawyers have claimed was the intent with the cards she used, anyone with any hint of intelligence knows you buy the gift card for the amount intended for the recipient.

Since Ms Dixon doesn't understand this concept, here's an example: For Christmas and for birthdays, I give my grandsons a gift card to Best Buy so they can choose their own computer game. I buy one gift card for $100 - not 10 gift cards for $10 each. It seems to be common sense.

Ginny Phillips, Baltimore

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