Honor the FlagThe American flag stands for the right to...

SATURDAY MAIL BOX

July 08, 1995

Honor the Flag

The American flag stands for the right to burn it. What a wonderful symbol of our nation's democracy.

So why is it that some members of Congress want to pass a constitutional amendment to prohibit flag burning?

As the adage goes: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"

Mel Tansill

Catonsville

Church News

It is more in sorrow than in anger that I write to protest thobsessive preoccupation of your religion editor with issues of sex in the church.

There are countless stories about wonderful things that are happening in Baltimore's religious community that go largely untold while Frank P. L. Somerville records every instance of clergy sexual misconduct or controversy over homosexuality he can find.

In his front-page article on June 10, he even dredged up a three-year old story about the blessing of a same-sex union in a Baltimore church, which is hardly news anymore.

For a newspaper that is constantly bemoaning the flight of institutions from the city, you have some very strange priorities.

Last summer, historic St. James Episcopal Church on Lafayette and Arlington Avenues was hit by lightning. The resulting fire did severe damage to the sanctuary.

The congregation is mostly middle-class African-American; many no longer live in the neighborhood of the church. They considered rebuilding further out but decided that they had an important ministry to the community, which is now much poorer than when the church was built.

They run many outreach programs, including St. James Academy, a nationally recognized before-and-after school program for neighborhood children. They are exploring building a community center across the street from the church.

On June 11, after two years of reconstruction, St. James Church was rededicated with great celebration and appropriate ceremony. Now that is a story that might have gone on your front page.

Dale E. Balfour

Owings Mills

Real Highway Tolls

James J. Baxter, president of the National Motorists Association, sent out a press release regarding the most comprehensive study done on speed limits in over 30 years.

This study was made under the supervision of the Federal Highway Administration, and as Mr. Baxter states in the release:

"The study clearly proves that speed limits, as employed in the U.S., have virtually no influence on driver behavior. Raise the limit, lower the limit or remove the signs altogether, and traffic speeds do not materially change.

"Furthermore, raising or lowering speed limits has no meaningful influence on traffic safety. This research effort was completed over two years ago, submitted for rigorous peer review, and sent off to the Transportation Research Board to be forgotten and ignored.

"These were not the kind of results that the safety establishment, insurance industry or enforcement agencies wanted publicized. They fly in the face of 40 years of 'speed kills' propaganda and call serious question to traffic enforcement priorities."

Now that Congress has passed a bill removing the national speed limit, the editorials and the opinion page are once again filling up with the bleak assessments of carnage on our highways.

I have just reread some of your recent editorials, and you have really been sucked in by the deliberate falsities of the insurance and safety "experts" propaganda.

You would do us all a favor by getting the FHA study and doing a comprehensive article before following the propaganda lines of vested interests on either side of the controversy.

Richard L. Anderson

Upperco

A Poor Welcome

I think it is disgraceful that there is not a safe place to pull into on Charles Street to pick up or discharge passengers at Penn Station during the reconstruction.

It is crowded, dirty and confusing. What a welcome to the city of Baltimore! Surely something could be done to provide a better temporary entrance.

Jane Swope

Baltimore

Stealths Cost Less

The Sun's editorial of June 14, "Stealth Attack on the Budget," argues that "the Air Force doesn't need 20 more B-2 Stealth bombers at $1.5 billion each." That is not a hard call to make, because the actual cost of a new B-2 is about half the amount you cite.

The Air Force calculates that if it buys 20 more B-2s, each one will cost $633 million to $787 million (in 1995 dollars), depending on whether spare parts, support equipment, facilities and other items are included. That is four to five times what a Boeing 747 airliner costs.

The only way you can derive a cost of $1.5 billion is to add the procurement price to the "life-cycle cost" of operating the plane for many years, and then express the total in inflated dollars. Using that method, a 1955 Chevrolet would cost well over $50,000.

The high cost of each B-2 is explained at least partly by the very uneconomical rate at which it is being procured.

You should be aware that the alternatives the administration is planning, in place of more B-2s, are likely to cost a similar &L amount, particularly if the nation actually has to fight a war.

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