Raise gas tax to pay national debtThe Dec. 4 letter...

LETTERS

December 10, 1997

Raise gas tax to pay national debt

The Dec. 4 letter, "Raise the fuel tax, lower the speed limit," was 100 percent correct.

If future generation of Americans are going to enjoy this nation and planet, the love affair with the car has got to change.

I say let's increase gas taxes by 10 cents a gallon per year until our national debt is paid. We have rebuilt our infrastructure and have good public transportation.

I urge you to reprint the Dec. 4 letter and do a investigative report on its message.

Dallas Hinson

Annapolis

We have lost an exceptional hunter of official corruption

One of the joys of my years as a federal and state prosecutor was my partnership with some of the finest investigators who ever ran down a lead, set up a "sting" or collared a suspect. Their number was diminished last week with the death on Nov. 21 of Andrew "Andy" Tartaglino.

Andy's investigative roots were in the old federal Bureau of Narcotics. I first worked with him in the late 60s when I was U.S. Attorney for Maryland. His job in those days was to ferret out corruption among our own narcotics agents. It was tough work and, in the violent world of drug dealers, very dangerous. Andy's staff revered him. But he had his enemies: agents whose misconduct he investigated and complacent colleagues who wouldn't face the ugly facts he uncovered. Andy had no tolerance for the fabled "code of silence." To Andy, a "dirty" agent belonged in prison.

There were some who called him ruthless. "Relentless" would be more accurate. Andy scrupulously abided by the laws and regulations that applied to his difficult trade. But he was clever and creative. And he could be tricky. He relished outsmarting the bad buys. Guile in the service of good was Andy's modus operandi.

Andy and I reconnected years later in the Maryland Attorney General's Office. He was the driving force behind the efforts of our Medicaid fraud unit to catch health care providers who cheated the public. He put together the state's first prosecutions of doctors who billed Medicaid for phantom visits, dentists who "filled" teeth that had been extracted years earlier and nursing home operators who put private yachts, baby sitters and personal landscaping on the taxpayers tab.

Respect for law, contempt for corruption and devotion to duty were surely part of what made Andy tick. But somewhere near the core of this remarkable man was another, more intimate, quality -- his respect and affection for his comrades in arms, the men and women with whom he shared his zeal for the chase and its risks.

I was privileged along with many others, to share that bond with Andy Tartaglino. We have all lost a great friend. We have also lost in a simple phrase that would have pleased him most -- a damned good cop.

Stephen H. Sachs

Baltimore

Does hotel height make a difference?

Wow! The Baltimore City Council reduced John Paterakis' 48-story monstrosity to a 41-story monstrosity. Gee, I bet this makes all the residents of the area feel much better, knowing that the long-term plan is being totally trashed by a little less.

Edwin M. Cox

Annapolis

Benefits of recycling are worth the cost

The Nov. 12 Opinion Commentary piece by Christopher Douglass, "Recycling revisited," was extremely myopic, viewing this issue through the single, distorting lens of current economic theory. To argue that some items should not be recycled because the benefit/cost ratio is insufficient is too simplistic for such an important issue.

Our society has deemed many items desirable even though their ratio would argue against implementation. For example, cars would be cheaper if we did not require air bags and seat belts. Fire codes add costs to construction, but we decided the ratio actually warrants their inclusion by defining benefits to include human lives and costs to include the potential of lost productivity. In other words, costs and benefits are defined by us.

As a trained ecologist I have always found it amusing that ecology has appropriated many analytical tools from economists, especially cost/benefit analyses, but the majority of mainstream economists refuse to expand their definition of costs and benefits to include the extensive information generated by ecologists.

Our environment provides many services to humanity, but these ecosystem services and direct and indirect services are rarely incorporated into economic calculation. Mr. Douglass' presentation certainly ignored them.

His approach also completely ignored the fact that as the human population continues to grow we will continue to stress our environment unless we radically rethink our approach toward nature. Recycling, unless it pollutes more, is one obvious way. If the costs of recycling are presently high, let's create new technologies and educate consumers to reduce them. But regardless, the benefits are too important to forego.

We need to emphasize stewardship and a long-range view, neither of which are currently incorporated into our market system. We also need to do what is morally right. If we do not, unfortunately, Mother Nature will have the final say and she might not be too happy with the all too numerous, short-sighted, often self-centered species that is us.

Kim C. Derrickson

Baltimore

The writer is an assistant professor of biology at Loyola College.

Pub Date: 12/10/97

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