Shortage of mariners imperils our ability to wage war...


January 25, 2002

Shortage of mariners imperils our ability to wage war overseas

I read with great interest Robert Little's excellent article on the shortage of U.S. merchant seamen needed for Navy sealift ships during wartime ("Shipping crew deficit called wartime risk," Jan. 13).

Mr. Little does The Sun's readers a great service by focusing on this serious issue that, as the article points out, could imperil our nation's ability to fight a large-scale war overseas.

And it is particularly gratifying to see that the new U.S. maritime administrator, Capt. William G. Schubert, is also concerned, and has promised to deal with the manpower shortage problem head-on.

The inescapable fact is that to have national defense sealift, we must have enough trained mariners. By far the most efficient and effective way to achieve this is to draw from the manpower pool created by a strong merchant fleet.

We cannot continue to let merchant mariner jobs go overseas and expect to have enough trained Americans always ready to answer the call. Now more than ever, our nation needs a strong merchant marine staffed by loyal U.S. seafarers.

Ron Davis


The writer is president of the Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association.

Fondness for old buildings can be more than nostalgia

Those masonry friends Jacques Kelly mentioned in his column "Demolished buildings a real loss" (Jan. 19) were friends of mine, too. But Mr. Kelly shouldn't dismiss his dismay as mere nostalgia. According to then-mayoral candidate Martin O'Malley, preservation is "good business."

Mr. O'Malley's "Blueprint for Baltimore's Future" asserts: "Many cities, including New York, Boston and Toronto, have successfully blended preservation with development, and we see this as the model for Baltimore going forward. There have already been too many grand old buildings destroyed over the course of Baltimore's history, and we will not allow our history as a city and as a people to be further diminished."

Perhaps we should introduce Candidate O'Malley to Mayor O'Malley before we lose more "grand old buildings," including the appropriately named Grand Theater in Highlandtown, about to be sacrificed for a white elephant mega-library.

Jane Shipley


Deregulating electricity hasn't fixed any problems

Three cheers to People's Counsel Michael J. Travieso for determining that electricity deregulation in Maryland is a failure ("Electricity plan called a failure," Jan. 17). Electricity choice is an idea whose time has not come (and may never come), and a fix for a problem that never existed.

For many ratepayers, in spite of price caps and reductions, rates and the total monthly cost of electricity have actually increased. And all ratepayers will share in increased rates in the near future.

Deregulation has resulted only in the devaluation of a once-proud Maryland company and giving away its primary resource - the ability to generate and deliver electricity at reasonable rates. The fallen value of its stock speaks to the change in BGE's status.

The state legislature should find a way to somehow extricate Maryland's ratepayers from a perilous situation that it had a large hand in creating. As for BGE's defense of deregulation, the company now speaks with the diminished authority of any externally occupied power.

Calvin A. Glover Jr.


Changing CareFirst's status won't benefit its customers

I found the column by A. G. Newmyer III, "Shady CareFirst deal should be scuttled" (Opinion Commentary, Jan. 16), extremely accurate.

It is unquestionably the desire of current management to take CareFirst out of the strict legal oversight of the Maryland insurance commissioner, who examines executive compensation and rate changes very carefully.

To claim that a shift to for-profit status would result in a better competitive position is window dressing. Such a shift could actually erode its competitive position and be more expensive for CareFirst's customers and the taxpayers of Maryland.

As there is no compelling and justifiable reason to change, I believe that the current status should be maintained.

Paul Cummins


Depictions of heroes aren't bound by race

How sad that Clarence Page only sees white faces when he looks at the Iwo Jima monument or the photo of members of the New York fire department raising the flag at the World Trade Center ("Multiracial memorial would hide FDNY's bias," Opinion Commentary, Jan. 22).

I see brave Americans who made sacrifices for, among other freedoms, Mr. Page's right to voice his opinion.

Mary Dansicker


Bush makes rich richer as the rest of us lose out

When George W. Bush ascended to the presidency, he was handed a huge federal surplus. Among the possible uses for this money were worthy causes such as reducing the national debt and shoring up the Social Security system. Instead, Mr. Bush gave the bulk of it away in tax breaks to the rich.

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