Don't compare Israeli settlers, Iraqi insurgents
Thomas L. Friedman is entitled to his opinion about the effect that the Israeli settler movement has had upon Israeli society ("Tyranny of the minorities in Iraq, Israel," Opinion * Commentary May 18). However, equating that movement to the insurgent army led by Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq is both disingenuous and obscene.
Mr. al-Sadr, who foments death and mayhem in Iraq, is wanted on charges of killing a rival cleric last year. His armed forces have killed hundreds in gruesome attacks against Iraqi police officers and American forces. They have targeted scores of innocent civilians as well, as they seek to impose their will through violent means.
Mr. Friedman, however, vilifies the settlers because, in a democratic election, they persuaded the members of the Likud Party to defeat at the ballot box Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's proposal to withdraw from Gaza.
These individuals, who seek simply to live at peace in their biblical homeland, have spent decades making the case to the Israeli public that they are as entitled to live in this land as any Palestinian. The citizens of Israel have repeatedly elected governments that have supported that position.
This certainly seems like the type of civil and democratic behavior that someone such as Mr. Friedman should laud. It certainly bears no comparison to the criminal actions of outlaws such as Mr. al-Sadr.
Aron U. Raskas
Extend no empathy to owners of SUVs
Give me a break: You expect me to feel sorry for the whining SUV owners who pay incredible amounts of money for oversized, inefficient cars and now have to pay more for the gasoline ("Fill the tank? Not these days," May 18)?
Our gas prices are still among the lowest in the world. Higher prices will spur a rush toward efficient cars, carpooling, and public transportation.
Next time, let's hear from the compact-car owners who feel that we should be paying more for a nonrenewable, environmentally unfriendly resource.
Finding new way to fund our roads
The Sun's positive view about opening toll lanes to use by carpools got buried in its criticism of the Maryland Department of Transportation's toll lane proposal ("The fast lane," editorial May 10).
And mixing revenues from one source (e.g., gas taxes) with other revenues (e.g., bus fares) happens all the time in Maryland. That's what the unified Transportation Trust Fund is supposed to enable. I don't see how toll lanes involve any such mixing - any more than paying the gas tax to fill up and then paying a toll on Interstate 95 does.
For the long term, we need new financing mechanisms to maintain and upgrade our transportation system.
The state Department of Transportation should be congratulated instead of chastised for thinking outside the box.
The writer is executive director of the Maryland Highway Contractors Association.
Denying Communion is divisive, selective
I find the recent actions of the Roman Catholic bishop of Colorado Springs, Colo., who declared that anyone voting for a politician who supports same-sex marriage, abortion rights, stem cell research or euthanasia will be denied communion in the church, very divisive and hypocritical ("Colo. bishop says Communion should be denied based on votes," May 15).
Bishop Michael Sheridan should be consistent with his preaching of Catholic teachings. He seems to have no objections to politicians or their voters who support war or the death penalty. Does he forget the commandment "Thou shall not kill"?
The same is true of the archbishop of St. Louis and the bishops in Boston, Portland and New Orleans, who have also stated that pro-abortion rights politicians shouldn't take communion but who seem to have no opinion regarding politicians who support executions and war.
Intolerance causes ethnic violence
I do not know what America Del. Patrick L. McDonough grew up in, but when I was growing up, I was taught that immigrants from diverse cultures enrich our country, rather than "cost Maryland taxpayers millions in uncompensated health care costs, lost jobs, lost taxes and expenses for education, social services and crime" ("Schaefer speaks for vast majority," letters, May 15).
I believe that the violence in the Balkans and in similar situations around the world results not from multiculturalism but from its opposite - the intolerance of people who refuse to try to understand the culture or point of view of their neighbors, all the while insisting that people who are different from them have no right to live in their country.
And as for Mr. McDonough's opinion that "ordinary people" or "an overwhelming majority of Marylanders" agree with his viewpoint, the fact is that Maryland - like most of America - is becoming more, rather than less, ethnically diverse. In a few decades, whites may be a minority here.