Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

June 24, 2006

Rate hikes will hit poor most severely

I'm afraid the grim effect that any material increase in energy costs will have on the poor in Maryland may be lost in the debate over the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. rate increases ("Hearing supports Ehrlich's opinion," June 21).

Maryland is the third-most-affluent state in the country. Yet even in the midst of this prosperity, more than 50,000 families live below the poverty line, which, for a family of three, was just slightly more than $16,000 in 2004. Another 145,000 low-income families in Maryland earn less than $32,000 annually.

So while well-intended politicians work to develop a compromise that will benefit the majority and BGE spends enormous amounts on ads to explain why the rate increase is necessary, the poor, who are mostly without a voice, are poised to suffer the consequences even more than the rest of us.

By this time last year, the city had processed 27,514 energy assistance applications. By this week, with winter over and increased rates not yet a reality, the number for this year had increased by 15 percent - as 31,683 families and individuals had applied for assistance.

We expect these applications to increase dramatically as higher home energy bills actually reach mailboxes.

Not surprisingly, we do not expect the funding for energy assistance to increase proportionately, nor do we expect the income of the poor or of those on fixed incomes to increase dramatically.

While everyone tries to find a solution to the problem, let's not forget that the solution needs to include the poor.

Dale R. McArdle

Baltimore

The writer is a member of Baltimore's Human Services Commission.

Abusive war creates tragedy on all sides

The brutal torture and murder of two young U.S. servicemen leaves me seething ("Bodies of 2 abducted soldiers are found," June 21).

Sen. John McCain warned our leadership a year ago about the potential tragedy and suffering American soldiers might endure as a result of the U.S. abuses at Abu Ghraib. But the response from President Bush and the current Republican leadership has only further inflamed the insurgency and condemned the United States in the court of world opinion.

And still the Republican administration is working to eliminate American adherence to widely respected human rights laws such as some of the rules of the Geneva Conventions that govern fair and humane treatment of POWs.

Inexcusable lapses in leadership and confusion have resulted in breakdowns in command that have led to the killing of innocent Iraqi civilians, including women and children.

Daily killings as a result of an insurgency spawned by an unwarranted and unwise U.S. invasion of a sovereign nation are breaking the spirit and heart of decent Iraqis - who were traumatized first by Saddam Hussein and now by a misguided American military intervention.

The American people are screaming for an end to this bloodshed and ashamed of our country's behavior. But President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld have made clear that they don't pay attention to polls.

A great weight of sadness has fallen over the American people. Unfortunately, we put this leadership into office. Now every Iraqi child left broken and bleeding in the street is our responsibility.

Every mutilated body blown to pieces by our explosives or the insurgency is our responsibility. Every American soldier tortured and mutilated is our responsibility.

I pray that Americans everywhere will stand up and resolutely condemn a leadership that has turned America into a brutal nation and in the end will put us all at risk.

Robert J. Latham

Ellicott City

Preserve principles as we fight terror

The American loss of the moral high ground in the "war on terror" is embodied in letters such as "Let the detainees kill themselves" (June 15).

The writer asserts that if he were in charge of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, he would assist suicidal prisoners by providing them "rope to hang themselves."

His blanket demonization of the prisoners is appalling.

None of the men at Guantanamo prison has been convicted in a court of law; fewer than 1 percent of them have even been charged with a crime. Yet many of them have been locked away for four years.

Punishing someone as "the enemy" without any proof is a tactic many of our foes (including Saddam Hussein) have used, and one that has, unfortunately, been embraced by many Americans, including President Bush.

America will never succeed in the war on terror by abandoning its ethical standards.

If we cannot claim the moral high ground through our actions, we cannot win hearts and minds.

If we cannot win hearts and minds, we cannot expect other people to cooperate with us.

If we cannot get cooperation, we cannot win.

Our actions must be based on the highest ethical standard, not the lowest common excuse. Anything less is unworthy of American ideals.

The fight to uphold our ethics is the real battlefield in the war on terror.

Kristi Sipes

Randallstown

Let Congress protect the symbol of state

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