State isn't prepared to deal with disaster
The Sun's article "Md. rated near top for disaster plans" (June 17) notes that "Maryland is one of 10 states considered to have sufficient plans to respond to disasters, the Homeland Security Department said."
Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is quoted in the article as saying, "These results show that we are on the right track."
But the governor should understand that "sufficient plans" do not come close to meaning we are on the right track.
Disaster simulations in classrooms and on computers just don't cut it. Even the best-laid plans can go awry without a mock exercise that reflects a real-life emergency.
And in fact, Mr. Ehrlich's Homeland Security Office went awry last October on what was supposed to be a real-life Egyptian terrorist plot on Interstate 95 at the Fort McHenry Tunnel and the Harbor Tunnel ("Details about tipster emerge," Oct. 22, 2005).
According to a follow-up article in The Sun, "An internal report examining the response to the now-discredited plot to blow up one of Baltimore's tunnels last year found that outdated police communications equipment failed and some emergency responders were kept in the dark" ("Fault found in plot response," Feb. 22).
In fact, some first responders found out about the alleged terrorist plot at the tunnels through broadcast media.
For Maryland to have some sense of security and to have an optimal preparedness plan, every community should host a "'Domestic Preparedness Day" sponsored by the local health department and emergency management agencies.
The writer is the founder of the Golden Hour Coalition Inc., a nonprofit watchdog group for the state's emergency response system.
A double standard on brutality in Iraq?
Every day, in all forms of the media, we are bombarded with reports about all the terrible things Americans are doing to the POWs at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, etc.
However, after the recent capture and mutilation killings of two young American soldiers, I barely heard a word of criticism from the left about this horrific crime ("Bodies of 2 abducted soldiers are found," June 21).
Nowhere did I hear the critics of the American policies on POWs talk about how brutally and terribly our men were treated.
But had the Americans done something like this to Iraqi or al-Qaida prisoners, the left wing and the worldwide press would have excoriated us.
Talk about a double standard.
Bring troops home from around world
While we're on the subject of troop withdrawal in Iraq, we should also consider troop withdrawal from all foreign soil ("Senators spar over calls by Democrats for Iraq pullback," June 22).
We have had our troops in many foreign lands for nearly 60 years and, in many cases, have apparently worn out our welcome.
When host countries say, "Yankee go home," our response should be, "See ya."
James M. Hall
Copeland inherited financial nightmare
Baltimore schools CEO Bonnie S. Copeland inherited a financial nightmare when she became the head of the city schools ("School CEO leaving," June 20).
This forced her to make many difficult decisions. Yet despite the ongoing lack of funding, the results of the Maryland State Assessments show improvement ("Scores up, but doubts linger," June 21).
The serious financial constraints that the city schools face have been known for years. In the 1990s, when I ordered supplies for my school, I had to make choices: Do I order paste for the first-graders or scissors? I could not afford both.
Yet Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s view of the situation is that "Baltimore City's leadership continues to fail its students."
Mr. Ehrlich, that comment was just plain mean.
Blame public apathy for city school woes
With the departure of CEO Bonnie S. Copeland, the Baltimore schools sink further into the educational abyss ("School officials look to Boston to build bridges," June 21).
In some respects, Ms. Copeland did a decent job as schools chief. Most notably, she managed the system out of bankruptcy without seriously imperiling instruction.
But the real problems of the city schools are rooted in the values of the parents, children and communities they serve.
Education is not cherished or respected by many city residents. There is a culture of apathy and disdain for learning and educational achievement.
The public needs to be reminded that while teachers, administrators and "the schools" are held accountable for test scores, only the students take the tests. Thus the students are ultimately responsible for the results.
Finally, while culture and demographics dictate student achievement, lack of consistent leadership exacerbates an already difficult situation. And Baltimore's revolving door of superintendents and school administrators undermines the potential for progress.
Even worse, it sends a message to struggling students and the community at large that when the going gets tough, the tough move on to more-lucrative, less-challenging employment.