Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

November 25, 2006

Big money dictates dance about reform

"Democrats divided on ethics overhaul" (Nov. 19) said a headline in Sunday's Sun. But let's call this instead a "dance around ethics overhaul."

Republicans paid the price on Nov. 7 for their outrageous ethics violations, which the Democrats rightly characterized as a culture of corruption.

However, Republicans did not invent the type of lobbying and congressional influence-peddling that finally caught up with the likes of convicted Republican former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham and Rep. Bob Ney, and caused the resignation of former House majority leader Tom DeLay under a cloud of allegations of illegal conduct.

But Democrats too resorted to their own ethics violations when they had majority rule in Congress, though perhaps not on as grand of scale.

And the "dance" around reform occurs precisely because the real elephant in the room goes unmentioned - the influence of big money on the entire political system.

Until there is public financing of elections to remove the influence of big money in the political equation, the situation will never be "overhauled."

Simply put, our elected officials are beholden to those big-money interests that finance their campaigns, their re-elections and their hold on political power.

The big-moneyed interests are favored by those very officials they help elect through sweetheart deals, legislation favoring big-money interests, tax breaks, favors, influence peddling and other skullduggery.

Until this cancerous source of corruption is eliminated, it will be an insult to people's intelligence to talk about reforming congressional ethics.

As long as the current system remains largely intact, the people's agenda will be subordinate to the agenda of the big-money interests and those in power who are beholden to those interests, regardless of their party affiliation.

Dave Lefcourt

Ellicott City

JHU's own behavior set tone for party

I commend The Sun for its excellent reporting on the Johns Hopkins University's Sigma Chi fraternity "Halloween in the Hood" party incident.

And Tuesday's article "Hopkins puts Sigma Chi on probation over party" (Nov. 21) gave me grave pause and starkly illustrates how Johns Hopkins is taking the easy way out of this most unfortunate dilemma.

The article described the further measures Johns Hopkins intends to take in its efforts to prevent the recurrence of similar events and to improve campus race relations.

But, I am unconvinced that these typical and traditional measures will produce any substantial and lasting improvements to Hopkins' long history of poor race relations, on and off the Homewood campus.

Throughout this ordeal, the idea has somehow been implicit that the young student members of Sigma Chi fraternity, and not Johns Hopkins itself, were to blame for this most unfortunate party.

Obviously, these young students must fully accept responsibility for their conduct. But I strongly believe that Hopkins and its top administrators must accept full responsibility for the racially hostile atmosphere at its Homewood campus, which ultimately birthed the racially insensitive party.

As one who has dialogued and fought with Johns Hopkins for more than 20 years to encourage the university to offer equal opportunity practices for local minority and women contractors, I believe Hopkins must assume blame for the ugly conduct of the Sigma Chi members.

Over the years, Hopkins has primarily hired large white-owned contractors using overwhelmingly non-minority workers to perform construction work at its various campuses and institutions.

Johns Hopkins must search its own soul and begin to put in place the kind of proven programs and procedures which will affirmatively eradicate its long-standing systemic patterns, policies and practices of racial, ethnic and gender discrimination against minority individuals and women and minority-owned businesses.

Arnold M. Jolivet

Baltimore

The writer is managing director of the Maryland Minority Contractors Association.

Halting new prisons won't aid the victims

Dan Rodricks is looking out for the criminals. But who is looking out for the victims?

I, for one, don't want to have a conversation about halting prison construction ("O'Malley should put the lid on new prisons," Nov. 12). I want to have a conversation about executing killers like the 15-year old who chased down and stabbed Nicole Edmonds on Nov. 7 ("Girl, 17, is slain leaving light rail," Nov. 8).

I don't want to talk about criminals. I want to talk about victims.

Perhaps Mr. Rodricks is correct that we need more drug treatment and less incarceration for drug addicts.

But we also need to start executing the killers who are disguised as 15-year-olds, instead of allowing them to become lifetime predators in the penal system.

Mr. Rodricks implores the incoming governor to "beef up security in the prisons."

But the quickest and easiest way to "beef up security" in prison would be to start executing the killers who reside there.

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