Name games, bus games, word games


Letters, calls and the roar of the crowd:

B. E. Earp, Towson: Is Governor William Donald Schaefer so vain that he insists on being called by his full name? All other governors were simply "Hughes, Mandel, Agnew, McKeldin," etc.

COMMENT: The governor does not insist on the use of his full name. Such use is a habit of the press and one which the governor does not endorse. In fact, he would prefer to be called by his high school nickname: Rhett Butler Schaefer.

Name Withheld, Baltimore: The attached is the last page of a "Flash Report" that is circulated among MTA employees. I am sure you will appreciate this:

"In a bizarre labor arbitration case, the arbitrator rules that we did not have just cause to discharge an operator, who, while several miles off route, became involved in a hit and run accident, and then 20 minutes later, drove the bus into a house, causing extensive property damage. The operator, who testified that it was the voice of God that directed her action, was found to be credible by the arbitrator. The arbitration award directs reinstatement with back benefits (but without back pay) on the condition that the operator undergo a psychiatric and physical medical examination to determine if she is capable of resuming her duties."

COMMENT: Well, you know what Lily Tomlin says: "When you talk to God, it's called prayer. When God talks to you, it's called schizophrenia."

Craig P. McCoy, Cockeysville: No one likes going to war, but I believe a greater evil would be committed if the United States and the rest of the free world simply stood by passively and allowed [Saddam] Hussein to rape and pillage another country.

As far as having the support of the Congress, both houses voted to support the President. Were they forced into this position by a quick military build-up? Probably. But what is the President to do?

If these tough decisions on foreign policy are placed in the hands of Congress, they will simply go right on catering to their special interest groups and constituents back home, much the same way that they handle domestic policy issues.

COMMENT: Actually, it looks like one kind of special interest group wanted the president to go to war. As Elizabeth Drew reports in the Feb. 4 New Yorker: "Defense contractors also lobbied [Congress] for the President's position."

And as for Congress "catering" to "constituents back home," isn't that what we call democracy?

Kathy Jones, Pasadena: I admire your shallow way of delving into deep subjects.

COMMENT: Thank you. It's nice to know that my years of schooling were not wasted.

Ozzie Maland, San Diego, Calif.: I detect several anagrams in the first two words of your recent column. The two words were: "Cowabunga dude."

With the war in the gulf going on, "Add woe, gun Cuba," was tempting. Or perhaps, "Aced a big wound." Or, "O, can we bug a dud."

COMMENT: I am always overjoyed if the first two words of my column make sense the way they are written, let alone with the letters rearranged.

John Brain, Baltimore: As the bombs were falling on Baghdad on January 16, followed by instant replay, most Americans were thinking about the young pilots and the hundreds of thousands of Americans encamped within striking distance of Saddam Hussein's missiles.

But as the TV screen showed the bomb flashes and the streams of ack-ack tracers climbing into the night sky, my thoughts went back 50 years to a young boy crouching in a Morrison in-home bomb shelter listening to the "urr-urr-urr" of the Nazi bombers, the barking of the guns, and the deep "crruump" as the bombs fell on London during the Blitz.

As a civilian, a child, to sit in the dark as the bombers unload on you is scary, but most of us survived. I lost my home -- twice -- my pets, my toys, but my family escaped with a few cuts from flying glass. Less fortunate were the inhabitants of Coventry and Dresden -- especially Dresden -- and my heart has always gone out to those unarmed people, ours and theirs, who were the victims of the war machines and the makers of policies.

For however carefully the military plan to make a "surgical strike" on military targets, most of those who die in any war are still civilians: Little boys sitting in the dark under the moonless Baghdad sky, a sky now lighted up like July 4 by tracers and bomb flashes, accidental boys on whom the smart but insensitive Tomahawks are now homing in. I think of the pilots, too, of course. A pilot myself, I know how it feels to be alone up there in the empty sky with so far to fall. But at least they are paid professionals, on a deadly mission with their eyes open.

The rest of us just get in the way. And today it's not us, but them. That's something to be thankful for. But I feel for them, too.

COMMENT: Though it is extremely rare, there are times when further commentary from me is not needed. This is one of those times.

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