Cheap ShotsEditor: You do your readers a...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Cheap Shots

Editor: You do your readers a disservice by printing vitriol such as Mary Kwiatkowski's "Who Pays For Paid Holidays?" One wonders how long she has been waiting for the opportunity to aim cheap shots at state workers with unfounded allegations.

Allow me to set the record straight. The 35.5-hour work week and state holidays are not "freebies," but rather earned benefits. The operational word here is earned. It may also surprise Ms. Kwiatkowski to learn that state workers also pay those same "excessive day-care costs."

It has often been said that state workers have chosen to work for the state and if they don't like it, they can go somewhere else. It is only fair to extend the same invitation to your correspondent.

Since she doesn't seem to like her private-sector job -- the "real world," as she puts it -- she can come to work for the real world of state government, encumbered by bureaucratic red tape, never-ending and always-changing personnel policies and expedient political whims.

Starting in July, she would have the opportunity to work 40 hours while being paid for 35. How's that for a "freebie?"

L. A. Jaworski.

Baltimore.

Central America

Editor: Your editorials, "Afraid of Peace in El Salvador," (Feb. 11) and "Nicaragua Still Bleeds," (Feb. 24) accurately demonstrate the fragile political conditions of these two Central American democracies.

Given the precarious positions of both Cristiani and Chamorro, the United States should act swiftly to take advantage of a unique situation: For the first time in recent history, the leaders of both El Salvador and Nicaragua are U.S.-friendly and democratically elected.

Alfredo Cristiani, the leader of the ARENA party, was elected by an El Salvador fed up with the civil war, economic hardship, and failed social programs. Without some improvement in these areas, he may be voted out of office in the next election, and his successor may not be as desirable to the U.S.

A similar situation exists in Nicaragua. The U.S., after spending millions to oust the Sandinistas, must aggressively follow through with the promised $600 million in economic aid. No leader can survive 12,000 percent inflation for long, and the Nicaraguans may just choose to oust Violetta Chamorro.

After a decade of U.S. policy designed to spurn communism in El Salvador and Nicaragua, the U.S. has the opportunity to bolster the strength of democratic leaders friendly with the U.S. Given the tenuous positions of Cristiani and Chamorro, as well expressed in The Sun editorials, the U.S. must offer substantial assistance soon or the opportunity will slip away.

Michael Cangelosi.

Towson.

Foreign Aid

Editor: Should I feel reprieved that Israel has conceded, and accepted a $500 million cash grant (read gift), apparently to compensate for her tranquil role during Operation Desert Storm? An emphatic No.

I'm sorry but the news of "compromise" did not assuage my contempt for the Bush administration, or for that matter previous administrations, who have stroked all our "allies" receiving foreign aid.

The arbitration among Secretary of State James A. Baker III, the Israeli government and the pro-Israel lobby apparently left out the principal concerned party, the American taxpayers.

Where are the politicians living? Fiscal constraint has been the convention throughout the private sector and equally so in parts of the public sector. States have seen federal outlays wane while foreign endowments appear to remain status quo.

This unconscionable "philanthropy" by our elected officials has got to stop.

Edmund Fox.

Towson.

Healing Kuwait

Editor: In the wake of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait it should be evident to most people that the world is a much smaller place. Virtually every citizen of the world was affected by the Persian Gulf war, whether a combatant or not, and whether a citizen of a combatant country or not. It was a world war in almost every sense.

Now in the wake of this disaster it behooves us all as citizens of the world to try to rebuild the world economy.

For this reason I applaud Gov. William Donald Schaefer's formation of the Maryland International Health Task force. This organization, a purely voluntary effort on the part of citizens of Maryland, is an excellent first step in reconstructing the war-torn Persian Gulf area. A massive effort will be necessary to put the Kuwaiti health-care system back on its feet, and this cannot be done in a haphazard, makeshift manner.

Medical care is needed in Kuwait right now, and it's one of the things that Maryland does well. I applaud the spirit of volunteerism that has prompted businessmen, physicians, nurses and administrators to step forward and offer their services for the benefit of the people of Kuwait.

As president of the Maryland Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, I am proud to see that emergency physicians are in the forefront of this effort. Our specialty is uniquely qualified to undertake this type of mission because of our expertise in episodic care of a wide variety of health problems. I think credit is due to leaders of the emergency departments at Franklin Square Hospital and the University of Maryland for their support in this effort.

The Governor's Health Care Task Force is the right idea at the right time. Our health-care system, despite is problems, is arguably the best in the world in many respects. It's certainly appropriate that we offer some of its benefits to the Kuwaiti people in their time of tragedy.

Theodore E. Harrison, M.D.

Baltimore.

Fitzpatrick on Oswald

Editor: I enjoyed reading correspondent Diana Jean Schemo's piece, "Mickey in Europe," about former Baltimore 2nd District City Councilman Robert Fitzpatrick.

Having interviewed him myself in 1973, it was interesting to learn of his activities after he left Baltimore for California and Paris.

She left out of her piece one fascinating aspect of Mr. Fitzpatrick's life that I think your readers would find interesting, however.

On July 27, 1963 -- almost four months before President John F. Kennedy's assassination in Dallas -- Mr. Fitzpatrick was a seminarian studying Russian at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala. A fellow student and friend was Eugene John Murret, who was also the first cousin of Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald and his Russian-born wife, Marina, had just returned from the Soviet Union.

As Mr. Fitzpatrick explained to me in 1973 -- a decade after the event -- travel to the U.S.S.R. was restricted in those days because of the tension surrounding the Cold War era then in progress, so he and Murret were anxious to talk with these two young people who had just been there for some time.

"He had no smile," Mr. Fitzpatrick said of Lee Oswald, "but a hard expression on his face. What struck me most about him were his eyes -- he had the most incredibly intense gaze. I'll never forget their impact. When you talk to most people, they don't just stare you in the face, but he did . . . He was a secretive kind of person, trusting no one, and not very sociable . . . He didn't seem to fit in any place in society, and had had a difficult childhood, according to Gene. He had no job, no skills, no education.

"Everybody who saw and heard him at the lecture he gave the students was impressed in a way they weren't going to forget. He was eloquent, giving a good account of his experiences in the U.S.S.R., and there was this incredible intensity about it all. What kept coming through was a sort of frustrated idealism . . . He had thought that Russia would be a promised land, but it didn't live up to his expectations."

Mr. Fitzpatrick, a native Canadian, had become an American citizen in 1962 in large measure because of the idealism he saw in President Kennedy, he told me 18 years ago.

After the assassination, he recalled, "I remember the mention of Oswald's name. They hadn't shown his picture on TV yet, but as soon as the name was given, we just knew it was the same person we'd met . . . I don't think any of the people who met him when I did have any doubts to this day that it was Oswald and Oswald alone . . . He had talked about rifle practice in Russia, how he spent his spare time for target practice on weekends."

The FBI later questioned Fitzpatrick for several hours about his day with the Oswalds, his later letter to them, that he was studying Russian and receiving a subscription to Pravda.

He remembered, also, seeing Oswald on TV before he, too, was gunned down, live on TV, by the late Jack Ruby: "He was still the same person I'd known. He was like walking energy, intense."

Blaine Taylor.

Towson.

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