Bosnian Slaughter and Holocaust
Terrible as is the internecine slaughter and "ethnic cleansing" in Bosnia, it must not be equated with the uniquely horrendous Holocaust of Jewish innocents. They were passive, peaceful humans, guilty only of having been born.
German Jews had never committed genocide against German non-Jews, as Croats and Muslims had done against Serbs in World War II.
Led by the heroic "Draza" Mihajlovic, courageous Serb partisans fought against the Nazis, while Croats collaborated. Serbs and Jews were tortured and died together in Nazi concentration camps. Croatian fascists assisted in the killing.
Jews had been loyal German citizens, proud of their patriotism. Croats and Muslims, enemies of the Serbs for generations, would probably, if they had the upper hand, be doing to the Serbs what the Serbs are now doing to them.
The Holocaust is sui generis. It should not be debased, especially now when some anti-Semites deny that it ever happened. . .
What is happening today in Bosnia is indeed tragic, but it is no Holocaust. It is in part revenge.
We should join other nations in making whatever sacrifices will be needed to empty the Bosnian death camps or open them for inspection.
We must do our part to stop the massacres, not only of Croats, Muslims -- and yes Serbs, too -- in Bosnia, but also of Kurds and Shiites in Iraq, and of all who disagree with Muslim fundamentalists in Asia and Africa.
If we participate, let's be clear why. Mass killing anywhere has become totally intolerable. It is no longer a viable option for settling ancient feuds in this nuclear age when atomic weapons may fall into the hands of madmen.
Today, the quick easy "cleansing" of all of us "ethnics" could be a truly final solution to all of our problems. "Regional" conflicts cannot easily be confined to regions. They could metastasize. In that event, another Holocaust -- not of "them" but all of us -- is conceivable.
Jack L. Levin
President-elect Bill Clinton is getting a lot of media attention for proposing new ethics policies to eliminate influence-peddling and politics-as-usual in Washington. It will be interesting to see if his policies are carried to fruition.
Due to the fact that Vernon Jordan and Mickey Kantor [two key members of the transition team] have strong ties to the tobacco industry, the tobacco issue will serve as a good litmus test to measure Mr. Clinton's resolve.
Mr. Clinton could act on behalf of the nation's health by supporting a significant increase in the tobacco excise tax and TC by issuing an executive order to ban smoking in all federal facilities.
However, since Mr. Jordan and Mr. Kantor have strong ties to the tobacco industry, they will probably oppose such measures. I wonder how Mr. Jordan could face his fellow members of the R.J. Reynolds board of directors if he were to recommend a strong anti-tobacco person as the new surgeon general? Isn't this like having the fox guarding the chicken house?
Even though his surgeon general and secretary of health and human services both branded tobacco as the nation's No. 1 preventable cause of death and disease, President Bush did nothing to combat the use of tobacco during his administration.
Mr. Bush's inaction was largely due to the enormous financial contributions provided by the tobacco industry PACs and a few strategically located administrators with strong ties to the tobacco industry.
Because of his inaction, the non-smoker's rights organizations across the country presented a unified front against Bush during the past election and may have been a factor in his defeat.
I hope that history does not repeat itself with the Clinton administration.
John H. O'Hara
The Biggus Case
For all the pain it is causing, the opinion of the majority of the Court of Appeals in the Biggus case [which created some uncertainty about the legality of some consumer loans because of a failure completely to repeal an old consumer loan law] is by no means intellectually indefensible.
It is grounded upon well-established principles of statutory interpretation, and while the particular statute that it interprets contains several ambiguities, there is nothing unreasonable in its interpreting them as it did.
Much more disquieting is the minority opinion in Biggus, which would have read into the statute what the General Assembly expressly excluded, with a truly disastrous effect upon credit in Maryland.
At the heart of the problem is a pattern of legislation which grew piecemeal and which the courts have construed as remedial, meaning that lenders will be penalized even for unintentional non-compliance and where no one is hurt.
Presently, when a consumer buys a medium-priced car on time in Maryland, say a Ford Taurus, one or more of at least three statutes might apply to that transaction, and each would mandate procedures inconsistent with others.
The good that may come out of Biggus is a recognition of a problem and a willingness by the General Assembly to revamp and rationalize credit laws in Maryland.
Robert J. Thieblot
As a life-long resident of Baltimore County and a product of its public schools, I was shocked to read about a school board proposal to reduce the social studies and physical education requirements for graduation.
In high school I knew that I wanted to go on to college; hence my academic courses. But every one needs social studies because all of us should want our children to become "good citizens," not just those destined for college.
Surely with a potential of 27 or 18 credits, there must be enough room to increase the science requirement and maintain social studies and gym to create "good citizens," while combating the creation of "couch potatoes." The board will make its final decision on Dec. 3.
Tell the county to keep its standards high!
Resolving Disputes Peacefully
As a professional mediator, attorney and academic involved with alternative forms of dispute resolution, I read Jane Bryant Quinn's Nov. 8 column with exasperation, to say the least.
Quinn describes the alternative dispute resolution procedure imposed by Bank of America for handling consumer grievance as "binding arbitration," and accurately defines that procedure as the submission of a dispute to a panel whose decision is without recourse to appeal.
However, she then erroneously describes "compulsory mediation," a process adopted by Wells Fargo Bank. Her words are that mediation "differs from arbitration in that decisions can be appealed -- either to binding arbitration or to court."
Quinn's definition, in implying that in mediation a third party hears and decides disputes, couldn't be more wrong.
In fact, in mediation the persons who have the disagreement resolve the dispute themselves, with the mediator present only to facilitate communication, make suggestions, help deal with overwhelming emotions and help the disputants analyze potential solutions.
The principal feature which distinguishes mediation from arbitration is that while in arbitration the outcome is in the hands of the arbitration panel, in mediation the outcome is in the hands of the disputants and no decision is made unless both disputants consent.
"Compulsory mediation" refers to mediation in which no other means to resolve the dispute are made available until mediation is attempted. If "compulsory" mediation does not result in an agreement both disputants can live with, other avenues of dispute resolution still can be tried.
Both professionals and members of the public tend to lump all forms of alternative dispute resolution together. I believe this mental confusion reflects the almost blind reverence of our society for competition as a way to solve problems.
We tend to think that whenever two people have a conflict, the answer is to "slug it out" in front of an authority figure whose job is to declare a "winner" and a "loser."
Mediation represents a departure from adversarial conflict resolution: In mediation, the emphasis is on healing from the rift in the relationship and finding a fair, workable solution which meets everyone's needs.
Laurie S. Coltri