Readers' Reactions to the John Thanos CaseThe...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Readers' Reactions to the John Thanos Case

The Sun's predictable but irrational comments deploring the use of capital punishment even in the case of John Thanos, an admitted, unrepentant murderer of three teen-age children, begs for the voice of conservative reason.

You assert that the death penalty has no place in a "humane society." Well, wake up and smell the fresh ink on too many of your own headlines.

Scores of outrageous murders, rapes, robberies and general violence that occur on a daily basis in this area depict not the humane and social Utopia that you fantasize about, but an angry, barbaric culture that is increasingly savage and malicious toward its less aggressive and vulnerable members.

You argue that by gassing Thanos we fail to meet the criteria of Gov. William Donald Schaefer. How convenient! Isn't Governor Schaefer the very same character whom you regularly tar and feather in your daily crusade for political correctness?

To most of us, a merciless and vicious act against any innocent human stands on its own as an absolutely unacceptable incident, irrespective of the victim's career path.

You assert that there is "overwhelming evidence" that capital punishment does not deter crime. Hogwash! This ludicrous statement flies in the face of elementary school mathematics: One minus one equals zero. Is it not true that John Thanos, by virtue of the death penalty, will be unequivocally deterred from murdering more children?

So what if the United States is alone among Western democracies in retaining capital punishment? We are also alone when it comes to violent crimes per capita. No other country in the world, democratic or otherwise, tolerates the frenzy of brutality that we permit and tacitly endorse in America -- not Northern Ireland, not Bosnia nor Beirut, not Somalia nor Haiti.

Please don't proselytize about us "taking a backward step in the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of maturing society." A good enough sound-bite, preacher, but the only standards that are evolving in the expanding jungle surrounding our homes are those of the predators.

In fact, merely being human in America does not, by itself, entitle one to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Just as one's liberty can be curtailed by the citizenry for poor behavior, one's life, by extension of the principle, should be abruptly abbreviated for monstrous and unconscionable conduct.

David P. Cully

Lutherville

In reference to Betty Romano's letter (Oct. 22), I agree that killers like John Thanos and Stephen Oken "deserve to die," but don't you think that kind of statement is hypocritical and detrimental to society as a whole?

To say that they should receive the death penalty in retaliation for the many horrendous crimes they have committed would infer that killing is acceptable in our society, and for society to accept killing it would mean that low-lifes like Thanos and Oken were innocent of committing a crime at all.

I in no way feel sorry for these men, but killing in any situation is wrong and should not be encouraged as a justified means of punishment or revenge.

We do these killers a favor if we end their life for them, because chances are they were miserable from the start and consequently looked for others that they could make suffer. . .

By killing these men, the victim's families won't get their loved ones back and their pain won't be lessened. Yes, killers like Thanos and Oken do deserve to die, but it's not our job to carry that out. I say lock them up and throw away the key.

Amy Sehman

Baltimore

Your Oct. 27 editorial "Don't Bring Back Capital Punishment" may be as shallow as any I have ever read. You freely apply the phrase "capital punishment," which is certainly among the most damaging misnomers in history. You twice characterize the measure as one intended to fulfill the purpose of vengeance. And you conclude by admonishing your reader that death-by-execution "is inherently . . . immoral."

Consider the nature of the acts that are regarded by this society as capital crimes. What magnitude of arrogance must we possess to even think that we have within our power the means of fashioning a punishment that befits such acts?

Those who survive the victims of capital crimes inevitably come to recognize that there can be no retribution, no revenge, no "getting even." Only restitution could have any meaning to survivors, and restitution is painfully and permanently beyond the pale of any consequence this society can devise for those who commit these heinous acts.

There is no aspect of "punishment" to death-by-execution. There is only (1) the recognition that the perpetrators of capital crimes have demonstrated a capacity to commit acts that completely defy the concept of punishment and (2) reconciliation to the sorry reality that the only thing left to us is the moral responsibility to ensure that the innocent will be protected against repeat offenses by these persons.

It is when we shirk that dreaded responsibility that we fail the test of morality.

When we are permitted to see that society makes no pretense of imposing a punishment when there is finally resort to death-by-execution, it will be possible to redefine the methods by which our criminal justice system addresses felony crime of all varieties.

That process will not begin until people charged with the task of informing the public are willing to confess just how simplistically they have dealt with this entire issue.

Dennis G. Saunders

Columbia

Now that I am back in the United States after having worked in Europe for two years, I am coming to grips with re-entering my own country. One of the cultural oddities I'm having trouble wrestling with is the planned execution of John Thanos.

As you commented in your editorial "Don't Bring Back Capital Punishment," the United States is the only Western democracy that still allows capital punishment. Many Europeans are as bewildered by American capital punishment today as they were by American slavery in the 19th century.

They view capital punishment as a throwback to the days of the Wild West, when cowboy justice also included a man's right to kill another man for committing adultery.

I in no way can countenance even remotely the three murders committed by John Thanos. I agree with The Sun that he is a sociopath who, if paroled, would seek to kill again. Moreover, I feel for the victims' families and friends who carry and will have to carry such heavy burdens for all of their lives. Yet I don't see how John Thanos' execution will make life any easier for anybody, especially his victims' loved ones, or how crime will decline or prison overcrowding lessened.

I see this as an ill-fated, emotional, easy way for us to avenge collectively many of the horrors wreaked upon us by criminals who have no right to walk the streets of a civilized society. I don't have any answers, but I believe that respect for life and for the law begin not at school or in a court of law but in the home.

As we continue to expect the police, teachers and social workers to raise many of our nation's children, we will probably continue to cling to this naive, ridiculous, all too American idea that capital punishment is a way to deal with crime.

Jamie Blount

Baltimore

The execution of John Thanos goes on and on and on. What a way to die. Having been convicted of multiple counts of murder of the most horrendous kind, Thanos experiences the longest execution -- that of not being executed.

The fault lies in the multiple wrongs committed by a liberal public whose outlook on death is nearly as messed up as their outlook on life -- reasons that the murder counts.

The first major mistake they make is associating the execution of Thanos with the murder of his victims. The different terms -- execution and murder -- do not mean the same thing.

Jewish law makes a stark difference between one who takes innocent life and one who takes the life of the guilty: The former is murder, the latter is killing. The former allows, even insists, that a capital punishment be imposed on one who has deliberately and maliciously murdered innocent victims who, like all humans, bear an image of the divine light within them.

It thus becomes the duty and the obligation of responsible authorities to guarantee that this murderer, who ended the lives of innocents, be killed -- that the life of the guilty be ended through the legal act of killing.

All this is derived from an incorrect translation of the Sixth Commandment in non-Jewish Bibles. The correct Hebrew is: "You shall not murder" -- not, "You shall not kill."

Many people, including the liberal army in America, may think that we are just playing word games. That misses the point entirely. When the Bible tells us not to murder, it is not stopping us from killing -- for we are also told not to stand idly by the blood of one's neighbor.

If the Sixth Commandment becomes "You shall not kill," then one could never kill anyone -- be he Hitler, Khadafi or John Thanos -- no matter what horrendous crimes they have committed.

But when the commandment is understood to be against murder, then a deliberate distinction is made in the morality of when it becomes biblically acceptable to take life.

There is no doubt that Thanos is guilty -- he has admitted it many times and even admitted he would kill again if released. So he pleads for his own death.

Yet we hear the argument that if Thanos is executed, we will be no better than the murderer he is. This argument self-destructs both logically and morally. If there is no difference, then there is no crime -- and everything becomes permitted.

The liberals of society have sided with the wrong party. The defendant is made out to be totally lacking rights, which the liberals attempt to rectify by dressing him with a full suit of constitutional and civil recourse that he failed to show his intended victims.

Chaim Landau

Baltimore

The writer is rabbi of Ner Tamid Greenspring Valley Synagogue and Center.

Far Too Critical

This letter is written in response to Berry Newcomb's letter (Oct. 12) criticizing the city's management of our water supply.

Though I myself am no fan of most politicians and bureaucrats, I found Ms. Newcomb's letter far too critical of the city in its management of the reservoir properties.

I do agree that another golf course around Loch Raven may be unwise; however, let's give credit where credit is due.

Our drinking water is among the cleanest on the East Coast. We pay an extremely low price for it. The city has been able to do this and still allow some very limited recreational activities at the reservoir properties.

The recreational opportunities this creates are much needed in this area. Many of the recreational users of the watersheds lend a hand to help keep them clean.

What I suggest to Ms. Newcomb is that she put her feet and her back where her mouth is and join in a clean up of Loch Raven on Sunday, Dec. 14, sponsored by some of the fishermen who "riddle" Loch Raven Reservoir.

Dennis R. Henkel

Lutherville

Vote Selling

The article (Oct. 23) entitled "Cardin's Bargain" is an example of the major problem with unlimited terms for our representatives in Washington.

All of Rep. Ben Cardin's vote-selling makes sense to me. Protecting interests of Maryland business helps me as a taxpayer in this state and provides jobs to Maryland citizens. Mr. Cardin was elected to the House of Representatives to act in the best interests of the United States.

If the North American Free Trade Agreement is not in the best interest of the United States he should not be placed in the position of selling his vote -- the article calls it bargaining -- to increase his chance of re-election.

To stop this selling of principles for re-election, terms should be limited.

Charles D. Connelly

Baltimore

Need More Facts

The Sun article of Oct. 26 by Thomas W. Waldron titled "UM's low pay blamed for trouble in hiring faculty" lacked a most significant set of facts. Not a single salary figure was given to substantiate the claim that "the University of Maryland System has lost some good professors and may lose more if it doesn't raise salaries substantially."

Let's start with the salary of Chancellor Donald N. Langenberg and go down from there, listing each salary scale for all professional staff, so that we, the taxpayers, can judge the merits of the complaints outlined in this story.

It certainly is not fair to your readers to complain about low salaries without giving us information as to the actual salaries being complained about.

If raises are granted in the future, will this also include a raise for Dr. Langenberg? What is his salary at the present time?

Walter Boyd

Lutherville

Misdirected Effort

If our governor, mayor and assorted civic and business leaders would spend as much time and money trying to deal with real problems as they spend trying to woo a professional football team, Maryland and Baltimore would have much brighter prospects.

Grenville B. Whitman

Baltimore

zTC

No Respect

Hello, Baltimore! Welcome to the club!

So for a year or two, you have been dressing up, behaving yourself, following some pretty strange rules and regulations handed down by a group of spoiled stupid nincompoops who want everything their way. So you follow all the rules even though they may change from week to week in hopes that you will be treated fairly and equally.

That's all you want. Nothing special, nothing extra -- just to be treated fairly and equally and for what you can do and are, not for how fast you follow the changing dictates and how often you roll over when told.

And still -- no respect. You've been going through it for a year or two.

Gay men and women have been going through it for a century or two and with no end in sight. Is the National Football League worth our dignity and respect? I think not.

Is society worth our respect and talents? We're working on it.

Byron Predika

Baltimore

Unfair to State Workers

I was astonished by the position you took in your editorial (Oct. 23) regarding state employee and retiree responses to the proposed increase in premiums for the state's preferred provider health insurance plan. Why you would castigate consumers for demanding an explanation of a nearly 600 percent increase in premiums is unclear to me.

Since when is it reprehensible for a taxpayer to want clarification and correction of a consumer problem? The consumers in this case have not received a pay increase in nearly three to four years and have taken pay decreases through furloughs to boot.

It's not a matter of trying to take a free ride, but rather an issue of economic survival.

The preferred provider network, which is self-insured, limits its participants to a tight network of physicians and other medical care providers who are "preferred" by the state because they have agreed to accept a limitation on their reimbursement.

The benefit to consumers is that they have a greater likelihood of retaining the services of their family physician. The relationship between a person and his/her doctor is not unlike that which he or she may share with his/her family cleric. In fact, it may be even more sacred, especially when it comes to critical, chronic or catastrophic health problems.

You recommend that all of us opt for the HMO option rather than the PPN alternative.

While the HMO option has been a choice for several years, the number of HMOs still in business has dwindled. Why? Is it because the so-called managed care models with capitated payment schemes are not what they're cracked up to be?

One reason more physicians choose to participate in the state's PPN rather than in HMOs is because it allows for a more equitable reimbursement for the services physicians provide.

And yes, the state's PPN system provides a mechanism for cost-sharing through co-payments and deductibles. By the way, co-payments have already increased and will likely continue to do so.

Instead of fighting on some ideological battleground using analogies to automobiles, we should be talking about what is really creating the higher health insurance costs.

The Council for Affordable Health Care Insurance report entitled "Mandatory Community Rating: The Most Dangerous Cure for Health Care Woes" found that healthy people were dropping their coverage because it has become too expensive. As that happens, the premium rates of the remaining participants are going up.

The point I want to make is made by that report. Folks who cannot afford to pay high health insurance premiums may opt to go uninsured, while those who require medical services will be faced with paying higher premiums.

Since insurance premium amounts are affected by the health care needs of the participants, an older and increasing medically-indigent pool of workers and retirees creates a need to find real solutions to the nation's beleaguered health care system.

Such is the situation with the state's health coverage. In the future, I hope that The Sun will take a more informed position in these matters.

Kudos should be given to the governor for his willingness to pursue a fairer, more equitable and sensible solution to this health care crisis, although a healthy skepticism is still in order because the problem is being referred to the Department of Budget and Fiscal Planning.

We need to attract younger, healthier participants to the pool. A short-sighted, quick fix will not do. After all the rhetoric, the Clinton health-care reform package is merely an attempted schematic to resolve our health cost crisis and not a blueprint for a truly-perfected full coverage health insurance program.

Edward J. Bynum

Baltimore

As executive director of AFSCME Council 92, representing state employees, I am outraged by The Sun's insensitivity to the plight of state workers in regard to their health insurance programs.

In two editorials you refer to the current health care program as gold-plated and the Cadillac of the industry. You also state that the insurance program is not financially feasible for taxpayers because of the excessive cost.

Yet, the Department of Budget and Fiscal Planning's own projections show almost a $29 million profit that the state made by self-funding the state insurance program for fiscal year 1993.

What was not reported in either of these two editorials was the fact that three years ago state workers were steered away from the traditional Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan and strongly encouraged to join the Preferred Provider Program.

Employees were sold a bill of goods in order that they become members of this plan. This is why so many state employees signed up for the plan.

It is callous treatment on the part of the state to continually downgrade the programs so that state employees will no longer have first-rate health insurance and be subjected to other plans that provide loss quality care.

The HMOs may be fine for certain state employees, especially younger ones, but they do not provide the quality of care that is necessary for older employees and those with special needs.

Your editorials also did not report the fact that the proposed co-pay for 1994 doubled to $30 -- a definite reduced benefit.

We highly resent the statements that the rising cost in health insurance could prevent state employees from getting a pay raise this year. What is never reported is the fact that state workers receive less pay than many private industry employees in many surrounding localities.

State employees are constantly subjected to criticism regarding many of their benefits like holidays, but the full story is never reported that these benefits were provided in lieu of adequate pay raises . . .

William Bolander

Baltimore

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