IntegrityI have been reading with interest the...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Integrity

I have been reading with interest the many articles concerning Comptroller Jacqueline McLean's sordid dealings.

Isn't this the same person who abolished the position of former Assistant Comptroller Erwin Burtnick?

For over a quarter of a century, he was the epitome of integrity in city government. Before being promoted to assistant comptroller, he was a highly recognized and respected investigative auditor who relentlessly ferreted out fraud, theft and corruption.

Perhaps it is now even more apparent why Mrs. McLean didn't want him in her office.

Adrian W. Osnowitz

Baltimore

No More Anointing

Hold on a minute!

Many of us "little guys" registered as Maryland Republicans shudder every time our party leaders anoint for us some statewide party candidate that The Sun promptly endorses.

Without consideration of the fact that there are already two Republican candidates filed against incumbent Senator Paul Sarbanes, these pseudo-kingmakers have already directed that Bill Brock (who has not even filed yet) should represent Marylanders (of both parties) as Mr. Sarbanes successor.

Although he lives in Annapolis, Mr. Brock is a dyed-in-the-wool Tennessean who, as an incumbent senator from that state, lost his seat to Jim Sasser in what should have been a shoo-in re-election.

Mr. Brock has been in and out of federal office and appointed positions since the 1960s. He personifies the image of the "good ole boy" style perpetual politician entrenched in the ways and means of insider dealings.

What has he done -- no, rather, what can he do -- for Maryland?

Maybe the party and The Sun should let the field of candidates develop and present their public appeals. Maybe they shouldn't be so quick to proffer an endorsement almost a year before the general election.

As noted, there are already two qualified candidates filed. Certainly, as demonstrated in New York City and New Jersey recently, the electorate still demands change.

Could it not be that a new person -- a Ruthann Aron or a Ron Franks -- can put forth the fresh ideas and approaches that the public demands from its elected representatives?

The Republicans clearly don't need a Sarbanes clone as their 1994 candidate.

It seems clear to me that this a decision for the voters to decide without undue influence from the "kingmakers" and the press.

F. Alden Murray, Jr.

Annapolis

Word Censors

Susan's Reimer's Dec. 7 column, "Moms and media speak out against offensive language," discusses the Los Angeles Times guidance to its employees to refrain from using certain politically incorrect words and phrases.

Although I commend Ms. Reimer for instilling in her children a moral philosophy that treats everyone with dignity and respect, I do not share her apparent enthusiasm over what the Times has done.

It is obvious that the Times' list of taboo words and phrases is not aimed at every group.

Although the obvious omission of certain "politically incorrect" groups is disturbing enough, the mere fact that our free press is now being manipulated by special interest groups to such a great degree is even more frightening.

With that in mind, let me offer some food for thought: Can a society that bans words be that far removed from burning books?

Perhaps the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas anticipated such possibilities when he warned, "Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions."

He also stated, "A people who extend civil liberties only to preferred groups start down the path either to a dictatorship of the right or the left."

Dave Dietrich

Crofton

A User's Library

Paul R. Schlitz, in his Dec. 4 letter, spoke of the Baltimore County Public Library's "terribly short-sighted practice" of discarding books, citing libraries' role as "depositories of written knowledge." His point of view is not unusual and merits an explanatory reply.

All public libraries discard books: A long article in the same issue of The Sun as Mr. Schlitz's letter describes the Enoch Pratt Free Library's sale of 40,000 books. And what better reason to discard books than that they have "lost public favor."

The Baltimore County Public Library does not ignore the "valued books of the decades," because these books are currently used daily because they are valued. Dickens wrote over a century ago, but we still have hundreds of copies in our collection. Incidentally, his books were deemed "trash" at the time!

The Baltimore County Public Library buys 10,000 titles a year (out of more than 50,000 published), and less than 150, or less than 2 percent, ever make the best-seller list.

Yes, we buy copies when people want to read them and discard them when they have "lost favor," but because of their heavy use, they are the most cost-effective purchase we make.

We don't even try to keep up with demand on these titles; try to get a best-seller at the library within a few months of its publication. And we don't take reserves on best-sellers.

Out of 12 million books borrowed annually at the library, less than 6,000 are obtained from inter-library loan, and 5,000 of those we have in our collection, but they are out on loan and the reader is in a hurry.

The Baltimore County Public Library does nothing to "increase its statistical standing" -- that takes care of itself. But we are "a user's library," not a "depository of written knowledge." The only library with that role in this nation is the Library of Congress, and believe me, they have big, big trouble in pursuing it.

Charles W. Robinson

Towson

RF The writer is the director of the Baltimore County Public Library.

Everyone Isn't Able to Choose Health Care

Michael Tanner's criticism of President Clinton's health care reform proposal ("There for You," Opinion * Commentary, Dec. 1) was an extraordinary example of disingenuous fear mongering.

As director of health and welfare studies at the Cato Institute, Mr. Tanner presumably knows something about the American health care system.

It is nothing short of blatant intellectual dishonesty, therefore, for him to equate a larger government role in the health care system with increased erosion in the level of health care coverage provided to average Americans.

Mr. Tanner warns that under government-operated health-care systems, such as Canada's, coverage for basic procedures is taken away by the government routinely, based on nothing more than "the whims of majority rule."

On the other hand, he contends, "when individuals pay for their own health care, they decide what services to buy."

Considered by themselves, these assertions are true. What Mr. Tanner fails to mention, however, is that under the current system of health care in America, only a privileged few -- the wealthy -- are able to "pay for their own health care" to the extent that allows them to "decide what services to buy."

The vast majority of Americans don't pay for their health care. They pay for health insurance.

The owners of insurance companies decide what services are covered. Most consumers have no choice about what services they will "buy." Either a procedure is covered, or it isn't.

Under our current system, citizens are deprived of coverage for various health services every day. The difference is that under our system it is insurance companies rather than the government that do the depriving.

When a government makes inappropriate decisions regarding health care coverage, it can be voted out of power; an insurance company cannot be.

The goal of an insurance company is not to provide the best and most comprehensive health-care services the nation can afford. Its goal is to make a profit.

That explains why insurance companies won't sell policies to Americans with pre-existing diseases, and why they continue to charge more and more money for less and less coverage.

Three years ago, my former employer cut back on insurance benefits, and eliminated coverage for numerous services, including pre-natal care and mental-health counseling.

Did I have a choice to "buy" these services had I needed them? Certainly, Did I have the money? Absolutely not.

Mr. Tanner would have us believe that typical Americans "purchase" health care services in the way they "purchase" automobiles, or stereo systems. The reality, however, is far different.

President Clinton's health-care reform plan is far from perfect. His goal of providing universal coverage, and a comprehensive package of basic health services, however, is laudable.

The proposal deserves our support and, where appropriate, constructive criticism.

Misleading and deceitful attacks, such as Mr. Tanner's, have no place in the debate.

obert A. Scott

Baltimore

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