Fit PunishmentOnce again a human being has...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Fit Punishment

Once again a human being has been brutally murdered -- raped, beaten and strangled. Surprisingly, the "alleged" perpetrator was apprehended quickly.

No doubt, if he is convicted and given the death penalty, he too, along with his lawyer, the American CIvil Liberties Union, et al. will question the "inhumane" method of execution.

Recently, a death-row inmate (who stabbed one of his victims 17 times) requested the execution of John Thanos be videotaped, to determine if it constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment."

Since both of these men witnessed first-hand what the death they administered was like, perhaps they should be given the option of choosing their method.

The familiar lyrics "let the punishment fit the crime" might just be the deterrent society is seeking.

Ann Graff

Towson

Intelligence Wins

Two recent reports -- "A" students, especially black "A" students, scorned by their peers, and anti-intellectualism at Duke University -- prompt the reflection that we are in dire need of a collective new mind-set.

Richard Hofstadter has documented the history of anti-intellectualism in American life. There seems to be a recrudescence of that bias, a penchant for viewing intelligence as in opposition to other traits -- goodwill, sensitivity, compassion -- as if intelligence cannot be manifested in combination with, rather than opposition to, these qualities.

Nor are intelligence and practicality mutually exclusive. Effective action needs reflective direction. Action for action's sake is simply absurd, like a cat chasing its own tail.

Aims, ends and goals are the province of theory. Our eminently practical Constitution, which has effectively governed the lives of millions of Americans for some 200 years, is the fruit of the philosophic ruminations of the last 2,000 years. The Founding Fathers, practical philosophers, were themselves a rare breed of intellectuals.

All societies need the benefit of the best brains they can produce. Viewing intellect as elitist is nonsense. Democracy depends upon a citizenry which can examine issues with a critical eye and elect qualified leaders. As John Milton put it, we must "make the people fittest to choose and the chosen fittest to govern."

It is a puzzlement, this belittling of intelligence. It is intelligence which distinguishes us from the beasts. Nourishing intelligence, it would seem, can make us more fully human, that is, humane.

Intelligence can broaden horizons, deepen insight, heighten understanding, sharpen the sense of human kinship. The entire development of civilization is underpinned by intellect.

The riposte to the anti-intellectual zealot is James Harvey Robinson's: "As members of a race that has required from 500,000 to 1 million years to reach its present state of enlightenment, there is little reason to think that anyone of us is likely to cultivate intelligence too assiduously or in harmful excess."

Rea Knisbacher

Baltimore

Crime and Defunct Theater

For all of us who loved the Charles Theatre, the Dec. 20 article by Beth Hannan was lamentable.

Although it was a summary of a Sundial poll, she felt that she had to emphasize the "crime" issue and quotes of some unfortunate movie-goers' experiences.

Whatever the crime problem around the area of the Charles Theatre is, it is probably no worse than any other area of downtown Baltimore. If I remember correctly, The Sun recently quoted theater manager Gary Lambert as stating that the crime had actually decreased in the last three years due to the closing of some nightclubs on North Avenue.

This kind of reporting is bad publicity for the Charles and any future chance of its reopening.

There are also other businesses in the area, the Metropol Cafe and Gallery and the Club Charles, that are affected by these kinds of inaccuracies.

Anyway, the last time I lost my wallet it was to a professional pick-pocket inside the spanking new Towson Movie Cineplex.

Ruth Pettus

Baltimore

Big Government and Censorship

Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., has "summoned" the heads of ABC, CBS and NBC to his office early in January to discuss the issue of violence on television.

It is entirely possible that the fate of the First Amendment the last bastion of individual rights still respected by our government will be decided at that meeting.

Television networks are not public property or the property of Senator Simon et al.

The networks belong to the owners, who are responsible for making them go on the air each day and without whom there would be no television viewing in the first place.

NBC is private property, no less than one's house, one's car or one's very life.

Senator Simon refuses to understand that the U.S. Constitution provided for a limited government.

A limited government protects individual rights, which can only be violated by the initiation of physical force (or fraud) of one individual against another.

Using this definition, it is utterly illogical to claim a "right" to

violent-free television.

No right has been violated unless, or until, a broadcaster applies the use of force in making an individual watch a certain television show.

On the other hand, government regulation of broadcast material in the absence of force or fraud by any party is most certainly a violation of the rights of the broadcaster.

Far more is at stake here than the content of a few television shows. Once the door is open to government "management" of program content, the principle is established that the government has the final say in what is shown and not shown on television.

Once this principle is accepted, what is to protect us from a dictatorship of a fascist, communist or religious variety?

The networks have nothing to gain from any compromise, while power-hungry government officials have everything to gain from even a tiny concession.

It is imperative that network officials not budge one inch from the principle of individual rights.

To even dignify the senator's summons by agreeing to meet is a travesty of justice, unless the sole purpose of the "meeting" is to let the senator know in no uncertain terms that the private property rights of broadcasters cannot and will not be negotiated away.

It is a truly sad commentary on our times that such a meeting can even take place without strong objections from every corner of society.

The very premise of the meeting suggests that independent broadcasters operate solely with the permission of the government, and that the government has a mortgage on the individual's right to self-expression.

If our government shows such little regard for property rights, is it any wonder that criminal behavior is on the rise?

Michael H. Hurd

Columbia

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