Humor HelpsI much enjoyed two pieces that...


Humor Helps

I much enjoyed two pieces that appeared back-to-back on your pages, Sept. 9 and 10.

The first was the poem by Thomas N. Longstreth, a la Robert Frost on the baseball strike, and the second was the Gallimaufry spoof after "Dragnet," on the truancy bill.

Such humor is rather scarce, and it does much to lighten the day.

Arthur J. Lyons



Syndicated columnist Daniel S. Greenberg purports to specialize in the politics of health and science. After reading his recent "The Pollster Cometh: Just Say No," Sept. 26, I am moved to recommend that he stick to his field and leave dissertations on opinion research to those removed from the ivory tower.

Mr. Greenberg asserts that opinion polling is "a virulent danger to healthy politics and even to democracy itself."

Actually, I believe the opposite to be true. Democracy's fundamental tenet is governance in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly.

Objective, competent survey research promotes citizen participation in the political process and allows for a true expression of views on a wide variety of issues, a reflection that otherwise would be difficult to achieve in a society as large and diverse as ours.

It strikes me as much more of a danger to our democracy, and lacking in "authenticity," for deadline-oriented columnists to encourage people to "fib."

Political polling survives -- and thrives -- for two reasons: People like giving their opinions (and are asked to do so infrequently), and it is contrary to human nature to lie. The spontaneous human response is to tell the truth.

The reason I know this is because I learned it in an introductory undergraduate course on the politics of health and science.

Voter response to questions posed in surveys has had in the past a salutary influence on programs and public policy established to benefit us all. It will continue to do so in the future.

A shoot-from-the-hip belittlement of opinion polling is a bromide that does nothing to further the public discourse.

I doubt that there are any "simple solutions," as Mr. Greenberg suggests, but if there were, sticking one's head in the sand would not be one of them.

Patrick E. Gonzales


The writer is president of Mason-Dixon Campaign Polling & Strategy Inc.

Disgusting Cartoon

Mike Lane's Oct. 1 cartoon about Oliver North was disgusting.

To make fun of a distinguished Marine colonel, who fought bravely for his country and then became controversial only because he followed the orders of his boss, President Reagan, is a cheap shot.

If North deserves such a demeaning picture likeness, what does the artist and his superiors, who authorized it, deserve?

Jack F. Beck Sr.

Ellicott City

Life and Choice

Michael Olesker's column Sept. 22 states that Joe Bish is "anti-choice." I assume that since this phrase is coupled with abortion, it must refer to Mr. Bish's pro-life stance.

Surely Mr. Olesker can't mean that Mr. Bish is against choice in general, since that is a main reason for getting into politics.

Pro-life is not "anti-choice." I am pro-life and believe that a woman should have choices.

A woman should have the right to choose whether she has sex, whether she uses birth control and, should she become pregnant, whether she keeps the baby or puts it up for adoption.

The only choice I am opposed to is taking the life of the child after conception. Just how many choices should any person get before taking responsibility for the consequences of her choices?

Pro-life is for choice before conception and any choice except abortion after conception. This does not fit any definition of "anti-choice."

The only person who gets no choice is a baby aborted -- and that

is due to the laws passed by those who call themselves "pro-choice."

Marjory Zeiler


Afraid of Bible?

Perhaps both of your TV critics, David Zurawik and David Bianculli, could benefit by being "Touched by an Angel." As is so often the case, it seems, not being swayed by the negative comments by these gentlemen (Sept. 21), my wife and I watched the premiere of "Touched by an Angel" and found it to be delightfully entertaining.

How refreshing to view a program that is positive in perspective and which supplies hope instead of despair. Interestingly enough, there were raves about the premiere of "Picket Fences," which also began in despair but ended with a ray of hope for the future.

Both of these programs were excellent, not just the one. Surely your writers are not afraid of at least a little Biblical influence in broadcasting, are they?

Richard G. Bartholomee


Senator Mikulski's Knee-Jerk Reaction on MTO

Michael Fletcher's "Mikulski, Champion of Liberal Causes, Led Fight to Kill MTO" (Sept. 25) reassures those of us who have been Sen. Barbara Mikulski's supporters in the past that we are not alone in our inability to understand the senator's actions concerning the Moving to Opportunity program.

The demonstrated success of MTO in Chicago and other cities in moving poor people from dependency to independence made it a program which one would have expected to be championed both by critics of welfare programs and so-called liberals like Senator Mikulski.

Mr. Fletcher reports that the senator prefers the Choice in Residency counseling program "because it more directly rewards the working poor and screens participants by requiring them to work and subjecting them to criminal background checks." She is quoted as saying, "There are legitimate concerns about crime."

my knowledge, the Choice in Residency program neither requires participants to work nor authorizes criminal background checks.

Although it is possible that the bill underwent revisions to add those requirements, neither requirement was in any version of the bill that I saw.

Most disturbing, however, is the senator's agreement with the stereotypical view that the poor are more prone to criminal activity than others.

I wonder whether the senator's concerns about crime among the poor are any greater than they are about crime among the rich, powerful, privileged and famous.

I refer to a president of the United States whose crimes threatened the foundations of American democracy. I refer to a vice president whose outrageous crimes forced him to resign from office.

I refer to wealthy business men who have defrauded the public on a monumental scale and to religious leaders who have done the same thing. I refer also to the rich and privileged who commit murder and to their children who murder their parents and grandparents.

Since when do the poor have a monopoly on crime? Why should MTO participants be insulted and demeaned by being subjected to criminal background checks that the senator apparently believes are desirable? Would she submit other parts of the population to such checks?

When asked why MTO worked in Chicago and elsewhere and won't work in Baltimore, Senator Mikulski answered that it had been "implemented quietly, in cooperation with suburban communities and with a population that was screened and counselled."

Here I am genuinely mystified as to what the senator means. Participants in the Baltimore MTO program will be screened as they were in Chicago, and half of them will receive counseling.

Those charged with administering MTO here tried implementing it quietly and have been charged with too much secrecy. They sought the cooperation of the suburban communities and were rebuffed. They tried to explain the program in public meetings but were subjected to such loud boos and hisses that they could not do so.

I believe that Senator Mikulski will find it difficult to explain away the action she has taken in killing future funding for MTO.

Choice in Residency is no substitute for MTO, and she knows it. What she did was apparently a knee-jerk reaction to the insanity that has pervaded Dundalk and Essex since local politicians there grasped the opportunity to use MTO to their political advantage.

I am black, the child of poor people, raised during the Depression in East Baltimore.

Those in my family are not criminals. My family has never received public welfare or lived in public housing. I don't believe, however, that those circumstances make us any better than people who are likely to participate in MTO. Given today's circumstances, we might well find ourselves among those seeking to better their lives through MTO.

What is different is that we were fortunate enough to have been raised in the city when it was still possible to acquire a good education in public schools and before employment opportunities moved to the suburbs.

If poor people today can't find the opportunity to improve their lives in the city, then they should have the choice of moving where those opportunities are.

For whatever reasons she may have had, Senator Mikulski has killed those opportunities for future MTO participants.

Martin A. Dyer


Why Monty Fought the Way He Did

Gerald B. Johnston (letter, Sept. 29) makes several strong statements critical both of the battle- worthiness of the British Army in 1944 and the generalship of Bernard Law Montgomery.

These statements contain, on the face of it, some validity, but what is lacking in his assessment, it seems to me, is some tempering as to why British performance in the war, and that of Montgomery in particular, was often subject to reassessment, re-evaluation and, at times, failure.

The killing fields of the First World War had left an indelible impression upon General Montgomery. The cream of British youth had died upon the barren wastelands of France, leaving the population depleted and not eager to repeat that horrific ordeal.

Montgomery was always an overcautious general and had no real stomach for grinding away what little remained of the British Army in 1944.

In fact, by the time of the Normandy invasion, the British Army, like the British nation, which had been mobilized and fighting the war since 1939, was at the end of its tether.

There were no more reserves. Britain was already in decline, and America had assumed the dominant Western Allied position. No country mobilized so completely for war as had Britain, but the population was never so large as any of the other protagonists.

Montgomery, for all his flaws and faults, and these are now the stuff of legend, had no intention of destroying what little remained of his once proud armies.

The Normandy invasion had been a qualified success, but at no point along the five invasion beaches did any force, American, Canadian or British, achieve the initial penetrations anticipated during the planning phase.

Montgomery's 21st Army Group was checked before the French city of Caen. Montgomery had to decide what to do next.

He met with Eisenhower and received Ike's concurrence that Monty would continue to attack through Caen, always with the hope of a breakthrough, but primarily to continue to pin down the bulk of the German armored forces of both the 7th and 15th armies.

With these forces occupied and unable to concentrate against the Allied right wing, which were the American forces in the Cotentin Peninsula and in front of St. Lo, an American breakthrough and sweep around the German right wing and a race across France would be facilitated.

Speculation ran high that the Americans might even be able to run first east, then north, encircling the bulk of the German forces in Normandy. Which, at the Falaise-Argentan pocket, is what occurred.

Not in perfect form, for war is never perfect. Some Germans escaped the caldron of the Falaise pocket, true. Most did not.

The breakout at St. Lo, after tough fighting in the French bocage country, was not easy. But it was achieved primarily because the tougher German armor was being pinned down by Montgomery's forces to the east. Each side did its job and faced its own particular version of hell.

Montgomery is a controversial figure. The saga of "A Bridge Too Far" is a sad one, but neither was Operation Market Garden an ill-conceived operation, or the total disaster often portrayed.

Monty was trying for a way to end the war with a quick thrust. He failed. The war went on.

It was not for a lack of British courage or resolve; it had a lot more to do with the continuing, determined, very often superior fighting ability, like it or not, of the individual German soldier.

Montgomery was a complicated man but certainly not deluded, not unless one thinks it deluded to husband the few remaining forces at one's disposal, even as a new, more powerful, better equipped and more numerous ally is entering the field.

He had what he had to work with, and, by mid-1944, there were only about 26 remaining active British divisions on the continent.

The British weren't tired or ineffective. They gave their all, to the last drop of British blood. And they marched across northern Europe to victory.

In so doing they faced the toughest opposition from the western defensive forces of Germany.

We, of course, were splendid, as well, primarily because of our superior artillery and tactical air support. However, I believe it is in poor taste to speak in such derogatory terms of both the British Army and of Montgomery.

There were reasons they did as they did, with what they had left to work with. They were also bleeding and dying long before America even considered entering the fray. And they did it very well and very hard for a very long time.

It is unnecessary to raise up the significance of our own contributions to victory by deprecating the contributions of our allies.

Douglas B. Hermann


Reproductive Lessons

A few years ago my children were given pet gerbils -- Jerome and Gabrielle. They provided our family with a unique opportunity to observe reproductive behavior and its ultimate effect, population pressure, in microcosm.

Gabrielle produced a litter approximately every two months. In the beginning, we were charmed by the newborns. Soon the births became routine, eventually tiresome, and finally a real nuisance.

During one particularly fertile period, we had two adult gerbils, six adolescents and a litter of five newborns in the cage.

I dreamt about the gerbils and their crowded cage. In some dreams, I was the mother gerbil. In waking hours, I fantasized about taking Jerome and Gabrielle to the park and setting them free. They would die, of course, but at least I would be free of them and their progeny.

After a year and a half of continuous breeding and related traumas, we gave Jerome and Gabrielle and their final litter to the pet shop.

I thought of Jerome and Gabrielle while following the media coverage of the Cairo conference on population and when I read Richard Rodriguez's Opinion * Commentary piece Sept. 14 in support of the Vatican's obstructionist antics, which almost stalled the proceedings.

Richard Rodriguez states that he is a homosexual. I do not object to homosexuality, but I do object to yet another man who is completely divorced from the female experience of fertility -- in both its positive and its negative aspects -- once again attempting to shame women into silence about their needs and their experience.

Like his co-religionists in the Vatican and his editorial page neighbor, Cal Thomas, Rodriguez uses an absolutist logico-moral equation -- life is holy, therefore abortion is wrong -- to counter an experiential truth: There is a limit to the number of children a

woman can bear and raise without substantial diminishment in the quality of her life and the lives of her children.

This is true on the most basic physical level, as well as an emotional one. Has Rodriguez ignored reports of women denied access to contraceptives who have borne 12, 13, 14 or more children and died broken and exhausted by the physical demands of childbearing, or following self-induced abortions?

How does one of those economically impoverished women of the Third World (whom Rodriguez claims to champion) nourish such a brood?

These women are not undergoing dangerous illegal abortions so that they can finish law school or slip in a few more years of unfettered spending before taking on the economic burdens of parenthood.

They are dying by the millions because they are unable to care for the children they already have. When our pet gerbil Gabrielle had borne what she, in her gerbil wisdom, considered too many offspring, she began to practice infanticide.

Women are not gerbils. But there are many individuals and organizations working hard to insure that women remain as helpless as gerbils in controlling their fertility.

These are often the same folks who use rivers of ink and towers of words to defend "family values" and moan about moral decline and the sexual looseness of young women. They imply that there is something unsavory and unnatural in women expressing what is, after all, a biological need no different from that which drives their male partners.

The Cairo conference recognized women's right to express their sexuality and to control its outcome. This is a profoundly threatening idea to traditionalists. It is the heart of what used to be called women's liberation.

When women are released from the gerbil-like mechanism of uncontrollable fertility -- pregnancy, lactation, weaning, pregnancy, lactation, weaning, and on and on until the reproductive machinery closes down or wears out -- then they become free (as free as men) to explore and express their own individual talents and skills.

This flowering of female possibility and the power it confers on women as individuals and as a sex is what is meant by "female empowerment."

The Vatican, Islamic fundamentalists and other reactionary forces are hell-bent (the phrase is accurate) on preventing this revolution in their churches and throughout the world.

As for the high birth rates among young single women that so disturb cultural critics like Dan Quayle and Cal Thomas -- perhaps if the young women in question saw any future for themselves outside of their neighborhoods and any desirable identity within their grasp other than girlfriend or mother, they might choose to control their fertility.

Opportunity and hope provide the best incentives for contraceptive use. Lectures from affluent middle-aged men act only as a sedative and quite possibly, an aphrodisiac.

Deborah Rudacille


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