Can't the county even find funds for...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Can't the county even find funds for trash bags?

I recently received in the mail a newsletter from the Severna Park Middle School Parent Teacher Organization. It was full of information regarding the PTO's goals for the year, pleas for volunteers and a schedule of PTO meetings.

However, one request left me somewhat befuddled.

A highlighted area on one page stated, "believe it or not, the county no longer provides trash bags for the classrooms or offices. To prevent the custodial staff from wasting valuable time washing out every trashcan every night, please consider sending in a box of tall kitchen bags or larger. The custodial staff will be very appreciative."

I don't think so. If Gov. Parris N. Glendening can afford a Preakness party at Pimlico for his pals, then certainly there must be money somewhere to provide trash bags for the public schools.

It's already deplorable enough that there aren't sufficient textbooks for the students to bring home to study, but this is ridiculous. What will be next -- paper towels and toilet paper?

What does County Executive Janet Owens have to say?

Isn't there a chance to get our schools trash bags?

Susan Kelley

Millersville

Death penalty links crime to punishment

The argument against the "juvenile death penalty" presented by Steven Drizin begins with a factual error and lapses into a tour de force of illogic and sentimentalism ("End juvenile death penalty," Opinion

Commentary, Aug. 21).

The late Gary Graham was 20, not 17, when he engaged in a spree of wanton brutality that included the death of Bobby Lambert.

The sadistic cruelty Graham exhibited places him among the worst of monsters to have terrorized innocent victims. He was eventually captured in the home of a woman whom he had kidnapped and repeatedly raped. An earlier kidnapping, robbery and attempted murder left his victim permanently disabled.

Before attempting to kill his victim, Graham taunted him with the threat of returning to the scene of the kidnapping and raping and killing his wife.

A comparison of the brilliant defense provided Leopold and Loeb by Clarence Darrow to the representation of Gary Graham is irrelevant. Not every sociopath has the wealth to hire a man at the peak of his profession to save him from the appropriate penalty.

And it should be noted that one of these defendants was eventually paroled. Should we ever risk exposing society to the likes of Gary Graham?

The juvenile justice system was once aimed at misbehavior that was less dangerous to society than the crimes that make the headlines all too often.

Today, that system has become a shield to protect increasingly youthful thugs from punishment that befits their crimes.

Our society has gradually severed the feedback loop between cause and effect, misbehavior and punishment.

We can attribute this to permissiveness as well as to well-meaning laws intended to protect children. But until this relationship is restored, the application of the most severe punishment may be one of the few vehicles for dramatically demonstrating that there is a severe downside for the worst behavior.

Arthur W. Downs

Severna Park

Don't use game shows to teach your kids

I felt compelled to reply to the letter "Richard may be a survivor but he's no role model" (Aug. 29).

Why would anyone ever look to him as a role model?

The show "Survivor" was a game, and the winner received money as a prize. The people on the show played the game as best they could, and Richard outwitted and out-challenged all the others.

But while I watched and enjoyed each episode, I would not even think of it as a teaching tool for children to imitate.

I think people are relying too much on what is shown on TV to teach children and to give them role models, when their kids probably have the best role models right under their noses: themselves.

Marge Griffith

Pasadena

Total GOP control would hurt the poor

The important issue in the upcoming election is not between Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Al Gore, but whether you want a Republican president and a Republican Congress.

Since Jimmy Carter, the control of Congress and the presidency have rested in different hands, and the checks and balances this affords have provided a good result.

After this election, the Republicans will likely retain control of Congress. With a Republican president as well, we would have an emphasis on maintaining corporate profits (although they are at record levels now) and tax relief for the rich.

In six years, the Republican Congress has done nothing for the 45 million people without health insurance, but it has insisted on health insurance companies making a profit. It cut Medicare payments to hospitals and doctors with the result that doctors and HMOs have dropped thousands of senior citizens from coverage.

Congressional Republicans now want any senior prescription program to be handled by insurance companies, at a profit, a profit that would be tax dollars.

Yes, these are compassionate conservatives -- very compassionate toward big business.

Thomas J. Cartin

Annapolis

Faith is no guarantee a candidate is moral

The current presidential campaign has focused much attention on the religious persuasion of the candidates ("Groups decry talk of faith," Aug. 30).

The suggestion that orthodox or fundamentalist religious belief is a guarantor of ethical and moral national leadership overlooks the distinction between religiosity and ethical behavior.

While not critical of those holding fundamentalist religious convictions, Ethical Culture proposes that moral behavior is rewarded in this life, without need for persuasion by alternative hereafters.

We believe that the supreme aim of human life is working to create a more humane society.

Robert W. Corbett

Annapolis

Universal health would protect us all

A single-payer health insurance plan is a rational answer to the bewildering, irrational and immensely expensive non-system we have now ("Beware one-payer health insurance," Opinion

Commentary, Aug. 24).

We spend 50 percent more than any other nation in the world on health care, but we have 45 million uninsured people, many more under-insured and our life expectancy is five years lower than that in many European countries.

A health system should be for the people of the country, not for the insurance companies.

This is what can all agree on. The country is aging. There is a widening gap between the rich and the poor. If you lose your job, you lose your health insurance. Most low-paying jobs don't even offer health insurance.

Medicines are getting more expensive. Diagnostic tests are getting more expensive. The incidence of diabetes and of childhood asthma is increasing. Costs will continue to rise.

This is what we have now. Six hundred HMOs, IPOs, community health centers, Medicaid and Medicare. We also have PPOs, county health clinics, Indian reservation clinics, Veteran's Administration hospitals and emergency rooms. We have huge mergers of for-profit organizations.

Indeed, the same day Ronald Dworkin's column ran, the business section had an article about a bankrupt HMO, Integrated Health Services, which is going to pay its CEO $50 million as a golden parachute -- money which is part of our national health costs ("Hearing on objections to IHS' golden parachute for Elkins is postponed," Aug. 24). This chaotic and ever-changing array prevents the most basic elements of good medical care -- including prevention and information gathering.

Some countries that spend much less than we do have better health care because they more fully fund public health and preventive measures. These include universal vaccination, prenatal and baby care, universal annual checkups and health education.

Our medical information systems are primitive. HMOs do not always share such information as the percent of children they immunize, the number of mammographies they conduct and how much HIV counseling they perform.

And they have every reason to limit services to increase profits.

We now have rationing of health care. Keeping the elderly from getting prescription drugs is rationing. Restricting access to specialists is rationing. Restricting access to emergency rooms is rationing. Failing to insure 45 million Americans is rationing.

Universal health care will save money and assure fairness in care.

Dr. Marvin Thalenberg

Annapolis

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