Slot machines are wrong way to revive racing

The column "Beating the odds" (Opinion Commentary, Aug. 3) was right on the money. We need to revitalize the proud tradition of thoroughbred racing, and putting slots at the tracks would do just the opposite.

If Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is serious about reviving horse racing, there are plenty of ways he could use resources already available. Creating accounts to boost purses through the lottery and promoting the industry through economic development and marketing are just a few of the possibilities.

Turning tracks into slots palaces would guarantee nothing for the sport or its fans. It would reward the track owners, who have trashed the proud tradition in favor of pursuing a more lucrative agenda.

While track owners spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to curry legislative favor, track facilities decayed. But these same owners are the people who would hit the jackpot with slots.

If Maryland needs to expand gambling for revenue, it should do so through the lottery or a state-owned gambling facility.

I hope the governor changes his focus, moves away from selling slots as salvation, and puts his energy into creating excitement and enthusiasm for the horses and the sport.

Jean Davis


No horsing around on equine legacy

According to Annapolis Mayor Ellen Moyer, Maryland needs to better promote its great horse racing heritage ("Beating the odds," Opinion

Commentary, Aug. 3). One step in doing so happened earlier this year, when Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. signed a bill making the thoroughbred Maryland's state horse.

Adopting the thoroughbred as a state symbol shows that, when it comes to remembering and honoring an important part of our legacy, Maryland is not horsing around.

Bob Cullen


Langenberg earned retirement stipend

The "regents professorship" provided former University System of Maryland Chancellor Donald N. Langenberg is not at all unusual today; indeed, it represents one of the wisest things university boards have done in recent years ("University retirees hold jobs in system," Aug. 2).

"Golden parachutes" have become generic in both public and private higher education. Why? Boards have learned that long-serving presidents should have a graceful way out of office. Typically, this is done with a contract that at once rewards distinguished service and allows aging presidents to ease out of office.

Such a contract usually calls for a distinguished position, not directly associated with the board, and 60 percent or more of the president's highest annual salary.

In the case of Mr. Langenberg, any informed person would conclude that the quality and reputation of Maryland public higher education improved during his tenure. His $110,000 stipend is scarcely one-third of his salary as chancellor.

The regents did the right thing, and should have done more for Mr. Langenberg.

James L. Fisher


The writer is a consultant to university boards on presidential contracts and evaluations and a former president of Towson University.

Double-dipping as tuition soars?

The Sun reported on the number of "retired" officials and professors in the University System of Maryland who are getting pensions but double-dipping by getting paid for positions ("University retirees hold jobs in system," Aug. 2).

To this reader, the question is: How much of the tuition increase could be reduced if these "retirees" retired?

Richard L. Lelonek


Lust for oil explains Bush's maneuvering

Let's see if I have this right: President Bush attacked Iraq, a nation that has never attacked the United States and now appears to have been incapable of doing so.

The Bush administration also apparently suppressed information in the report on Sept. 11 that would embarrass the Saudi government because wealthy and influential Saudis may have financed the al-Qaida terrorist attacks on the United States ("Classified 9/11 report said to 'damn' Saudi officials," Aug. 2).

So what can possibly explain this seeming contradiction?

Oil: the ultimate weapon of mass distraction.

Sheldon H. Laskin


Catholics obligated to heed pope's words

Ellen Goodman's slashing rhetoric makes it appear that the Catholic Church's position on abortion is merely an opinion on which Catholic politicians are free to disagree ("Zealots deal the 'Catholic card' down and dirty," Opinion

Commentary, Aug. 4). However, this is far from the truth. The church has dogmatically proclaimed the unborn child's right to life, and all Catholics are morally bound to adhere to this position.

Ms. Goodman's contention that it is "the conservative end of the religious spectrum that defines their one true religion" is in error. Rather, it is the pope who is the final authority on matters of faith and morals. It is his dogmatic definitions to which all Catholics must conform.

Whether they decide to do so is another matter. But it is their choice that distinguishes the true adherents to the faith from those who are Catholic in name only.

Whether the pope chooses to admonish or excommunicate dogmatic deviants has nothing to do with the right or wrong conduct of Catholic politicians.

The Catholic Church's positions on abortion and homosexual marriage are clear and forthright.

And like it or not, all Catholics, including politicians, are morally bound to follow those teachings.

Paul Lavin


Church must reform its dated doctrine

After reading Mary Gordon's article regarding the Magdalene sisters' laundries to "clean sheets and the souls of wayward young women" ("How Ireland hid its own dirty laundry," Aug. 3), I was struck by yet another aspect of my former church's lack of compassion for the flock and its dysfunctional doctrine.

The connection between this experience and the lawsuits about priests who sexually molested minors is striking.

The Catholic Church needs to be reformed to meet the reality of serving the souls of this world and recognize human frailty and sexuality.

Patricia Ranney


BWI has become one huge hassle

I wanted to second the article on travel hassles at Baltimore-Washington International Airport ("Hated lines building up again at BWI security checkpoints," Aug. 5).

Not long ago, one could park near the airport for an almost-reasonable price, check in quickly at the ticket counter and be on one's way. My more recent experience is that every part of the airport experience - parking, ticketing, security and even food service - involves long lines and multiple irritations.

I've begun to avoid BWI whenever possible.

Jeff M. Schumer


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