Vengeful sadismI agree with your anti-capital punishment...

the Forum

January 04, 1995

Vengeful sadism

I agree with your anti-capital punishment position and would like to add some thoughts:

The death penalty carries an undercurrent of vengeful sadism.

Many people revel at the thought of an execution. Mobs often collect outside prisons where executions are to take place before a select group of witnesses.

Although the throngs cannot hope to be spectators at the execution, they derive a vicarious thrill of pleasure from merely standing near the scene.

It is murder, not the murderer, that is the real problem.

Since social and economic forces create criminals, an elimination of the breeding spots of crime should be the primary consideration of society.

It is wrong to focus entirely on the elimination of criminals who are spawned by a degenerating environment.

Most career criminals come from slum areas characterized by bad housing, poverty and the family disorganization it creates, lack of recreational facilities, lack of safety nets, lack of social justice, decent jobs and inadequate health care.

Since our society is in some measure responsible for the criminal's rage, despair and brutality, it is unfair to exact his or her life.

Capital punishment was first invoked for murder at a time when prisons could offer no other punishment aside from banishment.

Some murderers can be rehabilitated. Why not attempt to reform them? Killing them will not bring back their victims, nor really alleviate the suffering of loved ones.

The death penalty is irreparable. It cannot be administered fairly, it offers no deterrent and should be abolished.

Gerald Ben Shargel


Speed limit fantasy

Your editorial lauding the virtues of the 55-mph speed limit was long on fantasy and short on reality ("Bubba Glendening?" Dec. 18).

You assert that "Maryland's experience with the 55-mph limit has been fine."

Says who? The insurance companies that surcharge motorists' premiums may think it's fine. The government agencies that use ticket revenue in place of legitimate taxes may think its fine.

But the millions of drivers who use Maryland's highways obviously don't think it "fine" -- not when 90 percent of them ignore the limit on a daily basis.

From a regulatory and engineering perspective, speed limits exert little or no influence on general vehicle speeds.

If speed limits are in sync with speed trends they can serve as a source of information and as a means to delineate reckless, deviant behavior from the reasonable behavior of the general public.

Overall speed trends are determined by the evolution of vehicles and highways and the consensus of highway users.

When governments and the chroniclers of current events recognize that fact, we'll all be better off.

James J. Baxter

Dane, Wisc.

The writer is president of the National Motorists Association.

Electric power

To the proponents of the new auto emission test program: We are all in favor of clean air, but let's stop our headlong, senseless -- into an unproven, expensive and damaging test program until we know it will produce the desired results.

An engineering evaluation is not wholesale blind testing paid for by those who can least afford it.

Let's see some real engineering, based on the thermodynamics of combustion for all fossil fuel sources, then evaluated by real engineers to come to a practical solution to our clean air problem.

The automobile is no longer a privilege, it is a necessity. It is also not the optimum means for transportation in and around our big cities.

Our tax dollars would be better spent developing an adequate public transportation system based on current electrical motor technology for Marylanders to use to get to and from work.

David Heston

Glen Arm

State colleges

Your recent articles on college teaching differed from my experiences as a faculty member.

Many faculty members at the University of Maryland Baltimore Campus and College Park believe that those who do no research should do more teaching and that some departments have excessively light teaching loads.

The most crucial aspect of college teaching is teaching up-do-date knowledge.

College professors at research universities do a better job of keeping up with their fields than any occupation I know, including physicians, lawyers, engineers and managers. They can keep up only because they engage in research and self-study.

Most faculty salaries are lower than your examples. Many high-salaried faculty members earn extra money from grants and give their universities so much overhead from their grants that other universities compete for them.

A few are paid high salaries by administrators who want the latest intellectual fads.

Maryland public higher education's major government problems are the overlapping jurisdictions of the Maryland Higher Education Commission and the University of Maryland Board of Regents and the commission's ignorance of higher education and lack of credibility in the academic community.

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