In his Dec. 15 op-ed column, Colman McCarthy wrote that "executing murderers has no effect on lowering the homicide rate. It may be the opposite."


Never has an executed murderer ever killed another person, although history is replete with examples of murderers who were spared capital punishment and subsequently murdered again. The latest example, reported in your paper Dec. 14 {Metro}, concerned a paroled child killer who went on to murder 10 women.

-- DeForest Z. Rathbone Jr. Off in All DirectionsYou achieved a pinnacle of Orwellian semantic shift with your Dec. 17 front-page news analysis "Gorbachev Shifts to Right as Central Power Wanes."

As readers we appreciate your guidance in framing Soviet Communist power struggles in Western terms by identifying "good" (Gorbachev-type) Communists as liberals and "bad" (Brezhnev-type) Communists as conservatives.

I trust you will forgive my pointing out that as communism lies at the extreme left of the political spectrum, Gorbachev, in instituting mild democratic reforms, could plausibly be said to be drifting to the right, but by clinging to the Communist Party and Soviet State, he surely remains on the left. -- Caleb McCarry At Sea, but Not Stupid

If Columbus couldn't navigate, as Colman McCarthy asserted in his Dec. 9 column {Style}, and we assume that he stumbled his way into the Caribbean, how did he find his way back to Spain? Columbus made four voyages to America. And he couldn't navigate?

McCarthy said Columbus, "stupidly believing" he had arrived in India, called the natives Indians. Did McCarthy write this out of ignorance or stupidity?

-- Daniel Garcia Misfire

In his thoughtful piece on a non-Western curriculum {Close to Home, Dec. 16}, Thomas J. Leckey of St. Anselm's School wrote: "Students need to come to terms with the fact that American colonists burned 'witches.' "

Unfortunately, this is not fact. Persons convicted of witchcraft in Massachusetts in the 1690s were hanged, not burned. Also given the dates of the witchcraft trials, it might be more reasonable to describe the individuals as English colonists rather than Americans, although, of course, the shock value to students would be lessened.

-- Mary Ann Harrell Yield NothingTwo headlines on Dec. 11 news stories -- "156 Hostages Reach Andrews, but Bush Remains Unyielding" and "U.S.-Iraqi Relations Still Tense Despite Saddam's Initiative" -- make disturbing suggestions. The first implies Bush ought to yield something to reward Saddam for discontinuing only one of his many barbarous policies. Does Saddam deserve concessions for that?

The second implies that Saddam's "initiative" deserves a friendly response. Given that Saddam's plundering army still threatens our Saudi allies and the international forces, why should it?

A thoughtful reader cannot help interpreting these headlines as some subtle deference to Saddam, one of the most brutal dictators in the world today. Is that being objective?

-- David Batchelor If Wishing Only Made It So

In his excellent commentary on congressional term limitations {op-ed, Dec. 7}, Richard Cohen couldn't resist being Richard Cohen and had to say that term limitation had at least one strong argument in its favor -- it "would rid this town of Jesse Helms" (R-N.C.).

Cohen should be careful of what he wishes for, because the same law would rid this country of Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Joe Biden (D-Del.), Howie Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), Barbara Mikulsky (D-Md.) and Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.). Any conservative would have to consider that a worthwhile trade and might even be willing to throw in Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.). The fact is the conservative Helms controls nothing, while these left-liberals control the social agenda in this country. I say good riddance, and is there anything I can do to expedite their departure? -- Michael G. Madore Time Warped

I can't believe the 1991 calendar that your carriers delivered. It's useless. You certainly need help with design.

-- Orth A. Rader