Nation needs more doctors
I would say that Albert Fuchs is the clueless doctor! There is already a shortage of primary care physicians in this country, and it is worsening. Where does he think all of his patients went after he summarily dropped them for reasons beyond their control? They crowded into the few waiting rooms that were left, after searching through their insurance company listings for a doctor who would see them. He may have saved himself a few late nights in the office, but patients who wait an hour to see him are luckier than those without a doctor at all.
I pay hundreds of dollars a month for my employer-sponsored health plan. I cannot switch health plans if my doctor drops mine because my plan is chosen for me by my husband's employer.
Perhaps a Beverly Hills internist can offer Cadillac care for cash-paying patients, but hard-working middle-class families like mine cannot afford to pay yet more money out of pocket to see a doctor who doesn't accept insurance.
If the best way to increase customer/patient satisfaction at the doctor's office is to reduce the number of patients, then the supply of physicians must be increased. American medical schools receive more than 40,000 applications every year for 16,000 seats. How many qualified applicants are turned away each year who could relieve the crowding in the waiting rooms? We can solve the overcrowding and poor patient satisfaction simply by making sure there are enough primary care physicians to offer Cadillac care to everyone.
Caitlin S. Dunham, Clearwater
Get past insurance
There is hope that the pendulum may swing back to the good ol' days when a patient paid a doctor directly, without the middleman/profiteer insurance company/HMO. From what I hear from my nonsenior-citizen friends, they are paying more every year and getting less and less health care. And costs keeping skyrocketing. Why? Not enough profits I guess.
Keep up the good work, Albert Fuchs. Even if all private-practice doctors refused insurance, the larger problem would be the ridiculous cost of spending 20 minutes in a hospital.
Elly Wencka, Tampa
Healing instead of killing
Our government is spending $144-billion a year in Iraq. Instead of that money going to occupy Iraq, say a program is created to employ Federal Medical Doctors at an annual salary of $200,000 to treat the 46-million uninsured citizens. All medical care would be provided with no charge and any medical malpractice claim would be backed by the federal government.
An astounding 720,000 Federal Medical Doctors could be employed and disbursed according to population. Since we're already spending those dollars, wouldn't it be better to use that money to heal people rather than kill them?
Garret Maunula, Spring Hill
Legislature of the absurd | April 22
Lawmakers gone wild
Diane Roberts did a great job of outlining the absurd bits of legislation the Florida Legislature has passed this session. Here we sit, living in a state facing major budget shortfalls, and rather than deal with the seriousness of the situation, the Republicans focus on stupid laws. They ignore fixing tax loopholes for prosperous corporations, refuse to consider tax equality (income tax), and instead they create a bigger government by adding more rules and regulations on the simple things of life, like free speech (TruckNutz and low-hanging pants). What about foreclosures? What about cuts in services for the needy?
And don't forget the worst recent decision: moving the Florida primary up so early as to create problems with voter participation in candidate selection. It adds to the bitterness.
This is what happens when voters are more concerned about choosing officials that brag about Jesus rather than about being competent to do the job at hand. But take heart, you may soon be able to choose to have a religious cross on your car plates!
Michael Guilford, Zephyrhills
Legislature of the absurd | April 22
In reading this opinion article, I thought I was reading a satire in Mad magazine. Unfortunately the article was referring to actual legislative activity. Our legislators must be planning a Saturday Night Live appearance. Really. Banning "TruckNutz." Heavens, the streets are wild with love affairs with "goats, dogs and cows." (Maybe in Tallahassee).
Oh, they are protecting the citizens from such shenanigans while they want to give hundreds of millions to CSX, money that could be better used helping our schools. What have they put in the water in Tallahassee or what are our legislators smoking?
John R. Cappa, St. Petersburg
She's the fly in the GOP's soup | April 19, story
Representative does it right
Thank you for your wonderful article about a truly dedicated legislator, Rep. Susan Bucher. It is a sad commentary on our political system that someone of Susan's character and integrity is ridiculed and rendered impotent. A friend of mine and I were recently discussing how the corporate lobbyists write and plan for the implementation of legislation years before it comes up for a vote. In other words, it's a done deal before the voters even know what hit them.
John Galbraith was right when he said: "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness." Think of how much better the quality of life would be for the vast majority of our families and children if only a fraction of our legislators would serve as unselfishly as Rep. Bucher.
John R. Gallo, Ruskin
No drilling, ever, off Florida coast if she has her way | April 22
Crippling oil restrictions
It is no wonder that our gasoline prices are what they are. U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, has filed a bill to ban oil and natural gas drilling within 213 miles off the Florida coast forever. In the meantime Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., boasts on his Web site that he has blocked Senate drilling legislation until it provides adequate protections for Florida, including a 125-mile buffer off the Panhandle and a 235-mile no-drilling zone off most of the state's west coast.
Interestingly enough, Cuba is looking to drill in the gulf about 50 miles from Florida, with more than five major international companies (from nations that include China, India, Spain and Canada) interested in participating. Of course our U.S. corporations are prohibited from participating. What the Cubans are doing is perfectly legal under a 1977 maritime agreement between Cuba and the United States. After reviewing available data on the offshore subterranean structures in this area, our U.S. Geological Survey estimated Cuba can lay claim to 4.6-billion to 9-billion barrels of oil and 1-trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Wouldn't it be ironic if major oil and natural gas finds were made 50 miles off our coast, while the United States is blocked from exploration within 213 miles? This is our Congress in action!
Jack Wolff, South Pasadena
For gas-guzzling ego trip, climb behind the SUV's wheel | April 22
SUVs running out of appeal
Excellent commentary by Kyle Kreiger on gas-guzzling SUVs. If it's any comfort, Mr. Kreiger, among my circle of friends and family, SUVs are considered pretty much obsolete. As a fashion statement, they are not. Most of them are pretty ugly. Paint them yellow and you've got a school bus. As a status symbol, that doesn't work either. SUVs are just dinosaurs destined for extinction, because soon, I hope, society will look back on them and say, "What were we thinking?"
What bothers me, when sharing the road with SUVs, are their manners. For a while, I didn't think they came with turn signals; I rarely saw them blinking. And they must be hard to stop, because invariably, my entire view will be blocked when they land far into the intersection. And it sure would help it they would park them with just a little bit of consideration for others.
So don't worry, Mr. Kreiger, I think the new cool thing to do will be to drive a car that makes some common sense. It's just going to take some people a little while longer to catch on.
Scott Walsh, Dunedin
Where are the electric cars?
Fifty years ago I drove an all-electric step van eight hours a day delivering laundry. For the seven months that I worked for Brunswick Laundry in Jersey City, N.J., my electric-powered van never broke down. Every night the maintenance department plugged it in, and every morning when I came to work it started right up and ran all day.
That was 50 years ago, and although we have electric carts on golf courses, electric cars and trucks have not been replacing their gas-guzzling counterparts in the streets of our cities.
I can only imagine what kind of progress could have been made since I last parked my laundry truck if our engineers had applied themselves. How many lives would we have saved by not having to go to war over oil in the Middle East? Who knows, our oil-rich president and vice president just might have been be retail salesmen in some mall.
Robert E. McCallion, St. Petersburg
Curbs sought on teen drivers | April 20, story
Put older drivers to the test
No one can dispute that teens need to stay off their cell phones and avoid text messaging to stay focused on their driving. But something is seriously wrong with a system that renews drivers' licenses for many years without checking the vision or driving skills of motorists, especially the elderly population. Slow reflexes, poor eyesight and ill health are real issues that affect one's ability to operate a motor vehicle and should not be overlooked.
Too many seniors feel that driving is their "right" regardless of their abilities. It is time to start requiring driving and vision tests. Anyone with Alzheimer's, dementia, a history of strokes or poor vision should lose their license to drive. Period. Legislators need to stop fearing the "elderly vote" and do the right thing for the rest of Florida drivers. Do we need children to die before we enact legislation?
Jackie Colson-Miller, Tampa
Pinellas extends rights to gays | April 23, story
Protect transgender people
Last year Pinellas County was catapulted onto the national stage when the city of Largo fired Steve/Susan Stanton; this past Tuesday evening Pinellas County continued the tradition of discrimination against transgender people when the county commissioners failed to pass legislation that would protect them.
Many months ago I met with Commissioner John Morroni to discuss adding specific gender- inclusive language to the Human Rights Ordinance; I left that meeting thinking, "He gets it." And maybe he did. Unfortunately he was not present for the vote.
After nearly two hours of public testimony in which the majority of speakers requested that gay and lesbian protection be passed only if gender identity and expression were included, Commissioner Susan Latvala was alone in trying to convince the other commissioners to add "four little words" to the amendment: "gender identity or expression."
Gay and lesbian protection passed with an addendum to revisit the inclusion of transgender in the near future after the commission has studied the issue and is better educated on the impact before adding the four little words. One of the troubling issues that was brought up is which restroom in the workplace does a transgender person use. So I am wondering, how many of us live in a household with separately gendered bathrooms, and, on a bus, train or plane, do we avoid using the non-gender delineated facilities?
I hope the commission does not make a decision based on lavatory use when what is truly important is to turn around Pinellas County's reputation and make our transgender citizens not only feel safe but welcome.
Kathleen L. Farrell, Ph.D., a gender therapist, Seminole
Pinellas extends rights to gays | April 23, story
Do your homework
Did I read the statement from Pinellas County Commissioner Calvin Harris correctly? After hours of testimony from a variety of Pinellas citizens, some gay, some straight, some transgender, the commissioner says, "I don't know what a transgender is."
Well, Commissioner Harris, maybe during the last several weeks when the Human Rights Ordinance amendment was being discussed, you could have done some research. Maybe as you listened to the hours of public citizen testimony, you might have learned a little.
Commissioner Harris, to answer your question, a "transgender" is a resident of Pinellas County who deserves the same rights as all citizens. A "transgender" is a registered voter in Pinellas County. A "transgender" is a citizen you promised to serve and represent as a county commissioner.
Next time, Commissioner Harris, before you cast a vote, maybe you should do your homework.
Richard Feigel, Clearwater
Who asked him anyway? | April 21, Forward Thinking column
Often critical of Hillsborough County Commissioner Brian Blair's conservative views, the St. Petersburg Times has recently been particularly hard on him for his objection to the observance of a day of silence in public high schools to heighten awareness of gay rights issues. This of course is the Times' prerogative as the pre-eminent local defender of all things politically correct. But their most recent gratuitous swipe in the Floridian section on Monday amounted to character assassination.
Blair's sin was to suggest that public high schools might not be the proper place for this kind of political agenda-driven display of support and sympathy. But the Times disagreed, and has framed this controversy as a major human rights issue while arrogantly demonizing Blair as a bigot in the process.
One can't help but wonder how the Times might react to an initiative for a day of silence to heighten awareness for the thousands of unborn children murdered every year in abortions. But of course, who asked the Times anyway?
T.S. "Mac" McDonnell, St. Petersburg
Don't blame Carter
It was inevitable that, as soon as it was announced that former President Jimmy Carter would meet with leaders of Hamas, there would be a chorus of attackers.
But the United States has met with leaders of the communist states of the Soviet Union and China, to good results. It seems that the only governments we cannot meet with without severe criticism are Cuba and the Palestinians. If a country only met with friends, it could never engage with its adversaries to achieve peace.
Let's not blame Carter; he is doing his best against difficult odds. Let us, instead, focus our blame on the stubborn partisans in Israel and the United States, as well as Palestine, who will not budge in the interests of peace.
Robert Monroe, Tampa
Shut down Al-Arian case and deport him
April 24, editorial
Let Al-Arian testify first
I see no reason to reward Sami Al-Arian's refusal to provide grand jury testimony by issuing him a free one-way ticket to Gaza to reunite with his Islamic Jihad comrades.
While I recall him being described in much more sympathetic terms following his expulsion from USF and subsequent indictment, Al-Arian is (as you now acknowledge) an admitted "liar and supporter of terrorism."
I view the apparent "lapse" by Al-Arian's lawyers to obtain explicit language in the plea agreement prohibiting further testimony as a golden opportunity the Justice Department has used to attempt to obtain potentially invaluable information concerning past and future terrorist activities. Such an opportunity will be lost once Al-Arian is deported.
To avoid being "persecuted" further, Al-Arian needs only to provide the requested testimony to remove the specter of additional confinement in federal custody. To locate the keys to the jailhouse door and the plane ticket home, Al-Arian needs only to look in his own hands.
Robert Heyman, St. Petersburg
Raccoon killed in tar machine | April 24, story
When I was a child at the fair, I used to be impressed with the dancing chicken, only to realize with abject horror in my teen years that my quarter actually started a hot plate under that poor chicken's "dance."
Animals perceive and experience pain. And to leave a live animal in a miniature crematorium, turning the heat to the highest setting, is beyond the realm of human decency.
There are no longer dancing chickens at the fair. And there should no longer be people in society who can't spend a fraction of their time helping others, both animal and human, to survive.
Lynn Cannella, Tampa
Raccoon killed in tar machine | April 24, story
Roofer is due an apology
I was incredulous as I read about the roofer who accidentally injured the raccoon, decided to put it out of its misery, then was arrested for animal cruelty. It is likely the animal was mortally wounded after the initial burning, and the roofer made the humane decision to put it out of its misery.
I read on your Web site all the ignorant comments about how the man is a monster and should be locked away. Most of those comments are likely by people who have never worked with animals. As a boy on my family farm, many times I came across a small pig that had been accidentally maimed by its mother, and I had to make the painful, awful decision to put it out of its misery. To this day, those incidents still sicken me, but it was the right thing to do.
This poor roofer, who is trying to make a hard, honest living, faced a similar situation, and made a similar decision. The full force of the law comes down on him, and a bunch of people think he should be put in prison? We owe this man an apology.
Marty Millburg, Tampa