Big money drowns out other voices | June 13, editorial
Let's act to empower small donors
As the U.S. Supreme Court continues to side with wealthy special interests over everyday Americans, Congress must respond boldly by creating a political system that empowers small donors and makes Congress accountable to us.
The most effective and comprehensive solution is the Fair Elections Now Act (HR 1826), bipartisan legislation that would sever the ties between members of Congress and their special interest donors. The bill would allow federal candidates to choose to run for office without relying on large contributions, big-money bundlers or donations from lobbyists, and candidates would be freed from the constant fundraising in order to focus on what people in their communities want.
Instead of protecting the interests of Big Oil and Pharma, it's time we had a government that worked for working Americans, not big corporations and their lobbyists.
The editorial board is rightfully concerned about the court's influence, but Congress can do something about it. It's time we return to government of, by, and for the people. It's time for the Fair Elections Now Act. Tampa Bay Reps. Bill Young, a Republican, and Kathy Castor, a Democrat, should co-sponsor this legislation and work to pass it.
Mark Ferrulo, executive director, Progress Florida; David Donnelly, campaign manager, Campaign for Fair Elections, St. Petersburg
Gulf oil spill
Reaganism is the problem
Why is it that the names Reagan and Cheney seldom seem to come up in the "blame game" associated with the gulf oil disaster?
Didn't President Ronald Reagan initiate an orgy of deregulation when in his first inaugural address he said, "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." During his administration he demonized those who defended regulation of business by government agencies. He lionized businessmen and financiers and told us that government should leave them alone because they could be trusted with our country and its economy. How is that working out?
Didn't Vice President Dick Cheney encourage coziness between the oil industry and the Minerals Management Service when he insisted on secrecy during his development of energy policy with leaders of the energy industry? We were told that we could rely on the expertise and the good faith of the oil industry. How is that working out?
Our experience with a financial meltdown on Wall Street and a disaster in the gulf suggests that the quote from President Reagan's inaugural address would be more appropriate if it were changed to "In this present crisis, Reaganism is not the solution to our problem; Reaganism is the problem." Reaganism will continue to be the problem until we understand that the simplistic antigovernment notions of the likes of Sarah Palin, Jim DeMint and Marco Rubio are the source of our problems and not the solution to our problems.
Palmer O. Hanson Jr., Largo
First things first
The present federal government has such difficulty seeing the obvious. First, plug the oil geyser, then assess damages and assign blame while cleaning up the monstrous mess.
Likewise, first stop the inpouring of illegal aliens by plugging the border, all of it. Then sort out who belongs here and who doesn't. Figure out how to welcome legal immigrants and potential future citizens, while encouraging those who aren't to exit.
We have way too much "Big Picture" in government, and not nearly enough "First we have to start with … " Obviously. Whenever we have to pass legislation to find out what's in it (see so-called "health care"), it is because Congress doesn't know how to put first things first — except, of course, their own campaign funds.
Norm Lucas, Tampa
How much do we care? | June 18, letter
The other tragic mess
I was so happy to see the letter regarding who cares about the oil spill in the gulf. As much as I do care about that, I totally agree with the letter writer that we should stop and think of all the pollution we put on our beaches, parks and waterways.
Why don't people think about how they destroy the beautiful places we love to go to? Every so often we hear about the tons of trash collected on the beaches, waterways and parks by volunteers. Why should that happen? If the people would only care more about the ecology and use the trash bins that usually sit next to them, they would contribute to saving the Earth.
The oil spill is a tragic mess that happened. But the tragic mess that we as human beings create seems far worse as it goes on daily. And it could be stopped with common sense and pride in our land.
Murial Bishop, Weeki Wachee
From South Asia to South Carolina | June 15, commentary
Moving into mainstream
Neela Banerjee's journey from South Asia to South Carolina rekindled memories of my own arrival 50 years ago. Harsh realities of discrimination and ridicule related to my skin color, accent, national origin and my "heathen" faith were balanced by the warmth, friendship and hospitality extended by so many with whom I still retain regular contacts.
Although we are a minuscule minority, Indian-American physicians, hotel operators, software engineers and many others are making a significant impact on our society. Meditation introduced by Maharshi Mahesh Yogi, music by Ravi Shankar and Zubin Mehta, yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar, spirituality by Deepak Chopra and the many young spelling bee winners have taken us to a level where we do not have to "Americanize" our names and hide our ethnic, national and religious identity.
It is a pity that the likes of Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley chose to do so, while they reach out to the broader Indian-American community for political and financial support.
Hopefully after decades of service as legal citizens, the time will soon come when we are more fully accepted into the mainstream culture, a time when all of us take pride in our heritage and harness it to the well being of our communities here as exemplified by persons like Dr. Kiran Patel.
Mukunda Rao, Tampa
Chosen, but not special | June 13
"Jews are stupid in roughly the same proportion as all the world's people." A throwaway line. However, it cannot be ignored that they are overly represented at the other end of the scale: proportionally, most "genius" IQs (+140), most Nobel Prizes (see below), most chess grandmasters and champions (7 of the last 14). The following is from Charles Murray's "Jewish Genius," Commentary magazine, April 2007. The data speaks for itself. As for the why or how, that is the gist of Murray's speculation.
"In the first half of the 20th century, despite pervasive and continuing social discrimination against Jews throughout the Western world, despite the retraction of legal rights, and despite the Holocaust, Jews won 14 percent of Nobel Prizes in literature, chemistry, physics, and medicine/physiology. In the second half of the 20th century, when Nobel Prizes began to be awarded to people from all over the world, that figure rose to 29 percent. So far, in the 21st century, it has been 32 percent. Jews constitute about two-tenths of one percent of the world's population. …
"New York City's public-school system used to administer a pencil-and-paper IQ test to its entire school population. In 1954, a psychologist used those test results to identify all 28 children in the New York public-school system with measured IQs of 170 or higher. Of those 28, 24 were Jews. …
"Nothing that I have presented up to this point is scientifically controversial. … And so we come to the great question: how and when did this elevated Jewish IQ come about?"
Jack Beaufait, St. Petersburg