The vegetarian issue | Aug. 25, Weekend
Positive look at vegetarianism is welcome
My husband and I are lacto-ovo vegetarians, and were pleasantly surprised to see this section. Vegetarianism is often a lifestyle change to improve health or prevent bad health. We appreciate the highlights of recommended vegan/vegetarian-friendly restaurants, because we are always in search of them.
The best part, in my opinion, was being able to read the personal stories and struggles of fellow vegetarians, because I know what it's like to try and fight off the stereotypes. Whenever I try to promote the lifestyle, I feel as though I am turning my audience off by feeding into the reputation that we all try to push it and preach it.
I realize that many die-hard meat-eaters (even some of my closest friends) will pass right by these articles without attempting to educate themselves. However, for those open-minded enough to be enlightened and for all of us vegetarians, it was a breath of fresh air to see it in such a positive light, rather than being mocked.
Casey Rivard, New Port Richey
Quit giving online sellers a free pass Aug. 25, commentary
Online edge not just tax
Bookstore owner Carla Jimenez bemoans the loss of revenue from online sellers utilizing a tax loophole to attract her potential customers, but she is not exactly seeing the big picture. Online sellers would continue to prosper with or without the tax loophole due to the simple fact they are able to charge significantly lower prices, with or without taxes.
Their savings come, and will continue to come, in the form of lower overhead costs: rental space, employee costs, insurance premiums, etc. Often when ordering online, unless a certain dollar amount is spent, shipping charges do apply. And as often, buyers will find online prices, including shipping, are still lower than store-bought purchases.
All things being equal, if a bricks-and-mortar store charged a few cents extra for a product, with or without taxes, most buyers would purchase from them based on convenience and lack of wait time. Unfortunately for them, that is not the case. Even if online sellers did charge taxes and shipping costs, their prices would still be significantly lower.
Paul Rogers, Clearwater
Go after exemptions here
Internet retailers are model examples of capitalism, applying a sound business plan to compete against bricks-and-mortar sellers. They exploit a relatively low overhead operation and a deserved tax advantage, in part offset by higher fulfillment costs, to effectively serve their chosen markets.
They apply only those taxes that represent their use of government services or resources in their customer's location. Any thought of the state of Florida applying sales tax to out-of-state Internet purchases would be a blatant revenue grab without justification in either costs incurred or burden carried. The argument that tax-free Internet sales place local enterprises at a disadvantage and should be penalized with sales tax is a fine example of protectionism rather than sound tax policy. The appropriate word for such an action is "tariff."
The 2011 Florida Tax Handbook lists 246 exclusions, exemptions, deductions and credits from Florida sales and use tax which reflect a potent agriculture lobby and various other special interests. Early in each legislative session, there are murmurs of cleaning house on foolish or unmerited exemptions (e.g., bottled water, ostrich feed), followed by a profound absence of follow-through. It appears that an assault on the Internet sales community is easier than the rational and justifiable pursuit of established and influential beneficiaries.
G.T. Kaszer, St. Petersburg
Heed will of the voters
In November, Floridians overwhelmingly passed Amendments 5 and 6 to the Constitution, the Fair Districting Amendments. The amendments' goals were to eliminate gerrymandering and create fairer districts in Florida elections. The day after passage, U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, filed a lawsuit to overturn the amendments and, with them, the will of Florida voters.
One of the sources funding the lawsuit is the Florida Leadership Alliance, chaired by state Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville. With seemingly complete disregard for the conflict of interest, Gaetz also chairs the Senate Reapportionment Committee responsible for redrawing Florida's federal and state districts. He presides at most of the redistricting hearings being held throughout the state. At those hearings, Gaetz continually and contentiously insists he has taken an oath to uphold the Florida Constitution, including Amendments 5 and 6. Can voters trust the impartiality of a legislator who chairs a political organization determined to overturn Fair Districts to impartially oversee the creation of fair districts? No.
Public redistricting meetings will be held in Tampa today from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Jefferson High School auditorium and in Largo on Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at EpiCenter at St. Petersburg College. The will of the voters on this very important issue is in grave danger of being ignored. Floridians deserve fair districts, not the gerrymandered districts we have had for decades under the leadership of both Republicans and Democrats.
Judy Davis McCormick, Tampa
The skinny on fatty acids | Aug. 25
Don't forget hemp
This column on omega acids was good, however it left out an important plant seed that contains a good balance of omega oils: hemp.
American farmers want to grow hemp, but it is outlawed, so we import it from our neighbor, Canada, and their farmers make the money ours could.
The plant is very useful for food, clothing and paper. There are many uses for the hemp plant, but one cannot get high from it like its relative, marijuana. We need jobs, and this plant could create thousands.
John Gordon, Dunedin
Fine earned; now pay up | Aug. 26, editorial
It seems that a double standard is being applied, mainly out of ongoing prejudice that continues to be fueled by coverage of Scientology in your paper.
Most people I meet who have direct knowledge of Scientologists have no objection to them or Scientology. The vast majority of prejudice I have encountered comes from people who did not know any Scientologists directly and got their information from the Times coverage. This results in a poisoned atmosphere and an unwarranted negativity.
The code enforcement board typically reduces the fines of offenders by a huge percentage once the property is brought into compliance. This property was brought into compliance and is, like all other church-renovated properties in the Clearwater area, a major upgrade to what was there before. Why should the church be treated differently?
Paris Morfopoulos, Clearwater