Prisons bill brings chaos | Feb. 2
Private sector caused this mess
It's the private sector that has shafted Americans over the past 15 years: Enron, Wall Street, the big banks, etc.
So why in the world do we want to move toward more privatizing and less public management? What drives the privatizing of prisons? Who benefits? It is not the public. There's tons of research on the comparison of private to public management. The results can depend on who pays the researcher.
On the public side, the main protesters are the state employees in prisons with benefits, who stand to lose their jobs. The initial savings usually occurs there: in payroll. Why hit more consumers and cause more financial struggle within the middle class?
Another problem is the loss of transparency; records are not easily accessed when organizations are privatized. The public loses control over how things are done when entire services are privatized.
Susan Schubert, Tampa
Prisons bill brings chaos | Feb. 2
As costs cut, people suffer
Several years ago, my cousin died in an Alabama prison due to a heart attack. His death could have been avoided had he received the angioplasty he was told that he needed.
He was in prison because he was arrested for trafficking marijuana while traveling across the Florida-Alabama line on his way to visit family. I am not saying he should not have been arrested. I am advocating that he should not have died needlessly because the prison-industrial complex refused to supply him with the medical care that could have prevented the loss of his life. This is just one reason that I am against giving away the public trust to a private corporation concerned only about the bottom line.
If prisons are privatized, many prisoners will not receive the care and services that they need to become healthy, productive citizens. The costs expended by the prison-industrial complex will decrease so that their profits will increase.
Kenny Blankenship, Land O' Lakes
New lunch guidelines | Jan. 26
Better food in schools
I was delighted to read the new USDA guidelines requiring schools to serve meals with twice as many fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, less sodium and fat, and no meat for breakfast. The guidelines were mandated by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act signed by President Barack Obama in December 2010 and will go into effect with the next school year.
The new guidelines offer a welcome change from USDA's tradition of using the National School Lunch Program as a dumping ground for meat and dairy surpluses. Not surprisingly, 90 percent of American children are consuming excess fat; only 15 percent eat recommended servings of fruits and vegetables; and one-third have become overweight or obese. These early dietary flaws become lifelong addictions, raising the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
In recent years, legislatures in Hawaii, California, New York and Florida asked their schools to offer daily vegetarian options, and most school districts now do. Parents should continue to insist on healthful plant-based school meals, snacks and vending machine items.
Elizabeth Blanchard, Redington Shores
The true candidate emerges
It's easy to be a nice guy when everything is going your way. However, when the winds of change challenge you, it takes a man of true morals and good character to continue in that manner.
In Florida's Republican primary, unfortunately, we saw the true character of Mitt Romney come out when he was afraid of losing the election. The moral facade presented by him over the last five years collapsed when he was unable to vanquish his opponents by arguing issues relevant to the voters.
Instead, he resorted to unprecedented, malicious attacks on the character of his opponents. Drowning the voters in exaggerations, misrepresentations and outright lies about those standing in his way to the Republican nomination, instead of providing any semblance of a plan to bring the state and country out of crisis mode, gave a clear view into the character and morals of the accuser.
Today I know no more about Romney's plan of action than I did when his campaign people came into Florida in December 2011. The only information I can take away from his campaign is that he will absolutely say or do whatever needs to be said or done to benefit his candidacy.
Charles J. Pisieczko, St. Petersburg
A troubling attitude
Mitt Romney said it right out. He does not care about the poor. He cares only about the middle class. Christian voters need to ponder this attitude. If the lives of those enduring poverty are of no interest to Romney, how can Christian voters believe that he adequately represents the Republican Party, which touts itself as the party that defends life?
Romney's attitude toward the poor is just the opposite of the attitude of Jesus, who taught, "Whatever you do for one of these least brothers of mine, you do for me."
Matthew Skulicz, Dunedin
America's tribal divide | Feb. 1, commentary
I agree with David Brooks that the new book Coming Apart is a must-read to grasp the causes of economic and cultural decline. His demographic comparison of the working class and the well-to-do makes the recent debate advice on avoiding poverty crystal clear: Get a high school diploma, get a job, get married before having kids and, better yet, don't have a kid until you are 30.
Brooks writes that we need a program to force upper and lower tribesmen to live together, if only for a few years. I went into such a system in 1962. It was called the U.S. military during the draft era. My blue-collar rough edges were softened by rubbing elbows with my more privileged others.
Gary Harrington, St. Petersburg
His 'Soul Train' transcended barriers | Feb. 2
He brought people together
Don Cornelius was a true legend who brought a lot of happiness to music fans. He was, in his own way, a civil rights pioneer by bringing R&B music to the mainstream, along with Berry Gordy. Prior to the acceptance of R&B by the mainstream, this type of music was called "race music" and not fit for "decent society."
Many individuals have made contributions to human rights, although they do not necessarily do it from a bully pulpit or resort to self-promotion and demagoguery.
I see art as a sign that there is hope for the human race. Carlos Santana once said that he looks at all music as "world music," and not assigned to one category or another. We know that music can heal and bring people together, and that is Mr. Cornelius' legacy.
Michael S. Greenberg, Clearwater