Boycott Beijing Olympics
"Forty years after the Chinese occupation of Tibet, the world is still ignorant of what has happened, ignorant of the extent of the terror, destruction and systematic genocide that the Tibetan people have endured and are still enduring. Over 1-million people out of a population of 6-million have died at the hands of the Chinese; Tibet's vast forests, as indispensable as those of the Amazon to the ecology of the world, have been cut down; its wildlife has been almost totally massacred; its plateaus and rivers have been polluted with nuclear waste; the vast majority of its six-and-a-half thousand monasteries lie gutted or destroyed; the Tibetan people face extinction, and the glory of their own culture in their homeland has been almost entirely obliterated."
This is from Sogyal Rinpoche's The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.
Please boycott the Olympics this summer in China. It's the least we can do as freedom-loving Americans.
Richard King, St. Petersburg
The plight of a nation
China, a nation of 1.3-billion people, invaded neighboring Tibet, population 6-million, in 1950 and, while the world watched with indifference:
• Stripped Tibetans of their human rights, their Buddhist Tibetan culture and their self-government;
• Forced the Dalai Lama, Tibet's leader and chief priest, into exile in India;
• Repopulated Tibet with ethnic Chinese people;
• Ruthlessly suppressed nonviolent Tibetan demonstrations and requests to negotiate a return to their independence.
It's all recalled in a recent book, Tibet's War of Peace: A Nation's Nonviolent Struggle for Freedom, by Dennis Cusack.
Who can blame Tibetans if they may now be attempting to use the Beijing Olympic Games to call the world's attention to their desperate plight?
Joseph H. Francis, St. Petersburg
Obama's elegant weasel words | March 21, Charles Krauthammer column
Revelations about Obama
have been disturbing
Having read a number of articles about Barack Obama's race relations speech, I found that last week's column by Charles Krauthammer best described what Obama's speech was all about. The revelation of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's hatreds of whites and this country and Obama's acceptance of the Rev. Wright as his mentor and friend certainly now raise questions about the sincerity of Obama's past expressed beliefs. Obama's repudiation of some of Wright's inflammatory statements while continuing to view Wright as his mentor makes it hard to believe that Obama doesn't believe as Wright does.
Last week finally opened the door to understanding who Obama really is, and it was very disturbing.
Dayle Stevens, Largo
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright
The pain of injustice
Had I not seen, heard and felt for myself the controversial sermon the Rev. Jeremiah Wright gave in his church, I'd have probably condemned him along with so many others who only heard about the sermon. But because of television, I was able to watch the actual sermon. What I saw was a black man, a deeply religious black man — neither of which I am — not just saying what I've been thinking all my life, but shouting it with force and feeling.
While I don't like hearing anyone asking God to damn my country, I believe his take on U.S. policy has to be the way most black people feel. Injustice is a big deal. Whole psyches are formed out of injustice. That's what happens when you are the scapegoat race.
The advantages we take as a matter of course are nothing but frustration to those who know what they are missing and rightfully feel great resentment. What are they missing? They are missing decent education, political rights, modern family relationships, the possibility of rising in the world.
Our country spends a tremendous amount of money building jail after jail and keeping large numbers of American black men in them. Our government adopted the three strikes laws, taking away the right of judges to take life circumstances into account and therefore, in actuality, taking away their right to judge.
Regarding Wright's other "shocking" comment, the one about 9/11, I read Hiroshima by John Hersey when I was about 12. Since then, I have never heard someone say anything about keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of other countries without thinking: "We are the only nation that has actually used nuclear weapons on other human beings, so who are we to say that we may have these weapons but the poorer and weaker countries may not?"
Ellen Bass, Floral City
End sales tax unfairness | March 23, editorial
Close the loophole
Finally, someone understands the real issues here. Collecting sales tax on online purchases is not a new tax. It's the closing of a loophole that puts local merchants at a 7 percent disadvantage (perhaps 8 percent if the amendment on the fall ballot passes).
When a customer asks me why he has to pay sales tax to a local merchant and why he shouldn't shop online to buy the identical item, my response is simple: It's the law. Maybe the customer should call Nevada or whatever state the online seller is in when his house is on fire, his car is stolen or his kids need an education.
Roger Goyette, Largo
No Internet tax
Borders may well be clobbered by Amazon's online sales. I hope that's not because my family buys from Amazon regularly, but it has nothing to do with sales tax.
Book retailing is a highly competitive business and Amazon has found a very sophisticated and efficient way to do it. The cost of shipping generally eliminates any cost advantage to the buyer but it is extremely convenient. Going to Borders oftentimes is not.
Sales taxes are unique in that they require that the retailer collect, report and transfer to the state in an accurate and timely manner. To the small business this is a substantial burden in overhead cost which is not compensated by the state. Internet sales are all that are keeping many small stores afloat. For the mom-and-pop store, Florida sales tax collection is a bearable nuisance. Multiply this by any multistate collection scheme and you will have just one more reason to close the doors, leaving stores empty and rents unpaid.
We complain bitterly that the big retailers take the business away from the small ones. It is almost impossible for small booksellers to break even, much less make money. Many have closed their doors forever.
Borders is one of the big guys. If it is not thriving it is because it has a poor business plan, not because of state tax laws. Taxing Internet sales is a bad idea. Small retailers are having tight times these days. Let's not add to their problems.
Carroll A. Smith, Tampa
Cheaper dollar lures Europeans | March 24, story
Don't expect foreign buyers
Your story mentioned that real estate brokers had reported that the cheap dollar had done little to lure Europeans into purchasing any of Florida's excess of unsold homes.
As an Englishman who has had a winter home here for some years, this came as no surprise to me, as the problems of high property taxation in Florida have been well publicized in the British press. I have also deterred a few friends in the U.K. who were thinking about investing in a Florida home. I told them about the iniquitous property taxation here where they could pay taxes of $10,000 a year for a waterfront condo, and might have a next-door neighbor with homesteading (perhaps with a few kids whose schooling they would be expected to subsidize), who could be paying less than a third of that amount.
Although I also mentioned that the locals here would be most welcoming, my friends bought a condo in Spain, as do most Brits who are looking for a place in the sun. I believe most Europeans now seem to regard Florida as a place to visit for a cheap vacation, not somewhere to buy property.
Tony Groom, St. Petersburg
A warrior's role | March 26, letter
Put the nation first
This letter said that President Bush should have fired the admiral in charge of the U.S. Central Command for "standing between the president and war." "The president," the letter writer says, "isn't well served by a military commander acting as a good cop in this dangerous world of nutcase dictators. The military commander should be the vicious pit bull, tugging on his chain, baring his teeth …"
We need military commanders whose loyalty is to the country, not to the president. We need military commanders who have the courage to speak the truth to a foolhardy and bloodthirsty president. Only nutcase dictators need vicious pit bulls to maintain their power. God protect us from the kind of military commanders the letter writer extols.
Gregory A. Morgan, Lutz
Power in the wind
I read in the March 2 Parade magazine that Denmark produces 20 percent of its electricity from wind power and plans to double that over the next few decades. Do you know how that compares with the United States? In light of recent proposals for a nuclear power plant in Florida, do you know why they do not consider a less wasteful option, such as wind? Do you think that we might some day catch up with Denmark?
Sarah Uth Lain, St. Petersburg
Pinellas parks may lose caretakers to cuts
March 27, story
Parks need protectors
I read the article where park supervisor Dave Hollingsworth is questioning the prudence of removing resident supervisors from our county parks. I was the former park supervisor of Sand Key Park from 1989 until 2002. During my time as the resident supervisor, I was there after hours for many occurrences with trespassers that could have had far-reaching implications for the users of the park. One can talk to any resident supervisor, not only at our county parks, but also at state or national parks, about incidents of criminal mischief that have been thwarted by their after-hours patrol of their parks.
I know that parks director Paul Cozzie has a very daunting task ahead of him and his administrative staff of scaling back our department to deal with the budget shortfalls brought about by Amendment 1 and other tax cuts. I only want to remind us all that our park system in Pinellas County has been one of the crown jewels of our county government. As one of the most densely populated counties in Florida, our department's mission from inception in the early '60s has been to protect green space for the use of all citizens of our communities. We have been nationally recognized throughout the years as one of the top park systems in the country for staying true to our mission.
I ask all of our citizens to hold our local, state and national government accountable to do our jobs and provide the services that you request with the highest degree of professionalism. As a retired park supervisor and county government employee, I am going to make sure that they do the job right.
Fred Bruder, Palm Harbor
Try legal prostitution | March 24, letter
Not a victimless crime
As a father of two beautiful, intelligent and successful adult daughters, the letter regarding legalizing prostitution really struck a negative chord with me. The writer suggests that women should be considered as nothing more than sex objects and that their sexual behavior should be regulated like a ride in an amusement park, for the sole safety of the patron.
What is needed instead are mandatory jail times for the "john" on the first offense as well as mandatory follow-up appointments to guarantee he does not pass any sexual infections on to innocent members of his family. In addition, the woman should be offered real educational and economic options in order to help her leave this lifestyle behind.
Prostitution is not a "victimless" crime. It defiles a human life and breeds other illicit behaviors.
Marc Duval, Pinellas Park
Lawsuit deepens families' split | March 25
Let blame be shared
John Graziano was aware of his friend's propensity to speed, yet he got into his car on numerous occasions. On the day of the accident he very possibly knew they were about to engage in a race with another driver, yet opted not to fasten his seat belt. While Nick Bollea should not be found blameless for the resulting crash, neither should Graziano be allowed to escape being held responsible for the decisions he freely made and for his own negligence that contributed to his injuries. The Graziano family should bear the cost of his medical care equally with the Bolleas.
Thomas C. Rizzo Jr., Largo
The passing of a contributor
One of our most avid readers and contributors to your letters to the editor column passed away on March 1. She loved sending in letters and getting them published. She kept a scrapbook of the newspaper clippings. She contacted other contributors to your column and would let me know how much she enjoyed talking to them. A few years ago, you sent her an invitation to attend a special banquet, but she was too shy to attend.
We met about 20 years ago while attending a 12-step family program. We became friends, mostly by telephone, and shared a few lunches in our early years. But when age and illness took their toll, we communicated by phone. She lived alone since her husband died and because of illness had to stop driving. We talked almost every day for years. Once in a while, because of ill health and other circumstances, our phone calls had a weeklong gap — which is what happened before her passing.
I finally called and a strange voice answered; it was her son from South Lake Tahoe, Calif. She had passed away and I was not aware because the communication was always just between the two of us. It was a tremendous shock, and I just felt that she would want her favorite column people to know they lost a friend named Dorothy Karkheck.
Dolores Kerr, Clearwater