I was perplexed by the claim in this story that Glenn Beck's populism may not translate to political clout if 1930s radio personality Father Coughlin serves as a lesson.
It is obvious that conservative commentators such as Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity have already influenced recent political races. New Jersey and Virginia, two states that helped elect President Barack Obama in 2008, each just elected a Republican governor. In addition, voters in Massachusetts just elected a Republican to a Senate seat that has been occupied by a Kennedy since the early 1950s.
Glenn Beck succinctly expresses the outrage and alarm that most Americans feel due to the shaky political and economic climate in the United States. An educated and informed populace is crucial in a free society. Commentators such as Beck help sustain voters' thirst for concise information.
Despite the fact that countless polls indicate the majority oppose health care reform, Obama still insists that he merely needs to explain his plan once again and we will suddenly "see the light" and support the government takeover of our health care system.
Beck, like the countless Tea Party supporters that he represents, supports low taxes, small government and a return to the traditional values upon which our great nation was created. We are registered Democrats, independents, Republicans. We are scaring the hell out of the liberal media and career politicians, which is exactly what our Founding Fathers intended.
Thomas W. Cunningham Jr., St. Petersburg
Beck has matured
Comparing Glenn Beck to Father Coughlin — no way. Beck is not a bully. If you haven't watched or listened to Beck recently, maybe you should. He has matured from a sarcastic comedian to a thinking person, with a purpose to encourage U.S. citizens to think, to read and to be self-motivated, self-supporting Americans.
Don't "swallow" everything your read or see on TV. Develop the sense that God gave you to improve the world around you.
Glenn Beck is a representative of many Americans' opinions, not just Tea Party people.
S.J. Etheridge, Oldsmar
Comparing Glenn Beck and the Tea Party movement to Father Coughlin and the National Union for Social Justice of the '30s is a stretch at best.
The most obvious mistake by writer Douglas McCollam is the comparison he neglects to make: Franklin D. Roosevelt to Barack Obama. FDR was an accomplished politician before taking office and had many years of experience. President Obama has one of the shortest resumes for a president in American history and most of his staff have never held a private-sector job. Could that explain why they don't have a clue on how to create any?
Another important fact is that Scott Brown has already won a Senate seat with Tea Party support. The Tea Party-endorsed candidate Marco Rubio also holds a substantial lead over Charlie Christ here at home. The Tea Party is a limited-government movement with a huge number of independents involved and not a party. That wasn't the image McCollam was trying to paint, now was it?
Dean Walters, Ruskin
Thanks for running the enlightening Revisiting a bully's pulpit. I've always thought that our current crop of vitriolic protesters are, if nothing else, original. But, after reading this you find out, nope. Been there, done that.
George Chase, St. Pete Beach
How far can schools reach into kids' lives? Feb. 21, Robyn Blumner column
Online student disrespect deserves strong response
Robyn Blumner believes schools and school boards ought to turn a blind eye or take their lumps when a child posts horrendous accusations and comments about a principal or teacher.
However, one of the most serious problems today is the lack of discipline children receive for seriously rude and disrespectful behavior. True, we can leave discipline up to the parent. But if parents only did as Blumner suggests — grounding the teen "for life" and revoking texting privileges — most teens would shrug their shoulders and go right back to posting vile things about the next authority figure they took issue with.
Imagine if the tables were turned and it got out that a teacher posted even factual information of a student's discipline record or academic failures on his Facebook page, and shared his honest opinion about the student. The teacher would no longer be teaching at that school, and rightly so. Should that not be the standard we set for students as well?
The adage of a village raising a child is true, and in many cases it takes disapproval from numerous adults before children truly learn the error of their ways. Why would you want to disallow the assistance of a responsible set of grown-ups in teaching a child such an important lesson? In the world outside school, the result of such horrid behavior would be to get sued for defamation of character or libel, and get fired. If it is the school system's responsibility to prepare a child for real life, the school should definitely take realistic action.
If the aggrieved party does not step in with logical consequences such as suspensions or dismissal from privileged programs (which absolutely doesn't interfere with the parents' discipline at home), it sends the message that it is okay to destroy someone's reputation.
Blumner thinks that a child's right to free contemptible speech is more important than a respected professional adult's standing in the community, which is utterly backward. When that speech is composed of depraved and obscene lies, the child must learn swiftly and heavily how hideously wrong his actions were.
Sarah Lehrmann, Clearwater
A founding faith? | Feb. 21
It is true most Americans at the time of our nation's founding were at least nominal Christians. More importantly, our Revolution was birthed and nurtured by the period known as the Enlightenment, fueled by the scientific advances from Galileo, Newton and others. The deist philosophy of Washington, Jefferson and Adams prevailed over that of Patrick Henry.
The only religious reference in our Constitution is in Article 6: "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the United States."
Religion is private, and laws should be secular. Like it or not, we are a multicultural society. Religion and free thought both flourish under the enlightened rules of our founders. Let us keep it that way so that truth shall prevail against those who would rewrite history to declare us a Christian nation and inevitably extinguish the torch of liberty.
Robert D. Collette, South Pasadena
A founding faith? | Feb. 21
Consider the Preamble
There is much querulous arguing about whether or not the United States is a "Christian nation," or at least founded on "Christian" ideals. At times, the issue amounts to an almost vicious quarrel. The statements of Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis are unusually sober and (shall we say) gentlemanly.
I submit that the problem can be solved if everyone concerned simply reread the Preamble to the Constitution. In elegant, dignified words — all too rare in common assertions — it is like a tremendous organ chord and should be memorized by every citizen.
Why is the Constitution "ordained and established"? In other words, why does our government exist? Answer:
• To form a "more perfect Union"
• To "establish Justice"
• To "insure domestic Tranquility"
• To "provide for the common defense"
• To "promote the general Welfare"
And finally, a tremendous summing up:
• To "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."
Here we have it, in imperishable phrases — the reason why all "faiths" or none may exist. Baptist? Methodist? Presbyterian? Roman Catholic? Buddhist? Yes, and atheist. These and all other beliefs or convictions are included in the words "domestic Tranquility," if the "Blessings of Liberty" are to mean anything at all.
Certainly, if textbooks leave out the role of religion in history, students will be deprived of the full truth. But, on the other hand, to give American history a Christian luster is more than "annoying," as Joel Mathis says, "it's also deeply dishonest." As for insuring "domestic Tranquility" …
Abigail Ann Martin, Brandon
New police policy is cause for concern Feb. 22, letter
Offenders should be caught
I, as any law abiding citizen should, take offense at the letter submitted by Ray Tampa, the president of the St. Petersburg NAACP in regard to the recent decision by the city of St. Petersburg to resume police chases for the litany of crimes listed in his letter.
If the NAACP truly wants offenders to face justice in the criminal court system, as he states, then the perpetrators of the crimes must be apprehended, correct? Perhaps the fact that auto thieves, burglars and the rest of their ilk don't have to fear being chased is exactly the reason downtown St. Petersburg cannot thrive as it should.
Why should I go to St. Petersburg for dinner on a Friday night when I know some punk can smash out my window and steal items from my car, or worse yet, just plain steal my car and get away with it?
Maybe the NAACP should focus its energies on promoting parenting and responsibility within the black community instead of bashing the police for doing their jobs. I'm sure there are a large number of honest, hard-working African-Americans who are tired of being victimized as well.
More important, they might also wish to educate the youths who commit these crimes about the incredible number of fed-up citizens with concealed weapons permits who just might have superior firepower compared to that which their potential attacker is carrying. This might save more lives than what he proposes, which is to just keep letting them get away with it.
Alan Bieling, Seminole
Slavery shadows our supermarkets Feb. 17, commentary
What about Publix?
Kudos to Raj Patel for his article bringing to readers' attention the slavery conditions of tomato workers here in Florida. These folks toil day in and day out, often in deplorable conditions, to put food on our tables. All they are asking for — aside from basic human rights — is a penny more per pound for harvesting tomatoes. This is a large sum to those who haven't seen a wage increase in a generation and yet a pittance for Publix and its customers.
Coincidentally, another article appeared in the Times on the same day, announcing that the powerful Florida Tomato Growers Exchange had at last decided to end its three years of stonewalling against farmworker rights. Finally the tomato pickers will receive the extra penny per pound that Whole Foods and various fast food franchises had voluntarily paid earlier (but which the growers exchange had refused to distribute to the workers) and a "supplemental wage," based on the amount of Florida tomatoes that individual companies purchase.
While this doesn't pay for the actual work done and only applies to whatever buyers the growers exchange has agreements with, it is a start. In addition, the growers exchange needs to incorporate the expertise of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in the negotiations, and outside parties will also need to carefully monitor the treatment of farmworkers to ensure that a meaningful new "code of conduct" is actually being enforced.
And then there's Publix, Florida's largest grocer, which still refuses to join other buyers in helping to ensure dignity and justice for Florida's farmworkers. Their prominent signs at the checkouts, that "we never knowingly disappoint you," offend me. Until Publix becomes part of this campaign for fair food, I will not purchase tomatoes at its stores. I suggest that all consumers have the ability to help bring about change by doing the same.
Anne Burnham, Tarpon Springs
Crowd watches as orca attacks | Feb. 25, story
The cruelty of confinement
The only thing I find surprising is that there are not more incidents like the one at SeaWorld. We have to stop exploiting animals by keeping them in unnatural confinement for no purpose other than the entertainment of people and as a moneymaker.
When a 12,000-pound killer whale is kept for decades in what is essentially a swimming pool, why would you not expect this behavior? Or an elephant chained to a cage and beaten all of its life who tramples its trainer? No matter how people try to rationalize their right to treat animals inhumanely, it is wrong on all counts.
If people really care about animal welfare, it is time to stop the hypocrisy. They can't have it both ways. They say they love animals and then turn around and buy a ticket to SeaWorld or a circus.
Let's take off the rose-colored glasses and see animal confinement for what it really is.
Sharon Stiner, Tampa
Crowd watches as orca attacks | Feb. 25, story
Animals deserve better
When do we stop the insanity? A killer whale was not put on this planet to survive swimming around in a fish bowl. When we finally acknowledge that what we do to these creatures is wrong, there won't be these kind of tragic events.
I am sad for the trainer but also for Tilikum!
Ilse C. Yost, Tampa
A predictable result
I cannot imagine life without freedom. Life without friendship or family, without the ability to roam when I feel the need. If someone took that all away I would lose my mind, my spirit and my health.
When man rationalizes animal slavery as entertainment for commercial greed, the animals suffer. The orca needs to be in the sea in his natural habitat, not cooped up in SeaWorld. We train them to play games and when they get confused, depressed, angry — what do human beings expect?
I am saddened that a trainer was killed, but how many animals do we treat inhumanely before we learn that sticking a huge mammal in a tank is unhealthy? This whale has issues, but I would too if you confined me for one day let alone a lifetime.
Amusement parks are at fault. Keep them fun but keep them compassionate toward animals. Let people entertain themselves!
Louise Kahle, St. Petersburg
Am I the only person who reuses every plastic bag I get? I don't purchase trash bags for the small trash cans in my kitchen and bathroom. I don't buy little bags to use to pick up after my dog. I use the "free" bags I get when I bring home groceries and that come with every home-delivered newspaper!
If the bag has a hole in it, I just tie a little knot.
Why would anybody waste what they get for free, and then turn around and buy the same thing?
Kim Carey, Hudson