While doing a project on the Declaration of Independence with my son for his civics class, I was once again awestruck at the beauty and creativity of the words and beliefs so artfully crafted. The "Statement of Beliefs" portion, in particular, applies to many current issues.
It states that all humanity knows suffering to one degree or another. To recognize it, rise up after it becomes insufferable, and affect change for the common good of all is not only a right but a moral imperative.
The Founders' message rings loud and clear right now. We must not fear change. We realize the status quo of rehashed policies is not working. If we are to "provide new guards" for our "future security," how will we do it? Will we fight, or vote? That is the power in our hands. If we really want a smooth transition that eliminates the need for oppressive action in governmental policy, we must vote. That means everyone.
Christopher L. Baker, Pinellas Park
Poorly chosen name
When the Republicans got control, their economic wizardry brought us the first economic expansion in history in which the middle class shrank and wages fell. This was followed by the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Polls showed them running neck and neck with a stick in the eye. Naturally, they did what any rational organization does when its policies are disastrous and unpopular. They changed their policies. Just kidding: They rebranded and thus was born the tea party.
I wish they hadn't appropriated that name for a number of reasons. The real tea partiers were protesting a monarchy governing from England, not against a government elected by a majority of their fellow citizens. The real tea partiers faced actual dangers, like imprisonment or hanging, not paranoid delusions, like death panels and the imposition of sharia. Most importantly, the real tea partiers stood for something more than, "Gimme mine and to hell with everybody else."
Brian Mulvey, St. Petersburg
With the media emphasis on the economy, tea partiers and foreign wars, the reasons that Obama has wasted his opportunity to lead this nation are being clouded.
A president's first calling is to protect the nation. With an all-out drug war and rampant illegal immigration that is infecting every institution in the nation from schools to social services to the judicial systems, Obama actually sues a state that is trying to gain control of its streets from drug lords. This problem spreads from California to the Gulf of Mexico.
But Obama's lack of clarity on the nation's No. 1 priority did not stop there. When British Petroleum failed to follow proper safety procedures and the gulf was flooding with oil, Obama set a new standard for lameness, choosing to defer to BP for the cleanup operation instead of taking charge immediately. This lack of competence dispelled any myth of true leadership being generated by a willing press corps.
Obama in a few short months managed to anger people from the tip of Key West all across the southern United States to the San Diego naval base. Not an easy thing to do.
The sad thing is that he had the power to alter these situations and failed to exercise it properly, by putting serious numbers of troops on the border and bringing in help from all over the world immediately to deal with the gulf spill.
The president's No. 1 responsibility is to protect this nation. In that he is failing.
Phillip Marmanillo, Safety Harbor
A stirring reminder
of Marines' service
Last week we had the pleasure of revisiting the Marine training center at Parris Island, S.C. In the museum, we met with two young recruits who would not finish training until November. They were on duty at the museum to answer questions from the guests and were absolutely the best ambassadors that our tour group could possibly meet.
After graduating in November they are being sent to Afghanistan. I told them of the experience our family had when our grandson graduated from training. Everyone in the stands was in tears of joy at their pride in these young recruits as they marched by. We couldn't find our grandson in the multitude until his sister spotted him from the top row in the grandstand. When the ceremony was over, all the Marines ran into the stands to greet their families, and although they hadn't been allowed to look into the stands, they all managed to somehow see them. Our grandson said he spotted his sister in the top row.
After graduation, our grandson had further training and was sent to Fallujah, Iraq, for a year. In this new type of war where everyone had a cell phone, our 19-year-old held up his phone so his mother could hear the flak flying over his head.
I didn't tell this to the young recruits, but instead told them I hoped they returned safe, the same as our beloved grandson.
One thing I didn't tell them was how our whole family was against the war. I told our grandson that although we were opposed to the war, the soldiers had our support. He said he understood our stand. His aunt and her daughter (his cousin) attended peace rallies where they were ridiculed for their beliefs.
Every day I looked at the pictures in the newspaper of young Marines, 19- and 20-year-olds, who were killed in Iraq. Each one could have been my grandson.
Mary Jane Miller, Bayonet Point
Thwarting a repeat offender | Oct. 15
Label all police cars
Praise is due the officer of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Department for the apprehension of the sexual predator Thomas Hook. The officer was extremely observant.
The predator had a police badge and was driving a Ford Crown Victoria, a model used by many police departments. Having all police vehicles marked "Police," even in small letters on the front fender, would be a major deterrent to predators to use a simulated police vehicle.
My wife has asked me what to do if she is requested to pull over by a vehicle with flashing lights on the inside and no police markings. My advice is, if her cell phone is accessible, call 911. If her cell phone is not accessible, go to a high-pedestrian area, even if it takes pulling off an interstate.
A totally unmarked vehicle will catch more speeders, but I think stopping a predator is more important than a speeding ticket.
Timothy E. Wohlfiel, Hudson
Suspect defends violent slaying | Oct. 12
Direct people toward help
In this Times article, a man accused of murdering his girlfriend said he feels neither sadness nor remorse. Not once in the article was the shocking killing categorized as domestic violence. In fact, domestic violence was not mentioned in the story. In addition, there was no sidebar on where people experiencing domestic violence could turn for help and support.
This was particularly surprising because the Times in the past has been good about publishing stories on this major destructive social issue. In addition, the Poynter Institute, which owns the Times, presented a training workshop for journalists a few years ago stressing the need for reporters and editors to be conscious of calling violent events that take place between persons in a relationship — whether dating, living together, or married — domestic violence in order to correctly categorize the event but also to build awareness among readers of the magnitude of the problem.
As co-chair of the Domestic Violence Task Force in east Pasco County, it is our mission to decrease the incidents of domestic violence in our community through advocacy and education. However, we can not do this without the assistance of the media to keep the issue before the public — by encouraging victims to seek assistance and the community to get involved in prevention efforts.
Martin Driscoll, M.A., LMHC, Dade City
Domestic violence awareness month
Trained for all victims
In response to the letter writer about male victims of domestic violence, the seven domestic violence centers in the Tampa Bay area all have provisions to serve men. We train our staff to work with any victim that calls our crisis line.
Like with breast cancer, we know there are male victims, but the focus is on women because their victimization and murder rate is so high and because of the severe effects on children, including the generational transfer of behaviors when a mother is abused.
Linda A. Osmundson, executive director, CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse), St. Petersburg
More on the veto provision
The Hillsborough County Charter Review Board voted to ask me to write a letter in response to the Oct. 5, 2010, editorial regarding the county mayor veto referendum. The editorial states, "Supporters of the question on the November ballot claim they are merely cleaning up the charter. But the real goal is to take the steam out of any future vote on creating a county mayor." This simply was not the case.
The Charter Review Board began discussion of the mayor veto provision after they were advised that the portion of the provision giving the mayor veto power over the budget was inconsistent with state law and most likely invalid. Some members expressed a concern about having a potentially invalid provision in the County Charter.
Another reason expressed by Charter Review Board members to propose repeal was that it was confusing to have a reference in the charter to a county mayor although there is no county mayor.
A further concern was that the mayor plan that was proposed in 2006, to which this veto power would have applied, was a nonpartisan mayor. The mayor plan that was proposed in 2010 was a partisan mayor. Some Charter Review Board members felt that voters may not want a partisan mayor to have such veto power.
For all of these reasons, the Charter Review Board voted to place the referendum on the ballot so that the voters could decide whether or not to keep this provision in the County Charter.
Mitchell M. Thrower III, chairman, Hillsborough County Charter Review Board
Bicycle fatality remains a puzzle | Oct. 15
Risk of riding against flow
It was sad to read of the death of retired Navy Rear Adm. LeRoy Collins Jr.
A few years ago, I served on Boca Raton's Bicycle Board. Each month we reviewed a staff analysis of bicycle accidents. The most significant factor in bike/car accidents is when a cyclist is riding against the flow of traffic.
A driver entering a street from a side road or driveway typically scans mainly to the left looking for oncoming cars. Add the difficulty of seeing a cyclist in the dim light just before dawn or at dusk, and the odds of an accident are sharply increased.
My condolences to the Collins family. My hope is that this terrible accident will prompt increased focus on biking safety, especially in the schools.
Alice Gridley, Gainesville
Black males and school
Drop the dialect
I read with interest the letters responding to Are schools failing black makes? As a retired phonics instructor in a Massachusetts school system for many years, I feel I'm qualified to say that one of the biggest reasons that many African-American students fall behind their white and Asian counterparts is because they enter school speaking the black dialect sometimes called "ebonics."
These children hear their families and friends speaking a jumbled-up form of English during their early formative years, and when they start kindergarten, they don't understand their teacher's language. It may take some students years before they understand that what they've heard at home is not what they're hearing at school; it's as if they've been sent to a foreign school.
To African-American parents: Please don't put your children at a disadvantage. Speak to your children using proper English and ditch the dialect. Their futures are at stake.
Pam Ricker, Dunnellon
How Rays keep score | Oct. 17
Rays' attendance just fine
A great deal has been made of the relatively low attendance at Rays games. The root cause, aside from the terrible economy and high unemployment, is simple. We live in a metropolitan area with a relatively small population where the household income is relatively low.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater area has about 2.4 million population. New York has 21 million, Los Angeles has 16 million, even Boston has about 6 million. The median household income of our area ranks 156th in the nation at about $37,466 a year.
The Rays' attendance this year was 1,864,999, about half of the Yankees' 3,765,807 — not a bad showing given our population. Rays attendance equaled 77.7 percent of the area's population, whereas the Yankees' equaled only 17.9 percent and the Dodgers' only 15.6 percent.
Bottom line: The attendance at Rays games is great given the small population, low income, and terrible economy and unemployment.
Those who decry the fact that every game is not a sellout should open their eyes, look at the facts, and cheer the truly wonderful outpouring of fan support and attendance that the Rays have.
Paul P. Carlucci, Valrico