Thank you for running the Q&A with the congressional candidates in Pinellas County. The hard-hitting question of whether each would support repeal of the Affordable Care Act was a shocker. All three candidates would vote yet again, for the 41st time, to repeal the health care law. And replace it with what? None seem to have anything but the vaguest of replies. Kathleen Peters doesn't think that people should be forced to buy insurance. Does that include auto insurance? Homeowners? She thinks health care should be provided for "those in need." How exactly would she do that? Ask her and the other two candidates. And do not accept political obfuscation as a reply.
And the debt ceiling? To that question come bumper-sticker responses that the debt is bad. Of course they each want to balance the budget, but only with cuts in spending. Which specific cuts? The voters need to know. And they don't mention that a balanced budget just might want to include some revenue enhancements. Are the candidates opposed to any increases in revenues? Would they consider speaking out to close corporate welfare payments? Are the billions in military waste fair game for cuts? Do they support continued billions of dollars being paid to Big Sugar and the like? If so, name the cuts. Name the loopholes to get that balanced budget.
We all know that freshmen congressmen can't change the world while in office, but voters would like to know if any of these candidates might possibly deviate from doing exactly as they are told by party leaders while in Washington. If each would vote with every other party member on important issues, why do we need to send any of them to Washington in the first place? Just send a computer that's programmed to vote as instructed.
Thomas Maciocha, Tampa
Working toward better schools Dec. 23, commentary
Poverty is the problem
The results of the PISA exams comparing Florida students with students from Massachusetts and Connecticut show students in Florida ranking well below students in those states.
Because of this, David Colburn takes issue with the fact that 98 percent of Florida teachers are rated as highly effective or effective, and he implies that fewer teachers should be rated as effective. He also states, "If our teachers are so good, why does our student achievement remain so low?"
The answer is that Florida has a poverty rate of more than 15 percent compared to the poverty rate in Connecticut and Massachusetts of about 11 percent. As those of us who actually work in the classroom know, if a student has an involved parent at home and comes to school with a full stomach, supplies such as pencil and paper, having completed assignments, and prepared and with an attitude to learn, that student will excel.
However, many students who live in poverty don't have adequate parental support and encouragement at home, come to school hungry, don't have supplies such as pencil and paper, don't complete assignments at school or at home, worry about what will happen to them when they go home, worry about a parent in prison or whether they will eat that night, and because of any of these factors, cannot come to school prepared and with an attitude to learn. These students face debilitating obstacles that are out of the control of the classroom teacher.
No, the answer is not more teacher training. The answer is paying a living wage and lifting people out of poverty.
Molly Hays, Lutz
The tragic situation | Dec. 23, commentary
The Palestinian tragedy
This David Brooks column makes several interesting points but is one-sided, saying nothing from a Palestinian perspective. Do readers know that, in 1946, there were twice as many Palestinians as Jews living in Palestine? And in 1948-49, when Israel was declared a state, the Palestinians lost over half their territory and 750,000 became refugees?
Later, in the war of 1967, the state of Israel took over the rest of Palestine and has never left. Over 2 million Palestinian people do not yet have a nation to call their own and live under the misery of military occupation every day. That is a tragic situation.
Brooks quotes from Ari Shavit's book My Promised Land, "If Israel does not retreat from the West Bank it will be politically and morally doomed," but if it does retreat, it faces uncertain security. Brooks correctly points out Israel's need for security, but does not mention that in 2002 all the Arab heads of state offered to sign a peace treaty with Israel provided Israel ended the occupation.
The photo above the op-ed shows the imbalance of power: a Palestinian youth throwing rocks at two big Israeli military transport trucks. Clearly the initiative must be taken by the state of Israel.
What can we in the United States do to encourage that? As Israel's largest financial and political supporter, we surely have some leverage. But our approach has produced no results in 46 years, and the Palestinian tragedy continues. Isn't it time to do something more?
Haven Whiteside, Temple Terrace
It took Snowden to get us the facts Dec. 24, letter
He's a villain, not a hero
I take issue with this letter on Edward Snowden. No doubt the National Security Agency requires tighter oversight; that's not the issue. The issue is whether Snowden betrayed his country by revealing secrets not through the proper channels, but by seeking asylum in Russia. For that he should be treated as a villain.
Under no circumstances should he be allowed amnesty nor should he testify before Congress. He is and will remain a traitor.
Robert Emery, Apollo Beach
Political winner of the year | Dec. 22
Winners and losers
According to Merriam-Webster, a winner is a person who is successful especially through praiseworthy ability and hard work. Gov. Rick Scott started his political career by refusing billions of dollars in federal money for mass transit construction, thereby denying thousands of jobs to the hard-hit Florida construction industry.
He then moved on to waste millions of dollars of state funds unsuccessfully challenging the Affordable Care Act in federal court. While Scott was frittering away state funds and employment opportunities, he still found time to scheme and plot to restrict and deny voting opportunities to those he felt might oppose his tea party politics.
Scott a winner? That is the real "Biggest Lie" of 2013.
John Henninger, Clearwater
Officer shoots fleeing driver | Dec. 24
Law and order
A suspect drives a vehicle toward a police officer who is in the process of fighting crime in high-crime areas of our city. The people have, of late, cried out for protection against the terror of street crime in St. Petersburg. Is a police officer to allow him or herself to be run over? Is he or she to opt not to protect law-abiding citizens as a result of having one's hands tied with regulations?
I'm a teacher of almost 30 years. They eroded teachers' authority to keep an orderly, high-achieving classroom — look at what's happened.
If they erode officers' ability to do their job well, what are the streets going to look like in 20 years?
John Meros, St. Petersburg
Judge each case on merits
Although the number of shootings has been higher than in past years, each case must be reviewed on its own merits.
I think that the focus of the article should have been why Quade Everett was on the street endangering others after being caught in a wild chase in July 2012, along with involvement in break-ins and a previous aggravated assault on an officer.
He should have been taken off the streets after the earlier arrest for the good of the community. Let's give the police the benefit of the doubt on this one.
John Francy, Clearwater
Taxpayers foot bill on low pay Dec. 25, editorial
Overpaid and underpaid
The one executive pay package cited — $12 million last year for the Bank of America chief — was mind-blowing to this recipient of that bank's paltry interest rates.
But let's cut his package by about 91 percent, to a mere $1 million. That's still a pretty handsome reward for those of us raised in another generation; no one in the family would have been deprived of Christmas presents.
And the bank would have had a tidy $11 million to share with underpaid tellers, who might not have had to tap into taxpayer-funded government benefits mentioned in the editorial.
Donald Rosselet, Dunnellon
When feathers settle, cash quacks loudest Dec. 24, Daniel Ruth column
Stop the inanity
Daniel Ruth's assessment of the Duck Dynasty imbroglio is spot-on. I think the main reason people tune in to this inane program is because they are trying to figure out why those beautiful wives are wasting themselves on those bozos.
Georges Clemenceau was right: "America is the only county that has progressed from barbarism to decadence without passing through civilization."
Robert Sherman, Tampa
Flap may boost 'Duck Dynasty' Dec. 21
Bigotry alive and well
Phil Robertson may very well be protected by freedom of speech, but his slur against gays and the glorifying of Jim Crow days only prove that both bigotry and racism are both alive and well in the South.
Patrick Bauer, Wesley Chapel