Darn you, Ken Burns | July 24
Series was on war, not aftermath
Ken Burns' Civil War series did not end, as this article claimed, with a "few handshakes and a vision of mutual appreciation of a war well fought." It ended with the South broken, the North sapped of its strength and the two sides agreeing only on the basis of the North's greater strength. Or at least this is the way the series that I saw ended.
James Lundberg's main criticism was of Burns' cursory treatment of the Reconstruction era. In Lundberg's words, "The most important outcome — emancipation — produced a terrible and violent reckoning with the legacy of slavery that continued well into the 20th century." This is true, but to confuse the war which preserved the union and freed the slaves with the period of Reconstruction that followed is itself disingenuous. Maybe Lundberg should do a series on the Reconstruction era himself to set the record straight.
Russell J. Watrous, Land O'Lakes
Finest TV documentary
This article claims that Ken Burns' film is "deeply misleading" in various ways. I found James Lundberg's criticism to be unjustified.
His biggest complaint is that the film implies that the end of the war resolved all the issues and that Reconstruction and the continuing legacy of slavery were ignored. He is mistaken in this. In the final segment it was carefully explained by professor Barbara Fields of Columbia University that the legacy of slavery and racism have continued even to the present day. This idea was also clearly expressed by historians Stephen B. Oates and David McCullough.
The Civil War remains the finest example of historical documentary ever done on TV.
Lewis Lederer, Clearwater
Don't privatize care
As a speech language pathologist who works with children on Medicaid, I oppose recent state legislation to privatize Medicaid and force patients into health maintenance organizations.
HMOs already cover too few services for Medicaid recipients. Now, with the Legislature's terrible plan, insurance companies will determine the scope, duration and level of treatment with little if any oversight, so services will be slashed further. This is poor public health policy, and it's also wasteful.
Why is this? Unless a child's speech problems are addressed early, these problems often create a domino effect, affecting behavior and academic performance. This results in frustration, aggression and low self-esteem. Over time, unaddressed communication problems increase the risk of juvenile delinquency, crime and, ultimately, incarceration.
It is much less expensive to provide speech therapy to prevent such problems than pay later for all the unfortunate social consequences. Medicaid privatization is a bad idea for children with special needs, and it's a bad idea for our state.
Enid Gildar, Tampa
I would rather die | July 25
Thank you for the Dudley Clendinen and David Brooks articles. I admire Clendinen for his bravery in facing death and bringing it into the spotlight.
We need a wakeup call as David Brooks so aptly stated. There must be some parameters on what is spent by Medicare on end-of-life care. In many cases, more is spent in the last few months of a person's life than during his or her lifetime on health care that can only extend life by a few weeks or months.
Sharon Davison, Beverly Hills
Talk before it's too late
Perhaps reading about death and realizing that it is something we all will face will help people to feel it is something that should be discussed before you are unable to do so.
I believe no one wants to end up in the state that Clendinen describes he is headed for. However, it seems that our nursing homes are full of such people. By the time you are in that state, most people are unable to make a decision.
Does anyone really want to lie in bed, hooked up to machines, feeding tubes, etc., until he slowly dies? I have not met anyone who has said that is how he wants to spend his last days, or in some cases, years, of life. Have the conversation with your loved ones.
Sheila M. Krause, St. Petersburg
As a hospice physician who provides medical care to the terminally ill at home, I found the author's description of waiting for death compelling. The accompanying articles that analyzed the financial impact of being able to "marginally extend the lives of the very sick" provide a reasonable description for some of what passes as "state of the art medicine" these days.
However, what is glaringly missing in the articles is any mention of God, and the purpose of life, which invariably affects the decisionmaking of the majority of Americans. Hospice may be a reasonable alternative for this man who is suffering from ALS, if he is willing to accept help and be cared for in his last days. In the final analysis, no one should have to die alone or be forced to kill themselves at a time when hospice is quite often able to relieve the suffering.
Howard Glicksman, M.D., Spring Hill
A vote for upholding health reform July 17, Robyn Blumner column
Hold the champagne
Robyn Blumner applauds conservative Judge Jeffrey Sutton's "heroic" ruling to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act's compulsory individual mandate, while championing his "uncompromising objectivity" and "willingness to do his job fairly without ideological influence."
But while Blumner is busy celebrating the simplicity with which the opinion "slices and dices the key arguments made by those who claim the individual mandate … is unconstitutional," she and her fellow supporters of the health care legislation shouldn't be popping champagne corks just yet.
Absent from the analysis is the inconvenient fact that Sutton explicitly concedes that neither the Constitution nor the Supreme Court has ever upheld the power he claims is constitutional — acknowledging in his opinion that "the court, for one, has never considered the validity of this type of mandate before, at least under the commerce power."
Brad R. Schlesinger, Miami Lakes