United in their discontent | April 16, story
I compliment you on your fair coverage of the tea parties. I have been disappointed on many occasions when I felt that you reported events through your own political liberal filter. However, one major error you made was stating that the protestors were all conservatives. Nay, nay. Many independents, libertarians, and also some Democrats were there.
Many people in Washington like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tried to minimize the growing grass roots movement by demeaning those taking part in the protests all over the country and saying that it was only a bunch of rich people. While she and her out-of-touch porksters in Congress are used to taking money from a bunch of rich people (as in George Soros, etc.), those of us at the protests were just plain old middle class people. We are fed up and angry middle-class people who want the president, the House and the Senate to focus, not on their social justice agendas, but on real strategies for the recovery of our economy, and to stop spending money that even our grand children won't be able to pay back.
To Queen "Let them eat cake" Nancy Pelosi, we say, here's a heads up for you: You should start reaching out to the real people and take a listen. Concerning your arrogance, remember what the good book says, pride goeth before a fall.
We are out here, not going away, and finding our voice. We are not stupid, and unlike you, we have done the math and your budget 1) is not possible without a huge increase in taxes on the middle class and, 2) creates such a debt burden on our country that our economy and life as America has known it would no longer be sustainable.
S.L. Hutton, Largo
United in their discontent | April 16, story
I'm having a difficult time understanding why the right-wing, media driven tea party participants would assemble as "frustrated conservatives gathered to protest the Obama administration's agenda for taxes and spending," as your front page article states, when President Barack Obama wants to cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans, and only wants to restore the Clinton tax rates for Americans making $250,000 or more.
Regarding spending, these participants must not have read any newspapers during the Clinton presidency when there was a budget surplus. It was George W., Bush who created the largest deficit in U.S, history, that was also larger than all previous deficits combined.
While no one enjoys increasing deficit spending now, it's needed to help get our country out of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, caused by conservatives' discredited ideology of de-regulation and non-regulation of the financial markets which allowed unbridled greed and corruption to rule the day.
Frank Lupo, St. Petersburg
Subject: We Know How the TEA Parties Began
On the front page Thursday, a sidebar article claimed that we do not know the origins of the tea party protests.
In fact much of the grass roots campaign has been organized by several prominent right-wing think tanks, most notably the group FreedomWorks lead by former congressman Dick Armey. It's an important note because some news organizations (like Fox News) tried to create an organic aura about these parties as if they were a spontaneous outcry from the American public
Not only is this a fabricated movement but also one comprised of people solely in the minority on their issues (and tragically misinformed as to what they are actually protesting). While the ability to protest government without retribution is one of the best freedoms offered in America, it's sad to see thousands of citizens duped by a concerted conservative effort to bog down the political process and American recovery.
Ryan Cardone, Largo
It is most unfair to blame Obama and the Democrats for unfair taxes or accusing them of trying to save AIG, GM, Chrysler and the banks. For the past eight years Bush and his Republicans insisted on lowering taxes which have only benefited the wealthy while turning their heads as these corporations schemed and defrauded the American people.
The economy of this country was healthy when Bush took office and taxes were not an issue. Obama is doing what has to be done and I am sure doesn't want socialism anymore than any other American. Then again where is business competition anymore?
It disgusts me no end to see any of my tax money being given to any conglomerate when I am led to believe that their greed and corruption is the main factor to our recession yet I have to excuse this anger in hopes that this aid will prevent more Americans from loosing their jobs.
Don't blame Obama for this mess we are in, or believe that he will ever get us out of it. What this country really needs is a drastic overhaul of the tax structure and control of companies such as AIG, like it or not!
Jack Burlakos, Kenneth City
We live in trying times, and we feel rightfully discontented.The so-called Tea Party movement aims to take that discontent and fan those flames in the direction of the Obama administration. If you were to delete all of the Tea Party patriotic rhetoric and examine the would-be results of what they're asking for, you'd swear they were working for Al Kaeda as fifth columnists. I'm sure Bin Laden is praying for these guys to succeed.
They call to "Bring your failed government to a standstill," without reminding people that the administration that failed us most has just left Washington. If our government were to be brought to a standstill, along with that halt would be the halt of the efforts of the mightiest nation on earth to straighten things out. Anyone that would want that to happen reminds me of the mad scientist, found in some sci-fi movies, who feels compelled to destroy humanity in order to save the earth. The Tea Party guys guys are worse than bad patriots; they're insane. If the government goes down, America goes down, and the world goes down. (Sorry, we live in a world of connectivity.) They are a bunch of thinly veiled Obama haters, spoil sports.
So why are we discontent? Yeah, people are losing jobs or not making what they made before. Who can feel good about that? Some people are losing their jobs, others are tightening their belts. Those with bigger financial cushions are saying, "Don't take any of mine!" Yet we live in an era of government responsibility. We can damn the government for doing nothing, damn it for doing something and taxing us for the effort, or just go along for the ride as a united people as our government does the best it can. Hey, we do that during war, don't we? Perhaps President Obama should have framed his initiatives as a War on Complete Chaos. Yeah, we understand war.
This nation was founded on principles such as "provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare." The hard right seems to have less of a problem with a deficit to provide for a common defense (AKA go to war) than to promote the general welfare. Which one is more American?
We need to come to a common purpose now, more than we needed to do that in response to 9/11. Let's be Americans and pull in the same direction. .
Patrick Plaskett, St. Petersburg
Congratulations on your coverage of the Tax Day Tea Parties. In contrast to the New York Times, which managed to keep this news from invadng their front page, the coverage by Web Allison and Janet Zink was informative and fair, neither promoting nor dismissing the demonstrations. In addition, you put them into historical perspective by comparing them to the liberal demonstrations of the early Bush administration. This kind of news coverage is enough to make me hope that the Times is one of the newspapers that will survive.
Robert Wood, St. Petersburg
Yesterday Obama-bashers in various cities crawled out from under their rocks long enough to stage what was billed as a "tea party" to complain about the fact that they still have to pay taxes. The huge right-wing think tanks who organized the events - along with Fox News of course -were trying to conjour up images from yesteryear of grass-roots rebellion and righteous indignation. Fat chance.
The original Boston Tea Party was held over 200 years ago to protest the tax breaks and lack of accountability for the East India Tea Company, a multinational corporation. But what were the 2009 Republicans protesting? Ronald Reagan and his "borrow-and-spend" mentality that has persisted to this day? The 2001 Bush tax cuts for millionaires that has generated record deficits and staggering national debt? The 2008 Bush bailout for AIG, Citi Group and other financial giants?
Nope. These fringe activists were just following orders from their leather-chair-and-brandy leaders, the Limbaugh and Hannity talking head types - the same corporate masters who ran this country into the ground during the last eight years. Theses confused protesters are simply carrying water for the old crowd of wealthy tax-freeloaders. There are no fresh ideas here, only the usual resentment and bitterness toward any sort of progress.
Scott Cochran, Tampa
With all the demonstrations taking place, I can't help but wonder if Carl Rove is at the helm, steering the mob mentality, which he has done so well in the past. Where were all these rightous souls when Bush & company was taking us to war? Where were they when Bush & Company were driving the country "into the ditch"? Now, all of a sudden, "they are complaining about the size of the wrecker". I am quoting, here. I can't place a name with the words, but they are very apropos.
In this wonderful country of ours, it is our right to peaceful protest and our duty to bare injustice wherever it is. However, to place the blame for the state of our union as it is now, on our president, is in itself, an injustice. There are too many Rush Limbaughs in the country who want the president to fail. If he fails, we all fail. Give him a chance to SUCCEED.
Carolynne Paul, Brooksville
Immigration arrest angers Megahed jurors | April 16, story
Why is it that I think Thursday's article entitled "Immigration arrest angers Megahed jurors" had a very anti-government bent and was not news worthy? The burden of proof is much different in a immigration hearing than in a criminal trial. Apparently the jurors didn't think the government proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt. So be it. But the fact that it took them four days to reach a verdict and that on the first day a straw vote "leaned toward a guilty verdict" says the government should be concerned whether this young man should be afforded the priviledge of staying in this country. I don't remember any articles in the Times lamenting the fact that O.J. had to face a civil trial after being acquitted of criminal charges. If there's a difference, please explain it to me. It seems to me that the government is doing their job and I frankly don't care if that makes these jurors angry!
Richard Jowett, Crystal River
Feeling safer | April 10, letter
Unless the letter writer is a Native American, may I suggest that he take his own advice and go back to where he (or his ancestors) came from.
I for one do not feel safer knowing that federal agents will arrest someone who has apparently done nothing wrong. (See Black's Law Dictionary for the definition of "not guilty.")
Roger K. Mericle, Tarpon Springs
Subject: What's wrong with immigration?
I see from today's newspaper that the accused Nazi death camp guard, John Demjanjuk, was detained on Tuesday and released by immigration authorties. Mr. Demjanuk is accused of being an accessory to some 29,000 deaths during World War ll at the Sobibor camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
Meanwhile, the Muslim U.S.F. student that was accused
of being involved in a pipe bomb incident where no one was hurt, is being detained by immigration officials on the west coast of Florida. This student was found not guilty by a Federal Jury.
While I cannot, and will not judge the guilt or non guilt, of Mr. Demjanjuk it appears to me that there is something vastly wrong in how these two cases are being handled.
This is not the change I voted for in November.
I urge all your readers to swamp the White House with calls and letters demanding justice for this student.
Jim Donelon, St. Petersburg, Florida
Subject: Megahed arrest in un-American
A fellow citizen revealed how thankful he was that, despite the courts failing to deal with Mr. Megahed, immigration authorities were there to do what needed to be done. Yet his assessment of the "problem" only revealed how far we are as a society from some semblance of tolerance and acceptance. The overt bigotry implicit in assumptions about Egyptians "riding around on a camel" and the sad, but all-too-familiar, pronouncements of "sending these people back to where they came from" speaks to the utter bigotry - and ignorance - of too many Americans who still have learned little from our near decade of post-911 condemnation of anything linked to Islam. I was, at first, upset that the Times chose to feature a letter that brimmed with such hatred. I took a deep breath and then appreciated that the editors were both modeling the importance of showcasing differing viewpoints in a democracy, and hoping they chose a model for how far we still have to go. If he were most any other young person, I am confident the author would have passed off the story as youthful carelessness. But because he is a Muslim, one of a billion people of that faith, he automatically sinks to the depths of a 911 hijacker? Even if Mr. Megahed were a terrorist, does that sanction the author's wholesale dismisssal of entire families, ethnicites, even religions?
Brandt Robinson, Palm Harbor, FL
Subject: ICE Arrest of Youssef Megahed
I agree with your editorial of April 8, "Megahed arrest looks vindictive".
How is it that a young man declared innocent by a Tampa jury in our federal court system one day, can be apprehended as a criminal by ICE the next day, in broad daylight in front of a Super Wal Mart? These Immigration actions are reprehensible, not only because they smack of Gestapo-type tactics, but because they undermine our justice system. I am a history and government teacher and according to the Constitution, there is only one federal government and the executive branch must respect the power and authority of the judicial branch and accept the decisions of the federal courts. Immigration's action is cruel, vindictive, racist and very unfair to this innocent young man and his family. It seriously threatens our system of democracy and due process.
I urge all fair-minded citizens to call their Representatives, Senators and Attorney General, Eric Holder and request his immediate release.
Pilar Saad, Tampa
Subject: Judge,jury,verdict? Doesn't matter.
It seems that Daniel Ruth has, again, attempted to substitute clever phraseology for critical thinking.
If Mr. Ruth truly believes that a verdict of "not guilty" indicates that an individual is innocent, than he must also believe that OJ Simpson did not murder Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman, as well as the many other celebrated cases where an uncertain jury found a likely violater "not guilty".
While I do not question the jury's integrity, that their first vote had ten jurors voting to convict (with one abstaining) would suggest that Youssef Megahed's innocence was far from an unquestioned slam-dunk. Was the jury right then, or in the final verdict?
Now that the Court has been allowed to speak to the criminal charges, let the U.S. Immigration and Customs agents do their job as well. They are charged, in part, with safeguarding the welfare of this Country's citizenry and they would be remiss to allow the Court to make determinations in the areas that are uniquely the Fed's responsibility. The government will undoubtedly view Mr Megahed's resident alien status through a specific lens that may include evidence and/or considerations that were not allowable or germane in his criminal trial.
In areas that concern national security: far better the Immigration department be criticized by the liberal press for doing the job that they are obligated to do, than the catastrophic consequence that can result from their failure to act.
Jim Bradshaw, Pinellas Park, Florida
Freshwater turtle harvest bagged | April 16, story
Craig Pittman's article "Freshwater turtle harvest bagged" (Thursday, April 16, 2009) is great news. Florida's indigenous wildlife is what makes Florida unique. The Times should keep an eye on the issue as the final version of turtle regulation comes out in June, and how honestly the regulations are followed.
I've seen a dying softshell turtle on Alternate 19 as its shell was crushed by a passing vehicle. Although it was broad daylight, this large slow moving turtle was run over by a driver that couldn't slow down for a few moments. The Alt. 19 corridor, still fairly green has many adjacent bodies of what which are prime habitat for turtles. Unfortunately, Alt. 19 is seeing more and more commercial development from Dunedin to Tarpon Springs.
County and City officials can make the turtle harvest ban really matter by implementing an equally important strategy of protecting habitat. Setting aside as much land as possible to preserve the habitat for the softshell and other threatened native Florida wildlife. The County is practically built out. Lets save what green is left for future generations to appreciate. Its the native plants and wildlife that truly define the special character of our state.
Joseph Weinzettle, Dunedin
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is awaiting the federal government's response to its petition to provide additional legal protection for the Florida panther by designating critical habitat. Only 80-100 of these endangered animals remain, and loss of habitat is the greatest threat to their survival.
Best available science suggests that current lands in conservation do not provide enough suitable habitat area to support even the limited number of existing panthers. A designation of critical habitat does not mean that no further development is allowed in an area, it simply requires additional review when projects requiring federal permits would impact habitat considered essential to preventing the Florida panther from going extinct.
Entitlement for at least 45,000 acres of intensive development (an area twice the size of Miami) is currently being pursued in Southwest Florida, the primary remaining habitat that panthers depend on for survival. So, this measure is more important than ever.
It's not too late for the public to encourage President Barack Obama and members of congress to support the Conservancy petition. Simply visit www.conservancy.org and click on "Take Action."
Andrew McElwaine, president & CEO, Conservancy of Southwest Florida
Lawmakers short on courage, vision | April 9, editorial
I understand that our elected officials need to look at every option to plug the gap in Florida's budget. But I was appalled by your statement that "Governor Charlie Crist is 'needlessly' concerned about the (proposed tobacco) tax's impact on the cigar industry", that appeared in your April 9 editorial, .
You may think that the potential loss of the state's 5,500 cigar industry-related jobs is a "needless" concern - but I don't, and neither do my employees whose jobs are seriously at risk because of the pending cigar tax.
While we in the cigar industry are challenged like everyone else by the severe recession, the 700% federal excise tax increase that Congress just imposed on the cigar industry has forced us to raise the prices of our Ybor City factory cigars by 33%. Nor surprising, we are already experiencing a steep drop in sales. Any further tax that the state would pile on would simply push us over the edge.
Florida's unemployment rate is already close to 10%. Do you really think that taxing one of Florida's oldest home industry's out of business is the answer to our state's economic woes? That makes about as much sense as the state adding a 25 ¢ "user fee" to the price of each newspaper to solve the state's financial crisis. Thank goodness Governor Crist is concerned about Florida's home cigar industry - let's only hope that the Florida Senate and House are equally concerned.
Eric Newman, president, J.C. Newman Cigar Co., Tampa
Subject: Redirect and Focus, Florida!
After reading about more quagmires with the SunRail commuter train proposal for Orlando (St. Pete Times, Wed. Apr 15), a vision that Floridians had in the past resurfaced; high speed rail in our tourist-driven state.
With virtually every community competing for federal stimulus funds, it's time for the "big three" communities of central Florida to come together and
get a high speed rail along the I-4 corridor once and for all. A line that runs from Tampa Bay to Orlando and to Daytona Beach is the place to start.
Right now, each community is doing their own thing by promoting regional rail. While these efforts are vital, we need to stay focused on the prevailing need of
the I-4 corridor that tourists certainly don't like and may be going elsewhere for their vacations and conventions, if this recent downturn reflects this.
There is a high speed, hydrogen powered, solar assisted, rail line being proposed in Florida. Check out the hydrogen highway website and prepare to "jump on board". They have addressed and conquered the problems associated with traditional urban rail. Their system is elevated and much less cumbersome and a lot less expensive.
With this elevated magnetic elevation train system whisking tourists and locals across the state in an hour or two, regions like Orlando and Tampa Bay can supplement the system by installing similar regional lines or going with traditional monorails to solve their gridlock.
Using railroad tracks may be the absolute wrong approach. Elevating the urban commuter lines is probably much safer and efficient and less expensive to install. Listen to the tourists whom are increasingly going to other tropical winter destinations. The last thing they want to do on vacation is to sit in traffic.
Rand Moorhead, Director Urban Design Consortium LLC
St. Pete/ Detroit
Rand Moorhead, St. Petersburg
Open wallet, proceed to surgery | April 10, story
Article by Richard Martin, April 10, 2009.
One of the points not addressed in the article is that medical service providers at times request amounts in excess of the copay, claim that the insurer does not pay for a procedure, when they do, claim that the "deductible" has not been met when it has, or base the so called copay on the facility's billed charge rather than the contractual amount for the procedure.
Then, getting the money back for the overpayment is lengthy and filled with delay tactics. In some cases,the amount collected "up front" exceeds the amount due from both the insurance company and the subscriber, combined so the medical facility simply does not submit the claim to the insurance company or submits the claim with errors so that the insurance company does not pay. That "denial" is then used as justification for having asked for the money up front. In other instances the amount paid up front is credited against the invoice amount rather than against the contractual amount due resulting in no credit for the amount paid. The details are clouded by endless debit and credit entries. Up front payments have become an excellent way to get around balance billing laws.
In one case, I pursued the amount due me ceaselessly, got my refund then received a letter from the doctor stating that he refused to provide me any further medical service. A hospital held my refund at bay for months before sending it back and made a not very subtle point that they were not obligated to provide medical service or could request the entire amount up front. Apparently, in Florida medical service providers have an almost absolute right to not treat you or to stop treating you by simply providing you with a registered letter.
John Getker, Homosassa
Subject: health care costs/obesity
The debate on how to lower insurance costs is directly related to the obesity crisis and has a fairly simple solution -physicians need to prescribe exercise. Research shows that sedentary patients cost the health care system an average of $1500 more per year than those who exercise, and considering the majority of Americans don't exercise regularly, that's a lot of money. Yet physicians continue to be more influenced by pharmaceutical salespeople than the AMA, CDC, NIH, AHA and many other organizations that have linked rising chronic disease to a lack of physical activity.
The American Medical Association and the American College of Sports Medicine have collaborated on an initiative called Exercise is Medicine. Their efforts have convinced Kaiser Permanente in CA to add questions on exercise to health screening questionnaires to help physicians start a fitness dialogue with patients. The ACSM has established research-based guidelines on the amount of exercise needed to reduce the risk of chronic disease. There are plenty of capable, certified health/fitness professionals that would be thrilled to get referrals from physicians to help patients make the transition, and help them adhere, to a healthier lifestyle. There is no magic pill to fix our health care crisis, but a walk around the neighborhood might help.
Anita Jimenez, Ruskin
Domestic quarrel ends with 1 dead | April 13, story
The story about Donald Lee Wilmore killing his partner, Alma Joyce Pertee, was shocking - as was the coverage and the response on your blog.
First of all, this man strangled this woman to death with his own hands - he had time to change his mind, to stop himself, to just walk away. This is not a "crime of passion" or a cheating wife getting her due - this is the case of a very violent man with a history of violence against this woman who took the extreme step of murder to exert control over her.
Theirs was not a "domestic dispute", as the St. Petersburg Times called it - this was a brutal attack that ended a person's life. The term "domestic dispute" is too polite to describe what it is usually used for - one person using violence and threats, in this case death, to control another's actions. The "disputes" I've had in my home have never resulted in even a broken dish, much less a broken bone or someone being killed. Let's call it what it is. As long as these crimes continue, let's see headlines that read "Man kills woman in their home after years of beatings" or "Husband beats wife for not having dinner ready on time."
I also wish we didn't have to read about what is "wrong" with the victim. Let her rest in peace - her criminal history or alleged infidelities are none of our business and have NO bearing on her murder, nor do they diminish the value of her life. Her killer wanted her dead and she did not deserve it, period.
In the future, I wish you would tell us more about how a killer became a killer so we can all learn better how to prevent such incidents. And the bloggers who said she got what she deserved need to learn something about glass houses and respect for the dead - the Times should not even permit such sentiments to reach the light of day.
Ms. Pertee deserved a better life, a better ending to her life, and a better published accounting of the ending she had. Her death is our failure as a community, and I look forward to the day when we all do a better job of helping people in similar situations.
Wendy Loomas, St. Petersburg
Subject: Tea Party
To all those who want to join the so called tea party, think about what you are saying. If the U.S. were to stop or even curtail collecting taxes
as you are proposing, who will pay for all those serving our country. And the police Dept. the school system, the very foundation of a civilized society. Look at third world countries and what they have without having a graduated income structure . As we and most western civilized countries have. Taxes are the price you have to pay for living in a Democracy. You are all being used for political purposes. You have every right to demonstrate. Pick on something with substance.
Jack Levine, Palm Harbor, Florida
Subject: Access to Courts
As Florida's Business Advocate, the Florida Chamber would like to commend Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff and the Florida House of Representatives for working this session to provide businesses with proper access to court services.
For years, clerks have operated independently with little oversight of how fees are spent and taxpayer dollars are allocated. In the midst of the current budget shortfall, HB 1121 will improve the transparency of the system and hold our clerks accountable to Florida's taxpayers. The bill also calls for an independent study of the court and clerk system before considering any transfers of job functions. This step ensures that no changes are made hastily and that there is a focus on government efficiency.
The business community depends on an efficient and reliable court system. As important decisions are made this session, the Florida Chamber encourages legislators to support measures to streamline our courts and provide them with adequate funding.
President & CEO
Florida Chamber of Commerce
Mark Wilson, Tallahassee, FL
Subject: Water Restriction Hypocrisy
19,500 homes planned on the developer's "green" dream project. Green is good. But, the solar powered houses still require water. Cooking, flushing, drinking, and showering will still need water. With an unrealistic one person per residence estimate, do the math...LOTS OF WATER at that minimum!
Conserve, conserve, cut back...we're running out of water people...oh, wait...a developer wants to build? Sure!!
Give me a break.
Joe Brickman, Largo
United in their discontent | April 16, story