Exhibit A on hard task of picking a jury | July 17, column
Ideal juror appears to be ignorant
The writer's views on jury selection techniques during the George Zimmerman trial reminded me of my two experiences of being part of a jury pool. The first time I received a jury notice, I was sent packing when I said I had a journalism degree. The next time I was summoned, it was obvious the trial dealt with financial issues, as anyone with knowledge of the stock market was dismissed. The fact that I had a brokerage account made me an undesirable juror.
Each time I had looked forward to doing my civic duty. And each time, I realized that the lawyers were determined to fill the jury with people ignorant of whatever issue the trial concerned. It would seem that the ideal juror knows nothing, reads nothing and listens to nothing. Is there any wonder then that we often end up with verdicts that dismay and confuse the public?
Christine Vaughn, Harbor Bluffs
Ignoring the hungry in the House July 17, editorial
A lean, mean stance
I have sent the following message on this issue to each Tampa Bay Republican member of the U.S. House:
"Disappointingly, you know, and in fact count on, hungry Americans being those least likely or unable to vote (since about half of them are children), and most assuredly not able to make large donations to your next campaign.
"The same cannot be said of agribusiness, large farms whose well-connected owners make hundreds of thousands of (personal income) dollars, thus getting billions in taxpayer money to subsidize their operations.
"I will be a voice for my fellow Tampa Bay citizens who work hard, often at multiple low-paying jobs, but still have insufficient income to pay rent, see a doctor when their child is sick, pay for transportation to/from those jobs, and put food on their table each day. I will remember your vote when I cast mine.
"I will be the constituent advocate that you are not."
Terri Benincasa, Palm Harbor
Government can't do all
Rather than castigating the House Republicans for wanting to curtail funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, the Times should be commending those who understand that Congress' profligate spending on social welfare programs must be kept in check.
It is not a federal governmental function to feed the less fortunate. That is a responsibility we all share, but we can do so much more efficiently though our houses of worship, directly or through charities. No compassionate person wants to see a child go hungry, but we do not want the federal government to provide all forms of sustenance for everyone, as that in turn leads to the mind-set that the federal government will take care of all of our needs.
If we continue down this path of having the federal government take care of all of our nutritional, housing and health care needs, then SNAP, crackle and pop goes the great experiment that is the United States of America.
Bruce Barnes, Safety Harbor
Wrongheaded farm bill
So the House approved price supports for large agribusiness in a bill that did not include food stamps. Does the House majority not understand that domestic consumer purchases are 70 percent of our economy? They say their concern is about an increase in food stamp eligibility and cost, but the cause is clearly related to the Great Recession and a 30-year decline in jobs, hours and wages for the middle class — not laziness, as Rep. Paul Ryan suggests. Moreover, authorizing unending corporate subsidies probably encourages corporate laziness.
Food stamps pay for food purchased from agribusiness by low-income people who would otherwise not be able to. But the House majority would rather give subsidies, guarantees and tax exemptions to agricultural businesses than make them earn their profits in the marketplace — with the help of low-income citizens using food stamps to buy food from them.
I understand that food stamp recipients rarely make political contributions.
Robert H. More, Riverview
School grades padded | July 17
Empty boast for Scott
It is certainly convenient for Gov. Rick Scott that his handpicked education commissioner has managed to fiddle with the system used to assign grades to schools. Scott can now claim as an achievement removing more than 100 schools from the list of failing schools. One more meaningless boast to be added to Scott's run for re-election.
Stephen Phillips, St. Petersburg
I was flabbergasted to read this headline. As a former member of the charmed class who gets to administer FCATs every year, guidance counselors, I can say with confidence that school grades in Florida have been padded, stretched, reinterpreted and outright lied about every year since Florida went on the FCAT standard.
The ever-declining scores seem proof that obsessing over an arbitrary, obviously relative standard will never accomplish lasting school reform. That would require thought, investment and probably listening to the people on the front lines — the undervalued, discredited teacher class. They need and want to do more than follow an FCAT manual.
Mary Sellick, Parrish
Selig losing patience over stadium impasse July 17
Look at Miami mess
Bud Selig, Major League Baseball commissioner, says his patience is running thin and something must be done and done quickly. What we could do is build a $2 billion stadium like Miami did. It is easy to see what that did for Miami — the Marlins have worse attendance numbers than the Rays. It's baseball, stupid, not the stadium or the city.
Ed Cadden, St. Petersburg
Medical pricing verging on the criminal July 16, column
Stop unjust practice
I want to thank you for your continuing attention to this subject. The outrageous practice of charging the uninsured many times what insured patients pay needs to stop. There is no reasonable justification for it; it simply takes advantage of those least able to pay. In this case, there really "ought to be a law."
Ray MacGrogan, Tampa