Ringling Bros. and PETA at odds over elephants | Dec. 20
Law needs to protect elephants
Recently, parents were dismayed and angered by a person in a bloody elephant costume outside a school trying to educate people about what goes on at the circus. I hope these people got a good look at the photos of the baby circus elephants on Page 14A of the Sunday paper.
While PETA can be a bit over the top sometimes with their campaigns, they're right on target with this one. Anyone not disturbed by those photos should seek counseling.
Perhaps the most disturbing was the second picture, which shows a baby elephant being made to stand on its "head." But look closely: That elephant, at approximately 1,500 pounds, is being made to stand on its nose. The most insulting part of the article is that Ringling thinks that it can convince people that there is nothing wrong and cruel with all of this and that what we're seeing has been misinterpreted.
The Times has printed articles on elephant cruelty in the past indicating that standard elephant training has included beatings in the face with ax handles until the elephant's spirit is broken.
We probably can't imagine what is done to these magnificent, intelligent animals till they comply. Then, when they rebel and escape or attack a trainer, they are killed. Laws need to be put in place to protect these and all "performing" animals against cruelty and greed.
Susan Ossenberg, St. Petersburg
Opening eyes to abuse
Thank you for publishing the article on the cruel abuse that Ringling Bros. uses with its baby elephants. It brought tears to my eyes to read how these babies scream from pain when they are slammed to the ground and when they are punished with bullhooks.
To use elephants to make money, trainers need to break the will of the babies, because elephants are wild animals and belong in the wild.
Fifty-seven of the approximately 62 elephants owned by Ringling Bros. in 1990 were captured from their native homelands, and at least 24 have died since 1992.
This abuse continues because people are willing to pay to go to circuses and zoos. Please don't let your dollars help fund such cruelty.
Isabell Stawicki, Beverly Hills
This is the season of giving and tolerance for all
While Christmas is a very special time of year to Christians, atheists and other nonreligious (and non-Christian) people find much to enjoy and celebrate as well. Indeed, Christmas owes its existence to the religious beliefs of older, pre-Christian "pagan" cultures.
Dec. 21, the "winter solstice," marks the return of the sun back to higher latitudes (for those in the Northern Hemisphere), bringing with it the promise of the end of snow and the arrival of spring and new life. The profound importance of the sun, agriculturally, to the ancients is obvious. And so, celebrations and festivals sprang up at this time of year.
Eventually, the ancient Romans celebrated "Saturnalia" in honor of the "rebirth" of Saturn, the god of agriculture. The festivities began around the winter solstice and lasted for a week. The final day occurred on Dec. 25, the "Natalis Solis Invicti," or "Birthday of the Unconquered Sun."
Earlier, around 450 B.C., the Persians incorporated into their religion of Zoroastrianism an ancient Hindu god called "Mitra," god of the sun and caretaker of the world. The Persians believed that Mithra, as he was later called, was born of a virgin on Dec. 25. Here again is another connection with the winter solstice and "rebirth." (Incidentally, many events in the life of Mithra closely parallel those of Christ; the same is true for other ancient Near East religions.) It wasn't until the fourth century that Dec. 25 was decreed, by Pope Julius I, as the birthday of Jesus.
As an atheist, I recognize the cultural and anthropological origins of Christmas. I certainly share in Christmas' emphasis on peace and goodwill. Humanists, atheists and other non-Christians join with their Christian neighbors in these attitudes and strive to let them prevail throughout the year.
Let me say to my religious neighbors: As you celebrate the season, remember that many nonbelievers uphold the spirit of compassion, giving and tolerance just as sincerely as you. These are emotions that fill us all at this wonderful time of the "Rebirth of the Sun."
Greg Simpson, St. Petersburg
Differences are a fact of life
You have belabored the issue of disparate Advanced Placement exam pass rates in the Tampa Bay area. For your editors it would seem this is an unacceptable outcome. Hillsborough County's school superintendent wrote a rebuttal, Look beyond the test numbers (Nov. 18), to claim that low pass rates really disguise genuine learning by minority students.
Both sides in this debate show a pervasive ignorance of psychometric reality. Charles Murray reminded all romantics in his book Real Education that most students do not belong in college if college contains normal rigor of traditional liberal arts programs. AP is designed explicitly for an exceptional cadre whose IQs usually exceed 125. Pushing marginal students only obstructs the learning of this elite and subjects teachers to remediation efforts that are inappropriate.
Before this mess, elite students quietly did their work and received college credit. The so-called "gap" is not amenable to closure unless testing itself is done dishonestly. Human differences are a fact of evolution and life.
Cornelius J. Troost, Tampa
Constitution is the reason
"Who put Lieberman in charge?" asks the headline over a letter to the editor objecting to Sen. Joseph Lieberman's apparently excessive influence over the contents of the proposed health care legislation. The answer to that question is simply that our Constitution did it.
The second paragraph of Article I, Section 5 states: "Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings."
The use by Sens. Lieberman and Ben Nelson of obstructive tactics to further their individual objectives is conceptually no different from the use of obstructive tactics (e.g., the filibuster) by a multitude of Southern senators opposed to civil rights in other times.
What the country needs is a constitutional amendment that places limits on the use of obstructive tactics in our Senate. Lots of luck getting that through our Senate.
Palmer O. Hanson Jr., Largo
I have never been as disgusted with the political process as I am now. Watching the Democrats cut deals with the drug companies and senators in their own party to get votes for the health care bill has been a study in everything that is wrong in politics.
The federal government will pay for Medicaid in the state of Nebraska forever as a partial payment for Sen. Ben Nelson's vote. Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana has boasted how her vote was bought for an additional $300 million for Medicaid in her state. President Barack Obama helped to kill an amendment to the health care bill that would have allowed people to buy less expensive imported drugs. This was done because the president worked a deal with the drug companies so they wouldn't have objections to the health care bill.
Obama promised that Democrats and Republicans would work together with C-SPAN cameras televising the proceedings when the health care bill was being written. Instead the bill was written in secret in Sen. Harry Reid's office with no cameras or Republicans present.
If the Democrats are wondering why the American people have such a low opinion of politicians, and the majority doesn't support the health care bill, they only have to look at their own actions to find out.
Louis Ciardulli, Safety Harbor