Politics aside, a common bond | July 7, commentary
National debate gets sidetracked
N. Gregory Mankiw's thoughtful piece articulated some of the true problems with contemporary political discourse in this country. With some caveats, he identified the principal philosophical differences between our two major political parties: equality vs. efficiency, community vs. liberty and the role of centralized power.
I have some advice for the Republican Party: Let this be the debate. These are the concepts that should distinguish the political parties when our system works best. Historically, this has been the debate, and over time the pendulum swings both ways. But our populace has a way to self-correct and find the center that defines us. It is a formula that works for both parties and the country as a whole.
But the Republican Party has sidetracked this debate in recent years. It has become the party of obstructionism, unwarranted intrusions into the intensely personal issue of abortion, Cold War strategies on foreign policy, obscene campaign finance laws, resistance to needed immigration reform, opposition to same-sex marriage, gerrymandering and voter suppression.
It is a formula that cannot survive over time, and is one that is counter to much of what historically gave the Republican Party its appeal.
Personally, I favor the Democratic position on the historically fundamental issues. But I recognize that the country is best served by a healthy debate and can respect when the pendulum swings to the right, if done so by reasonable debate on the salient issues. The current activities of the Republican Party nullify the debates that could bolster their long-term viability. Just ask Bob Dole.
Steve Allison, Temple Terrace
Charter schools surge again | July 7
A matter of safety
I would like to inform our new Pinellas County schools superintendent, Mike Grego, that the huge increase in charter schools does not have anything to do with "attractors." Parents are not flocking to charter schools because they have attractors, great facilities or better teachers. The main reason is that parents want their children to learn in a safe environment. They do not want to have to deal with their children being afraid to go into locker rooms or restrooms for fear of being accosted or hurt.
Just look at the discipline reports in terms of assaults, batteries and drugs on campus. Parents from all walks of life want their children to learn and progress without having to fear for their safety when they are just walking around campus.
Peter Serbanos, Clearwater
Gun background checks
Close the loopholes
On July 2, U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, held a town hall meeting with his constituents at the Brandon Services Center. A gentleman rose and asked Ross why he had not yet signed on as a co-sponsor to HB 1565, the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act of 2013, especially since on April 6 he told us at a Plant City town hall meeting he supported background checks for all sales except transfers between family members.
HB 1565 helps close the loopholes in the background check system for gun purchases, specifically those at gun shows and over the Internet. It: (1) ensures that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and (2) enhances the current background check process to ensure that criminals and the mentally ill are not able to purchase firearms. It specifically bans the creation of a database of gun owners.
Ross has received many phone calls and emails asking him to join 183 other co-sponsors of this bill from both parties. Two months ago in response to an email request from me asking him to be a co-sponsor, he wrote me that he would "look into it." Last week, as a member of Moms Demand Action, I rose and told Ross I was disappointed in his answer to the gentleman who asked the first question because he had been asked by constituents to be a co-sponsor several times over the past few months. To me he again replied, "I will look into it." This is placation and therefore dishonest.
Ross needs to remember that polling has consistently shown an overwhelming number of Floridians support universal background checks.
Ione Townsend, Plant City
Many years ago I transferred to a new junior high school. There was a girl, a polio victim, who walked with large metal braces on her legs, and frankly, she clanked. Some of the other students, mostly boys, made her life miserable.
I challenged the other students and ended the bullying. I had long forgotten about this until I met with some old friends and they told me of her story and her hero. Hearing this was one of the proudest moments of my life.
Bullying is a gang mentality of cowards. They always need the support and approval of other sick personalities.
Parents, start teaching your children better. Let them have something to be proud about one day. It's a great feeling.
Lawrence Klotz, Largo
In your face lyrics July 8, Ernest Hooper column
Boycott vile music
Thank you, Ernest Hooper, for being courageous enough to speak out about the travesty that is called music today. Sixteen out of the top 20 R&B hip-hop songs "refer to women in derogatory terms."
What are we teaching our daughters? Where are the feminists? Where are the "Hollywood elite"? What about other influential leaders like Oprah Winfrey? Barack Obama has two daughters.
If someone with their enormous influence would have the courage to take a stand, the vile assault on girls and women might end! I'm not talking about censorship. I'm talking boycott. If people quit buying this trash they will change their tune.
Jennie Jordan, Treasure Island
Furloughs of civilians to affect 3,550 at MacDill | July 7
Due for a furlough
I'm curious if federal government employees who are required to take 11 days off without pay for the next three months include politicians? Seems fair to me.
Maritta Rostron, Tampa