Court gives workers welcome protection | June 3, editorial
High court rules too expansively
Your editorial praise for the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of CBOCS West Inc. vs. Humphries, which allows workers who suffer racial discrimination to sue employers for claims of retaliation, provides a clear example of the importance of judicial philosophy.
You praise the decision because you agree with the outcome: Workers who make a claim of racial discrimination should be able to sue if they face retaliation. And you praise the outcome, even if it means that the justices had to read the law "rather generously."
But the actual words of the post-Civil War statute being interpreted by the court provide that all persons shall have "the same right … to make and enforce contracts … as is enjoyed by white citizens." As Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia point out, there is not a word in the statute that contemplates an action against an employer for retaliation against an employee — as opposed to an action for discrimination against an employee on the grounds of his race.
Thomas and Scalia believe they are on the court to apply and enforce the law that comes before them — not to create new law by changing the words of the law to suit their desire for a particular outcome, however "welcome" they might find that outcome.
Of course, Congress is free to pass laws that provide for legal actions against employers for retaliation. But getting a law through Congress can be difficult and messy. It's much easier to persuade some judges to "read expansively" — as your editorial puts it neatly — some other law that does not deal with the subject.
But if you believe in the rule of law, then you should believe that it is not the job of a court — even the Supreme Court — to give workers "welcome protection," or "give" any other "welcome" result to any party. The job of the court is to apply the law before it. To do otherwise makes every one of us subject to laws that our legislators never passed and our presidents never signed.
Barry Augenbraun, St. Petersburg
Truth or consequences | May 29, Thomas Friedman column
Beyond oil, we're
addicted to driving
Thomas Friedman makes a strong case for a gasoline price floor as a means to address our addiction to oil. But in stating, "Ultimately, we need to move our entire fleet to plug-in electric cars," he overlooks another problematic addiction: America's addiction to driving.
Even if we all could magically switch to electric vehicles tomorrow, we would still have the congestion woes that cost us in time lost in traffic, degradation of quality of life and vast sums of money spent on road building/widening. We would still have thousands of devastating injuries and deaths every year from car crashes and the resulting burden to our health care system. And we would still have the contribution to our health problems, such as obesity, that our dependence on the auto causes, as it has made walking and bicycling all but obsolete as ways of getting around.
We desperately need to cure our oil addiction. Moving to electric cars would be a big part of the solution, and a minimum gas price would hasten such a move. But to ignore our addiction to driving, given its consequences, would be a mistake.
Chip Thomas, Tampa
Get past car culture
I recently returned to my beloved New York City. It's a major relief to be back in a place where I can walk and use trains. When I am in St. Petersburg, I see that the auto industry, in all of its many forms, has a monopoly on Tampa Bay area transportation. The entire infrastructure is built around automobiles. That should say it all.
Will this ever change? What will we do in five to 10 years when gas is $6 a gallon? Why don't we build a train system now so that when gas keeps climbing we will be prepared?
Marius Dicpetris, New York
Power bills on the rise | May 31, story
Will our money be safe?
I refer to your headline with some amount of trepidation — and a large amount of "So, what can customers do about it?" That answer is easy: Nothing, yet again.
Would I be naive (or even stupid) to ask: What specific investment account is Progress Energy planning to create, specifically to identify and save the customer's investment separate from normal cost-of-business expenses? May I presume that the Florida Public Service Commission, having "the public interest" as its primary mission, will only approve the requested customer "preconstruction" investment of $7.50 per 1,000 kilowatt hours if Progress Energy maintains a separate, identifiable accounting function for this purpose?
What assurance does the PSC require from Progress Energy that the customer's part of the $17-billion preconstruction fund will be safeguarded as "customer money"? Is the PSC sufficiently publicly oriented to actually protect the customer?
R.J. Radford, Clearwater
Power to — and of — the people | May 27
Speak against nukes
This editorial speaks to the strength of Florida citizens when they stand up and participate in the permitting, rulemaking, and politicking of our future. The good news is that Floridians are developing a track record on positively impacting state energy decisions, but our utilities and elected officials need to hear more about the need for aggressive energy efficiency measures.
Over several years, Floridians helped defeat five proposed coal-fired power plants. Recent developments in the Community Partnership energy-planning program, initiated by Progress Energy, have again proven that the voices of Florida residents matter. Now we must use our voices again.
Nuclear power is a problem, not a solution. Instead, dollar-for-dollar aggressive efficiency measures deliver more relief from energy demand, more new domestic jobs and more reduction of global warming pollution.
Make your voice heard by contacting your utility company officials and asking them to stop expensive plans for new energy production through nuclear power. Tell them that energy efficiency can stimulate our economy with new jobs and reduce our dangerous levels of carbon emissions. As Floridians have already proven, our voices do matter.
Melissa Meehan, Tampa
No more whining
I am sure I'm not the only one who is tired of the whining and crying by Nick Bollea and his family. You did the crime, now do the time.
He should consider himself lucky that John Graziano wasn't killed. Then he possibly could have been looking at manslaughter charges. I think the judge was too lenient in sentencing Bollea.
Cheryl Bamberger, St. Petersburg
Frankly, I don't care if I never see or hear another word about the spoiled rich kid of a celebrity. Nick Bollea did the deed, had his day in court, is serving his time, and that's enough. Stop already!
G.B. Leatherwood, Spring Hill