Board punishes school staff | Jan. 16
Accountability must go to the top
Hillsborough County School Board member Susan Valdes is correct to ask who else needed to be held accountable for the tragic drowning death of a child. And the question of superintendent MaryEllen Elia's accountability in these failures is legitimate too.
Elia too often shields herself behind a barricade of assistant superintendents, staff and task forces that dilute her accountability.
This district came kicking and screaming to mainstreaming. These recent tragedies continue to question the caring and accountability for these precious children from the front line, the managers, and all the way to the top, where Elia sits.
Valdes needs to ask these important questions and demand answers.
Gene Wells, Tampa
Debate veers into nonsense
A 5-year-old girl in Pennsylvania was suspended from school for threatening to bring a pink bubblemaker in the vague shape of a gun. While we are all greatly concerned about gun violence in school, this episode moves rational discussion backwards and into the area of hysteria. You do not have to be a licensed psychologist like myself to know that this affair is ridiculous. As a baby boomer I had my share of cap guns, plastic machine guns and other types of toy guns, and used them without incident, just like everyone else I knew.
On the opposite side, those who think that the Obama administration police are going to barge into their homes and take their guns away are equally absurd. These people fail to understand that they are being manipulated by the gun manufacturers and their lobby groups merely to make more money.
Progress can be made on the gun issue, but only if rationality prevails. We are far from this point at the present time.
Michael S. Greenberg, Clearwater
Fewer guns, fewer deaths
Gun advocates need to be aware of a simple principle of mathematics: The probability of some object being involved in an incident or situation increases proportionally as the number of that object increases. That is, the more automobiles there are, the more automobile accidents that will occur, or, the more knives there are, the more knife stabbings that will occur. This rule applies universally.
Applying this fact to the current firearms debate, we realize that the chance of a mentally unbalanced person or a criminal acquiring and using any firearm increases proportionally as the number of those firearms increases. This fact is true regardless of steps gun owners take to restrict access to their weapons, e.g., locked gun cabinets, trigger locks, etc. The obvious conclusion is that the existence of fewer firearms will result in fewer incidents involving firearms. Thus, we could save many lives by dramatically reducing the number of readily available AR-15s.
Don Wallace, Dunedin
Rights and responsibilities
When is the last time you read about a drive-by shooting where a bow and arrow was used? When is the last time that you read about a murder/suicide where a hammer was used? When is the last time you read about a family member accidentally killing another family member with an ax?
All the above involved guns by people using the Second Amendment as their right, people who stole guns or people who bought guns at shows with no background checks.
When the Second Amendment was written it was to protect the new nation from invasion. We have a "well regulated militia" today — it's called the National Guard.
Stephen Kaye, Lutz
Bringing in jobs can be brutal | Jan. 20
Games aren't the problem
Certain groups, such as the NRA, have attacked violent video games, claiming that they are the cause of mass shootings. Anyone who makes such a claim has no reasoning skills.
Call of Duty, a game the Times mentioned in its story about tax breaks, annually sells about 10 million copies a year. And that's in the United States alone. And how many people who played it embark on a mass shooting? Two? Three?
What about the other 9,999,997 people who played it and continued living their lives as normal, everyday Americans? They weren't brainwashed. So what does that tell us?
It tells that the problem lies with the individual and not the game. It's not the movie and not the song — and not even the gun, which is not the cause of the shooting but a tool that makes it a lot easier to kill a mass group of people and should be more regulated.
So please, stop and think before you blame violent media, because when you do, you are signaling to the world that you can't think for yourself.
Anthony Taylor, Tampa
Skewed tax system
This year marks the centennial of income tax in America. This might be a good time to reflect on how taxation has changed in America.
Income taxes started in 1913 with the passage of the 16th Amendment. In the early years only the richest 1 percent paid income tax. In the 1950s the highest marginal tax rate topped 92 percent. Of course 92 percent was only paid on income above $160,000. Despite what some might consider a Draconian tax rate, the economy grew and in fact did well.
Today the so-called progressive tax rates we have seem to have left out the wealthy. If you consider $50,000 to be a median middle class income, the highest tax rate in the land kicks in at about seven times that median income.
In my view we need two or three tax tiers above the highest rate of 39 percent for the ultra wealthy.
Michael Younglove, Brandon
Presidents do not rise to greatness by keeping their campaign pledges. Newspapers do not become great by supplanting the news with their own judgments on topics they select. Lincoln, for instance, did not promise to free the slaves; quite the contrary.
I commend PolitiFact. It is interesting, useful, well done. But, at every step, from issue selection to pictograph, it is inherently subjective. Indeed, its appeal and value would be lost without the one thing that should never appear in the news sections, your judgment.
Each determination entails dozens of choices, whereas in the news, there should be only one, i.e., newsworthy or not. Pretending objectivity when none is possible or desirable demeans. Please go to a four-page editorial section, with more essays, more debates, more letters, and more PolitiFact.
J.P. Byrne, Largo