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Voters urged to rethink limiting legislators' terms

Our news media are giving us reams of opinions on the locker room fiasco in the news, in editorials, in letters, and on the TV screens, but little has been expressed on a more important subject. There seems to be a movement to limit the terms of our legislators. Before we rush out to jump on that bandwagon I think we should give some serious thought, and ask some hard questions.

If on-the-job training is as important as we have been taught to believe, would a shortened tenure deny us a future great statesman? If we look back on history we might find that some of our great men did not achieve statesmanship in just one or even two terms.

Would we want to see a very important piece of legislation handled by a Congress that might be composed of a large percentage of lame ducks? They would not have to answer to anyone, their terms being near an end.

With many more ex-congressmen drawing pensions would we want to foot that bill?

My hope would be that the voters of this nation give this a lot of serious thought. If we want any officeholder removed we should vote him out. It is easy to sit back and complain while the other folks are voting. Let us not throw the baby out with the bath water by passing legislation to remove the good with the bad.

Richard Dunn, Seminole

A few thoughts on the sickening budget debate. This is the type of work our congressional public servants vote themselves a hefty pay raise for. They have totally abdicated their responsibility, while we have a weak, unprincipled president. His sole priority in this sordid affair is preserving the tax gains for the wealthy and lowering the capital gains tax. Not a word from him about recovering the stolen assets in the S&L debacle.

Many ways are open to reduce the deficit without heaping more taxes on the poor, sick and elderly. To list a few _ scrap the Star Wars scam, stealth bombers, man on Mars, we neither need nor can afford any of these projects. Also, stop all Pentagon fraud and waste, foreign aid giveaways, agricultural subsidies, congressional perks including campaign funds, and all pork barrel projects. Vast sums could also be recovered by going after the stolen funds from HUD and S&L.

Where is our leadership today? Our government is completely out of control, and it is indeed time to vote out all the incumbents. Time to return government to the people, or perhaps it is already too late.

James C. Carothers, Clearwater

A dog and a gun

I find it impossible to understand the philosophy embraced by the writer who readily concedes the absolute right of self defense but maintains that obtaining the means with which to implement self-defense is only a privilege, and therefore should be subject to restrictions. This "logic" contradicts itself.

The manner in which Jim Brady and his wife have been exploited by anti-gun proponents is nothing less than shameful. A "cooling off" period is something that attracts the shallow thinker, but in practice could easily do more harm than good.

I note also, in the same issue, that a BATF official suggests getting a dog rather than a gun. I have a dog, and a gun. The dog will wake me, if necessary, but I don't expect him to shoot it out with an armed intruder.

Geraldine B. Vargas, St. Petersburg

Freedom of expression

Earlier this year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the burning of the American flag was covered by the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of expression. Recently, three men were arrested for burning a cross and it was reported that they could receive a 60 day jail term plus a hefty fine. How come? I personally regard both acts to be repugnant but if the act of burning the American flag is covered by the First Amendment, why not the act of burning a cross?

Also, I am curious about the silence of the Times and the ACLU, those bastions of liberalism, on this matter. They both railed against the amendment to the Constitution that would have made desecrating the American flag a crime. At the time they said it would be a violation of a person's right to express themselves. How come they are not defending the right of these three men for expressing their rights?

Edward Donelan, Clearwater

MADD's president responds

As president of the Pinellas County chapter of MADD I feel compelled to respond to James Harper's Oct. 8 article MADD's direction causes dispute. First, I am deeply offended that Mr. Harper made no attempt to contact me. I can speak with some authority since, in addition to my duties as president, I am a trained victim's advocate and the parent of a victim. Second, the author was remiss in not making a better attempt to compare how the bay area chapters may differ from national.

I am not in a position to argue with the financial data that was reported, as I have not done any investigation of my own. I can and will argue that the lion's share of dollars donated directly to this local chapter go directly to victim's services and community education. We have only one part-time person on payroll and this allows us the freedom to accompany police personnel on notification calls, counsel and console victims, to act as victims' advocates, do court monitoring, speak at meetings and conduct public information displays. We also participate in various annual campaigns such as "Drive for Life," "Project Red Ribbon" and "Candlelight Vigil."

Our own funds have been used to purchase video cameras for several Pinellas area police agencies. The use of these cameras during field sobriety testing has directly helped to increase the conviction rate in DUI cases. Our funds are used to maintain an extensive supply of quality literature to aid in the counseling and educational processes. We do not get these for free, yet they are given for free _ a donation is optional. Products containing our logo are never sold. The amount of a donation for bumper stickers, key chains, pencils and literature is up to the individual. T-shirts and mugs are available for a donation that covers our cost. The costs of training a victim's advocate are high. Yet these people are "on call" 18 hours a day, seven days a week and receive no compensation other than mileage reimbursement.

Each individual chapter must meet rigid state and federal laws, IRS rules and corporate bylaws. We file regular reports such as Daily Logs, Chapter Status Reports and Quarterly Activity Reports that include data on the number and nature of calls and the number of victims helped each month; the number and type of media opportunities; bulletins or newsletters published; special events participation and the list goes on.

What the numerical budgetary process does not show is the value of the human hours that are volunteered to us each year. As yet, we have not been able to devise an adequate way to measure the empathy of our members. A weekend information table at a local mall covers 29 shopping hours. It requires 20 phone calls to line up three volunteers. Each volunteer is asked to work one hour which means we have to make 200 calls to staff that information table, and our current list of potential volunteers is only 140 names long. The money we receive pays for phones, postage, utilities, literature and record keeping (our office space is donated). These are the support base from which we conduct our advocacy and educational campaigns.

We often wonder how many more people we could reach if only we didn't have to be bothered with raising money and keeping records. Everything in this world comes at a cost. If we could determine the value of human life and good health, it would be so much easier to show our benefactors the relative value of their contribution.

Connie J. Reading, President, MADD/Pinellas County

Still a Klansman?

Re: editorial of Oct. 11, It can happen here. Are we to infer that if there is no such thing as an ex-Nazi or former Klan Wizard _ then Sen. Robert Byrd the former Democratic leader in the U.S. Senate is still a Klansman?

Roger G. Korfmann, St. Petersburg

"Dog and pony show'

Re: American troops in the Middle East.

In the days of the Old West, cowboys called them "dog and pony" shows; that touring caravan of laughs and music that preceded the snake oil salesman's pitch for his magic cure-all for their ailments. Sounds a little like politics in today's America, doesn't it? There's always a dog in the White House and there's always a salesman there as well, a salesman telling us his brand of snake oil is better for us than the previous salesman's was. There's always a lot of dancing going on, dancing around the issues, that is. There's a lot of juggling, too; juggling of the books to go along with a lot more hocus pocus than we can stand. Ah, but it's free entertainment and it's kind of fun listening to the way the comedians we've elected wrangle over Star Wars, B-1 or B-2 or the really big wrangle, the budget. That's where all the comedians get into the act trying to upstage the head salesman while they hope to get nominated to run for his job. Lots of laughs for us common folk but now a new scene has come into the act and it isn't the least bit comical!

The dog and pony show owners are taking the show on the road again, touring to yet another far off land. This time, it's Saudi Arabia and eventually, Kuwait. Years ago, it was Korea and Vietnam. Over 50,000 young Americans lost their lives in each of those last stops of the dog and pony show, their tickets punched forever more. Historians still cannot agree as to why the "show" even stopped in those far off places, but it did and kids died as a result. This time, the reason is far more clear _ oil! And it looks as if the "show" is going to play out until that magic number of 50,000 tickets is punched and sanity returns.

Well, if it's ticket count or "gate" that interests the dog and pony show owners, may I suggest something to satisfy them? Let us dispatch a new audience to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait; an even mixture of 50,000 of our previously elected comedians and oil company higher-ups and let them pay that steep and oh so final price of admission. Spare our children that cost. Bring them home where they belong, home where the cost of the entertainment isn't so deadly and final.

Robert T. Wawrzynski, Pinellas Park

Whitewashing the taxpayers

Nearly one-fifth of the U.S. House of Representatives _ 83 of 435 members _ have no opponent from a major party. In the Tampa Bay area, that 83 includes Pinellas Republican C.

W. Bill Young. As a reminder, Bill is the 10th-term Republican who bought a 1990 Lincoln in August with $29,124 in campaign money, saying he needed the car to keep in touch with constituents. Four of the 31 U.S. senators have no opponent from a major party _ and taxpayers wonder why the legislative branch voted itself a pay raise?

It will cost taxpayers $500-million to bail out the S&Ls, while Charles Keating Jr. claims he has no money; yet, don't think for a moment that he has a public defender representing him. Maybe the five senators who received $1.3-million in contributions from him would loan poor Charles some interest-free cash.

Remember a few years back when the federal government changed its fiscal year from July 1 to Oct. 1 so they'd have more time to ensure that budget talks would be finalized without last minute sessions (and compromises)? Legislators have "legally" circumvented the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Bill deficit ceiling provisions and whitewashed taxpayers again by proposing to raise taxes vs. cut expenditures.

Laurel J. Weiss, Palm Harbor

"Where's the compassion?'

Even some Democrats have joined the Republicans in their battle cry against the retirees, "Hurry up and die; we can't afford you!"

Every time Republican administrations want to sock it to retirees, the poor, the elderly and the working stiffs, they suck in the Democratic wimps to help them do their dirty work. Bush is following in Reagan's footsteps of giving everyone a snow job while he was increasing the deficit to $3-trillion and blaming Congress when he had the veto power.

Where is the compassion that Democrats stood for since the Great Depression that our young never experienced?

Eliminate Reagan's 1986 Tax Reform Act that made the "rich" richer and the "poor" poorer.

John Wasylow, St. Petersburg

Thanks for the music

The St. Petersburg Times is to be congratulated for its generosity in presenting the United States Air Force Band and Singing Sergeants at Ruth Eckerd Hall. As a recipient of such generosity I wish to express my gratitude to the St. Petersburg Times.

Merrill G. Windelberg, Oldsmar

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