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Was the Tyson guilty verdict based on race?

Re: Race played no part in Tyson's conviction, Feb. 17.

There is much rhetoric about whether the Tyson "guilty" verdict was "racist" or not. Mike Royko, in his column, said that he finds some of the "social significance" in this trial conviction "strange."

Well, let me give some examples of what black America calls "strange." An unarmed Afro-American male is shot off a motorcycle by a policeman who is subsequently acquitted of his murder _ that's "strange." An unarmed Afro-American youth is shot in the back by a policeman who is subsequently acquitted of his murder _ that's "strange." The St. Petersburg Times isn't large enough to list the examples of "strange" that could be given.

I, for one, believe that Tyson was guilty and deserves whatever he gets, but the perception by many _ that he was convicted because he is black _ is not without historical basis. It has been studied and shown time and time again that our so-called justice system does not dispense convictions or sentences equally between minorities and whites.

Ruth Walsh addresses the "inner child" and perceptions in the Feb. 11 Floridian section (Education at risk). This is the basis of what I'm trying to say. So, if it seems "strange" to Royko or anyone else that some may perceive Tyson's conviction as "racism," just be aware that this perception is based on many, many "strange" happenings in the past.

L.

A. McCloud, D.D.S., St. Petersburg

Re: Race played no part in Tyson's conviction, by Mike Royko, Feb. 17.

I agree with Royko that it is highly unlikely that "they" (a group of whites somewhere out there) sat down and conspired to find Tyson guilty of rape. Yet immediately after making that point, Royko ends his column with three paragraphs which prove that "they" do not have to sit down and map out a strategy to discredit an outside group. "They" have a mind-set so entrenched that it happens spontaneously.

In Royko's last three paragraphs, he reiterates the ingrained belief that if a woman finds herself in a situation in which she is raped, it is her fault. Royko also states that the victim had to be aware of Tyson's highly publicized divorce and that he is not a guy who brings flowers and suggests a movie and a malt. In other words, a man is not responsible for his actions; the woman is.

Everyone in this world, including Royko, has, at one time or another in his or her life, made a poor decision. Luckily, for the majority, no major damage occurred. An 18-year-old made a bad decision. That decision does not eliminate her right to say no. Nor does it relieve the man of his responsibility for his actions. But most importantly, being raped is never a proper punishment for a bad decision.

Elizabeth Belcher, Seffner

Not that he deserved it but Mike Tyson might have gotten off scot free if he had bought the services of Orrin Hatch, Alan Simpson and Arlen Specter.

I can see them now, making mince meat of that young lady.

John Fleming, Dunedin

Many of Jacquin Sanders' articles have made me say, "Finally, a man who thinks like I do," but none as much as his Feb. 16 column Of rape, jerks and culpability. I applaud Sanders for his opinion and his willingness to speak it.

I too am appalled at the number of women I talked to during the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings who did not believe Anita Hill. I do not understand these women.

Perhaps it is true that they have no concept of what sexual harassment and rape really are and how much emotional damage they cause. Maybe these women are still afraid to feel and think for themselves.

Whatever the reason, it is past time for women to start listening to men like Sanders instead of men who believe sexual harassment and rape are their right.

It is time for women to take control as well as responsibility for their bodies and their lives.

Susan Adkins, St. Petersburg

Re: Headlines: Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson must pay for less-than-human actions, and Why Tyson lost and Smith won.

Very interesting, and the answer is so simple: Tyson's name is not Kennedy. It's the Kennedy name that puts the fear in those who would oppose. Let us not forget Ted Kennedy's car crash. Would an ordinary citizen get the same consideration, understanding and, most of all, justice? Would you want to be on a jury deciding the fate of any Kennedy?

It's unfortunate that all men and women are not created equal and that justice is just another word in the dictionary.

Mary Hlavik, Largo

Re: Mike Tyson is not role model, by Anna Quindlen, Feb. 11.

Anna Quindlen's evaluation of Mike Tyson as a role model was right on target. However, wouldn't Magic Johnson really have been a hero if he had advised abstinence rather than condoms for our kids?

Alice M. Guerin-Cronin, Clearwater

I read in the Feb. 11 Times that our newest national hero, Magic Johnson, is teaching our youth to use condoms. How very sad that he could not instead teach morality.

Ray Reeves, Largo

Change channels

Re: Olympic coverage bashers _ there are at least five other channels available if you're not happy.

Frances J. Wagner, St. Petersburg Beach

The oil lobby at work?

Re: Expansion of fuel program rejected, Feb. 9.

It has been reported that a recent Senate proposal seeking to promote the use of "alternative fuels" was voted down 57-39. Is this the "oil lobby" at work?

We need to free ourselves from dependence on "foreign" oil, particularly from the Middle East. The technology exists for production of fuel from agricultural products. Engines will operate efficiently and pollution will be reduced. Also, it will develop a large source of employment. This will help to reduce our deficit and trade imbalance.

Why don't we do it?

Clayton H. Shackelford, St. Petersburg

Re: Expansion of fuel program rejected.

Our dependency on oil and its foreign suppliers has consistently placed our national security and our economy in jeopardy. We should not ignore our past experiences which have demonstrated this fact.

How about a full-length expose on who the puppets and puppeteers are? Who were the lobbyists, who did they work for and who were their benefactors? Who had a vested financial interest in this legislation's defeat or passage? Who received financial or "in-kind" considerations from the lobbyists or their benefactors to vote the way they voted?

J.

M. Hodgden Sr., Clearwater

An "appropriate balance'

Re: Indigestion over pizza meeting led to legislative relief.

On behalf of the Florida Municipal Electric Association, I wish to take exception to some of the comments in Lucy Morgan's article in your Feb. 2 issue. Her linkage of the infamous late-night legislator beer and pizza party to House Bill 413 and Senate Bill 1644 (city utility records) was irresponsible. The article creates the impression that except for the fact that reporters had access to the city of Tallahassee utility records, the public might never have been aware of how it was that the services tax became law. In fact, the only information gleaned from those records was the name of the lobbyist who owned the townhouse where the meeting took place, information which was already commonly known in the halls of the Capitol, in any event.

Balanced against the public interest in knowing who owned a townhouse where a meeting took place are the interests of all customers of municipal utilities, who have a legitimate expectation of privacy, a right which the customers of private utilities already enjoy. In fact, the bill is largely motivated by a desire to accommodate customers who frequently have quite serious reasons for seeking anonymity _ for example, crime victims or estranged spouses of abusive spouses.

Morgan also suggests that protecting such records might serve to protect public figures from the disclosure of embarrassing information. It was in recognition of the possibility that there might well be circumstances in which the disclosure of utility customer records would be in the public interest _ for instance, when the records were sought by law enforcement officers or were the records of public officials _ that the legislation was drafted to permit such disclosure and not to require that the records be kept confidential.

Finally, the bill does not, as Morgan asserts, "make city utility records confidential." The bill permits governmentally-owned utilities to withhold information which "if released, would disclose the identity of an individual."

The legislation proposed by Sen. Kirkpatrick and Rep. Chestnut was carefully drafted (with input and approval from the Florida Press Association) to balance the need to know and the need to protect. We believe it strikes an appropriate balance.

On behalf of Florida's 33 municipal electric utilities, I respectfully request that Lucy Morgan reconsider her position.

E.

C. Shreve Jr., Executive Vice President, Florida

Municipal Electric Association Inc., Tallahassee

What about the rest of us?

Please correct me if I'm wrong. Aren't President Bush, representatives and senators covered by some type of national health care? If so, why is George Bush so set against having the rest of us covered by the same type of health plan?

Lionel Hernandez, Redington Shores

It might save a life

Re: Remembering John Hughes, letter to the editor.

As the widow of John Hughes, I would like to respond to Sandy Lee Bittaker of St. Petersburg for her recent letter.

Ms. Bittaker, your conclusion that John was killed by a drunk driver is correct. John was on his way to work April 17, 1990, at 6:30 a.m. He left behind 7-year-old Melissa and 3-year-old Timothy, who were his reason for being. John's legacy to us was knowing we were loved and cherished and enjoying life to the fullest without hurting someone else. Melissa and Tim still ask me when Daddy is coming home, so there is a big, empty spot in our children. And, yes, John's death was unnecessary.

Ms. Bittaker, your letter brings me to tears, not for the acknowledgment of a painful loss, but the fact that you chose to take the time to let us know how John's cross has affected you. Personal testimony as well as visual effects will help impact folks who drink and drive. And, yes, if the cross has made a difference in just one person's life, then we have succeeded in bringing the positive out of John's death. My family thanks you very much.

Diane Hughes, St. Petersburg

Lewis responds to editorial

Re: Capital offenses: The bank failures on Lewis' watch.

You accurately point out in your Feb. 5 editorial concerning bank failures in Florida that innumerable other states have experienced similar problems.

You also state that regulation can only do so much in preventing such failures, implying, again accurately, that economic conditions and sound management are the principal determinants in whether a financial institution succeeds or fails.

Where I believe you are mistaken is in the conclusion that somehow an appointed bank regulator _ rather than an elected one as is the case in Florida _ would provide more effective regulation.

Actually, you do not quite say that. While you acknowledge that states that rely on an appointed regulator haven't been able to avoid bank and thrift failures, you assert that they have managed to avoid the appearance of impropriety that the electoral process inevitably conveys.

If that is the case, it undoubtedly is because the public official responsible for appointing that regulator is perceived, whether rightly or wrongly, as independent of the industry that his or her appointee regulates. As such, the public official evades virtually all accountability.

For example, here in Florida, when a $300-million fraud was discovered to have been perpetrated by General Development Corp. (GDC) of Miami roughly two years ago, the only political fallout was the forced resignation of a division director and bureau chief at the Department of Business Regulation. It was alleged that the two failed to employ appropriate regulatory tools which were at their disposal.

Did anyone hold the governor accountable? He was responsible for appointing the head of that regulatory agency. Has anyone even bothered to check whether that governor received campaign contributions from the Miami company? Probably not, because the appointed regulator served as a buffer between the elected official and the company.

It is not my claim that the governor in question was in any way responsible for delaying action in the GDC case. My position, simply stated, is that by employing an appointed regulator, the elected official who is ultimately responsible evades accountability.

The regulatory structure is less important than the integrity of the elected official ultimately responsible for regulating an industry, as neither system is immune from political influence.

And, at least in the case of the elected regulator, voters who are dissatisfied with his performance can hold the officeholder accountable by casting a ballot against him.

Gerald Lewis, Comptroller of Florida, Tallahassee

Irradiation worries

The Strawberry Festival sounds great to me, and I am eager to go!

But _ are these strawberries irradiated? How will I know? The same scientists that assured me that nuclear power was safe have given their blessing to food irradiation. Three Mile Island and Chernobyl happened in spite of their assurances. Why should I believe these scientists?

The public has a right to know whether our food has been altered or not, whatever the perception of its safety. Will the strawberry growers tell us whether festival strawberries have been irradiated?

Betty Schroeder, St. Petersburg

Share your opinions

Letters for publication should be addressed to Letters to the Editor, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, 33731. They should be brief and must include the handwritten signature, telephone number if available and address of the writer.

Letters may be edited for clarity, taste and length. We regret that not all letters can be printed.

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