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Rosy reports on welfare reform may miss reality

Re: Welfare reform is working _ for now, by Michael Kelly, Aug. 4.

My experience as a case manager in the WAGES Coalition in Pasco County differs somewhat from the viewpoint of the writer and President Clinton, whose speech this week praised welfare reform as a success heretofore.

I can only speak for one little corner of the program, but in Pasco County the WAGES (Work and Gain Economic Self-Sufficiency) program began with a philosophy shared with clients that our goal was to help them in removing any barriers within reason in achieving self-sufficiency. We case managers told our clients that the program could be a positive force for turning their lives around for the better if they chose to do so.

The reality, once the balloons fizzled and the speeches faded, was that long-term training programs of any substance were discouraged. Numbers became the chief driving force in the program. Clients were to be placed in a job, any job, to get the numbers up. If they were in school full-time, they had to take on additional volunteer work to get their weekly hours in. Homework, travel time and exam week didn't count. Students who didn't work during term breaks were "sanctioned" or removed from the rolls and lost their benefits. This, too, brought up the statistics. Clients who were medically disabled according to their doctors were regularly sanctioned if their doctors regular reports were even a day late.

The standard result of WAGES was (and is) a low paying job in the service industry without any benefits. Try to raise your kids on that, Mr. Reformer.

Clients eventually saw WAGES as just another hoop to jump through, one with little substance. Politicians see it as a revolutionary breakthrough and success.

Money was, and is, returned to the government because case managers were discouraged from spending it on long-term training for clients. That was not good for the numbers. And on it goes.

Thomas Maciocha, New Port Richey

Clintons are shifting the blame

Re: First lady blames Clinton's infidelity on abuse, Aug. 2.

Frankly, I'm disappointed. Although a mother herself, Hillary Clinton seeks to blame outrageous adult behavior on Bill Clinton's deceased mother and grandmother. Of course, his many successes are the result of his own brilliant achievements. I suggest she repeat Psychology 101.

She'd better hope the New York voters consist mostly of men without scruples looking for excuses for their immoral behavior.

Melinda Nicholl, Clearwater

Everyone now has an excuse

I thought I had heard just about every hare-brained excuse for bad behavior that was ever dreamed up until Hillary Clinton declared (First lady blames Clinton's infidelity on abuse, Aug 2.) that the president's adulterous conduct wasn't his fault because he was the victim of a childhood conflict between his mother and grandmother.

What planet is she from?

For all of you who are fooling around, as well as those thinking of doing so, here is the perfect justification for your conduct: When you are caught, just tell your wives and families that it is not your fault. Rather it is your mother's fault because she was in conflict with another female family member, which gave you an unhappy childhood. That's better than "the devil made me do it."

Wake up Hillary. We aren't stupid enough to fall for that baloney. And don't expect us to believe that you do either _ or do you?

All the military personnel who had their careers destroyed because of some infidelity should have offered this argument: "I did it because two women in my family were in conflict."

Hillary has, by her farcical attempt to pull the wool over our eyes, demonstrated that she would not be an asset in the U.S. Senate.

James P. Harley, St., Petersburg

Our pass-the-buck era

It isn't Bill Clinton's fault that he cheats on his wife and lies about it. It's because his mother and grandmother had a conflict. And there are so many other criminals sitting in jails who shouldn't be. They were growing up in abusive households and should receive special consideration and be treated more delicately.

Give me a break! This is the latest trend in lawyers' defense devices: Blame the parents or the environmental circumstances we grew up in. Great! Nobody needs to reach the age of true adulthood, nobody needs to mature into assuming his or her own responsibility for his or her own actions. We just act out whatever pleases us and then find ourselves a lawyer who digs up some horrible childhood events. What a wonderful pass-the-buck era we live in.

E. Huber-Ribeaud, Tampa

A weak argument on abortion ruling

Re: Minors and abortion, editorial, July 30.

I agree with your assertion that it is easy for politicians to be in favor of a parental notification law. As a parent, it is easy for me to be in favor of it. Unfortunately for the Times, being against this bill is not so easy to explain, and the weakness of your argument makes that painfully obvious.

Your assertion that there may be some families where notification may cause problems between parent and child is obvious, but it is also a red herring and a poor argument for overturning the law. There is a judicial bypass built into this law to allow for a waiver of parental notification if the child feels that notification may be detrimental to her.

To argue against this law, Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis says that this procedure is "embarrassing and intimidating," and you assert that a breach of confidentiality is possible. The fact of the matter is people are embarrassed and intimidated in court every day, and a breach of confidentiality is possible in any court procedure. Using your lack of logic, we should repeal most of the laws currently on the books. Judge Lewis may think the judicial bypass is "embarrassing and intimidating," but it will protect those who need it.

It is very easy to make a case against any law if your basis for argument is the possibility that an innocent person may be inconvenienced by that particular law. Fortunately, most reasonable people will understand that including parents in a decision as important as abortion greatly outweighs the exaggerated, if not false, argument that you and Judge Lewis came up with.

Robert A. Hohmann, Tarpon Springs

Cardiologist responds

Re: Medical schools losing out to profit, July 20.

The article contains several unfortunate errors. I am not a heart surgeon, and neither are any of my colleagues on the faculty of the USF Division of Cardiology. We are cardiologists, specializing in the diagnosis and non-surgical treatment of heart disease.

The article gives me credit for "turning the school's division of cardiology from an unorganized operation into a money-making machine." The truth is that I had the privilege to lead an exceptionally talented, hard-working and caring team that achieved the highest professional and ethical standards by which they were recognized by colleagues and patients alike. In a few years the division's patient care services more than quadrupled. Our teaching conferences became recognized worldwide, and medical research achieved new heights in quantity and quality.

The article refers to USF officials as saying "the doctors' vision of an outside for-profit foundation threatened the university's basic teaching mission." In truth, we proposed to the university a non-profit research foundation that functions under the auspices of the USF foundation. Furthermore, a leading member of our faculty pledged a large proportion of his hard-earned life savings to this research foundation. This pledge was presented formally to the president of USF and the dean of USF Medical School.

The article says, "By setting up an outside heart center the doctors would have doubled or tripled (the faculty) expected salaries." This is an outrageous misrepresentation. Our faculty members asked to control their generated revenues, after allowing for a fair proportion to be allocated to the Dean's General Academic Fund. Excess revenues were to underwrite quality research. In summary, our proposal represented a sincere effort to elevate the division of cardiology to a regional heart center of super excellence, similar to Moffitt Cancer Center.

Finally, I would like to emphasize that I did not leave USF out of bitterness toward the medical school or its highly talented faculty. I felt that the division has achieved its maximum potential at the time, given the university's inflexible bureaucracy.

It is a sad outcome that the school couldn't retain some of its finest scholars.

Lofty L. Basta, M.D., Clearwater

Integration remains necessary

Re: The failure of America to integrate, by Orlando Patterson, July 24.

As a former civil rights activist (Rochester, N.Y., Urban League, 1973-1981, and NAACP in the 1960s), I feel obligated to join Orlando Patterson in his incisive lament regarding our nation's failure to integrate. As the former administrator of a school integration program that achieved national recognition, I would like to add some supportive observations.

While educational equity is an appropriate goal, it is offensive to assume that minority-group students get smarter by sitting next to white students. The true value of school busing was and is the fact that it affords students of different races and backgrounds an opportunity to interact and compete as they will in the real world. It is obvious from the continuing acts of racism in our country that normal interaction is very much needed.

Segregation encourages racism. Of this, African-Americans are also guilty for a variety of reasons. Minority-group leaders view integration as a threat to their power base. They stress black pride and independence. Many minority-group members are tired of being rebuffed and are enticed into the "separate-but-equal" ploy.

Let's face it _ the issue isn't "busing." More children take buses to school for reasons other than integration. It's busing when the children are black or minority group members; otherwise, it's transportation.

The concept of neighborhood schools has some misleading elements. Taxpayers support all the schools. They don't own one school in the neighborhood. It might be much more productive in this day and age to create metropolitan or regional schools that could take advantage of modern equipment while bringing together a diverse population on a neutral base. The problem of parental involvement can be dealt with. It is encouraging to note that Hillsborough County is, at least, mentioning such a concept.

In conclusion, it is hard to understand how Americans of all races who denounced apartheid in South Africa would be so accepting of it for their children in their schools.

Norman N. Gross, Ph.D. (former administrator of the

Urban-Suburban Interdistrict Transfer Program (Project

US), Rochester-Monroe County, N.Y.), Palm Harbor

Clarification

A letter published on Wednesday with the headline Compassion takes a holiday was written by Leslie K. Waters of St. Petersburg, not state Rep. Leslie Waters, R-Largo.

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