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State of Union address stands reality on its head

Re: State of the Union address.

So another Jumping Penguin Show passes into history: white faces, white shirts, black bow ties and black suits all jumping up in unison to applaud our great leader as he describes the path down which he intends to lead us. It has always been an attempt by the incumbent to paint as rosy a picture as possible of the situation at the time, by emphasising the good points and attempting to gloss over the bad. But surely no president in history has ever tried to stand reality on its head like George W. Bush. At a time when the respected Financial Times of London proclaims to the whole world that "the lunatics are now in charge of the asylum," George W. tells us that the tax handouts to the rich have been an outstanding success and should be made permanent, the economy is booming, jobs are growing, no child is being left behind, senior citizens will be getting generous help in paying their drug prescription bills, we have the greatest health care system in the world, and things are going just fine in Afghanistan and Iraq.

All of which leads one to ask: Just who is the real George Bush? Is it the forceful, knowledgeable and articulate leader we saw the other night, or is it the man who sat one-on-one for one hour across from Paul O'Neill (as O'Neill outlined his views and plans for the economy upon being appointed secretary of the Treasury), without making one comment or asking one question? Of course, one-on-one meant that Condi and Karl and Karen were not there by his side to tell him what to say or what questions to ask, which explains his reticence.

I, for one, believe the Bush that O'Neill saw is the real Bush, and I hope that one year from now we will get to see a different bunch of penguins jumping up, while this week's jumpers sit glumly on their hands as sanity and probity and fiscal responsibility return once again to this country.

Ronald G. Wheeler, St. Petersburg

President gets too little respect

Re: State of Union.

Shouldn't this be changed to: State of Half the Union?

I have not watched the State of Union address in years, and now I know why. I am embarrassed that half of our Congress behaves with no or little respect for our president. If our military or children acted this way, were would we be today!

Learn to save your bitterness for the elections.

Johnny Arnt, LargoThe president's shell games

I listened with wry amusement and disbelief as our president, in his usual fashion, indulged in half-truths and shell games in his State of the Union address. It was brought into sharper focus as he talked about his much trumpeted tax cuts for the middle class. I imagine I would qualify for about, oh, $1,000 less in taxes. At least that is what they tell me. But this week, in my mailbox, came my new yearly premium for health insurance. As I am self-employed, I naturally pay my own. I found that my health insurance was going up by a whopping $130 a month. For one person now it is going to cost $494 a month! It doesn't take a math whiz to work out that all my wonderful tax cut is swallowed up in health insurance increases.

So, pray tell, oh, wonderful wizard of Washington, how this tax cut makes me any better off? The answer, of course, is it doesn't, and it is part of the shell game Bush plays. He gives massive amounts to the super-rich. And the middle class, like Pavlov's

dog, salivates and goes wow after we get our meager cut.

It doesn't end there. Homeowners insurance is rising at unbelievable rates. So the middle class, once again, is mugged by Washington, because Republicans are in the pocket of insurance companies. You only have to look at the new Medicare bill to realize that.

And then the Patriot Act, which our president says only employs the tactics we use against embezzlers? The last time I looked, embezzlers could not be taken from their homes and secreted away without access to lawyers or their families, and left to sit and rot in jail without charge for years _ and the government doesn't even have to tell the public whether they are even in custody.

I'm just wondering when the average voter is going to wake up and smell the coffee. It amazes me that they haven't. If ignorance is bliss, this electorate must be living in a blissful state.

Philip Ryan, Land O' Lakes

Really seek energy independence

President Bush declared in his State of the Union Address Tuesday night that we need to "make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy." I could not agree more. Reducing our dependence on foreign oil will not only help to conserve our American natural resources, but also will help to dissolve our dangerous political ties with countries in the Middle East that harbor terrorists.

The Bush administration has said that it is committed to making America less dependent on foreign energy sources. Yet each year, it has refused to support raising the fuel efficiency standards of cars and trucks in this country. Administration officials have proposed an energy bill that dumps huge subsidies on oil and gas companies with major interests in the Middle East, while granting hardly any funds to support the development of affordable renewable energies such as wind power. And each year they have fought against American public opinion to try to sacrifice the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil companies. Even the oil industry has commonly agreed that the arctic refuge only contains a six-month supply of oil that won't be available for at least 10 years.

True energy independence for America will only be achieved by promoting affordable renewable energy sources, raising the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks, and having the foresight not to sacrifice our last great wild lands to short-term corporate profits.

President Bush, we require leadership from you to make America a better and safer country. So far your administration has not shown it.

Joshua T. Magee, Alaska Coalition of Florida, Tampa

War sends wrong message, too

In his State of the Union address, President Bush decried the use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs, saying, "it sends the wrong message . . . that performance is more important than character."

The president should take his words to heart because that's just the message he sends regarding the war in Iraq: "Who cares if we lied about or inflated the threat of weapons of mass destruction _ we won!"

Bruce Berger, Oldsmar

Troops fend for themselves

Re: "Union is confident and strong," Jan. 21.

Well, well, well. How very thoughtful of President Bush to promise our troops in Iraq the proper resources that they need to fight and win the war on terror _ especially since our soldiers have been fighting over there since March 19. Has it taken the Bush administration this long to realize that our troops are not properly equipped?

Or maybe someone sent President Bush a copy of All I Want for Christmas . . ." an article published in Newsweek (Dec. 29). According to this article, "the typical soldier has spent $2,000 of his (her) own money augmenting or or replacing military equipment to adapt to Iraqi conditions." The article lists several items, which would make life in Iraq a little easier and perhaps, even save a soldier's life. President Bush was so gung ho on sending our troops to fight this war in Iraq, yet in his rush to do so, he and his administration are falling short in providing our troops with the proper supplies.

JoAnn Lee Frank, Clearwater

Different ways to pursue happiness

I would like to remind President Bush the matter of gay marriages being equal to heterosexual marriages lies in the Declaration of Independence:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Who are we to tell two people they cannot marry and to deny them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Homosexuals are human, too, and deserve the same benefits as anyone one of us. The United States is not in the business to promote any religious beliefs. That is why we founded our nation.

That doesn't mean you cannot believe gay marriages are wrong, but it does mean that individuals (even against the will of the people) have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as long as their pursuit of life and liberties does not intrude onto someone else's right to pursue the same things. Does a gay married couple hurt anyone else's life? Is it anyone else's business what two consenting adults do? As long as it is not harmful to someone else's life, there shouldn't be a problem.

Our forefathers were very wise when they constructed our Constitution and other documents. They knew all too well how a government can easily abuse its power.

Bruce Tapscott, Tampa

Speaking of judicial activism

It's funny, President Bush in his State of the Union address railing about "activist judges" who thwart the will of the people.

I can remember five activist judges in December 2000 who thwarted the will of the people and installed him in the White House. How many days is it before the new Democrat takes office?

Richard Chapman, Holiday

We should look beyond ourselves

I knew it was coming. As soon as I heard the president's plans for more space exploration, I knew all the whiners would come out of the woodwork. It doesn't surprise me that the self-centered and small-minded among us would not want this country, or mankind in general to do anything great and daring unless all their needs were met first. It is amazing that people would rather worry about their own petty concerns and be angry at the president for suggesting we move beyond the "what have you done for me lately" mentality. Maybe these people could look deep within themselves and try to have a vision besides free health care. What a world this would be if that were possible.

Pat Pearlman, Largo

An antidote to depressing news

Each morning, coffee fix in hand, I scan the front page of the St. Petersburg Times. There I see stories of serial murderers, Enron greed, child abuse, suicide bombers, plane crashes and other cheerful, uplifting news. It is enough to send one rushing for the Prozac.

Do you suppose it possible, in a wee place in the bottom of the page there could be a lighthearted humorous account as an antidote?

Just such an antidote occurred Jan. 16 buried on Page 3. It concerned three young men streaking through Denny's leaving the motor running and their clothing in the getaway car. They returned to the parking lot just in time to see a thief driving away in their car. This was Spokane, Wash., with a temperature of 20 degrees. The three hapless individuals were forced to huddle there to await the police. I assume they barely escaped pneumonia. (A tinge of O. Henry?)

Miriam P. O'Laughlin, Seminole

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