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In the face of suffering, we might curb our self-indulgence

Re: Inaugural hotel packages lure capital outlays, Jan. 2.

Incredible! One finds the description of the luxury hotel "packages" the stuff of shining dreams! A jet plane! Oscar de la Renta gown! Diamonds! Rolex watches! Champagne! Attentive servants! Prices from $25,000 to $1-million for the five days of the inauguration festivities!

Bewildering! Unreal! Is this on our own planet? The earth that has suffered a tremendous upheaval that has killed hundreds of thousands, rendered other hundreds of thousands injured? The earth that has seen millions made homeless and desperate, in danger of epidemics, grateful for any food, any help? Mud and desolation everywhere? Grief and pain too great to measure?

At one place, "as keepsakes, the couple gets matching plush robes emblazoned with political party symbols" (do we have to guess which political party?), "20 DVDs of movies set in Washington, and an American flag that has flown over the U.S. Capitol."

I suppose we can all be proud that we live in a country so wealthy, so carelessly affluent. We can be proud that our leaders can let this glittering display tell the world that, after all, we are No. 1!

Yes, the nation has sent relief money _ a great deal of relief money _ to the victims of the vicious natural disaster. Yes, we care; truly, we care.

But we lack something as a people, something quite vital. We lack tact. We lack good taste. We lack the ultimate test of graciousness: to curb our self-indulgence in the face of the unfortunate.

George W. Bush would be no less a president if he took the oath of office in a sober, serious atmosphere instead of in the midst of inflated luxury and obscene expense. Flying the flag at half staff for several days to show our concern for the tsunami victims doesn't erase the horrifying thoughtlessness shown by the inaugural extravaganza.

Abigail Ann Martin, Brandon

Assessing a disaster takes time

I have been amazed at how fast the media have jumped on our president because he did not quickly fly to Washington to announce how much the United States was going to send to help tsunami victims. But then, I seem to remember them saying the same thing when he finished reading to the children on 9/11. I do not know what the president could do in Washington that he could not do in Crawford, Texas. There are telephones in both locations. It seems that the war can still be run while he is on vacation. Why not the assessment of what is needed and how much?

Can our news media compute, withing a few hours, how much will be needed at our next disaster? If they can I would love to see the estimate. When our new bridge fell down, how many months did it take to decide what was needed to fix it? And what would the cost be? This event is much greater than our bridge.

My only concern now is what will happen to all the money given? Will it disappear into agency coffers? Will the individual governments affected grab it? Money will not help victims. Food, water, clothing and housing will. I have a suspicion that this will end up like the oil-for-food program. I remember all the millions that were given for relief of the 9/11 victims and their families, and how some agencies had to be forced to give it to the people. The time to correct these problems is now, not afterward.

James Bardsley, Madeira Beach

We should give as never before

This tsunami brought devastation the likes of which history has never experienced. Our giving must be like no other giving before. It's no time to point fingers at our government or another government or other entities or individuals, accusing stinginess. It's time for us to dig deep in our hearts and test our charitableness and give until it hurts.

This time we can truly say, whatever funds are raised, it will not be enough.

Hartley Steeves, Tampa

An offensive view of U.S. generosity

Re: Pat Oliphant's Jan. 4 cartoon.

While it's not unusual to find a strong bias on your editorial pages, the Jan. 4 cartoon by Oliphant extends your left wing, blame-America-first bias all the way to the patently offensive.

The U.S. government and the American people have always stepped up to the plate whenever and wherever disasters may strike _ irrespective of political climate at home or abroad. To suggest otherwise is to promote a canard that ignores the historical facts. That our president didn't pledge hundreds of millions at the outset also seems to be entirely reasonable. At my house, we don't start making dinner until we know how many are going to be joining us at the table. When that number is subject to increase, dinner is sometimes late.

Finally, the gratuitous swipe at our governor reveals Oliphant's ignorance of Asian culture. Our president gained great "face" by sending his brother as his personal emissary. While that act alone may not win over the Muslim populace in Indonesia, it sure didn't hurt.

David Siemens, St. Petersburg

It's why we have governments

Re: It's not just government's job, letter, Jan. 4.

The letter writer suggests that it is too "Democratic" for an editorial to suggest a course of action to our government regarding tsunami aid. And that there should have been a sentence about individual Floridians helping privately. The writer, like so many on the right, forgets that we citizens are the government. Government officials work for us and we are absolutely responsible for making suggestions regarding recovery aid. It is the government, not private citizens, who has the experience and resources to make a difference in this disaster. Am I going to collect some canned food and send it off to Indonesia myself? Of course not. I will pay my taxes and demand that my government takes appropriate actions on my behalf. That's why we humans formed governments in the first place.

Jack Coletti, St. Petersburg

Are oil-rich nations helping?

I have heard nothing of aid to tsunami victims from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Libya or other oil-rich countries. Are they contributing anything?

An appropriate contribution would be oil to supply fuel for deliveries of aid.

Harold Stelling, Lecanto

A questionable use of funds

Re: Chiropractic school at FSU.

It is hard to understand why funds were allotted for a chiropractic school at Florida State University when there are not funds to properly support the pre-K program or our public schools. Teachers are underpaid, they are not provided enough funds for adequate supplies, etc., and our classroom size is still too large.

Was an evaluation done to determine the need for a chiropractic school, and why at FSU where it is not wanted? The funding of $9-million a year could surely be spent more wisely.

Regina Shimer, Largo

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