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Florida needs voting districts that are drawn independently

Re: Democracy drowning in snake oil of incumbency, Jan. 6.

Howard Troxler is right. Competitive democracy no longer exists in Florida at the legislative level. We now really have an imperial Legislature which is not responsive to the wishes of the voters. Because the legislators do their own redistricting and therefore protect their own seats, they can almost never be thrown out of office no matter how much the voters would like to replace them.

Thanks to Betty Castor, who has always stood for good, representative government, for leading the fight for nonpartisan voting districts in Florida drawn up by a independent body and not by the Legislature itself. If this effort does not succeed, we will be stuck with an imperial Legislature for years to come, a Legislature that does not care what the voters want.

John McCrossan, Tampa

It's just democracy-driven change

Re: Democracy drowning in snake oil of incumbency.

It seems that Howard Troxler is taking a rather shortsighted view of the issue. Yep, 2004 elections were not generous to challengers. But it was just a few short years ago that the Legislature was dominated by impossible-to-defeat Democrats, a condition that existed for several decades prior to that. That domination has been rooted out by voters, an example of the very democracy-driven change he says does not now exist.

It is interesting that he plugs the "citizen petition drive to create fair, nonpartisan voting districts in Florida" led by a very partisan Betty Castor, now, after the Democrats have been rooted out. I get the feeling that effort will be about as fair as what existed during the Pork Chop Gang days. What's good for the goose?

Gary Graves, Tallahassee

A debate on districting is welcome

It's refreshing to see a new debate, led by Betty Castor, on how voting districts will be carved up here in Florida. For too long the Democrats and Republicans have been guilty of doing the wrong thing in splitting districts based on party registration and not on geography for their own political gain. Even California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has put the career politicians in his state on notice that he is looking for the same nonpartisan voting districts that we need here.

It would be nice to see Gov. Jeb Bush and other top elected Florida officials have the same passion as Gov. Schwarzenegger on this issue. There are too many elected "dictators" in this country at all levels of government. It's time to have competition again. I can't wait to vote on this amendment when it is approved and on the ballot.

Jim Steinle, Clearwater

Questionable nonpartisan credentials

Re: Democracy drowning in snake oil of incumbency.

Howard Troxler should try not to write an article that is completely devoid of common sense.

He states, "In the coming weeks and months, there will be a revived version of a citizen petition drive to create fair, nonpartisan voting districts in Florida, drawn by an independent body and not by the Legislature."

He then tells us Betty Castor, liberal-left Democratic Senate candidate, will be heading the drive. Does he really think this liberal leftist is a fair and nonpartisan individual?

That is the most laughable thing I have heard in a long time.

Gerald Lesmeister, Largo

Voters need to wake up

Re: Democracy drowning in snake oil of incumbency.

The real reason that we the people don't have our democracy is that enough of us don't get out and vote. We don't read the paper and learn about what's going on with each candidate. Then when they get into office they don't do the job they were sent to do. They fight with each other and try to fill their pockets with cash. Why is it most office holders retire with loads of money?

John Howie, Clearwater

Chiropractic school would benefit FSU

Re: FSU chiropractic school.

As a graduate of Florida State University, as well as a practicing chiropractor in Pinellas County, I am watching with great interest the opposition by some FSU supporters and faculty to the proposed FSU chiropractic college. There are two separate issues that pertain to the proposed school.

The first is the misguided and prejudicial conclusion that chiropractic care is not "based in science." To address the misconception one needs only to look at recent studies and data. Numerous medical journals have found that spinal manipulation is a valid and effective means to treat musculoskeletal conditions. Last year in Spine, a leading orthopedic journal, spinal manipulation was found to be the best treatment for low back pain. Annually, chiropractic care is given to more than 30-million people worldwide and is an extremely safe addition to health care.

To become a chiropractor in the state of Florida, the student must have a bachelor's degree prior to admission. Also, the proposed FSU school will be a five-year program with doctors of chiropractic and master's degrees being awarded. To become a doctor of chiropractic, a student must complete a very challenging science-based curriculum, and pass national as well as state board examinations. All chiropractic schools have their curriculums set by the Council for Chiropractic Education.

The second issue concerns the newly recommissioned Board of Governors, a loosely appointed group of individuals who have little experience in making decisions regarding Florida education, resenting the way some influential lawmakers cooked up some pork to feed some of their own.

As far as the people being concerned about politicians legislating their own interests, I ask them to examine virtually every grant that our U.S. Rep. Bill Young has championed for Pinellas County. Without legislative pork, we might not have beach erosion projects and the Pinellas Trail. I don't remember such rancor when the medical school or law school was approved for FSU. Was that a political gift from a legislator as well?

The opponents of this school have a biased agenda and need to examine their own prejudices about the profession of chiropractic.

I am very proud to be a doctor of chiropractic and consider it a privilege to relieve the suffering of the patients that seek my care. A chiropractic school at FSU will lower tuition costs for minorities, bring dollars to FSU, and most important, meet the need for well-trained chiropractors in Florida as the baby boomers begin to realize that their aching spines may need a little help.

Dr. Marc J. Rogers, Largo

A test for Martinez's moderation

Re: Sen. Martinez makes a move toward the middle, Jan. 5.

Your story on Mel Martinez's pledge to be a moderate voice in the Senate overlooked one important issue that will test his pledge. The Bush administration recently renewed its push to drill for oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, despite the fact that most Americans oppose it.

Spoiling the arctic refuge for marginal amounts of oil is bad public policy, and it could be especially bad for Florida. If Congress sets the dangerous precedent of allowing drilling in environmentally sensitive places, what's to stop it from allowing drilling off Florida's shores?

The balance of power in this year's Congress means that Martinez could cast the deciding vote on arctic refuge drilling. For America's sake and especially for Florida's, let's hope Martinez does the right thing. Let's hope he truly earns the right to be called "Mel the Middleman."

Ann Vanek Dasovich, Tampa

It's better to swear on the Constitution

Re: Sen. Martinez makes a move toward the middle, Jan. 5.

Why is it necessary for political figures to place a hand on the Bible while being sworn into office? It would be much more inclusive and appropriate to hold one's hand on the Constitution, swearing to uphold the law while becoming a public servant to all _ Christian, Muslim, Jew or atheist.

Jeanne Marchand, St. Petersburg

Patriotic displays overlook freedom

Re: My restaurant, love it or leave it, Jan. 2.

This article reports on Tommy Piliouras' Margueritagrill restaurant in Citrus County, whose menu features flag-waving as well as food. Customers who choose not to participate in the flag-waving and singing rituals are ejected from the premises, despite the fact that Margueritagrill purports to be a place of public accommodation.

Piliouras and his steady customers seem to think their antics demonstrate that they are greater patriots than their fellow citizens who have the quaint notion that all you have to do in a restaurant that is open to the public is to behave yourself and pay the bill.

By commonly accepted definition, a patriot is one who loves his or her country _ in this case, the United States of America. Piliouras and his flag-waving disciples fail the test of patriotism because the guiding principle of our country is freedom. In the case of Margueritagrill, that should mean the freedom to enjoy a meal in a restaurant that is open to the public without being forced to participate in middle-school-level theatrics.

If Piliouras believes it his duty to enforce his brand of patriotism in his restaurant, he should convert it to a private club. Then those who share his beliefs would be members, and those who do not would not be interested.

Edward Cherney, Sun City Center

Don't force the patriotism

Re: My restaurant, love it or leave it.

It is good to see folks expressing their patriotism. It frequently makes my heart swell. But it is bad to see the owner of "Margueritagrill" violating people's rights by "forcing" them to comply with his image of patriotism. Some of his customers could be too shy to wish to do so or just not expressive (private) people. Or they could be from another nation, not wishing to appear to pledge allegiance to a nation they are only visiting or to celebrate one whose history/geography/climate/people they enjoy, but whose political view they do not share.

Your photo on page 3E also shows the owner's ignorance with his anti-French sign. If it were not for France's assistance to this emerging nation during the Revolutionary War, and specifically their blockade of the arriving British reinforcements, we would have lost the battle at Yorktown, and that very probably would have been the end of our drive for independence.

I believe being a patriot is good, very good. But being a patriotic (or ignorant) hypocrite is not. Go to the library, Mr. Margueritagrill, and add some education to your undemocratic "patriotism." Then celebrate with an understanding of what gives you that right to do what you are doing (and should not be doing).

Richard J. Murphy, Clearwater

Wave flags for the dead and wounded

Re: My restaurant, love it or leave it.

How thrilling to be required to wave our flag so patriotically! Why doesn't every restaurant, cafe and bar make that a requirement for patronage? We could wave our flag back and forth one time for each dead American soldier, and then once more for each of their grieving parents, and then once more for their wives, if any, and then their children, starting with the older ones and ending with the babies.

As long as we're on the babies, we could start on the enemy babies. One solemn wave for each blown up one. We could call them the "shock and awe" babies. Then we could wave enthusiastically for their grieving mothers, and then for the ones not grieving, being already dead.

You can see, there would be a lot of great flag waving before we even started on our wounded and their families. But after a week or two our arms would get tired (good exercise, though).

Bud Tritschler, Clearwater

A surprising aberration

Re: My restaurant, love it or leave it, and Journalists shouldn't be cheerleaders, Jan. 2.

Your flag-waving article caught my eye, last Sunday, since the partisan nature of the Times has led me away, except on Sunday. I am frankly surprised that you would honor such a great American like Tommy Piliouras, with space.

As Alan Greenblatt writes in Journalists shouldn't be cheerleaders, it's amazing how most newspapers in this country don't get it. For the better part of a year the news media, Michael Moore and any one who could grab an audience blasted the president as stupid and more, as they did with Ronald Reagan. But never do you mention that if your beloved Bill Clinton had followed up on his chances to collect Osama bin Laden, thousands of lives would have been saved!

To those who wave the flag of socialism: Guess what, it doesn't work. Even China, the largest bastion of socialism, is drifting into capitalism. The jihadists will lose; American individualism is here to stay, as the power of the right to vote, the right to be free, continues its march!

Please don't be misled by those who pretend to care. To continue the march we must march with common sense. Common sense is something the left has lacked since JFK. As long as the Democratic Party lacks vision and common sense it will be "left on the ash heap of history" as Reagan said.

York T. Somerville, Pinellas Park

The patriotism of dissent

Re: Comforting the enemy, letter, Jan. 4.

I had to laugh when I came across this letter in response to the Jan. 1 Don Wright cartoon (Rummy and the casket). I want to express my appreciation to the Times for providing such a wide range of perspective on the Opinion pages. Political cartoons are meant to inspire thinking, not control perspective.

Our Founding Fathers with all their wisdom provided us the foundation that we needed to pursue life, liberty and happiness. With our First Amendment rights of "free speech," Americans were virtually guaranteed the right to express their views of patriotism in whatever form they chose.

Suggesting that presenting opposing perspectives of our government officials is the equivalent of "supporting terrorism" is like saying our government officials are beyond reproach.

President Thomas Jefferson said, "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism."

Sam Worobey, Hernando

Ways to really support our troops

When you put a yellow ribbon on your car that says, "Support Our Troops":

Are you willing to support a tax increase for a larger military and for the increased VA medical care of the thousands of wounded veterans, or are you already looking for the next tax cut and making plans on how to spend your tax refund?

Will you buy products made in America to generate salaries and tax revenues here, or will you buy products made in China?

Are you willing to encourage all of your children, and those of your friends and neighbors, to join the military?

Are you willing to buy a savings bond instead of buying a DVD, a video game or a movie ticket?

Or do you only put a yellow ribbon on the bumper of your car and congratulate yourself on your patriotism?

Charlie Crook, Tampa

A contradictory viewpoint

It would be interesting to know how many Times' readers found the convoluted style of journalism in Nicholas D. Kristof's Dec. 28 column, Left should join right on humanitarian causes, a contradiction in and of itself!

Kristof finds Sam Brownback, the senator from Kansas who is a leader of the Christian right, admirable while also stating Brownback is to the right of Attila the Hun, who has been called the Scourge of God and antithesis to Christ. Kristof said he disagrees with Brownback "on just about every major issue" with one stroke of his pen while with another stroke he says the Christian right and Bush administration are contributing most to humanitarian causes. What about the human rights of those in this country who look for their government help in matters of health insurance, livable wages and security in their old age?

Russell Lee Johnson, St. Petersburg

Let states offer universal health care

Re: America's resolution should be to create universal health care, letter, Jan. 1.

I applaud the letter writer for bringing this to the forefront of resolutions for the coming year. America is a vast country and I don't think it is capable of setting up a program for universal health care. I suggest each state be given the responsibility to do this, guided by the same set of rules and also its population. Each state then can be responsible for the welfare of its residents and can start toward achieving its goal.

The United Kingdom is an example of a smaller nation that has a successful universal health care plan, so why not America, the biggest and richest nation on earth? I urge Congress to place this resolution on the agenda and to listen to the people who now have no medical coverage whatsoever.

Margaret Fuhro, Sun City Center

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