During the 19th century, coal miners took canaries in cages deep into the diggings as barometers to warn them about the presence of poisonous gases. If the canaries died, the miners knew they had to get out of the pits as quickly as possible. Recently, my wife and I experienced another kind of barometer when we were in Australia visiting family for the third time.
In 2012, we went to Australia and, everywhere, friendly Australians often came to us and said, "I heard your accent. Where are you from?" After we answered, the second question was always, "Are you having a good time?" Invariably, that was followed by the third question, "Have you gone to (place X)?" because every Australian had a favorite place they wanted us to enjoy.
During our second trip in 2016, the same thing happened. Not only did they obviously like Americans, they truly wanted us to enjoy all their country had to offer.
None of that was true during our 2019 trip — occasioned by the birth of our second Australian grandchild. Everyone was polite if we spoke to them, but there was no curiosity about our accents or activities.
After three weeks, we asked family members why their fellow citizens were reacting to us in such a different way. The answer was, "They don't know if you support Donald Trump or not." When I assured them we were opposed to everything the president was doing, they responded, "But those people don't know that. Because most Australians truly hate Donald Trump, they don't want to risk an argument if you happen to be Trump supporters."
I am convinced the change in attitude toward us is a barometer, warning us that if Donald Trump is re-elected, America will find itself facing an increasingly dangerous world without the support of its traditional and steadfast allies.
Ronald Vierling, Odessa
McConnell is the worst of us | Column, Aug. 9
Democrats and Trump
Democrats seem unaware that their hatred for President Donald Trump has rendered them completely ineffective and are unable to move forward on almost anything they claim to support.
Both Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama spoke in favor of border control. If Democrats worked with Trump to secure the border, they could accomplish so much. But because Trump wants to secure the border, they fight him regardless of the benefits to their causes.
Other overt examples of hatred are Joaquin Castro putting out a list of Trump donors to retaliate against, social media acting against conservative formats and protests at the private homes of Tucker Carlson and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Fair-minded Americans reject these tactics. Democrats are paralyzed, ineffective and showing no leadership on any meaningful issue.
Doug Penniyer, St. Petersburg
Senators, do something
This is an impassioned appeal about the "do nothing" Senate. Specifically, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott — and President Donald Trump: Do your jobs. Do something meaningful to address what the majority of Americans are asking: prevent the massacre of innocents, safeguard the integrity of our election system and mitigate climate change/global warming.
You have sworn duties to protect the interests of this country and its citizens. Failure to act in these pressing matters leaves us with no choice but to exercise our responsibly and elect people who will.
Karl Olander, Indian Shores
It looks and smells like one. But what about the taste? | Aug. 15
Eat plants and live longer
The environmental benefits of eating an Impossible Whopper vs. a traditional one are overwhelming, including an 87 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. If that isn't enough of a reason to make the switch, consider the fact that nutritional scientists tell us that those eating plant-based diets live longer and healthier lives. And, of course, the animals get a break, too. It's a win-win-win situation, and I hope we are on the road to a paradigm shift towards clean, healthy and humane eating.
Stewart David, Venice
Assault weapons ban
More than just prayers
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops supported the 1994 assault weapons ban and has reiterated its stance against assault weapons throughout the years.
After the Parkland massacre, the conference issued a statement headlined "Domestic Justice and Education chairmen urge concrete actions to address scourge of gun violence" calling for a minimum age law to possess guns, universal background checks, a ban on bump stocks, and, yes, a federal ban on assault weapons. While we are called to prayer, we are also called to action. Let's ban assault weapons now.
Catherine Montgomery, Hudson
Saving oceans of money | Aug. 2
What you can do
I'm glad that Ocean Allies is working with restaurants in Clearwater to protect the environment, but there are some very simple things we can all do at restaurants. Make it clear whether or not you need a straw at all. Some restaurants still give them as a "courtesy." Bring your own leftover containers. Everyone at your table will want one, because they're a lot better than the flimsy polystyrene clamshells that are the scourge of the earth.
And halving that giant burger for later or stashing part of that giant portion of lasagne will come more naturally. You will be taking back control of the portion of food you eat. When you order a takeout meal, make sure you tell them you don't need their plastic ware and napkins, if you don't need them. It's the little things.
Travis Sherman, St. Petersburg