1. Letters to the Editor

Sunday's letters: U.S. has no right to rush into war

From peace prize to odd paralysis | June 17

U.S. has no right to rush into war

The headline on Nicholas Kristof's article, From peace prize to odd paralysis, is oddly Orwellian, suggesting that the natural extension from the Nobel Peace Prize is to wage war on other countries.

Kristof's hubris in saying the United States should intervene in Sudan and Syria to help the people there is so tired. Only the terminally naive believe the United States sends its military to other countries for humanitarian purposes.

What arrogance to assume that the United States has the moral authority, and legal right, to intervene in Syria or Sudan. Do all other 200-plus nations around the world have the same authority? If so, what would prevent another nation from attacking the United States for all the death it has caused around the world in its multiple wars of aggression, its world's-worst incarceration rate, and its policy of assassinating its own citizens without trial?

The author suggests President Barack Obama is being soft by not attacking Sudan and Syria. I guess the fact that Obama has bombed six countries (Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq) is not enough for Kristof. Nor the fact that the U.S. military has been involved in 24 African countries since Obama has been in office. Kristof's suggestion that Obama is a dove doesn't pass a fact-check test.

Kristof also fails to mention that the uprising in Syria is not peaceful and is supported by al-Qaida. If protesters in the United States took up arms against the U.S. government, the response would be the same. And given that U.S. Special Operation Forces reportedly have been in Syria since December training groups to conduct guerrilla attacks and assassinations to bring down Syrian President Bashar Assad, we've done nothing but add fuel to the fire there already, which may be what people like Kristof want, all under the guise of humanitarianism.

Luther Thomas, St. Petersburg

Constitution's father really does know best June 17

Respect states' rights

I agree with Larry Sabato that the warmaking powers should be rebalanced and that there should be time limits on the Supreme Court instead of lifetime appointments.

But I have a major problem with a more representative Senate and eliminating the Electoral College. If we did not have the Electoral College, our presidents would be elected by highly populated cities, and not from the 50 states. Sabato's plan would give the Democratic Party the edge in almost all elections.

James Johnston, Plant City

Time for major changes

Larry Sabato provides five excellent amendments to our Constitution. It seems profoundly obvious to me that our Electoral College, our lifelong judges, the unbalanced Senate, and a number of other long-established institutions should at the least be revisited if not entirely turned on their heads.

In fact, I would like us to hold a Constitutional convention and consider all of his recommendations. We could make it a huge, Internet-based, Federalist Papers-type discussion on the way our country operates, and of course, how it could operate more fairly.

Diana Carsey, Dunedin

For better democracy, make everyone vote June 21, commentary

The right not to vote

In America we have the First Amendment right to express ourselves, even through nonparticipation. Any person who chooses not to vote does us and our ancestors a grave injustice. To many have died for that right to vote. Our ancestors also died for our right not to vote.

But governments shouldn't be in the business of forcing people to express themselves in any way. In a free country we just don't allow that type of totalitarianism. Once we allowed that from our leaders, all our rights would be in jeopardy.

Steven Steele, Pinellas Park

Tapes reflect skepticism | June 22

Account not credible

The public has now heard the ludicrous account given by George Zimmerman to justify his killing of Trayvon Martin. It seems Zimmerman was just minding his business when the teenager jumped up — iced tea, Skittles and all — and assaulted him. Supposedly, Martin's last words were, "You got me."

I'll bet that even supporters of the shoot-first law are embarrassed at this tale that Zimmerman told police.

The whole problem with the legalized killing idea is that it leaves no survivor, except the killer, to tell the tale.

Scott Cochran, Tampa

For better democracy, make everyone vote June 21, commentary

Complications in voting

This column cites Australia as a paradigm for compulsory voting, but Peter Orszag's limited statistics are somewhat misleading.

Compulsory voting in Australia does indeed bring out more voters. But not all participate effectively, fines notwithstanding. A considerable number of votes are declared informal — that is, invalid.

It is not first-past-the-post winner in Australia; rather, a preferential voting system is used. Voting preferences are made by numbering the candidates from No. 1 to, sometimes, 12 or more. One number missing or duplicated and the vote is determined to be informal, and discounted. Many mistakes have been made, and the system has been simplified in some cases by only requiring the first, second and third preferences to be listed. Nevertheless, any mistake and the vote is out.

How these preferences affect the outcome is also unique — the candidate with the most No. 1 votes is not necessarily the winner after preferences are counted for second place and beyond — but that's another story. Voting for federal Senate seats is even more convoluted.

Also, unique to Australia is the "donkey vote" (not to be confused with the donkey symbol of the U.S. Democratic Party). Donkey votes are made by those disenchanted with all candidates, or indifferent, or just too angry to care. A deliberate mistake is made, and the vote is informal — out. (Unwitting mistakes are unfairly also counted in the so-called donkey vote numbers.)

The gross quantity in a compulsory election in Australia does not mirror the actual number of valid votes cast. It could theoretically be even lower than of the U.S. averages, despite being compulsory.

David and Lyn Derrick, Newnham, Tasmania, Australia