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    Letters to the Editors

    We need to see corporate crooks pay

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published August 25, 2002

    Re: The justice for corporate crooks, Aug. 18.

    Dan Morgan's column comparing the shame of corporate criminals during the New Deal to that of present-day corporate crime raises disquieting impressions. Months ago, Time magazine in a cover story raised the issue of whether "shame" had lost its moral power, and perhaps it has been diminished as a social deterrent. The public appearances of the latest batch of corporate officers charged with a variety of civil and criminal offenses, particularly on television, leaves me with the sense that shame and remorse are in short supply, at least publicly as scripted by their lawyers.

    Morgan cites law professor George Langevoort as seeing the pendulum has swung too far (a pro-business climate) and the system "allows risky activities that cause immense social harm while the participants walk away having lost only their investments." There is considerable truth to this and it probably reflects public opinion.

    The SEC, the Department of Justice and their state counterparts need to press for the prosecution of all corporate executives where civil and criminal actions are warranted. But such actions are important not just because the evidence is credible, but also because there needs to be a demonstration of the force of the law being brought to bear on all who deserve it irrespective of affluence or presumed stature.

    However, while Morgan's column warms my heart as an investor, I am cautious about painting with too broad a sweep the majority of corporate executives who act ethically -- these men and women are not a rare breed and indeed run major businesses that produce many essential goods and services. Also the public must remember we are still a nation of small businesses that create about 80 percent of the employment opportunities. That said, there is no excuse for the wave of scandals that occurred and the timid response of right-minded business leaders to the malfeasance of some of their peers.
    -- James R. Gillespie, St. Petersburg

    Then and now

    The headline sensations in the newspapers of 20 years ago were about the college students who cheated their way through school by securing tests and answers before the tests were distributed. This happened in America's finest universities, including our military academies, West Point and Annapolis, with their so-called "honor codes."

    It's not very comforting to know that a generation of cheats makes up today's leaders of America's industrial, political and, yes, even our military establishments.
    -- Robert Topper, St. Pete Beach

    Campaign reform needed

    Re: Can't take the politics out of elections, even for judges.

    Of course what the whole election system -- judicial and otherwise -- needs, apropros to Philip Gailey's Aug. 18 column, is public financing of elections, which would eliminate the legal bribery of campaign contributions and reduce advertising costs. The chief media culprit, TV, shouldn't be too difficult to reduce as the airwaves are public property. And where TV goes, can the press be far behind?

    Then the election of judges will boil down to how much partisan politics should be allowed. Without the legal bribery of campaign contributions, why shouldn't elected judges be allowed full rein to state their personal political positions? Only their time on the bench should be limited to four years at most, so their performances could be rejected if necessary.

    Ballot initiatives should be treated in a somewhat similar fashion in that their ability to reach the ballot should be made easier. This, of course, might increase the number of initiatives by specialized interests, including asinine issues like the mental health of pregnant pigs, but it would also allow more initiatives of genuine social or political reform, which are often stymied today. And so what? At least the voters will be directly responsible for the choice, unlike their bought and paid for members of the Legislature.
    -- W.H. Riddell, Tampa

    Consider all suffering

    Re: Window for universal health care wasted, Aug. 18.

    How sad that some have so little compassion for animals that suffer more than you can ever imagine at the hands of humans.

    Times associate editor Martin Dyckman calls the effort to protect pregnant pigs a "lurid spectacle" because there is a lack of universal health care for humans. Both human and nonhuman animals experience fear, pain and suffering. Isn't it our duty to care for both?
    -- Krista Hughes, Winter Park

    A dose of faith

    Re: In the face of depression, a Ray's search for healing, by Mary Jo Melone, Aug. 18.

    In support of Russ Johnson's belief that God came to his aid when depression caused him to be at his lowest, several points can be made.

    First, believers are strengthened (no matter what the belief). The column mentions a supportive family, his Bible, his confession of sins, plus, very important, professional medical intervention. All combined, it sounds to me as though Russ Johnson is doing everything right.

    Why is Melone "skeptical" about a good recovery with God as the catalyst? Perhaps she could find help for her personal experience with the awful illness of depression by adopting some of the faith demonstrated by a professional baseball player.
    -- Dottie Bellavance, Palm Harbor

    Focusing on depression

    Re: In the face of depression, a Ray's search for healing, Aug. 18.

    I read Mary Jo Melone's column on Russ Johnson's depression, and I think it is praiseworthy and very important to bring this debilitating illness "out of the closet." Depression is a pervasive disease manifesting itself in many ways, from mild to severe, even linked to alcohol or drug abuse.

    In sharing her experience, Melone gives hope that the afflicted can go on and succeed. Johnson's story is right on. One must give up self-blame when things go invariably wrong, and leave the outcome to someone or something else -- perhaps a higher power. It is then that healing can begin.
    -- Manuel R. Arocho, Tampa

    Make them read bills

    Re: Humiliating mothers? Or protecting fathers?, Aug. 19.

    Once again the lackadaisical attitude of our legislators is highlighted in big, bold fashion. We now demand that CEOs certify the accuracy of financial statements. Is it not time to demand the same accountability of our elected representatives?

    It seems to me that all lawmakers (local, state and federal) should have a requirement to initial every piece of legislation they vote on. That initialing will mean that they have read and understand the entire document. Failure to initial that acknowledgement will prevent them from voting on the issue.

    Failure to vote will not be taken lightly by their constituents. Voting will now be fully accountable and maybe, just maybe, they will create clearer, single-issue legislation and limit the volume of hidden special interest addenda and pork barrel projects.
    -- Jim Randel, Lutz

    Use the dump

    Re: Hijackers' remains left in limbo, Aug. 17.

    Oh, please, give us a break here! After the atrocities these terrorists committed, Washington is talking about what to do with their remains?

    Let's try the local dump with the rest of the trash.
    -- Pamela Ambrose, St. Petersburg

    For new growth

    Re: Hijackers' remains left in limbo.

    I agree with Donn Marshall, whose wife, Shelley, died at the Pentagon on Sept. 11. The hijackers don't deserve any kind of religious courtesies. I think they should plant trees or shrubs at the Pentagon and at the site in Pennsylvania and use the remains of the nine hijackers as fertilizer. Just knowing that they would be helping something live when all they thought about was death would be a twist on their horrible plans.
    -- Victoria L. Day, Clearwater

    A day to donate

    I would like to suggest a way of commemorating those who lost their lives or livelihoods a year ago this September.

    Rather than taking a day off from work, as some have suggested, I intend to donate that day's pay to charity, and I encourage others to do the same. We should try to help not just those who suffered last year, but those who continue to suffer from the effects of Sept. 11, 2001.
    -- Paul Drake, St. Petersburg

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