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    Letters to the Editors

    Portrayal of older adults was insulting


    © St. Petersburg Times
    published September 8, 2002

    Re: "Little Old Riding Hood" cartoon by Don Addis, Aug. 29.

    I must confess that I enjoy Don Addis' cartoons approximately half the time; the rest of the time, I find them obtuse, silly, or in some cases gratuitously insulting. "Little Old Riding Hood" was one of the latter. I have a doctorate in gerontology, and I feel I must protest the portrayal of older adults in this cartoon.

    Addis correctly portrays the con artist as a wolf, but portraying the older person as a version of Little Red Riding Hood is a clear case of infantilizing the elderly. Older people are not grown-up children. If that was not bad enough, the aside spoken by the usual insect, "you'd think she'd know better by now," further portrays the elderly as being hopelessly stupid and foolish.

    While I would be the last to say that there aren't stupid and foolish older adults in the world, the chances are pretty good that they were stupid and foolish when they were younger. Older adults do not become stupid and foolish as they age. Among many potential reasons for vulnerability of the elderly to con men are such factors as social isolation and loneliness, being part of a generally more trusting generation, and on occasion, a touch of dementia.

    These are social and physical problems. Addis' portrayal of older people represents one of the most insulting examples of blaming the victim that I have seen in some time. The best type of humor is intelligent humor, not blind sarcasm. Mr. Addis, please know something about the subject the next time you attempt to make it "funny."

    In closing, although I am on the faculty of the University of South Florida, I am speaking for myself and not for the university.
    -- Sandra L. Reynolds, Ph.D., Wesley Chapel

    The court's complexities

    Re: What kind of Supreme Court will Ashcroft get?, by Robyn Blumner, Sept. 1

    Robyn Blumner in her latest opinion piece asks whether the U.S. Supreme Court in its next session will place more or fewer restrictions on the federal government. She predicts that the court will enhance the power of the government, a conclusion she is certain will please Attorney General John Ashcroft.

    But Blumner is wrong to suggest that the court is of one kind or another, or that it leans to one side or another -- because in the weighty issues confronted by the court, there are many sides. And justices are notoriously hard to pin down, depending on which issue comes before them, as to when government's power should be strengthened or diminished.

    For example, in Kyllo vs. United States, Antonin Scalia wrote the opinion prohibiting the use of infrared imaging devices to scan the outside of a house to determine whether illegal conduct (in this case, marijuana farming) is going on within the house. Scalia, whom Blumner wrongly avers is always pro-government, drew a bright line protecting people from government intrusion into their own homes.

    And it was David Souter, whom Blumner wrongly assures us is always there to rein in government's power, who wrote the opinion affirming the power of police to arrest someone for not buckling her seat belt (Atwater vs. Lago Vista). Rather, it was Sandra Day O'Connor in dissent of that opinion, who defended Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure, saying "the arrest of Gail Atwater was a pointless indignity that served no discernible state interest." And yet because of one statement made (outside the courtroom) in which O'Connor predicts further erosion of personal freedom, Blumner would have us infer that this statement signified O'Connor's approval and likelihood to join with those who would erode such individual liberties in the future.

    The legal landscape is not one-dimensional; does not, as Blumner suggests, veer from the FDR-era Korematsu court on the one hand to the Nixon-era Pentagon Papers court on the other. Nor will Scalia, Rehnquist and Thomas always agree and vote as a bloc.
    -- Robert L. White, Seminole

    Sympathy for Palestinians

    Re: Israeli artists and merchants need the sales, by Bill Maxwell, Sept. 1.

    Thanks for another thought-provoking article. In it Maxwell seems to expect sympathy for Israel's Jews. So, the Israelis' sales are down? Violence? The reason the tourists have quit going there is not the fault of the Palestinians.

    Which situation is harder to deal with: the loss of a few dollars or the loss of your house? The loss of your cities and infrastructure, water, sewer, electric, shopping, roads, automobiles and more. Who took the land from the Palestinians?

    Who decided to build their cities in the West Bank and the Golan Heights, decided that Palestinians were non grata?

    Who takes American tanks, F-16s, artillery and kills whomever they decide is the enemy?

    No, my sympathy is with the Palestinians who need life itself, not just a few dirty dollars.
    -- Richard Simon, Pinellas Park

    Health insurance woes

    Only 40-million uninsured?

    The health insurance situation in Florida and the entire United States is in shambles. Third World nations (such as Mexico) take care of their citizens far better than the United States. At least they do have a comprehensive national health plan that covers all citizens. In fact, even noncitizens living in Mexico can participate in the national health plan by applying and paying a very low deductible -- and we are talking a few hundred dollars per year!

    In my most recent attempts to obtain health insurance, I discovered it is impossible (or at least not economically feasible) to obtain health insurance for a self-employed person 53 years old with hereditary high cholesterol of 245 but otherwise in good health!

    After being turned down cold by BlueCross BlueShield for an individual health insurance plan (with minimal coverage, mind you), I applied for the "Group of One" plans recently amended by Jeb Bush and our Republican Legislature. The cost of even a minimal-coverage policy is beyond belief!

    The quotes I received ranged from $433.65 per month ($500 deductible, 50 percent co-pay) to $671.09 per month (for $250 deductible, 70 percent co-pay).

    So, in this, the richest democracy on earth, the poor are covered by Medicaid and the rich can self-insure, but all the ones in the middle (unless they happen to be fortunate enough to work for a very large company) are virtually medically uninsurable!

    Bring back President Clinton's national health insurance plan!
    -- Guy Bickerstaff, St. Petersburg

    Competence counts

    Re: What's a "Yellow Dog" to do this election year?, by Diane Roberts, Sept. 1.

    Diane Roberts is certainly entitled to write an opinion piece as to the problems (we) Democrats face in Florida, but she is not entitled to misstate facts.

    I might concede that the majority of Floridians wanted Al Gore to be elected president. The facts, however, are that the majority of those voters clever enough to cast a proper ballot chose George Bush.

    Maybe if we (Democrats) could produce a competent electorate and put forth credible candidates (see Philip Gailey's Sept. 1 comments on Gore lying about Bill Bradley's record) we just might do a little better!
    -- Stephen Grabe, Seminole

    Snooping lessons

    Re: The great firewall of China, Sept. 3.

    "More than 30,000 state security employees are currently conducting surveillance of Web sites, chat rooms, and private e-mail messages -- including those sent from home computers."

    Sounds like China is learning from John Ashcroft and his FBI. Maybe these government agencies use the same software?
    -- Tom Croxton, St. Petersburg

    Fridge finances

    Re: Fridge from another life is unending fit of agony, Sept. 3.

    Mary Jo Melone blasts the Sears Co. for not forgiving the debt of a lady who bought a $1,000 refrigerator and then couldn't pay for it. Since when is Sears in the welfare business? Are department stores obligated to forgive debts of those who can't pay? Does the Times continue to deliver papers to those who can't pay their bill? Does the Times offer free advertising to companies that can't pay?

    Did Mary Jo offer to help this lady pay for her refrigerator? Shouldn't the Times Publishing Co., which is rich enough to pay millions to have its name on the Ice Palace, and which pays writers like Mary Jo to promote socialism, pay for this refrigerator?
    -- Jack Vanderbleek, St. Petersburg

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