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    Letters to the Editors

    Be cautious about military recruiters

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published December 8, 2002

    Re: Schools shouldn't be wary of military recruiters, by Philip Gailey, Dec. 1.

    It seems that the pervasive nationalism of recent days has had its effect even upon the editor of editorials of the supposedly "liberal" St. Petersburg Times. Even though this reader is definitely a pacifist, I cannot see how even enlightened nonpacifists can fail to recognize the threat to basic liberty represented by the recruitment access provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act.

    Public schools have every reason to be cautious about allowing the encroachment of military values into the framework of educational administration. Military establishments are opportunistic by nature and history should show us that wherever they are given an inch, they tend to take the proverbial mile.

    Remember also that young people are especially vulnerable to the sales pitch that recruiters offer and will make enlistment decisions that they have not thoroughly thought through... as this reader admittedly once did.
    -- John Feeney, facilitator, Episcopal Peace & Justice Fellowship, St. Petersburg

    An invasion of privacy

    Lest anyone think that our president was concerned for the education and welfare of our children, we need only look into the dark corner of his No Child Left Behind Act. We already knew that this act was a bankrupt attempt to privatize education with vouchers and a shallow effort to improve education through punitive, high-stakes testing. Most of us were unaware, however, that Bush was also looking for a way to recruit our children into his globe-spanning military forces.

    Congress gave Bush the power to force any school that receives federal educational funds to provide the names, addresses and phone numbers of its students. The act also obligates schools to allow military recruiters to come on their campuses to recruit the students.

    Times editor of editorials, Philip Gailey, defends this new invasion of our privacy, arguing that with war brewing in Iraq and with troops "in Afghanistan, Bosnia and other trouble spots around the world," the military is having difficulty recruiting enough soldiers. Besides, he says, "some students may even be attracted to a military career."

    Gailey bases his view upon some questionable premises. He suggests that the current purposes and actions of our military are defensive in nature. He seems to feel that allowing recruitment of our school kids is a way of showing gratitude to our armed forces. Maybe closer to the truth is his argument that our "smart bombs, cruise missiles and deadly drones [have] lulled us into the notion that war need not require sacrifice." This act does go right to that most salient point. The sacrifice that will be demanded will be the lives of our school kids.

    Citizens are not without some recourse. Parents must notify the school district that they do not want their children's personal information given to military recruiters, otherwise the information will be provided. I think we must go even further. Everyone should write to their school board and request the board to formally notify every family of the procedure to protect their children's information.

    We should request that every time recruiters enter our schools or speak to our students, that equal time be given to speakers who can teach about international conflict resolution, peace initiatives and good global citizenship. Let us initiate a draft for peace.
    -- Mark S. Kamleiter, Esq., co-chair, Green Party of Florida, St. Petersburg

    Let polluters pay

    Re: Choking the Glades, Dec. 1.

    The sugar industry is upset because it wants to keep polluting the Everglades with all the phosphorus in the fertilizers it uses, so the state is considering easing restrictions because treating the pollution may "become too costly for the taxpayers." Huh?

    Why should the state allow the sugar industry, along with its partners-in-pollution, the phosphate industry, to determine what level of pollution is acceptable? Isn't it the government's role, on behalf of the citizens, to impose and enforce the phosphorous limits that say loudly and clearly: Polluting the Everglades with phosphorous runoff beyond a certain limit is not acceptable, and if you continue to pollute, you pay and you pay big. And why should the taxpayers end up getting stiffed with the treatment bill for ecological damage being caused by the sugar farmers? Here's a radical notion: You pollute, you pay.

    Isn't this the very same phosphate industry that ran warm-and-fuzzy TV ads recently telling us what wonderful stewards of the environment their companies are? The phosphate and sugar industries may poor-mouth their responsibility to pay for the pollution they cause but they sure are good at finding the money to pay for TV commercials and to finance the campaigns of supportive office holders.
    -- Rick Carson, St. Petersburg

    Rich pay most taxes

    Re: Republican Party is very accommodating to rich tax avoiders, Dec. 1.

    Although I normally agree with Robyn Blumner, this time she is as wrong as Leona Helmsley was. I don't mean to defend the taxing policies of either the Democrats or the Republicans, but it is the people who earn the most money who pay overwhelmingly more than the "little people."

    In 2000 (the latest year for which data are available) the top 1 percent of tax filers, ranked by adjusted gross income, paid more than 37 percent of the taxes. The top 5 percent paid more than 56 percent. The top 10 percent paid more than 67 percent of the personal income taxes. The top 50 percent paid more than 96 percent of the taxes -- the bottom 50 percent paid less than 4 percent. The "rich" get tax breaks, because they are paying the taxes. To be in the top 25 percent, which paid 84 percent of the taxes, only took an adjusted gross income of $55,225 -- hardly what most would consider as rich. (See: 2002/10-24-02.htm)

    Rather than the tax burden being shifted to those with lower incomes, the folks with higher incomes are paying an even greater share than they did in the past. In 1975, the top 1 percent paid less than 19 percent of personal income taxes.

    Blumner mentions the capital gains tax, which is a tax on an investment that spans more than one year. It often results in taxes on phantom profits. Suppose a person invested $10,000 in 1992 and sold that investment for $12,500 in 2002. The person would be taxed on a profit of $2,500, but since it would take almost $13,000 in 2002 to equal the purchasing power of $10,000 in 1992, the person actually lost on the investment. It amounts to double taxation -- a tax on "profits" that were not really made, and what is effectively a tax because of the loss in the value of the currency.
    -- J.B. Pruitt Jr., Clearwater

    Bible lessons

    Re: Clear on Christianity, letter, Dec. 1.

    It appears the letter writer does not know her Bible very well if she thinks that Jesus Christ "never forced his Gospel on anyone." Perhaps she has never heard of, "The Great Commission." Specifically, Matthew 28:19, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

    If she thinks that "He never did kill or told people to kill," she has not read Matthew: 10:34, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." Or Luke 19:27, "But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me."

    She says that "all the killing, raping, and robbing was done by the Roman Church." Maybe she thinks that the wars between Catholics and Protestants, and their attendant atrocities, that wracked Europe for centuries never actually happened. The point is that tolerance in any religion evolves not to protect you from them, but to protect them from each other.

    As for the writer of the letter, Christianity's evolution, who says that she "cannot find the verses where Moses takes the Israelites to task for sparing women and children," she need look no further than the story of the Midianites in Numbers 31.

    Mark Twain once wrote, "The Beatitudes and the quoted chapters from Numbers . . . ought always to be read from the pulpit together; then the congregation would get an all-round view of Our Father in Heaven. Yet not in a single instance have I ever known a clergyman to do this."
    -- Joe Reinhardt, Pinellas Park

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