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    Letters to the Editors

    Keeping truth-tellers at a distance


    © St. Petersburg Times
    published February 9, 2003

    Re: White House delays poetry event, Jan. 31 and Seeking to honor the "American Voice," Laura Bush stirs up a nest of poets, Feb. 2.

    Now it seems that the Bush White House is about to follow a path traditional over the centuries: It is about to nullify the utterances of those who most effectively question authority, i.e., the poets. These creative artists, because of their keen perceptions and their passionate natures, can be restive and cantankerous and, as such, are often threats to the powerful. Oftentimes they are so openly rebellious that they become leaders of opposition movements. The indefinite postponement of the symposium on "Poetry and the American Voice" follows the pattern of Tsar Alexander I in trying to silence the great Aleksandr Pushkin by exiling him to a remote corner of the empire. Kings, emperors and presidents understandably distrust and fear the poets because their work has the disturbing ring of truth. Because of this, the followers of Francisco Franco murdered Spain's greatest 20th-century poet, Federico Garcia Lorca. This is also the reason Osip Mandelstam was harried to death in a Stalinist gulag. The history of such repression has ever been such over the centuries. Scholars now believe that Christopher Marlowe, the brilliant contemporary of William Shakespeare, was stabbed to death "in an upper room" by the agents of Queen Elizabeth's equivalent of the modern FBI.

    Pablo Picasso once said that "art is a lie that makes us realize the truth." It is the latter half of that statement that can be especially frightening to the purveyors of power. Yes, the Bush administration is well-advised to keep the poets at a distance.
    -- Donald E. Musselman, St. Petersburg

    Gas tax as user fee

    Re: Bizfact: gas and taxes, Feb. 2.

    This bar chart shows that tax is a much higher percentage of the price of gasoline in most other countries than it is here. I believe that Europe's tax is closer to being a true user fee, which pays all of the costs for building, repairing and policing their roads.

    Our motor fuel "user fee" is a joke! Most of our roads are paid from general funds, and so taxpayers, who use the roads less, subsidize motorists who use the roads more. It's ridiculous to talk about conserving motor fuel when our subsidy encourages waste.

    I believe that 50 years ago, our gasoline (and diesel) tax was pretty close to being adequate to pay for the roads, but over the years it didn't keep up with inflation. The problem is that our motor fuel tax is a fixed number of pennies per gallon, and so it takes "an act of Congress" to adjust it for inflation.

    To make our motor fuel tax an accurate user fee, I believe the tax would need to be about $2.80 in 2003 dollars, which would bring our total motor fuel price to about $4, as it is in Europe. To keep up with inflation, the motor fuel tax should either be a fixed percentage (say, 70 percent) of the total at-the-pump fuel cost, or be automatically indexed for inflation. It should not take an act of Congress to account for inflation.
    -- Jack Gregg, Largo

    How Jim Crow lives on

    Re: Jim Crow is given a new outfit, by Bill Maxwell, Feb. 2.

    Bill Maxwell's constant whining has finally pushed me to write. Maxwell often chastises the African-American population to "clean up its act" and show the "lily-white" population that they are far from second-class citizens. I'm calling his bluff.

    In this column, he berates our state's Republican leadership for its One Florida program, which admits only the top 20 percent of each public high school. Does he not think that there are many African-American students included in this top 20 percent? He also states that "fancy language aside" -- referring to the admissions policy of FAMU's law school -- the school will become a "virtual ghetto." If he considers FAMU a "second-tier" institution, is it not up to the student population and faculty to boost this rating through academic excellence? I myself have never considered FAMU second-tier; to me it is another fine state university. It seems to me that Jim Crow lives on only in the minds of African-Americans such as Bill Maxwell. It is apparent that each time the African-American population is given the opportunity to be treated as equals, this is seen as an opportunity for individuals like Maxwell to chide the white population. I for one have had enough. Live as equals or live by laws created to give you an extra opportunity, but don't try to have your cake and eat it too.
    -- G. J. Garrett, Palm Harbor

    An unkind generalization

    Re: Aggressive analysis, letter, Feb. 2.

    In reference to Charles Krauthammer's disability, the letter writer states an opinion regarding the behavior of disabled individuals, particularly men. This generalization tars all disabled individuals with the same brush, which is unfair and unkind.

    With long experience as a disabled individual and having associated with many other disabled individuals, my experience has been that the disabled are people, period, with the same differences in behavior as the general population.
    -- George E. Locascio, St. Petersburg

    Rewriting history

    Re: High court may hear vet's case on health care, Feb. 2.

    I was surprised to read that the hospital at Eglin Air Force Base would not treat the retired colonel because he was over 65. However, he was covered by Champus prior to age 65 if he desired. At age 65, Medicare replaced Champus for everyone.

    I was equally surprised that the Associated Press would try to rewrite history, i.e., the Congress in session in September 2001 and then President Clinton, not President Bush, enacted TRICARE For Life. In fact, when President Clinton signed the bill he told reporters, "I think the real question is how can Congress in good conscience do this and say they're not doing it for the senior population in the rest of the country?" The only way President Bush was involved was by enacting the defense budget approved by Congress and President Clinton prior to President Bush being installed as president.
    -- William G. Fulton, Largo

    Picture said it all

    Paul Szep's Feb. 2 cartoon of the squawking adolescent holding the stage and shouting "I want my war NOW!" said it all.

    The 50 percent of the electorate that voted for Bush should be congratulated for electing such a mature, thoughtful and reflective person to be president of the United States.
    -- Robert S. Redmount, St. Petersburg

    An ill-conceived cartoon

    Regular folks have long known how vicious liberals can be toward anyone who doesn't agree with them, but I felt like Paul Szep's Feb. 2 cartoon stepped far over the bounds of free speech, by illustrating President Bush as a little boy, mad because he couldn't go to war.

    I do not want to go to war either, but it was very obvious in watching President Bush during his State of the Union address that he wishes he had another choice. He literally had tears in his eyes when he discussed sending our boys into battle. But he realizes that as commander in chief, if he did nothing, and in a year or two Hussein hit us with another Pearl Harbor, then the Paul Szeps of the world would be drawing cartoons castigating him for doing nothing and letting it happen.

    Also, to publish this cartoon on the day of the Columbia tragedy headline was particularly ill-conceived. The president had just been on television Saturday afternoon mourning our loss with thoughtful and touching remarks, then we awake to Sunday's Times with such a tacky cartoon in the midst of tragedy. I am surprised that you published it, especially the timing.
    -- Dr. James 0. Bowers, Tampa

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