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    Letters to the Editors

    Earth is challenging enough for us

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published February 16, 2003

    Re: No time to cut & run, by Robert Zubrin, Feb. 9.

    Dr. Zubrin makes an impassioned plea for a revived space program to colonize the universe with "new branches of human civilization" and all that goes with it. The first step would be the establishment of a human colony on the planet Mars. He estimates the cost of the first flight to Mars at $20-billion, with succeeding flights at $2-billion each -- but that is, of course, only the beginning.

    What he fails to mention is that, like all organisms on earth, after billions of years of evolutionary development, the human race has achieved a unique adaptation to the radiation fields, the atmosphere, the climate, the sources of food, etc., of this particular planet. Would he give this all up to live in a biosphere bubble? Furthermore, since the time when we attained essentially our present physical bodies and brains, some 200,000 years ago, we have been struggling with only limited success to find a satisfying way of life for all humans, free of senseless wars and without destroying the environment that makes life possible.

    There are still plenty of great discoveries to be made here before we can claim to be a competent and sustainable civilization, and these steps will need to be taken no matter where we move in the universe.

    In the best interests of the great majority of people, I think the wellsprings of innovation and progress would better be directed to solving more of our social and medical problems, to reducing our demands on the environment and, generally, to easing the problems associated with large numbers of people living in close proximity.

    That should provide enough challenge to satisfy even the most adventurous.
    -- Charles W. Clapp, Sun City Center

    Focus on the future

    Re: No time to cut & run.

    Dr. Robert Zubrin's assessment of the current space program, and the pressing need to revitalize it, eloquently answers the critics of space exploration in light of the Columbia tragedy. We must continue. We owe it to the astronauts and to ourselves as a nation. More importantly, a specific and achievable goal, such as placing men on Mars, is essential so that, in the very least, America stays focused on a future, and is not drawn into -- and drowned in -- the quagmire of a Third World mindset.

    At present, the greatest, most technologically advanced nation on the planet must take "time out" to deal with a people and other rogue nations who, in the 21st century, think nothing of using threats and the violence of terror to advance their own selfish cause.

    It's imperative that America continue to embrace the ideology of "lead, follow, or get out of the way," and a space program that gives our and future generations hope, the thrill of discovery, and untold benefits in advances in science and technology and our way of life, would accomplish just that, in the pioneering way that has always defined our country.
    -- Greg Fox, Tampa

    Benefiting the country

    Re: Religious indoctrination dressed up as social welfare, by Robyn E. Blumner, Feb. 9.

    Robyn Blumner's contention that President Bush is trying to "divert public dollars to religious groups" is completely invalid. His efforts to find a way to fund programs through organizations that will maximize the benefits to recipients, regardless of the religious nature of the organization, has clear precedents which seem to have been forgotten. I do not recall any such objections following WWII when the government developed the G.I. Bill program for veterans.

    The G.I. Bill provided a means for million of Americans to gain a college education, which they would never have been able to attain otherwise. Veterans were able to attend any college or university, whether or not it was connected with a religious institution, at government expense. Consider that this provided the country with well-educated men and women, most of whom have contributed more to the country's welfare than it cost. There was no clamor back then about the fact that religious institutions as well as secular institutions benefited from this. The maximum benefit was to the country through the people.

    The extreme positions taken in recent years concerning the interpretation of this clause in the Constitution have been distorted by people such as Blumner. For a nation founded "under God," this has become an intolerable intrusion of the rights of all God-fearing people. I pray that President Bush will continue with his programs and not be intimidated by such a diatribe.
    -- Raymond J. Behan, Weeki Wachee

    A columnist's courage

    Re: Religious indoctrination dressed up as social welfare.

    Robyn E. Blumner's outstanding column deserved to be put on the front page rather than back on 6D. Thank goodness you have one columnist who has the courage to tell of the president's arrogance for the time-honored established norms of church-state separation. She rightfully lambasted the president on one of his religious, right-wing, ill-spent, faith-based social welfare, taxpayer-funded programs, which are historically contrary to our constitutional ideals.

    It is not easy to criticize one's president and commander-in-chief, but some of us hope that the public will be better informed before the next election to see "the dangerous road he is leading us down."
    -- C.J. Bjornberg, Clearwater

    No resignation or regret

    On Feb. 8, I received a telephone call at home. It was the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Johnnie Byrd, pledging his support. Byrd said he and his wife would be attending Sunday morning worship at the Rock of Jesus Missionary Baptist Church, where I pastor. House Speaker Byrd and his wife, along with State Rep. John Carassas, participated and provided the support I needed after the Feb. 8 editorial, Public isn't Peterman's priority, which suggested I let my constituents down, and Bill Maxwell's Feb. 9 column, Peterman opts out of fight, stating that not only was I becoming arrogant, I should resign.

    Because some of the facts were missing from the editorial and the column, I feel it is necessary that I explain. In December, I made a personal and political decision to remove my name from the House Education Appropriations Committee. Stepping down from a committee is common practice among legislators. In fact, with just a little research, Maxwell would have discovered that some 21 legislators had requested changes for a myriad of reasons. Of those who requested to be removed, two were from appropriations committees. However, none were from the Pinellas Legislative Delegation.

    Pastoring a church and raising a family are my highest priorities. From the numerous calls of support I have been receiving, my constituents seem to understand that a person with family values and a belief in God is needed within that vast legislative body.

    I have always fought for educational policies that would enhance the academic life of children, beginning with my work at the Juvenile Services Program Inc., where I raise funds for programs that provide assistance for at-risk youth. I sponsored House Bill 559, which allowed for single-member districts, and thus more African-American representation on the Pinellas County School Board. This bill passed in November. Perhaps, because the legislative system is complex, Maxwell failed to realize that neither my voice nor my legislative influence has been silenced. Many times a more meaningful appeal can be made from the House floor, and I can always address educational issues there.

    Finally, I am bewildered by Maxwell's column, because he is often so passionate about what black men -- especially black fathers -- are not doing for their families and the community. I was under the assumption that I was doing what he espoused and more. Maxwell is a good writer, and has certainly been forgiven, but he is conflicted. Maybe he should consider some resignations of his own. I prayerfully submit that Maxwell should resign from misdirected anger and unresolved pain. Then he could truly use his great writing talent for the glory of God and not the degradation of his fellow man.
    -- The Rev. Rep. Frank Peterman Jr., St. Petersburg

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