New Congress needs to tackle the hard problems, 1/5

Published January 5, 2007

For Democrats, time to deliver Jan. 3 

As noted by E.J. Dionne Jr., the newly elected Congress will hopefully consider a series of reforms to address lobbying, earmarking and ethics in general to prevent the members of Congress from continuing to accept gifts and favors from lobbyists in return for political clout. These are admirable and needed reforms, and I think it is great that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, et al., are moving in that direction

However, I am hoping that the more difficult problems of immigration, the war in Iraq, outsourcing of jobs, the deficit and a failing education system will also be vigorously addressed.

We need to see some real progress. The Democrats have the ball, and it is now up to them to demonstrate their resolve by giving us actual results - like finishing the wall along the Mexican border as was promised. The citizenry has been more than patient. Local lawmakers and enforcers are taking matters into their own hands because of the failure at the national level to enforce existing statutes.

It seems that every government department charged with keeping law and order has been rendered impotent at every level. This newly elected Congress must rectify that situation, so that some semblance of order is restored.

Orfeo Trombetta, Seminole

Letters Jan. 3

Bush wasn't on ballot

Letter contributors to the Times continue to push the idea that the recent congressional elections were, in some way, a quasi-presidential election. In their confusion, liberals seem to believe that President Bush must now conform to their ideas where Iraq is concerned. They somehow believe that the foreign policy mantle was passed from Bush to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her gang of defeatists. Nothing of the kind has occurred.

At what point did anyone get the idea that foreign policy, or domestic policy for that matter, should be driven by polls and the voter at large? President Bush was elected to make decisions in our name and is under no obligation to switch policy based upon the midterm elections.

His obligation is to map out a winning strategy, make necessary adjustments along the way, and at some point determine if we have achieved all we can in Iraq. This president will not govern by polls. Polls are driven in many cases by voters who can't find Iraq on a world map. Most don't know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite. How can the average voter weigh and balance such momentous decisions with such limited range of knowledge?

I know that I for one am glad that Saddam Hussein is gone, and I still believe that we can succeed in creating a working democracy in an Arab land. The cause is noble, regardless of how we may feel about the effort at any given time. To aimlessly denigrate the effort is to harm the cause. Ask a soldier.

Jay Johnson, St. Petersburg

Oaths go awry

As I watched the oaths of office being administered to the incoming members of Congress, I couldn't help but wonder why not one of the supposed constitutional officers didn't object to an oath that clearly violates the very Constitution they are sworn to uphold.

When the oaths were administered, they concluded with "so help me God." At that moment they became a religious test, and religious tests are clearly prohibited by Article VI of the Constitution, which states that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

Perhaps our elected officials should take a course on constitutional law. That way they might be able to understand one of the most basic principles in our Constitution.

Andy Young, Seffner

Accountability now

In my opinion, and even that of several people I have talked to, I believe our president and vice president should be held accountable for the deaths of thousands of innocent people, both our U.S. troops and Iraqi men, women and children killed in a war we never should have started.

Yes, we started it with lies told to the American people by the same people we trusted to lead our country to a better world. Instead we got debt, more lies and more lives lost - for what? The Iraqi people aren't any better off.

It's time to take care of our own problems - the poor, homeless and hungry children in our own country - before we try to interfere in other countries.

I believe 100 percent that the United States, as one of the richest nations in the world, can and should help the world's neediest, but that is not done by going to war against a country, but by going to war against hunger and disease.

Donna Hamric, Seminole

Second thoughts on gays in the military Jan. 3, opinion by John M. Shalikashvili

Rights before service

Regarding John Shalikashvili's op-ed piece on doing away with "don't ask, don't tell": Of course gays should be able to serve their country without question, and without having to conceal themselves. However, shouldn't we make sure they have the same rights as every other American before we ask them to sacrifice their lives for our freedom?

If they continue to be treated as subhuman and as a bad influence on children and the family in their own country, what gives us the right to ask any homosexuals to serve and sacrifice their lives when they are not allowed the same privileges as others? Just something to think about.

Mich Sullivan, St. Petersburg

Bubbles of troubles Jan. 4, opinion by Maureen Dowd

Totally tasteless

When I read Maureen Dowd's op-ed column, I wasn't sure whether I was reading the St. Petersburg Times or the National Lampoon.

Dowd has plumbed the depths of disingenuousness and come to a new low using the funeral of President Gerald Ford as a backdrop to make political hay with cheap pot-shots at those paying their respects.

I noticed she reserved the most tasteless comments for the Republican members in the picture - no surprise there.

Overall, where is her sense of dignity and respect for funerals? Where was the New York Times' sense of dignity for distributing this column to other newspapers? And where was the sense of dignity and respect of the St. Petersburg Times' editorial board when deciding to publish this article? Absent all three times.

David Gliewe, Clearwater

Crist inauguration Jan. 3, By the numbers

A missing tally

Ah, yes: There were three beauty queens, 18 minutes of speechifying, 22 mentions of "people" in the speech.

Anybody counting the number of mentally ill "people" still in jail? They committed no crime. Any diabetics sent to jail? Any other patients at all?

Mortimer Brown, Lutz

Oprah opens her "O"cademy in South Africa Jan. 3, story

Oprah abroad

It is a wonderful thing for celebrities to help out with the needs of the poor and uneducated, but exactly where is South Africa?

Is it near South Dakota, South Carolina, South Texas, South Wyoming or South Chicago?

Do all of those Southern locations have enough schools, or is it is necessary for these celebrities to leave this continent to find the uneducated, the poor and the orphans?

Ed Cadden, St. Petersburg

The dollar coin

Ditch the penny

There is no room in the standard cash register for another coin.

The best idea is to drop the nearly worthless penny, in which case the dollar coin would probably become widely circulated.

Also, I would like to see "father Abraham" promoted to the denomination he deserves.

Bud Tritschler, Clearwater