Today's Letters: An artist who could inspire

Letters to the Editor
Published February 9, 2008

Jack Barrett's final studio was at Salt Creek Artworks (SCA). Lucky us! We witnessed his massive, current proliferation of visual splendor every day.

Jack had an exhibition at SCA two seasons past. We were worried he might not survive the closing. Jack not only survived, but also tenaciously produced a whole new body of work that was shown this past season. I felt this work was, incredibly, stronger than the year before. Unfortunately, Jack was not.

He was angry that his body was betraying him when he had so much more to create. The act of painting sustained him. If his gift ever left him or had been abandoned during his career, it cannot have been for long. His artistic facility shows more love than struggle. Barrett was fearless.

As I curated and installed both shows, I was honored to be so close to and to be surrounded by such fluid, intuitive beauty.

The shear volume of artworks Jack created his last years was staggering. More inspirational to me, however, was the continuity, power and quality of the work. Many artists throw everything up on the wall to see what "sticks" and are dishonest enough to think everything they produce is brilliant. Jack didn't do that ... or if he did, he duped me because so much of his work was brilliant.

These shows were the easiest and most difficult to curate for exactly the same reason: too many important artworks to select or edit.

I am impressed with what a consolidated team he and his wife, partner, and biggest fan, Louise, were. That must be so cool. He told me more than once how absolutely essential Louise was, not just to his career but to his art and its process. A love story, a success story. A story that will last until Jack Barrett's last painting turns to dust. A very long legacy indeed.

Jack inspires me in equal measure with how much I will miss him.

Lance Rodgers, artist/curator, Salt Creek Artworks, St. Petersburg

Move to limit fishing is needed

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council did not approve new regulations for grouper fishing last week. As an advisory body to the government, the council will forward recommendations to the National Marine Fisheries Service in April. New regulations won't be in place until January 2009. Meanwhile, the status quo will most likely remain for the rest of 2008.

Gag grouper are abundant in the Gulf of Mexico, but too many are being caught, meaning overfishing is occurring. Due to past mismanagement, the Gulf Council, like other regional fishery management councils, permitted overfishing to occur, resulting in reduced opportunities to fish. The result of many years of this mismanagement in the gulf and other regions has been economic hardship for fishermen nationwide.

In response, Congress unanimously passed changes to our nation's primary fishing law, directing fishery managers to end overfishing. The Gulf Council is rightly following the law by setting annual catch levels based on science and instituting accountability measures to hold themselves accountable. We encourage the council and the fisheries service to set catch levels on a sector basis to ensure that when a sector catches too many fish that sector will be held accountable. This will help ensure that grouper fishing continues in the Gulf of Mexico and grouper sandwiches remain on our plates.

Tom Wheatley, Marine Fish Conservation Network, Tampa

New foe emerges against church Feb. 8, story

'Anonymous' attacks on Scientology are hate crimes

We are anticipating that some members of this group, "Anonymous," will turn up at the Church of Scientology in Clearwater on Feb. 10, as they have announced.

We take this seriously because of the nature of the threats this group has made publicly. We will take every step necessary to protect our parishioners and staff as well as members of the community, in coordination with the local authorities.

As to our knowledge of the organizers of the event, they are cyber-terrorists who hide their identities behind masks and computer anonymity.

Long before selecting Scientology as its latest target, Anonymous destroyed the Web sites of thousands of MySpace users. When Fox News exposed their activities, "Anonymous" hackers crashed the Fox Web site and issued a perverse manifesto in a July 2007 video message on the Internet:

"We are the face of chaos. ... We ruin the lives of other people simply because we can. ... Hundreds die in a plane crash. We laugh. The nation mourns over school shooting, we laugh. We're the embodiment of humanity with no remorse, no caring, no love, or no sense of morality." (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZ1qi9gz7UU)

"Anonymous" is perpetrating religious hate crimes against Churches of Scientology and individual Scientologists for no reason other than religious bigotry. "Anonymous" initially justified its attacks by claiming that the church's requests to some Web sites to remove a stolen video of an internal church event somehow constituted an affront to free speech. In fact, the church, as would any copyright owner, had simply sent notices that the video constituted a copyright violation.

Anonymous' alleged "free speech" justification is belied by the fact that the video in question has been seen by millions. It is Anonymous that has repeatedly attempted to suppress free speech through illegal assaults on church Web sites so as to prevent Internet users from obtaining information from the church. They have also engaged in other harassment including threats of violence in telephone calls, fax transmissions and e-mails.

"Anonymous" claims of altruistic purposes are no different than those heard from any terrorist or hate group. We are not the first to be targeted. Using Scientology's prominence, "Anonymous" hopes to garner more attention. This group is not just anti-Scientology, it is anti-freedom of religion, anti-free speech and anti-American.

Religious bigotry of any nature is deplorable and profoundly affects the entire community. The hate crimes of "Anonymous" should be condemned.

Pat Harney,public affairs director, Church of Scientology, Clearwater

Gay marriage on ballot Feb. 2, story

Gays can be good parents

I had to pause when I read the comment in this article by John Stemberger stating that kids need a mom and a dad. Yes, for biological reasons, both sexes are required to make a child. But he is saying it would be better to have a man and a woman raise a child rather than a same-sex couple. I know many same-sex couples with children that are 100 percent committed to raising their children to be good members of society. I also know many heterosexual couples who think that extramarital affairs and other ways to damage a family are completely the norm.

I'm sorry, but I'd take a committed same-sex couple raising a child any day over some heterosexual couples and the way they treat their children. This amendment will definitely not have my vote!

Heather Dixon, Clearwater

Gay marriage on ballot Feb. 2, story

Limits on the constituency

I don't see how the amendment to ban gay marriage in Florida will get the 60 percent vote it needs to pass in November.

Some of those who support this amendment claim that gay marriage threatens the sanctity of marriage. The two biggest threats to the sanctity of marriage are divorce and adultery.

So any Floridian who has been divorced (even just once), or thinks divorce is okay should vote no on the ban. Any Floridian who has had an extra-marital affair or has thought about having one should vote no on the ban. They clearly aren't concerned about the sanctity of marriage.

Considering the divorce rate and the number of infidelities taking place, these no votes would sharply diminish the amendment's chances (assuming there was no hypocrisy going on).

Now add to those people the couples who are married but have chosen not to procreate, gay and straight people who support same-sex marriage, people who believe in minding one's own business and people who feel that marriage is a religious concept that has no place in the Florida Constitution, and you diminish the amendment's chances even more.

And there's that other part of the amendment that says, "No other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized." It really says, "We can have it and there are enough of us to make sure you don't get it." That's just plain mean-spirited.

Henry Penas, Dunedin

Gay marriage

Wedding bell news

It's sort of interesting the way our society is evolving. Gay couples want to get married and the heterosexual couples do not.

Marilyn Dunnigan, Hudson

Blogs turn grief into rage Feb. 2, story

The grim reality

Unfortunately for those angry folk around Ocala, Michael Crook, with his blunt, insensitive blog, has got it right. Very often in a highly charged emotional situation, the person who advocates a "reality check" draws the wrath of those who don't want to face (in this case) the very grim reality.

It may well be that the five young men were otherwise very nice people, and their loss is tragic. But their deaths are their responsibility. The fact remains that the driver killed four of his friends, as well as himself. If, by some miracle, he had survived, able to stand trial, I would guess at the very least he would have been charged with vehicular homicide, plus a raft of other traffic violations, not to mention trespassing.

It can be assumed he chose that runway precisely to see how fast the BMW would go. And if the FHP report reveals over-limit alcohol (which I'd be willing to bet), that's even worse.

Yes, Michael Crook is right. Thank heaven they weren't on a city street! In their collective grief the friends should stop sounding as if these young men didn't do anything wrong, that they were just wonderful people who accidentally died. What does this attitude say to other young people tempted to drive irresponsibly?

John Kelley, Clearwater

Blogs turn grief into rage Feb. 2, story

Blogger goes too far

As long as these five young people had no alcohol in their systems at 3:45 a.m. on Jan. 26, I too would have to find the New Jersey blogger's message was in very poor taste.

C.O. Wells, Clearwater

How to fund endless war?

In regard to recent editorials on the president's budget and the breaking point of U.S. military forces in Iraq, has anyone asked Sen. John McCain how he proposes to finance a war with no end in sight?

Our regular military, National Guard and Reserve units continue to rotate in and out of Iraq, contributing to a situation where our forces have been stretched precariously thin. Where will McCain, should he be elected president, find the money and troops to rotate indefinitely?

Can a war be won by putting the entire burden and hardship on these limited troops and their families? As a retired military officer's wife, I am proud of our soldiers and deeply concerned over the sacrifices these families are asked to endure. How many more assets do we have to sell to foreign countries to keep our economy stable and a war going on indefinitely?

Helga A. MacPherson, St. Petersburg

Obama's courage to say no to war Feb. 4, Cynthia Tucker column

A soft stand

Okay, let me get this straight. Barack Obama has the "courage" to vote no on the war, but lacks the courage to vote no on bills that continue to fund the war. Bite the bullet and take a real stand.

Maggie Tur, Oldsmar

More principal, less police Feb. 2, editorial

Fear at school

I was assaulted by one of my female students on Aug. 30, 2007, the eighth day of class. The student slammed a heavy book down on my hand while I was writing, breaking the index finger of my left hand (my dominant hand).

I was shocked and horrified, as well as in considerable pain. I called for the school resource officer to come, but the student had already run off. The school was more interested in my making a statement than with my obtaining medical help. The school administration did not want me to press charges, nor would they expel the student.

I did press charges (felony battery, later reduced to first-degree misdemeanor). I did win the case, and the student was expelled. Until that point, I was fearful at school and did not feel I was in a safe learning environment.

Marianna Steriadis, Holiday

Overdose Jan. 22, Floridian story

Morbid excess

I was shocked when I saw the above article with the pictures of three young stars and the implication that one of them could be the next to die from an overdose. Unfortunately, the next young star was a male, Heath Ledger.

I find it hard to believe that the editor allowed such a despicable article to be printed.

I do not read any of the magazines that write about these young stars, and I do hope to never see anything like this again.

Gillian Fata, Oldsmar

Coach is in jail after sex charges Feb. 1, story

Teens bear some of blame

Our culture has changed. Young teens are sexually active and more precocious than ever.

No predator could ever have convinced me to sneak out on my parents to meet someone for sex. These teens are doing some preying of their own, when they voluntarily conspire to commit this behavior. There will be no justice for their older partner in crime in this conspiracy. He/she will be classified and punished, along with rapists, who have used force against an unwilling victim. His/her life will be ruined and the young conspirator will get sympathy and counseling.

Where was the parental supervision? The time to counsel your children is before this happens. We had better start asking ourselves where the weak link is in the life of the child who goes wrong. Where is the obligation of the child to respect and obey the parents? This society has to do some serious soul-searching and become more objective about the young person's involvement and shared blame in these all-too-common stories.

And in differentiating between acts that are consensual and those that are forced, let's put those who use force away forever. We know they are a threat, yet our courts and parole officers keep putting them back into society.

Regarding the school coach, if the charges are true, he should be fired for violating a trust in his place of employment. But to put him in jail for a consensual act - well, I think it's time we lowered the age of consent. Times have changed.

Grace Payton, Sun City Center

To avoid mercury in fish, go deep Jan. 30, Taste story

Mercury can be natural

The Times made a few unfortunate errors in its discussion of the trace levels of mercury in commercial fish. To begin with, mercury pollution in ocean fish like tuna and swordfish occurs almost entirely as a result of natural processes, not from "coal-fired power plants and incinerators, and mining." Research from Princeton University found that mercury levels in ocean fish do not change with increased "anthropogenic" pollution.

Second, while mercury-poisoning patients in Japan (40 years ago) "experienced nervous system effects," this was the result of industrial mercury dumping in fishing waters. The medical literature contains absolutely no cases of fish-related mercury poisoning in the United States. Not one.

Last, Dr. Rashid Buttar's claim that there is no "safe" level of mercury in fish is absurd. Since the first caveman sharpened a stick, there has been some trace level of mercury in every fish. Dr. Buttar's statement may have something to do with the fact that he makes his living selling mercury-mitigation "chelation therapy" (which the respected Mayo Clinic has condemned).

David Martosko, research director, Center for Consumer Freedom, Washington, D.C.