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    Letters to the Editors

    Corrections system must be reformed

    © St. Petersburg Times, published May 13, 2001


    Re: Dying inside, May 6.

    It is disgusting that the Department of Corrections can continue to deny the abuse that is so prevalent within its institutions. Whom are they fooling? The state is morally responsible for the very unfortunate death of Capt. Willie Hogan.

    I was a correctional officer several years ago at one of the state's largest institutions. What I encountered there fulfilled every negative stereotype of Southern prison guards and the extremely hostile, racist environment that they are allowed to perpetuate.

    Is it really any wonder that recidivism is so high and so many re-offenders are committing acts of increasing violence following their release from prison? The covert punitive system in place may be the preferred method for these mental midgets to ensure order among the inmates and a convenient opportunity to unleash their own hatred. They are, however, imposing a grave injustice on society by creating more dangerous, hardened criminals bent on inflicting the same brutalities that they have been subjected to onto their victims.

    The system must be extensively reformed, beginning with more fair, sensible sentencing guidelines that are applied in a more uniform, consistent manner, along with a more rehabilitation-oriented penal system. There are too many of the good-ol'-boy judges who fail to grasp the concept of rehabilitation.

    It's time for the governor to clean house!
    -- Steve Davis, New Port Richey

    Banning Bugs Bunny

    Re: Politically incorrect rabbit, May 6.

    I'm glad that someone is finally doing something about the menace to society that is Bugs Bunny. Not only did Bugs Bunny cartoons from 50 years ago promote racial and ethnic stereotypes, they also portray many others in a negative light -- hunters (Elmer Fudd), stutterers (Porky Pig), and men with heavy beards (Edward G. Robinson). One of the most constant offenses is in portraying ducks as self-serving and gullible creatures. Just watch Bugs' treatment of Daffy Duck -- it's despicable!

    Yes, this article about has convinced me that not only should offensive episodes be banned, but that Bugs Bunny himself should be eliminated from our new, more enlightened society. Now, how do we keep from offending PETA?
    -- Brian W. Moyer, Port Richey

    Keep our sugar policy

    Re: Sugar industry faces big test with free trade, May 6.

    Farm economies are in crisis nationwide. Sugar prices fell drastically as farmers of other crops switched to sugar cane and sugar beets. Ill-advised trade agreements allow over a million tons of foreign sugar into this country whether we need it or not. It is not surprising that segments of the industry filed for bankruptcy.

    What is surprising is that anti-sugar groups are using this to attempt to change U.S. sugar policy, claiming big sugar users pay too much for sugar. Prices paid to sugar farmers dropped more than 30 percent last year. The big candy companies and multi-
    -- national food processors are the ones pocketing the profits.
    Consumers have not seen a penny of the two-year drop in sugar prices passed along in lower prices for retail sugar or sugar-containing products -- proving that lower sugar prices do not result in lower food prices. Yet big candymakers fight to allow subsidized foreign sugar to displace American sugar, claiming they're doing it for the consumer and in the name of free trade.
    There is no free trade in sugar. Most sugar around the world is consumed in the country where it is produced or sold under preferential contracts to specific trading partners. Most foreign governments subsidize their own producers to maintain jobs and provide stable food supplies, then dump excess sugar production on the world market for whatever they can get.
    So-called "free trade" agreements have given foreign countries the right to send more sugar here. With Mexico trying to re-write NAFTA to better serve Mexican sugar producers and Canadian "stuffed molasses" being smuggled into the United States and crystallized into sugar, there is a glut of sugar. Florida farmers are paying a heavy price for "free" trade, yet under the trade agreements we cannot send one teaspoon of sugar their way.
    Since we are locked into the World Trade Organization and NAFTA, guaranteeing foreign producers access to our market regardless of demand, we need some form of inventory management to solve the problem of excess sugar supplies. But American farm policy does not need to be re-written to benefit the big candymakers, food companies or foreign sugar farmers.
    Judy Sanchez, Director of Corporate Communications, United States Sugar Corporation, Clewiston

    The real thing

    Re: Quality Democratic contenders look to the 2002 governor's race, by Phil Gailey, May 6.

    Your article describing Bill McBride's pride in his service in the Marine Corps brought back 30-year-old memories. Bill and I were college roommates during the period of U.S. military build up in Vietnam. I remember well the circumstances of his joining the Marines.

    The media were covering the war in Vietnam with full intensity and the public's awareness of people getting killed and maimed there was at an all-time high. Most students who could do so avoided the draft by joining National Guard or Army Reserve units. Declining to join me in a Reserve unit, Bill chose active duty in the Marines, a rarity at that time.

    Later, when Bill had completed his Marine Corps training, he paid me a visit in New York City. I resided on Washington Square in Greenwich Village, which was a rallying point of the anti-war movement. Bill showed up in his Marine uniform, complete with shaved head. I wanted to show him around the Village, but expressed my concern over how we would be received with him dressed as he was. Bill insisted on wearing his uniform.

    That afternoon walk among the hippies in Washington Square with Bill McBride in his Marine Corps uniform at the height of the Vietnam conflict remains one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Talk about sticking out like a sore thumb!

    You are dead on target when you said that Bill McBride is the real thing, and I am here to tell you that he did not become that way yesterday.
    -- Bob Bolt, Tampa

    Wayward prosecutors

    Re: Prosecutors should rethink their goals, May 6.

    Robyn E. Blumner is precisely on point in her assessment of the level of moral turpitude to which prosecutors often sink. It is chilling to have to face the fact that a large part of the justice system loses the ability to separate right from wrong or truth from falsehood in an unreasonable pursuit of their professional goals.

    It is incumbent upon the legal profession -- a group that views right and wrong with considerable latitude when it comes to their own members -- to respond to this depraved conduct with zero tolerance. When there is incontrovertible evidence that this anomaly has indeed occurred, the malefactor must be disbarred for life. There is no more despicable conduct for a member of the Bar than conspiring to deprive someone of his liberty through mendacity or the failure to be forthcoming with exculpatory information.

    The Bar is accustomed to announcing harsh penalties for their members who act unprofessionally. They are also known for becoming very forgiving after a few years. However, in every case of prosecutorial impropriety, their resolve must be permanent. So must be the disbarment.
    -- James A. O'Connor, Hudson

    A word of advice

    Bill Maxwell has been getting a lot of flak lately. So I thought I should write and let him know that he did a fine job in his May 9 column, Rediscovering the beauty of America. He is a good writer and should keep it up. And when he gets so much criticism, as he did concerning his art comments (Cardinal without authority to judge artist, March 7, and What's pathetic is Egan's judgment, March 18), he should just leave it and not try to use logic to defend his position -- which obviously offended many (non-Catholics as well).
    -- Arthur Olsen, Clearwater

    Giving thanks to Mom

    This is the first Mother's Day that I have no mother. At any age, that's a startling realization. My mom's death last year at age 84 brought a cascade of emotions and thoughts, but it took Mother's Day to remind me that I never told her how important she was in my life.

    I hope readers find the opportunity to give thanks to the mother they have, or remember the mother they lost. None of our childhoods was perfect, and no person in our lives are all we wish them to be. But taking a few minutes to express gratitude to the person who gave us life, or chose to adopt us, or provided a nurturing hand to guide us along, is time well-spent. Flowers, candy or a card are nice, but an honest conversation -- in word or prayer, can be so meaningful.
    -- Jack Levine, president, Center for Florida's Children, Tallahassee

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