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Letters to the Editors

Big business plays the tyrant, too

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 18, 2000


Re: Rogue democracies, by Barbara Crossette, June 11.

I jumped on this article because it addressed what seems to me the most insidious problem in international politics. The "communist" and "socialist" states are always the villains, while the "democratic" states are the saviors. Of course, people who read the St. Petersburg Times know better.

But I was very disappointed in Crossette's analysis, not by what was in it but by what wasn't. There was no mention of the role of large corporate influence in undermining democracy -- not one word. Why would she not make a connection between the Batistas, the Salazars, the Marcoses in the past and the present U.S.-educated rulers who continue to put corporate business interests ahead of sustained social reform? In fact, these rulers have been willing to support mass murder as a means of protecting their business arrangements from protesters, who incidentally had no democratic say in how those arrangements were assembled.

Why not point out the anti-democratic nature of a global effort of the World Trade Organization, in the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, to subvert democratically supported national policies in favor of protecting the investment of stock holders and executives of multinational corporations?

Why completely ignore the role of corporate lobbying and campaign contributions in keeping our democracy from moving closer to democratic ideals?

Is it because it is bad "business" for a New York Times writer to put big businesses in the same room with fake democratic tyrants? But that is just the point -- they are in the room and wield immense power over how democratic a government will be.

Some readers will dismiss this as a bitter attack on business by a "liberal." I am a CEO and manage a pretty large business. I appreciate the importance of reasonable safeguards to help business grow. I belong to Chambers of Commerce and go to business management conferences. I want the dangerous power of very large business made obvious, for the greater good our human social order. I believe that is the better long-range plan for business, too. I wish Barbara Crossette had helped with that.
Ron Melancon, Tampa

Madison misused

Re: Hey, American Civil Liberties Union: "God' is everywhere, June 4.

This was Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby's latest diatribe against our federal Constitution's mandate (via the First and 14th Amendments) that government -- federal, state or local -- "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

He uses the time-worn tactic of attacking the American Civil Liberties Union. But he cited cases in which real, live citizens complained about their government's violation of their constitutional rights, and the courts upheld their claims of wrongful government interference.

Jacoby referred to an April 25 decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, holding that a motto adopted by the state of Ohio to be engraved in granite at the Ohio statehouse amounted to "an endorsement of the Christian religion by the state of Ohio" and therefore violated the Constitution.

It would seem that Jacoby's complaint should be addressed to the judges of the appeals court rather than the ACLU -- which is regularly scapegoated by right-wing politicians.

Jacoby wound up his column with a quotation purporting to be a statement by our great founding father James Madison.

I challenge Jacoby, who, as a journalist, should be able to produce an authoritative, verifiable source for his alleged quotation, to do so. I suspect his source may be the notorious so-called "historian" of the radical religious right, David Barton, the discredited author of The Myth of Separation, who has been forced to publicly acknowledge his fabrication of quotations by our founding fathers.

Could Madison, the author of the First Amendment, have demanded that we "sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God" -- as alleged by Jacoby -- be the same Madison who, in 1794, in his famous "Memorial and Remonstrance" addressed to the Virginia Legislature, wrote:

". . . During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution. . . .

". . . What influence in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society? In some instances they have been seen erecting a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty, may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government instituted to secure and perpetuate it needs them not . . ."
Sidney M. Goetz, Gulfport

Religion unduly restrained

Re: State must remain neutral on religion, letter, June 11.

Here again the ACLU shows that its main goal in fighting for the separation of church and state is to see that all religions have no right to freedom of speech on any public lands.

The letter mentions a Troy, Mich., case in which a church put a banner promoting a national day of prayer on the lawn of the city's civic center. This was opposed by the ACLU even though this was a community center, by the community and for the community. The city council did not begin the national prayer day.

The truly neutral thing to do would be to welcome every community banner, including those of religious or of atheistic backgrounds. To stop a church from placing a message at the center is a violation of the First Amendment, it is only too bad that churches do not go to court as often as the ACLU to defend their own rights.
-- Jeremy Kyne, St. Petersburg

Unhappy shift in meaning

Re: Gay pride celebration sheds light by Bill Maxwell, June 11.

Our parents and grandparents, when referring to a happy, jovial, mirthful child or adult, would say of them, "he or she is a delightfully gay person." For example, a rhyme often repeated was, "A child that is born on the Sabbath day is fair and wise and good and gay."

Why have we so drastically distorted the word "gay" -- a lovely descriptive adjective of the English language -- by its use in reference to homosexuality? The dictionary meaning of homosexuality is "sexual desire or behavior directed toward a person or persons of one's own sex."

Why not title it that way?

I throw out this challenge to our respected and responsible editors, journalists and commentators!
-- Renee M. Goodier, N. Redington Beach

Bush did the right thing

Re: Leadership during the drought, editorial, June 11.

Gov. Jeb Bush should be commended, not criticized, by the Times for his reasonable approach to the issue of banning fireworks.

The governor turned down a request by the fire chiefs to impose a statewide ban on the sale of fireworks because he thinks that decision is best left to local officials. He's right.

As anyone who lives in the Tampa Bay area already knows, conditions are changing. We are getting more rain. The end of the drought that has plagued our state may be near. Bush's policy of encouraging local officials to react to local conditions makes sense.

The Times praised Bush for seeking federal disaster assistance for farmers and ranchers hit hard by the drought. Surely, your editors agree that fireworks companies should be compensated if we are driven out of business by governmental action.

We were not compensated when former Gov. Lawton Chiles shut our industry down during a fire emergency two years ago. Two cases seeking compensation for the more than $20-million in losses we sustained then are pending in the courts.

State fire records show that few wildfires are caused by fireworks. Shutting us down will do little to prevent wildfires, but will cause great economic harm to our industry. Fortunately, the governor believes in balancing public policy and private property rights. We should all be grateful to him.
-- Sharon Hunnewell, Galaxy Fireworks Inc., Tampa

Law is for everyone

Re: Judges ignored ban on smoking, June 11.

"No smoking" in public buildings is the law! Should any judge who doesn't obey the law sit in judgment of others?

Good citizens don't obey just the laws they agree with or the ones that are convenient.
-- Martha Gibson, Largo

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