The Safety Dance
Re: "Face Lift" by Rochelle Renford (July 19-25)
We liberals need to stop pulling out these "right to privacy' arguments every time someone comes up with some new and innovative way to diminish our civil rights just a tiny bit more in the name of increased safety, law 'n' order, and getting the bad guys off the streets. You see, when you come at a conservative, any conservative, with any argument about basic human or Constitutional rights being paramount over police intrusion and state security and all that crap, whether you're arguing about the FBI's carnivore system for reading everyone's e-mail, or cameras on street corners, or surveillance satellites, the true blue, died in the wool conservative can be relied on to come back immediately with one of several shibboleth phrases: "What are you trying to HIDE?" or "An innocent person has nothing to fear," or "Let's stop thinking about the criminal's rights and start thinking about the victim's," those phrases all add up to the same thing: "Prove to us you're innocent."
Are there guilty people out there walking the streets, using e-mail, talking on the phone, applying for jobs? Absolutely. Will surveillance cameras, face-scanning technology, keyword-sorting programs, voice-activated electronic eavesdropping and random drug tests ferret out lawbreakers and perpetrators? Almost certainly. However, under our system of laws, under the basic ethical, moral and judicial premises of our legal system, the authorities are not allowed to presume guilt. It doesn't matter if these technologies will work, and it doesn't matter if the presumption of guilt involved is logical, rational and inarguable. It is illegal because here in America, we value our freedom more highly than we value our safety.
And, in my opinion, when we start valuing our safety more than our freedom, we stop being free. And it's a poor trade, because while we may, arguably, become safer from criminals, we definitely and inarguably become less safe from the authorities. There is no specific amendment in the Constitution that specifically enjoins government from invading our privacy, and many authoritarians are taking that as being carte blanche for government to do so in any way not specifically forbidden by the Constitution.
Maybe Tampa City Councilman Bob Buckhorn, Councilwoman Mary Alvarez, and the cop leering at those video displays should all have their pictures in that Wanted Felon database ... because they're all transgressing against our basic legal principles.
Don't the police have a stockpile of unsolved cases lying around somewhere, perhaps in their In-basket? (or perhaps more appropriately, in the bottom drawer of their filing cabinet)? I understand the police are "looking for the bad guys," but shouldn't they be following a trail or working on a case — instead of sitting around aimlessly watching a group of people hoping to find a bad guy? This is the laziest form of police work I've ever heard of ... sitting in the A/C, in your comfy chair, hoping the bad guy walks into your handcuffs. Perhaps the money spent on this keen concept could be spent in a more useful way (like college classes — Racial Equality, or The Legalities of Harassment, or How Not To Abuse Your Authority).
Steven C. Cargile
Poisoned by Their Pens
Re: Letters to the Editor (July 19-25)
I apparently missed the announcements for "Classic Logical Fallacy Letters Week," but all the letter writers handled it admirably! First, we have the B'nai B'rith guy, who assumes that anytime a Jew is characterized as "a person of undesirable character" it's a step into Nazism, as if being Jewish automatically makes a person perfect!
Next we have the common "either-or" fallacy, as if our only choices as a society were between a police state where the government regulates every detail of activity between consenting adults, or utter ruin. I'm not sure about thick skins, but there's plenty of thickness above the neck!
Next we have the holier-than-all teacher who finds it impossible to believe that people making a mistake deserve a second chance, unless of course they are the sons of wealthy men with the connections to keep them out of jail (and therefore not "convicted"). I wonder if the "damage done by those who choose the easy way to make money" includes rich white guys riding on Daddy's coattails and making deals that take that money out of taxpayer pockets?
Finally, we have the nitwit who thinks we can drink directly from the ocean, and water lawns with salinated water. A simple experiment would show him the error of his ways: Drive over to the beach and try it, fool! While I firmly believe the best solution is population control, until our society gets a clue and stops pumping out rugrats at top speed we need to set our priorities, and Northern-style lawns just aren't a rational priority.
Mark Warda's response to David Jasper's editorial sounded like every ignorant's answer to all problems — there is always more. However, the problem is that we do not need as much water as we consume and like gasoline we can, if people don't start learning to conserve, run out. ... It is an incredibly naive idea to try to start using salt water to pay for our cars to be washed, or to take half-hour long showers, or to make our grass grow so long it needs be cut every week. That water is for the oceans and the life it sustains. If we (as people in general) only used as much as we needed, there would have been more than enough, even with overpopulation.
Re: Ms. Adele Ida Walter letter (July 12-18)
As a "white jackass" who voted for the "morally messy little mob manning Washington," here's my take: That "little mob" successfully got a crew and aircraft back from a large belligerent nation known for its serious human rights abuses. Furthermore, that "mob" has a former Communist thug, Putin, objecting to some of its ideas. This is a good sign, I'd say. Fortunately for us, Putin can't do a damn thing but complain, because President Reagan; and Bush, the father, kept us strong and helped rid the world of Communism. On education, George W. Bush has the gall to think it has something to do with accomplishment; you go G.W.! Apparently, Ms. Walter has looked into the souls of an entire administration on the abortion issue. Within the GOP, there are far more diverse views on abortion than among Democrats — that's a fact. What's more, doctors now routinely do in-utero procedures to correct defects in unborn children. Perhaps they know something some of us don't. The hardest part of Ms. Walter's letter to read without smirking is: "Men devoid of morals promised a naive public to restore them, but that was just talk." Could she have been writing about the 1992 election? I hope Ms. Walter enjoys her tax-refund check.
Re: "Scary White Guys" by Don Hazen (June 28-July 4)
There is no way anyone else, including the multitude of dim bulbs at the St. Pete Times, could possibly do a better job of truly earning the July Adam Clymer Award for ASSHOLE JOURNALISM (Big Time!) than Don Hazen. By the way who is this paranoid, clearly Marxist-socialist, nitwit who has done such a marvelous job of demonstrating a level of ignorance that is difficult to adequately describe?
Shouldn't the Planet have edited/fact-checked this piece? Give us a break! I love the Planet, but this kind of adolescent drivel does absolutely nothing to add to your reputation for fairly insightful thought pieces. Did he just arrive here from another planet in the solar system? Does he check under his bed every night for members of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy? Was he comatose or merely brain dead during the eight long years of "I feel your pain" Clintonism and his repeated public soiling of his own nest?
Local Guy Done Wrong
Re: "Scary Local Guys" by John F. Sugg (June 28-July 4)
I thoroughly enjoy reading your articles as they regularly involve many timely and controversial issues. However, I must tell you that your reference to Monsignor Higgins, in what I believe to be a debasing way, was inappropriate and distasteful. Monsignor Higgins not only helps people who are in the public eye, such as Dick Greco and Eddie DeBartolo, but I can assure you that the lives he has touched in this community, including many of whom you have never heard of or read about, are plentiful. To be publicly critical of him because of his spiritual advice to people like Dick Greco and Eddie DeBartolo is terribly unfair.
Barry A. Cohen