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The casino license decision still makes no sense

I've spent weeks thinking about the decision of the Pennsylvania Gaming Task Force to award the slots license to PITG Gaming, and even now, I can't come up with a single justification for any decision it has made ("Barden's Casino Was the 'Best Fit,' " Feb. 2).

From allowing state bureaucrats to make a decision that will greatly affect Pittsburgh to rejecting an offer of $1 billion to develop a distressed area largely free of charge -- including a new arena to keep the Penguins in town -- I don't get any of it.

However, rather than revisiting any of those issues, I'd like to address an issue that I think hasn't been discussed. Namely, now that we've given Don Barden what is effectively a license to print money, I'd like to know how he has the audacity to insist that he deserves a cut from the development revenue from the arena that he will be partially funding.

Mr. Barden, haven't you been given enough of an opportunity to make money on the casino itself? If it's too much of a burden to open a casino and rake in money while funding an arena at the same time, I suggest that you simply drop your plans. If you do that, we would have many more potential casino suitors to take your place and a hockey team to enjoy as well.

North Side

Desperate distortions

Ruth Ann Dailey's column ("Democrats Quick to Abuse New Power," Feb. 12) is typical of the right-wing tactic of manipulating, distorting and, when necessary, inventing information for the purpose of attacking political foes.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn't ask, let alone "demand," a military aircraft for flights to her home district in California. The suggestion came from the House sergeant-at-arms, who did so as a matter of maintaining the security protocol afforded former House Speaker Dennis Hastert following 9/11. A larger plane is necessary to fly nonstop from Washington to San Francisco than could do so to Chicago. Ms. Pelosi had stated that she is satisfied with taking commercial nonstop flights as she has been doing while serving in Washington.

Republicans and their media shills, like Ms. Dailey, are obviously desperate to dig for any kind of dirt they can on people like Nancy Pelosi, who is an intelligent, competent and likable public servant who supports policy issues that resonate with the majority of Americans. This makes her very threatening to the Republican power structure. When right-wingers have nothing of substance to attack with, they resort to dishonest exploitation of nonissues like this plane nonsense.

On the other hand, no manipulation of facts is necessary to call Republicans to account for real wrongdoing from the administration on down -- Iraq, torture, wiretapping, Valerie Plame, to name just a few.


Last week's hogwash

I was shocked and stunned to see Ruth Ann Dailey's column claiming Democratic abuse of power, etc. ("Democrats Quick to Abuse Power," Feb. 12). What utter hogwash.

This issue was batted around the media endlessly last week, without the wingnuts on the right bothering to check any facts, and last week was shown to be nonsense. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had nothing to do with requesting the bigger jet. Federal officials in charge of House security determined that this size jet was what is required to get her -- the person second in the line of presidential succession -- safely from the capital to her home, nonstop.

Given the health conditions of our second in command, I believe we should be extra careful with our speaker of the House. But what is absolutely stunning is that Ms. Dailey parrots this line of baseless nonsense on Monday, so long after it had been shown to be such.

If only her column were published as harmless gossip, since she apparently has no interest in fact-checking, that would be different. But as presented, it is harmful, divisive and partisan mudslinging, and absolutely does not belong in your newspaper.


Veering off course

To set the stage, I consider electing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to be one of the great voter mistakes of the 21st century slightly behind the continued and patently inexplicable re-elections of Ted Kennedy.

That said, conservatives are attempting to make an issue of the request to have a larger government aircraft at her disposal. The aircraft former House Speaker Dennis Hastert used has insufficient range to fly from coast to coast. Mr. Hastert did not need that kind of range. Speaker Pelosi does.

Let's get on to discussions over the things that actually should keep us up at night. Nancy Pelosi's inability to grasp the very real threats that face this nation could be one. President Bush's inability to ignore dangerous pandering to secure our borders is another.

Whether or not Speaker Pelosi is in a larger jet when she rightfully flies home to her constituents is a red herring. Someone should do the math on the cost of fuel guzzled in a smaller jet taking off twice in a trip vs. a larger jet remaining in a more fuel-efficient cruise the entire way. The numbers might answer the question.

Now, onto real issues.

Upper St. Clair

Care conversations

Your editorial "At Life's End: Pennsylvania Needs to Make Dying More Dignified" (Feb. 12) speaks volumes of wise common sense and portrays a situation that should be an embarrassment to contemporary health care.

As a parish pastor, I am often with people (and their loved ones) confronting "end of life" issues. I see many situations made worse when the anticipated "end of life" gets prolonged by costly and not-so-helpful treatment, described in your editorial as "heroic life-saving measures" that are "not always sensible or even compassionate in older patients who are clearly in their last days."

In a conversation concerning "end-of-life care," a physician reacted to my referring to him as a "medical professional" by insisting instead on being seen as a "health-care giver." A "medical professional," he believed, is one who treats a certain disease. When that disease is no longer curable, the "medical professional's" work is finished. I was impressed when this doctor wanted me to see him as a "health-care giver" who was committed to caring for the person even after the disease was incurable and, in fact, would care for the person through his or her "end of life," seeking to make it as pain-free as possible.

I sincerely hope the report by the Task Force for Quality at the End of Life is indeed "the start of a serious conversation." It will be beneficial to all who are nearing the inevitable end of life. And with any luck, those who hold the health-care purse strings will take this conversation seriously.

St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church of North Park

Subsidizing oil

Exxon Mobil posted profits of more than $39 billion last year. That translates to about $139 from every man, woman and child in the United States. And that doesn't include the profit from the other U.S. oil firms. At the same time, they get tax benefits we ordinary citizens only dream of.

If this windfall profit results in significant investment in finding fossil fuel alternatives and combating global warming, I am willing to take the hit. Otherwise, Exxon and the oil companies should pay their taxes like the rest of America. And I want my $139 back.

North Braddock

Lawmakers need to hear support from citizens for wilderness protection

I could not agree more with your Jan. 30 editorial "Keep It Real: Allegheny National Deserves More Wilderness." We are very fortunate in this state to have the Allegheny National Forest practically in our back yard -- for hunting, hiking, camping, paddling or just enjoying the beautiful scenery.

The citizens' proposal, to preserve some 54,000 acres as wilderness, has the strong support of a diverse group, including Back Country Hunters and Anglers, Butler Outdoor Club, Keystone Trails Association, Pennsylvania Republicans for Environmental Protection, Pennsylvania Native Plant Society, Pennsylvania Trout Unlimited and many more. Wilderness protection is an important part of the multiple-use management of our national forests, for recreation, solitude, for wildlife, and to provide clean water and air.

We certainly do deserve better than the scant 2 percent of the ANF that is now protected. And the support of the thousands of people who took the time to voice their support for an increase in wilderness protection should not be lost on Congress.

Fortunately, wilderness designation is not up to the Forest Service, it's up to our lawmakers -- and ultimately it is also up to us to let our elected officials know how we feel.

Ellwood City

We welcome your letters. Please include your name, address and phone number, and send to Letters to the Editor, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222. E-mail letters to letters@post-gazette.com or fax to 412-263-2014. Letters should be 250 words or less, original and exclusive to the Post-Gazette. All letters are subject to editing for length, clarity and accuracy and will be verified before being published.


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