I'm disgusted with the entire leadership in Pennsylvania. How can you set a budget with anticipated revenue not yet existing (I-80 tolls) ("No Tolls for I-80 Leaves Huge Gap," April 7)? It seems that even if state leaders got that, they'd be back next year looking for more ways to extract and spend.
Now the teachers' pensions are unstable and looking for taxpayers to bail them out. No one is going to bail out our 401(k)s or IRAs after they were reduced due to market collapse.
Now more officials are being brought up on political charges. Where does it all stop?
If history has shown us anything, it is that greed and corruption have been the downfall of all mighty empires. Look at how many of our states are in the same sad situations, which could lead to what our Founding Fathers said could happen. They left the door open to revising our government through the power of the people. Just read the preamble to the Constitution.
We need to raise our standards and again be a beacon to the world.
EDWARD F. WOJCIAK
Paying our way
The most troubling element of your editorial "Troubled Decision: Without I-80 Tolls, the State Faces Difficult Choices" (April 12) is the glaring ignorance of how highways are funded.
Out-of-state truckers do not now, nor have they ever, received a free lunch passing through Pennsylvania! Those trucks pay fuel taxes and license fees for every mile they run in Pennsylvania -- every mile! It is the money that trucks pay that allowed I-80 to be constructed and that corridor to be developed with businesses and jobs for state residents.
Not only do trucks pay their way in Pennsylvania, they pay even more in federal excise taxes for roads and bridges that the commonwealth has greatly benefited from during the past 25 years.
The problem isn't that trucks (and cars, too) don't pay enough. The problem is the desire of lawmakers and governors (past and present) to divert the money paid by, and for, highway users, to other purposes. Act 44 was not an artful compromise -- it was the looter mentality on steroids and the height of irresponsible transportation spending.
When the special legislative session convenes, the first words from Gov. Ed Rendell and others in the Legislature should be an apology for so grossly mismanaging the highway funds they were entrusted with -- and a sincere pledge to make it right.
Executive Vice President
Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association
To honor the miners
The Employee Free Choice Act, which would aid union formation and punish employer election misconduct, should be swiftly enacted to honor the fallen miners of the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia.
Unions provide an indispensable component of worker safety and a powerful check on employer misconduct. Their vilification by the powerful must be seen for what it is -- protection of corporate profits and outlandish pay packages at the expense of worker rights, and at times, safety. Home Depot's co-founder's claim that the EFCA represents the "demise of civilization" -- while other business interests equate it with the threat of radical Islam and predict that business owners are ready to "riot in the streets" to thwart its passage -- must be viewed as desperate attempts to divert attention from the merits of the legislation. The dishonest campaign against passage continues the frequent calls for pitchforks, tar and feathers and intimidation that have replaced civil debate in this country.
Recent anti-union ads call on voters not to elect legislators who will back "Big Labor" and work for the passage of EFCA. Without unions to protect our workers, we will continue to see company representatives OK'ing mines that would be shut down for safety violations by union "fire bosses" who can make judgments without fear of retribution.
Businesses routinely vote and use their wealth to influence votes in their own self-interest, while everyday Americans face threats of riots in the street and the demise of civilization if they dare to vote in a manner that will protect their livelihoods and very lives.
MARK V. MATERA
Coal's true costs
Marsh Fork Elementary School, in Sundial, W.Va., from which we learned the heartbreaking news of the mining disaster, is itself another part of the unfolding tragedy of West Virginia coal country.
Four hundred yards above it hangs a huge black lake, held back by a dam, containing millions of gallons of toxic coal-slurry waste. If that dam collapses (as one did in Tennessee in December 2008 -- a spill 100 times the size of the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska) the school in its narrow valley will be inundated within minutes.
Meanwhile the processing facility next to the school is emitting dust that affects the children's health, and all around the area mountaintop-removal mining is systematically scalping the glorious landscape of America's oldest mountain range, the Appalachians, and replacing the magnificent hardwood forests, the animals, birds, flowers, and everything that lives there with a barren moonscape.
Whole mountaintops are blown apart to reach coal seams 800 feet below the surface and the rubble created is bulldozed down into the valleys, where it blocks and pollutes waterways -- thousands of miles of them.
Why have the politicians and leaders of West Virginia not created alternative industries and employment so that these resourceful, hard-working, talented West Virginians can stay in the land they love without having to risk their lives and ruin their environment to make a living? Why have companies like Massey Energy been allowed to exploit people and land to tear away nonrenewable resources for profit and leave nothing behind but disaster?
How long will it take our nation to understand the true cost of coal?
He nurtured ideas
On April 7 the world became less interesting and a shadow fell over Pittsburgh. A teacher, mentor and my friend passed away. I won't demean Alec Stewart by calling him doctor, a title long ago eclipsed, the man so much more ("Glenn Alexander Stewart: Physicist, Founder and Dean of Pitt Honors College," April 8 news obituary). He created an environment where knowledge was embraced, dreams and ideas nurtured. You will find his students, his legacy, working in virtually every discipline here and abroad.
I remember him as the guy who gave a crazy vet a home, opened his mind to the arts, literature, philosophy and science while hanging a wire out of the Cathedral to listen to the voice of Jupiter. He taught me how to think.
Alec, somehow I know you are clearing the path for the inevitable journey we must all take. Thank you. I will miss you.
A final opening?
I call for the Penguins to have a "roof opening" closing ceremony for the Mellon Arena. I realize that they would have to wait until the scoreboard and other cables were lowered from the roof. This great event could feature a free concert using Pittsburgh bands and other music groups.
This would be a real "thank you" to the people of Western Pennsylvania, and especially the younger generation who have never seen the "Civic Arena" roof open. Frankly, I think this would be a big draw, bringing lots of folks to the city for this special occasion.
Maple Glen, Pa.
Society continues to disrespect women's rights
Ben Roethlisberger's latest stupidity is, I think, not completely his fault. He is a typical American male in his late 20s, acting exactly how society has taught him to act: with no respect for women. This is what the Western ideal has become. Women are still second-class citizens. Just ask the Catholic Church or the Republican Party.
The current health care bill is a perfect example of this mentality. Certain outspoken elements of our society, with their deluded influence, have dictated that abortion be excluded from any health care coverage, even though this procedure is completely legal and has no business being singled out for exclusion from any health care reform. How on earth could the Democrats or any other progressive-thinking American have allowed this exclusion? The bill is tainted beyond hope and President Barack Obama and his supporters have assisted in selling out to the lowest common (right-wing) denominator.
Rather than calling it abortion rights, we supporters need to start referring to it as women's rights, because being "anti-abortion" is really to be "anti-women's rights."
It's time for committed progressives in this country to start having some backbone and standing up for real reform and real respect for women. Then maybe self-indulgent football punks like Ben Roethlisberger and his club-hopping cronies will present themselves to society as civilized adults instead of goons.