Seize this chance for world-class public transit
Judge Judith F. Olson's decision that the Port Authority is to be the exclusive beneficiary of the drink tax revenue ("Judge: Drink Tax Revenue Must Go to Mass Transit," Jan. 3) sets the stage for creating and maintaining a world-class transit system in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County for the benefit of its citizens.
At no other time in the history of Allegheny County public transit have elected officials provided a dedicated funding stream to sustain mass-transit operations and construction. This landmark public action of creating dedicated local funding for transit could not have come at a better moment in view of job losses and negative economic conditions. When coupled with President-elect Barack Obama's stimulus package, the Port Authority has a magnificent opportunity to upgrade and expand the rapid transit element of its system.
With leadership, prompt action and, yes, cooperation, the Port Authority can implement a program that has been on the books since 1904 when City Council introduced an ordinance for Pittsburgh Subway Company to build a subway to the East End. Let's resurrect those concepts, the Parsons Brinckerhoff rapid transit system recommendation of the 1960s and the spine line plans of the 1990s, and extend the current North Shore Connector not only northward but also eastward under the Fifth-Forbes corridor to Oakland and Point Breeze.
At long last the rapid transit dreams of more than a century are within our grasp. Let's not miss this opportunity. Together, let's roll up our sleeves and do it!
THEODORE C. HARDY
Regarding the drink tax: How about spending some of the money to enforce the law? I understand bars are not to serve visibly intoxicated persons. My great son-in-law was killed by a drunk who I understand could hardly stand when he left a bar. Why are these laws not being enforced?
I read about all the trouble they are having on the South Side; some kind of enforcement should be put in place. Let's use the drink tax for that.
Call it a drunk tax -- or is the city afraid of losing the revenue?
Out of proportion
The letter from Michael and Naomi Zigmond ("Sowing Hatred," Jan. 7) struck a deep chord for me. Though I am not Jewish, I have been keenly aware of the Holocaust since my early teens and have had great empathy for Israel and its citizens for decades.
However, supporting one group and its right to exist should not preclude concern for the humanity of another. The conflict in Gaza is a human catastrophe. Whatever the history of bloodletting between Jews and Palestinians, with innocents killed on both sides, the scale of Israel's retribution is out of all proportion to its loss of life. Israel is in danger of losing its own humanity.
Deserving of thanks
More than 6,000 rockets and mortars have been fired from Gaza into Israel since Israel left Gaza in 2005. A thousand of those were fired in the past month, all targeted at Israeli civilians. During the second half of 2008 when Egypt requested a lull in the rocket fire, Hamas, with the aid of Iran, only increased its firepower, receiving weapons via underground tunnels.
During the first 10 days of this incursion Israel facilitated more than 450 truckloads of food and medicine into Gaza. That is more than 10,000 tons of aid to Palestinian civilians. In addition, Israel gives advance warning of attacks via phone text messages and leaflets, putting its own soldiers at risk while trying to protect itself.
We should thank the soldiers of Israel for helping to weaken a terrorist organization, and we must support Israel/s right to defend itself. The world response, though not surprising, is inexcusable. When protesters in Florida scream "go back to the ovens," anything is believable. Many of these Israeli soldiers are grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. They understand the meaning of "never again."
I congratulate President George W. Bush for standing up for Israel in its invasion of the Gaza Strip. For many months Arab terrorists have been firing bombs from Gaza into Israel for the purpose of killing Israelis. Israel/s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 was done for the purpose of helping Arabs to lay the groundwork for a Palestinian state.
Instead of seizing an opportunity of building a better life for Arabs in Gaza, Hamas terrorists have turned the area into a launching pad for thousands of rockets fired for the purpose of killing Israelis. Would we here in the United States do nothing if Mexico fired thousands of rockets into Texas?
I recently returned to the United States from my ninth visit to Israel. I learned that thousands of Arabs in Gaza needing medical treatments were allowed to cross into Israel. Israel voluntarily moved out of Gaza a few years ago. Who would have believed Gaza would be used as a territory for sending thousands of rockets for the sole purpose of murdering Israelis?
The only solution
Regarding Celia Shapiro's letter "Rightful Actions" (Jan. 12), in which she mentioned unfair media coverage: As a Palestinian-born American, I am saddened by Ms. Shapiro and others who feel the slant in the media is pro-Hamas and pro-Palestinian. Her statements reflect that she is biased in her beliefs; most Arab Americans see it as just the opposite.
The Post-Gazette seems to print letters in a balanced response, although pictures are mostly of Israelis. Relying on the U.S. media hardly shows the horrors of the assault. The truth is the international media have not been allowed to bear witness to the assault on Gaza since December. Who is really choosing to manipulate the media?
The war on Hamas has been devastating to Palestinian civilians; half of the 930 killed are women and children. The numbers of the dead are rising every day. Israel is fighting a war against the Palestinians, with little regard for loss of civilian life.
The humanitarian crisis in Israel is a human catastrophe. It is not a contest of public opinion. Both parties feel justified in continuing the conflict. Hamas wants open borders and self-determination; Israel says it wants the rockets stopped. Playing the blame game leads nowhere.
A cease-fire is the only solution. Haven't we learned from the similar assault of Lebanon? Violence is counterproductive for Israel, for the Palestinians and for peace.
SAMIRA SHAHEEN HAGERTY
Bailout for teachers?
Mike Schultz does not tell the entire story regarding the Public School Employees' Retirement System for teachers ("Teachers Are Likely to Become the Scapegoat," Jan. 9 letters). The legally obligated "contribution" required of the taxpayers in combination with that of the teachers allows the teachers to retire with full pay after 40 years, which is quite a luxury these days.
More important, the huge jump in future taxpayer contributions is largely the result of recent market losses in the various PSERS funds. Increased contributions to make up for previous shortfalls is one thing, but additional contributions to make up for investment losses is nothing more than another taxpayer-funded bailout. Nobody is bailing me out for my 401(k) mutual fund losses, and these losses may have a significant effect on my retirement plans.
If the PSERS investment managers failed in their duties to protect the teacher retirement funds, the teachers must insist they be replaced and should accept smaller retirement benefits until the investments return to profitability.
Food for thought regarding Canada geese
Regarding Canada geese in our parks: These geese are no longer migratory birds. They are free-ranging, domestic birds. They need to be managed as such.
Here is a solution that I believe will work. In the spring, have volunteers, walkers, hikers, scouts, etc., find and mark nest sites. Then collect freshly laid eggs each day and replace with glass or plastic eggs.
A goose will lay approximately 12 eggs. If properly harvested, there will be hundreds of fresh organic eggs. They could be distributed to local food banks, since they are an excellent source of protein.
Some nests will be missed. The smaller reproduction in time will bring flocks into a better, environmental balance. This is an excellent win-win situation that should not offend anyone.
George W. Bush is in denial
On the Jan. 13 front page, several George W. Bush head shots were featured from his final press conference, along with captions from his own words, instead of flying shoes shot at his head. One quote that stood out was, "I strongly disagree with the assessment that our moral standing has been damaged."
That being said, why did only three countries in the entire world (Georgia, Philippines and Israel) poll favorably for the Republican ticket in the last election? Mr. Bush's subsequent denial of the accusation that he lived in a bubble from the rest of the world clearly displays that he is in denial of his own morality and true legacy. He can try to re-write history as best he can, but it takes one with morals to understand morality.
Weather forecasters, look out the window
Once again the National Weather Service and meteorologists in general made another major blunder with coming up with the correct forecast for the Pittsburgh metro area last weekend when they called for a winter storm with at least six or more inches of snow.
This is actually almost becoming comical as they sit behind their computers all day and look at the latest "models" that they use to make these forecasts. I've often wondered whether any of them get the opportunity to look out a window and see what's actually happening.
It wouldn't be so bad if they were accurate a little more often. The most troubling thing, however, is that they have become so alarmist. If you were to believe them, you'd never go anywhere or do anything. I'm sorry, but life must go on.
The writer is a Skywarn Observer for the National Weather Service.
If you think about the conflict that is occurring in the Middle East between Israel and the Palestinians clearly from a U.S. standpoint, I find it duplicitous.
When Russia engaged with Georgia and inflicted serious damage, the United States said the force was disproportionate.
Israel now seems to be the larger power inflicting much heavier damage to the inhabitants in the Gaza strip.
While Hamas is a terrorist organization, firing indiscriminate rockets into Israel, Israel is launching smart bombs and mortars into a heavily populated area.
It is said that the people of a nation suffer the consequences for the leaders they elect and, while this is true, I cannot help but see how there are different standards.
Critics of Israel aren't making sense
Israel and Palestine have been fighting for hundreds of years. Israel moved its own people off Gaza to give it to the Palestinians in order to live in peace. And what do the Palestinians do? They start firing missiles. Palestinians not only don't want peace; they want the annihilation of the Jewish state and will not stop.
Who fired the first rockets? Who are using women and children as human shields? Who fires missiles from inside schools and religious buildings? Who is being funded by Iran and aided by Hezbollah?
And the liberal bunch of you -- including the Jewish among you (which I do not understand) -- can scream that Israel started this, that it needs to make sure the bombing equals the bombs by Hamas and that, once again, even though they are under attack by terrorists -- not militants -- and are only trying to protect their loved ones and land, that they have to stop and make peace?
My God! Are you such Israel-hating leftists that you have lost all common sense here?
The long ride home
To the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, the Port Authority, the Pittsburgh police and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, and every corporation thinking about moving into the city of Pittsburgh:
Thank you so much for making my New Year's Eve one of the most memorable I have experienced in many years. I so enjoyed my two-hour ride home on one of the Port Authority's finest vehicles. Usually my ride is only 15 minutes, so I had all that extra time to bask in the delightful Port Authority ambience.
Thank you, Cultural Trust, for completely ignoring the needs of the people who work daily in the city and closing every street between Fort Duquesne Boulevard and Liberty Avenue, except, of course, Commonwealth Place, which was essentially a parking lot due to lack of parking at the Hilton, thereby causing one of the worst traffic jams I have seen in the city for the last 10 years.
Thanks to the ingenious Pittsburgh police, who had officers posted at each of the many barricades closing the streets (they had to watch the sawhorses so that no one would steal them), but not at the intersections where traffic was at a standstill or where cars were parked illegally on Liberty and Commonwealth blocking lanes and where traffic direction was needed.
Thanks, Port Authority, for your absolutely brilliant detour planning of making every bus go down Liberty Avenue and turn on Commonwealth Place and then when traffic was at a standstill, not allowing any bus to find an alternate route, even though Commonwealth Place was completely blocked for 45 minutes.
Thanks to the mayor, who has proven once again that he does not really care about those who come into the city every day.
To any new company thinking about setting up business in the city, I would seriously think about how you and your employees plan to get home on New Year's Eve, Light-Up Night and any other day when an unusual amount of folks come to the city, like for a Steelers, Penguins or Pirates game, because there are no traffic police in Pittsburgh and you will have a very long ride home.
SUSAN M. CABIN