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Action against distracted driving is necessary

I am proud to have supported the legislation passed by the state House of Representatives on Jan. 26 to ban the use of cell phones and other hand-held devices while driving ("Distracted-Driver Bill Advances," Jan. 27). I think the dangers of distracted driving are clear to everyone on our roads, and it is past time that this measure has been approved by the House.

A recent study by the National Safety Council stated that one in four car crashes in the United States is caused by distraction from cell phones. It also determined that drivers who are talking on a cell phone are four times as likely to crash, while drivers who are texting are eight times more likely to cause an accident.

This is not the first time that the state House has taken action to make our roads safer. Last year, we passed a bill banning junior drivers from using cell phones. This legislation also contained a proposal I first put forward in 2007 limiting teen drivers to one unrelated passenger. Such measures are being passed in legislatures around the country in response to the truly tragic consequences of distracted driving, especially for young drivers.

While the state House has now rightfully moved toward enacting these common-sense regulations on drivers, it is imperative that the state Senate follow suit and send both of these bills to the governor for his signature. It is unconscionable to wait any longer to do all we can to protect innocent lives on our roadways.

STATE REP. CHELSA WAGNER
Brookline

The writer is a Democrat representing the 22nd Legislative District.


Liberty for whom?

In Ruth Ann Dailey's Jan. 25 column ("What Today's Conservatives Are All About"), the comment is made that "the American experiment has been about securing liberty." The examples given are selected to reassure us that we are the good guys. While indeed our involvement in World War II is justifiably a source of pride, left out of the listing are events much less inspiring.

An equally selective listing might include our replacement of the Spanish as the colonial power in the Philippines, suppressing a nascent independence movement; our determination to move the U.S.-Mexico border in the 19th century, a la Saddam Hussein in Kuwait; and our deliberate attempts to sabotage the democratically elected government in Chile in 1970.

None of which touches on the most embarrassing counterexample, namely the importation and legally codified oppression of countless Africans as slaves.

JAAKKO SUNI
Murrysville


Off-base column

In "What Today's Conservatives Are All About" (Jan. 25), Ruth Ann Dailey portrays what conservatism was originally about, but fails to talk about today's conservatives. She talks about fighting against tyranny from within, but today's conservatives seem to be fine with warrantless wiretaps and interfering with the Schiavo family's intimate medical decisions.

She claims that the majority of those striving for abolition, desegregation and women's suffrage were evangelical Christians and assumes that these people were conservatives then, as the majority of them are today.

She states that progressives "despise" evangelical Christians, because people like Ms. Dailey assume that everyone is a hater. She rails against baby boomers as if they were all lefties (John Boehner?) and calls them smug, while smugly declaring that, "duh," the news business has a liberal bias. What about The Wall Street Journal, Investor's Business Daily, Forbes, The Washington Times, Fox News, CNN and many syndicated radio broadcasters? Even MSNBC fired Phil Donahue for being too far to the left not so long ago.

In the end, both conservatives and progressives strive to protect our freedom; we just don't agree on which freedoms.

RON BANDES
Squirrel Hill


He made my day

Having a store in the Clark Building, I was often able to watch Vic Cianca work his traffic magic at the corner of Seventh and Liberty ("Victor S. Cianca Sr.: Famous City Traffic Cop," Jan. 26 news obituary). I have vivid memories of white-gloved hands twirling in the air, coaxing the cars, playing the violin for those moving too slowly and the tweet of the whistle piercing the air. He was the maestro conducting his own special symphony, the cars and pedestrians his orchestra, and we, the audience, enjoying it all.

And most important, it was always done with a smile. No matter how bad the traffic, you could count on Vic Cianca to keep it moving along with his hands and his good nature. Many of us, not just other police officers, could learn from his example.

I had the pleasure of having Vic Cianca visit my store on a number of occasions, and he was just as you might expect. He was always a gentleman, respectful and with much good humor.

In light of the recent tragedies suffered by local police departments, and even the criticisms levied against them, we should remember that police forces are made up of real men and women like Vic Cianca, maybe not as flamboyant, but all trying to make our lives safer. And in Vic's case, bring a smile to our faces, even in the worst traffic.

My sympathy goes out to his family and close friends on their great loss. Please know that so many others in this city felt much sadness upon hearing of his passing. I'll look out that same window again and remember fondly that special man.

JUDAH SAMET
Oakland


Still unstable

Regarding the Jan. 17 editorial "Public Payback": You write, in regard to the large financial houses, "now that they're back in the land of profitability ..."

Allow me to state why this rose of profitability smells to high heaven. First, the Troubled Asset Relief Program is a small portion of the financial bailout these institutions have received. Indeed, Bloomberg News has sued for full disclosure of all the money pledged or handed out; the Fed thus far is fighting to avoid disclosure.

This total could be in the trillions, whereas TARP is $700 billion, and is a source of "profitably" because they borrow at 0 percent and lend out at 6 percent or buy Treasuries at 3 percent. This is taxpayer backed "banking."

Second, a year ago the government accounting standards for pricing assets were lowered so that the financial houses could in essence exaggerate or falsify the real worth of toxic assets.

The federal government has built up another house of cards and not even begun to address the sources of this crisis.

DAN BEDNARZ
Regent Square


Congress has a duty and so do we

I feel a need to express some thoughts on the futility of trying to explain the ineptness of Congress in managing our nation's needs and future. Having taught and written about American history and other subjects in the past, I would have a difficult time explaining how our government works today. Congressmen and -women have become so involved with their own causes and importance, they have forgotten who put them in that position and what "constituent" means.

It makes little difference which party they represent; they just appear desperate to hold onto their spot, appease those who funded them and provide enough "pork" for the home folk controllers to maintain their seat. While there, they try to ingratiate themselves to the lobbyist groups to guarantee a position when and if they leave their elected positions.

At what point does the American citizen attempt to acquire knowledge of the process and define what he or she can do to make a difference, including voting in every election; writing letters or other forms of communication and insisting on a response; being a member of a legitimate group that can officially represent them and speak for them? Not the rabble-rousers and haters of everything, but honorable groups organized to encourage some semblance of order to a disorganized society that has lost the desire or knowledge to innovate and strive for the future within a democratic republic. We need a "quid pro quo" from our citizens. We have become a nation expecting to be given whatever we want, when we want it, without offering to give something back.

I love this country and what it offers, but I also know it did not come free. We are a great nation of caring people, but we cannot seem to get up and give ourselves the voice and the strength to rebuild ourselves. It is time to make Congress represent "we the people" and really mean it by giving something back ourselves.

CAMPBELL WITHERSPOON
Valencia


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