Letters to the Editor

Posted: April 14, 2012

Congress’ power

The letter “Nothing new in health-care plan” (Sunday) argues that the mandate is similar to the imposition of the income tax and the drafting of citizens to serve in the armed forces, and thus an appropriate exercise of congressional power. The writer should know that Congress did not have the power to “lay and collect taxes on income” until passage of the Sixteenth Amendment. Also, since the Constitution was adopted, Congress has had the specific authority to “raise and support Armies.”

There is nothing even close to such specific powers for the imposition of a penalty for not buying insurance. If such a power exists, it must be implied from Congress’ power to “regulate Commerce.” When considering any questionable exercise of governmental power, we should remember our history: the American Revolution and the Constitution are indelibly marked with a distrust of government and a fear of excess power.

That is precisely the constitutional tension Justice Anthony Kennedy recognized with the concern that requiring citizens to buy a product or be penalized for not doing so represents a change in the “relationship of the federal government to the individual in a very fundamental way.”

The crying need for health-care reform cannot justify stretching the Constitution in order to invent a power that may not exist.

Randy Sommovilla, Philadelphia

Cost of care

The reason we purchase health insurance is to pay for the enormous cost of our own health care. No other reason.

A person without health insurance still goes to the hospital when he gets sick, and he is treated. Who pays for that? Nothing in life is free. To make up the loss, the health-care provider simply charges “paying” customers more, namely your insurance company. The result for your premiums is obvious.

So yes, we all pay for the folks who can’t (or won’t) pay. I suggest that if these people are forced to have at least minimum coverage, the cost to the rest of us will go down, not up.

Erwin Michelfelder, Langhorne

Sacred ground

Thank you for the fine reporting on the Cheltenham mansions (“In Elkins Park, gilded mansions lie vacant,” Monday).

As mentioned, Chelten House and Elstowe Manor belong to the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine de Ricci. Together they served as the Dominican Retreat House for 75 years. Hundreds of thousands of women and men came to the house for spiritual retreats, for quiet contemplation, and for a place to renew their faith. For all of them and for us, the estate is sacred ground.

The Elkins estate is in such extraordinarily good condition because of the careful stewardship and attention to detail that our sisters invested in the property and the dedication and generous support of many people who came on retreat and collaborated with us.

If it were not for the Dominican Sisters and their benefactors, supporters, and friends, the estate would be in a shape similar to Lynnewood Hall. We are concerned that Land Conservancy has not matched that level of care.

Our intention is to identify new potential owners who will not only preserve the historic nature of these two treasures, but bring a sustainable economic model to the table.

One last point: The Dominican Sisters have never had any intention of demolishing these historic buildings. Reports to the contrary are ridiculous and completely false. The Elkins estate does not need a rescue. It needs responsible investors who can envision new purposes in a combination of private and public benefit, but also implement a sustainable economic model. We are focused on making that opportunity a reality.

Sr. Anne Lythgoe, president, Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine de Ricci, Upper Darby

Failed satire

Was the letter “Perception is everything” (Wednesday) meant to be political satire? If so, it failed. Was it meant to be an accurate expression of the writer’s attitude? If so, it raises serious questions.

“Hoodies” are nothing new. For at least a generation, hoodies have been worn, usually by young people, because they are comfortable, cozy, warm, and able to protect from rain and snow.

Women were once denounced for wearing slacks. Is the letter writer really suggesting that we base our clothing choices on the beliefs of bigots?

Marie Conn, Hatboro, mconn56@yahoo.com

Grass’ poem

I strongly disagree with the letter thanking you for not publishing Guenter Grass’ poem about Israel (“Another Nobel disappointment,” Monday).

His book The Tin Drum is an indictment of Nazi ideology. His latest poem calls for “unhindered and permanent monitoring of Israel’s nuclear potential and Iran’s nuclear facility through an international entity that the governments of both countries would approve.” Grass wants to see the same ethical, moral, and civic principles applied to Israel as to other countries.

He is critical of Israel’s aggressive policies, not Israel as a whole. Although he was conscripted into the Waffen-SS, as many teenagers were, what he has to say must not be delegitimized because of his participation in the Nazi Party as a youth. The same yardstick can be applied to the Jewish leaders who were responsible for numerous soldiers’ deaths due to their terrorist bombing campaign against the British during the formative years of the Israeli state.

It took courage for Grass to speak out, knowing he would be accused of anti-Semitism, but he has opened up a much-needed dialogue about American-Israeli relations.

It has been clearly established that Israel has more than 200 nuclear weapons. Is it not hypocritical for Israel to condemn Iran while it possesses nuclear weapons?

As a Jew, I have been labeled “anti-Semitic” and considered a traitor because I question Israel’s occupation and bulldozing of Palestinian land to make Israeli settlements. However, I do not believe that the past horrors Jews suffered justify displacing Palestinians and destroying their villages.

Judy Rubin, Philadelphia

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