Ulrich Boeckheler, Philadelphia, email@example.com
World's cop uniform a bad fit
I know that Russia may initially block any United Nations Security Council resolutions in regard to Syria, but the United States must stop being the world's policeman and use the existing processes for international law that have been established since World War II. If the United States keeps acting like the world's moral compass, these institutions will never develop functionality to solve these problems. Force the issue at the United Nations. Use the International Criminal Court to charge Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but do not break international law by acting alone or even in a coalition without the United Nations. World peace and international understanding demand that we stop using our power role unilaterally.
Susan R. MacBride, Philadelphia, firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking past great art collector
Thank you for the Barnes cover story in the Weekend section ("10 must-see Barnes gems," Aug. 23). I am an artist and have a love-hate relationship with the Barnes. Although the Barnes collection features works from my three favorite artists - Van Gogh, Picasso, and Soutine - I find myself agitated after each visit. It's not the overwhelming number of masterpieces or the salon-style arrangement (although I do find the symmetry placement and the iron pieces on the wall distracting). It's the overheard docent conversations, and most of the Barnes reviews, that grate on my nerves. Putting Albert C. Barnes, the master collector and curator, above all of the art he collected diminishes the Barnes Foundation's stated mission to promote "the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts." So, thank you for showing the reader Barnes president Derek Gillman's favorite pieces without mentioning how Barnes purchased them or what inspired him to hang them in a certain way. Gillman's comments on each piece were insightful and inviting. Enough about Albert Barnes. Let's celebrate the art.
Lisa Liebman, Media, email@example.com
Teachers paid for golden years
With its June case study on Philadelphia, the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute was off base in blaming employee pensions for the School District's financial crisis. The crisis stems from three years of billion-dollar state education budget cuts, Gov. Corbett's abandonment of a rational education funding formula, a history of mismanagement and overspending by the state-controlled School Reform Commission and its handpicked superintendents, the proliferation of charter and cyber charter schools, and state policies that put corporate tax breaks ahead of investing in education.
For the last 12 years, school districts contributed far less (in some years, nothing at all) to the Public School Employees Retirement System than was needed to maintain a healthy pension system, while employees contributed 7.5 percent of every paycheck every year. Now, groups like Fordham and the American Legislative Exchange Council want to stick teachers, school nurses, librarians, and other school employees with a past-due bill run up by the state and School District.
Employee pensions averaging just $24,000 a year are part of modest compensation packages and are funded by employees and employers and, the biggest share, by investment returns. In recent years, many school employees have forgone salary increases to preserve pensions. They paid their share and should not be forced to foot the bill now.
Ted Kirsch, president, AFT Pennsylvania
Tap casinos to aid pension funds
I find it most interesting that Penn National Gaming executive Timothy J. Wilmott has pledged casino revenues to the School District and city pension funds. While I will not offer him accolades - as it could result in more of the poor and disadvantaged gambling in his casinos - I was trying to be likewise creative in obtaining revenue for the state's pension funds earlier this year when I introduced a House bill requiring casino patrons to pay a $2 fee. Roughly, this fee would generate between $45 million and $50 million annually. Unfortunately, the product of my creativity remains tied up in a committee. If the economy continues to stagnate and the state pension funds are unable to get a reasonable return on investments, my legislation may become relevant.
Paul I. Clymer, state representative, Perkasie
Bill Clinton's presidential pardon
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, soon to be a former mayor, has been subjected to opprobrium and ridicule for his treatment of women, and deservedly so. Yet Bill Clinton's extracurricular escapades surely trumped Filner's. Even so, the ex-president travels the globe incessantly, almost pathologically, and is everywhere hailed as a conquering hero, kind of a combination of Winston Churchill and Albert Schweitzer. Someone needs to level the playing field.
Ray Perry, Warrington, firstname.lastname@example.org
Facing up to the diagnosis
With all the talk about whether young people will buy insurance and employers will limit staff to avoid buying insurance, it is obvious the current system of insurance tied to employment and essentially private and for-profit has to end. It's time to admit that the only system that will work is a single-payer plan. As in Korea, a plan can be jointly administered by government and private companies. Such a plan would guarantee universal coverage, regardless of employment status, which is the heart of the Obama plan, and will permit setting reasonable regional prices for procedures, and better systems for addressing malpractice cases at lower cost to doctors, both of which are keys to driving up medical costs. People who want additional coverage could still buy it from private insurers, as those with Medicare do now. I am sure the tea-partyers will scream, but even they have to admit that the current system does not work.
Mitchell S. Rothman, Merion Station