Stop gerrymandering with statewide congressional races

Regarding your Nov. 18 editorial, "The Election That Wasn't": Thank you for bringing to light the problem with noncompetitive congressional seats. This adds to the political polarization we see today because politicians in safe seats don't need to offer compromises - they merely need to pander to the parochial interests of their constituents. The solution then, is not redistricting. Rather we should start electing our US Representatives and state legislators by at-large elections.

If Arizona is allotted, say, nine seats in the House of Representatives, then instead of having nine separate congressional districts, we should let people campaign for nine slots statewide. This would force members of congress to reach out to a broader audience and would end the problem of gerrymandering. Particular interests would still be able to have a voice, but the need for real compromise and negotiation would increase.
Timothy M. Neeno
Tempe, Ariz.

Oh, for the days of Mary Poppins

Jeffrey Shaffer's Nov. 19 column, "Our 'desperate' TV times," on the state of American television is right on the mark: My dad, a World War II combat veteran and survivor of the Great Depression, used to say of such foul fare, "Every now and then society recieves a bloody wake-up call when it becomes too complacent, too debauched. My generation experienced our own chastisement with the war: yours, heaven help you, will probably be far worse."

I'm not sure why, but whenever I view a television commercial like the one that featured the lamentable scene between Nicollette Sheridan and Terrell Owens - in fact, whenever I see a commercial touting the latest episode of "Desperate Housewives" - I'm immediately reminded of my dad's words. I truly grieve for what our country has become with this kind of tawdry commercialism, and I daily find myself daydreaming, wishing we were living in an earlier age once more, in an entirely different era. I miss the days of Bonanza and Mary Poppins.
Robert Leibold
Fayetteville, Ark.

Polluters, not taxpayers, should pay

While the Nov. 18 article "Bush's second-term stamp on environment," did well to touch upon such pressing issues as drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, I feel it is important to address the public health crisis associated with the underfunded Superfund program.

Originally designed to make polluters, not taxpayers, pay to clean up the nation's most heavily contaminated sites, Superfund now relies almost completely on funds from general revenue. The result is that some of the most polluted sites in America went entirely unfunded in 2004.

The only way to solve Superfund's fiscal crisis is for Congress and the Bush administration to reinstate the "polluter pays" fees. The days of the average American paying to clean up the nation's most contaminated hazardous-waste sites must come to an end.
Matthew Tirman
Environmental Health Advocate

US Public Interest Research Group

Book-banning dangerous for US

Regarding Farzaneh Milani's Nov. 17 Opinion piece "Silencing a modern Scheherazade": Book-banning is a sure sign of bigotry, especially when it involves preventing Americans from understanding foreign cultures. As a nation, we are largely ignorant of the rest of the world and, sad to say, many of us seem to want to stay that way. The only cure for such hubris is broad access to knowledge and experience.

Cutting off books damages far more lives than cutting off heads - not that either practice is tolerable!
Jean Gerard
Los Osos, Calif.

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