AS A southerner well acquainted with governmental bureaucratic idiocy, I like to plug into newspapers around the country just to see if this bewilderment is solely a Southern problem, or a shared affliction.

Great was my relief when I read the story on Joey Vento and his "speak English" sign. Without question, the Philadelphia Human Relations Commission is well in the lead of the pack of the bewildered, at least for this week.

Imagine, living in America where English has been, is and will continue to be the mother tongue. It is nigh on to a universal understanding that if you come to this country, you learn English or at least make an effort. That is not discriminatory or racist. It's plain common sense, a quality that's apparently taken its leave of the PHRC.

But, this is not really about the man or his sign. It's about the PHRC, along with many other levels of government, trying to legitimize their failure to enforce the laws regarding illegal aliens by making citizens the criminals. The PHRC and related agencies would do well to spend their time protecting the rights of citizens and those immigrants here legally, rather than thinking up excuses to protect those who are here illegally.

Call your next case.

Joseph L. Shepard, Spring Lake, N.C.

It's about raising kids right

Thanks to Mayor Street for speaking out ("Don't hire more cops," Dec. 8).

Just as there is no military solution in Iraq, there is no martial solution to society's ills in Philadelphia. But neither can the burden of eradicating man's viciousness inhumanity to man be placed on the educational, social-services or employment systems.

We reap what we sow. It begins by making each child who comes into the world feel valued. Feeling oneself to be a contributing member of a community, such as family, religion or neighborhood, is where our identity develops. This is neither a difficult nor expensive undertaking.

Norma Van Dyke, Philadelphia

Philly, heal thyself

Columnist Elmer Smith sees a connection between North Philadelphia and Omaha, saying the body count keeps rising in places as diverse as North Philadelphia and Omaha, Neb.

Elmer blames a group of lawmakers for this by their holding up the voting on guns. (The black caucus is going to boycott the rest of the year. Hopefully, they'll give up their pay, but don't hold your breath on that one.)

But legislators from western Pennsylvania don't care about what happens in Philadelphia, or how many people get killed there or in Pittsburgh. It's a big-city problem, not theirs.

Robert Stewart, Philadelphia

Alycia's bad tactics

It's sad that Alycia Lane thought that by telling police how little she actually contributes to society ("I'm a [bleeping] TV reporter") would prevent her from getting arrested

Sean Egan, Royersford