I really appreciated Inga Saffron's review of the Barnes museum ("Art in a new light," Sunday). I agree that what was supposed to be the urbanization of a suburban museum turned into the creation of a suburban plot within a city, devoid of context and any sympathy for the public realm.
However, as someone who is two years out of architecture school, I think the larger picture is the public's expectation of public buildings. During a recent drive down the Parkway, I asked my sister what she thought of the new Barnes, and if she was disappointed in its utter lack of beauty. "No," she simply said. "No one builds beautiful buildings anymore." If that's what the public has come to think, architects need to take a serious look at what they deem to be appropriate buildings for our cities, especially for what is supposed to be a cultural landmark.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is a beacon of beauty, culture, and achievement. It is breathtaking. When I go there, I know that I will be transformed as I walk up the steps and through the columns. It demands gravitas. I don't think anyone will ever talk about the new Barnes' that way. An opportunity utterly missed.
Laura Hattrup, Philadelphia
Just society provides for all
Stephen F. Gambescia misses the point on employer-sponsored health insurance ("Employer role is not healthy," Sunday). Large businesses were able to buy health insurance much more cheaply than an individual worker could.
My dad was a 50-year union man at Steamfitters Local 420. In his day, unions did not offer health insurance or retirement benefits. A big part of my dad's pay went to Blue Cross for an individual health-insurance plan for our family. He paid much more for coverage than workers at Bell or General Electric or the government. Dad chose to be responsible for his family, and he acted wisely, even though it was costly.
At some point we are all going to need health care, and a just society would provide for all its citizens.
Treacy Manion, Havertown,
Seek thoughtful opposing views
In a spectacular lowering of the bar, you ran a commentary by convicted felon Tom DeLay ("Obama misses what exploring space means," Monday) as a "balance" to your own thoughtful comments on the state of American space exploration ("Mars mission remains the goal").
Has the Editorial Board become less certain in its views, or is it pandering to right-wing letter writers who regularly excoriate the paper for its left-wing positions? Does a felon convicted of chicanery aimed at expanding his own political power deserve over a quarter of a page to present an opinion unsupported by any special knowledge or experience?
There is room for opposing views, but I would call upon The Inquirer to seek out independent, knowledgeable voices, and reduce seriously the prevalence of "professional" right-wing spokesmen on the opinion pages.
John D. Shepherd, Horsham
Try 9/11 case in open court
The government is trying alleged 9/11 plotters in a military tribunal, instead of in open court, in Guantánamo Bay ("Chaotic scene in 9/11 court," Sunday). Congress forbade the transfer of the defendants to U.S. soil. There are still many unanswered questions about 9/11, and the failure to try these defendants in a public courtroom undermines public faith in the government's conduct before, during, and after the terrorist attacks.
Extending rights to criminal defendants does not confer any honor upon the accused; it confers honor on the nation that believes that the accused have rights and that the government has the burden of proving charges beyond a reasonable doubt in open court.
Rob Baker, Ambler
The facts about GM
John S. Lott Jr. would be entitled to his apparent belief that the country would be better off if General Motors had been allowed to fail and its plants closed if his arguments had any accuracy ("U.S. money given to GM has been bad investment," Sunday). They do not. GM would have been bankrupt without the bailout. Had this happened, or had GM been able to operate after its Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, various pre-bankruptcy liabilities would still have been wiped out. Thus, the liabilities Lott criticizes would have ceased to exist in any post-bankruptcy scenario. Similarly, his criticism of the "special exemption, waiving payment of $45.4 billion in taxes on future profits," fails to recognize that if GM ceased operating, there would have been no profits to tax. Even if it had continued to operate, it had a huge loss to carry forward that would have offset taxes for many years.
Lott, like the entire Republican Party, refuses to give the Obama administration credit for its successes. In fact, it tries to turn those successes into failures. This is the party that started the disastrous Iraq war, bungled the war in Afghanistan, and gave us the worst recession since 1929 (which was also the result of Republican presidents' fiscal blunders). While I don't expect party apologists to change their flawed policies, I do ask for intellectual honesty.
David C. Harrison, Philadelphia, firstname.lastname@example.org
Disrespect and sour grapes
In reading George Parry's petty and whining opinion of our commander-in-chief's victory over this country's most notorious enemy ("Obama should stop celebrating," Sunday), I found not one example of what the author describes as President Obama's "bizarre bragfest." Perhaps because none exists. What I did find was sour grapes and disrespect. And to suggest that Obama's decision was motivated by politics is a new low. I had thought that Obama Derangement Syndrome was just a comedian's joke. However, I hope they find a cure by the end of Obama's second term.
Sandy Binnig, Springfield
Bin Laden move was a no-brainer
Enough already. Calling the shot to take out Osama bin Laden was a no-brainer. Perhaps that's why Vice President Biden had trouble understanding it. He saw political risk in the event of mission failure. However, political risk paled in light of the real risk taken by the Navy SEALs, who deserve credit for the mission.
V.J. Pongia, Blue Bell, email@example.com
Obama answered the call
I don't recall George Parry or any other Republican criticizing all the money and manpower spent so that George W. Bush could play dress-up in a pilot's suit and land on an aircraft carrier beneath a banner that proved tragically premature in human and financial terms. To paraphrase the old Hillary Clinton ad from 2008, President Obama answered that 3 a.m. phone call just fine.
Richard Saunders, Eagleville, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tough decisions by presidents
President Obama's "call" does not compare to FDR's decision on D-Day, or Harry Truman's call to drop the atomic bombs in the hopes of saving millions of lives and ending a world war. All three decisions were correct, but Roosevelt and Truman never bragged about their calls or exposed the names of units that carried out secret missions.
Fred Walker, Philadelphia