A hate crime, not a prank

I don't have any regrets about recruiting a bunch of my privileged, prep-school pals for "pranks" and "high jinks" that included singling out a less popular, defenseless younger student, pinning him down, and cutting off his longish, dyed-blond hair because I didn't like how he "looked" and I suspected he may have been gay ("Romney apologizes for school 'pranks,'" Friday). Know why? Because I never would have thought to do that to another human being.

Mitt Romney was 18 when he did this. Not 8 or 10 or 12. He was pretty much a grown man. As any Psychology 101 textbook will tell you, by 18 our basic personality traits — our ability to feel empathy and our decision-making process — are hardwired into our brains. Romney did not have a moment of youthful indiscretion; he expressed his dislike of this kid to his chums, created a plan, assembled a team to execute it, and then led the assault. Romney is clearly guilty of a hate crime, not a "prank." Imagine how angry you would be if it were your son who was victimized this way.

Worse, in my opinion, is that Romney lied, saying he did not remember the event. He's a bully who will lie, deny, and shape the facts around any issue that could potentially cast him in a negative light.

I think it is very, very important to consider what a person may have done at the age of 18, particularly when he wishes to be the most powerful man in the world.

Christopher J. Beahan, Roslyn

Unfair, inane story on Romney

First, I must admit that my opinion of Mitt Romney might well not be suitable for a family newspaper. But, honestly, to go back in time and find fault with the behavior of a teenager who now happens to be a full-fledged adult seeking the presidency of his country borders on the inane and ridiculous, in addition to being grossly unfair.

Where does the timeline end for something like this? Should Baby Romney also be held accountable for allegedly stealing a prized toy from his toddler girlfriend when he was about a year old?

Give me a break.

Jules Slatko, Holland

A warning to voters

Revelations about Mitt Romney's cruelty to a high school classmate should be a warning to decent Americans. If he was capable of bullying someone he knew, imagine what he would do to millions of strangers.

Tom Goodman, Philadelphia

Missing important issues

President Obama gives a big thumbs-up to gay marriage ("Obama backs same-sex marriage," Thursday), while Mitt Romney apologizes for being a schoolboy prankster 50 years ago. Talk about Nero fiddling while Rome is burning.

Ross L. Milgram, Audubon

Bullies don't change

Mitt Romney dismisses leading a mob of boarding school bullies, who physically abused a fellow student, as high school high jinks, a rite of passage. Romney wants us to believe that this event and another in which he shouted, "Atta girl" to a boy who later came out as gay were childhood pranks, and that if he hurt anyone, he is truly, truly sorry.

When Romney attended school, homosexuality was considered a social taboo. Few gays declared their sexual orientation, but most students knew who was "different." Sure, there were predators like Romney, who made children suffer for being out of the mainstream, but most of us just accepted these kids and moved on with our lives. I do not believe Romney's assertion that he didn't know that either of the students he attacked was gay. We knew. We all knew.

Today, many of my bully classmates have retained their antigay mantra, demeaning the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and those who support it. Yet, Romney wants us to believe that he is a changed man, that the horrors he visited upon suspected gays in the past somehow do not translate to present belief and future policy.

Romney has chosen to join ranks with groups on the far right that consider gays second-class citizens. He will reject, out of hand, accusations that he is antigay. But we know. We all know.

Patrick Francis Joyce, Moosic

Who's on side of credible reform?

Antibusiness activists have again attacked my organization for having had the temerity to document and scrupulously criticize various plaintiff-friendly procedures and judges that have helped draw litigation from all across the country to Philadelphia's civil courts — at local taxpayers' expense ("Not guilty of 'hellhole' charge," May 3).

But what David Ward and Keystone Progress never mention when advocating growth-crimping, job-killing lawsuits is the fact that on Feb. 15, Philadelphia Chief Administrative Judge John Herron issued a sweeping 15-point reform order aimed at solving many of the problems the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) had detailed in its annual "Judicial Hellholes" reports. Among other things, the judge's order cites data showing Philadelphia courts to be backlogged with cases, particularly asbestos cases, that have no connection whatsoever to Pennsylvania.

In March 5 letters to Herron, leading area plaintiffs' attorneys asked him to reconsider his order and took issue with his data. The plaintiffs' lawyers offered less alarming data of their own, but Herron dismissed it as selective and misleading, and firmly stuck to his reform guns in a polite March 8 response.

So which group, Keystone Progress or ATRA, is most credible? The one aligned with personal-injury lawyers, or the one aligned with Philadelphia's top judge?

Darren McKinney, director of communications, American Tort Reform Association, Washington, dmckinney@atra.org

Special interests hold city back

The op-ed by Richard M. Daley and Bruce Katz making the case for cities as manufacturing-job incubators, with government there to help, doesn't pass the stink test because Daley can't come up with one example from the city his family has run for decades ("U.S. cities can lead a manufacturing revival," Monday). Cities are run by Democrats, and Dems are hostages to unions, trial lawyers, eco-wackos, and women and minority grievance parasites, all proven manufacturing-job killers. Commonsense reforms, such as repealing minimum-wage laws, declaring cities "right to work" zones, and mandating arbitration for workmen's comp cases, would give employers a chance to compete. Unfortunately, doing so would risk elected officials' power and position, which Democratic pols care much more about than the success of their constituents.

Michael Hudson, Pottstown

Camden's food desert

Daniel Akst uses statistics on the general population to deny the existence of large urban areas where there is almost no access to fresh food ("Food deserts bloomed in factual wasteland," May 5). This specious and dangerous reasoning smacks of the kind of thinking we see in Holocaust deniers.

I have been involved with efforts to bring a supermarket to North Camden for more than 20 years. Financing has been available, supermarket operators have been willing, but inept and conflicting public agencies have stifled the initiatives. For the people of North Camden, the nearest place to get fresh food continues to be Cherry Hill.

Bill Reynolds, Collingswood