Predacious pols deserve scrutiny

I take exception to Michael Smerconish's Sunday column ("Scrutiny of private lives"), in which he argued that a political candidate's personal life is not necessarily relevant to his life as a public servant. Like so many others who have made the same argument, Smerconish romanticizes these men as independent, strong-willed risk-takers with magnetic personalities.

Oh, please! These are egotistical, selfish men who crave attention and require constant validation. Cheating politicians have as much interest in public service as they do in monogamy. They are drawn to public service, as they are to women, to satisfy their selfish desire for recognition and glory. It is all about them.

So let's stop the man's-man analogy, and the suggestion that these people would make great leaders if only we would leave their private lives private. In this case, personal life does matter. Let's keep scrutinizing.

Christopher Dean


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'A strong case' maybe not so strong

Monday's editorial, "Limit smoking," stated that "a strong case can be made for a ban that protects park-goers from secondhand smoke." But when you combine the actual measurements of open-air outdoor smoke exposures made even by ardent antismoking advocate-researchers such as Neil Klepeis with the Environmental Protection Agency report's analysis of risks from indoor smoking, you discover that you would have go to a smoking park every day, for 8 hours a day, for roughly 100 million years in order to develop, on average, a single lung cancer.

How The Inquirer can translate that into a "strong case" for outdoor bans is beyond my understanding. I'd rather see the city's energy put into cutting down on muggings.

Michael J. McFadden


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Hold school district accountable

Regarding the School District's budget woes ("Philly school panel OKs 'interim' budget with deep cuts," Tuesday), here are some things City Council and Mayor Nutter ought to do before giving one dollar more to the district: Have the district's books audited; appoint an independent overseer (i.e., someone not affiliated with City Council, the School Reform Commission, or the Democratic Party) to guarantee that the money is properly spent; and protect employees who would suffer retribution if they made public what the School District is doing with tax dollars.

It's time to hold the School District to the same high performance standards that it preaches to its students. If it wants more tax money, then it should demonstrate it has wisely used the dollars already provided. That may be difficult, of course, since the district increasingly resembles the discredited Philadelphia Housing Authority.

David Wilder


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Paintings count, not the arrangement

There have been a number of letters recently claiming that the new Barnes on the Parkway will have "no soul," that it is "counterfeit" because the paintings will be displayed in the new setting in a manner that will "violate" the way Barnes arranged them to be seen.

But the paintings were never intended by the artists to be part of a montage created by a collector. They were painted to be seen and appreciated on the merits of their individual subjects, colors, shapes, and perspectives. Individually, they are vastly more important than the way Barnes arranged for them to be seen.

I. Milton Karabell


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Israeli concessions not concessions

A letter on May 26 ("Palestinians need the pressuring") praised Israel for making two major concessions to the Palestinians: granting autonomy to the West Bank, and giving Gaza to the Palestinians.

But is it really a concession to give a people something they already have a right to? Gaza, with a population of 1.4 million Palestinians and only 15,000 Israelis, was never actually part of Israel, merely an occupied Palestinian territory. The same is true of the West Bank.

Gaza and the West Bank were confiscated from Palestine following Israel's war with Egypt and Syria in 1967. The United Nations, which created the state of Israel in 1948, has declared that no country has the right to annex land gained as a result of war. Israel has never had legal jurisdiction over either Gaza or the West Bank. Although Israel has laid claim to these territories, no nation recognizes that claim as valid.

William Cooney


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In praise of a good neighbor

I would like to publicly thank a neighbor of mine.

John Lyden is in his 20s and autistic. John reinvigorated our block within days of moving here, thanks to his tireless penchant for cleanliness. From one end of the street to the other, he has swept it daily, and cleaned up all the weeds growing through the cracks, and he does all this so quickly that most people do not even know that he has done it.

People deserve to be recognized for their good deeds, especially when they don't do them for any fanfare, but simply because they take pride in their community. Take a ride down the 4300 block of Stiles Street, and you'll see how clean this particular block is because of people like John.

My special thanks to this young man for a positive spin on urban renewal.

Bobby Morell