Gingrich myths piling up

Newt Gingrich has enjoyed presenting himself as a historian rather than a politician during his meteoric rise to the top of the polls in the Republican Party's presidential field ("A weak GOP field comes down to two flawed front-runners," Dec. 5). It has been a convenient excuse, claiming to be a historian rather than a lobbyist, to explain away the $1.7 million he received from Freddie Mac, while he castigated "politicians" who he claimed should be jailed for their part in the home mortgage lending fiasco. One assumes that the fact-checkers will soon destroy that myth.

Here is another myth. Gingrich claims that, as speaker of the House, he was in large part responsible for the economic boom of the 1990s. He would like to be remembered as a co-equal with President Bill Clinton in that regard. But a review of history will show that one of the main pillars of the economic policy of the Clinton administration was a tax increase that was passed without a single Republican vote in the House or the Senate.

I trust that there will be lots of work for fact-checkers as Gingrich's campaign moves along.

Tom Gavin, Philadelphia

Helping to make college affordable

The editorial "College costs too much" (Friday), categorizing the affordability of college as one of the biggest challenges facing America, was spot-on. But it is equally important to note an affordability success right here in Philadelphia: The average aided Penn freshman actually pays less in tuition than a similar student in 2005.

Since 2004, Penn has increased the university's undergraduate financial aid budget by more than 100 percent, with about half of that increase coming from meeting students' increased need through the Great Recession. If a student is talented enough to be admitted, Penn meets his or her full financial need for all four years - without student loans.

Penn is among a small group of universities in the country that are making college more affordable and accessible. And we are not alone even in the Philadelphia region: Swarthmore and Haverford also provide loan-free financial aid to all eligible students, efforts that should be applauded.

But more schools need to step up. We must all do our part to support a diverse higher education system - one that provides access to the best education possible for every student who wants to attend college.

Amy Gutmann, president, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Jobs, salaries show district's priority

One need only look at the job titles cited in the article "District official leaves amid pay allegations" (Friday) to understand what is wrong with the Philadelphia schools.

How do these job titles and salaries make you feel about how tax dollars are being spent? School improvement student adviser ($24,568); assistant program coordinator in the alternative education department ($50,000); deputy human resources chief ($140,000); confidential secretary ($50,000); regional and parent ombudsman ($42,500); manager in the Office of Community Relations for Partnerships ($55,000).

This district is not serious about using its resources to educate children. It's a make-work, make-money agency for adults. We need to scrap the whole system in favor of one that mimics the best private schools, those with small enrollments and little to no bureaucracy that are run by and accountable to parent boards.

Angelo Sgro, Philadelphia, agsgro@comcast.net

Good luck with expanding empire

Good luck to Jose Garces (" 'Iron Chef' Garces expanding empire to new A.C. casino," Thursday). My personal experience suggests that the farther geographically a restaurant gets from its leader, the greater the inconsistency. My experience with casino restaurants connected to nationally recognized chefs has been particularly negative: Average food, inconsistent service, and utterly ridiculous prices. From my perspective, the only one to pull it off well so far is Tom Colicchio with his variations on Craft.

John W. Jones, Solebury Township

Plan B one of safest drugs available

The hormone contained in Plan B is possibly one of the safest drugs we have available, and there is evidence to prove it ("Limits remain on Plan B," Thursday). Unlike many drugs available over the counter, such as Tylenol, which can cause liver failure and death, there has never been a single reported case of death or overdose on Plan B. In fact, there is not a single woman or teen I have ever seen who could not take Plan B, unless of course she couldn't get it.

As an obstetrician/gynecologist, I provide an array of women's health services, I have delivered babies to 13-year-olds and terminated pregnancies in 16-year-olds. Plan B did not cause them, but in fact could have helped to prevent them in the first place. As one of my colleagues said, Plan B "is like a fire extinguisher; once you get it, you don't start making more fires."

Sara Pentlicky, M.D., Philadelphia

No need for infantile candidates

It doesn't surprise me that Edward Wasserman overlooks a reason at least part of the population might be concerned with a presidential candidate's personal life ("Should Cain's fidelity matter?" Wednesday). Story after story of Herman Cain's alleged sexual harassment must seem puerile to Wasserman as a man. But as a woman, as with other women I know, I am seeking a presidential candidate who isn't mired in infantile, disrespectful attitudes toward women, as multiple claims of sexual harassment suggest. Only 16 percent of our current American government is women, putting us in an embarrassing 69th place in a ranking of countries with female governmental representation. If America is still grappling with its own unacknowledged sexism, I'd like to at least ensure it's not an unapologetic, overt quality of my presidential candidate.

Margaret Betz, Swarthmore

Why no mention of Bill Clinton?

I found it telling that Edward Wasserman's column on infidelity didn't mention President Bill Clinton, who lied under oath about it and was accused by many women of sexual misconduct. The screeching from the Democrats at the time was, "It's his private life and doesn't affect his ability to be president."

Connie Waterman, Narberth

The white-light horror

My mind raced through myriad social issues when I saw the front-page headline "White - or else?" (Saturday). Would it challenge racial disparities in education? Anti-immigrant sentiment? Racial profiling in the criminal-justice system?

No. It was about Christmas lights.

The article showcased condominium residents' "rebellion" against white-only Christmas light regulations.

In my diverse North Philadelphia neighborhood, I have always taken for granted the freedom with which my family decorates our urban yard; perhaps this is because our city faces issues that leave matters of Christmas décor at the bottom of an endless list of concerns.

I certainly hope that the light-related fines and economic worries these people face will lead them to add their voices to that of the 99 percent in their future efforts.

Maura Bernt, Philadelphia, maura.bernt88@gmail.com

A plan to disenfranchise voters

Kudos for printing the clear, concise explanation of why Gov. Corbett is backing the proposed legislation requiring voters to present a photo ID each time they vote ("Real reason for voter-ID plan," Sunday).

The Republicans' manipulation of voters - let's not forget the gerrymandering that is also an issue in Pennsylvania - is a disgrace and an insult to thinking people. They should hang their heads in shame, but instead they puff up their feathers and think up false arguments to dupe the people.

Seven hundred thousand disenfranchised voters is not an insignificant number. To paraphrase, "legislation without representation" (as this bill will eventually ensure) is an abomination of the democratic process.

Claire Donohue, Philadelphia, cpdono@aol.com