ISSUE | CONGRESS

Maiden budget effort a bad sign

Once again, our supposed leaders brought us to the brink of a government shutdown as another short-term spending plan was about to expire, the members scrambling to put into place another eleventh-hour agreement so that they could begin their lengthy holiday recess ("Congress passes $1.1 trillion bill," Dec. 14).

There was no possibility that a clean spending blueprint would be proposed. Rather, we found shenanigans, an unwillingness to fund the Department of Homeland Security for more than a few months, and special-interest poison pills inserted into the legislation that were unrelated to the matter at hand, but provisions that a sufficient number of Democrats were willing to accept.

This latest caper ensures that there is no hope for the House and Senate to emerge from their widespread unpopularity with the American people any time soon. But why should they care? We reelect them and, for the most part, voters have the bizarre notion that their own representatives and senators are jolly good fellows, that it is the other guys (and gals) - those who represent different regions - who are the problem.

The Founding Fathers would surely weep if they were able to witness what has happened to their once-great country for which in their era there was so much promise.

|Oren M. Spiegler, Upper Saint Clair

ISSUE | ENERGY POLITICS

Slap a tax on oil

from the Middle East

While we have spent trillions of taxpayer dollars and thousands of American lives on protecting U.S. interests in the Middle East, we all know that if there weren't any oil there, we wouldn't have wasted one dime or a single life.

With declining oil prices, we have a unique opportunity to disengage from this part of the world once and for all. We should impose an import fee on Middle East oil. This will allow us to protect domestic energy production and reduce the federal deficit. Yes, it will cost more to fuel cars and heat homes, but this shared sacrifice would be well worth it.

|Charles Hoffmann, Havertown, cwhoffma@aol.com

Poor showing

Leaders like City Council President Darrell L. Clarke keep the city mired at the low end of mediocrity ("Pipeline dreams," Dec. 17). Furthermore, it can be said far too frequently that the process by which City Council governs is barely democratic. Who amongst us is OK with this? Well, if we expect our government to function at all, let alone function well, then we must not reward poor performance at reelection time.

|Jeremy Holl, Philadelphia

Original thoughts?

Mayoral candidate Lynne M. Abraham would rather limelight her own political chances by lambasting City Council and the mayor over the Philadelphia Gas Works sale debacle than offer new ideas on how to correct the massive deficiencies we face ("Abraham slams Clarke over failed PGW sale," Dec. 12).

|Scott Cameron, Philadelphia, scottcameronart@comcast.net

ISSUE | CHRISTMAS IN THE CITY

All the makings of the holiday scene

The other day, I took a short train ride from the city's Mayfair section into Center City, spent time at the Kimmel Center shopping and watching all the frivolity, had a lovely "Naughty or Nice" hot chocolate at the Ritz Carlton, strolled by the City Hall Christmas tree and Dilworth Plaza, and wandered through the Christmas Village at LOVE Park, which by then was all aglow in the evening light. So, thank you, Philadelphia, and a Merry Christmas to all.

|Anna Morris, Philadelphia

ISSUE | TORTURE REPORT

CIA excesses call for poetic license

When I served in uniform, I swore to uphold certain ideals - and torture was not among them. So in light of the recent torture report, it may be time to update the poem on the Statue of Liberty as follows: "Give me your poor, your helpless, your sleep-deprived bodies so I can chain them to walls in conditions of unspeakable horror. Remember that the light of freedom is reserved for those who agree with us and, at our whim, can be turned to darkness at any time. I lift my lamp beside the golden waterboard."

|John W. Haigis, Darby, johnghd@yahoo.com

ISSUE | PHILLIES

Rollins trade joins baseball's historic missteps

Considering the Jimmy Rollins trade, I take some solace from the fact that the Yankees traded Babe Ruth and the Giants traded Willie Mays ("With new direction, could Utley leave?" Dec. 14). But for 15 years, in a career that will deserve careful scrutiny from the Hall of Fame, Jimmy Rollins has been the finest shortstop ever.

|Kenneth M. Foti, Malvern, kfoti36@yahoo.com

ISSUE | CITY COUNCIL

Easily led down whatever path Clarke chooses

Signe Wilkinson hit the nail on the head (Dec. 16). Emperor (and City Council President) Darrell L. Clarke decides what is brought up for discussion and his obedient minions follow right along. It really does not matter what the people who elected them would want.

|Bernadette Steiner, Philadelphia