Mummers Parade losing its way

Diverse! Inclusive! Prejudice-free! This is always how it starts ("Diversity display," Monday). The censors want to make sure we are all being "civil" and "tasteful," and no one's feelings get hurt.

But that's never how it ends. It's never enough to get rid of the blackface or the Indian headdresses, because then there are other groups that need to have their feelings taken into account. Ultimately, what is "acceptable" comes to be determined by the most sensitive and most easily offended people. We have seen this process play out across America's college campuses, where speech codes put in place to "elevate the level of discourse" lead to the discipline or expulsion of (adult) students for a single thoughtless joke or a crude sexual remark.

In Philly, the next target will be the Wenches. Drunken men dressed up as women? Who gave them the right to demean women this way and appropriate their feminine culture? It's actually a lot like wearing a sombrero on Cinco de Mayo, and God knows we can't tolerate that. Ban the Wenches!

The Mummers must figure out a way to take back their parade, or there won't be one - at least not a parade that any of us will recognize as the Jan. 1 extravaganza we all grew up with.

|Michael Kubacki, Philadelphia,

Police keep the party peaceful

Our busiest day of the year is New Year's Day, and due to good weather and everyone having off the next day, this year was over the top. I would like to give a round of applause to Philadelphia Police

Capt. Frank Palumbo, commander of the Center City District, and the bicycle patrol. They did an outstanding job of policing the Mummers Parade and then clearing the streets when it was over. Philadelphia puts on its finest that day every year, and Philadelphia's Finest did one hell of a job. Hats off to them and their department - we appreciate all they do, not only that day, but every day of the year.

|Michele Recupido, general manager, Locust Rendezvous, Philadephia,

It's a tax on nearly all beverages

The Inquirer needs to stop misleading readers by referring to the onerous beverage tax as a "tax on sweetened beverages" ("Spreading the word about city's new soda tax," Monday). The 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax is on virtually all beverages sold in the city, sugar-sweetened or diet. Only water, milk, and baby formula are exempt from the city's beverage tax.

The city's continued insistence that the tax will not be borne by end-users was disproven in the same article. The vice president of external relations for the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association said flatly, "The tax will be passed on in its entirety to the consumer."

It was unfortunate that a judge upheld the very questionable legality of the beverage tax. Teamsters Local 830 is hoping Commonwealth Court sees it differently. My union members' livelihoods will be severely threatened if this regressive tax is allowed to stand. It's my job to defend them.

|Daniel H. Grace, secretary-treasurer, Teamsters Local 830, Philadelphia

A bad choice to head education

Unless someone would root for schools that sink to the bottom of educational rankings, Betsy DeVos should be rejected as education secretary ("DeVos is a champion for students and parents," Dec. 27). Through her fierce backing, her native state of Michigan adopted charter schools more than 20 years ago that closely followed her free-market version of how schools should operate. In the name of choice, she has advocated for little regulation and limited oversight. Meanwhile, she pushed for traditional public-school funding to be diverted to for-profit charters.

In May, Education Trust-Midwest, a nonpartisan education research organization, reported these national rankings of Michigan students in 2015: 41st in fourth-grade reading, down from 28th in 2003; 42nd in fourth-grade math, down from 27th in 2003; 31st in eighth-grade reading, down from 27th in 2003; and 38th in eighth-grade math, down from 34th in 2003.

These plummeting performances reveal why DeVos would be a disaster for our students.

|Beverly Hahn, Blue Bell

Life in Trump's Twitter world

Editorial writers and cartoonists object to President-elect Donald Trump's bromance with Russian President Vladimir Putin ("No time to move on," Monday). Why? They don't understand the new reality. The Inquirer pictures Trump and Putin kissing and in bed together. Trump is called Putin's poodle. Sad. Perhaps such disrespect will be made punishable libel when Trump loosens libel laws.

In the old days, the Soviet Union's leaders were evil-doing communists. Therefore, any American president's friendship and reciprocal assistance with a Soviet leader would have been tantamount to treason - a sellout of capitalism and individual freedoms. But now Russia has a crony capitalist, fossil-fuel-driven economy and a fascist-populist autocratic government. Therefore, it isn't incompatible with America, especially as it's made great again. Strongmen leaders here, there, and elsewhere have created a new reality in the post-liberal globalized era in which we live. And part of the new reality is that between fabulously rich, strong authoritarian leaders/deciders, there is often confluence of interest rather than conflict. We'll adjust as we wake up to what's trending - or else.

|Don DeMarco, Philadelphia,