How to make drilling work
Those of us opposed to oil drilling for environmental reasons must realize that we will eventually have to drill. Alternative technology is not yet viable. My suggestion is to form a plan for using this natural resource to change Florida and maybe even the world for the better.
First, we pick the best 10 or 20 areas to drill and isolate our drilling to these areas. We then ensure that we drill with the latest technology and with the most environmentally friendly techniques.
It's been reported that other Gulf Coast states have received 37.5 percent of the lease sale and 37.5 percent of any oil revenue generated. I say we ask for 70 percent of the lease money and 40 percent of all oil revenue. We write into law that this money can only be used for developing alternative energy sources and mass transit in Florida.
The money could go toward things like a monorail system in the Tampa Bay area, which would get thousands of cars off the road and reduce our oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. It could also fund a biomass fuel project to produce clean fuel from nonedible plant material like tree trimmings. The money could jump-start a whole industry for ethanol production from sugarcane and fund research into other technologies for energy production, such as making use of the ocean currents.
If we all could work together — environmentalist, politicians, energy companies and the average citizen — we could set the example for the rest of the country.
James Leonard, Largo
It's supply, not speculators
Sen. Bill Nelson blames $4 gasoline on oil speculators "who have been able to bid crude oil prices to unrealistic and shocking highs." Apparently he is unaware that U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said recently that "insufficient oil production, not financial speculation, was driving soaring crude prices" and that "oil production has not kept pace with growing demand."
Sen. Nelson correctly suggests that we rapidly develop alternative fuels and vehicles, like cars that run on hydrogen, not petroleum, but offers no way to satisfy the petroleum needs of the 200-million vehicles in the United States that require gasoline or diesel fuel. I recall the adage: "The best time to plant a tree was 50 years ago. The next best time is today." The best time to drill for oil was 10 years ago. The next-best time is today.
Roger Zwieg, Ruskin
Mexico pays dear in drug war | June 18, commentary
Drug policy wastes billions
The problem described in this article cannot be solved in the manner that we have been trying unsuccessfully for these many years. We are only wasting time, lives and billions of dollars on a flawed policy that will never succeed.
The column referred to the days of Prohibition and the gang wars, which were not stopped until the sale of alcoholic beverages was again legalized. The government could then regulate and tax the flow and sale of liquor once the huge profits were taken out of the product. If drugs were legalized, that would immediately eliminate the drug lords and gangs because there would no longer be huge profits.
Drugs could be legally sold and taxed just as liquor is today. It would lower drug use and related crime, because there would be no reason to get people hooked on drugs, as pushers do so they can make the big profits. Young people get hooked on drugs because it is the forbidden fruit.
One of the reasons we do not legalize drugs is because there are a huge number of people in many government agencies who are involved in drug enforcement, and they would lose their lucrative jobs.
I have never taken drugs. The only way this solution would benefit me is to stop this foolish waste of money and lives and bring back sanity and order to our inner cities. If this war on drugs has not proved to be the solution, we must change our direction.
J.R. Rosen, Hernando
Pinellas revamps middle school | June 22, story
Games aren't education
The latest effort in "let's play more games" education reform has been launched in Pinellas County. Stephanie Joyner, a district administrator, contends, "We want them (middle school students) to have the opportunity to explore; that's what middle school's all about." Why are not rigorous and relevant skill development and a sound academic foundation with adequate background knowledge what middle school is all about?
Yes, classrooms structured around games and active, entertaining strategies will keep students occupied, but will they be better prepared to tackle the academic demands of high school, college and a complex real world? Developing a strong work ethic, realizing there are consequences for failure and striving to reach high standards are concepts that should drive middle school reform. Instead, social promotion, an unenforced attendance policy and a dumbed-down curriculum dominated by FCAT prep are today's focal points.
Joyner argues, "It's nothing new," and she's right. There is nothing new about force-feeding different classroom strategies and demanding teachers take on more students with less planning time for less pay. What is also not new is that students in middle school are not held accountable for their own learning, given and held to high standards, and prepared adequately for the demands of the 21st century by our school system.
Playing more games is not the answer; realizing that a sound education comes from actual serious work in a demanding environment is.
Arthur Gray, Gulfport
Middle school mishmash
Many readers may not realize what has consistently been the greatest concern that we middle school teachers have voiced: the overall impact of more classes on your children, our students.
While we certainly (and rightly) have concerns about the impact that adding a class has on our jobs, we also wonder how students will be spending their time during these extra classes. We have never received an adequate answer from anyone to the simple question, "What's the new curriculum?"
For those of you who may be new to educational discussion, "curriculum" is the actual content of a class. For instance, dividing fractions is part of the mathematics curriculum. "The opportunity to explore" does not qualify as curriculum because it is too vague and lacks definable subject matter. In other words, Pinellas has marched ahead with adding more electives to the middle school schedule without any firm idea of what they want to do with the time.
I am an electives teacher, and this change is something I can absorb. However, I can't imagine doing so without a solid base of knowledge specific to my subject. To suggest that teachers should develop new curriculum "on the fly," without support or resources and in subjects that are not their primary focus, implies that elective subjects are less important and relegates them to the backwater of school policy and accountability.
Does anyone really believe that throwing together this mishmash of hurried ideas will benefit students? Let's be real. There is no "revamp" going on here. Elective classes are not subject to the same restrictions on class size, and that's what makes them attractive to the district. Just call it what it is: a spending cut.
Make no mistake, though, there is still a cost. In exchange for this "extra," each of your children will lose the equivalent of around three weeks of instructional contact time with every one of their teachers every year.
Maybe I'll open a tutoring service. I'll bet that will be a growth market.
David Dusseault, St. Petersburg
Little dog, big bills | June 24, story
Adopting pets is a great deal
In our world where we worry about how the present economy impacts our homeless animals, John Schlander made us smile with his obvious love of Mojo; and we agree, he is worth every penny.
With the rising cost of products and services that relate back to the gas pumps and overall economy, the Humane Society of Pinellas wants to remind everyone what a great deal you still can get when you adopt one of our animals.
Our $55 cat, $75 dog and $5 to $30 "Small Wonders" adoption fee includes: behavior assessment, medical evaluation and tests, vaccines, medical treatment, spay/neuter surgery, microchip and registration, behavior enrichment through our "Open Paw" program, adoption counseling, county license or rabies tag, training video, a bag of food, follow-up adoption support, other extras, freebies or coupons provided by local animal-friendly businesses — and a best friend and companion for life. Yes, a good deal for you and also for the wonderful animal you take home with you from the Humane Society of Pinellas.
Barbara Snow, executive director, Humane Society of Pinellas, Clearwater
I beg all of the citizens of "equestrian-friendly" communities to refrain from shooting off private fireworks. Shooting off fireworks is a form of animal cruelty. Horses cannot hide under the bed. We can't play our radios loud enough to block out the sound of the explosives. We can sedate our horses to near toxic levels and put fluffy earplugs in their ears, but these thousand-pound animals cannot be soothed as they shake, jump and sweat as flashes of light and enormous booms shake the ground and the sky.
They have been known to bolt over their stall doors and rear up and hurt themselves or anyone in their path. The stress often triggers a potentially fatal colic condition that turns up in the following days. Your neighbors with dogs, cats and birds also are terrorized by this Fourth of July "personal freedom" tradition.
Fireworks are dangerous to the people who set them off. Last year a mother in Michigan died in front her 8-year-old son when fireworks exploded in her face. She also left behind 2-year-old twin sons. In another incident, a small cannon exploded at a family party, hitting an 8-year-old boy who died later at a local hospital. Think about the 4-month-old infant, 30 feet away from a fireworks display, who suffered third-degree burns on her arms and legs after a wayward firework landed on her blanket, setting it on fire. All these examples happened on one day last year.
Although the appeal is obvious, fireworks are dangerous to life and property.
Florida Statute 791.06 describes what is illegal to sell in the state, including firecrackers, bottle rockets, toy cannons and Roman candles. In short, anything that flies in the air or explodes is illegal in our state. The fireworks industry is blatantly ignoring this law, allowing customers to sign the agricultural use waiver.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, four people died and 11,000 were treated in emergency rooms in 2005 alone as a direct result of fireworks-related injuries. Forty-five percent of those injured were under age 14. In a 2006 study, the CDC reported that 2,200 life-threatening residential and motor vehicle fires resulted from fireworks, causing more than $21-million in property damage. Those who launch fireworks recreationally are still breaking the law, and remain liable for any damages to life or property inflicted by their actions.
I ask that parents, instead of burning up the $50 for a fireworks display, invest that money in a college fund for their child.
So have your picnic and wear your red, white and blue. Celebrate our independence from Britain. And if you must view fireworks, go to a free, public celebration, and keep the cash in your pocket.
Patricia Fant, St. Petersburg
An American tradition
I am surprised at the number of people demonizing fireworks. Fireworks are an American tradition, a way for patriotic Americans to say, "We love America; we love the freedom living in America allows; and part of that freedom is the right to use fireworks in our celebrations."
Many of our childhood memories are vivid with pictures of the beauty and majesty of our country's freedom being celebrated with beautiful lighted skies, picnics by the lake and children with sparklers having the time of their life! With the economy as it is, gas prices sky-high, unemployment at its highest in a long time, we want to forget all of that for one day, stand up and celebrate the anniversary of our independence and light up the sky.
Donna Stewart, Tampa