Fundamentals plan shelved | July 23
Offer back-to-basics programs
The Pinellas School District's plan to expand the number of magnet schools is commendable. However, the high demand by many families for a back-to-basics educational experience for their children needs to be in the forefront. All parents want their children in a safe learning environment in which they are given the opportunity to master the basic skills of reading, writing and mathematics.
I suggest that many elementary schools, in particular those that are low-performing, adopt some essential parts of the fundamental concept. These include nightly homework for the students, with parental involvement, and a fair and strict discipline program. Having elementary school children wear a simple type of uniform such as khaki pants and a collared shirt would not be an imposition.
I agree with the School Board members who do not want additional full fundamental programs because of the concern that children could be asked to leave the school if their parents failed to attend compulsory evening meetings or did not comply with other demands. But students should be offered the benefits of a modified fundamental program on site.
Kathy Michaels, St. Petersburg
Withdrawal pains | July 29, commentary
Fred Hiatt opens by referring to what he calls "a stunning unfolding of international crises," but what is perhaps more stunning is how the Washington Post has become a shamefully compliant tool of neocon distortion and outright lies. His piece is nothing more than a highbrow attempt to justify the ridiculous claims of people like Sen. John McCain, for example, who recently said that he hasn't seen greater global turmoil in his lifetime than what we are encountering now.
McCain was born in 1936. Perhaps he just plain forgot about, say, the unbridled savagery of the Japanese invasion of China, culminating in the horrifying Rape of Nanking in 1937. Hiatt, McCain and others who speak in this vein perhaps also forgot about the historical cataclysm known as World War II and its aftermath. Perhaps they also forgot about Korea, Vietnam, the Arab-Israeli conflicts ongoing since 1948 and the nuclear arms race of the Cold War when a simple mistake or misjudgment could have sent us into oblivion.
Ah, the good old days, unlike the "far more dangerous world" we now inhabit, as Hiatt ominously closes his piece. This truncated view of history is laughable to the point of tears.
Hiatt's main complaint against the Obama administration is that it did not more forcefully seize the moment to help establish liberal democracy throughout the Muslim countries caught up in the so-called "Arab Spring." Once again he ignores history. It took Christianity about 18 centuries before it succumbed to the virus of liberal democracy. Even though there were some pro-democracy elements involved in the Arab Spring uprisings, most were quickly swept aside by the groups with seventh century mind-sets. Perhaps the most that we can hope for is that Islam, too, will succumb to liberal democratic reforms in a few centuries.
Hiatt trivializes the difficulty of overcoming more than 1,000 years of superstition by saying that "even with different U.S. policies, the Arab Spring might have fizzled." Doubtless the Obama administration has made some egregious errors, but one that it hasn't continued to make is to adopt going to war as the default position of the United States in dealing with international problems.
Tommy Moore, Riverview
A Mideast 30 Years' War July 30, commentary
A matter of survival
To fully understand the conflict in Gaza, it must be considered against the seismic shift of sands in the Middle East. The gut-wrenching scenes of suffering and death should not obscure the real reason for that tragedy. The asymmetry of the civilian casualties and the overwhelming Israeli firepower are indisputable. Yet when viewed through the prism of Hamas' remarkable ability to acquire weapons and its industriousness in building elaborate tunnels to conceal them, and also for infiltration, that asymmetry is really not that stark.
The assets that Israel is using in Gaza are marvels of science and technology developed, admittedly with U.S. help, for the defense of its citizens. Conversely, the rockets that Hamas has been raining on Israel are being supplied by its financial and ideological supporters holed up in five-star hotels in Qatar, Beirut or wherever the destruction of Israel is planned.
The many previous attempts to produce some modicum of permanent peace between the antagonists failed miserably. No one is more aware of those past failures than Israel.
Just like the Islamic Jihad, Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS, who leave death and devastation in their wake, so is Hamas committed to the annihilation of Israel. In its defense and to establish permanent peace, Israel's resolve to degrade, indeed inflict a mortal blow on Hamas, is understandable.
Despite what we witnessing, let us hope peace in that part of the world will eventually prevail.
Jerry Rawicki, St. Petersburg
Apartments rise as downtowns thrive and Harbour Island may get towers | July 24, 27
Risks of overbuilding
Our concern is the overbuilding of downtown Tampa without proper planning. According to the first article, there are six projects for downtown apartments with 2,533 new units to be built. This is in addition to the 397 units just built in Crescent Bayshore. In the second article, focused on Harbour Island, there are plans for an additional 591 new units.
Where are these 3,521 new tenants from Crescent to Channelside going to come from? And where are they going to shop? Where are they going to work? Sustainable environments are built around people living, working and shopping within close proximities. We, the public, have not yet seen the retail and business parts of these plans.
The worst outcome is overbuilding of residential units that go unleased or unsold, which will reduce property values for those of us who have already invested in the downtown resurgence. For many of us, this represents our largest single investment. It is the responsibility of the City Council and the mayor to manage development responsibly to protect current citizens, while permitting progress.
Robert and Christine Gillies, Tampa