Up in arms over Obama's little dip | Feb. 3, story
President was showing courtesy and respect
Courtesy has become a rarity in our country. Since when does gentlemanly behavior become a "weakness"? When President Barack Obama bowed his head to Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio or to Japanese dignitaries, he was demonstrating respect and courtesy, a gesture applied the world over by people of good upbringing and good will toward their fellow men.
We seem to relate more to thugs than to gentlemen these days. How are we ever going to educate our future generations? All we hear is criticism, smears, accusations and finger-pointing. Let's rise above it, shall we? If only for our own self-respect and dignity.
Lucile N. Drew, Oldsmar
Pointless, snarky critics
For goodness sake, where does the pettiness end? It seems that President Barack Obama's every tic or squirm is fodder for the naysayers, the radio and television bloviators and any so-called Obama-watchers. One thinks that they have no other life. If so, please get one. If our president wants to shake the Tampa mayor's hand, and leans into her, and even bows, so what?
If they have some constructive criticism, or suggestions about the state of our nation, please elucidate. Otherwise, I wish they would keep their gossip and snarky remarks to themselves or to their like-minded friends. Do they work for National Enquirer, or some other rag?
Please deliver us from this trash.
Lilyan V. Dayton, New Port Richey
A gesture of politeness
In times past, a polite gentleman, when introduced to a lady, would tip his hat, a gesture that involved lowering the head, sometimes a slight bend at the waist if the lady was short.
Men don't wear hats much anymore, but polite gentlemen still go through the motion, a gesture of respect. These days few people practice politeness so they don't recognize it when they see it.
Michael D. Mitchell, Tampa
Do something useful
The conservative blogosphere better consider learning manners! To the rest of the educated world a small bow in front of a lady is considered "good manners."
It's too bad Barack Obama did not kiss Mayor Pam Iorio's hand. They really would have freaked out!
I suggest if blogs like Ace of Spades, Redstate.com and the rest of those jokers have so much time on their hands that they can waste it about nothing, they should do some community work.
Ursula Yanno, Seminole
It is such a shame that most everyone in life finds it necessary to criticize. Manners of all kinds have been lost in this world, and maybe that is why this world is in the shape that it is in. Respect seems to be a thing of the past.
When was the last time that a "thank you, sir, or ma'am" was spoken to the young man or woman who gave you your order at a restaurant or handed you your bagged groceries at the grocery store? Are we above that ?
Common courtesy and respect, for the most part, are not part of our lifestyle anymore, and for that I am sorry. The president was merely motioning that it is nice to meet you. It is called body language. That does not make him weak, just respectful of another person.
Donna Kroll, Dunedin
Pay, oversight at issue at missing kids center Jan. 25
Don't be misled by report on center for missing children
Several tabloid-style headlines were used to promote a story about the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children which incorrectly implied pay and oversight issues. The story that followed was equally misleading.
First, I serve as the president of two separate organizations that have different missions, separate staffs and their own boards — one domestic and one global. I am a co-founder of NCMEC and have served as president for 21 years. I have served as president of the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children for 12 years.
I did not make $1.3 million in 2008. What organizations report on the 990 form is complex and confusing even to tax experts. I received a salary of $365,000 as president of NCMEC and a salary of $145,000 as president of ICMEC. I receive no bonuses or perks that other CEOs receive and none of my compensation is paid with federal money.
Other items reported as compensation included medical and life insurance premiums paid by my employer and the actual cost of medical claims paid for me and my family. Nearly half of the compensation reported was for more than 20 years of retirement contributions. I am 64. As retirement amounts vest, they get reported on the 990 a second time, even though the amount was already reported as compensation in a previous year.
Second, NCMEC is not a government agency. It is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. We receive federal funds for specific programs, and private support enables us to do much more. Four hundred companies disseminate missing child photos, and others provide cutting-edge technology and free access to public record databases. A government agency would never receive the donated support that we do. The cost for a government agency to replicate what we do would increase the budget by millions.
Ernie Allen, president and CEO, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Alexandria, Va.
Tebow Super Bowl ad
Let freedom win
I'm mad! Various groups of every color and flavor have weighed in on the controversial Tebow Super Bowl ad. Now I feel compelled to speak out for freedom. Our military men and women fight and die every day for our freedoms — including freedom of religion and speech.
CBS is charging $2 million-plus to run a 30-second Super Bowl ad about abortion. Or depending on your point of view, it might be an ad about life. The commercial stars Tim Tebow and his mother. When Mrs. Tebow was pregnant with Tim, an abortion, for health reasons, was recommended. Obviously she declined. Now, all the proabortion groups are trying to force CBS to cancel the ad.
What is wrong with Americans? When did we decide that only one point of view (mine or yours) matters? Prochoice or prolife, everyone in this country is supposed to be able to express their beliefs freely.
No one is fighting with CBS for running beer commercials, Viagra commercials, or for violent programming. But let a young man stand up for his principles and try to express good American values and we want to cry foul.
Tim Tebow is an inspiring young man (albeit a Gator). With the state of our economy and the morale of our people, don't we need to be inspired?
Tim Tebow has inspired me to speak out in support of our rights and, while I am at it, I want to advocate for a return to traditional American values of limited government, free enterprise, strong families, national security and all of the freedoms under our Bill of Rights. Let's restore the Founding Fathers' vision of a free nation, guided by the honesty, common sense, and the good will of its citizens.
So in that vein, let the game (and the ads) begin! Let's have a touchdown (or several) for freedom, honesty, common sense and good will toward one another, and stop trying to run interference. Whether you are a Colts fan or a Saints fan or whether you agree with me or not, let freedom ring. When that happens, we are all super winners!
Michael S. "Mike" Bennett, state senator, District 21
We have other needs
We're talking about $1.25 billion, folks, not million, but billion, and that only covers about half the cost. Where does the rest come from?
We have been under watering restrictions across the state for as long as I can remember because we do not have enough clean, potable water. But we will have a bullet train.
Our reservoir in Hillsborough County needs millions of dollars to be fixed. But we will have a bullet train.
Our desal plant goes off line and needs fixing every few months. But we will have a bullet train.
Many from our municipalities, our teachers, firefighters, and police across the state have been let go, benefits cut, no decent raises in years because of budgets. But we will have a bullet train.
Many additional state agencies have cut or eliminated key projects, basics that help schools and the less fortunate. But we will have a bullet train.
The mere mention of a storm brings power outages, threats about the power grid falling apart, and our bills, which we can't afford, keep going up. But we will have a bullet train.
Our state-run homeowners insurance company says it can't afford all of us, that it can't keep costs low. But we will have a bullet train.
Can't we spend this money on more strategic needs?
Greg Fudala, Largo
Rethink rail plans
Please tell me why cutting a half hour off the train trip to Orlando will cause people to flock to this method of travel? It will still take a lot of time to get to the train stations, wait for the train and hope it isn't late, and then wait for a bus or hire a taxi or car at the destination in order to get around town.
It will take a while for Florida to make the switch to rail as the primary mode of travel. It will take more than a rail line with high ticket prices and public subsidies to make it more convenient than a car.
With that in mind, it makes sense to simply upgrade the present Amtrak line to Orlando which then would allow the present trains to go 110 mph. That's pretty impressive and it is a lot less expensive than creating a whole new line. So be smart and use what we have now, save money on that route and then distribute the rest of the stimulus money to each major metropolitan region so we can all create a central mass transit line that will eventually feed into a whole network of Florida rail lines.
And please stop thinking that expanded bus service, even with dedicated lanes, will lure people to mass transit. Buses are terrible and nobody really rides them unless they have no choice, especially our tourists.
How many of the public officials who keep trying to sell us on using buses actually ride them? Chances are, most of them are in cars paid for by the taxpayers and when they take a train, they can hire a taxi and include it as a business expense, again, on the taxpayers' tab.
Jeannie Cline, St. Petersburg
Watch your wallets
To call this a boondoggle is an understatement. I may have missed it but I have not seen any studies specifying how many people travel I-4 from Tampa to Orlando on a daily or weekly basis, and how many would ride a train instead. Simply because I-4 is busy does not necessarily mean every driver is going to Orlando.
The ones who are will need transportation to get to the train and transportation once they arrive in Orlando. This isn't New York where once you depart a train or subway you can walk to your destination.
I haven't seen this mentioned in the "shovel ready" details, but who will pay for the secondary transportation needs, like buses? I'll give you one guess, and it isn't Washington. Who will pay for the maintenance, workers' salaries, and other costs associated with running this fantasy train? You and I will!
If you think it will pay for itself, just look at the train in South Florida that those citizens have been subsidizing for years with their tax dollars. Listen to the pols with the twinkle in their eyes telling you how many jobs this project will create, albeit temporarily. Listen to them tell you what a great thing this is for Florida. Then watch as your tax bill rises to pay for it with no benefit to you!
Don Mott, Largo
Looking for benefits
Rail advocates would do well to work on their "what's in it for you" talking points. Federal taxpayers in Hillsborough County did not get a vote on their money going to a high-speed rail line, which for us only stops in downtown Tampa.
We will, however, get a tax vote on light-rail that is also Tampa-centric. Please be ready to explain why the good citizens of unincorporated south Hillsborough should fund economic development and transportation enhancements for the city of Tampa.
Fred Jacobsen, Apollo Beach
Say no to profits
The politicians and bureaucrats all swear that safety is the only reason for red-light cameras and that revenue enhancement has nothing to do with it.
Okay, fine. Lets do this: Install red-light cameras at all dangerous intersections. At the end of the year, deduct enough to cover administration and maintenance costs, then donate the rest to the American Cancer Society.
Sam Pannill, Largo
Crash led toyota to step up accelerator inquiry | Feb. 1, story
Shift to neutral
After reading your story about the crash that led Toyota to step up its accelerator inquiry, I had to ask myself, "What kind of driver training does the California Highway Patrol give its officers?"
This is a horrific tragedy that more than likely could have easily been avoided. Four grown adults in this car and none of them had the sense to simply put the car's transmission in neutral?
Regardless of how the engine is accelerating, if the car's transmission is in neutral the engine will have no effect on the car. The car will simply coast to a safe stop.
If this was an inexperienced 16-year-old or a feeble 96-year-old behind the wheel, I could understand such a tragic outcome. In the time it took this CHP officer to dial 911, he could have put the car in neutral and coasted to a safe stop or, he could have applied his parking brake once the racing engine had been separated from the transmission.
H. Clay Walkup, Tampa
Phone hazards remain
Texting while driving is a more-than-obvious danger, but please don't downplay the risk of simply talking on a cell phone while driving.
The DOT points to a National Safety Council estimate that cell phones cause 1.4 million crashes a year, according to the Wall Street Journal. Hands-free phones do not lessen the problem.
Thomas L. Miller, Clearwater
I wonder if anyone in the Pinellas County administration read the Parade magazine that came with the Jan. 24 Times.
There was a very interesting article on reducing government costs. It was titled "Can merging metro areas cut costs?"
Certainly Pinellas is a prime area for consolidation. With its 24 local governments and almost 1 million population, consideration should be given to making Pinellas one city.
According to the article several other areas are considering merging operations. Why not Pinellas?
Art Wilkins, Port Richey