I share Sen. Bill Nelson's view that we should continue our space program, but for a more basic reason. For a society to be vibrant, it must have an objective beyond "taking care of its people."
In the past, we had, among other things, "manifest destiny," the transcontinental railroad, putting a man on the moon and returning him safely.
Without a such a goal, we're just another country. Is President Barack Obama's legacy to be the end of American exceptionalism?
Ernest Lane, Trinity
An alternative approach
Your Feb. 6 editorial (Plan for NASA lacks vision) surprisingly failed to mention the widely publicized ongoing consideration at NASA and in the Obama administration of the "DIRECT technology" for U.S. next-generation heavy rockets and crew capsules. Essentially, the DIRECT approach has two parts:
1. Use of already-developed Orion crew capsule technology to replace our expensive, accident-prone space shuttle;
2. Use of existing solid rocket booster technologies and proven shuttle liquid-fueled main engine technologies for virtually all planned U.S. heavy-lift payload needs.
DIRECT provides cost-effective, comprehensive systems for manned missions, unmanned orbital cargo missions and deep space missions. It also provides heavy-lift capabilities in a short time frame (two to three years at most) to minimize the inevitable U.S. near-term dependence on Russian crew capsule transport services. DIRECT can be either government or commercial industry-based and will eventually retain economically crucial jobs at the Cape.
For a good summary and informative links to numerous published reports, your editorial staff and readers can visit Wikipedia and search "DIRECT."
John Kelly, Palm Harbor
Education deserves more
Our country's most important asset is our children! NASA is getting $5.9 billion more over the next five years. Another $1.25 billion goes to the Florida high-speed rail. How much has been allocated for our schools? Interesting as it is, do we really need to know all about space, the moon and Mars?
Important at this moment are the jobs created or continued by these projects, but in the future will we have citizens who are educated enough to perform these jobs? Qualified teachers are not being hired; many schools are crowded; some subjects are axed; hiring of adjunct personnel is limited because of lack of funds. Children are graduating from school who are unable to read a book or to write a sentence.
Are these the engineers and scientists who will be available to fill these jobs, and where will we find the teachers, architects, doctors and nurses, and other professionals?
The education found in many other countries is better than that in some areas of our country. NASA has competed with other nations to remain in the forefront of the space race, but our efforts and finances would be better served to provide for the education of our children.
Renee G. Salzer, Seminole
Having it both ways
Call me a conspicuously consumptive carbon monster. Am I the only one who saw the cosmic irony of James Cameron's piece (Bright path to space exploration, Feb. 9) on space exploration?
His film Avatar sets the bar to a new high for corporation bashing while he has the cheek to hail the private sector as the savior of space travel. Artistic license is having your unobtainium and eating it too!
Gary Harrington, St. Petersburg
A recipe for sprawl | Feb. 6, commentary by Karl Nurse
Environmental groups back Hometown Democracy
The environment had a strange "defender" in Karl Nurse in the Feb. 6 Times. Nurse, who is the local coordinator for the effort to defeat the Hometown Democracy Amendment, claims the amendment would adversely affect the state's ability to protect the environment. This argument is perverse because it is Nurse's supporters who are the greatest threat to the destruction of Florida's natural beauty, wildlife and wetlands.
Developers eat up wetlands (e.g. Lexington Oaks in Pasco County), cause environmental damage so bad millions of taxpayer dollars must be spent to correct problems (e.g. $490 million to fix the Kissimmee River), and cause road congestion so onerous uncounted billions of tax money is necessary to improve roads. By electing their friends to city and county governments with large amounts of campaign funds, developers are able to control decisions that have led to this environmental degradation.
The Growth Management Act of 1985 was designed to protect the environment. But developer-friendly governments have systematically eroded or ignored these protections (e.g. the citizens of Nassau County had to raise $50,000 to successfully prevent large-scale development of conservation wetlands near Amelia Island).
There is a long list of environmental groups that support Hometown Democracy. The Florida Sierra Club has endorsed it and its Growth Management Committee has made passage of the amendment one of its priorities. Also in support are the Florida Wildlife Federation, Environment Florida, Florida Public Interest Research Group, Florida Consumer Action Network, Alliance to Protect Water Resources, Environmental & Land Use Law Center, Friends of the Everglades, Save the Manatee Club, Student Environmental Association, Wetlands Alert, and local Audubon and Sierra groups.
Nurse makes the specious claim that Amendment 4 will make pristine lands vulnerable to development. The opposite is true as the public will be able to decide if it wants a big-box store to replace a forest or a housing development on conservation wetlands or high rises on the waterfront. Hometown Democracy will give voters a voice they do not have. And that is something Nurse's group fears.
Robert M. Weintraub, chairman, Growth Management Committee, Florida Chapter, Sierra Club
Amendment 4 repairs official failings Feb. 9, letter
Democracy can fail, too
The letter writer is correct in many ways, but here are the big problems/flaws with democracy:
1. A majority of registered voters don't vote. If you don't vote, you don't get to complain. I recall an election where 52 percent of the registered voters did not vote. That means that "vote not placed" won. The only reason good reason I know of to not vote is that you are dead. This is where democracy fails.
2. There is a multitude of ways to speak/contact your elected officials and tell them your concerns. If you don't contact them how are they suppose to speak for you? Have you contacted you representative? This is where democracy fails.
3. Many voters make choices without proper research. Remember the high-speed rail debacle? "Yes we want high-speed rail. Whoa! How much does it cost? Never mind." Complaining about all the cutbacks and layoffs in local government? Did you vote for Amendment 1? Didn't think about the effects it would have except getting your taxes reduced? I got back 65 bucks. Divide that by 12 and you get $5.42 a month. I had no problem paying that. Now I'm going to end up paying more for fees on things that use to be free and my services are going to be less. This is where democracy fails.
I agree with the letter writer, but the message fails to recognize one important issue. Everyone has to participate in order for a true democracy to work. Are you participating?
T. W. Funari, St. Petersburg
The system must change
Call it what you like — congressional initiatives, earmarks or just plain corruption — the present system stinks to high heaven. As Steve Ellis is quoted in Sunday's St. Petersburg Times "Earmarks are a petri dish for corruption."
It is long past due to stop the system of earmarking pet projects by senators and congressmen. Earmarks need to be replaced by a system that is open, honest, merit-based, and independently evaluated.
Our government should be forced to live on a budget that is balanced, most of the time. Government departments should be allocated available funds based on priorities established by the department, the president and Congress. Legislative committees and the president, in consultation with the requisite department and that department's procurement procedures, should determine what the allocated funds are spent on. Expenditures should not be made on the bases of what one particular senator or congressman wants.
There is nothing wrong with a legislator recommending a particular procurement. But that suggestion should be also be evaluated and recommended by the affected department and the cost deducted from the department's established budget. Furthermore, the recommendation should be purchased in accordance with the department's established procurement procedures, presumably by competitive bid as opposed to sole-source acquisition.
Until America changes its corrupt practice of legislators earmarking pet projects, we are going to continue to see front-page articles like Lobbyist has edge in ties to Young.
Willson Edwards, St. Petersburg
Give independents a primary voice | Feb. 7
Just switch parties
The letter writer wants self-proclaimed independents to be allowed to vote in primary elections for both parties.
If any independent wants to do so, the solution is quite simple: Just register as a member of the political party that the candidate they favor belongs to. This enables a previously independent voter to have a voice in the primary election process.
Voters are free to support any candidate they want in a general election, regardless of whether they are registered as an independent or a member of a specific party. And they are free to switch their party affiliation before each primary election season if they so choose.
But opening a primary election to independents and other nonparty members invites potential mischiefmakers to organize efforts to defeat one party's potentially strong candidate in order to increase the chance of victory for the opposing party's nominee.
That is an unacceptable outcome for any fair-minded person. And that, in combination with the proposition that party members — not outsiders — ought to be able to select the nominees they prefer is why I believe independents should not have a voice in the primary election process.
After all, they choose to identify themselves as independents rather than partisans. There is a cost associated with that choice!
Hal Alterman, Clearwater
Look at benefits, too | Feb. 9, letter
It's not a free ride
I read with interest the letter regarding the "Cadillac" health care plans and retirement packages for federal employees.
The author of that letter seems to suggest that both active and retired federal employees receive all of these benefits at no cost, except to taxpayers (which we are as well). The letter writer should know that both active and retired federal employees pay their fair share for these so-called "Cadillac" health benefits. Federal employees also pay into their retirement system.
So to suggest that we receive all of these benefits gratis is patently false.
John Whalen, Apollo Beach
Let freedom win | Feb. 6, letter
Free to choose
I am slightly confused. The letter writer is upset because there are those of us who feel the Tebow ad is inappropriate for showing during the Super Bowl. He is speaking about freedom of speech.
I am speaking of the basic freedom we should all have over what should be the very private right to make decisions about our own lives. Those of us who are prochoice — and that doesn't mean antilife — feel that this decision is ours to make, and shouldn't be dictated by those who hold a different belief. We don't all agree when life begins, and why must I give up the right to decide whether or not bringing a child into the world is in the best interest of that child.
Mrs. Tebow made a decision that was right for her, even thought her doctor said that there may be dire consequences. The operative words here are that she made that decision — no one came and told her that she must have an abortion.
The sad part of this is that people who hold the "no abortions under any circumstances, except maybe rape or incest, and maybe not even then" won't even consider the fact that they are making the rules for everyone. Can we switch things around a little and say that you must abort that fetus because we who are prochoice say so? How ridiculous!
Mrs. Tebow was extremely fortunate and I am very happy for her, even if her son had not become a superstar. If he had been physically or mentally disabled, it would still have been her choice.
Marie Chapman, Palm Harbor
Let freedom win | Feb. 6, letter
Really allow all views
Sadly, state Sen. Mike Bennett evidences an affliction that is all too common these days: He asks when we got to where only one point of view matters and then proceeds to seeing the world from only his own position and defining rights only in terms of behaviors with which he agrees.
Although in a position of some responsibility where he could make a difference in how our nation views "freedom" and each others' point of view, he chooses his own myopic view and the jargon of conflict in the guise of egalitarianism.
Two examples from the many he provides: No matter how often people like the senator say it, no one is proabortion (and how is that not an example of the tendency he decries?). The issue is choice, an issue that has been decided by the Supreme Court. The debate is just as clearly one of antichoice and prochoice. Mrs. Tebow had a choice (at least that is the scenario presented). The senator seems to prefer a world where that choice was made for her.
Secondly, the senator prefers only one interpretation of the conflict over this ad. Such devotion to freedom was apparently not important when CBS refused to run previous advocacy ads. If freedom is to win, then it must always win; why can CBS choose to limit that freedom, refuse ads that support other causes, such as past antiwar ads or current ads demonstrating alternative lifestyles?
Senator, if you believe in freedom, then you must support all points of view being presented.
Jack Darkes, Temple Terrace
Tebow Super Bowl ad
Why all the fuss?
What was all the fuss about?
I saw a woman talking about a difficult pregnancy and her pride in her son.
Maybe the message was: Don't believe everything you hear from those feminists who want to censor this side of the debate.
Marguerite Harter, Seminole