U.S. nuclear industry learning from Japan | April 18, commentary
Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima clearly demonstrate what the insurance industry has known all along: Nuclear power is unsafe. The staggering costs of trying to guard against all potential human errors and "acts of God" are a foolish waste of money.
In his column, Jack Ohanian acknowledges that catastrophic accidents are inevitable as long as we operate nuclear plants, yet he wants us to build more. He justifies his position by citing concerns about our economy, the environment, national security, and providing enough base-load electricity for Florida. His concerns are justified; his solution is not.
A nuclear accident in Florida would be devastating. Fortunately we do not need to take that risk. As James Fenton, director of the Florida Solar Energy Center, pointed out in 2008, Florida can save enough electricity through energy efficiency to offset the combined output of 10 nuclear plants. Any demand in excess of that can be generated more economically by distributed solar power, which can be converted into reliable base-load electricity through storage in utility-scale vanadium redox batteries (a proven technology that has been in use since the 1980s). Has anyone ever heard of a solar accident?
Germany has been replacing nuclear power with renewable energy ever since Chernobyl. That policy has resulted in the creation of over 300,000 jobs in the last decade, costing the average German household an extra $3 per month on its utility bills. Progress Energy customers are already paying more than that for a nuclear plant that may never be built.
It is time to demand an end to all government subsidies for nuclear power and fossil fuels. We need a safe and sustainable energy policy.
Thomas Eppes, Thonotosassa
If ever there was a ridiculous decision by a governmental agency, it is the one recently reported concerning the approval of a vaccine that might prolong the life of men with prostate cancer for four months at a cost of $93,000 per patient. And this is to be covered by Medicare, which is already in dire straits. Will future Medicare patients receive no funding because the money was used for such egregious spending?
I'm on Medicare now and greatly appreciate it, although I use very little compared to many. I would not consider a gamble of these proportions to be reasonable for any illness, and this would be compounded by the millions of men with prostate cancer. Does any medical procedure with such low expectations warrant this outlay?
We don't have the money. It's as simple as that. Some decisions require constraint. Let's have sanity involved in our decisions.
Gloria Schultz, Lecanto
Quality keeps plummeting
The cost of cable television keeps rising, but the quality, unfortunately, keeps deteriorating. Infomercials, reality shows and lot of commercials — I didn't sign up for that.
So now I'm joining legions of others and returning to my antenna for reception of a few channels. The saddest realization is that I got more entertainment from five channels 30 years ago than I can get from more than 100 channels today.
Gail Randle, Clearwater
For Fort De Soto, $5 a small price to pay April 19, editorial
Try a $2 fee first
I've lived near Fort De Soto Park for the past five years and have appreciated the beauty of it many times. Each time I pass the gate and my SunPass beeps, I always think to myself that 50 cents is too cheap. However, $5 is too much.
Yes, the park deserves to be better maintained. But when is a tenfold increase ever justified? At $5, many lower-income families will not come. Why not try a reasonable $2 fee, still a big increase, and see how it plays out and affects attendance.
Chris Boyll, St. Petersburg
Cut business subsidies
I've had enough of the rhetoric that says that we're so broke as a nation that we need to cut services to children, old people and the sick.
The United States regularly pays billions in subsidies to businesses. In 2009, we paid over $16 billion in agriculture subsidies. Most of the recipients are not small farmers like my grandparents but huge agribusinesses.
The oil industry, which made $485 billion between 2005 and 2009, also gets subsidies. Even the former chief executive of Shell Oil, John Hoffmeister, says that the oil industry does not need subsidies because of high oil prices. How much do we give to oil companies? About $4 billion a year. Some of these subsidies are from early in the 20th century when the fledgling oil industry needed help getting started.
If we're going to subsidize energy, we need to subsidize sectors like solar and wind power. Paying billions to agribusiness and oil companies when things are tight is not acceptable. Cut these "entitlements" before cutting programs and expenditures that help average folks.
Gregory Byrd, Clearwater
The Florida Legislature began to discuss SB 1122 and HB 7129 this week. Both bills aim to significantly reduce state oversight of development.
I am reminded of the late John D. MacDonald's views on how unchecked development has spoiled Florida as he noted in several novels over 25 years.
In Cinnamon Skin, for example, Travis McGee says: "We're getting a thousand new residents a day. We get 38 million tourists a year. And the rivers and swamps are dying, the birds are dying, the fish are dying. They're paving the whole state."
If this sounds familiar, then push hard on your representatives in the House and Senate to stop these bills.
Cal Branche, Hudson
Tea party tipped on 'Atlas Shrugged' April 14
Self-interest isn't all
A movie has recently come out based on the novel by Ayn Rand portraying a society of supposed misery and wretchedness due to government (of the people) and union (again, of the people) intervention and control. This perspective resonates with tea party fans and sympathizers who view government and worker solidarity as the enemy of free enterprise and creativity.
Those who worship at the throne of unfettered capitalism have little understanding of what life is like from the underside, that is, for those who actually do the work that makes companies profitable for owners and stockholders. I have studied and reflected upon the Scriptures for most of my 62 years, and I can find nothing that comes close to Rand's "rational" self-interest. In fact, the whole point of the scriptures is the central belief that a profound and authentic love of God is directly related to loving others as radically as Jesus did — that is, being willing to sacrifice one's own interests to the point of dying for a fellow human being.
I, for one, don't want to live in a world where corporate success and efficiency is viewed as the end-all and be-all of human endeavor. Such a false faith only blinds us to our own potential for sin and ultimately distorts God's intention for humanity.
John R. Gallo, Ruskin
You, with that ballot! Drop it and freeze! April 19, Howard Troxler column
Voter mandates are simple
Howard Troxler's contention that certain groups are disproportionately affected by requiring a valid ID to vote is ridiculous. Voters can update their address at any supervisor of elections office, post office, library, by mail, or even over the supervisor's website. Is the writer suggesting that some voters are too busy to follow simple instructions or should be given special consideration? That's what it sounds like to me.
Stricter third-party voter registration drive requirements are designed to combat fraud. The writer seems to have forgotten the recent ACORN debacle, and ignores the fact that the requirements will apply to all.
Richard Golden, San Antonio
Red light cameras
Add time to yellow lights
It's my understanding that the camera operators get a payment for each ticket issued. It therefore is in their best interests to optimize this action by shortening the duration of the yellow signal.
Meanwhile, experts say adding three to four seconds to the yellow signal will save more lives than the ticket approach by giving drivers more time to stop.
Asking the fox to watch the chickens is not good business.
Les Milewski, Seminole
Black students left behind | April 17
Focus on individuals
I find it shocking that after years of hard work and effort on the part of black leaders to achieve equality, it is now being suggested that black students in public schools should be treated differently.
Putting educational programs in a public school environment based on catering to specific ethnic or racial groups rather than based on individual needs is a disservice to the community.
At what point do we begin to look at all the factors involved? Are poor teachers and D schools part of the problem? You bet. But holding them solely to blame is a mistake. At some point individuals need to be held accountable for their part of the equation.
I wonder, if in addition to comparisons involving race and Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores, we were to include number of days missed, number of disciplinary actions and amount of parental involvement, we might find some of those factors played a role. These should be addressed by individuals and families prior to the cry that blacks need school programs tailored to them.
Melissa Gray, St. Petersburg
Nothing for the voters
What is it with the Legislature? All the bills I have been reading about have nothing to do with employment or the deficit. The bills are about:
1. Changing voter rules. That doesn't help the average taxpayer; maybe it helps the Legislature.
2. Drug testing welfare recipients. That doesn't help the average taxpayer — it will cost us more money to do the testing.
3. Right to carry a weapon in the open. Why are we talking about this? Will it help find jobs?
4. Splitting the Supreme Court. More judges will get jobs, but it will cost the taxpayers more money.
5. Banning union dues from payroll deductions. That doesn't help teachers, police and firefighters.
6. Lowering business taxes. Florida already ranks No. 5 in favorable business climate.
Why is the Legislature spending so much time on bills that don't help to secure jobs for anyone but themselves?
Mary Lou Bogdan, Sun City Center
After our last dime
We now have yet another perk for the insurance business in the form of legislation that would allow sinkhole coverage only if a house drops into the hole. How often does that happen?
Perhaps we should all hope that the next big sinkhole opens up under the government building in Tallahassee. Then maybe we'd have less to worry about. To those yo-yos: Leave sinkhole insurance alone and do something to help the people, instead of trying to get our last dime.
Carolynne Paul, Brooksville
Why S&P's warning on debt matters | April 19
One of the companies that assured us that mortgage-backed securities were safe investments has downgraded our financial future. Why is anyone still listening to a company with zero credibility?
Warren Klein, Oldsmar
Mainsail Arts Festival
Inspired art of the young
I would like to congratulate the Mainsail Arts Festival volunteers for once again hosting a successful event. There was a wonderful display of many genres from artists around the country as well as hometown favorites.
The display that impressed me the most was Young at Art, a juried show of young artists in Grades 1-12 from Pinellas County schools. These students created amazing works, and I got the impression that their teachers encouraged thinking outside of the lines to help their growth as artists and as students.
What was disappointing was the festival put the Young at Art exhibition tent in an out-of-the-way corner of the park. I found it by accident; I wonder how many of the 40,000-plus attendees missed the exhibition completely?
This was a missed opportunity by the festival to promote and nurture these young artists. I would encourage the festival to next year locate the tent in the middle of the park so attendees can see the wonderful work created by local youths.
Richard Haerther, St. Petersburg