Finally, a government agency is going against a giant lobby: cellphone companies. The move by the National Transportation Safety Board in urging all U.S. states to enact legislation banning not just texting, but any use of cellular phones while driving, is long overdue.
Some states already have texting bans. Not Florida of course — that might just save lives, prevent injuries and lower insurance rates. Heaven forbid the Florida Legislature actually does something for the people of Florida rather than for their moneyed supporters in the cellular industry.
A texting ban alone is not enough. I have seen drivers of 18-wheel trucks on I-75 weaving in and out of their lane only to see them reflected in their outside mirror talking on the phone — as if a CB isn't bad enough. That is dangerous to the extreme.
How many people have to die or be injured before action is taken? Only the voters can overcome collective legislative inertia, and the voters are fighting the money from cell companies.
Purdue professor Fred Mannering says government studies do not account for the "situational" use of cell phones while driving. What possible situation, short of a life-or-death emergency, could warrant someone driving several tons of metal at any speed on any roadway and making or answering a phone call?
Talking on a cellular telephone while driving, no matter where, is bad. Texting on a cellular phone, no matter where, is worse. It is time for someone with some backbone to take action to protect the motoring public from these killers on the road.
While I am no fan of federal intervention into state affairs, I believe the withholding of federal road funds from states that do not pass and enforce legislation prohibiting cellular use in a moving vehicle without some very compelling reason is one solution. Once again it's money that must do the talking.
John Stansbury, Brooksville
Dramatic shifts in views toward guns Dec. 12
Other nations set example
Robin Natanel, the gun owner/enthusiast profiled in this piece, raises a couple of points that are actually central to the argument for gun control.
First, in reference to a hair salon shooting, Natanel says, "If people couldn't get guns at all, yes maybe that would have prevented the shooting. But that's not the world we live in." I think she means the "country we live in." Several First World countries have strict, successful handgun laws.
It's shortsighted to say "that's the way things are" and throw our hands up (no pun intended). If we could see beyond our collective gun sights and dedicate ourselves to a program of handgun restriction and perhaps buybacks — which have proven successful on local levels — we could achieve a future for our grandkids and beyond that is not awash in handguns.
Second, Natanel asks, "And what if I had been there with my gun? What if I could have intervened?" Gun proponents consistently use this argument to conjure scenarios where gun-carrying civilians thwart gun-using criminals on the spot.
But how many shooting crimes have you have heard about in the past year that were successfully averted by civilians with guns? Since 47 percent of households own at least one gun, according to the gun proponents' theory, there should be huge (or at least memorable) numbers of civilians preventing and thwarting gun crimes. But no. They're just committing them.
Peter J. Konowicz, Valrico
Debate on tethering of dogs | Dec. 4
Ban on tethering overdue
Is there an antitethering ordinance in our future in Hillsborough County? Those of us who were at the first meeting, over two years ago, at which this was proposed are in shock that the debate continues. We have been to meeting after meeting. We have been through the County Commission passing it off to an advisory board, where it sat so long that an entirely new board has been appointed. For that matter, it has been under consideration for so long that a new cast of commissioners has been elected. We have had a period of public comment, both online and in person. And yet there seems to be no end in sight as passage is still being debated.
There are clearly special interests at work behind the scenes, and the political process has become a mockery. Meanwhile, the dogs chained in this county continue to suffer. If the goal is to drag this out until proponents of the ordinance give up, that will never happen. In the season of giving, isn't it time to give these animals the best gift of all: a life free of chains?
Julie Hanan, Lutz
'Invented' states are here to stay | Dec. 13, commentary
Looking through history
As a U.N. peacekeeper who served in the Gaza Strip in 1962, I must disagree with Newt Gingrich and to a lesser extent with Michael Kinsley on the contention that Palestine "had to be 'invented' after 1967."
After the Suez crises of 1956, the Israel Defense Force gradually withdrew from the Sinai and the Gaza Strip. Of course, the Sinai was Egyptian territory and reverted to its control. Although the Gaza Strip had not been part of Egypt, President Gamal Abdel Nasser immediately announced that Egypt would "administer" the strip. Nasser's action pre-empted any U.N. thought of controlling the area. Thus, an Egyptian governor and his staff controlled the Gaza Strip and were the official agency in contact with the U.N. Emergency Force.
Possibly because of this, many peacekeepers in the Gaza Strip developed the habit of referring to their indigenous employees and the public as Egyptians. When understood, this would be countered by, "We are not Egyptians; we are Palestinians!" "Palestinian Arabs" was never heard.
One could also examine some of the pre-World War II writings of T.E. Lawrence and see many references to Palestine.
J. Darrach Murray, St. Pete Beach
Hurricane team drops December forecast Dec. 15
Common sense in science
Finally, common sense has prevailed over what should never have been considered serious news: Colorado State University's annual hurricane predictions. These yearly news releases, under the purview of forecasters William Gray and Phil Klotzbach, belong on the horoscope page, or in the odds box in sports.
Not only did Gray and Klotzbach show a disservice to the tenets of meteorology, their predictions — plain and simple — have never been consistently accurate. Let's stick with astute and professional science, and let the amateurs flip a coin to see if it's going to rain tomorrow.
Kurt Loft, Tampa
Recently I received a traffic ticket (my first in 40 years) for not coming (so the officer said) to a complete stop at a traffic sign in my residential community. I paid the $153 fine and completed an online course so as to avoid points on my license.
This ticket caused me to reflect on a couple of things. Why was this law enforcement officer sitting in a very quiet residential neighborhood at 8 p.m. where there is almost no vehicular traffic? Wouldn't the needs of the public be far better served if he was out on patrol?
Early each weekday morning and evening I travel from my home to my office in Tampa along routes 301 and 41. It is frightening to experience the amount of vehicles that are flagrantly violating traffic law by speeding, often 30 miles or more per hour in excess of the speed limit, or passing illegally, or weaving in and out of traffic, or texting and driving. I don't recall seeing a single Hillsborough County sheriff's vehicle at those times in these areas for many months.
It's a small example of what goes on generally in and around greater Tampa every day. Seems to me that more and more people are just driving recklessly and flagrantly violating the law because they know they can get away with it.
David Cheney, Riverview
Tebow's gospel of optimism | Dec. 13
Relationship with God
The exploits of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow have become the topic of the day.
Few, if any, of those offering heated opinions on whether Tebow's religious faith is real and affects his success actually know the young man. I've never met him either, but Tebow has stated that he does not believe God picks winners or losers in sports events. I believe him.
From what I know of him and his faith, Tebow is convinced God wants him to live as he understands that a believer in Jesus Christ should live. The aim is that onlookers would see in him a personal relationship with God that provides forgiveness and an eternal assurance about what really matters in this life and the life beyond.
Adon Taft, Brooksville