I am advising all my friends and contacts to boycott the airlines. It is ridiculous that the U.S. government will not allow American citizens to travel freely about their own country (via air, anyway) without either showing their naked body to a Transportation Security Administration officer (full-body scan) or having the officer grope their private areas.
We are at war to supposedly protect our freedoms from those who do not value our rights as individuals. What good are our efforts if our own government is going to take away our rights before the terrorists can get around to it?
Fight for freedom by driving to your destination, or taking a bus or train, or just taking a "staycation" instead of a vacation. Fly only if you absolutely have to. Otherwise, get in your car and drive freedom road!
Paul R. Silveira, Tampa
Bureaucracy's to blame
It's important to keep in mind that a Sept. 11-type attack cannot happen again. Pilots carry guns, and the cockpit doors are locked, armor-clad and bulletproof. So, yes, a person may blow up one plane, but he can't use the plane as a weapon.
The "underwear" bomber boarded the plane outside the United States. It's silly that people who board planes in the United States get patted down while many of those outside do not.
There are highly qualified and highly intelligent people who work for the TSA. Unfortunately, many are not. This does not reflect on TSA but every large federal department (think IRS). These people just want to do their job and go home. They are told not to think about the big picture, and they simply follow the rules/procedures they are given. This is how all sorts of idiotic situations occur.
William Carey, Clearwater
A free-market approach
Imagine that we lived in a land of totally free markets devoid of governmental meddling. The residents of this "Libertyville" would never unwillingly be subjected to the wandering, groping hands and nudie picture surveillance techniques being used by our TSA agents.
In Libertyville's free-market system, airlines would compete on all the traditional metrics of cost and service but also on varying levels of screening techniques.
Let's say you're the weak-kneed type, afraid of your own shadow. You could choose to fly Chicken Little Airlines, where you would be subjected to every groping, feeling, prodding, picture-taking, body-cavity-searching technique invented. They would have cameras everywhere to ensure the maximum amount of supervision you need to feel safe and secure on your flight.
If you are of more hardy stock, you could choose to fly Locked and Loaded Airlines, where they would dispense with of all the pseudo-safety techniques of Chicken Little Airlines. There would be no scanners, no nude pictures and no groping. You could even (you guessed it) bring guns on board the plane.
All of this might sound a bit outrageous, since eliminating TSA is like putting toothpaste back in the tube. But let's imagine for a moment that you're a wild-eyed terrorist intent on committing sin. What airline would you choose to try your luck: Chicken Little Airlines, with planes full of weak-kneed types who have been stripped of all means to foil your plan; or Locked and Loaded Airlines, full of gun-wielding pistoleros intent on putting a quick end to any tomfoolery?
Roy Jones, Palm Harbor
Screeners are professional
I have a medical device in my body, so I have to go through the patdown process each time I fly. I have always found those doing this very professional. They tell you what they are going to do before they do it. I guess I don't see how privatizing this will help — other than making some companies rich. I think that they do a fine job now and the whiners need to get over it.
Ross P. Alander, Tampa
Much too intrusive
Several articles in your paper regarding the new scanners have presented the scenarios as scanner vs. patdown. I recently traveled to Washington, D.C., through Tampa International Airport and was subjected to both, as well as having my hands swabbed with a wipe.
The patdown was conducted in public and far more intrusive than I'd ever imagined. I have no idea why I was selected for the scan or the patdown. I'm a middle-aged woman with nothing to hide, but the process left me feeling like a criminal.
This type of screening won't give us a higher level of security, especially when baggage handlers in Miami are suspected of taking bribes to load unscreened bags onto planes.
The only people this methodology benefits are the manufacturers of the scanners and the companies that hire people to operate them.
Sandra Mutolo, Lutz
Modesty we can't afford
As a longtime member of the American Civil Liberties Union, I think its well-intentioned campaign against some of the latest airport body searches may need a reality review.
These security measures are not what the constitutional admonition against "unreasonable searches" was intended to prevent. Should a disaster occur that one of these admittedly unpleasant procedures might have prevented, the ACLU will be endlessly and perhaps justifiably vilified.
Lighten up, folks: Traditional notions of modesty may be one of the luxuries we can no longer afford, and a small price to pay if even one Lockerbie can be avoided.
Phil Evans, Largo
Get Israel involved
There have been many reports of dissatisfaction and outright anger with the airport security process. The anger and dissatisfaction should be directed at our government, not the TSA employees. These folks are your friends and neighbors and with few exceptions are doing what they are ordered to.
Immediately after 9/11, I wrote to the Bush administration and many members of Congress urging them to get Israel to design and help implement our security system. Of course this would have been sensible, but our government rarely does anything sensible. It's not too late to get the Israelis on board and come up with an effective and likely very less costly approach.
Frederick Savalli, Clearwater
A modest proposal
I have been listening to people complaining about the new full-body scanner being used at some airports. I think I have a solution.
We develop a booth that the passenger steps into, not for scanning but to automatically detonate any explosive device hidden on or in his/her body. If there is an explosion, it will be contained within the sealed booth.
Passengers wouldn't have to take their shoes off or empty their pockets, and could take their carry-on inside with them.
Can you see it now? You're in the airport terminal and you hear a slightly muffled explosion. "What was that?" you ask yourself.
Shortly thereafter, an announcement comes over the PA system: "Custodial service, scanner cleanup in Section 11," followed by, "Attention standby passengers: We now have a seat available on flight number …"
Just a thought.
Richard Golden, San Antonio
Try revamping our tax system | Nov. 21, letter
No savings here
According to the letter writer, the theory is that the universal exchange tax would benefit U.S. citizens by lowering individual taxes and putting a greater burden on businesses. That is inaccurate.
First, the cost to produce products and services is a major factor in the pricing of them. If you add a cost to every transaction needed to create a product, the price of the product is going to increase.
Therefore, you won't be able to buy that $1,000 big-screen TV for $1,000. It would cost maybe $1,300. So instead of paying a 7 percent sales tax of $70, the consumer would pay an extra $300. And that increase would apply to everything: food, electricity, oil, entertainment, medical supplies and medical services.
Second, the letter writer said the UET would generate $4 trillion to $5 trillion in revenue. The excess money would not just magically appear; it would be extracted from the citizenry.
UET? No thanks. I could not afford that kind of "savings."
Greg D'Amario, Largo
Social Security | Nov. 21, Perspective
The articles "Social Security? It'll be fine," and "Securing Social Security" agreed that the fiscal problems of this bedrock, government-run retirement program are solvable.
However, neither article nor any public official is discussing what is arguably the biggest travesty of all with the program: the fact that the retirement benefits that participants earn by paying FICA payroll taxes during their working lifetime aren't monetary assets they own. Thus the benefits cannot be passed on fully to heirs (like individual retirement accounts can).
This fundamental characteristic of the program ends up cheating people on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale.
The problem could be fixed by creating a true Social Security retirement trust fund for every participant into which their contributions are deposited. This approach would also have the salutary effect of imposing greater fiscal discipline on Congress by preventing legislators from raiding individual retirement funds to pay for general expenses of the federal government.
Donald Wheeler, St. Petersburg
Advanced Placement classes
Sometimes, hill is too steep
As a retired teacher of 36 years, I have concerns about the Advanced Placement program. In the past I have taught AP U.S. history and AP European history. Additionally, I worked with the AP organization when I ran summer teacher institutes that offered one- and two-week training classes for teachers who were beginning to teach an AP class or who wanted to improve their existing class.
The curriculum for the AP disciplines are demanding and for the most part well designed. Schools should be careful in urging students to sign up for these classes. There is no educational value in placing students in a class where there is little chance for them to succeed. Sure, talented and motivated teachers can do wonders, but sometimes the hill is too steep to climb. Student confidence comes from success, not failure.
Finally, it is well to remember that the AP organization is a profitmaking business and it is in its best interest to sell as many exams as possible. Schools should think carefully about starting such a program and which students should be part of it.
John Wynne, Dunedin
A few of her favorite things | Nov. 21
Paintings bring joy
Sunday is my preferred day for just reading, lolling around and enjoying the Times.
On Sunday, Lennie Bennett made my day. The pictures of all the glorious paintings available to us in our area were a delight to behold.
She chose three of my favorites, too. We have a print of Pablo Picasso's Basket of Bread in our living room, and on numerous visits to Leepa-Rattner, I always drift over to the portrait of Bettina Bedwell. It's so real, evocative and sweet. The Church Entrance tells a complete history.
If anyone has missed these as well as hundreds of others, trek on down. They are ready for you to soak up and enjoy.
Lilyan V. Dayton, New Port Richey