Facing hard reality in Afghanistan | Feb. 17, Perspective
History lessons from Afghanistan
Whether readers agree or not with Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis' assessment of our situation in Afghanistan, they might be interested in Frank Holt's book, Into the Land of Bones. Historian Holt lays out the historical account of Alexander the Great's 3rd century B.C. attempt to conquer that country. His was the first of the four world superpowers, to include Britain, Russia and the United States, to attempt such a feat. It's an informative and fascinating read. His research led Holt to remark that "victory is the proud parent of vengeance in the wars of Afghanistan."
George Stovall, St. Petersburg
It's right to hold S&P's feet to fire Feb. 18, editorial
Early warning on S&P
Readers might like to be reminded that columnist Robyn Blumner first brought the question of Standard & Poor's failure to our attention some five years ago. She asked how the ratings agencies could remain in business after such an abject failure.
Her column was in January 2008. Months later, you carried a New York Times piece on the same theme. Kudos to Blumner and the Tampa Bay Times.
David Cadogan, Gulfport
A minimum wage that beats poverty Feb. 17, Robyn Blumner column
Robyn Blumner's remarks about how little Speaker John Boehner cares about the struggles of average people are unwarranted. And her idea, that every job can be a good job, is unrealistic.
As a 90-year-old who has lived through the Depression, I can tell you that any job that was available was a good job. Our ambitions may have been thwarted, but we worked at whatever was available. Every young boy I knew had a newspaper route, or delivered groceries, or washed cars, or acted as a helper for some local tradesman. No job was too small or demeaning.
In today's atmosphere of entitlements I see a generation of working-age men and women who are totally dependent upon the government and their overly protective parents for the manner in which they live.
Watching TV, playing video games, and texting their friends without purpose is their unproductive pastime.
Orfeo Trombetta, Seminole
Hurts the low-skilled
Economists disagree about the overall relationship between the minimum wage and employment. There is, however, near consensus that it negatively impacts the low-skilled, mainly the young and minorities. Many also agree that minimum wage mandates frustrate the aim of obtaining a living wage since employers pass on the costs, which makes goods and services even less obtainable by the working poor.
J.P. Byrne, Largo
Give little guy a break
Every time someone proposes an increase to the minimum wage, naysayers cry that Armageddon is around the corner. And when the minimum wage is raised there's not a whimper to be heard from the economic landscape. Businesses small and large seem to manage, continue to thrive, and the little guy gets a break.
It is an embarrassment that the greatest nation on the planet can't manage to ensure a semblance of a living wage to its citizens. I've seen the trials and tribulations of many working poor: single moms, retirees and laid-off workers struggling to make ends meet. Many of our leaders champion the trickle-down effect of corporate tax breaks, but what about introducing a "trickle-up" strategy?
Robyn Blumner's column is the first time I have heard this concept even suggested. She cites research that counters the claim that raising the minimum wage is a job killer. In reality the opposite is true. Put more money in the pockets of minimum wage workers, who in turn buy more stuff, spur the economy, and more stuff gets sold and more jobs are created. Let's fly the "Trickle-Up" banner.
Roz Fenton, Hudson
The secret to fixing bad schools Feb. 17, commentary
Three simple steps
This column ought to be a must-read for Florida politicians. It tells the story of how Union City, N.J., remarkably improved its schools by doing three simple things. First, every child receives two years of prekindergarten, leveling the playing field for the haves and the have-nots. Second, the city improved its schools, not by new tests, higher graduation requirements, or top-down curriculum mandates, but by trusting its own teachers to develop curriculum. And third, teachers were allowed to build lessons and units reflecting the best in their own training — learning-by-doing, rather than quick-fix "back to basics," rote learning, and teach-to-the test methodology.
In case the point has been missed, the Union City approach is as different from the road Florida is taking as day is different from night. I'll put my money on Union City's approach any day.
Stephen Phillips, St. Petersburg
Thinkers, not test-takers
This commonsense column from David Kirp should be required reading for Gov. Rick Scott, all Florida legislators, and all public and private school boards and officials.
Not everyone can go to Union City, N.J., to see firsthand their good public education results, but we can read about it. As the article says, "To succeed, students must become thinkers, not just test-takers."
Esther Kirk, Riverview
A day in the park, with 'spice' | Feb. 17
Last Sunday's front-page feature is one more reason I love this paper. The writing of John Woodrow Cox is akin to poetry. What an incisive yet compassionate portrait of the drug- and alcohol-addicted residents of Williams Park.
I understand why the city would want to repurpose the park but also, through the eyes of this reporter, understand how the occupants would not want to leave. The customs and actions of those who reside there are the everyday patterns of their lives. Is there a solution? I wonder.
Victoria Najjar, Oldsmar