Give heroes of Air America their due | Sept. 4, Bill Maxwell column
Retirement pay justly deserved
Bill Maxwell's opinion piece was right on. Thank you for publishing this extremely well reasoned and accurate commentary.
I agree that in these difficult economic times, funding for federal retirement benefits for Air America employees must be economically justified, above and beyond the obvious justification of the extraordinary human courage and sacrifices that were the hallmark of Air America's 25 years of service to our nation.
Some $23 million was returned to the U.S. Treasury following the company's dissolution in the mid 1970s. In today's dollars, that is more than sufficient not only to cover all employee-employer contributions in the Civil Service retirement fund, but also to cover benefits that would be received if retirement legislation were passed by Congress.
Most, if not all, employees would gladly have contributed to the retirement fund if they had been allowed to do so during the period of Air America's operation, but they were prevented from doing so because of the company's covert nature.
Gary B. Bisson, former assistant general counsel, Air America Inc., Winchester, Va.
What was lost in rights
As we pause to honor the memory of those lost in the tragic attacks of 9/11, consider an altogether different tribute — taking a moment to consider the civil rights lost as a result of the Patriot Act.
This year President Barack Obama signed a four-year extension of the Patriot Act. The act dramatically reduced restrictions on law enforcement's ability to search telephone, e-mail communications, medical, financial and other records; eased restrictions on foreign intelligence gathering within the United States; expanded government authority to regulate financial transactions; and expanded the definition of terrorism.
The act even authorized eavesdropping on confidential communications between lawyers and their clients in federal custody. In the name of the war on terrorism, Americans permanently lost countless due process protections.
Charles R. Gallagher III, St. Petersburg
Stay ever vigilant
The tragedy that beset our nation 10 years ago could, according to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, happen again.
Americans tend not to use prevent defense but are reactionary. I am concerned that while we now have a Homeland Security Department and increased security in our airports, ports and on our borders, we still must be very careful not to be lulled to sleep thinking a repeat performance is not in the offing.
A good defense is a good offense, and I implore all our leaders to be ever mindful of this real threat. And for the rest of us, as we go about our daily lives, we must be ever mindful there are bad guys out there just waiting for an opportunity to strike.
John Osterweil, Tampa
Bring back unity of that day
"Let us remember not only the agony of 9/11, but how we channeled our pain into something positive and powerful." Those words were recently tweeted by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. I agree.
Our nation's rallying cry following 9/11 was "never forget," and while we haven't forgotten the terror of that day, the unity we forged in the immediate aftermath of the attacks would be unrecognizable today. It was positive, powerful and, sadly, fleeting.
Today, our leaders and our people are more divided, not less. Our governments in Washington and Tallahassee are fractured, if not completely broken. Common ground is something that many politicians are running from, whereas seeking it was once considered a virtue.
It is appropriate that this 10th anniversary be marked by a somber and reflective mood. However, the very best tribute we can pay to the nearly 3,000 victims and their families is to rededicate ourselves to more problem solving and less point scoring and partisanship.
Let's do it again. And let's never forget.
Florida Rep. Rick Kriseman, District 53, St. Petersburg
Patriot or politician?
On this 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, I ask that all elected officials look deep in their souls and ask: Are you a patriot or a politician? A patriot loves, supports and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion. A politician is more concerned about winning favor or retaining power than about maintaining principles.
I can assure you that the majority of the people want a patriot in office. We are tired of the posturing to win the next election. We want you to do what you were elected to do, and that is to look out for the best interests of the country. So please, forget about Republicans and Democrats and fix this mess.
Sandra K. Smith, Largo
Obama says GOP must back U.S., create jobs Sept. 6
Let trade deals advance
President Barack Obama should act on his own advice and put the country first. He could lead the way by allowing the pending trade deals with Colombia and Panama to move through Congress by dropping his administration's post-negotiation demand to extend elevated funding of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program.
Florida and especially the Tampa Bay area stand to benefit greatly from the increased trade these deals represent. It is indefensible for the administration to hold them up by demanding a payoff first to Democratic allies — through the continued elevated payments into the union-controlled Trade Adjustment Assistance slush fund — before allowing anyone else to reap the benefits that will be produced by the increased commerce that the deals will generate.
J.R. Nicks, Brandon
Role of government, for good or ill | Sept. 7, commentary
Blinkered view of history
Sen. Marco Rubio writes a lovely piece on the Reagan era. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to have a grasp on our country's history that predates the 1980 election.
While Rubio bemoans governmental programs that "weakened us as a people," he should learn why those programs are in place. Before we had a strong central government, we had child labor, unsafe working conditions, unsanitary food and a host of environmental concerns.
Jonathan Davis, St. Petersburg