The sad state of our state | April 3
Florida's loss turns into a gain for Texas
My son was a National Merit Scholar from Palmetto High whose bachelor's and master's degrees came from USF. He completed an MBA and Ph.D. at Stanford and was recently hired to teach at the University of Texas.
He had planned to return to Florida, but FSU and UF could not interview him due to funding shortfalls. His master's thesis from USF was published in a geotechnical engineering journal, and he has three additional journal publications on business strategy in emerging technology industries. Unfortunately, Florida's loss is a gain for Texas.
This is a personal example of what Bob Graham described as Florida's brain drain — a young man educated by Florida taxpayers who will now contribute to economic growth in another state.
John McDonald, Palmetto
Trouble piles up at nuke plant | April 5
Dangers of nuclear power suggest need for alternative
Last week we learned that the Crystal River nuclear plant will be shut indefinitely because of a new crack found in the containment building. In the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan, this is yet another reminder that nuclear power is inherently dangerous and expensive.
The Crystal River plant threatens over 800,000 people living within a 50-mile radius, and has been closed for 18 months while Progress Energy tried to fix another crack. Progress has spent $440 million on replacement power and repairs that will be passed on to ratepayers. Meanwhile, Progress has plans to build two new reactors in Florida at a cost of $22.5 billion.
Crystal River's license expires in 2016, and it is clear from recent events that it should be closed as scheduled. We should phase out nuclear power and invest in safe solutions like clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Renee Hickman, St. Petersburg
Keep bench independent
Several proposed constitutional amendments in the Legislature regarding the Florida judicial system are troubling.
From stripping rulemaking from the Supreme Court and giving it to the Legislature, to eliminating Judicial Qualifications Committee confidentiality, the proposals are unprecedented and can have a harmful effect on us all. Like it or not, we as a society have a level of dependence on the laws in place and how they are carried out. These proposals will affect Florida judges and thus the laws on which our society is based.
This is not new. For the past 10 years or more legislators have been seeking to radically change the Constitution in a manner that would call into question the independence of our judiciary. This cannot be. Attorneys who work diligently on behalf of their clients rely on the impartiality of judges. By enacting many of these proposals, that neutrality so essential to the justice system is called into question.
Politics has its place, but it is not in the judiciary.
Walter "Skip" Campbell, former Florida state senator, Fort Lauderdale
Professors feel blast of intimidation from right | April 3, Bill Maxwell column
Ivory tower ideology
Bill Maxwell's column has me more than bemused. Since when have university professors felt intimidated by the "right"? The majority of faculty members at our major universities are collectivists.
I recall the statement of a professor at Columbia University after the failure of our mission in Somalia that he wished there were a million Mogadishus. Fine spirit!
I am reminded of William F. Buckley's remark of some years ago that he would rather be governed by the first 100 people in the Boston telephone director than by the faculty at Harvard.
Heaven forbid that university faculties have any influence in formulating government policy.
Edmund A. Hamburger, Pinellas Park
What we are seeing in Tallahassee is an ideology of conservative convenience.
Consider that the Legislature is considering a bill that intrudes heavily into the physician-patient relationship, mandating certain interactions in the context of abortion. Contrast this with a bill that bars physicians from asking about the presence of firearms in the home.
Could there be a clearer example of the pragmatic application of the conservative "small" government approach? Our current crop of conservatives believes government should not meddle in the rights of the people — as long as they are rights they agree with. But the intrusion of government into the exercise of rights they disdain — they see no problem there.
Jack Darkes, Temple Terrace
Lessons from history
I wonder if the Republicans in Tallahassee and Washington ever read Will Durant's History of Civilization, in which he summarized the main reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire. One of those reasons was Rome's politics. Durant wrote:
"Men lost faith in the state because the state defended wealth against poverty, taxed toil to support luxury, and failed to protect its people from hunger, disease and poverty. Increased despotism destroyed the citizens' civic sense, and dried up statesmanship at its source. The Senate relapsed into indolence, subservience and venality. Government no longer attracted first-rate men."
Lou Murphy, Kenneth City
Saving lives and jobs
The American Lung Association strongly disagrees with the recent budget proposal made by the Florida House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee that essentially eliminates funding for Florida's biomedical research programs, including the James and Esther King Biomedical Research Program and the Bankhead-Coley Cancer Research Program. These programs fund valuable medical research at facilities across the state and are vital to finding better treatments and cures for tobacco-related illnesses, including lung cancer. The programs have also expanded the state's research capacity and positioned Florida as an international player in this arena.
With Florida's need for job creation and expanding industries, it is important to recruit and retain assets in growing areas including biomedicine and research. Many jobs in Florida depend on these grants, and without them professionals in this field will be forced to seek employment in other states.
Shirley Westrate, American Lung Association, St. Petersburg