Knock down U.S. barriers to Cuba | Jan. 31, editorial
Focus on Cuban rights violations
It is unconscionable that your editorial pushing for expanded U.S. diplomatic ties with Cuba fails to even mention Cuba's dismal human rights record, and in particular the unjust imprisonment of former U.S. subcontractor Alan Gross. Arrested in 2009, Gross is serving a 15-year prison sentence on bogus charges of passing "spy" equipment, i.e., telecommunications capability, to Cuba's tiny Jewish community aimed at putting them in touch with family and friends on the mainland.
While it is true that the U.S. has diplomatic relations with other "bad actors" in the human rights arena such as China and Saudi Arabia, we certainly have more clout with Cuba due to its dire economic situation and geographic proximity. The president has already given Cuba a free gift with his reversal of Bush-era travel restrictions. Why offer more incentives without first getting this minor concession — the freeing of an innocent American citizen — from our island neighbor purportedly seeking improved and expanded relations?
Evelyn Schreiber-Steckler, Safety Harbor
Path to a more secure retirement: myRA Jan. 31, commentary
Savings accounts exist for those who want them
I don't believe the waitress holding down two part-time jobs, the recent graduate now working, or the janitor who was never given the chance to invest in a retirement account need a new investment vehicle to help them save for retirement. Something very similar already exists. It's called a savings bank.
Maybe it would sound more attractive if we called it mySB. You don't need much money to open a savings account and you can add as little or as much as you can afford each payday. Most employers today have the capability to direct deposit a portion of an employee's net pay to a checking or savings account, or both. I don't see how myRA is going to change saving habits.
Richard Chichetti, Apollo Beach
Opening a can of worms
In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama stated his intention to create a plan that will help the average American save more money for retirement. That is a fine idea — so far, so good.
In a column later that week in your paper, Jacob Lew, secretary of the treasury, put some meat on the bone. As usual with the Obama administration, this is where things start to come apart at the seams.
According to Lew, the adorably named myRA will allow a worker to contribute as little as $5 per week to a plan that will be administered by Washington and be invested in Treasury securities. Further, a participant may withdraw the funds, tax-free, at any time.
What is wrong with this? Let me count the ways. First, an investment solely in Treasury securities by anybody but the very elderly is too conservative to meet any meaningful retirement goals. Returns on this investment will be safe, but will trail alternate investments by miles over the long haul. Second, if the funds can be withdrawn at any time, they will be withdrawn, leaving nothing for retirement.
Finally, this plan gives even more cash to the federal government to spend today on things totally unrelated to myRA, leaving Al Gore's "lock box" empty, just like the Social Security lock box.
It's hard to fathom how this administration can mess up everything it touches — from Obamacare to something as simple as myRA.
Why can't they just leave us alone to take care of ourselves in the free marketplace?
Michael Hartman, Tampa
Amateur hour in the House | Jan. 31, Daniel Ruth column
Delete the invective
Daniel Ruth's column might just as well been headlined "Amateur hour in the White House" and featured Barack Obama's amateur status as a failed president and leader.
But do you think Ruth, the nasty-tongued liberal, could ever say anything negative about a liberal or anything good about a conservative? I bet half your readership would like to see the Times challenge Ruth to write a column about a conservative where the article must be just the facts and free from nasty name-calling such as "big smelly slab of cheese," "Everglades python eyeing a rabbit," or "can't find their own keisters." Ten bucks says he can't do it.
John W. Stuebs, New Port Richey
Two sides to SeaWorld boycott | Dec. 29
Amusement parks and zoos
In her column, Susan Thurston asks, "I wonder if Pat Benatar or the Beach Boys — musical acts that canceled shows at Busch Gardens over the controversy — have ever been to a zoo." Frankly, I would ask her the same thing.
Personally, I've been to many world-class zoos, including San Diego, and none of them do what SeaWorld and their ilk do, which is have their animals perform for the amusement of people. Most zoos actually try to perpetuate endangered/threatened species as well as educate people about the other life forms that also inhabit this planet. Reputable zoos don't make Jumbo do stupid pet tricks to teach people about the horrors of poaching and the ivory trade.
Thurston also states that "the sad reality is that humans have been doing cruel things to animals well before Shamu." Is that supposed to absolve these establishments of their actions? Bread and circuses were the way of the Roman Empire, not modern humankind. No creature should be made to live its life in captivity for the amusement of people.
Cheryl Applebaum, Tampa
Nice, but not necessary | Jan. 31, letter
Pathways to thought
A letter writer compared cursive writing as a required student skill to a dinosaur in search of a museum. I disagree.
Cursive writing opens up parts of the brain to different circuits that involve creativity; it is much faster than printing; and helps students to make connections. The writer needs to educate himself on this point and could start by talking to the educators who recommended it.
Priscilla Watkins, Homosassa