U.S. can't keep carrying NATO | June 14, editorial
Time for Europe to protect itself
Defense Secretary Robert Gates nailed it: NATO is an expensive dinosaur, an alliance perpetually in search of a mission.
In NATO's early days, the mission was to get the Western Europeans to form their own collective defense against the Soviets. In 1951, we increased our presence in Germany to six divisions. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower declared, "If our troops are still here in 10 years, the whole enterprise will have been a failure." The first NATO secretary-general, Lord Hastings Ismay, called the goal "to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down."
I'd say "mission accomplished" and leave. We contribute 22 percent of NATO's financial budget, and the request for 2011 is up 12 percent from last year. And when NATO calls on us for military power, that's when you talk about real money as well as blood. President Barack Obama has not provided his appropriations request for Libya, but you can bet it will be large. Under cover of NATO, we are now in a war Congress did not declare, the costs of which are unknown, and the outcome of which is murky at best.
Europe is capable of defending Europe. It doesn't need our troops or our money.
Frank M. Tims, St. Petersburg
Let community service start at home June 17, commentary
Individual generosity makes strong communities
I read, with growing dismay, Liz Drayer's argument against community service. My already self-absorbed middle schooler, growing up in the bubble of suburban affluence, really won't be helped by an attorney telling her that community service is akin to indentured servitude.
Fortunately, even my middle schooler is bright enough to see Drayer missed two significant points. Her column gives the impression that all of the service hours — for Bright Futures scholarships and membership in the Honor Society — are required.
They are not. Her daughter does not have to apply for a state scholarship to pay for college. Instead, Drayer can pay for it herself. And her daughter doesn't have to be a member of her Honor Society, which honors small numbers of students for outstanding academic achievement, leadership and civic participation. None of this community service is mandatory. Her daughter can opt out and sit on the sidelines.
Instead Drayer seems to think her children should get the scholarship and the honors without the hours.
She also misses the real point of community service programs. In the same way that children are compelled to learn reading and writing to become functional, contributing members of our society, voluntary community service teaches kids an equally important lesson. Civic society and strong communities — from our PTAs and our county commission committees to the neighborhoods in which we live — are forged and maintained through selfless participation and generosity of unpaid individuals.
It is a shame for Drayer's kids that she views this lesson as an unreasonable hassle.
Christopher Barrett, Tampa
Weiner's loss is Kathy Castor's gain | June 16
Fighting for the bay area
It has been disheartening to watch the media establishment deteriorate into a tabloid culture, focusing on scandal and scorekeeping rather than telling the stories of what's really happening in our communities. Our soldiers bravely fight two wars, our families are still struggling to find jobs and make ends meet, tuition at our colleges is rising, and lawmakers want to dismantle Medicare and leave my generation out on our own.
Amid the frenzy of Rep. Anthony Weiner's resignation, some good has come out of it with word that Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, will take his place on the Energy and Commerce Committee. It's refreshing to know Tampa will have a prominent seat at the table while Congress takes up the issues that will affect us here at home. Now more than ever, we need someone who will fight for those of us whose stories don't get told.
Xenia Ruiz, Tampa
Inflatables need safety oversight June 17, editorial
I think your editorial on bounce houses has given your readers a dangerous misconception. I've been in the business for 12 years, and the No. 1 rule is to never, ever operate an inflatable device in high winds. It doesn't matter how well you stake the unit down. You can use stakes with sandbags and it won't make one bit of difference. The bigger the unit, the more vulnerable it is to the wind. All the regulations in the world will not change this fact.
If the wind picks up, have the children exit the unit and drop it. When weather conditions improve, it can be reinflated and continued to be used.
Yes, securing the unit properly is important. However, the judicious use of common sense is ultimately what will protect the customer.
Donna Nayman, Brandon
Carter's policy is shaping Florida | June 19
I was bemused by the subtitle of your article on Gov. Rick Scott's adviser, Mary Anne Carter, which says, "The most powerful person on Gov. Scott's staff is a mom from Tennessee."
Was this subheading an awkward attempt to humanize a woman who otherwise comes across in the article as rather unpleasant?
Or does this mean you now plan to identify all powerful political figures with reference to their status as parents ("Dad from Chicago elected president of the United States")?
Elizabeth Strom, Tampa
With all that is going wrong in the world, it was a pleasure to watch a fresh-faced, happy-go-lucky — and very talented — young man, Rory McIlroy, break the U.S. Open record. What a contrast to the shot-cursing, club-throwing, bag-bashing, green-spitting, crowd-ignoring, wife-betraying Tiger Woods. May Woods' left knee continue to keep his sour-looking puss off my TV screen for many moons to come.
R.G. Wheeler, St. Petersburg
TBARTA is the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority. Its full name was incorrect in a letter published Tuesday.