JI on the map

Recently, I traveled to Krakow, Poland, to see my son Michael, who lives there. While visiting, we went to see the Kosciuszko Museum, which overlooks the city, part of which is on a large mound built to memorialize the American/Polish general.

Thaddeus Kosciuszko was a general in the American Revolutionary War. He designed the fortification at West Point, along with other locales.

At the museum, in his honor, a large map shows the areas of the United States where Kosciuszko assisted the American cause as a general in George Washington's army.

To my surprise, his involvement in South Carolina does not show Charleston, but rather James Island. In fact, Charleston does not even appear on the map in the museum.

It seems to me that this is an excellent opportunity for the town of James Island to adopt Krakow as its sister city. Many cities in the United States list foreign cities with which they are twinned.

This will give James Island the uniqueness it well deserves, being the historical area it is, both in the Revolutionary War as well as the War Between the States.

Walter Ameika

Bohicket Road

Johns Island

Annual reality

When Jan. 1 comes around I imagine that each year makes us a little bit wiser. In fact, each year makes us a little bit older.

H.J. Beaujon, Ph.D.

Cessna Avenue

Charleston

NSA surveillance

The Post and Courier deserves "Huzzahs" for its Dec. 13 editorial titled "Congress must rein in NSA" calling for restraints on domestic electronic surveillance.

Whether one loves or despises the youthful, idealistic Ed Snowden, his leaks and others have ultimately exposed the extent to which the National Security Agency has been increasingly carried away with arrogating to itself undelegated and unwritten power over recent decades.

We've learned the NSA has been sliding down a very slippery slope in the area of domestic electronic surveillance and in questionable compliance with its constitutional and judicial due diligence obligations.

NSA officials operate out of the public view, which is generally appropriate to their mission - but the agency's lack of legal self-restraint in domestic surveillance has been enabled by indulgent, permissive deference from congressional and judicial officials charged with oversight.

What to do? Between the Big Brother state and our nation today with such secretive, omniscient government, lies only our political dedication to protect individual privacy, to assure governmental transparency and to insist upon the principles of the U.S. Constitution.

Governing a democracy is a messy process. No issue in our time epitomizes this messiness more profoundly than whether, and how, we act to assure we confidently understand the extent of government intrusion into our personal lives.

We may not want to watch them make the sausage -but if we turn a blind eye to NSA snooping, the consequence will be far more painful than an upset stomach.

Philip Snead

Edgewater Drive

Charleston

Phony distractions

It is disappointing to read the editors' continual beating of two dead horses - the Affordable Care Act and Benghazi. It's understandable that many readers continue to rant about these two subjects, given the visceral, irrational hatred that exists for President Obama.

You deserve the benefit of the doubt on that accord, but your willingness to disregard information contrary to your views speaks to irrational bias.

Two recent letters, one by a physician and one by a state representative, illustrate the value of the ACA to uninsured Americans. Why must you support the cruelty that angry, ideologue-driven Tea Party Republicans are fomenting with lies and misinformation to deny people health care?

Conservatives are calling Benghazi the worst failure to protect Americans from terrorism in our history.

How about 9/11? And also on President George W. Bush's watch, there were 13 attacks on U.S. embassies and consulates where scores of Americans died. Where was the outrage?

The worst terrorist attack of Americans on foreign soil occurred when the sainted Ronald Reagan was president: 241 died in October 1983 in Lebanon when the Marine barracks were attacked. Reagan and company were given a warning six months earlier when the American embassy in Lebanon was bombed and 17 Americans died.

Benghazi is a phony distraction, and the ACA is law. Why don't you and the Tea Party begin to attack real problems like unemployment and the squeezing of the middle class?

Michael Griffith

Sterling Marsh Lane

Johns Island

Mideast reminders

The ongoing tragic loss of life in the Middle East, including the recent despicable massacre of Iraqi Christians peacefully celebrating Christmas in three violent attacks illuminates radical Islam's violent intolerance.

The Christian minorities that remain in most of the Arab countries are barely tolerated, and increasingly targeted. Virtually no Jews are left in any Arab country.

The Iran-backed Assad regime has massacred over 115,000 people, mostly civilians, many of them women and children. In Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Libya, more Muslims have been killed by Muslims than any other combatants.

The tragic aftermath of the Arab Spring has revealed that the false peace maintained by iron-fisted dictators kept the lid on the simmering cauldron of centuries-old intra-Muslim rivalries, be they tribal; Shia-Sunni; enlightened, Internet-savvy men and women versus repressive, extremist male mullahs and imams preaching hatred and intolerance of all "infidels," inciting violence and hoping to impose Sharia Law. Yet headlines and sound bytes continue to mention Israeli-Palestinian peace as one of the most destabilizing factors in the Middle East. This is sheer nonsense.

While this is indeed a necessary goal for Israelis and Palestinians, and sooner rather than later, one of the principle obstacles has not been Israeli settlements on contested lands but, much like what we are seeing in Iraq and Syria, a violently divided Palestinian population with Muslims and Christians living in the West Bank, governed by the Palestinian Authority, and the Iran-backed "democratically elected" Hamas-led government in Gaza, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The former has been negotiating in good faith with Israel, the latter continues to rain rockets on Israeli school children despite Israel's complete departure from every inch of Gaza in 2005.

Hamas remains steadfast in its refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist. It is listed by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization.

Israel remains the one democracy in the Middle East with equal voting rights for all of its citizens.

With good reason, the United States has been reluctant to intervene in Syria. The unspeakable loss of life is tragic.

The Middle East has never been more complicated. Yet we have sacrificed many of our finest young men and women in uniform in Afghanistan and Iraq.

We have hopefully learned valuable lessons. We must remain circumspect in our ongoing negotiations with Iran. Make no mistake about it. Iran remains the single most destabilizing power in the entire Middle East.

Let's remember who are our trusted friends who share our common values. Let's demand much more of our Arab allies. And of Iran.

Ram Kalus, M.D.

Weepoolow Trail

Charleston

Flood insurance

Several recent articles have highlighted a growing concern among homeowners in the Lowcountry. Flood insurance subsidies are being removed on homes that were built to code before the existence of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Supporters of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 are adamant that the federal government has no business subsidizing "rich" people to live in "mansions on the beach."

Here are some nuances that are being ignored in this discussion:

1) The NFIP was enacted in 1968 because private flood insurance was either unavailable or prohibitively expensive, and because it was not considered viable actuarially. "Insolvency" is the entire reason for the program's existence.

2) Maximum structural coverage through the NFIP is $250,000. This will only affect middle- and low-income individuals. Wealthy individuals are generally self-insured.

3) FEMA's debt has been greatly exacerbated by payouts to non-policyholders and repetitive loss properties.

4) Flood risk can only be predicted. Any location that receives rainfall is at risk for a severe flood event - as many uninsured homeowners in Colorado and inland New England have found out.

I believe there are two solutions to this problem.

You can either continue to subsidize coastal living for those homes that adhered to the rules when they were constructed, or we should move to a national disaster insurance to create a larger risk pool. Provide comprehensive protection for all disasters, require it for federally-backed mortgages, and discontinue a policy of piecemeal coverage.

Either way, lawmakers must act quickly. Simply telling coastal homeowners to "go hang" is no longer good enough.

Bryan Hodges

Windward Road

James Island

GOP off track

Some people say President Barack Obama has no moral compass. But he presided over the dispatching of Osama Bin Laden with dignity and gravity, with no glee over that man's death. Instead, he marked the occasion by laying a wreath at Ground Zero. He stood by the parents of Newtown during their darkest hour.

But our dear governor vetoed funding for rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters. Congress votes to cut food stamps in this dreadful economy.

Rand Paul believes that unemployment benefits make the unemployed lazy and unwilling to seek work.

Rush Limbaugh calls Pope Francis a Marxist. Jim DeMint says that the uninsured can always go to the emergency room.

The Georgia insurance commissioner says that if you have a pre-existing condition, it's your fault.

Why does the GOP moral compass always point to the almighty dollar?

Louis M. Smith

Russell Drive

Mount Pleasant

Friedman's follies

Thomas Friedman is a never-ending source of amusement to this reader. Does this pompous columnist really think that Republicans will actually believe that his tendentious advice is meant to be constructive? Not even he could believe such a thing.

His latest offering ("Compromise is not a four-letter word," Jan. 7) is a case in point. He actually claims that if Republican leaders "take on" the Tea Party, "Obama would meet them in the middle." That claim is too funny for words.

Friedman is always lecturing about learning the lessons of history. In this case, he needs to take his own advice. Recent history demonstrates that Obama has no interest in meeting anyone in the middle.

The fact is evident for all to see that Friedman has no interest other than seeing the Republican party neutered and disarmed. Here is one Republican who would be pleased to tell Friedman, face to face, that he should take his advice and stuff it.

Stuart Kaufman

Old Course Lane

Mount Pleasant

Correction

An editorial in Tuesday's Post and Courier contained an error. The city of Charleston's homicide totals were 12 for 2012 and 7 for 2013. The totals for Charleston County were 36 in 2012 and 32 in 2013.