The problems with Pakistan
Re "Pakistan's problems start at the top," Opinion, Nov. 18
Pervez Hoodbhoy's article on Pakistan bears indirectly on U.S. foreign policy during the last 25 years, mainly its shortsighted pragmatism. President Bush's support of Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf's military dictatorship, like Ronald Reagan's and George H.W. Bush's support of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein until his invasion of Kuwait, will end badly for us. While Musharraf and Hussein opposed Islamism and have seemed our allies, their repressive and unpopular regimes created instability and anti-Americanism. Our problems are not just moral but practical. Musharraf's military regime is going to fall. But as with our contradictory actions in Iraq, first supporting and then overthrowing Hussein, we seem to have little regard for the likely future.
Maybe Musharraf isn't such a bad guy. He's keeping the nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists. Pakistanis may not be ready for democracy. Democracy is messy. We freely elected our president and, in my opinion, have had seven years of anarchy.
Re "So George, still good on Pakistan?" Opinion, Nov. 15
Musharraf may be a military dictator, but Rosa Brooks is wrong to accuse him of being responsible for the fact that Pakistan recognized the Taliban in the 1990s. Benazir Bhutto was prime minister when the Taliban marched into Kabul. She thought they would stabilize Afghanistan. Brooks owes Musharraf an apology for accusing him of being the guilty party.
Jurisdiction over Blackwater
Re "Blackwater's loopholes," Opinion, Nov. 15
Article 12, paragraph 3 of the International Criminal Court's Rome Statute states, "If the acceptance of a state which is not a party to this statute is required . . . that state may, by declaration lodged with the registrar, accept the exercise of jurisdiction by the court with respect to the crime in question. The accepting state shall cooperate with the court without any delay or exception."
If U.S. civilian and military law prohibits prosecution of Blackwater operatives for crimes in Iraq, the next administration should turn the lot of them over to the International Criminal Court and let it take care of the matter. Case closed.
Alan D. Buckley
Re "Official's brother has Blackwater ties," Nov. 15
Just when I think I've heard everything when it comes to the subject of contracting and Blackwater in Iraq, a new twist surfaces. The State Department's inspector general, Howard J. Krongard, only discovered that his brother, Alvin B. Krongard, is a paid consultant for Blackwater during the course of his testimony before a congressional panel. If he really didn't know what his own brother was up to, one must question his ability to investigate complex events that have occurred in Iraq.
I long ago came to the conclusion that contracting war on a for-profit basis distorts our ability to find truth. But once again we are told that the foxes have investigated the problem, and they assure us that they hear only silence from the hen house.
Writers and wages
Re "Can the strike be settled?" Opinion, Nov. 17
Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers President Nick Counter was quick to share the average salary of the Writers Guild of America's 4,434 "working" writers. The fact that he had to put "working" into his sentence speaks volumes. While he listed a producer's woes, he left out the parallel writer's worries, such as the reality of multiyear unemployment, the fact that a show can be canceled for reasons other than the quality of the writing and that because of ageism, an American writer has a very short window of employability. And finally, because we now know the average salary of working writers, I would like to know the average salaries of the industry's "working" producers.
I'm a striking writer who just learned that the composer of a 1980s sitcom theme song receives 11 cents every time someone buys it as a ring tone. Compare that to the 4 cents that television and movie scribes get when their creation is purchased on DVD or downloaded. Funny, I've never heard a guild member brag about having simply jotted down the screenplays for an entire season of an Emmy Award-winning series on a napkin after dining at Applebee's. Counter doesn't mention that even when a writer brings a producer a "spec script," a fully completed screenplay or teleplay written on the writer's own uncompensated time, he or she faces signing away authorship to the studio. Studios, networks and major distributors are owned by a handful of major corporations, a Hollywood oligarchy, and even top-name writer/producers no longer are allowed to own the series they create. It appears that the Internet is our only potential salvation; if writers manage to produce their own work, they can distribute it online as well.
Jon K. Williams
Public servants and the purse strings
Re "Knotty questions over nonprofit's family ties," Nov. 16
Some follow-up questions concerning the article on state Board of Equalization member Bill Leonard: How much is his deputy, Barbara Alby, paid? Just wondering why she needs to augment her salary. Was she on state time or vacation when she arranged the event discussed in the article? How many additional employees who work exclusively for Leonard do taxpayers foot the bill for, and what are their salaries? And how does a board member's personal staffing compare with, let's say, 20 years ago?
What has happened to our so-called public servants? We used to think of government corruption as confined to Washington; now, thanks to more sources of media exposure, we see blatant corruption and less-than-honest behavior from elected representatives from Washington to our backyards.
How much more abuse are the American people going to tolerate?
The importance of a second language
Re "Have a drumstick and a history lesson," Opinion, Nov. 19
I was horrified to read that Josiah Bunting III believes immigrant families should strive to use English as the primary language at home. Loss of immigrant languages happens at a fast and furious pace -- second-generation speakers usually have limited skills in the immigrant language, and the third generation are generally monolingual English speakers.
On both the personal and national levels, this loss is tragic: Communication difficulties between generations can lead to devastating familial consequences, and the constant cry of business and national security institutions for expert speakers of foreign languages goes unanswered.
One of the best methods of preserving immigrant languages is for parents to speak these languages to their children in precisely such circumstances as around the dinner table. Is losing a second language really worth a measly 1.80 points on a current events survey? Even one introductory civics class would more than make up this deficit, whereas learning another language would take a lifetime.
The need to march
Re "Sharpton leads call for federal investigation of hate crimes," Nov. 17
In this article, Joe R. Hicks, former head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's L.A. chapter, states that the District of Columbia demonstrators were broadcasting a "message of racial victimization" that he said ignored the progress made and opportunities available to African Americans today. I disagree. As long as the Ku Klux Klan, the oldest domestic terrorist organization, and all-white juries exist in America, we still have a need for such marches.
Pamela A. Hairston
Do a body good
Re "In the trans-fat game, zero wins," Nov. 16
The L.A. trans-fat-free program is a good way to decrease heart disease and high cholesterol. The program will give window decals to restaurants that use trans-fat-free oils to indicate that they are using healthier oil alternatives for their consumers. This will spark healthy eating for restaurant-goers such as myself. I'm proud to say that our county is doing its best to get rid of foods that help cause obesity and health problems. Just like those old milk commercials: healthy food -- it does a body good.
Re "Monarch's words with Chavez start a battle royal," Nov. 17
The king of Spain publicly told a tyrant to shut up. That's how leaders should react to the mouthing of mini-Hitlers. Where are U.S. leaders with the same moxie?
This story starts by saying, "Someone finally told Hugo Chavez to shut up." Why the blatant editorializing with "finally"?
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