September 15, 2008
Re "Adjusting to 9/11," editorial, Sept. 11
The Times writes: "As just one example, is the degree of danger posed by the theoretical possibility that terrorists might put a 'dirty bomb' in a shipping container really great enough to justify the amount we're spending to prevent it from happening?"
As just one example, would 9/11 have been prevented or, at least, lessened if we had not imagined that the aborted plan to fly a jetliner into the Eiffel Tower could not possibly happen here?
Rather than downplaying the threat of a dirty bomb, we ought to not only expand our efforts to prevent the imaginable but also expand our efforts to prevent the unimaginable. One only needs to watch the replays of the events of 9/11 to be reminded that the world has changed, and many people want to kill us just because of who we are. Those feelings predate the Bush presidency; please do not suggest that an Obama presidency will solve the problem. Our greatest risk is complacency. Your editorial advocates making it easier for the next terrorist attack to succeed.
An otherwise cogent analysis of administrative misrepresentations regarding the so-called war on terrorism perpetuates one fallacy. It states, "The attacks of 9/11 were comparable to Pearl Harbor."
Although the tragic figure of civilian deaths on 9/11 approximates the number of servicemen who died at Pearl Harbor, the analogy weakens on further consideration.
* The attack on Pearl Harbor was carried out by what was then the most formidable naval/air armada in the world, not by a handful of amateurs armed only with box cutters.
* The Pacific fleet -- America's most powerful military unit on Dec. 7, 1941 -- was crippled, whereas the Pentagon damage on 9/11 failed to diminish U.S. military capability.
* The commanders at Pearl Harbor were held responsible for inexcusable unpreparedness. And 9/11?
Statistics and taxes
Re "Overtaxed? Check numbers," Column, Sept. 11
George Skelton's column on taxation in California accurately quoted me as having said California must "avoid tax increases because we already are among the highest-tax states in the country."
Most of the rest of his column laid forth arguments as to why Californians may be merely severely overtaxed and not catastrophically overtaxed -- small comfort to the California families struggling to make ends meet in a time of economic slowdown and skyrocketing energy prices. They can't reach into Sacramento's pockets to make up for their financial shortfalls, yet Sacramento feels free to reach into theirs.
It is a common falsehood, which I read as implied in Skelton's column, that we Republicans are opposed to taxes per se and would dismantle all operations of government. To the contrary! Our desire is to see government restrict itself to the fulfillment of its purpose as set forth in the Declaration of Independence: to secure certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Assemblyman, 70th District
It was interesting to read the statistics Skelton quotes in his attempt to show California is not a high-tax, big-spending state.
He claims that our sixth-ranked state tax burden would appear lower if we factored in our higher incomes, while neglecting to assume a higher cost of living. Then he implies that a higher cost of living is why our state employees need to be near the top of national pay scales.
My favorite stat is the one Skelton uses to dismiss (or, perhaps, cement?) Sacramento's big-spending reputation. He writes that, in the last five years, general fund spending has gone up by 33%, yet inflation and population growth would only justify a 24% increase.
Combine these numbers with a $15-billion budget deficit, and I believe you have a fair definition of a high-tax, big-spending state.
No quick fix at King hospital
Re "10% at King had criminal records," Sept. 9
The L.A. County auditor-controller's department finds that 57% of King-Harbor Hospital workers failed at least one area of competency on their first try, 21% failed three or more skills on the first attempt, 30% failed the medication safety test and 18% failed a test of how they would deal with a code-blue patient.
Department of Health Services interim Director John Schunhoff's response to this stunning news is "that's something we are going to get outside independent help on."
This reader's response is: Been there, done that! First there was the Camden Group and then Navigant Consulting (both outside independent help) to the tune of nearly $20 million. What will it take to get the board to invoke substantial change? Will it take more tragic events, such as the death of Edith Rodriguez?
I understand the popular appeal of your headline and its subtext of rampant governmental incompetence (or corruption) uncovered. But the numbers apparently include both convictions and arrests.
Not only are employers, such as L.A. County, not permitted to ask about arrests that do not result in convictions, but how does the reader -- let alone Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky -- know which were mere arrests and which convictions? And which relate to one's job performance and which were the equivalent of hunting without a license, illegal dumping, littering or drinking in a public park?
Vagueness may sell newspapers, but it doesn't advance knowledge.
Death for child rapists
Re "Child rape revisited?" editorial, Sept. 10
There are some crimes that are worse than murder -- and child sexual abuse is one of those crimes.
Retribution and justice are among the primary pillars that support civilization. Our laws and courts and police cannot function without the consent of the governed. When predators attack children, the public demands a blood debt. When it is not paid, our society is weakened and shamed. The victims suffer deep and personal violation that is not balanced even by a lifetime of imprisonment by the predator, and we move a step closer to anarchy because we cannot trust our institutions.
Death to child predators is necessary, and honor demands it. Our institutions are a proxy for us all. If they fail, do not be surprised if the families and friends of the victims feel that they must personally carry out justice against the monsters who attack their children.
While the Supreme Court must decide the case on constitutional grounds, the practical effect of the ruling is worth considering. If the death penalty is applied to the rape of a child, what is to deter the rapist from also killing the child, who is usually the only potential witness for the prosecution? Isn't it better that the victim survive, although traumatized, than be murdered to keep her or him from testifying?
Palin talks, readers balk
Re "Palin talks tough on Russia, Iran," Sept. 12
Has The Times become the apologist for the McCain-Palin ticket? I found the Sarah Palin interview with Charlie Gibson to be alarming at best, even frightening.
Do we really want an everyday "hockey mom" as leader of the free world? Do we want someone who believes that decisiveness without prior thought is a good thing?
I think we've had enough of that over the last eight years. I want an elitist in office, someone who seems smarter than average! Where's Thomas Jefferson when you need him?
Re "Would-be vice president's on-air job interview tells us too little, way too late,"
Couched as a television review, this article was nothing more than a partisan attack on the person who was the subject of the interview.
Shame on The Times.
Rolling Hills Estates
Re "Palin seeks gov.'s veto of port fees," Sept. 12
Gov. Sarah Palin's letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger urging his veto on fees for cargo containers going through the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles negates her comment to ABC News that man's activities might contribute to global warning. Make no mistake about it, Palin is a wolf in sheep's clothing.
Re "U.S. oil agency scandal unfolds," Sept. 11
Does the corruption ever end in this administration?
How can we ever have an energy policy if the officials in charge are literally in bed with the oil industry?
Sheila M. Pickwell
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