Poor first impression
If the Fortune magazine cover photo reflects gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman's political instincts and sensibilities, she's a goner.
Former California Gov. Ronald Reagan, whom the picture may have been meant to evoke, was familiar to everyone thanks to movies and television, and he enjoyed a public image of affability, charm and good humor. Whitman shares neither the name recognition nor the generally positive perception.
The Fortune cover is, for many, a first glimpse of this would-be governor. And instead of Reagan's folksiness and authentically worn jeans, she exudes imperious hauteur, less Gipper than Barbara Stanwyck in "The Big Valley."
How exactly is this billionaire MBA CEO "let's cut taxes" Republican going to relate to the vast majority in this state, who are none of those things?
Marina del Rey
One president, two views
At some point, is President Obama going to apologize to the Muslim world for America putting those silly old towers in New York in the way of those goofs who were just out joy-riding in jetliners?
Can anyone imagine one other candidate from the 2008 presidential primaries, Democratic or Republican, handling the past week's complexities as smartly and representing us all so well?
Share the city's burden of debt
After giving the entertainment industry millions in tax breaks, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa now thinks that the solution for the $530-million deficit is to cut services and lay off city employees?
Yeah, right. When was the last time you've seen the price of a movie theater ticket go down? If Villaraigosa was really serious about shoring up the budget hole, he would reevaluate which businesses were given tax breaks and spread the pain a little more evenly, instead of consistently trying to balance the deficit on the backs of the employees who actually do the work that taxpayers need done.
If we're going to talk about reopening union contracts, let's reopen the agreements for tax breaks too.
Also, city (mis)management could use a haircut. A little more off the top, please.
Villaraigosa's idea of having city workers defer raises, cut hours and pay more for their retirement is a good idea to help balance the budget.
He should, though, clearly and widely announce that he and his staff members will be included in the program too -- along with the City Council and its staff.
Adoption laws serve a purpose
Beth Nonte Russell should have disclosed in her Op-Ed article that her own adoption from China did not follow the usual procedures, as she describes in her book. On its website, the Golden Phoenix Foundation she founded states that its mission is to "streamline" international adoptions for other prospective parents.
"Streamlining," however, has often created trafficking and corrupted adoptions, which led to the shutdown of Guatemala, Cambodia and Vietnam (from which I adopted in 2001) to Americans hoping to adopt.
Huge fees paid by prospective parents encourage the unscrupulous to falsify paperwork, erasing the true identity of these "orphans." It also leads to coercion of biological family members to place their children for adoption.
Even though Madonna's good works in Malawi are indisputable, that does not give her or any other American the right to expect laws of another country to be waived to indulge their own desire to be a parent.
The writer is a board member of Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform, a nonprofit that seeks to reform international adoption law.
Russell has made a heart-rending plea for finding homes for orphans. As one who spent his first year in an orphanage, I understand her point -- but she misses the larger one.
The Malawi court has every reason to try to protect its citizens against exploitation by wealthy would-be parents who may want to be celebrated as humanitarians but who may lack basic parenting skills.
The Malawi court did the right thing for the right reason. Wealth is no measure of parenting ability. Madonna hardly exemplifies the kind of responsibility and commitment required to raise a child properly. The international black market for adoptions can be sordid human trafficking under the guise of humanitarian activity.
If Madonna or other stars wish to provide a better life for Third World children, let them begin by donating funds to the families of the children who are offered for sale.
Variety's Bart deserves respect
The dismissive tone adopted by various media commentators toward Peter Bart is a bit much.
Whatever perceived failings or outrages are pinned on him for his Variety tenure, keep in mind that Bart's not just another shill for showbiz or a self-appointed Hollywood guru.
Bart has produced movies and written several books, and he was indispensable to the regime at Paramount that gave birth to the last golden age of American movies, of which "The Godfather" is but one example.
Failure in Hollywood may be an orphan, and success usually manifests an extended family that defies genetic probability -- but Bart is the real deal, whose creative gifts and vision have helped shape the movie business over the last 40 years.
He deserves fewer sneers and more credit.
Dishing up a bad example
Reading about the working mother who felt she had to go to a different state to get high-phosphate soap and squeaky-clean dishes, I thought of the example she was setting for her children.
First, that it's OK to break the law when you are slightly inconvenienced by something trivial like soap suds.
Second, that it's OK to not do something for the greater good because of that inconvenience. Third, that adaptation and problem-solving (in this case, learning how to wash dishes in a new way) are not important skills.
Fourth, that she doesn't care enough about her children's future to do what she can to help preserve an ecosystem that her children interact with every day.
I've used low-phosphate soap for years. My dishes are clean. I wish people would stop and think before modeling this sort of behavior to their children. We all live here, after all.
J. Scott Grant
Raising Malibu camping risks
As a Malibu resident who has lived through her share of fires, I find it incomprehensible that the near-bankrupt state would give money to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy so it can bring more camping visitors to our parks who will burn down our homes.
Malibu welcomes millions of visitors every year to its beaches and hiking trails. The conservancy wants to punish wealthy landowners (celebrities). In fact, most of us are older, retired and barely scraping by.
Corral Canyon's 53 homes were lost because of careless people who started a fire in a canyon. Hundreds of animals died, and people's lives were changed forever.
Careless or malicious people can't be stopped by monitors.
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