Widening the 405; Mexico’s drug war; problems with the death penalty

Wrong-way project

Re “Major work on 405 widening to start,” Dec. 30

Let me get this right: The state of California and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority are going to spend $1 billion so 15% of drivers can save what will probably amount to one minute per mile on their commute.

It makes me shake my head in wonder.

Mike Thompson

Mexico’s drug violence

Re “Violence extends its grip,” Jan. 2

Disgusting is the only word I can think of. Agustin Roberto “Bobby” Salcedo, a good man who was a great contributor to his community of El Monte, is killed for no reason -- other than that he decided to visit his wife’s family in Mexico.

I believe it is time for all Americans to voice their condemnation by boycotting Mexico. Do not travel to Mexico for any reason. Let them kill each other if that is their preference.

Until the Mexican government can straighten out this mess, none of us need to go down there.

Jay Helfert

This dreadful violence will continue until the U.S. recognizes that every time an illegal drug is sold in our country, the seller and buyer are complicit in the death of every Mexican police officer and drug enforcement officer killed in the line of duty -- not to mention innocent bystanders who are injured or killed.

If America stopped buying from Mexico, the Mexican drug trade would die a most deserved death.

The time has come to prosecute the American drug dealers and their customers as murderers. Surely they are responsible for thousands of drug-related deaths, in America and in Mexico, every year.

Phyllis Lilly
Ridgecrest, Calif.

Reality check on new laws

Re “New state laws go into effect,” Jan. 1

Among the many new laws that took effect last Friday is one that allows car rental agencies to recover the increase in their vehicle license fees from their customers and another that allows developers to bypass state environmental laws so they can build a professional football stadium in the City of Industry.

If anyone needed clarification of whom our elected officials work for in Sacramento, this shows it for all to see: big business.

I say it’s time to clean house in Sacramento and throw both parties out on the street.

Thomas Cresswell

Looking at the new laws coming into effect, one has to wonder what the Legislature is doing to help make life better for the people who live here.

Many of the new laws make sense. But one wonders how some of them got on the books -- including reducing penalties for office bets, barring farmers from cutting cows’ tails, the creation of the California Blueberry Commission, requiring pet stores to kill rodents humanely before using them as snake food, and others.

The initiative process in California seems to have emasculated the Legislature -- just as the loudest, most monied voices have emasculated our national government.

Claire Carsman
Long Beach

Death penalty raises questions

Re “Doubts remain, but legal recourse does not,” Jan. 3

When we have released so many innocent people on death row through DNA evidence, how is it possible we can execute Kevin Cooper on what may be planted evidence? I am appalled that there are so many stories of police and prosecutorial misconduct leading to wrongful convictions and death sentences.

Years ago I voted to uphold the death penalty, but now we find we have made too many mistakes, and it must be abolished. Do not kill Kevin Cooper in this Californian’s name. We cannot let this happen.

Caroline Lewis

There were a number of startling revelations in the article on Cooper, convicted in a Chino Hills murder case over 20 years ago.

However, most startling was the quote attributed to Deputy Atty. Gen. Holly Wilkins: “Instead, his inability to prove his innocence stems from the fact that he is so plainly guilty.”

I am no lawyer, but when did the bedrock philosophy of American jurisprudence -- innocent until proven guilty -- get reversed?

Mike O’Sullivan
Los Angeles

Split decision

Re “Federal court restricts police Taser use,” and “State to seek high court review of body-armor ruling,” Dec. 30

In the same month, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals limited police use of Tasers and the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles overturned a ban prohibiting felons from wearing body armor.

Is it the eggnog? Perhaps with the New Year, both courts will have a clearer vision of the impact these collective decisions will have on the safety of our city. Let’s hope so.

Maria Smart
La Crescenta

Economic fixes

Re “After the recession,” Editorial, Dec. 31

The Times championed the Troubled Asset Relief Program, stimulus spending, Fannie and Freddie bailouts, and the healthcare debacle.

And now you are concerned about the enormous federal deficit and impact on the economy? You should be taking something for your bipolar disorder.

Lee Davenport
Hacienda Heights

I have no problem with The Times’ suggestions, except that you, like most, miss one thing: What we need are programs that create jobs in assembly and manufacturing industries, which make salable products.

Unfortunately, President Obama’s plan doesn’t do that. It’s icing around the edges. Enough old thinking and denial already. Stand up, America -- create new industries. Put away the budget-cutting scalpels. People’s lives are on the branches you are paring away.

Create marketable industries. Offer low-cost housing to get that real estate engine working again, and couple it with real work that competes with India and China.

Philip Palermo

More wishes, for peace, jobs

Re “Wishes for 2010,” Editorial, Jan. 1

The Times missed the boat. How about wishing for increased employment?

With nearly 13% unemployment in Los Angeles County, many people are out of work -- and this doesn’t count those who are struggling because their hours have been cut and they’re underemployed.

Almost none of your politically correct wishes would have a positive economic impact. Get with reality.

Mitchell Thomas

I found it curious and disconcerting that the word “peace” was not to be found in the list.

Surely it was an oversight, or perhaps a sign that your staff (like many) has given up on the prospects of peace in our time.

A pity to concede it though -- don’t you think? -- especially at this time of year.

Dean James Loomos

Praise where due

Re “A civilian surge for Afghanistan?” Opinion, Dec. 28

Finally, Greg Mortenson, president of the Central Asia Institute, has been given the attention he deserves. As Stanley A. Weiss writes, Mortenson “over the last 16 years has built or supported 130 schools in remote Pakistani and Afghan villages.”

I welcome Mortenson getting mentioned for the work he has accomplished in an attempt to promote peace, one school at a time. It is thanks to his emphasis on the value of educating girls, in particular, that the Afghan people will one day be in charge of their own destiny.

Jean McDonald
Palos Verdes Estates