Dubai’s new skyscraper; Ben Bernanke’s job performance; saving California

It’s tall, sure, but so what?

Re “Architecture to look up to,” Editorial, Jan. 5

I am always pleased when architecture gains a place of prominence in the newspaper, particularly on the editorial page.

However, to be “in awe” of the Burj Khalifa -- a monument to ego, power and (as Times critic Christopher Hawthorne aptly stated) hubris -- is misplaced.

The architectural and engineering achievements to be in awe of are schools, homes, hospitals, offices and public spaces, not necessarily by the stars of the industry but designed with care, responsibility, insight and creativity by a dedicated architectural workforce.

Julie D. Taylor
Los Angeles
The writer is principal of Taylor & Co., a communications firm that works with architects.

No excuse for mediocrity

Re “Bernanke, pro and con,” Editorial, Jan. 4

I was surprised that The Times supported Ben S. Bernanke’s appointment for a second term as head of the Federal Reserve after listing numerous Fed failings on his watch. Your editorial admits that he supported low interest rates for an excessively long period, which may have been a major cause of the current economic crisis. It then goes on to say, “These criticisms are valid, but such failings were widely shared in Washington.”

Is that what the U.S. has come to? The Times seems to accept failure as acceptable, if others failed as well. This country is increasingly accepting mediocrity when excellence should be the crucial requirement. The heads of the CIA and the FBI were not held responsible for 9/11, and one political hack -- Michael Brown -- paid for the massive failure to deal with Hurricane Katrina.

If the United States no longer seeks excellence or at least competence from its leaders, the result will be more economic and “natural” disasters.

Kenneth Barkin
The writer is a professor of history at UC Riverside.

Different views of Obama

Re “Obama’s can’t-do style,” Opinion, Jan. 4

Congratulations on Robert J. Lieber’s brilliantly written analysis of President Obama’s “foreign policy missteps.” It offered thoughtful, well-documented and much-needed insight into what the president has or has not been doing right when it comes to international diplomacy.

I was surprised to see such an objective analysis in the liberal Times.

Lewis Riggs
Granada Hills

Stop the Beltway retreads. If you must print propaganda from a member of the Committee on the Present Danger, those neocons thirsting to invade Yemen and who knows how many other countries, please label it as such and put it in a separate section with Jonah Goldberg.

Yes, our country has major problems. Yes, I’m disappointed in some of Obama’s actions. But Lieber, with his complaints that the president “has lost the support of the Israeli public,” should not have used the word “allegedly” when referring to the Christmas Day attacker’s attempt to detonate an explosive device on a plane, and should not have bowed to the Japanese emperor, accelerates the dumbing-down of political discourse.

Please, no more neocons and pseudo-liberals. No wonder our Congress is dumb and disinterested. Give us new voices.

Bob Snodgrass

To save California

Re “A plan that works,” Editorial, Jan. 3

Where can I find a petition to sign? I’d love to be a citizen delegate at the constitutional convention.

Judy Colburt
Rancho Palos Verdes

I have to respectfully disagree with The Times’ assessment that a constitutional convention is the cure for what’s wrong with California politics. It’s not that our elected politicians can’t make good decisions for our beloved state. It’s that they are simply being paid not to.

Both the Republican and Democratic parties in California have evolved into lobbyist groups for special interests: big business and big unions and big (rich) people. And every decision made for special interests is made against the Californian middle class.

Until campaign financing is fundamentally changed to eliminate the overwhelming influence of special-interest money, nothing has a chance to make a difference in California politics -- or national politics, for that matter.

Ted Kuepper

All this complicated, involved business, when the solution is so simple: Get rid of term limits and let the California Legislature return to the days when it was looked on as a showcase among state legislatures.

The voters created the problems with California government: They saddled the Legislature with supermajority requirements for passing budgets and tax increases and then complain when nothing gets done; they enacted term limits and then complain there is no long-term vision or strong leadership in the legislature; they cut off the source of secure funding for education and complain when our education system crashes.

Prediction: Whatever a constitutional convention produces will be defeated by the voters and never enacted.

Larry Levine
Van Nuys

Riding the rails into the future

Re “Railroads have a lot riding on an economic rebound,” Jan. 3

It was interesting to read that upgrading freight train facilities and services is predicted to become a significant factor in our economic recovery.

Why isn’t the same effort being made to improve passenger trains -- specifically, to add high-speed service from Southern to Northern California and along heavily traveled routes such as Los Angeles to Las Vegas?

With choking traffic on our highways and growing security intrusions in air travel, widespread passenger rail could alleviate much congestion and stress.

Countries in Europe and Asia with environmental concerns similar to ours have had high-speed passenger rail service for years, while little has progressed in the United States. Why?

Sid Skolnik
West Hollywood

Sunday’s story illustrates why we need to fast-track the “Inland Port” project linking the seaports by rail to the Antelope Valley, where trucks pick up long-distance freight for the rest of the nation.

More than 70% of freight from the ports leaves the county, yet only a portion moves by rail, which clogs our freeways with trucks. And freight volume is expected to triple in 25 years.

The Inland Port would remove thousands of trucks from our congested highways, freeing up capacity and reducing the need to expand freeways.

Every freight train takes 200 trucks off our highways, and every truck not idling for hours at the harbor waiting for its load means shorter commutes, higher productivity and significantly better air quality.

Michael D. Antonovich
Los Angeles
The writer is a Los Angeles County supervisor.

A councilman who gets it

Re “Council takes on ‘runaway’ filming,” Jan. 4

It’s about time somebody woke up in government and realized the massive amount of tax revenue -- number of jobs -- we lose every month to runaway production.

I applaud Councilman Richard Alarcon for his long-overdue (and maybe too late) idea of a Los Angeles film commission to market our city.

The global film and television business is centered in Los Angeles, but we have turned a blind eye to the huge unemployment problem it is having. Large media companies are based here, yet they spend hundreds of millions of production dollars outside of our city and state, filling others’ coffers.

Maybe Alarcon should replace Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor, as he understands that entertainment is our most important export.

Darryl Marshak
Beverly Hills
The writer is co-founder of the Marshak/Zachary Co., a talent management company.