Crunching the numbers on WellPoint; oil drilling in California’s waters; punishing Goldman Sachs

WellPoint’s errors

Re “Undone by the numbers,” Column One, July 16

The terms hero, warrior and battlefield are too often used in reference to sports.

A hero is someone who ignores his own well-being and perseveres to help others. David Axene is an American hero. Disregarding his own ill health, he worked tirelessly to find errors in WellPoint’s 39% increase for healthcare premiums to save precious dollars for those that have so few these days.

This man deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I salute you, sir.

Michael Zullo


Congratulations to Axene and his team of numbers crunchers for proving that Anthem Blue Cross’ egregious 39% premium increases were unjustified and based on “visible” mistakes (to quote the company’s fatuous PR speak).

Next challenge for Axene and his actuarial wizards: explaining WellPoint CEO Angela Braly’s $13.1-million compensation package — a year-over-year increase of 51%!

David Madsen

Los Angeles

Turning drilling rigs into turbines

Re “Oil and California’s waters,” Editorial, July 14

In the debate about either cutting short or demolishing the soon-to-be obsolete offshore production platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel, a third option should be considered: to reuse these massive marine structures to support offshore wind power turbines.

These existing platforms are geographically, politically and environmentally well-situated. The heavy steel structures are adaptable, even if all-new turbine masts are required. The structural, electrical and navigational infrastructures already substantially exist. Left undisturbed, marine life inhabiting the platform biospheres will benefit. The symbolic value of converting production platforms from dirty fossil fuel into clean alternative energy generators would be profound and highly visible (yet beyond hearing distance).

The question is whether the concerned oil companies and our local wind turbine manufacturers, energy entrepreneurs, public regulators and electrical utility companies are awake to this obvious win-win recycling opportunity — or are they otherwise asleep at their respective switches?

Robert I. Schwartz

Thousand Oaks

The writer is a California-registered architect and forensic engineer.

Goldman shame, Obama’s gain?

Re " Goldman Sachs to pay $550 million,” July 16

Of the $550 million in settlement money, “harmed investors” get $250 million, a quarter of their losses, while Treasury takes the other $300 million. Enough, I’d say, to cover about a day’s worth of fighting in Afghanistan.

Tell me again how this “humbling” of Goldman Sachs in any way makes amends for the damage the company has done to all of us who’ve lost work, home value and life savings?

Truthfully, I’d much rather have seen Goldman’s leadership dragged into criminal court, money be damned. But when The Times publishes an article about the company’s comeuppance without once naming a shamed senior officer — kudos to their P.R. department — it’s a sure sign those guys are “too big to jail.”

Jon Williams


Last week it was announced that the SEC has reached a record settlement of $550 million with Goldman Sachs. The financial reform bill is on its way to becoming the first major financial reform since the New Deal. A healthcare plan that will cover most Americans has been passed and is coming into effect gradually over the next four years.

Of course, the left will complain that Goldman Sachs is still in business and there is no public option in the healthcare bill. The right will sputter that there are any limits on business and that there is any kind of healthcare bill at all.

If Americans weren’t so blinded by their all-or-nothing approach I would think that most would have to admit that Obama has accomplished a lot. But don’t tell that to my left-wing — or right-wing — friends. They have to nourish their perceptions that they have been let down, or that socialism has arrived, and I don’t want to annoy them with the truth.

Brian Sheppard


Rethinking education

Re “Classroom connections,” Editorial, July 15

Just a note to thank you for your thoughtful and comprehensive editorial on education and what needs to be done to improve it in California and across the nation.

As a retired teacher, I appreciate it and hope it will be read by teachers, students and parents alike, as well as by taxpayers who are quick to blame educators for schools’ failings.

Ann Peterson

Corona del Mar

Your thoughtful editorial reflects what many California mathematics teachers have been saying for years, and while there is no doubt that students need increased exposure to and consideration of nonfiction sources, it is ironic that you call for possibly less fiction reading in the classroom in a month that celebrates “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Testimonials to the life-changing aspects of that classic and others reflect critical thinking at its finest.

And when The Times denigrates the five-paragraph essay, you fail to recognize that it is a tool to teach students to organize their thoughts and create and support a thesis. These are necessary skills in the critical thinking/writing process. Once a student masters these, the number of paragraphs is obviously irrelevant.

Alexa Maxwell

Los Angeles

When I read the paragraph advocating de-emphasizing the study of literature in favor of putting more focus on critical reading and writing skills, I literally stood up and cheered — and I love literature so much I am pursuing a Ph.D. in it.

Having taught freshman composition at a public university, I can attest that the average high school graduate enters college without the critical reading skills to comprehend even the instructions on a can of soup.

This deficiency is not (necessarily) because they are apathetic or because their high school English teachers were inept. It is because our standardized-test-centered system of education pushes memorization of information instead of the development of practical skills.

Emily Lyons

Newport Beach

Does failing to vote ring a Bell?

Re “Bell salaries elicit residents’ disgust,” July 16

The Times’ continuing coverage on the outrageous salaries of Bell city employees neglected to state one important factor: What percentage of Bell’s 36,000 citizens are registered to vote? How many go to the polls?

Those who don’t get what they deserve: a gang of bandits known as the Bell city officials. The people do have rights — they just need to exercise those rights.

JoAnne Sandoval


Getting serious about the Earth

Re “It’s a cartoon, but she’s serious,” July 13

Annie Leonard got it right when she called our mania for stuff “trashing the planet.” I wish it were merely rhetoric — but it’s the truth. This would have been clear had The Times quoted reputable earth scientists rather than the rabidly anti-environmental Glenn Beck.

Leonard advises victims of the recession to think critically. You bet they should, starting with voter outrage at an economic model that turns citizens into expendable consumers and the living Earth into a global raw-materials concession.

How about a “postconsumer” model that supports both human dignity and a healthy planet?

Michael Beck