Letters to the editor
Divvy up funds or divide the state?
Re “We deserve more,” editorial Nov. 7
The Times’ editorial seeking a greater share of bond money for our region’s goods movement needs makes important points. Southern California continues not only to be the conduit for 85% of the imports coming into our state, we continue to grow as a strategic hub for world trade. But your advocacy for an automatic 85% cut of the funding is typical of cynical, special-interest politics instead of intelligent planning for our future.
We shouldn’t fund state projects based on who pays the taxes, who casts the votes or who bears the burden. We should fund projects that actually benefit the entire state. Southern California must make a persuasive case that our proposed investments in speeding trade-goods movement is what’s best for all of California, not just rely on political muscle or “we get ours” formulas. In the global economy, the benefits and effects of the movement of goods are a key part of a much larger balance of land use, transportation and environment. Investing $20 billion in one-time bond financing is too important to be “earmarked” or carved up like pork.
The infuriating news that Sacramento (once again) is shortchanging Southern California in transportation funds comes as no surprise. Perhaps it is time to consider a divorce. California, with almost 40 million residents, has enough people to form 10 states, but realistically two or three are possible: North and South California, and perhaps Central California. Most Southern Californians would be within an easy drive of a new, centrally located state capital. State funds would be spent locally, and the citizens would be closer and better able to voice their opinions to their representatives. The two (or more) Californias would increase their presence in Washington.
Dividing states is difficult but not impossible. West Virginia was carved out of Virginia; Maine out of Massachusetts. It is long overdue for Northern and Southern California to amicably divorce. It is time to bring state government and tax funds closer to the people who pay the bills.
The many sides of Harold Hay
Re “A pioneer refuses to fade away,” Column One, Nov. 10
The article about Harold Hay dwells on people’s difficulties working with him, calling him sanctimonious, unyielding and scathingly critical of other people’s efforts and the solar business as a whole. Yes, but some of us know that he is also fair minded, generous and has very high standards. It isn’t Hay’s fault that nothing has ever lived up to those standards. His inventions followed naturally from an impatient, principled soul who has always looked at the world with curiosity about what could be made to aid all of us, not just himself. And then he has another side to him -- he knows how to play the stock market.
Maybe some further refinement is needed on Hay’s concept for liquid roofing, but I was struck with the idea that it could be the very thing to solve the wild-fire property damage problem. If everyone in high-risk areas were mandated to have water as part of the roof, gallons of water could be released during a fire, thus putting it out in the simplest way possible and possibly stopping the spread to other structures.
The back story of the writers strike
Re “Written out of the script,” Opinion, Nov. 11
Sean Mitchell’s essay was an excellent and revealing piece on the sad but true back story of the Writers Guild of America. I never fully understood why TV and film writers are treated more like bricklayers than artists. Mitchell’s article made it clear. I support my fellow bricklayers and hope they huff and puff and blow their way to a fair wage for the new age.
I think that the quote of Jack Warner’s position says it all -- a playwright sells a product, the screenwriter sells a service. Now, isn’t it all about money and, hence, greed? If an author writes a sufficiently good product, he has the right of ownership and copyright and can sell the work as a book, a magazine article or whatever, including the foundation of a movie script.
If a studio has the means and is willing to take the risk of developing that product into an economically successful vehicle via the work of capitalists, management, producers, directors, actors, screenwriters, technical staff, special effects, scenery makers, camera operators, production and post-production staff, composers, musicians, gaffers and so on, well, good for all of them. A movie is not made without all of and more of the aforementioned talent.
So writers, be good enough to command a price for your product or a salary for your work and get on with it. If you do not own it, then you have no more to expect than to be employed, and that is as it should be.
I am an engineer; the products that I design are those that I receive a salary or bonus to develop. I take no risk except that of maintaining employment, nor do I expect to receive residuals as the product is sold and modified or incorporated into other uses. If I care to form a company and build products for sale, then I have advanced beyond that of an engineer (writer) and then reap the profits (residuals) of having taken the risk to do that.
George W. Zeissner
In his remarks about screenwriters being marginalized, Mitchell quotes our contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers: “the studio, hereinafter referred to as the author,” in a context that suggests the Writers Guild marched serenely into the ovens in a quest for money, bribed by the studios. This may have been so for some, but the problem goes deeper.
The Copyright Act in force for more than a century defines “work for hire” -- which includes all of Hollywood writing. The law says that in “work for hire” the employer is “deemed to be the author.”
If you follow this logic, Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria wrote Wagner’s operas and the pope personally painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Congress wrote -- at big business’ bidding -- this legal snare from which there is no escape for the guild.
As to the “auteur theory” trumping writers in favor of directors, it has also castrated producers. Ever since director Frank Capra hired Russell Birdwell (a truly creative public relations guy) to burnish his image by inventing the idea of “The Capra Touch” as an advertising slogan, things have gone downhill.
Robert Riskin (Capra’s writing collaborator), angered by Birdwell’s slogan, walked into Capra’s office and tossed 120 blank pages on Capra’s desk and said, “There, Frank, put the Capra touch on that.” Made a point.
The writer is past president of the Writers Guild and of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and he holds many awards for his writing, including an Oscar for “Dog Day Afternoon.”
Getting teachers to give back
Re “Refunds sought from teachers,” Nov. 10
Surely, some of those 36,000 educated teachers knew there could be problems when switching over to a new computerized payroll system.
Genie Penn has a graduate degree in business, is teaching our children -- and didn’t notice she was getting overpaid? If Penn represents Los Angeles Unified School District teachers, it would appear that district teachers are entitled to keep erroneous overpayments at the taxpayers’ expense. Doesn’t Penn feel a slight bit of guilt for her peers who were underpaid? I wouldn’t welcome the tax implications either, but I think most of the general public would know that payroll errors will be found and corrected.
Shame on those who do not feel an ethical responsibility to repay what did not belong to them in the first place. What does this say about those who are teaching our children?
Shouldn’t the LAUSD get its money back from Deloitte Consulting before going after the teachers? Just a thought.
Corporations over people
Re “Home Depot sues L.A. over store in Sunland-Tujunga,” Nov. 10
This has always been about Home Depot proving that it doesn’t have to follow the rules because it makes the rules. Notice its outrage: How dare an elected official represent any interests of any other citizens? Home Depot could have done the right thing from the start: environmental review.
However, the thought of permitting this kind of “precedent” of citizens having a say in their own government, and therefore quality of life, is far too frightening to the corporate thugs and the other politicians who ride on their backs.
People are either too lazy or ignorant to demand anything else. Corporations enjoy the rights of individuals with none of the responsibilities. Government is run by those with the money for lawsuits.
It’s time to return government to the people, as our founders intended. They never envisioned representation for corporations over people. This is a far-reaching issue beyond just Sunland-Tujunga or Los Angeles.
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