Letters to the editor

Lobbying rips off the public

Re “New anthrax vaccine sunk by lobbying,” a Times investigation, Dec. 2

The influence of lobbyists becomes more blatant and destructive to the public interest every day. We simply must put an end to it.

As long as candidates must use private funding, citizens will pay more than they would pay for elections, because once in office, those candidates must try to forget who their donors are when voting on legislation that directly affects those donors. Can anything be a better recipe for corruption?

There is pending legislation in Sacramento -- Assembly Bill 583 -- that can rescue California. We also need public election financing on the federal level.

If the public doesn’t provide the money that politicians need to run for office, then big money and the wealthy will continue to do so, and our democracy will come closer and closer to being a plutocracy.

What a tragic day that would be.

Tobi Dragert

Los Angeles

Both the front-page article concerning the anthrax vaccine and the Q & A on Page A26 concerning the farm bill (“Farm bill affects more than land and furrows”) are about lobbying. Both also illustrate a disturbing and worsening facet of government: Important decisions are not being made on the basis of what is best for the country, for the democracy or for taxpayers, but what is best for a corporation or for the financial coffers of those in government who believe that being elected or appointed to public office provides the very best cover for the attainment of personal riches.

The country and its citizens are being ripped off for the gain of a few. Corporate lobbying should be radically restricted. Corporations are not citizens.

Lewis Redding


Lower the volume on immigration

Re “End the immigrant hysteria,” Opinion, Dec. 3

Would Max Boot advocate opening Israel’s borders to Latinos and Africans? If such immigrants help the U.S., imagine how they could also aid Israel. And immigration might eliminate what Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last week referred to as a “South African-style struggle” that Israel could face because of its policies.

Frank Messmann

Falmouth, Mass.

Finally, an Op-Ed article by Boot that I can agree with, and for good reason. A small, disproportionately vocal special-interest group of anti-immigrant fanatics has blocked level-headed, reasoned and educated discussions on practical solutions to our immigration dilemma. The pool of GOP candidates has no backbone on this issue; only Mike Huckabee, an evangelical candidate, has had the moral courage to support the Dream Act.

Yes, immigration and immigrants need to be addressed, but not in the current hysterical, emotional manner utilized by anti-immigrant zealots and their GOP enablers.

We are blessed as a nation that our immigrant populations are not burning down cities or rioting in the streets, as is the case in some European cities.

Let’s get this right (before it is too late) and not further exacerbate a worsening policy blunder.

Alexandro José


La Palma

The writer is an assistant professor of Chicana and Chicano studies at Cal State Fullerton.

Blast at Dems reaches too far

Re “The gentry liberals,” Opinion, Dec. 2

I get a good laugh at Sean Hannity obsessing over limousine liberals, but I don’t find it as funny when The Times prints pieces like the one by Joel Kotkin and Fred Siegel. To make the connection that, because some wealthy people are tending to move away from the Republican Party along with the rest of the country, the Democratic Party is the party of the upper crust, is pretty weak. I’m not a huge fan of the Democrats, but to characterize them as the worse of our two major parties for working-class Americans takes some genuine effort.

Should I look forward to an Op-Ed article by Rush Limbaugh on Hillary Clinton’s connections to the Kremlin, or the Beltway Boys teaming up to analyze the horror of labor unions or the awesomeness of Jesus?

Kurt O’Brien

Huntington Beach

From the North American Free Trade Agreement supported enthusiastically by President Clinton to the recent Peruvian trade agreement passed by the Democratic Congress, the gentrification of the Democratic Party is nearly complete.

A party, once proud of its support for organized labor and indeed the working man, has thrown in with corporate America. How can this be explained?

It’s the way we finance our political campaigns.

The working folk of this country cannot afford the high price tag for well-paid lobbyists the way multinational corporate entities can and do. Liberalism will only reassert itself when the current corrupt campaign finance system is replaced with a public one. Sadly, that’s not in the offing any time soon.

Bob Teigan

Santa Susana

Kotkin and Siegel complain that liberals are concerned with gay rights and global warming instead of “lunch-pail joes.” What about lunch-pail joes (or janes) who happen to be gay or lesbian? Are farmers who are worried about global warming-induced drought “lunch pail” enough?

Their criticism of the Democratic candidates is absurd. All of them are proposing healthcare plans and other programs to help working people. Kotkin and Siegel are just another couple of hucksters claiming to speak for working folks they know nothing about.

Evan Gerstmann

Los Angeles

The writer chairs the political science department at Loyola Marymount University.

Kotkin and Siegel indict leading Democratic candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as “gentry liberals” who care little about the needs of working-class Americans. How, then, do these propagandists explain that the top domestic priority of both candidates is universal health coverage?

I question the wisdom of publishing an article that blatantly rehashes archetypal conservative boogeymen -- Hollywood moguls, ivory tower professors, dot-com millionaires and the like -- while deliberately ignoring Democratic health and education initiatives that would mainly benefit middle-class families.

Ethan Drogin

Los Angeles

Love that tax code

Re “Flat-tax and spend GOP,” Opinion, Dec. 1

Michael Kinsley fails to emphasize the outrageous costs of running the present tax bureaucracy. In order to pay taxes, millions of middle-class Americans spend countless hours collecting records and paying exorbitant fees to tax preparers just to figure out what they owe. What a waste of time and money when most taxpayers would gladly pay their share directly.

It is idiotic to have a system that forces millions of Americans to spend valuable time and money just to find out what they owe the government. For these Americans who conscientiously pay their taxes, the present inefficient system results in double taxation.

Kenneth Carter

Laguna Beach

Why can’t Kinsley lay off businesses? He scolds: “They can pay taxes under the current rules -- with some juicy new breaks added from the big- and small-business wish lists.”

Perhaps Kinsley forgets the heart of this nation rests in its small (and large) businesses. Perhaps those of Kinsley’s ilk yearn for that great big mother of an employer, the federal government, to even all things out for scribes like him and the balance of the great unwashed. The balance of Kinsley’s argument is pure socialist rhetoric.

Stuart Weiss

Beverly Hills

U.S. must learn from its mistakes

Re “ ‘Heroes’ in waiting,” Opinion, Nov. 28

When will the U.S. learn from its past mistakes? I hope that former Pentagon advisor and neocon Richard Perle does not have the same clout as he did in the past in the Bush administration when it handpicked Ahmad Chalabi be the savior of the Iraqi people.

I don’t know much about Farid Ghadry, who is being groomed to lead the Syrians, but as Alan Weisman rightly quoted the Mother Jones article by Laura Rosen, Iranian dissident Amir Abbas Fakhravar is a charlatan who does not fool anyone but neocons like Perle. If you talk with people from Iran, among them that country’s leading political dissident, Akbar Ganji, Fakhravar is not involved in the Iranian opposition or student movement. For someone to be a leader, the person must have the respect of his people. Leaders are not like clothes that have a label in the back saying “Made in United States.”

Mehdi Amini

Herndon, Va.

Must be a reason

Re “California campuses rate well,” Dec. 1

When California is among the worst states in class size and school funding, yet has 23 of the country’s top 100 high schools, could that possibly be because of good teaching? Nah. Must be something else.

Wendell H. Jones