'Atlas' on the big screen
Re "It just wouldn't be shrugged off," April 10
I was 15 years old when Ayn Rand's novel, "Atlas Shrugged," was published. I have read and reread it many times since then. I have also read Rand's other works and those about her.
To bowdlerize "Atlas Shrugged" to fit the Christian "tea party" tastes is just sickening. I am sorry to hear that her work that clearly, proudly and freely stated Rand's principles — atheism and passionate sexuality as well as a free-market economy — are diluted in the film adaptation. The movie sounds so washed out that it will not really be recognizable.
Your article lists many of the people who have credits in the horror film genre. I'll bet Rand would agree that this version of "Atlas Shrugged" belongs there too.
Rosella A. Alm-Ahearn
Weighing in on 'fat tax' idea
Re "Should there be a 'fat tax'?," Editorial, April 11
It costs taxpayers when Medicaid provides additional care to someone who consistently decides to make unhealthy lifestyle choices. However, once government attempts to save us from ourselves by legislating the food we eat, what will be the cost to our liberty?
If we tax people's unhealthy food choices because those choices cost us more, we lose something of ourselves as Americans. I think Thomas Jefferson said it best: "I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it."
One might argue that insurance companies already have unfair, discriminating costs. Recall that we have freedom not to do business with these companies; we do not have the same luxury with our government.
A tax on gluttony? Great! We must stop subsidizing unhealthy habits. Next up: superstition. No more subsidies for people who worship an imaginary being. Ending tax breaks for churches will bring in millions.
Then we'll go after greed. No more handouts for people who make money by having money. They'll have to pay the same tax rate on investments that we pay on wages.
Hey, wait a minute. It's greed, not gluttony, that's causing healthcare costs to skyrocket. Joe Sixpack's cheeseburgers may cost us later, but it's Charles Fatcat's stock profits that are killing us right now. To paraphrase the old joke, what part of "for-profit healthcare" don't you understand?
If we're taxing sin, let's start at the source: greed. It turns out the greedy have money to spare.
Playa del Rey
Sure, obesity can cause increased healthcare costs and is usually caused by personal decisions. But there are also unfortunates who inherit the genetic propensity to store fat in their bodies. Should they also get taxed?
Non-obese alcoholics also make personal decisions that increase healthcare costs. And what about the personal decisions of those who engage in unprotected sex that can lead to high-cost abortions and sexually transmitted diseases? Should they be taxed?
We don't need a new czar to decide who is too fat or who is too skinny. Americans are not animals in a cage who eat and drink what the zookeeper provides. We demand our unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and that includes a candy bar or two.
Richard J. Stegemeier
Costs, benefits of nuclear power
Re "Why nuclear power is still a good choice," Opinion, April 10
As a famous neoconservative defense chief once observed (in another context), it is the unknown unknowns that create the most difficulty. For nuclear power, the specter of unknown unknowns induces different reactions in different quarters: For the public, an understandable NIMBY reaction that makes nuclear siting difficult. For the industry, fear of unknown costs.
This fear was largely eliminated by the Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act, which assures that the over cap costs for unknown unknowns will be passed to the taxpayers as soon as they become known knowns in the wake of a nuclear catastrophe.
The newfound improbability of this grotesque scenario is welcome news. Now the industry and its insurers won't mind if we repeal this law.
Mark Lynas notes some unintended and unfortunate consequences of environmentalists' political activities: increased global warming, for example. He neglects to mention that the greens' successful effort to paralyze the Yucca Mountain repository for radioactive waste has forced utilities to store spent fuel rods in on-site ponds. With what consequences? Fukushima, anyone?
Lynas' rational approach should be a lesson to us all. Other than a few zealots, we who work in the nuclear field truly understand the tradeoffs and downside of the technology. That is what drives the continuing effort to learn from the mundane problems that never make the headlines but force us to make changes.
Nuclear energy in the U.S. is already just about the safest energy industry. It took an enormous event like an earthquake and tsunami well beyond the design capability of the plants to cause the disaster at Fukushima. Moving away from older plants toward passively safe next-generation fission plants, and possibly eventually nuclear fusion-based energy generation, has the potential to be even better in this regard.
Nuclear energy will be replaced by burning more fossil fuels, and with that scenario nuclear is a far superior choice.
Neil B. Morley
Solving UC's funding crunch
Re "UC's five-year plan," Editorial, April 12
As a University of California system professor for 37 years, I have witnessed a steady deconstruction of its financial framework. Now, in its latest crisis, UC needs to be innovative.
Admitting a greater percentage of out-of-state students is seen as a financial mother lode to be mined. I agree in part, but my support is motivated by an opportunity to address the lack of geographic diversity in UC. Great public universities such as those in Michigan and Virginia have enrollments of around one-third non-resident students. UC has less than 10%.
Education requires a wider lens on our nation and the world. Welcoming students from outside California is a first step.
My daughter's college education should not be used as a tool to leverage a budget solution. This is a critical time for her future. She will never be just a political statistic.
Accepting more out-of-state students and reducing UC acceptances undermine all the hard work she has done to succeed. What valuable message does this send?
My vote is clear: Please, Gov. Jerry Brown, continue to fund education and continue the existing taxes required to keep our fragile education system up and running.
Bell's new start
Re "Hope, and kind words, in Bell," April 12
Monday was an exciting day for Bell, whose new City Council met for the first time.
Let us never forget the lessons of the last year: Democracy requires us to be active participants in the affairs of our cities and to demand to know the actions of our leaders, and government must do its part to operate in a transparent manner.
The ramifications of not participating in government are too costly and difficult to recover from. But most importantly, government and citizens must work together to educate all community members about the different roles they may take on to participate in government.
Good luck to the new council members. We will be watching.
Re "Combating an invisible injury," Column One, April 9
Army Sgt. Angel Harris is a good soldier. She has post-traumatic stress disorder, which took six years to diagnose.
I also was a good soldier, a combat helicopter pilot who served in Vietnam. I too have PTSD, which took 36 years to diagnose. For years PTSD and Agent Orange were seen as bogus items created to cover the backsides of politicians and corporations. Now we realize that both conditions are real. Real and meaningful treatment is (finally) now available through the Department of Veterans Affairs and the associated veterans centers.
Angel, please know that we are honored to be in your company. You are our sister-soldier, and we have your back.