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Judging the judges; Justice system breakdown; lessons from the war in Iraq

Judging the judges

Re “Gingrich might scrap certain judges, courts,” Dec. 18

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will surely put our country on a slippery slope, should he get elected president and carry out his threat to scrap certain federal judges and courts.

The Supreme Court is supreme because we the people allow it to be; we recognize the need for a final arbiter. Should we allow someone, anyone, to circumvent the law, we will cease being a democracy.

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Very few Supreme Court decisions are unanimous, thereby telling us that even among carefully vetted jurists there is disagreement. But not to accept their final ruling will cause chaos.

The arrogance of Gingrich to suggest that he would not abide by a Supreme Court ruling should cause any thinking person not to vote for him.

Karl F. Schmid

Los Angeles

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Gingrich was correct about the federal judiciary.

Thomas Jefferson was prophetic when he warned, “The germ of dissolution of our federal government is in the constitution of the federal judiciary … [advancing] over the field of jurisdiction until all shall be usurped from the States.”

He added that centralized power “will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.” Considering the growth of the federal government, Jefferson’s fears, now ours, are being realized.

Indeed, the inundation of attorney-driven, unreasonably complicated local, state and federal laws, and activist courts — coupled with the predatory legal industry — have restricted our freedoms.

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Daniel B. Jeffs

Apple Valley

The Republicans are usually the worst examples of what they warn us about. Perhaps it’s their conscience speaking.

When Gingrich rails against activist courts, the best example is the mostly Republican-appointed Supreme Court. The judges have said money is free speech. Is this an oxymoron? Money is not free. They say corporations are people. Is Bank of America or Wal-Mart a person?

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Money talks, especially in Washington, and this activist court has unleashed unlimited corporate money into our democracy.

Ellen Swallow

Manhattan Beach

Justice system breakdown

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Re “Doubts on the death penalty,” Editorial, Dec. 18

Our justice system has disintegrated over the years. We have prisoners who have been on “death row” for more than 30 years. When do victims’ rights come into play? The state should give one appeal and then carry out the sentence.

We can’t give the condemned the needle because lethal injection might cause pain. What about what was done to their victims? I’d bet it hurt.

Over and over we see the inequity of the system. Lindsay Lohan has been in jail several times but gets released early. Conrad Murray will likely be out well before his sentence is up. These people are charged with crimes; weeks go by before they are sentenced, and then they are given weeks before they have to show up to jail.

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It is time that we gave our “justice system” an overhaul.

Pat Beattie

Santa Barbara

There is one thing that is without a doubt: With all that brain power in Sacramento and the courts, California is unable to competently process a death penalty case.

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This is consistent with this state’s inability to adequately educate its citizens, its failure to properly incarcerate law breakers and its cowardice in not making the tough decisions to get our financial house in order.

Scott Martin

Hawthorne

Lessons from the war in Iraq

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Re “Peace at last,” Opinion, Dec. 16

Tom Hayden is correct: The peace activists were right about the war in Iraq and the civil war in Afghanistan, not to mention the Vietnam War. But why learn from history? Wait until the dead are buried and sing the praises of battle and of warriors.

I can’t get one of my clients’ cases to trial without attending at least one mediation. But we can go to war and kill thousands without ever actually really trying to resolve any differences with our “enemies” in a face-to-face mediation.

To paraphrase Capt. John Joseph Yossarian: What a crazy world.

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James Osborne

Sherman Oaks

The war in Iraq is officially over, but our country did not win it. Our country did not even fight it. It was left up to our volunteer military, whose combined active and reserve personnel amount to little more than 1% of our population.

True, the military did a magnificent job. But the people, concerned with jobs and taxes, did not pay attention. News about the war was only noise. Consider if there had been a draft; could President Bush have started the Iraq conflict?

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Bring back the draft. If our sons and daughters could be called into the armed forces, there would be intense opposition to future foreign adventures.

Theodore E. Shireman

El Monte

An inspiration

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Re “Breathing free,” Dec. 16

What an inspiring article. What horrendous shame and agony Shyima Hall, an Egyptian girl sold into slavery at age 10, endured until a neighbor was courageous enough to step in.

But there seems to be more to this story. If Hall never went to school until she was 13 and never left the home of her enslavers during those years, how and when did she learn English? And how did she make up her missing years of education to become a college student and eventually a U.S. citizen at age 22?

If we could learn more about how she achieved all this, it could inspire other young people to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles too.

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Bonnie Compton Hanson

Santa Ana

Christmas clash

Re “A matter of mangers,” Editorial, Dec. 18

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The absurdity of Santa Monica’s decision to allow atheists an opportunity to display their “message” seems to elude The Times.

The atheists’ “message” is a non-message: There is no god. All they can put up is a banner mocking others’ beliefs. The Nativity scene is a Christian myth: It celebrates the family and the renewal of life. For this message to be truncated so that non-believers can declare their non-belief is a sad commentary on the state of our culture.

Political correctness displaces compassion. Merry Christmas!

Arthur Hoyle

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Pacific Palisades

I had to laugh when I read this editorial. The editorial states, “Religious displays are usually not permitted in civic buildings — especially courthouses, where the meting out of justice must never look as if it’s influenced by one religion or another.”

And there in big, bold letters on the walls in some courtrooms reads, “In God we trust.”

Robert V. Greene

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Woodland Hills

Praise for Lopez

Re “The right to make that exit,” Column, Dec. 18

I am very grateful to Steve Lopez for having the courage to write so honestly about the very complicated subject of how we handle terminal illness in this country.

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As a hospice and palliative physician for more than 20 years, I have struggled to communicate the importance of discussing goals of care; Lopez did it in a few articles. His willingness to write about his personal (and family) dilemmas in confronting his dad’s illness truly touched me.

Thank you, Steve Lopez, and keep writing on the subject.

Mario Milch

Los Angeles

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