Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ criticism of NATO; the case of American hikers held in Iran; who should be in charge of L.A.'s arts high school

NATO on the defensive

Re “Gates faults NATO allies’ resolve,” June 11

Could it be that it is the United States that is pushing “toward collective military irrelevance” by continuing to interfere militarily in other nations’ business?

If the U.S. is so tired of engaging in expensive combat missions for and with those who “don’t want to share the risks and the costs,” perhaps it should reexamine its priorities. Maybe it is we who are out of step.


It is disturbing that outgoing Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates would criticize other countries for their unwillingness to spend blood and treasure joining this country in the military exercises that are bankrupting us. Our leaders should look to the example of Germany, a country that provides education and medical care and refuses to join NATO in its most recent foray into Libya. Good choice.

Sharon Fane

Sherman Oaks

Let me propose a solution to Gates’ justifiable annoyance with NATO member states that treat the organization with an attitude that borders on contempt.

When the United States is forced to take up the slack in a military action because of a member’s unwillingness to assume its duty, it should calculate our costs and bill the slackers. In cases in which we owe a nation money, our costs should be deducted from that debt.

A country that refuses to accept the burden should be removed, a penalty that would cost it prestige and the protection that responsible membership affords.

Jules Brenner



I support Gates’ position and feel the United States can no longer shoulder more NATO responsibilities than it should, both financially and with American lives. As long as our country is willing to do the dirty work for everyone, the argument might go, why should any other nations do anything but sit back and criticize our actions?

I hope Gates’ message is received loud and clear, although in reality I doubt it will be. Only through our direct actions and setting specific and clear expectations can we fulfill the NATO mission of equitable participation.

Richard Woolsey

Westlake Village


Take a hike, but watch out too

Re “What’s with the ‘hiker hate’?,” Opinion, June 9

Meghan Daum has a valid point. Americans who are afraid to venture out of their comfort zones usually deride those of us who do as being reckless. I know this because I’ve traveled to Mexico three times this year and been criticized for it.

My friends and I who have gone to Mexico have had nothing but wonderful experiences, but the critics have made up their minds and don’t want to be confused by the facts. I blame an overzealous media for this.


Robert Marcos

San Diego

I don’t hate the American hikers arrested in Iran. I hope they get to come home soon. But I do think they made a foolish choice by hiking where they did — near the Iran-Iraq border — and are paying the consequence.

There are a lot of places in the world to hike alone and enjoy nature without being overly worried about getting arrested or worse. But anywhere near the borders of Iran is not one of them.


Patrick Justice

Huntington Beach

Running L.A.'s arts school

Re “New head of downtown L.A. arts school to be named,” June 9


Last time I checked, the downtown L.A. arts school was under Los Angeles Unified School District control; it is not a charter school.

Although Eli Broad is a generous philanthropist, his bank account does not give him special privileges in terms of trying to influence administrative

assignments and policies. The superintendent is the impartial leader who should be responsible for implementation of district policy at all noncharter public schools in L.A.

As far as selection of students for the school, the local area is in serious need of seats at this campus, and any “audition policy” for admittance needs to be screened for any kind of elitist tendencies.


Steven Siry

Los Angeles

The writer is a retired L.A. Unified principal.

I suggest to the L.A. Board of Education that the arts school be named after either Alvin Ailey, John Cage or both. They are graduates of Los Angeles public schools who went on to pioneering and distinguished international careers in the arts.


Such names would let students know that their imagination, hard work and motivation in the L.A. schools system has the potential to take them somewhere — as it did for their predecessors.

One plan to name it after former L.A. Unified Supt. Ramon C. Cortines is clearly the wrong choice; even he’s not sure he wants that honor.

The John Cage School of Music and the Alvin Ailey School of Performing Arts has a nice ring to it.

Don Kilhefner


Los Angeles

Web awareness

Re “Policing the Internet,” Editorial, June 7

The problem of offshore websites trafficking in pirated and counterfeited goods is an enormous one for American companies. It is not only copyright industries but such companies as sportswear makers, pharmaceuticals and auto manufacturers that support legislation aimed at undermining these sites.


The Times seems to suggest that one technicality in the legislation is imperfect and therefore reason not to move forward. Utilizing the domain-name system to cut off foreign criminal enterprises is one way to tackle the problem of rogue sites and has proved effective in efforts to block spam and execute parental control tools. It is the most viable alternative to attack the growing online black market.

The bill wouldn’t encourage Web consumers to “use underground servers.” Rather, cracking down on these sites would benefit consumers by cleaning out sites that take great pains to appear legitimate but can cause harm.

David Israelite



The writer is president and chief executive of the National Music Publishers’ Assn.

Fee phobia

Re “Standing up to the banks,” Opinion, June 9

Is Gus West truly naive enough to believe that consumers will see a benefit from reduced card-swipe fees? All that’s going to happen is that retailers’ profits will go up.


This whole brouhaha is just a fight between banks and merchants; in either case, the consumer loses. Not only that, but based on David Lazarus’ many columns detailing the outrageous fees that various banks have instituted recently, banks will only replace swipe fees with other unconscionable charges.

So no matter what happens, what the consumer pays won’t change.

Howard Cheng

Thousand Oaks


Tuition sense

Re “Confounded by tuition stance,” Letters, June 12

Maybe I am in cuckoo land myself, which one letter writer called California for offering in-state tuition to undocumented immigrant residents. But I thought the reason someone from another state paid higher fees than someone living in California was because Californians had paid for public education by paying various taxes.

Immigration status under federal law really has nothing to do with the California educational system. To not allow our high school graduates access to higher education robs all of us of a better, richer California.


Planaria Price

Los Angeles

Praising Palin

Re “Palin in her own words,” June 11


The best commentaries about the liberal media’s lynch mob against Sarah Palin came from her spokesman, who urged everyone to read all the emails and witness a hardworking and extremely productive governor, and from the spokesman for Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell, who reported that Palin did not ask for anything to be deleted from her emails.

Charles K. Sergis

Redondo Beach