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Rankled by raises
Re “State pay hikes are withdrawn,” April 23
It is becoming more clear each day in California that politicians care only about themselves. It's also nice to know that after the news leaked about the pay raises, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass and Minority Leader Michael Villines thought they were a "mistake."
What kind of people are we electing? Are Bass and Villines aware that the unemployment rate has skyrocketed and most people feel lucky to even have a job? Everyone I know is worried about the future. Many companies have slashed pay, benefits and expenses.
Don't worry, Speaker Bass, we will suffer while you and your staff work to save this great state from ruin.
After months of partisan political wrangling, the Democratic and Republican leadership in the Assembly finally reached an agreement on a budget issue: pay raises for their staffs amid a recession and a monster state deficit.
Most disturbing is that the politicians who crafted this boondoggle did not have the intellect or the political awareness to identify the raises as improper long before they became public. Only after they've been slammed by massive public outcry do we see these leaders become enlightened enough to acknowledge their "mistake."
The fate of the state is still in the hands of these so-called leaders, and I find no cause for hope given this fact.
Re “The real story behind a faux scandal,” Opinion, April 22
Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice) is entitled to a presumption of innocence regarding the allegations that she offered to intervene on behalf of pro-Israeli lobbyists for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in exchange for support for her to be named chairwoman of the House Intelligence Committee.
However, let us not lose sight of the seriousness of the allegations. If true, Harman was seeking to gain authority in the U.S. government by acting in the interest of a foreign government. This would raise the question: What country's interests does Harman serve?
When Harman, who represents perhaps the most liberal congressional district in the country, voted with President George W. Bush to authorize the Iraq war, she betrayed that she was only interested in advancing her own political ambitions.
How ironic it is that, as one of the earliest supporters of Bush's warrantless wiretapping agenda, she has apparently been hoist by her own petard.
I don't understand how Tim Rutten can blithely dismiss all of this as a "faux scandal." Apparently there was a conversation -- and the contradictions and stonewalling in Harman's comments lead me to guess that the whole story will be bigger than we currently suspect.
The question we should be asking is why this information is only coming out now.
What really kept us safe
Re “Dealing with the ‘torture memos,’ ” April 23
Law professor John C. Yoo believes that the interrogation tactics used have worked because another terrorist attack has not occurred since 9/11.
I believe the reason another attack has not occurred is because we sent troops into Afghanistan, leading to the toppling of the Taliban-led government that protected Al Qaeda, the dismantling of terrorist bases and the capture or killing of many of its leaders. Once they had to run for the hills, it became much more difficult to carry out other attacks.
We had plenty of information about Al Qaeda before the 9/11 attacks. Neither President Clinton nor President Bush took the group out.
We didn't need to torture anyone to stop Al Qaeda. We just needed to go after them -- a job that might have been finished already but for our unnecessary detour into Iraq.
Re “Torture is torture,” letters, April 21
Reading a letter from a former naval intelligence officer who experienced torture techniques as part of his training, I was confronted again with the pathology of the defenders of torture and my own experience as a victim of torture in Chile.
Imagine, is it truly the same to experience a torture drill among fellow soldiers, a simulation carried out by your peers, as to suffer real torture by agents who hate you and want to hurt you or even kill you?
Thousands of my fellow Chileans were tortured to death. Luckily, I survived -- though with, of course, physical and psychological repercussions. The letter writer never feared for his life. It was just a drill.
Democracy for sale
Re "Derail the money train," Opinion, April 20
Thanks to Robert M. Stern and Molly Milligan for bringing to our attention the "for sale" sign on our democracy. Reform attempts will continue to fail as long as politicians make the campaign reform laws. Who among them wants to be responsible for killing the goose that lays the golden egg? We will have true campaign reform when the electorate demands it. Reform should be given to an independent committee to make tough rules to be voted on in the form of a proposition.
Hardly a day goes by that some official isn't caught playing loose with legislation in favor of big-money interests. No one seems interested in proving quid pro quo when it's so obvious. Why would anyone give such large amounts of money without expecting something in return? These contributions are nothing more than bribes.
Lou Del Pozzo
Another view of Stockdale
Re “Ship honors Navy hero Stockdale,” April 19
The Times mischaracterizes Vice Adm. James Stockdale's 1992 debate performance. Stockdale's famous opening line -- "Who am I? Why am I here?" -- did not "deep[en] [the] impression" that Stockdale was "unprepared and confused." Rather, the opening line was well-received at the time and has generally been regarded as the high point of Stockdale's otherwise poor performance.
Jim Lehrer, an old hand at presidential debates, noted as much in 1999 when he said that the line "got great publicity." Fred Thompson riffed on the line on the campaign trail. Stockdale did perform poorly that October night, but he opened strong.
New Haven, Conn.
The writer is editor of presidentialdebateblog.com.
Not singing their praises
Re “Band’s taping to close street,” April 21
So a good chunk of Hollywood Boulevard was blocked off for almost two days so that some promoters could put on a Depeche Mode concert to promote a new album and a new hotel. The show's planners laughably claimed that this would bring the "return of Golden Age excitement and lifestyle" to Hollywood.
Hmmm. I'm not sure what "Golden Age" they had in mind, but I doubt it included the bumper-to-bumper traffic that these constant, frivolous street closures in Hollywood cause.
The real culprit here is the City Council, which sees no contradiction between allowing a frenetic pace of development in Hollywood, which is rapidly increasing the population, and handing out permits to close major streets for any and every entertainment-related event.
I hope my fellow Hollywood residents will join me and reward them for their inability to grasp the basics of city planning, and their indifference to the interests of their actual constituents by voting them out of office.