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Letters to the editor

A cushy life on death row; George Skelton's take on taxation; investigating ACORN

November 15, 2009

Life on death row

Re “When death penalty means a better life,” Nov. 11

Isn't it nice that our death row inmates enjoy such luxurious accommodations compared to the rest of the prison populace?

You talk about milking the system. The fact that Billy Joe Johnson requested the death penalty because he knows he won't be executed for at least 30 years, and is now able to enjoy a life of relative comfort at taxpayer expense, is yet another example of our bureaucratic stupidity.

The estimated cost of $138,000 a year to house these death row inmates (compared to $49,000 a year to house other prisoners in maximum-

security facilities) is a huge sum, considering the state's budget woes.

Folks in Sacramento need to get with the program and either take care of business or put this guy out with the rest of the prison population. No wonder we're up to our eyeballs in red ink.

Robert Freeman

Taxing issues

Re “State is taxing our credulity,” Column, Nov. 9

George Skelton's column on the increase in California tax withholding rates fires up the anti-government types, but he misses an opportunity to shed light on the subject.

His assertion that this is a tax increase is based on semantics as much as numbers. He's preaching to the large choir of Californians who don't want to think about the state's deficit.

The real question, which Skelton ignores, is when a state can expect to be paid the taxes it is owed.

If Skelton believes that taxpayers have the right to pay as little tax as possible throughout the year until the April 15 deadline, he should make some quantitative recommendations.

Whether taxpayers cost the state fair revenue by underpaying throughout the year is a question that's as legitimate as whether withholding rates should be increased.

Unless the increased withholding results in overpayment during the year, it seems like one of the least painful ways of narrowing a monstrous debt that voters and legislators are unwilling to address in more straightforward ways.

John Vasi
Santa Barbara

Karzai the U.S. pupil

Re “Can the U.S. teach Hamid Karzai how to be a wartime president?,” Opinion, Nov. 10

I always suspected that "Max Boot" was really the nom de plume of some comedy writer. In Tuesday's Times, he finally confirmed my suspicions.

Boot suggests that President Obama send former President George W. Bush to Afghanistan to teach Hamid Karzai "how to be a leader in wartime."

I don't need to explain why that's funny, do I?

Robert Von Bargen
Santa Monica

The headline on this column should have read: "Can Karzai teach Obama how to be a wartime president?"

Gary A. Robb
Los Feliz

Not sold on F-16 diplomacy

Re “How a few F-16s can buy peace in the Taiwan Strait,” Opinion, Nov. 11

In recommending that the United States leverage not selling F-16 jets to Taiwan for better U.S.-China-Taiwan relations, professor Dennis V. Hickey overlooks three key points.

First, the U.S. has formally assured Taipei that Washington will not hold prior consultations with Beijing regarding arms sales to Taiwan.

Second, although it would be a significant and welcome gesture if China pulled back missiles aimed at Taiwan, Beijing could easily redeploy those missiles whenever it wanted.

Third, the U.S. has a legal commitment to Taiwan's defense and a strategic interest in a stable balance across the Taiwan Strait.

For these reasons, the decision to sell F-16s to Taiwan should be based on consultations between Washington and Taipei. Beijing has the ability to positively influence the decision-making process -- by willingly reducing its military posture toward Taiwan.

Doing so could facilitate a landmark summit between the presidents of China and Taiwan, without the United States cutting deals that might hurt more than help.

Leif-Eric Easley
Los Angeles
The author is an Asian international relations specialist at USC.

Investigate ACORN

Re “The war on ACORN,” Opinion, Oct. 22

This Op-Ed article is disconnected from reality in its intellectually dishonest arguments in favor of the Assn. of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN.

Nowhere does Peter Dreier refer to the fact that he was an unpaid consultant to ACORN.

Also, Dreier's claim that the investigations into and accusations against ACORN of voter fraud are all part of a right-wing conspiracy is as cliched as it is disingenuous.

Should voters be forced to subsidize an organization that may be breaking the law? Of course not.

Should Congress investigate an entity that receives millions in government grants and yet is accused of rampant and widespread fraud? Of course it should.

It might be tough for an academic in a cloistered community to understand the hard work required to make sure people's rights aren't trampled by those looking to game the system.

For those actually working to make sure each American's right to engage in the process is preserved, ACORN is a bad actor.

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