The quirk factor
Re "A husk of its former self," Column One, Dec. 1
I find it so sad that roadside attractions such as the Corn Palace in South Dakota are battling for their survival. Speaking as a foreigner, I must say that these quirky attractions are part of what makes the United States appealing to the rest of the world.
The U.S. has had a long history of tolerating and even embracing the eccentric. These imaginative places should not be allowed to vanish, as already far too many have.
If these places vanish one by one, they may be missed. But by then it will be too late, and the march of "progress" will engulf more and more of your countryside with shopping malls and parking lots.
America, support the odd and the unusual, and when the recession is over, you will be grateful that you helped these places through the lean times.
Durban, South Africa
A presidential role model
Re "Obama's communications mentor?" Opinion, Nov. 28
I nearly vomited when I read that President Obama should emulate George W. Bush.
George W. Bush? Seriously? He was known for butchering the English language on a nearly daily basis. He also misled us to start a murderous and immoral war.
This is to whom Obama should look for communication advice? Black is white, up is down and now Bush is the great communicator. We are doomed.
Richard Wolffe is right about the White House's most obvious failure: communication. Obama needs to show the big picture rather than losing it in details.
In other words, he should constantly tout all of his accomplishments.
For example, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that there are 1.3 million to 3.5 million people who are currently employed because of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Wolffe mentioned Bush because he communicated his policies in a brand marketing style. Obama used his "hope" brand during the campaign, and now he needs to find a new brand to promote his policies.
I appreciated Wolffe's Op-Ed article, but I take issue with his statement that "the stock market has regained most of the ground it lost since the financial meltdown."
The Dow Jones industrial average has regained only about 60% of the loss from October 2007 to March 2009.
Friendship isn't what it used to be
Re "Zuckerberg's Revolution," Opinion, Nov. 28
Not only has Generation Facebook diluted the concept of friendship, but now epistolary forms of communication are becoming public-announcement e-mails devoid of any grammar and spelling rules.
Under the delusion of an audience that cares about trivial details, this under-40 generation tries to elevate their ordinary lives to that of a celebrity.
Can someone please tell these people that nobody is really reading anyone and that their discourse lacks the necessary interlocutor that makes social interaction possible? If it's a personal diary they're after, I'd suggest they buy a traditional one.
I don't think the medium is the message so much as the individual is the receiver.
The kind of technological determinism Neal Gabler espouses does not seem to account for the user in any way except as a passive participant. But this is not the case. An audio book will have the same content as its printed version. The medium cannot alter that message; the only difference is how the individual receives it.
People determine a message's meaning; the medium delivers it.
I can understand Gabler's feelings about Facebook and reason. But perhaps he did not recognize that the purpose of Facebook is not to reason but to replace the telegram, which was introduced in 1838.
These seamless, informal, immediate, personal, simple, short, mass-produced telegrams are so ubiquitous (and free) that "unimportant" can be added to Mark Zuckerberg's seven principles.
If there is a serious 21st century threat to reason, it is neither Facebook nor Twitter but television's seductive presence in every home.
In defense of Proposition 13
Re "Brown has an opportunity to revisit Proposition 13," Column, Nov. 29
George Skelton is inappropriately harsh in his views on Proposition 13. He forgets that it was voted in decades ago because residents, even then, were losing their homes to rapidly escalating property taxes based on rapidly inflating prices.
Raised market values have little relationship to an ability to pay higher property taxes. It's a real problem for retired seniors or fixed-income owners who bought a home many years ago.
A tax that can be confiscatory is by definition a shameful, bad tax.
The problem in the way Proposition 13 was implemented was not just that the state stepped in and sent billions to local governments; the problem was that property tax revenues were reduced by 60% and there is no way sales taxes can make up for that.