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Gov.-elect Jerry Brown's challenges; American exceptionalism; and the LAPD's traffic camera fines

December 17, 2010

Suggestion box?

Re "Brown wants speedy budget deal," Dec. 15

"Depressing" is the word that comes to mind while reading all this doom and gloom about cuts here, there and everywhere. But I'm confident that if anyone can turn our Golden State around, it's the no-nonsense, think-outside-the-box incoming governor, Jerry Brown.

Why don't we all think outside the box and send suggestions to our governor-elect? Let's help him help us; we are all in this together.

My suggestion would be to sell thousands of state-owned properties. With money from the sales going into the general fund, as well as putting all these properties back on the tax rolls, it's a win-win.

Marie David

Los Angeles

Re "Education is big on Brown's chalkboard," Dec. 14

Californians will feel more pain as reality finally hits home. This pain could be productive, or it could become self-destructive.

Education will be an interesting case study. Taxpayers and teachers have two choices. They can choose to shoot it out politically. Both parties will suffer for years to come. Political ricochets will hit thousands of innocent students; quite a few legislators will be struck too.

On the other hand, taxpayers and teachers, with Brown's leadership, can find a way to promote a few more charter schools, eliminate clearly ineffective teachers, raise taxes and intensify education for students in greatest need.

Life-threatened patients can expect to receive top-quality care. But an educationally deprived fourth-grader has no assurance of a top-quality education.

Neilson Buchanan

Palo Alto

America the exceptional

Re "What makes America great?" Opinion, Dec. 13

Is America exceptional? Tragically, no. Unfortunately, this concept is fed as pap to an uninformed American public.

Our cherished American values are in shreds both domestically and internationally. Good intentions cannot substitute for poor policies.

Our quality of living has deteriorated. We have comparatively high infant mortality, poor healthcare services, falling educational standards that produce low math, science and reading scores, and great income inequality.

Values? Our latest economic disaster reveals dishonesty and greed not only by fiscal institutions but also by ordinary citizens, who falsified loan information and used credit cards obscenely.

We desperately need smart, striving politicians who rise above petty partisanship. Perhaps then America can reclaim its exceptionalism.

Carol L. Becker


Rather than forthrightly confront the conservative views with which he disagrees, Jonathan Zimmerman instead attacks a straw man: American exceptionalism is not "synonymous with American superiority."

Rather, American exceptionalism describes the confluent tenets and aspirations of our national identity that have made this country unique in human history, such as the irrelevance of lineage, class and ethnicity; the centrality of individual liberty in our formative documents and worldview; and the non-sectarian recognition of universal, transcendent values emanating from our creator.

The abolition of slavery nearly 150 years ago — another milestone in

human history — embodied these hallmarks of our national identity, and Zimmerman's attempt to claim that achievement in the name of contemporary liberalism is, at best, vacuous.

David L. Burg

Studio City

America may be the most powerful nation on the globe, but it is not the only great nation.

When Thomas Jefferson became president, still a slave owner, he put America on the road to empire building by securing the Louisiana Purchase.

What followed was the Monroe Doctrine, gunboat diplomacy, the war with Mexico and the questionable acquisition of Caribbean islands, the Philippines and Hawaii, all part of what we called Manifest Destiny. After all, who could question the morality of God?

President Obama has rightfully acknowledged the errors of our ways rather than making excuses for them.

We are a greater nation for it.

Phil Wilt

Van Nuys

Caught up in cameras

Re " LAPD defends traffic cameras," Dec. 15

The Los Angeles Police Department should be questioning the excessive fine of $475, which for many people is a week's wages. Even the 8th Amendment to our Constitution says that "excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed."

I question, as did City Controller Wendy Greuel, the LAPD's contention that these cameras have reduced accidents. The purpose of these cameras is seemingly to generate revenue. If, as Greuel contends, they have not done so, everyone would benefit from terminating this awful program.

Joyce Ellenson

Marina Del Rey

The cameras also are automatically triggered when a driver pulls carefully into the crosswalk, on a red light, to check for traffic before making a right turn. This is hardly "running a red light."

After 15 years of citation-free driving, I got two camera tickets in two months for that maneuver, with fines totaling about $1,000.

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