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Letters to the editor

Airline safety; the economy and the stimulus; medical billing

August 21, 2011
  • Brazil's Navy sailors recover debris from the missing Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic Ocean in June 2009. (Associated Press)
Brazil's Navy sailors recover debris from the missing Air France…

Safety in the skies

Re "Who's flying the airliner?," Opinion, Aug. 14

Peter Garrison asks the question, "Who's flying the airliner?" His answer is an ominous prediction of more tragedies similar to Air France Flight 447 and Colgan Air Flight 3407. In both instances, fundamental pilot errors contributed to the accidents.

Experience counts in aviation, yet our most experienced and skilled pilots are forced by law to retire at age 65, while inexperienced pilots repeatedly fail

check rides and rely on automation to replace fundamental skills.

The public deserves to know that they are being delivered to their destinations by qualified pilots who have successfully met standards for recurrent training, no matter how old they may be.

Craig Simmons

Northridge

Although it is possible that the Air France pilots reacted inappropriately, as a wide-body airliner captain, I cannot help but wonder if the bad input to their airspeed indicators manifested itself in other ways. Perhaps other cockpit gauges and flight instruments were not accurate. This might explain why not one of the pilots was able to diagnose the problem and recover.

As Garrison writes, the A330 is "controlled by a computer." If the input to the computers was in error, then the "output" presented on the other cockpit instruments might also be suspect.

Garrison needs to imagine himself on the flight deck of Flight 447, in the middle of the night, as thunderstorms loom ahead and the horizon disappears, forcing him to rely solely on malfunctioning cockpit instruments. It is quite possible that the three qualified pilots were dealt a hand that not even he could fly out of.

Kevin Berry

Yorba Linda

I wonder if the survivors of the "miracle on the Hudson" would agree with Garrison that "modern airplanes fly themselves" and that "airplanes, like elevators, could dispense with human operators altogether."

I think not.

Pitt Gilmore

Oak Park

Debating the economic fixes

Re "Economic hubris," Opinion, Aug. 15

James K. Galbraith's attack in 2009 on the predictions of former White House economists Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein of early recovery if the stimulus bill were passed was not, at the time, in the best interest of the country. Though the stimulus bill eventually did not bring about an early recovery, it was a quick fix that probably averted a depression.

Galbraith's alternative was a long-term strategy starting with an infrastructure bank. The country had no time to waist on long-term strategies; an immediate fix was needed.

Economic models do not predict with absolute certainty, and no economist, including the respectable Galbraith, could predict with absolute certainty what would have happened without the stimulus bill.

David Guttman

Sherman Oaks

Galbraith gets it wrong. To wit:

"Our problem is not budget deficits or public debt." Actually, those are the problems.

"Cutting Social Security and Medicare — inflicting pointless pain on the elderly — will not help." Actually, it will — help, that is. It won't inflict pain on Grandma and Grandpa because the cuts would be phased in.

"And let's start to act on our actual needs and problems: jobs, foreclosures, public investments, energy security and climate change." We've been "working" on those for several years. Actually, that's what the stimulus was supposed to do.

Any other bright ideas?

Bill Ireland

Ontario

Galbraith's factual, cogent and unbiased analysis of our economic carnage was refreshing. Although I do believe Social Security and Medicare need reform, that is not the solution to our current crisis and serves only as a political scare tactic.

Systemic financial reform, not the Dodd-Frank half-measure, is where the red meat is. Unfortunately, it is also where the big donors

reside.

Members of the deficit-cutting "super committee" would be well served by reading this article and reaching consensus on how we got to this point before moving forward.

Andrew Chawke

Sherman Oaks

Healthcare dollars and sense

Re "Medical billing's twisted math," Column, Aug 16

David Lazarus spotlights the inequities of our healthcare system. In the run-up to implementation in 2014 of the Affordable Care Act, there is a rush by the insurance industry to pad their bottom lines.

Our expenses are already the highest in the world, while the quality has been sinking.

With Crohn's disease, a serious gastrointestinal inflammatory condition that acts more like cancer, Scott Kenyon — whose dealings with medical bills Lazarus profiles — will soon reach his insurance limit. Anxiety makes the disease worse.

Exorbitant prices can be controlled with a single-payer system whereby the government would be forced to limit the prices of drugs, procedures, equipment and premiums. We can have single-payer by a backdoor approach to the healthcare reform law: Each state must have a health insurance exchange as the default to affordable care.

We all deserve affordable care.

Jerome P. Helman, MD

Venice

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