The U.S. toll: 4,484
Re "Obama marks end of Iraq war," Dec. 13
As the U.S. removes its final combat troops from Iraq, let us not forget the toll caused by a war of choice with no connection to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
As of Dec. 14, 4,484 U.S. military personnel have been killed in Iraq since the war started in 2003. On 9/11, almost 3,000 people were killed. George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq resulted in the deaths of more Americans than Osama bin Laden's attack.
I will never forget.
The use and abuse of drones
Re "Spy drones aiding police," Dec. 11
In war this is called "mission creep." The method is the same — start small with ever-expanding goals. Take a new tax, for example; at first it's 0.25%, but soon it is much higher.
Spy drones are high-tech weapons in the war on terrorism. That is acceptable. Now use the same drones to spy on Americans, and we are queasy at this new intrusion.
Tell us we will be safer, and we'll let you do it, as it is only criminals that will be spied upon. Slowly expand the purpose of the drones, but keep telling us we will be safer. We have let this happen many times.
If you have done nothing wrong, then what is there to hide?
Some people believe that the use of these drones to aid police is a mistake. However, should the people risking their lives to arrest these malefactors be harmed while trying to bring them in?
The drones allow honorable policemen to capture suspects while inflicting less harm on themselves. Whether being used to track down illegal immigrants, drug smugglers, terrorists or stolen cows, law enforcement officials can go in knowing what they are up against. This information allows our officers to avoid casualties and even death.
If police are risking their lives to make our world a better place, we should give them the best equipment and knowledge possible.
Rancho Palos Verdes
Textbooks' spiraling cost
Re "Make textbooks affordable," Column, Dec. 12
George Skelton's column on the exorbitant cost of college textbooks and state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg's (D-Sacramento) proposed legislation to curb the problem was encouraging. During my 27 years at Cal State Fullerton, I have watched in distress as the textbook rip-off grew.
I urge the entire higher education community to support Steinberg's bill and to give serious consideration to increased use of digital open-source texts. Let's help keep our students from going even further into debt.
Benjamin J. Hubbard
College textbooks are quite pricey indeed. The average cost of my books per semester was about $400 until I discovered alternatives that offered used books.
The only thing that blew my mind more than the price tags was the amount of times I ended up using them. I know books supplement learning, but when the whole purpose of a $120 book is to be read along with the professor's PowerPoint material, it makes me wonder why it is a "required text" at all.
I have no problem paying high prices for new books as long as I use them from front to back; otherwise I just bought really expensive paperweights.
The sources of Israel's wealth
Re "In Israel today, the rich flaunt it," Column One, Dec. 10
How about some positive facts?
For example, Israel's economic strength and stability are a result of its economy being based on exports of high-tech electronic and biomedical equipment instead of consumer spending, as ours is. Its conservative banking system, which discourages risky debt, has helped shield Israel from the worst effects of the recession.
There is a misconception that Israel is surviving on U.S. aid. In fact, U.S. aid constitutes about 1% of Israel's gross domestic product.
There are problems in Israel, but there is much to admire as well.
Thank God for the billions in foreign aid the U.S. gives Israel. Otherwise, perhaps Israelis would have to raise their taxes.
Israelis must be laughing all the way to the bank while our economy goes from bad to worse and our national debt goes through the roof. As George W. Bush once tried to say: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
Re "Vernon survived at a price," Dec. 13
It must be my lack of a law degree that keeps me from understanding how the deal state Sen. Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) made with Vernon city officials is not extortion.
De Leon is reported to have told city officials he would help defeat the efforts to disincorporate Vernon if the city agreed to pay $60 million to fund projects in surrounding cities. If Vernon did not take the deal, De Leon would have still supported disincorporation.
Now I finally understand why so many politicians are lawyers: You need a law degree to explain the difference between extortion and politics as usual in our fine country.
Secret of the 1%
Re "Obama sides with the 99%," Opinion, Dec. 11