Farewell tour: Defense Secretary Robert Gates greets a soldier in Afghanistan…
Re "Gates fought, and wept, for troops," June 19
Outgoing Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates deserves the highest honor our country can bestow for services rendered above and beyond the call of duty. Here we have an individual who, because of the nature of his job, has armored his heart to face the ugly realities of war but could not prevent that heart from bleeding when faced with the precious loss of our country's sons and daughters.
I know I would not want to be in his shoes penning all those letters meant to console grieving families. It takes more than a man to shed tears in private, let alone in public.
As Gates retires, I join our grateful nation in saluting a hero who unabashedly weeps at the thought of our fallen heroes. We need more leaders like him.
I read with sorrow and pain that Gates weeps when writing to the families of the soldiers sacrificed in our two unending misadventures. I wonder for whom he is really weeping: the honored dead, or himself for having been party to prolonging this wretched folly?
I exhort Gates to stop writing and bring the troops home now.
John De Simio
I have always supported Gates and his decisions, but to know there was much more behind the man who signed the papers for our men and women to go to war was really touching.
I now see him and our military in a different light, and I will always support our troops and those in command.
West Los Angeles
U2's Edge just doesn't get it
Re "U2 rocker's Malibu plan is rejected," June 17
The California Coastal Commission was right to deny the proposal by U2's Edge to build five mega-mansions (however architecturally fabulous and environmentally conscious) on a ridgeline above Malibu.
As an architectural photographer, I have witnessed new houses popping up on hillcrests from Hollywood to Paradise Cove. They introduce undesirable scale and destroy the illusion that we are surrounded by wilderness. The ragged line between the mountains and the sky is a priceless resource.
If built, Edge's villas would create a dangerous precedent. Is Malibu to remain the low-key community we love, nestled discreetly between the ocean and the mountains, or become a new version of Acapulco?
The Coastal Commission's executive director, Peter Douglas, hit the nail on the head by saying that Edge "can't be serious about being an environmentalist and pick this location" in Malibu. The idea that any 12,785-square-foot home is "environmentally superior" is absurd.
Our ridgelines require special protection. If roads and houses are built and every structure is bordered by areas cleared to provide fire protection, the ridgeline goes from natural to unnatural.
The diversity and beauty of plant and animal life in the Santa Monica Mountains are precious. As one who hikes frequently there, I am crushed each time I see a new mansion. Because half the land in the mountains is private, it remains crucial that all of us do everything we can to protect the natural habitat and the unsullied views we all share.
To Edge: Build down slope and modestly (and green), and don't try to be king of the hill.
Re "Villaraigosa will lead U.S. mayors," June 19
The election of Antonio Villaraigosa as the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors is an important breakthrough for the progressive movement.
Although I disagree with the mayor on transit and education policy, his commitment to defend the centrality of cities in U.S. life, his fight for funding for social programs and his work with other mayors to call for the end to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are of enormous significance.
The argument that Villaraigosa would "neglect" his role as L.A. mayor makes little sense. Part of his job is to fight for progressive urban policy in Washington, and there can be no improvement in L.A.'s situation without a coherent federal plan that will help other major cities as well.
Villaraigosa is the right person for the job and should have our full support in his new role.
Re "The GOP script for 2012," Opinion, June 17
The lesson Ronald Brownstein derives from the New Hampshire GOP presidential debate is that the contenders aspire to be "the most reliable and effective messenger for the script that the party has already written." Brownstein frames the crucial issues as economic, but there are other issues one might expect to be in this "script" — for instance, education.
There was no mention of it in the GOP debate, neither in CNN's preselected questions nor in any candidate's comments. If we're to face another presidential campaign of scripts and slogans, let's at least give honorable mention to education.
America's public schools are collapsing. How about a few candidates from either party proclaiming, "I'm opposed to our schools collapsing."