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Letters to the editor

Such a deal

Re “For the Navy, top-deck digs,” Feb. 2

I'm all in favor of providing above-average living accommodations -- such as Pacific Beacon, the high-rise apartments at Naval Base San Diego -- to military personnel. However, I have to question why the rental rates are set below what sailors receive in their housing allowances. By being allowed to keep the difference, the sailors are, in effect, being paid a bonus to live there.

Fitness rooms, a swimming pool, a WiFi- equipped cafe and other amenities should justify a rent equal to the housing allowances of the sailors occupying the apartments.

Gerry Swider

Sherman Oaks

Checks and balances

Re "Consolidating a power base," Feb. 1

The statement from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's spokesman, Matt Szabo, that having three citywide politicians work in tandem would be "unequivocally positive" belies Councilwoman Wendy Greuel's attempt to present herself as independent of the mayor and is, furthermore, exactly the kind of statement used to justify dictatorships from all sides of the political spectrum. And Councilman Jack Weiss' dependence on the mayor is undeniable -- Villaraigosa is chair of Weiss' election campaign.

Los Angeles needs and deserves the checks and balances that only officeholders who are not beholden to each other can provide.

Eduardo Subelman

Los Angeles

::

The adage "be careful what you wish for" couldn't be more apt when electing powerful political friends who seek the most influential seats in City Hall.

City attorney candidate Jack Weiss argues that Los Angeles deserves a city attorney and a mayor who keep a "confidential, respectful relationship," and promises that if he is elected, "there will be no competition between the mayor's office and the city attorney's office."

But Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales showed us the dangers of a relationship that is governed more by personal loyalty and friendship than by the principles that are the foundation of public office.

Los Angeles may be protected better by a team of rivals rather than by a circle of friends.

Lucie Bava

Los Angeles

Defending the appeals board

Re “Jobless benefit appeals pile up,” Feb. 2

I am outraged by the eagerness to blame the past California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board administration for the deluge of unemployment appeals.

Yes, there is an enormous backlog of cases. But to scapegoat the previous head of the organization is disingenuous, if not a political ploy by highly paid, inexperienced appointees trying to escape blame for their lack of understanding of the process.

With respect to resolving cases within 30 days, the appeals board often does not receive a case until that deadline is close or has even passed. The CUIAB offices put cases on the calendar as soon as they are transmitted. Each administrative law judge is handling an enormous load of cases each day.

Given California's large population, the many failing corporations within our borders and the CUIAB's lack of adequate workers, it is no wonder we are in this mess. Even if there might have been some family members working in the CUIAB, their presence has had nothing to do with this crisis.

The CUIAB needs people who will roll up their sleeves and get to work -- not those merely trying to extend their political connections at a high salary.

Annette Debs

Santa Ana

The writer is an administrative law judge for the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board.

Worries about war technology

Re “The American killing machines,” Jan. 30

Despite his skepticism, P.W. Singer's discussion of the brave new world of robotic warfare still overstates its impact.

As sophisticated as U.S. forces have become on the virtual battlefield through the use of drones to identify and destroy targets, grunt work on the ground remains more important. One need not look further than Afghanistan to determine that technology cannot substitute for manpower and finesse. By some accounts, the Taliban, often with little more than a gun in hand, is beating American forces despite all our gizmos.

Although Singer may be impressed that "the future is already upon us," relying on technology will not suffice to win counterinsurgency wars.

Bennett Ramberg

Los Angeles

The writer served in the State Department in the George H.W. Bush administration.

::

So "science fiction is coming true on our battlefields"? "Killer applications" still in their "Model T" phase of development are fighting on America's behalf? Singer's enthusiasm seems palpable -- "warrior-robots" indeed, the perfect toys for tomorrow's soldiers, who grew up mastering computerized war games.

Why am I not encouraged by Singer's call not to worry about the Terminator showing up at my door? That is precisely what I am worried about, except that I don't expect a Terminator. More likely the latest mutation of Blackwater Worldwide.

Once upon a time, Americans sang praises to the Winchester repeating rifle, "The Gun that Won the West," believing that it would bring about a more peaceful world. If history is any guide, it's only a matter of time until the descendants of the Americans who paid for these "killer applications" and picked up the tab for privatized police forces will find that an unwelcome guest has indeed showed up at their door.

Diane Loud

Covina

Free choice for SEIU too

Re “Labor’s real fight,” Opinion, Feb. 1, and “Bay Area health union seeks vote on members,” Feb. 3

I find it ironic that the Service Employees International Union is opposing the request of the petition signers to be represented by a different union. Sounds as if the SEIU, one of the biggest proponents of the Employee Free Choice Act, isn't willing to extend free choice to its own union members when those members want to secede from the SEIU.

If the Employee Free Choice Act is such a benefit to the working person, then the SEIU should be eager to abide by the same principles it demands business and employees abide by. If not, then this act should not be passed by Congress.

Geneviève M. Clavreul

Pasadena

End the disgrace of rendition

Re “CIA retains power to abduct,” Feb. 1

For those of us who define torture as an immoral act, The Times' report makes clear that we still have work to do.

For me, the rendition program has been even more disgusting than torture carried out by U.S. officials themselves. It says that we know that what is going to happen to our prisoners is illegal, immoral and vile -- so instead of doing it ourselves, we will have someone else do it.

Whatever interrogations can be legitimately done, according to law and affirming the divine image in every human being, can be done by U.S. officials under U.S. and international law.

I hope Americans of all faiths will act to end this practice.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Philadelphia

Double standard

Re “Safe choice for the GOP,” editorial, Feb. 3

I sincerely hope that the editorial board of The Times was jesting when it wrote that one of Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele's advantages was that "he might be free to criticize President Obama in ways a white party leader wouldn't."

This is a rather divisive statement and implies a double standard in our political dialogue. I thought that one of the tenets of Obama's candidacy was getting beyond race.

It is apparent that the board has not absorbed one aspect of the "change" Obama was calling for.

David Etheridge

Los Angeles

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