Burke's domestic disputeRe "Supervisor's residence outside district raises legal questions," July 27
I live in Ladera Heights, and until Friday, I thought that Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke represented me. Thanks to The Times, I now know the truth. And, much to my dismay, I discovered that Burke does not understand the difference between following the letter of the law and perpetuating a ruse. She needs to resign or be removed from office because she is no longer legally entitled to serve the 2nd District. Sadly, Burke joins the ever-growing number of elected officials who only pretend to uphold the law.
Nancy I. DayLadera Heights
I am amazed that Burke can plaster her name all over things she has nothing to do with, including saving Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital, and then not even live in her district. Did she not learn anything from her years in Washington, when Bush 41 claimed a hotel as his Texas residence? She needs to go, and if she has nowhere to go, then as we did with Mayor Marion Barry in the District of Columbia years ago, the voters of L.A. County need to show her the way out of the door, and soon.
The community in which we live, and the neighboring communities -- all in the 2nd District -- are thrilled that Burke knows and responds to the needs we have. She comes to our meetings, calls important meetings that affect us and is always available by phone, as are her deputies. Know us? Like the back of her hand! She provides funds, expertise and consultants for projects that improve our quality of life.
Since her announcement much earlier that she would be retiring, we rue that day. We cannot think of a better or more qualified servant. The Times should focus its (real) journalistic efforts on issues of substance.
Ronni CooperAllan BoodnickLos Angeles
Cooper is president and Boodnick vice president of the Ladera Heights Civic Assn.
This is one of the many reasons nothing gets done in the district or inner city -- because our leaders probably don't know or don't see what they should. And if they are away from the problem, they certainly can't see the problem, and when caught, they come up with the flimsiest of excuses.
Charles P. MartinLos Angeles
Re "Burke, go home," Opinion, July 28
I am sorry to say that I fully supported Yvonne Burke 15 years ago when she first became a supervisor. I believed she cared about her community and would honestly work to improve an underserved community. Now I see she is just another political hack. I started having my doubts about 10 years ago, when I noticed she was oblivious to what was going on in the community she was elected to represent. For years, she turned a blind eye to the problems at King-Harbor. She defended the hospital but did nothing to make positive changes. Now we find out that she does not even live in her district. This ridiculous charade of having her chauffeur pick her up in Mar Vista is a joke. Her glib response, "I'll sleep here if it makes you happy," is a slap in the face to the people of her district. She should be prosecuted for her deception. Why are we paying for expensive cars and drivers for the supervisors anyway? Isn't their salary enough?
Katherine GonzalezPalos Verdes Estates
Cheney under the knife
Re "Heart surgery goes well for vice president," July 29
Vice President Dick Cheney recently had a new internal cardiac defibrillator implanted. How nice that he received the defibrillator and the associated surgery and medical care free of charge. The president and the vice president and the members of Congress all receive free medical care, paid for by American taxpayers. Doesn't it seem just a bit inappropriate that we are all taxed to fully subsidize the medical care of a rich man like Cheney, while so many ordinary Americans find it difficult or impossible to afford comprehensive medical care for themselves and their families?
An unrecognized historical moment occurred when, during the brief time that Cheney was having heart surgery to replace his defibrillator, George W. Bush was president.
Marcella L. BinghamMurrieta, Calif.
Who's a terrorist?Re "In Mideast, Blair debuts as an envoy," July 24
The Times mentions that Mideast envoy Tony Blair had a suite at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which was bombed in 1946 by "Jewish saboteurs" in their campaign to drive out the British. I find it interesting that Jewish bombers are granted such a romantic appellation while Arabs who adopt similar behavior are labeled terrorists. Perpetrators of violent acts should be condemned across the board and referred to in similar terms, whether they are Jewish or Arab.
Simon John LakkisLos Angeles
Smoking in the dark
Re "Lighting up at the movies," Opinion, July 27
Jacob Sullum raises doubt about the need for censorship of smoking on the screen. Like the author, I am willing to accept the magic of cinematic art as I find it.
Still, Sullum's conclusion begs an artistic question: Why do some movie studios show actors smoking, even when it seems but a gratuitous gesture?
For example, Sarah Jessica Parker looks like a diffident beginner when she lights up in "Sex and the City." Let's face it, today's play-acting smoker is no Gary Cooper, and the depiction of the cigarette-as-prop often devolves into a stilted disconnect.
All this gives rise to another fumy question: Are there financial incentives for the studios to promote smoking in their feature films and television shows?
William SolbergLos Angeles
It is well documented that smoking contributes to diseases such as cancer and chronic obstructive lung disease. In addition, among other conditions, secondhand smoke contributes to heart disease, lung cancer and increased risks for sudden infant death syndrome.
I realize that Sullum may not take issue with the known harm of smoking and secondhand smoke. His issue is with factors contributing to the choice to begin smoking. Young people see enough smoking; the less exposure the better. Even if movies exert only a small influence on the decision to smoke, that is still something.
According to the article, the Walt Disney Co. did not agree to eliminate smoking in all its films, just its family-oriented movies. Disney said it will discourage smoking in films made by Touchstone and Miramax.
I interpret that to mean smoking will be depicted if it is necessary to the character development or plot of the film.
Sullum is acting in a juvenile manner when he resorts to the slippery-slope argument and to belittling those working to improve the public's health.
Thoughts on meditationRe "Take a breath," Opinion, July 25
Specific court precedent prohibits teaching transcendental meditation in publicly funded schools. Humanists, Christians and others came together in the 1979 New Jersey case that led to this ban. They can be expected to unite again should current teaching repeat old mistakes.
If a meditation technique is rooted in transcendental meditation, Hinduism, Buddhism or any other specific religious practice, then it is clearly religious in nature. To pass constitutional muster, a meditation session would need to be completely sanitized of ritualistic sectarian religious undertones. Otherwise it would show a preference for one religious belief over another as well as for belief over nonbelief.
It has been shown that these same benefits can be attained through a regular midday nap, the use of long-established secular relaxation techniques and by other means that are clearly free of religious undertones. There is no need to import stealth religion into the public classroom to get children to chill out.
More than 100 parents took a "breath" last week at Santa Clara University at the end of two days of freshmen orientation filled with PowerPoint presentations, panel discussions and pre-separation-anxiety jitters. Parents of all denominations were invited to close their eyes and meditate as a Jesuit faculty member led us through a series of thoughts about our daughters' or sons' milestones. Simple yet focused thoughts ran through my mind, and I could sense the change in my breathing. A sense of well-being was palpable after we were instructed to open our eyes. "Mindfulness" did make me feel better. Why argue about where we are taught to find that inner peace? It is a lesson that everyone should have a chance to learn.
Tina Arrañaga KubasekWhittier
Freedom for Lindh?
Re "Free our Talib," editorial, July 29
Your editorial advocating the freeing of John Walker Lindh was disgusting. Lindh chose his fate when he refused to identify himself to his American captors, and then when he refused to warn his American interrogators of the impending prisoner attack in the Afghan prison. He is as responsible for the death of CIA operative Johnny "Mike" Spann as the terrorists who shot Spann. Lindh should have been sentenced to death for that. He did not get a sufficient prison sentence. Commuting his sentence would be perverse and an insult to the CIA officers who risk their lives on behalf of America.
Bruce GerykChampaign, Ill.
Lindh broke the law. But "the American Taliban" wasn't a terrorist and deserves clemency.
Larry TaylorAlta Loma
There are no words that can truly express the outrage I felt while reading your editorial. I was stunned to read this line: (Lindh's) "commitment to Islam leads him to oppose the targeting of civilians."
So exactly what was the religion of the 9/11 terrorists who killed about 3,000 civilians that day, or the religion of all of those suicide bombers who are killing scores of civilians in Iraq now? I'm sorry, but that particular argument falls flat. Lindh made his bed when he joined an Islamic terrorist organization -- and the Taliban has been just that since its inception -- and he can rot in it for the rest of his life as far as I am concerned.
Richard PaolinelliTurlock, Calif.