President Barack Obama is a much better orator than former President George Bush, but that will not make him a successful president. The direction he wants to take this country will bankrupt this nation. He does not have the resume for the job. This man knows one thing: Throw money that we do not have at the problem.
If you choose to live in a socialist country, where the government controls all areas of your everyday life, then I guess he is your man. Not me, thank you.
-- Richard E. Shanks, Camarillo
March 2009 Archives
President Barack Obama is a much better orator than former President George Bush, but that will not make him a successful president. The direction he wants to take this country will bankrupt this nation. He does not have the resume for the job. This man knows one thing: Throw money that we do not have at the problem.
In mid-February, officers of the Santa Paula Police Department shot and killed, apparently for sport, a 15-pound, 6- to 12-week old mountain lion cub. As a protected species, this shooting is a violation of state law.
Santa Paula Chief of Police Steve MacKinnon assured me there would be a "full review of the event ... conducted by an outside source." Where is this inquiry? When will MacKinnon and/or the Santa Paula City Council address this issue in a formal manner? The City Council has not returned my e-mails regarding this tragedy.
The offending officers, realizing the gravity of this unlawful, outrageous killing, falsified their report by claiming the mountain lion was 35 to 40 pounds and was, therefore, a threat. This provokes the obvious question to what extent other Santa Paula police reports contain such self-serving fiction.
Fish and Game Assistant Chief Mike McBride, abrogating his responsibility, will not investigate this shooting.
I call upon MacKinnon and the City Council to produce a formal, external and unbiased (to the extent this is possible) examination of the event.
This review should be readily available to the public. To do otherwise is to leave unanswered questions of Santa Paula police competency, judgment and veracity of reporting on their actions in the field.
-- Richard D. Story, Ventura
Re: Miguel Espinosa Jr.'s March 26 letter, "Racism evident online":
When I saw the letter "Racism evident online," I knew the conclusion of the piece right away.
Apparently, on crime stories in The Star's Web site comment section, there were "21 negative comments regarding the Hispanic and only one regarding the Anglo. This is clear evidence of the status of racism in Ventura County." That is quite a charge. How did the author get from 21 people to a whole county? In fact, the author went on to indict the United States. The author heavily implies that there is substantial racism directed toward Hispanics based on this one instance.
Did it ever occur to the author that it was perhaps only five people writing in, using different e-mail addresses? Perhaps it was a Hispanic kid pretending to be someone else? Maybe half of the people who posted comments were themselves minorities.
Over the years, I have found that people of all backgrounds believe that only "Anglos" can be racist. In fact, the author goes on to say "many minority members are enraged and seek retribution when confronted with racism." I guess that means "majority members" are gleeful and blame themselves "when confronted with racism."
How many more commentaries, articles and speeches will be given on this tired subject? Our president does not provide enough proof that the United States has come so very far in acceptance?
Lastly, the author states, "I don't believe we can do anything to curb deep, inner-racist feelings." The number of people who harbor these deep, ingrained racist feelings compared to the number of people who do not, makes it very plausible to conclude that a few "nutballs" should not skew the reality that a huge percentage of people are not racists.
I would still like to know why people believe only "Anglos" can be racist.
-- Thomas S'gro, Ventura
Southern California Edison has been touting the need for another peaker plant in Oxnard at Mandalay Beach. Its request was denied by the Oxnard Planning Commission and the Oxnard City Council. SCE has appealed to the California Coastal Commission, hoping to overturn the city of Oxnard's denial.
SCE, like BHP Billiton did for liquefied natural gas, is now resorting to phone-polling Oxnard citizens in hopes of getting approval. The questions that the pollsters are asking have been specifically designed to draw on emotions --schools, hospitals, day care centers will lose power -- and are phrased in very confusing language. Knowledgeable Oxnard city staff and citizens know this is not good for Oxnard, and that's why the city denied SCE's request to build another plant on Oxnard beaches.
Don't be taken in by SCE phone-polling.
The California Coastal Commission is scheduled to hear SCE's appeal on this peaker plant on April 9 at the Oxnard Performing Arts Center. I encourage all Oxnard citizens to keep an eye out for the time of this meeting and show up in opposition to this peaker plant. BHP Billiton, with LNG, tried this tactic on Oxnard citizens, and it didn't work. Neither will SCE's razzle-dazzle phone polling.
-- E. D. Ellis, Oxnard
Re: Mary Howard's March 29 commentary, "Peaker plant important for safety, economy":
The letter from Howard is misleading. The California Coastal Commission is not meeting on April 9 to decide whether an electrical peaker plant is required or desirable in Oxnard. It is meeting to decide whether it has to be located directly on the coast on land owned by Southern California Edison. There is no justification for locating it on the coast except to make it convenient for Edison.
Further, the commission has no justification for overriding the city of Oxnard, which has disapproved locating the plant on the coast.
The Coastal Commission should step up to its obligation to protect the California coastline and reject the Edison appeal.
-- Sherman N. Mullin, Oxnard
Re: Mary Howard's March 29 commentary, "Peaker plant important for safety, economy":
Howard states she is the chairwoman of the board of the Gold Coast Hispanic Council, based in Oxnard. It seems to this writer that Howard knows very little about the peaker plant and especially "environmental justice."
She states that "environmental issues are created when a facility is built in a neighborhood with more than 50 percent minority or low-income residents." Hello! For the past 20 years, Oxnard's population has been 68 percent Latino with very low incomes.
She also states, "The 1994 Northridge earthquake taught us here in Ventura County that getting back up to full power quickly is possible." The hook is that during the Northridge earthquake, very few residents in Ventura County were affected by it. As a matter fact, I have lived in Oxnard for more than 50 years, and I have not experienced a loss of power for any length of time, earthquake or otherwise.
The information Howard had printed in The Star is the exact words given in a presentation by two Southern California Edison employees to the Saviers Road Design Team in Oxnard on March 23. Edison must really be worried about the outcome of the California Coastal Commission's decision, or why would SCE resort to questionable phone polling and dubious articles like the one by Howard?
The irony of all this is that SCE can build this "black start" capability any number of places other than on an Oxnard beach. The offer to plant trees along Harbor Boulevard is to hide the ugly proposed plant. Don't be taken in by this needless plant.
-- Marie F. Ellis, Oxnard
I would like to tell you about my experience with health insurance. I feel that the healthcare insurance companies are out of control and we must do something.
I lost my job in October and, accordingly, my family and I lost our health insurance.
I declined COBRA because I could not afford to pay $800 a month. Recently, I went to Kaiser to get my cholesterol medication. The pharmacist told me that I have to pay the full payment because I no longer have insurance. Since I was expecting that, I agreed to pay the prescription's full price. When they called my name to pick up the drug, I was told the prescription was going to cost $665.78.
I called Vons pharmacy and found the same drug for $90. The pharmacist said: "We can match the price of other pharmacies. Let me check Costco prices." When the Vons pharmacist checked Costco's prices, I was told: "You'd better buy it from Costco. It is selling it for $10, and I can't match this price."
I paid $9.59 at Costco for the same generic drug I was going to buy from Kaiser for $665.75!
I kept Kaiser's receipt showing the medication's price.
We are taking the same path that all the Third World countries take. I am angry, and I would like to do something. How can I fight back and expose these practices?
-- Tarek Elneil, Moorpark
(The writer is a former member of the Ventura County Star Editorial Board Community Advisory Board. -- Editor)
The controversy between the Thousand Oaks City Council and the Ventura County Fire Protection District has focused on the disparity between the city's tax support to the district and the fire services received.
The city's consultant, using the district's own statistics, has reported Thousand Oaks is a "donor" city paying taxes of about $6 million a year in excess of fire protection services received. The contribution by Thousand Oaks is simply a matter of property values in Thousand Oaks being higher than many other communities.
The city of Thousand Oaks is well-served by the Fire District, which has the responsibility of serving the six cities that do not have their own fire department, as well as the county territory. The city is also well-served with a City Council that has the responsibility of providing the highest level of service to the community at the lowest cost.
Thousand Oaks has the additional advantage of a council that includes two members with extensive knowledge in fire service and county public safety. These two members, Andy Fox and Dennis Gillette, bring many years of management and administrative experience to the table.
The city's consultant reported on many aspects of the Fire District service with a number of recommendations, but the primary recommendation is the replacement of Fire Station 33, located on the edge of Lake Sherwood, with a new, state-of-the-art station, staffed with paramedics, at a location closer to Potrero Road and Westlake Boulevard. Presently, emergency medical calls, which account for two-thirds of all calls to Hidden Valley, are being responded to by paramedics from Station 31, located on Duesenberg Drive and Hillcrest Drive, six miles away.
Everyone seems to be in agreement with this recommendation, with the exception of Supervisor Linda Parks, who wrote in her recent commentary that she believes the closure of the existing inadequate station would result in a reduction of service to the people in Hidden Valley, even though the new station would be one and a half miles away.
It should also be noted that calls to Station 33 are the lowest by far of the seven stations servings the city. There would be little advantage in preserving the existing station at Lake Sherwood.
We await the Fire District's response.
-- Jere Robings, Thousand Oaks
Re: Terry Paulson's essays of March 16, "Galt wants Atlas to strike," and March 30, "Time to start saying 'no'":
Two weeks ago, Paulson alluded to the philosophies of individualism and objectivism espoused by Ayn Rand to criticize the Obama stimulus program as hurting the affluent. Now, he criticizes the stimulus program for helping the middle class when they do not need help, but "tough love."
Obviously, he thinks that people lose their jobs, their homes and their health because they are stupid or lazy or otherwise not motivated to be rich like him. If tough love does not work, they should starve and die.
I have been a sole practitioner lawyer for 40 years. I am highly motivated, well-educated and quite successful, but I have never forgotten that, for every self-employed person, the difference between being self-employed and unemployed is what business comes in that day. That truism also applies to every employee of small businesses.
Of course there are people who "game" the entitlement system, and they should not be rewarded, but there are many people who "gamed" the entitlement system that we have for the rich, through tax deductions, subsidies and tax rates, who also should not be rewarded.
-- Raymond Greenberg, Thousand Oaks
While I understand that there have to be budget cuts, I have great concern about what is being cut in our schools. I am talking about the dismissal of some of our counselors in the Conejo Valley Unified School District.
These counselors can offer a place for kids who may feel they have nowhere else to go during some very turbulent times in their lives. They do so much more than just put classes together and make schedule changes. How do I know? I worked as a campus supervisor for eight years in the district, so I saw it firsthand. As a parent, I have seen my own kids utilize the knowledge shared by certain counselors to help form their paths.
Lesley Drossin at Newbury Park High School has worked with my children. Their paths have been different from other students, and Ms. Drossin has help facilitate this and dealt with all the emotional needs that have come with that as well.
There are so many things that we take away from our children each year pertaining to their educational offerings. Art subjects have dwindled, electives have shrunk and school is really not that much fun, it seems, to a lot of the kids I speak to. Taking away people who can help make these years better, easier and interesting -- I don't know. That just doesn't seem like we are giving anything to our kids, once again.
I realize that the district has a budget, but I ask administrators to consider finding funds to keep these important figures of our schools. When naming the schools' faculty, names of counselors should be just as important a part as a principal's name, because they truly keep the kids and the school running.
-- Megan Sandoval, Newbury Park
The accident between a car and two pedestrians that occurred inside a crosswalk at Westlake Boulevard and Devonshire Avenue was a terrible tragedy. As a mother of Westlake Elementary students, this is a great concern.
I encourage all citizens to focus on prevention of these types of accidents by obeying the speed limits and being aware of your surroundings. I encourage city officials to implement controls to regulate excessive speeds and to highlight crosswalks such as this one that crosses a busy street. The key is prevention.
To my knowledge, there was never any concern over the response time of the emergency medical providers. Please do not confuse or dilute the issue of prevention of speeding cars or inadequately marked crosswalks with the proposed fire station on the corner of Potrero Road and Westlake Boulevard. Whether a fire station was within 500 feet or 2 miles of this accident site does not make a difference in the prevention of such tragedies.
Congestion near the school and speeding cars is and has been a chronic problem that needs to be dealt with and where our focus should be to prevent accidents.
-- Marilyn Adam, Westlake Village
Re: Ann McFeatters' March 23 essay, "Cheney wrong about so much":
George Orwell would be proud of McFeatters. She talks about all that was wrong about the George Bush administration and that President Barack Obama is "trying."
Let's see, Guantanamo is still open, but there are no longer "enemy combatants" there. Perhaps the name of the camp can be changed next?
The old campaign snicker that a naïve John McCain really believed that a then-stronger economy is "fundamentally sound" is now the new Obama gospel about a far weaker one.
There are to be no more earmarks in spite of 8,000-plus new ones.
A $3.6 trillion budget is proof of commitment to financial responsibility; the remedy of Bush's borrowing profligacy is to increase the deficit from $500 billion to $1.7 trillion.
Bush's signing statements: bad. Obama's signing statements: good.
An end to lobbyists in an administration ensures there are more than 10. "Highest ethical standards" means the nominations of Tom Daschle, Bill Richardson, etc.
The changing meaning of words really does trump memory and reality itself.
-- Bob Scudder, Camarillo
When I was a teenager, I would get in a car with my buddies and go joy-riding, many times drinking alcohol and enjoying other aromatic libations. A few times, we got pulled over by the police, not for any moving violation offense, but because they were "investigating" a possible crime. That curtailed that dangerous activity. Nowadays, many would call that "profiling" to paint a negative connotation.
I just read about some punk riding around with a shotgun and then firing at teenagers. Think about that. How many other idiots are driving through our town with loaded shotguns?
I think it is now time to support our brave police officers and encourage them to "investigate" suspicious activity.
-- Bob Martin, Ventura
I read where Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, is leaping for joy over his lobbying efforts to pass a bill widening Highway 101 between the Rincon and Carpenteria.
Where has he been the past few years prior to the completion of the 101 over the Santa Clara River between Oxnard and Ventura? I'm sure this is a question many commuters have been asking. I wouldn't call this "legislative oversight" and "a handle on the issues," especially since the shifted bottleneck at Johnson Drive is just another example of muddled thinking and foresight.
Here we go again: gridlock, accidents and another reason for our state representative to sock it to the taxpayers when it comes time in the future to widen the freeway overcrossings at Johnson Drive and Victoria Avenue. Why wasn't this done right the first time? Why can't our elected representatives just ensure the right thing is being done?
While Nava was busy with all his efforts at the Rincon scenic route, traffic at the Santa Clara bridge is burning rubber and leaving skid marks to avoid near-fatalities.
With oversight like this, one can only imagine what the traffic mess will be like when the Rincon is finished.
-- Verne Arnold, Ventura
I would like to commend the courageous leadership of Ventura City Council members Ed Summers and Jim Monahan for supporting public safety by voting to use some of our $12 million reserve for retaining three firefighters and four police officers.
The timing couldn't be better, as I read that the violent crime is rate is up. Desperate times create desperate actions. These statistics do not surprise me, as I see daily reports in the paper of aggravated assaults . How about the brutal slaying of the convenience clerk near Mills Road and Main Street? How about the unreported crimes by the new homeless people? Unprecedented? You bet! How about the two strip mall fires in the last three weeks on north Ventura Avenue? Coincidence?
Is this really the time to cut back on public safety? I don't think so.
Once again, I would like to thank all the council members who voted in support of public safety. After all, isn't protecting its citizens the number one role of government?
-- David Hilty, Ventura
We have recently seen many ways of depicting $1 trillion on the Internet, such as pallets filled with stacks of dollar bills. Here's another way, for your amusement:
If you place 1 trillion dollar bills end-to-end they would reach from the Earth to the Sun, approximately 93 million miles. You would have enough left over to go an additional 1.7 million miles, which is roughly twice the diameter of the Sun. Lastly, if the deficit estimate of 10 trillion dollars through 2019 is accurate, we could stretch our dollar bills from the Sun past the planet Saturn.
That sure made my day!
-- Richard W. Hurst, Ph.D., Thousand Oaks
The difference between former President George Bush's 2009 budget of $3.1 trillion and President Barack Obama's budget of $3.6 trillion is $500 billion. If that were divided up equally among the 3.5 million unemployed that Obama claims he wants to help, that would be $70,000 each for two years. That could be used to provide them with jobs paying $37,500 each per year for two years and $37,500 for job materials, supervision, overhead and profit.
Since these people would be working, there would be a savings because they would no longer be drawing unemployment at $400 each per week for six months.
So, what does Obama really want to do -- help the American unemployed or advance the Democratic Party social agenda?
-- John Berard, Newbury Park
President Barack Obama's Internet town hall meeting was a farce. He had lengthy opening sales remarks read directly from the teleprompter, followed by questions that were cherry-picked from the thousands submitted. Most likely, they were selected in advance so the president could practice his answers before the meeting began. His strategy appears to be to give lengthy, rambling answers that take up so much time -- up to 10 minutes -- that he has fewer questions to answer. It's analogous to asking someone the time and the responder describing how to build a watch.
Obama spoke of his new energy policy and the need for a new grid, but -- strike one! -- Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has openly opposed solar panels in the desert as a case of "not in my backyard." It's obvious why Feinstein didn't voice her objections during the campaign.
-- Bill Gourlay, Westlake Village
President Barack Obama's proposal to significantly limit tax deductions to charities by those making more than $250,000 -- those who are the primary supporters of charities -- is flat-out wrong, ill-conceived social policy. Donation money that otherwise would go to the tremendous work our local private charities do would go to the federal government in taxes. No thanks.
Our county food bank is in big trouble, as has been well-reported in The Star, at a time when the less fortunate need food more than ever. I have volunteered to Catholic Charities, The Wellness Community, Home Aid and a few other organizations that provide badly needed services to our community. I've seen, first-hand, the tremendous good they do through people working in our local communities for our local needy. Such efforts strengthen communities. Now who can argue that the federal government can do it better than our own people who want to help those in need?
I thank The Star for its March 25 article on how The Wellness Community put a woman whose husband benefited greatly by their programs in touch with another family now facing cancer. In gratitude, she wanted to help, to give back to another. Do you want to pay more taxes to have the federal government attempt and almost certainly fail to render such service? If not, support the current law on charitable deductions.
-- Joseph M. Bowman, Westlake Village
Hey, baby boomers: Are you aware that when you retire you can only make X amount of dollars before your benefits are reduced? The amount keeps you at the poverty level. Your 401(k) is crap now, so what do you plan on doing?
If we were allowed to earn as much money as we could in retirement, we would be paying into Social Security, and the company we work for would also have to match it. So that would make the government's cost for Social Security less by that amount. Also, most companies would supply health insurance, which would again reduce the cost of Medicare.
I have written to everyone about this way of saving billions of dollars, but it has fallen on deaf ears. Instead, they are paying trillions to companies that have lost our funds through their mismanagement.
We need to be counted. We need to have this done now.
-- Mary Aquino, Moorpark
Our combined family income should yield a comfortable living. It doesn't.
Our single largest family expense is taxes. For 2008, our federal income tax was 12.2 percent; Social Security and Medicare, 7.65 percent; California income tax, 4.3 percent; and disability insurance, 0.9 percent. That's a total of 25.05 percent.
This excludes our employer's payment on our behalf of more than 7.65 percent. Further, it excludes property tax, gas tax and sales tax.
Critically, it also excludes taxes hidden in the cost of goods and services. An example: When you buy a loaf of bread, the price includes part of the taxes paid by the farmer's employees and the farmer, the fertilizer company and its employees, the bakery and its employees and the grocery store and its employees. Total hidden taxes are set by some at 20 percent of prices, and that is just for federal taxes. The hidden cascade into consumer prices is also true of state taxes.
Half of our income, or more, is confiscated by force.
Our daughter is in college, and our son is fighting autism. Taxes take more than college (10.2 percent) and autism (21.4 percent) combined. We receive no government help for either expense.
The year 1998 was our last full year "before autism" and we gave nearly 4 percent of our gross income to charity. Our 2008 contributions to charity were 0.6 percent. Did spending on autism (21.4 percent) or taxes (more than 50 percent) crowd charity out of our budget? It was taxes.
Taxes hurt our family, but we are blessed. The poor are hit hardest by these facts. They spend almost all of their income to live. As outlined above, 20 percent of their income is confiscated by hidden taxes. Even if they pay no income tax, they pay Social Security and Medicare taxes -- our most regressive taxes -- of 7.65 percent. That is 27.65 percent of their income. Their employers match their Social Security "contribution" for another 7.65 percent. That is a lot of food or rent.
New taxes in California, "cap and trade," "universal healthcare" and massive federal and state deficits must increase taxes, direct and hidden, substantially. New taxes hurt my family, but undeniably they hit the poor the hardest.
-- William Burke, Thousand Oaks
I saw a brief letter in The Star recently from a lady who wanted to credit President George W. Bush for the achievements in Iraq. I am fully in agreement.
So let us list the achievements:
-- 1.2 million Iraqi dead, including 2,000 doctors, 5,500 academics and intellectuals.
-- 2.7 million Iraqi refugees in their own country and another 2 million who have fled to neighboring countries, including another 20,000 doctors.
-- Almost a third of Iraqi children suffer from malnutrition.
-- 70 percent of Iraqi girls no longer go to school.
-- Medical services, which before the war were considered the best in the region, have totally collapsed.
-- 40 percent of Iraqis now live under the poverty threshold with a national unemployment rate of 28 percent.
So indeed let's give credit where it is due. The truth is that we want to forget this humanitarian disaster because we are responsible. So the media sweep the crimes against humanity committed in Iraq under the carpet while trumpeting about Darfur.
Let those who committed these atrocities stand with Sudan President Omar al-Bashir accused of the same crimes.
We may try to forget, but be assured that the Arab people of the region will neither forget nor forgive what has been done in Iraq.
-- Yahya Merchant, Simi Valley
Re: Dan K. Thomasson's March 21 essay, "Honeymoon may be over":
Excuse me, Mr. Thomasson, but to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen in his vice-presidential debate with Dan Quayle, "You sir, are no Garrison Keillor."
In the first place, Keillor is a huge Barack Obama supporter and liberal (I know Thomasson hates that word) Democrat.
Secondly, Thomasson continually writes essays hoping Obama will fail. In other words, he is a today Republican.
I, for one, learned long ago to stop listening to words and focus on action. What I've seen since Obama took office is an intelligent man that I can admire and look up to, going to work every day trying to put our broken nation back together piece by piece.
I see an American who believes in right from wrong and realizes we are not in this alone.
Obama in seven or eight weeks in office has done more to reach out to the American people and the rest of the world than Thomasson's party has done in the last seven or eight years.
I'd suggest Thomasson and his party get behind our president and our country and start paying more attention to fixing the problems that exist and will exist and spend less time criticizing Obama and thinking about their party's future in 2012!
-- Steve Binder, Oxnard
We have witnessed statements from congressional leaders blaming the ordinary citizen for making poor mortgage choices they couldn't afford. I have negotiated several mortgage contracts and scanned through the difficult attorney language far too difficult for the average citizen to comprehend. After several hours of negotiations, the average homebuyer is far too exhausted to fine-tooth complicated contracts. It requires a real estate attorney to give the process adequate scrutiny.
Why is this so? America is far down in the scale of worldwide, adequately prepared students. That is why we are more likely to communicate with a foreign-born mortgage agent. We cannot point our fingers at buyers whose American education disqualifies them from the ability to "understand what they're signing." The multitude of homebuyers in mortgage difficulties, I guarantee, had little or no idea what they were signing.
So for politicians who've had the benefit of higher education to criticize those homebuyers who have only a high school education -- a poor one, at that -- indicates not only misunderstanding of reality, but a disdain for the victims of American education.
-- Miguel Espinosa Jr., Oxnard
Re: Ann McFeatters' March 23 essay, "Cheney wrong about so much":
I could not agree with McFeatters essay more. She is spot on. We have former President George Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney to thank for the fact that our economy is in the dumps and we are no longer seen as a trusted world leader, not to say anything about our war dead.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have begun the arduous task of rebuilding both our economy and our reputation in the world.
-- Carolyn Kramer, Camarillo
Some of the legal issues pertaining to same-sex marriages seem to be based on the assumption that our Constitution provides for it, and any laws prohibiting it discriminate against a minority group and are unconstitutional.
Our Constitution does not specifically mention same-sex marriage, but anyone who is familiar with the background of the majority of the individuals who wrote and approved our Constitution would have to know that the concept of homosexual marriage was contrary to their beliefs.
Most of the legal restrictions regarding the right to marry have remained relatively unchanged since our country was established. No matter what your feelings are toward them, you can't marry your children, your grandchildren, a child or someone of the same sex. Also, the rite of marriage, which was established thousands of years ago, clearly establishes that the rite of marriage can only be consummated between a man and a woman.
These restrictions are not discriminatory, because they apply equally to all ethnic groups and to all individuals, whether they be heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual.
Moreover, any couple can enter into a domestic partnership agreement that gives them essentially the same rights as married couples, and in fact can result in a better way to divide assets than a failed marriage, if the partnership is dissolved.
Also, I just had my income taxes prepared and noted that the total standard deduction for two individuals filing separately is the same as the total standard deduction for a married couple.
In summary, there doesn't seem to be any logical reason to change the laws of this country and the rules of the rite of marriage to allow individuals of the same sex to marry, just because some individuals practice sex in a unique way. This issue has been addressed by the courts, the Legislature and the voters many times, and it's time for all of these groups to focus their attention on the economic survival of this country.
-- Al Knuth, Camarillo
Re: Talisa Garcia's March 20 letter, "Explain 'chicken carnitas'":
While I am not Hispanic, I do have some knowledge of the beautiful Spanish language. I think I can help with Garcia's (and friends') dilemma regarding El Pollo Loco's (The Crazy Chicken) version of carnitas.
"Carnitas" literally means "little meats," (la) carne being meat, and "-itas" the plural, diminutive form. It is traditionally prepared using pork but could be prepared with chicken, or water buffalo for that matter. I'm pretty sure that chicken is considered meat, since, being Catholic, I'm not permitted to consume it on Fridays during Lent!
-- George Welle, Ventura
Re: Ken Raduechel's March 20 letter, "There is hope":
What an inspiration it was to read this letter!
Yes, there is hope for our nation, as he so beautifully wrote, but it won't be by any one person or organization. The Lord himself is standing by waiting to help us if we, as a nation, turn away from our arrogance and self-righteousness and recognize our need for help that only he can give.
Our country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles -- lest we forget! I just read about our first president, George Washington. He was a deeply religious and humble man. When he took the oath of office on April 30, 1789, he asked that the Bible be opened to Deuteronomy, Chapter 28. It behooves everyone to read it. Immediately following the oath he added, "So help me God." He than bent forward and kissed the Bible.
If we want to get our country back to the principles our founding fathers had in their minds and hearts, then we all need to get down on our knees and ask for guidance and forgiveness -- and it starts with me.
Yes, "there is hope."
-- Elaine Miller, Camarillo
Re: Laura Swenson's March 19 letter, "One less dwelling":
Ventura City Manager Rick Cole remarked in a widely copied March 9 e-mail titled "Safe and Affordable Housing":
"In the meantime, we are proceeding with the Council direction to be more pro-active in pursuing unsafe and illegal dwelling units."
The desired effect of that direction was to increase city revenue.
According to Swenson's letter, "The city inspected the property about a month ago and did not find that it was unsafe. However, as the conversion did not go through the permitting process with payment of the associated fees, the city has cited the property."
Apparently city staff interprets City Council direction to mean they have a green light to cite safe, but illegal, dwelling units, thus removing them from the city's stock of affordable housing available to those with extremely low incomes.
Homelessness is all about housing and poverty.
More than three-fourths of homeless people on any given day come from the pool of people in poverty who earn less than $25,000 a year. About 20,000 Ventura citizens are in that poverty pool.
You know them. They serve you as you shop, eat, bank, etc. Some work for the city.
We desperately need affordable housing for these least among us: the old or infirm, young people entering the workforce, newly single parents with children, or those who provide local business and government with low-cost labor.
Fancy housing is not required. The alternative is to sleep outdoors under a bush, in a doorway or in a car. (But sleeping overnight in your car is illegal in Ventura, and the 150-person winter shelter closes this month.)
Swenson's letter continues, "Two remedies have been offered for my problem: Revert the garage to a two-car garage for use by the tenants in the front house, or, if I want to keep the garage as a dwelling unit, I will have to construct a four-car garage on the property. Building a four-car garage is not an option for me on my retirement income, so I will gut the studio apartment and revert it to a garage."
Thus, Ventura comes down squarely on the side of housing for its cars, but not for the poorest 20,000 of its citizens!
To the extent that Ventura city staff interprets City Council direction to mean closing unpermitted but safe housing, they force Ventura's poor to live homeless on the street.
Reducing an already inadequate stock of affordable housing, especially to fill city coffers and house cars instead of people, is unworthy of Ventura.
-- Karl B. Keller, Ventura
(The writer chairs the Ventura Social Services Task Force. -- Editor)
Re: Lee Elder's March 24 letter, "Charter a land grab":
I write this to correct my former colleague's recollection regarding the vote on the Meadows Arts and Technology Elementary School charter. I, too, voted against the charter. Its negative economic impact on the Conejo Valley Unified School District and the existence of high-quality arts and technology programs already in place in its elementary schools were my reasons.
After researching the financial data and reports culled from CVUSD's Web site, reading the reports submitted to our board, and personally visiting CVUSD elementary schools, speaking to teachers, administrators, and parents, I reported how this work shaped and supported my reasoning on the evening I voted no on the M.A.T.E.S. charter.
-- Mary Louise Peterson, Ventura
(The writer is president of the Ventura County Board of Education. -- Editor)
The government is grandstanding and witch-hunting to find scapegoats for the financial crisis, while the cause of the financial crisis was the government.
In the last year of the Bill Clinton administration, the government legalized credit default swaps. These had been banned in 1913 because they were found to have caused a previous financial crisis. Credit default swaps allow the selling of insurance that a debt such as a mortgage will be paid whether the insurer has the assets to cover the loss or not. This allowed AIG to sell such insurance to banks. This allowed banks to make risky loans because they were insured. When the risky loans failed, AIG was doomed. If the banks couldn't collect on their insurance, they were doomed. Thus the government has had to pour money into AIG and banks to keep the financial system from collapsing.
The government should quit the grandstanding and require all politicians who received campaign contributions over the last 10 years from the companies or the executives of the companies now being bailed out to give that money to the U.S. Treasury to aid the recovery. The government should also ban credit default swaps.
-- David J. Ameling, Newbury Park
Re: your March 23 article, "Plans for state high-speed rail gain steam":
Using $8 billion from the federal stimulus package to fund this high-speed rail system is ridiculous. The existing rail service in our state has not exactly set a safety precedent for such an endeavour. According to the route diagram shown, the 200 mph speed would probably be reached only between Bakersfield and Fresno and then again from Fresno to Sacramento!
I would suggest that the $8 billion be spent on salaries for pink-slipped educators. They're needed more than a fast trip to Sacramento!
-- Rick Esler, Newbury Park
While we all obsess over trivia -- bonuses paid to AIG executives -- let's put the thing in perspective.
$165 million looks like this: $165,000,000.00.
$170 billion looks like this: $170,000,000,000.00. There are three more zeros between the significant numbers and the decimal point.
Some simple arithmetic makes the bonuses just 0.97 percent of the AIG money. But more than the AIG billions are at stake. The real amount to worry about is going to be trillions of dollars. Let's put that in perspective.
$1 million looks like this: $1,000,000.00.
$1 trillion looks like this: $1,000,000,000,000.00.
Gee whiz! There are six more zeros between the 1 and the decimal point, not three. $1 million is just 0.0001 percent of a trillion dollars.
AIG is likely to waste 0.97 percent or more of it's $165 billion just because it's human nature to make some bad choices when faced with a difficult situation. Why are we buying into this phony outrage when there's so much more money we should be worrying about? I'm insulted by all this political distraction. You should be too.
-- Roy W. Hogue, Newbury Park
I wonder why are we having trouble with the budget and the public school system.
I read in The Star that the California Highway Patrol has a new radar gun that pinpoints cars that are speeding. The article also stated that there was an increase in tickets written since last year -- and since getting a new radar gun -- by 30 percent. At that rate, figuring 20 percent of the people were going15 to 20 miles over speed limit -- wow! What a pay increase for the state!
Also, what happened to the money from the lottery for schools? Maybe we should cut out the lottery show on TV. There would be a savings, because we would not have to pay those emcees' salaries and we would have more money for the school budget.
-- Russell E. Spencer Sr., Simi Valley
A huge chunk of our taxpayer money is going out to big business and banks so they can stay afloat. This is amounting to billions of dollars.
How about a trickle-up economy so that taxpayers can stay afloat?
After all, this is taxpayer money, and all that we have been offered is less federal deductions taken our of our paychecks as our share of the stimulus package. Is that what Congress thinks of us? Our federal taxes will decrease slightly; however, the state taxes will increase. We will never see our stimulus.
Our 401(k)s have hit bottom, which have caused those who were planning to retire to instead continue working and not be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. CEOs have demanded such high pay that it has resulted in bankrupting their companies and the collapse of the stock market.
Write to the man at the top who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., and demand your bailout check of $1 million. With all the higher costs for goods and services that we pay for with our earnings -- that is, if one still has a job -- our paychecks are gone before we reach the end of the month. Give us a fair share of the billions of dollars that are being taken from our treasury.
If all adult U.S. citizens got a $1 million bailout check on a one-time basis, it would be substantially less than what is currently going out the door in bailout funds to those who only return for more. If we each received $1 million, people would not be homeless or hungry, and they would be able to afford healthcare. Others would be able to pay off their mortgages or buy a house and add improvements, buy a new car, take a vacation and definitely stimulate the economy.
Oh yes, it may cause an inflation. Oh well, currently too few are getting too much.
By the way, when you ask for your bailout check, go right ahead and demand a bonus check too! A lot of Chutzpah, maybe -- however, others have done so, and you won't be alone.
-- Sharon Miret, Newbury Park
Re: Dick Hawley's March 20 letter, "No fan of socialism":
Because of his many costly mistakes -- including billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives wasted in Iraq -- former President George Bush received much criticism from the Democrats, but not once did anyone from the left publicly say that they hoped the president would "fail," as Hawley said in his letter and as Rush Limbaugh says almost daily.
Is that their best shot? That President Barack Obama and America should "fail" so that the angry conservatives can be seen in a better light?
And regarding Hawley's fear of a new "socialist" America, let me remind him that every one of the world's industrialized nations has some sort of national healthcare except the United States, and that it works. And that our country's biggest socialized institution, Social Security, works also and has never missed a payment in 50 years.
You don't want "socialism"? Then get rid of public schools, police departments, fire departments and the military. You don't want government involvement and oversight? Then let the corporations run amok, as they have over the past eight years.
I'd rather have the government own the businesses than the businesses own the government.
-- John Edwards, Newbury Park
Re: your March 23 editorial, "Avoidable trade war":
The Star's editorial on allowing Mexican trucks unfettered access to the United States misses the point in several areas.
First is The Star's point that the United States is erecting trade barriers now, in the middle of an economic recession -- a point The Star effectively undermines by noting that the Mexican truck issue has been a controversy for 15 years.
Second is presenting Canadian truck access to the United States as equivalent to allowing access to Mexican trucks. Canadian trucks are maintained on par with U.S. trucks. Mexican trucks are not. If Mexican truck companies maintained its trucks at the same level as Canadian truck companies, there would be no dispute.
You will not hear me say this very often, but in this I case I agree with the Teamsters. Families on U.S. highways have a right to be assured that the trucks sharing the road with them are maintained to the highest standards. Until those assurances are in place, Mexican trucks have no right to be on U.S. highways, city or suburban streets or country roads.
Third, the tariffs Mexico imposed on the United States, while regrettable, are more harmful to Mexico than they are to the United States. Fifty percent of the goods Mexico imports comes from the United States. If Mexico raises tariffs on those goods, it means higher prices for Mexican citizens. In contrast, the United States' trade with Mexico accounts for less than 3 percent of our gross domestic product, so Mexico's tariffs have little overall effect on our economy.
I believe Mexico's success is of vital interest to the United States and our economic and national security. However, I voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement because it was poorly negotiated and poorly written, as has been proven over the years. I voted against NAFTA because it would not help Mexico succeed, and it contained harmful measures for the United States, such as the trucks provision.
If we are pinning Mexico's success on the cost of U.S. lives on U.S. highways, then the price is too high.
-- U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly, Simi Valley
(Elton Gallegly is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs
Re: M. Wendell Morrisset's March 13 letter, "Financial quagmire":
I agree with the letter from Morrisset, Martin V. "Bud" Smith's financial adviser, regarding the financial condition of the world. It all started when Barney Frank and others like him encouraged and permitted banks to make real estate loans with no equities, bad credit and inadequate source of repayments and sell them non-recourse for a fee to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with little supervision. Where were the federal and state banking officials and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation bank examiners?
Let business do its job and lead us out of this financial fiasco. There are still many good intelligent bankers out there who can do it if the big greedy banks don't pull them down with them.
-- Harry L. Maynard, Ventura
(The writer is a retired banker. -- Editor)
Recently the president said the government would stop raids on medical marijuana dispensaries. U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, remarked by saying, "The new policy is counterproductive because marijuana leads to use of harder drugs."
Think about this statement. If he believes that, then he doesn't understand the whole idea of the medical marijuana policy. Could it be that some of the people using medical marijuana are trying to avoid all the addictive pills and meds the doctors would normally prescribe?
What is a hard drug? Alcohol.
Let the president do his job so the people that count can have a better life.
-- Robert Zingery, Ventura
Re: your March 22 article, "Hospital will offer organ donor sign-ups":
Your story about organ donor sign-ups highlighted the tragic shortage of human organs for transplant operations. More than half of the 100,000 Americans on the national transplant waiting list will die before they get a transplant. Most of these deaths are needless. Americans bury or cremate 20,000 transplantable organs every year.
There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ shortage: Give donated organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die.
Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. People who aren't willing to share the gift of life should go to the back of the waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs.
Anyone who wants to donate their organs to others who have agreed to donate theirs can join LifeSharers. LifeSharers is a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at www.lifesharers.org or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition.
LifeSharers has more than 12,000 members at this writing, including 1,490 members in California.
-- David J. Undis, Nashville
(The writer is director of LifeSharers. -- Editor)
We now have a government run by amateurs, tax cheats and shady organizations running around like a bunch of self-centered, irresponsible adolescents who have stolen Dad's credit cards and are buying everything in sight for themselves and their friends without a care that they are bankrupting the family. This isn't the change I'd hoped for.
-- Anne Matthews, Somis
March 22-28 is National Cover the Uninsured Week.
Today there are 46 million Americans living without health insurance and another 25 million with inadequate insurance who are just one illness away from financial disaster.
The United States is the only Western country that does not have healthcare for all its citizens, yet we spend twice as much as any other country on healthcare. How can we spend twice as much as any other country and have a population of 46 million with no healthcare?
We spend more than any other nation, yet we are ranked 21st in infant mortality, and the World Health Organization ranks healthcare in the United States as 37th in the world.
Clearly, there is something wrong with this picture.
Now for the first time, there is a chance that there will be affordable healthcare for all citizens. We as American citizen voters must demand affordable healthcare. We need to focus on prevention of diseases rather than treatment of diseases. There are many diseases we can prevent and postpone with health education.
We can solve this problem. Right now the United States is a superpower with a Third World healthcare system. With more Americans losing their jobs, we can only expect the number of the uninsured to grow.
The time is now for healthcare reform in the United States. I encourage everyone to write their elected officials and demand affordable healthcare for all Americans. Other countries do it. Why can't the United States?
-- Linda Loiselle, Camarillo
(The writer is a registered nurse. -- Editor)
What a refreshing treat it was to watch President Barack Obama with Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show." Affable, humorous and, of course, always quick on the draw, he was not afraid to show himself as just ... himself -- a normal guy who just happens to be president of the United States, one who is very human, who makes mistakes and carries on.
I am so proud he is my president. It's been a long eight years!
-- Karen Murphy, Oxnard
Re: your March 22 article, "Fillmore celebrates its Skate Park":
I am happy to see that we have places like this for our kids to skate, but I couldn't help noticing that the photos showed some pretty amazing stunts being executed by skaters with no helmets! This not only gives kids a bad example, but, in light of last week's tragic death of actress Natashsa Richardson, it shows thoughtless publicity.
In Santa Paula, they have had to close the skate park because kids are refusing to wear helmets. It is not only the law, it is for their own protection. The rules are only as good as the enforcement.
The message that we are sending our kids is that it is OK to ignore laws that you don't agree with. This is not what I teach my daughter.
-- Joe Spittle, Santa Paula
Everyone has raised questions about the use of taxpayer dollars to fund and save many private businesses in this expanding worldwide recession. The current spotlight on the AIG bonuses provides a rare opportunity for the Congress and President Barack Obama to act to curb misuse of federal funds hereafter by enacting the Federal Funds Disclosure Act.
The FFDA should require all private entities receiving more than $1 million annually of taxpayer funds to file a disclosure form stating the amount and each recipient of federal funds. This form should be filed with the Federal Reserve Bank on a quarterly basis, just as each public company files a quarterly report with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The penalties for failure to accurately comply with the FFDA should include return of misused funds, interest paid at 10 percent per year of the misused funds and personal liability on all persons and entities directly and indirectly benefiting from the misuse of the federal funds. The FFDA should be enforced by the U.S. attorney general. The prevailing party in the proceeding should be entitled to recover reasonable attorney fees and court costs.
-- David Laufer, Oxnard
I predict that when unemployment in Ventura County reaches 25 percent, there will be rioting in the streets, marches and guns -- in general, a complete meltdown of society. Prepare yourselves!
-- William Wolny, Oxnard
As most of us now know, the two-thirds majority rule to pass the California budget is disastrous, allowing a small group of dedicated ideologues to dominate and dictate to California their special interest agenda of protecting tax exemptions and special deals for their wealthy constituents.
This two-thirds rule translates as a loss of critical funding for schools, health and welfare while foisting a heavier tax burden on the average taxpayer. The Republican bloc this year maliciously brought the state to the brink of bankruptcy, and elected Republicans such as Tony and Audra Strickland and their ilk seem proud of their ability to do so, though they spin and mask their agenda as being concerned conservatives holding down taxes. Yes they held down the taxes for the ultrawealthy without concern of the health, education and welfare of our citizens as well as the financial security of our state.
Additionally, this two-thirds rule is a crippling social injustice to block the rights of minorities, taking away our chance for representation while forcing higher taxes on us. It is a Republican version of taxation without representation.
It is tantamount to forcing a 100 percent rule to pass the annual budget, where one dissident or malcontent in the Legislature could stop and bankrupt the state of California.
Thankfully, there seems to be a trend started with exposure of the shenanigans of AIG and Bernie Madoff types, where the rich become ultrarich and the average citizen suffers.
We must force change to bring back our prosperity. We all are concerned about the financial stability of our state, so we must start standing up to those who serve the interest of greed. It is time we the people start educating ourselves and stop this preposterous rule of the ultrawealthy. A state constitutional amendment is needed to allow the legislative majority to pass our annual budget.
I hope we will have a resolution to support this common-sense change on the floor of the Democratic State Convention in April.
-- Jim Hensley, Ventura
(The writer is the 5th Supervisorial District representative to the Ventura County Democratic Central Committee and is a Democratic state delegate. -- Editor)
The current economy reminds me of the movie, "Apollo 13," specifically the part where the flight chief says, "What do we have on the ship that's working?"
There are opportunities available for small businesses. The challenge is to find what's working.
Now is the time for each business owner to perform a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats analysis of their business.
Strengths are the business' assets, what is working, why my customers should do business with me.
Weaknesses are what part of my business needs fixing or should be abandoned altogether.
Opportunities are what other markets can I expand into -- geographically, other industries, other products or services.
Threats are the economy, access to capital, a deteriorating market, etc.
In the movie, "The Replacements," the coach says, "A real man faces his fears." The S.W.O.T. analysis should help a business owner to not only face those fears, write them down and say them out loud, but also to develop ways to deal with them -- the Strengths and Opportunities.
I would like to see newspaper articles regarding the types of loans the local banks have an appetite for -- doctors, lawyers, accountants -- and the types of industries they don't pursue, like retail, lodging and gasoline stations. This would greatly help local business owners to know where they can go for loans.
If bankers are reluctant to advertise that they do not service certain industries, it may be helpful for The Star to establish a page on its Web site for business owners to post experiences, both good and bad, with the local lenders.
Regarding the new 189-room Embassy Suites hotel to be built at Harbor Boulevard and South Figueroa Street, I would like to see the Ventura City Council ask the builder to give the local banks an opportunity to review the project and permit the banks first right of refusal to finance the project. The $35 million project could provide up to $690,000 annually in interest income for our local banking community through just the construction phase of the project. The permanent financing could provide up to $1.3 million annually in interest revenue for the banks involved.
Mayor Christy Weir is a strong supporter of local businesses. I hope her support includes the local banks.
-- Frank Lomeli, Oxnard
Re: Thomas D. Elias' March 20 commentary, "Immigrant-bashing crescendo rising across state":
I am surprised that The Star printed such a biased viewpoint. To claim that the demand of California citizens to enforce immigration laws is hate-based, and to equate that demand with anti-Semitism is hate-based.
Freedom of religion is protected by our Constitution. Illegal immigration is not.
Using the logic expressed in the piece, drug dealers -- undocumented pharmacists -- should be exempt from prosecution if they support charities and file their tax returns on time.
-- Jefferson C. Romney, Westlake Village
Being in advertising and public relations for more years than I will admit, I have a minor bit of advice for President Barack Obama.
When addressing veterans, fishermen and hunters -- normal, I realize not necessarily in California, people -- we would rather talk to Barry than Barack.
When addressing the "intellectuals," mainly in California and New England, he should be Barack.
When he wants to play with the ayatollah or President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, he should be -- as my heartthrob Ann Coulter calls him -- B. Hussein Obama.
I'm just trying to help.
-- Jim Barros, Simi Valley
Re: your March 20 article, "Compostable controversy":
Trees, a renewable resource, used to be the source for paper bags for our groceries. People who want to micromanage our lives decided we were cutting down too many trees for this purpose, even though these paper bags could be recycled and made into new products and would break down in the local landfill.
Paper bags were replaced with plastic bags at the insistence of the same micromanagers. This went well until these micromanagers, who have nothing but good intentions regardless of consequences, decided they were filling up our landfills with a product that would not break down.
Currently, we are being strong-armed into bringing our own bags made of assorted products. If we use plastic or paper bags, we will be charged for them eventually.
We are now getting to John Karayan's predicament. He wants to use food-product-based eating utensils at his restaurant, but he can't recycle them appropriately because there is no landfill that composts this product yet. Some enterprising person has created a product that can't currently be used under current state regulation. Well, I would consider that well-meaning, but it does have a negative consequence.
The trouble doesn't end here. The eating utensils are made from food-based products. The same folks who want to micromanage our lives are concerned about the methane produced while these products are being composted. These environmentalists, better known as life micromanagers, are upset because the breakdown of these products produces a naturally occurring gas. Your grass clippings that you put in a separate can is an example of that naturally occurring gas production.
I would like to end this with one more potentially unintended consequence of using food-based eating utensils. Because the utensils are food-based, there is the strong possibility that pest problems will be encountered at this restaurant. Rodents, ants and roaches just love these products being set out for them to eat.
You can thank the usual suspects -- some of the folks you vote for who make state regulations without considering consequences.
-- William E. Hicks, Newbury Park
I have been a resident of Westlake Village/Thousand Oaks for more than 40 years. I strongly support the new Home Depot store to be built on Hampshire Road. It would be a big improvement over the eyesore that currently exists and a big improvement over the old Kmart complex. From what I have read, the traffic issue is a hoax fueled by Do-It-Center's effort to block the competition that Home Depot may provide.
-- Gene Wooley, Westlake Village
AIG shows what can happen when the government is involved. Don't be too upset with AIG for following the rules.
AIG was allowed to give the retention bonuses per legal contracts, and all the meetings were held with both the Federal Reserve and members of the House Financial Services Committee in attendance.
Once public opinion was against them, there was a swift deflection by Chairman Barney Frank and the committee members to denounce AIG in the public mud trough.
Please, let's put it in perspective. These retention bonuses were to ensure the employees would stay in place to properly unwind these investment contracts. Had they left, we would have lost billions on our investment, not millions. Yes, millions seems quite small nowadays.
Now they want to capture back the money paid through legal contracts by taxing them 100 percent. If I am not mistaken, all politicians are sworn to uphold the Constitution. Can they really target a specific group of individuals to tax unlike anyone else? Or is this political showboating that they know means nothing but is symbolic and quite illegal?
I suggest readers take the time to go to the Web site for the House Financial Services Committee and see who the members are. Then readers can ask themselves: Would you want this group to run a large corporation with your country's economy at stake?
-- William F. Klepper, Simi Valley
Re: John Crisp's March 17 commentary, "Can we become a studious nation once again?":
In his letter, Crisp noted the fast-paced rhythm of today's youth, and posited that it makes them less suited to the "methodical pace" that is required of traditional reading. As a member of today's youth and an avid reader, I believe that the two can coexist.
I agree that, though the current economic mess is tragic for many families, one benefit may arise: In turning from more expensive forms of entertainment, people may start picking up books more often. The days of rampant consumerism, which we've grown used to, are past. And a more well-read public, paired with the technological know-how of younger generations, will make for a future better suited for solving problems and moving forward.
-- Reichel Hertzler, Thousand Oaks
Re: your Feb. 5 article, "Universities can't afford surge of new applicants":
It is both an exciting and nerve-racking time for high school seniors awaiting the results of university applications. The Star's "Perfect Storm" article described the extra anxiety felt by this year's applicants because of reasons beyond their control.
As the e-mails rolled in for my son, we felt very fortunate and proud that he was accepted into all of his schools -- University of California and others -- with the exception of his No. 1 choice, UCLA. He was one of tens of thousands who received the disappointing e-mail from UCLA saying "55,000 applicants for 4,700 spots."
As a father who did not get into his first choice (Dartmouth) nearly 30 years ago and "settled" for his second choice (Wisconsin) and ended up loving it, I do not put a whole lot of emphasis on the "one and only one perfect choice."
As easy or tempting as it might be to start wondering why a student didn't get accepted, or comparing to those who did, it is not productive and, for all one knows, may be one of the best things that can happen to an individual. After all, with the best university system in the country, UC San Diego, Davis, Santa Barbara and a number of others are all excellent "second choices!" Without wasting this space with my son's resume, I know there is little more he could have done.
I understand the theories behind universities wanting a diverse student body from the country and the world. That being said, the one thing I can't help but wonder is: How many admissions decisions were based on financial reasons and not academic? How many thousands of California students are being displaced by out-of-state students, not for student diversity, but for the simple fact of higher tuition revenues?
After paying the State of California hundreds of thousands of dollars over the 25 years I have lived here, I want them to tell me that my son was not displaced from UCLA simply because someone else would pay double the tuition. If they cannot, then when my daughter applies next year, I want a check-box that says "California student willing to pay out-of-state tuition"!
-- David McNamara,
The Meadows Arts and Technology Elementary School charter effort has never been anything more than a land grab by a few wealthy parents and disappointed teachers. The M.A.T.E.S. supporters are unhappy with the decision by the Conejo Valley Unified School District to close Meadows Elementary School, and, like spoiled children, they stomped their feet to get their way.
The district needed to close two elementary schools because the district is losing enrollment. The district voted to close Meadows because it was among the oldest in the district, its enrollment was declining and it was among the worst performing elementary schools in the district. The district now has plans to rent the Meadows site to another educational organization, and the rent that group would pay is much greater than the money M.A.T.E.S. would pay for the school. That is why I voted against it while I was a member of the Ventura County Board of Education.
The M.A.T.E.S. charter will be harmful to the Conejo district because of the loss of earnings as compared to a different renter. The M.A.T.E.S. charter would be harmful for the students of the Conejo district because their administrators and teachers will have fewer resources to make use of. The voters in the Conejo district will be hurt by the M.A.T.E.S. charter because the voters will eventually have to buy land and build another school when the area's enrollment goes back up rather than modernizing an existing facility that the district already owns.
On the night we considered the question, the other four members of the county board voted to approve the M.A.T.E.S. charter, despite the refusal by the M.A.T.E.S. representatives to commit to the charter if the Meadows site was not made available to them.
The M.A.T.E.S. charter is about real estate, not education. Any other view of the matter is fantasy.
-- Lee Elder, Oxnard
(The writer is a former member of the Ventura County Board of Education, representing Area 5. -- Editor)
Re: your March 15 article, "College admission letters get creative":
I was intrigued by this article, which describes how colleges are trying to entice students by jazzing up their admissions letters, but I think it is all very unnecessary.
As a high school senior myself, who has applied to and received admission letters from colleges very recently, I was completely unconcerned with how the admission letter was constructed. I believe things like confetti and singing congratulatory Web sites are obnoxious and over the top.
Generally, when one is waiting for their admission letter, they simply want information on what to do next. Colleges should send out letters that are straightforward and professional, as not to make things too complicated.
I also think that e-mail is a very effective way to reach students. While some may prefer the postal service, and it may be wise to leave that as an option, one can't deny that, regardless, a student would be hard-pressed, if it is not impossible, to get through any college without the use of computers and the Internet.
-- Caroline Coffelt, Thousand Oaks
Re: your March 9 article, "In need of a helping hand":
This letter is in regards to your front-page article about the possibility of Social Security leaving the Under One Roof building.
To paraphrase Winston Churchill, "Never has so much been given to so many by so few and that presence be so secure as the Social Security Office must be to this community." For various managers or appointees within the federal system to dogmatically pursue the guidelines of government applications with total disregard for the people they serve is without conscience or merit.
With the hundreds of like offices within the United States, this particular office can give back to the community in which it resides with minimal effort and at no additional cost to the taxpayers. To apply some sort of "formula" to required square footage or insist on its exact location without exception is abominable. The only formula that should apply to this facility or "bidding procedure" is the fact that the presence of this office, paying a reasonable rent, not only meets the needs of the persons using their service but affords the income for the building it so desperately needs.
Under One Roof subsidizes by "zero" rent for 11 other agencies that, in turn, drastically reduce the costs to the federal government that would otherwise be required to support the individuals they serve. One example is the Free Clinic, which provides free medical (as a fully accredited clinic) and free legal advice. While the current administration is trying to bring more medical care to our citizens, this Social Security office ignores this grass roots service.
The very person for whom the majority of Social Security Administration is for, the senior, is one of the nonprofits in this building using a volunteer staff to help these same clients. Whether it is the homeless, the disabled, the sick or the dying, the nonprofits in this building are on the front lines of basic humanity. Their existence is being threatened by unknown federal managers who would rather stretch their legs in larger quarters or have the luxury of "his and her" elevators.
I am very much aware of the efforts by our City Council -- and there have been many -- and by U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly to secure a long-term and equitable lease between the building and the administration, but those efforts have fallen on deaf ears. Somewhere there is a pen that will write a mandate for those who would negotiate another lease to work with this very unique building and volunteer staff.
I would urge every level of government to assert this position all the way to the White House. And if we cannot find logical leadership at any level, then I can only stare at our coins that say "In God we Trust," for all else has failed.
-- Bruce P. Hamilton, Westlake Village
Article 1, Section 9, of the U.S. Constitution states: "No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed."
To me, that says U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., is way off base, as he is in most cases, clamoring for new taxes, after the fact, on the AIG bonus payments.
-- Bill Gourlay, Westlake Village
Re: Jo Anne Ryan's March 15 Pulse page commentary, "How about teaching our own children?"
While I agree with Ryan that parents should read to their children more, I disagree with her that we should lessen funding to our schools in favor of a program that supports home schooling.
Home schooling is something very few people can afford to do, as many parents have full-time or part-time jobs. When would these parents find the time to teach their children? Or, for that matter, what about single-parent children? If a parent is sole provider of income for their child, would they have the time, or the energy, to educate their child?
School is also more than just tests. As a student, I go to school not just to learn, but to be with my friends and meet new people. Kids learn how to socialize with other kids at school, a benefit they don't necessarily receive if they are home-schooled.
Overall, I think it is far more advantageous for students to go to school than to be home-schooled, and therefore funding should not be diverted from public schools for a program that supports home schooling.
-- Thomas Welker, Simi Valley
The president recently had an open meeting in Orange County where he took on all questions with no prescreening. Can you even think that former President George Bush would have done such a thing? Heavens no, as he does not have even a mere dram of the smarts that President Barack Obama has. And that is why we are in as much doo-doo as we are.
-- David LaTourette, Simi Valley
Re: Terry Paulson's March 16 essay, "Galt wants Atlas to strike":
Paulson bases a fiction, "Obama's rapid race into socialism," on a fictional letter by a fictional person in a fictional book by a fiction writer. He ends with, "There is no letter. There is no strike. John Galt does not exist. How would you respond if he did?"
Basically, if John Galt had the same understanding of socialism or lack thereof that Paulson has, I would seek to insure the effort of "No Child Left Behind" as obviously some have, like Paulson and letter writer Rhondi Ewing. I would remind them that writing a fiction as a fact comes out as a lie.
If a parrot repeats a lie, does that make it a liar? A parrot has neither the concept nor the means to seek out the truth. Paulson has, if he can get outside the box of his conservative blinders. I wish him well. I suspect our economy will recover before he does.
-- Lynn H. Maxson, Simi Valley
Re: your March 14 article, "Westlake, Agoura back out of cash swaps":
After reading this article, I am curious as to why we spend so much of our money on roads when money is desperately needed to avoid more layoffs. Is an improved highway really what we need right now?
Misunderstanding or not, Robert Griego was justified in his usage of the money given to him. Though it was originally given to him for different means, he measured the evils facing Irwindale at that time, and just as I have now, he realized highways were the least of his city's worries. Diverting money to areas more dire to the town's well-being is simple logic.
I realize the government is very gung-ho about public projects, but President Barack Obama is not Franklin D. Roosevelt, and this is not the Great Depression.
Unfortunately, when it comes to general money distribution, everything becomes gray rather than individually focused. This amount of money shouldn't be dealt out blindly without having a grasp as to each particular city's needs.
Granted, during the Great Depression, public service projects such as the Hoover Dam were warranted. However, in our present situation and in this more developed America, infrastructure projects are not a priority to the American people, let alone the city managers whose support comes from those very same people.
In conclusion, for MTA spokesperson Marc Littman to apologize for the misunderstanding is a slap in my face, as I am a resident of Westlake. Maybe Littman should stand up and say this instead: "I'm sorry the money is being distributed poorly."
Money distribution for more dire necessities than highways should be allowed, or maybe no money should be spent on highways altogether, and it should be spent elsewhere.
-- Brandon Carver, Westlake Village
The Democrats and Republicans are at it again.
Blame is easy. Pin it on the president, the chairman of the Federal Reserve or the secretary of the Treasury. Oops, but which administration?
The rest of the story is more revealing. In September 2008, AIG got its first bailout. Since then, Congress has been busy looking into all AIG finances, including compensation.
On Dec. 16, 2008, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., wrote to two members of the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform. The correspondence divulged that bonuses were going to be paid in 2009 and 2010 and that the information could be found in AIG's 2008 8K filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Also, I found on another congressman's Web site the minutes from a March 11, 2008, AIG board meeting discussing compensation for the partners plan.
The Wall Street Journal reported on March 18, 2009, that Congress was well aware of these bonuses and expressed their criticism months ago. The Journal went on to say they were not a secret.
To scream when you have advanced knowledge is deceit.
-- Robert Pisapia, Thousand Oaks
Awash in the general euphoria of getting gobs of other people's money -- or so one thinks -- I wonder why the public, and The Star in particular, don't appreciate the fact that the so-called "stimulus bill" is the greatest one-time tax increase in American history and clearly a fraud on the public.
I can't believe that anyone who has considered the bill's content, with even a mere cursory glance, doesn't understand that it is a collection of "pork projects" that have lain aborning for years in the hearts and minds of our friends in Congress. This massive accumulation of debt has been sold to the public on a basis of fear -- that which we supposedly only have to fear itself -- and the very greed upon which the bill's proponents assert brought about the crisis we are to fear.
It seems we Americans won't face our personal lack of economic responsibility, correct our spendthrift ways and abandon the hope that we are to be saved by "taxing the rich." It's apparent that a large percentage of us wants the rewards of the labor of others. That is to say, we are willing to abandon the economic processes that have given us our past and put our faith and fortunes in care of our neophyte president's vision of hope through socialism.
Not me. I hope the president and his cohorts fail. Moreover, I hope, pray and expect that this country will succeed and prosper despite their efforts to turn the United States into a nation of "children" dependent on the government for "parenting."
-- Dick Hawley, Thousand Oaks
Home Depot paid for an environmental impact report that said there will be no traffic problems, no noise problems and no day-worker problems at its proposed location in Westlake Village.
From my perspective as a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff with 28 years of experience -- I am currently a lieutenant in the Conejo Valley -- the EIR is completely erroneous regarding these issues, and the cost to taxpayers could run into the millions. I have a great deal of experience in learning the truth, and I offer the city a suggestion.
Determining if the Home Depot actually believes the EIR is a simple matter of insurance. The city should require Home Depot to sign an agreement that, should any of these problems come to pass, Home Depot will directly pay all related expenses outside the sales tax revenue and modify their procedures to mitigate the problems they said would never occur. This insurance policy would cost the city nothing. If Home Depot balks at this, they are revealing the truth that they actually know these problems will all come to pass.
Once the project is approved, they aren't Home Depot's problems; they are the city's and the taxpayers' problems. We can't afford to pay for these problems because Home Depot wants to make a buck and they've done a good job lobbying politicians. Hasn't business gotten enough taxpayer help lately?
-- Scott G. Chew, Westlake Village
Re: your Feb. 26 article, "Simi may implement new anti-drug program, if funding is available":
The program that's been labeled "Keepin' it REAL" sounds like a great way to confront drug abuse at a time when our youth is most vulnerable -- their middle school years. However, this new program was a result of the city scrapping the 14-week DARE program introduced in the sixth grade.
I understand that the city has little leverage because of the current economic crisis and the statewide budget crisis, but it still disappoints me to see education on the top of the list when it comes to cuts. The children we are depriving of an effective education are the people who will lead the future of this country. I believe drug education in a child's early years is crucial to his or her future health, and the Legislature in this state, the council members of this city, and the congressmen of this country need to realize the damage they are doing to America's future.
I hope the city will consider reimplementing the DARE program for next year by working with other cities, the school district and local organizations and businesses to fund it. If they don't, a generation of children may be lost to drug abuse because of these two years.
-- Maaz Ataullah, Simi Valley
(The writer is the Associated Student Body vice president of Santa Susana High School. -- Editor)
I would love to see the media go to our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and ask them what their opinion is regarding these scoundrels who have taken our tax dollars and used them for their lavish parties, private jets and hefty bonuses. Ask those who are defending our "way of life" if it is worth their sacrifice. Ask the ones who have lost their arms and legs how they feel about defending the freedom to steal and loot our pensions and 401(k)s. Ask them how they feel when their own medical care is in jeopardy or they are unable to find a job when they return because of how these thieves mishandled the country's economy.
Let's give them a voice in this turmoil for a real perspective on how we treat those who are most important to us and allow the others who have ruined our country to escape any punishment.
-- Richard Reiss, Thousand Oaks
As the summer of 2011 begins, we are fortunate to interview President Barack Obama. An excerpt:
Q: What caused you to change economic plans so drastically two summers ago? A: I decided I wasn't going to be the first president since the 1930s to help turn a recession into a depression.The stock market dropped when I took a commanding lead in the polls in September 2008, as well as after the election and first day of office, and even when I announced my first budget. People vote most vigorously with their money; it wouldn't have been smart not to listen.
Q: The biggest changes were in spending and taxes, right?
A: Yes, I needed to veto both parties' excess spending plans. It's ridiculous to expect my daughters' kids to pay for today's wants. And to have half the population pay no income tax is to have too few citizens with "skin in the game."
Q: What about spreading the wealth?
A: Some people assume the economic pie is fixed and the successful take from the poor. Actually, we build on each other's strengths. I'm all for fairness and charity, but it does no good to tax and regulate so heavily that we start to kill the growing golden goose. Folks who earn what they have are the best stewards of those resources.
Q: Changes to healthcare were different than expected?
A: Here's the problem. While life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are rights, commodities like healthcare cannot be, for one simple reason: When you give away anything of value for less than it's worth, demand grows unlimited. I wasn't going to be responsible for the two clear outcomes -- massive rationing and way less innovation.
Q: What was most important in how you dealt with the August 2009 economic crisis?
A: Getting away from simplistic factors, like blaming the constant of human greed, and getting away from some folks' desire for retribution when we all have accountability -- both emotions were too common in the 1930s -- and instead focusing on cost control, reasonable taxes and regulations. I can't believe I earlier said that government is the only solution to the crisis; the answer is the American people! What was I thinking? We are such a smart and resilient people!
-- Arnold Hockenmaier, Camarillo
People are wondering where all the money from Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme went. The majority went to pay the investors the high returns they expected from their investment.
A Ponzi scheme works like this: You invest, say, $1,000. You receive interest from your own investment until it is used up, less the $100 held by the schemer. From that point on, you are being paid from the investments of other people, and they are receiving payments from their own investments until they are used up, and they start receiving payments from new investors until there are not enough new investors to cover the interest paid to old investors and the scheme collapses.
You may have been told your $1,000 investment had grown to $2,000 when, in reality, it has been returned to you in interest and is now gone. Any interest you earned after that was from other investors and your "book" value was fictitious, so at the end of the scheme, you are out your initial investment only. Anything else was pure "book" value and had no backing as your money had not grown because it was used up paying you and others. Your bookkeeping is now screwed up and you do not have the high interest coming in, but you are really out only the initial $1,000 investment that was returned as interest, less the schemer's cut.
-- Melvin S. Burckes, Ojai
Hey, folks, have you forgot where you live? This is still California. Remember? The place where you can surf and ski on the same day? So what are you doing flushing it down the drain? Just what is it going to take for you to get the message: No more freebies from the taxpayers. Personally, if someone can make it by not working, so be it, but no more on my dollars.
-- Eugene E. Charbonneau, Camarillo
Re: your March 18 article, "Oxnard rebuked for D.C. lobbying":
Once again led by Bert Perello, the same repeat offenders of the Oxnard Inter-Neighborhood Council Forum question the means and practices of our elected officials as they endeavor to maximize our community's potential -- and capture available resources for the city of Oxnard -- through the annual National League of Cities meeting in Washington, D.C.
The diversity of council members Andres Herrera, Bryan MacDonald and Irene Pinkard teamed with department heads Ed Sotelo, Ken Ortega and John Crombach represents a broad spectrum of the city's concerns and our local interests.
The League of Cities event is precisely the correct time, place and networking opportunity for our delegates to press full-court in their lobbying efforts for federal dollars on our behalf and I applaud their participation. The result of their work will equate to jobs and an improved quality of life for all of us here in the City of Oxnard.
As to the leadership and the usual and ordinary detractors of the INCF,
what have they done for our community? Perhaps Perello and The Star could write a lengthy and detailed article explaining the many endeavors and accomplishments of this particular "council."
-- Rick Conrad, Oxnard
As a retired fire battalion chief, I cannot stress enough the importance of maintaining a maximum response time of five minutes. We all know that for every minute that a fire goes unchecked, it grows exponentially. We also know how precious the seconds are when a person is not breathing or is losing blood.
Let's explore the evolution of an emergency.
First, the fire starts or a person suffers an accident or illness. Then, someone must discover that an emergency exists. That may take seconds or minutes. Next, the situation must be reported. This usually entails a telephone call to a central dispatch office, which can happen right away or take several minutes. After the dispatcher is able to determine the type of emergency, the appropriate emergency responders are notified. This is usually done through an alarm system that alerts the firefighters. Now they have to don their gear, get in the engine and drive to the scene.
All this time, the fire is progressing rapidly, the person injured is perhaps still losing blood or the person not breathing is nearing death or serious irreversible brain damage.
Most of what I have expressed are things that the fire department cannot control. The one thing they do have some influence over is the amount of time it takes to arrive at the scene after they have been made aware of the emergency. With all that valuable time ticking away, it is no wonder that when the alarm sounds, our responders must get there as soon as possible.
The cost of maintaining an adequate response time may seem high during these troubled times, but I assure you that the costs to the individual and the community are far greater if we further hinder the efficiency of the responders.
The city of Ventura has an excellent fire department. Let's keep it that way.
-- John Asselin, Ventura
We are in the midst of an unprecedented recession. While recessions can be very difficult for us, they have the beneficial side effect of cleansing the excesses of the affluent years.
An advertisement from firefighters wants us to call our elected officials to save their jobs. These job cuts were necessitated by the overly generous pensions -- compared to the private sector or federal employment -- given to them during the boom.
Firefighters retire on essentially full pay. Well, that was great during the boom, but we can't afford it in the bust. If they want to save jobs, why not give back some of that pension benefit?
I've recently seen articles about city lobbyists out to get federal money and pork projects to fix onramps. With today's tax structure, only about half the population pays income taxes, yet the whole population is eligible to vote for the elected officials who promise more and more to get elected.
It has been said: "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years."
-- John Ferritto, Ventura
I thank The Star for running essays by Terry Paulson and Jay Ambrose. I was minutes away from canceling my subscription after having read submissions from Ruben Navarrette, Martin Schram and a couple of wacky and reliably far-left ramblings from college professors, one of which was promoting socialism. The Star has done a good job of achieving a balanced editorial page.
-- Ken Hurd, Camarillo
Members of the Ventura City Council just don't get it.
After they bungled the illegal 911 tax, they are back again in an effort to increase your taxes. Members of the City Council are proposing an increase in the city sales tax.
Here is the problem the City Council is forgetting: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. By raising the sales tax in Ventura, more people will make purchases on the Internet, or they will drive to Camarillo or elsewhere to do their shopping. This will result in less business and fewer tax receipts in Ventura.
Here is what the Ventura City Council should do: Lower the sales tax in Ventura. Make Ventura a shopping destination instead of a place to avoid.
Since the current city leaders are unable to understand basic economics, I urge them to step aside and let real business people lead.
-- Robert Strom, Ventura
The persons who put together the questionable financial deals that drove AIG into this mess are likely to be the type who cheats on their taxes. A full tax audit of each person getting a bonus at AIG would likely recover a large chunk of money for the government. Send the "tax man" after them!
-- Jess Stryker, Ventura
Re: Pat Browne's March 18 letter, "Astounding numbers":
Browne's letter had some interesting figures on water usage for Ventura and also for California in general.
I am pretty sure most people realize the great burden 6 million illegal aliens put on California's financial resources. How many people have done the math on how much water illegal aliens use during the course of a day?
I will use Browne's conservative number of 100 gallons of water per day per person. There are an estimated 6 million illegal aliens living in the state of California. That amounts to 600 million gallons of water used per day by people living here illegally. I multiplied that daily figure by 365 days and my calculator imploded.
In a dry year, Browne states water usage will go up to 230 gallons per person per day.
California residents need to know where a great part of our water shortage problem lies.
-- Chuck Jaseph, Camarillo
Re: George Pohoski's March 6 letter, "Defining a human":
Pohoski's letter was nothing other than an exercise in moral relativism.
Pohoski surmises that a woman's menstrual cycle is tantamount to a monthly spontaneous abortion. He goes on to state that the thousands of sperm cells that don't fertilize an egg are "wasted," and are therefore themselves abortions. He uses this poor analogy to buttress an obvious pro-choice position.
First of all, a sperm cell and an egg are not in and of themselves a human life because they have not yet merged. This is simply a matter of common sense, not religious dogma as Pohoski claims. His analogy makes as much sense as making the claim that hydrogen and oxygen can both be considered water before they are combined. It's just not the case, and it makes for a silly argument.
He adds that a human is "defined by a functional brain and heart." Did I miss the memo that gave Pohoski the authority to define a human life?
The argument that a person must be fully formed in order to achieve human life is utter nonsense. Human life begins at conception because it makes sense. There is no such thing as "half" a human life. When does an oak tree's life begin? When the acorn germinates or when the oak tree is full? Is it not an oak at germination -- or is it a pine? No. An oak is an oak, and a pine is a pine -- and a human life is a human life -- whether Pohoski and his ilk have any respect towards it or not.
-- Tony Lemos, Simi Valley
I've just returned from the new Simi Valley Dog Park and am mortified at the complete lack of thought put into its construction and use.
My first concern was the lack of a sidewalk leading from around the parking lot up to the park, forcing numerous owners to walk their dogs among people driving and looking for parking.
My second concern was that all dogs, large and small, get funneled up a walkway 50 feet long by 6 feet wide, which forces excited arriving dogs to meet eye to eye with dogs leaving the park, instigating dog fights.
My concern turned to huge disappointment at the top of the ramp, where the entrances to the large dog area and small dog area meet in an open-ended 10-by-10-foot area. The open-ended design means that as people open either gate, dogs already inside and off leash can exit. There is no double gate to prevent an escape and a dog potentially running off or being hit by a car.
Once inside, I saw underage puppies -- a potential health risk to other dogs -- and small children obviously younger than 6, who are at risk due to their size. One man was even there with his toddler. I politely reminded a puppy owner that her puppy causes a health risk to other dogs, and her response was to tell me that she, "didn't come to the dog park to be harassed." A park representative at the gate for opening weekend would have been prudent.
I am very grateful that we finally have a dog park, but it seems as if it were designed by someone who has never visited another dog park. Pet health risks, serious injury or death are only a matter of time at the Simi Valley Dog Park, and I will not expose my dog unnecessarily. Until there are changes made that will allow for my dog to have a safe visit, I will continue to frequent the Thousand Oaks and Winnetka dog parks and avoid Simi's dog park at all costs.
-- Fabio Bandini, Simi Valley
If you have a complaint or issue with your school and want to be taken seriously, you need to file a "Uniform Complaint" form. A letter to the school or district will not suffice. You can go on line to www.cde.ca.gov/re/cp/uc.com
I wrote a letter and asked the district if I did it correctly or if there was a form I needed to complete. I wanted to make sure that I would be taken seriously and that the situation would be too. I was told that the letter would do. It's not true. So, after many calls, I finally called the California Department of Education in Sacramento. They were very helpful. The schools and districts must follow the procedures when filing a "Uniform Complaint." Anyone one can do this without an attorney.
In my opinion the California Department of Education does care and will protect our children.
-- Keren Stainfeld, Oak Park
Re: your March 17 "Today in history":
Thanks to this item, I avoided a mistake in what I thought would be the final draft of my novel, "Whistle-Stop."
In 1936, in my story, two of my characters went to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. But your highlights of history alerted me that the gallery didn't open until 1941. After further research, I rerouted the visitors to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington.
So I will continue to be a regular reader of your "Today in history," while I hope for no more surprises for my story.
-- Richard Londgren, Thousand Oaks
Re: James Blau's March 18 letter, "Scientific ambition":
-- Embryonic stem cells' potential is not controllable. Embryonic stem cells injected into someone's brain could turn into hair.
-- Privately funded research has been ongoing for many decades but has been totally unproductive.
-- Unwilling to throw good money after bad, private funding has dried up because there has been no success.
-- Grant-chasing lab rats are looking to the public trough as a result. That would be us!
So what's behind President Barack Obama's decision is more blind ambition than scientific ambition. And it will cost us, the taxpayers, a lot of money for absolutely nothing, at a time when we need every dollar to count.
Do the math, if not the morality. Adult stem cells: 40-plus cures and treatments. Embryonic stem cells: zero.
Get over it!
-- Dorothy Hage, Newbury Park
Our president recently signed a $400 billion omnibus bill. It was reported that the bill had 9,000 earmarks totaling some $7 billion. That's $7,000 million, and we were told it was such a small amount of the total bill that it was hardly enough to be worried about.
Now let's compare that to the $165 million bonus payments contractually made by AIG before the bailout of $170 billion -- or $170,000 million.
In comparison, the $165 million is loose change.
-- Nicholas Yanuzzi, Thousand Oaks
The California Charter Schools Association just completed its 16th annual conference, and several members of the Meadows Arts and Technology Elementary School attended this year's conference in Long Beach to introduce and prepare for the Conejo Valley's first charter school. With upwards of 1,500 in attendance and significant growth each year, clearly the future of public education is charter schools.
Charter schools are free public schools that are run by nonprofit boards and operate as their own independent school district. Charters enjoy great flexibility in their approach to education and freedom from stifling bureaucracy.
At the CCSA conference, some of these inspirational schools were awarded for their excellence and ranged from inner-city Oakland to Pacific Palisades High. All of these award winners shared dedicated parents, leaders with vision and highly motivated teachers who emphasize fundamentals in education. With core academics as the foundation, these schools, with their flexible and innovative approaches, place their students on a trajectory of discovery. The award-winning schools showcased students who are immersed in the arts, the sciences, the exploration of all that is educational. Lackluster teaching is not tolerated in these award-winning charter schools.
All communities can benefit from charter schools. Schools that are failing or unable to pursue promising programs should consider chartering. Dedicated parents with vision can create charter schools by holding local school boards accountable in adopting a more progressive attitude towards education. Local school boards must seek out leaders who will make room for charter schools that are centers for innovation. The law supports charters, whole communities have embraced charters and school districts that value educational progress will include charter schools.
-- Sheri Polisini, Thousand Oaks
(The writer is on the MATES board. -- Editor)
Re: your March 17 article, "Seabee museum contract awarded":
Wait a minute. The Seabees are paying a private firm about $9 million for a new museum of Seabee history. Why don't they build it themselves?
-- John Hankins, Ojai
Re: Terry Paulson's March 16 essay, "Galt wants Atlas to strike":
This was an excellent essay by Paulson. I have been urging friends to read "Atlas Shrugged," an amazingly relevant book written about 50 years ago. Please, Star readers, do not criticize Paulson's article without having read "Atlas Shrugged." This should be a must-read.
-- Rhondi Ewing, Newbury Park
Re: Terry Paulson's March 16 essay, "Galt wants Atlas to strike":
Bravo to Terry Paulson for telling it like it is.
President Barack Obama is soft-pedaling socialism, pure and simple: "We are all in this together," "shared sacrifice," "a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world."
My copy of the Constitution does not include the word "sacrifice." Fear is driving us to ransom our kids and grandkids, like fear was used to ignore the Constitution to start the Iraq war and to subvert the Bill of Rights for a war on drugs and the Patriot Act.
We should be afraid when we look to government, rather than the free market, to "get the economy moving again." Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger used to know this. In his introduction to Milton Friedman's PBS series "Free to Choose," he said: "I come from Austria, a socialistic country. I felt I had to come to America, where the government isn't always breathing down your neck or standing on your shoes."
In "For the New Intellectual," Ayn Rand wrote: "It stands to reason that where there's sacrifice, there's someone collecting sacrificial offerings. Where there's service, there's someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice, speaks of slaves and masters. And intends to be the master."
What can you do? For starters, stand up to the fearmongers. Join the tax protests on April 15 at your local post office. Join the Libertarian Party, the party of principle and freedom. Read "Atlas Shrugged," still a best seller after 52 years. Above all, believe in yourself, rather than government, to solve your own problems. And don't be surprised to hear about people "going Galt."
-- Bruce K. Bell, Moorpark
Congratulations to the Moorpark Academic Decathlon team -- again!
As a resident of Moorpark, I could not be prouder of the young folks who represent our community in this great academic challenge, and I would like to propose a suitable honorary that will last forever.
The stretch of Tierra Rejada Road from Highway 23 to Los Angeles Avenue is one of the prettiest parkways in the region, and I'd like to propose that stretch of road be renamed "Aca Deca Parkway," with the school located at 1 Aca Deca Parkway. Should there be protections on the Aca Deca name, we could name the road for the individual who has been the keystone to our team's success, Larry Jones.
Moorpark is known statewide as the premier team in the competition. Let's pay a tribute that will live on for years to come!
-- Bud Bockoven, Moorpark
Re: your March 8 article, "Waste not wanted, say site's neighbors":
The only green this so-called environmentalist cares about is the green in his pocketbook.
David Hare played the victim card well in The Star's article regarding his business, Eco-Logics Environmental, and his attempt to acquire a permit to reopen his operation. But what about the real victims?
The real victims are the residents who live within 750 feet of his operation. The real victims are the neighbors who suffered respiratory issues as a direct result of David Hare's business. The real victims are the neighbors who could not go outside of their homes because of the horrendous odor and dust. The real victims are the ones who had to deal with rat infestation. The real victims are the neighbors who were not able to enjoy a moment of peace from within their own homes due to the constant noise created by Eco-Logics.
Some of these victims met in person on two separate occasions with Hare and Miguel Magdaleno to discuss their concerns regarding Eco-Logics. They hoped things would become better after each meeting, but they did not. Hare and Magdaleno continued business as usual with total disregard for their neighbors' safety and well-being.
In 2005 and 2006 there were 25 complaint forms submitted on two separate occasions to the Ventura County Planning Department. Eco-Logics was finally shut down in 2007 by planning director Kim Rodriguez after it had already been in illegal operation for two years.
Eco-Logics has absolutely no business operating in an area so close to homes. No one can argue with the fact that there is a need to recycle green waste; however, it should not be done in a location where it affects the quality of life and physical health of its neighbors.
-- Mary Ann Cruz White, Moorpark
Re: your March 8 article, "Waste not wanted, say site's neighbors":
David Hare states in the article: "I'm tired.... I've been doing this for years, I know how to navigate this process pretty well. If I'm getting my butt kicked, the next guy could have a way better idea than I do and it could just wind up sitting in his garage."
I have news for Hare: The "next guy" already does exist, and his name is the Simi Valley Landfill. Guess what? They already recycle residential curbside green waste and have been doing so for years.
Hare's statement that the "next guy could have a way better idea than I do" is misleading to all and doesn't hold water. His statement should have read, "the next guy could have a better location as to not ruin the quality of lives of local residents with noise, contaminated dust, odors and rats, as I selfishly did."
We all need to recycle green waste, but where and how we do it is important too! Keep the processing and storage of residential curbside green waste in a landfill where it belongs and out of people's backyards.
-- Roger Rolph, Moorpark
AIG took $170 billion of taxpayers' money to keep it afloat. Now we find out it just recently paid out $165 million in bonuses to executives.
I don't know about AIG, but most private companies in the world pay out bonuses after the profitability of the company is archived, not when the company is going out of business or losing money.
This whole thing smells. Why do we learn about this now, after they are paid? Most bonus plans are pre-agreed with employees, and the exact conditions for the payout are in their personnel file. We hear things like "they are legally obligated" and "could get sued if they're not paid." What kind of bonus plan pays out regardless of the company's financial condition? I have received bonus payments in the past from companies I worked for, but the first requirement was that the company make money, and then the bonus program goes into effect.
If the taxpayers own 80 percent of AIG now, we taxpayers are certainly not having our ownership looked after properly.
This whole bailout mess is getting worse and worse, with no apparent oversight on the part of an ineffective government. Taxpayer money is flying out of the treasury at unbelievable speed with disclosure of where it's going hidden from the public. How much of it, like these bonuses, is being wasted, stolen and diverted into corrupt accounts? We deserve better than this!
-- Robert W. Coshland, Ventura
Re: your March 8 article, "Waste not wanted, say site's neighbors":
Dave Hare says that "the biggest change since 2007 is a proposed limit of 1,000 cubic yards of green waste stored at any one time."
Hare goes on to say that the material was sitting on the property too long, the pile was too big and that was the cause of the odor issues. I agree with him partially on that.
What Hare fails to mention is that the materials dumped at his operation are already odorous. Think about it: Any green waste stored in a plastic-enclosed drum and left sitting in a residential backyard for up to seven days is going to begin decomposing and emitting odors, especially if it contains grass clippings, kitty litter and fecal matter.
In Hare's odor impact study, he states that loads that smell too bad are not sent to the Moorpark site but to a landfill. Let's not sugarcoat it, because it is what it is: All the loads stink, and there is no way around it.
Hare claims he was a former waste manager for the city of West Hollywood and a consultant to other cities on waste recycling. With such a background in this field, why did he let his compost pile accumulate to 10 times the amount of his current proposal? Did he not know better? Did he not know that the residents living 800 feet downwind from his operation were going to be negatively affected by odor, polluted dust, rodents and unbearable noise on a daily basis? Sure he knew. Residents voiced their concerns years ago. He just didn't care.
-- Leonard Cruz, Moorpark
For the last few weeks much has been said about the teachers of California. I've read people comment that teachers are paid too much and that they should quit "whining" about budget cuts and layoffs. I am one of those teachers, and I want to shed some light into the life of a teacher.
I've been to college and earned a bachelor of arts in liberal studies, a teaching credential and a master's degree in education. I taught in Northern California for two years, and I have been teaching in Conejo for five years. Recently I read that teachers make more than the average salary for someone in Ventura County. Does the person who wrote that take into account the amount of college teachers attend?
As a teacher I've had chairs thrown at me, and a student has threatened to punch me. It's not all 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. with summers off! Many teachers come in to set up their classrooms in July. Often, they spend weeks setting up and preparing before the school year starts -- and no, that's not paid! During the school year teachers spend hours before and after school attending meetings for special education services, budget committees, student council activities, etc. They volunteer to help different committees and often will open up their class before or after school to help a child in need. Teachers take home hours of grading and will often come in during the weekends.
These are just a few reasons to support your local teacher, and, trust me, there are many more! I've been teaching for seven years and I got a pink slip last week. I wore pink, I held a sign in front of my school, I went to the rally and I gave blood at the blood drive. I am a teacher, and I will always fight for what I believe in!
-- Erin Teffeteller, Newbury Park
How about this solution for education reform: When all administrators from school districts retire, do not hire anyone. Let each state have the responsibility for reforming all schools and for making sure that today's and tomorrow's children have enough teachers so that class size can be small enough in all public schools so teachers can teach and kids can learn.
The money that is not used for multiplicity of school administrators will enable principals to run their schools efficiently and provide the number of teachers required to help our kids.
There has to be a way out of this mess, unless Proposition 13 is recalled and California figures out a better way to fund schools everywhere in the state.
-- Warren Potash, Moorpark
I had the opportunity to look over the budget and read the proposed cuts. In doing so, it raised questions for me.
To begin, I do not see where the Simi Valley Unified School District is reporting payments from the Federal Universal Service Fund. This fund, run by the Federal Communications Commission, subsidizes schools' telecommunications expenses. Are they taking it as a reduction in the expense?
Will we lose the "Class Size Reduction K-3" state revenue if we lay off 112 kindergarten through third-grade teachers, resulting in larger classes?
The Building Fund outlay was increased. Perhaps increasing this fund during a budget shortfall can be revisited?
The Self Insurance Fund is expecting $16 million in expenditures. Would it be cheaper to buy insurance from a reputable carrier?
All the cuts seem to come from the general fund. Are there no other fund cuts that can be made?
The district assumes each teacher position is paid $70,000. Where did that number come from? The average salary for a public school teacher in Simi Valley is between $46,937 and $62,724.
A cut of three district office positions would result in savings of $401,150. Are there more six-figure positions that can be eliminated and their duties delegated to lower levels?
The district plans on saving $500,000 by cutting welfare costs. What are the welfare costs to be cut?
There is a proposed reduction of $42,228 for benefits coordination with a note of "three months." Does this mean the benefits coordination staff will be cut back by three months only?
The plan is to cut 160 teachers but only 10 nonteaching positions. Does this not seem inequitable?
Finally, I did notice some minor efficiencies have been identified. What other areas are being pursued, other than the $154,000 to be saved by laying off some information technology staff?
-- Tim Watts, Simi Valley
Just what is our government thinking?
Last week, AIG asked for more money, and they got it. Now comes the news that AIG not only received the additional funds, but they are going to give out $165 million in bonuses from that money. So our government can't ask for any of the money back?
Our government tells us to live within are means. Shouldn't AIG do the same?
Oh, I get it. This is just an early April Fool's joke, isn't it?
-- Kay McKelvey, Oxnard
Teachers were all over the state last week picketing for their jobs, and I can certainly sympathize with their cause. However, so many others have lost their jobs too, and many have families and just as important positions that serve our children and communities.
I attended Assemblywoman Audra Strickland's Thousand Oaks community meeting recently, along with more than 100 people, and many attending also had individual causes and concerns about the state budget cuts. Strickland mostly agreed that the Legislature is protecting itself and not the taxpayer. She believes that money that would otherwise fund teachers is sadly going to wasteful causes that she is currently addressing. But, as we all know, government moves at a snail's pace.
I believe we need a colossal grass roots movement like Howard Jarvis had 20 years ago that saved my home and millions of others.
May 19 is another fork in the road, folks. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is leading us off the cliff this time, so beware of what you vote for, especially if you are a homeowner, privately employed or you spend money in California. Just beware!
-- Ray Holm, Westlake Village
On March 13, out of 1,000 teachers in Simi Valley, 230 were given pink slips. I find a 23 percent reduction of teachers in Simi Valley absolutely appalling. Why have there been no administrative layoffs or suspension of programs? Why are they laying off our teachers, who work not for their small paychecks, but for the love of teaching?
This country can bail out banks that got themselves into trouble, but it can't help stop our educational system from falling apart? I believe it is President Barack Obama who has said on numerous occasions that our children are our future and we must all invest in making sure it is promising for them by putting them first. Laying off a quarter of all teachers in our city certainly does not call for a promising future for our children by any means.
Included in the list of 230 teachers given pink slips is a favorite of all students and parents at Crestview Elementary in Simi Valley: Lori Neiman. Mrs. Neiman is one of the best teachers my son has had. She teaches from her heart. She loves her job and always goes above and beyond in everything she does. She does this for the students.
I am told Mrs. Neiman was chosen due to "seniority." What kind of logic is that? We must all act with intelligence in this matter and act quickly to save the jobs of teachers such as Mrs. Neiman. What a complete loss it will be to lose such a wonderful teacher at Crestview Elementary.
I am taking a stand, along with every parent, teacher and student, against this atrocity. I am asking our elected officials to hear my plea to shield our children from the current economic conditions of our country. Our children must be protected, and we need their help immediately.
-- Heidi Stokka, Simi Valley
Re: your March 11 article, "Woman hit while trying to protect tot from car":
We've read for the last several days of multiple murders both in the U.S., and Germany, not to mention gang violence and killings too. But in the March 11 Star, we read about a person who should be on our hero-of-the-year list.
I speak of Argelia Rojas, who was struck by a car in a crosswalk on Westlake Boulevard while walking with a 2-year-old child. This wonderful woman, in a split-second decision upon hearing the screeching of tires, without regard to her life, grabbed the little boy and threw him out of harm's way onto the curb area. Within an instant, she was hit and evidently smashed into the windshield, which was shattered, saving the child's life. He, of course, was startled and crying and was taken to Los Robles Hospital with minor injuries. At first, she was not breathing, said a witness, but started again after some first aid was given to her a few moments later.
What we'd like to know is, where is the follow-up story and how is Argelia Rojas? Every day I expect to read something new of this tragic story, but there has been no follow-up whatsoever. I'm sure there are others, like my family, whose hearts go out to this unselfish person who, within that split second, choose to be willing to give her life to save the life of another.
May the Lord bless her and grant her a quick, healthy recovery.
-- Jack Heinzman, Thousand Oaks
A good definition of crazy is to do the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. An example of this is the push for more gun control in the U.S. because of gun crime in Mexico. It's been tried before.
After years of ever-more restrictive gun laws in England, gun crime was actually on the rise. English politicians were in a pickle. They had banned nearly every type of firearm there was, and gun crime was rising. So did they admit that, at best, anti-gun laws were ineffective? Not for a moment! Then-Prime Minister Tony Blair called for more restrictive gun laws in other countries! It seems that if it hurt to hit his thumb with a hammer seven or eight times, he thought the ninth would feel good.
Fast forward to the present. Supposedly, drug dealers in Mexico are using guns smuggled from the U.S. Even assuming that were true, it seems silly to believe that the same criminals that were able to get around all the Mexican and U.S. gun laws will be stopped by more laws. If they can sneak drugs into the U.S. and other countries, they can certainly sneak guns into Mexico.
There is plenty we can do. Supposedly many of these guns that wind up in Mexico are bought through "straw man" purchases, where someone who can legally buy a gun sells it to someone who can't. This is already illegal. Federal form 4473, which is already available for review to police investigating crimes, will link a specific gun to a specific person.
We must enforce the laws we already have. We also should tighten our borders, because the same techniques that restrict threats like drugs and illegal immigration will help stop guns from illegally going to Mexico.
Gun laws affect only the law-abiding. Criminals ignore them. Hitting our own thumbs with the hammer yet again will help no one. It may even hurt.
-- Ken Foerster, Thousand Oaks
We have two horses at Two Winds -- now Circle K -- that have been there for many years. I was under the impression, as indicated to me by the city of Thousand Oaks, as well as by the management of Circle K, that the rent would remain affordable.
Before Circle K took over, we were paying approximately $250 a month per horse. There is no question that Circle K has made vast improvements to the facilities, with city of Thousand Oaks tax dollars, and that the Thousand Oaks City Council made a commitment to the citizen horse community that the fees would be commensurate with the services and the community requirements.
One of those requirements is affordable stall rent.
In the last few months, costs for feed and fuel have dramatically decreased. Feed costs are down 30 percent from last fall. Given these facts, the proposed rent increase is without basis in related costs and contrary to the commitments made by the City Council to the citizens of Thousand Oaks.
It seems that again, we, the taxpayers and citizens, have been lied to, and only for the benefit of the city-owned land lease holder, which pays a meaningless stipend to the city for the land-lease. The decision to grant the lease without revenue generation for the city was based on the promise by the lease-holder to maintain community-based, affordable facilities for the citizens of Thousand Oaks. Clearly, the lease-holder has broken his promise, and we insist that the City Council demand that the lease-holder keep the commitments that were made.
The proposed stall rent increase is almost double what it was two years ago. Our two horses would cost almost $900 per month. We, like many other longtime supporters of the Western lifestyle in the Conejo Valley, are being forced out due to greed and deception.
-- Raymond P. Donahue, Thousand Oaks
I have read a lot of blogs and seen many programs denigrating single-payer national healthcare systems. They seem to come from people who have no personal experience with such systems.
Numerous studies have established that single-payer national healthcare systems cost about half that of our system while providing better healthcare as measured by outcome, such as infant mortality, longevity, hospital mistakes, etc. From living in these countries, my family has personal experience with healthcare systems in England, Germany, Norway and the United States. I would not hesitate one moment to choose any of their systems over ours in the United States.
It is difficult to understand why systems demonstrated to be better than ours, no matter which criteria you use to compare them, are not seriously considered here in the U.S. Are we that misinformed, brainwashed, uneducated, dogmatically tied to a capitalist philosophy that is, in this case, failing, or not as smart as citizens in other countries? Or is it that it was not invented by the self-proclaimed greatest nation on earth?
A viable healthcare system must also be decoupled from one's place of work, as is the case in the rest of the world. This will help make our industry more competitive and encourage employee mobility into new economic activities to help spawn and expand new businesses.
The bottom line, born out by facts and not emotions or dogma, is that single-payer national healthcare systems work better for more people at lower cost than our for-profit system.
-- Dr. Yngve Naerheim, Thousand Oaks
Re: Margaret Nesbitt's March 11 Communities column, "Getting help deciphering medical bills":
Nesbitt's column failed to point out a very competent and free service that seniors can obtain from the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program. HICAP volunteers are located in senior centers, Social Security offices, hospitals throughout the county and at the County of Ventura Area Agency on Aging office in Ventura.
While it is certainly true that medical bills can be confusing, it is definitely not necessary to have to pay for help or to worry about charlatans when you need assistance. HICAP volunteers are trained and registered by the California Department of Aging. The volunteers have up-to-date information on Medicare, Medi-Cal, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), preferred provider organizations (PPOs), long-term care insurance and Medicare supplements. They are familiar with all of the paperwork a patient may receive following a stay in a hospital.
HICAP should be the first recourse for seniors in need of this assistance. HICAP provides this free service to all Medicare beneficiaries.
-- Barbara Lingens, Thousand Oaks
(The writer is a HICAP volunteer. -- Editor)
So the Wall Street/big bank casino dug a $62 trillion sinkhole: the unregulated credit default swap market -- bundled mortgage-backed securities that were packaged and resold so many times that no one knows the risk to equity ratio. AIG executives facilitated the gaming by underwriting this toxic debt.
The Fed dumped $170 billion of "our" money into this bottomless money pit without any knowledge of the size of AIG's liability and without precluding executive bonuses as a precondition for bailout funds. The bailout flowed back to the Wall Street/big bank casino players, including $11 billion to a French bank, Societe Generale, and $5.4 billion to the German-owned Deutche Bank. Another $3.3 billion of the bailout money went to UBS, the Swiss bank that refuses to disclose the names of some 47 wealthy Americans who used UBS as a haven to evade paying taxes.
AIG executives who took part in this reckless scheme are now rewarded with $100 million in executive bonuses.
P.T. Barnum and W.C. Fields come to mind: "There's a sucker born every minute."
By the way, in "Thieves in High Places," Jim Hightower provided context for the enormity of even $1 trillion by converting dollars into seconds. "Western civilization has not been around for a trillion seconds. One trillion seconds is 31,688 years. A trillion seconds ago, Neanderthals stalked the earth."
-- Ernest A. Canning, Thousand Oaks
A question has been raised by the Hispanic community as to a new item unveiled by the local El Pollo Loco restaurant food chain. We all stare with confused gazes at "Chicken Carnitas."
If you're Hispanic or have knowledge of Spanish, you question this advertisement. How did El Pollo Loco defy the laws of evolution, or God's creation, and create "Chicken Pork?"
I called customer service, and the one who answered, who happened to be Hispanic as well, attempted to explain. However, the question still remains at large. Help us out! Curious minds with too much time on their hands are dying to know.
-- Talisa Garcia, Camarillo
It seems that I remember that a jury must be made up of a majority of the peers of the person on trial. If this is correct, then the 14-year-old boy on trial for murder would need to have the majority of the jury to be 14 years of age, or at least a teen. I do find it very difficult to believe our judicial system would allow a child to be tried as an adult.
-- Colleen Brown, Camarillo
Two 99-Cent Stores plus two Target stores, all of which sell food, equals discrimination against Wal-Mart.
-- Patty Hunt, Ventura
Re: your March 12 editorial, "Heroics in a crosswalk":
I hope someone can cite statistics to gainsay me, but my personal belief is that motorists in Thousand Oaks do a very poor job of honoring their responsibilities towards pedestrians in crosswalks. Thus, this Star editorial is pure milquetoast.
To test my position, just watch what happens at the one guarded crosswalk on Gainesboro Road, west of Moorpark Road, morning or evening on any given school day. The Rojas catastrophe is poised to repeat itself.
-- Leonard J. Loomis, Thousand Oaks
The area of the Wagon Wheel Motel and Restaurant could be remodeled along the lines of the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo. This would create a singular feature, visible and accessible from the freeway, which could be a landmark and a tourist attraction. This wouldn't affect any redevelopment plans for the former ice skating rink, bowling alley, RV park and industrial area.
It seems especially important in these tricky economic times to not just build, but to build value -- meaning that Oxnard should have things that other places do not in order to attract people to Oxnard and enhance the quality of life for those who already live here.
As a resident of Oxnard's historic downtown, I'm in favor of the preservation of as many unique buildings here as possible. So many other cities up and down the coast have the same lines of new homes and strip malls full of the same stores. It's redolent of the old economy, and I'm tired of it. I'd like to see the creation of something new and the creation of a destination to make the people of Oxnard proud.
-- Lydia Galbraith-Albutt, Oxnard
Re: Richard Ewing Brown Jr.'s March 11 letter, "Shades of Nazi Germany": While we are all entitled to our opinions on stem cell research, it is incumbent upon each side to describe the process accurately. Brown's depiction of "killing unborn children to use their body parts" is inaccurate and inflammatory.
Embryonic stem cells are derived from blastocysts four to five days after fertilization. They consist of 50 to 150 cells. They have no "body parts."
Additionally, these cells are obtained from invitro fertilization clinics where the cells have been stored pending implantation. When it is determined by the donors that they will not be implanted, the cells are destroyed.
Evidently Brown believes these few doomed cells are more important than children and adults with unbearable illnesses and injuries. I think Brown should be required to look into the eyes of victims of Parkinson's, Alzheimer's or spinal cord injuries and tell them their lives are less valuable than spots in a petri dish.
-- Joy Putinta, Camarillo
Re: Richard Ewing Brown Jr.'s March 11 letter, "Shades of Nazi Germany":
After witnessing the new president's actions toward unborn children lately, I had already made the Nazi connection. Thanks for publicly voicing what we should be refusing to accept: wasting human embryos.
Unless someone has a maldeveloped conscience and a poor recollection of history, clear-thinking people can't help but understand we are rapidly being directed toward dark and ghoulish policies with respect to humanity.
How could any of us express pride in a so-called fashionable "consciousness" while this national policy becomes commonly accepted? It doesn't matter if it's the environment, nature, animal rights, health and fitness or reducing carbon footprints, this all means nothing! If we don't speak up against and reject these anti-life, anti-freedom policies, we will all share in the resultant unprotected, unblessed and unrecognizable society the world once knew as the great United States of America.
-- Mark Ortega, Ventura
Re: your March 12 article, "Ventura proposal slashes $11.4 million":
Many of us are overwhelmed by the brilliance of the Ventura City Council and top city staff, the groups that have been crying for months about how tough the economy is and how poor the city of Ventura is and whether or not the city will survive. The solution, they have finally decided, is their remarkable "two- year plan" to cut back on spending.
Wow! A spending cut! Why didn't the rest of us think of that?
And it gets better. The geniuses we elected have decided to cut only where it won't really hurt. Don't lay off employees, allow them to retire. Don't fire workers, "lateral move" them to other jobs. Ask our leaders to take a pay cut, as most of us have already done.
Meanwhile, in several tough moves that are doubtless keeping our elected ones awake at night, they say don't cut park grass so often, don't fill the "vacancies" on the struggling Ventura Police Department (money from the feds should save other police jobs), cut back on the amount of our money given to the homeless, no longer clean the streets of sand near the beach and stop giving "artists" our money so they can paint instead of work like the rest of us. That includes the city's "graphics staff," although they will be replaced by contractors who may or may not work for nothing, but probably won't.
They even say they'll speed up the permit processes to get things moving in clogged-up City Hall, but they've said that several other times, so that may or may not happen.
Although some of us wonder why they didn't do these things months ago, it is good to see how smart we were to have elected our current council. Is there any question that they should be re-elected, one and all?
-- Ross R. Olney, Ventura
I have lived in Ventura County since 1937, and when the Wagon Wheel went in, it became a landmark to everyone traveling through. Also, it had one of the few restaurants large enough to host meetings, way before each of our communities began to really grow.
The fact that Martin V. Smith "recycled" World War II buildings impresses me. We had almost lost that measure of frugality that formed the basis for good business. Several generations have passed, during which bigger and better almost always meant spending way beyond our means. To me, the Wagon Wheel is a symbol of a local man who made good by his own efforts.
-- Patricia Havens, Simi Valley
President Barack Obama's decision to reverse the federal stem cell ban is hardly a surprise, since he pledged to do so during the campaign. However, his assertion that this will help remove ideology from science is way off base.
Embryonic stem cell research has yet to yield a medical therapy, while adult stem cell research has yielded more than 70. In addition, with embryonic stem cell research, there is the potential issue of the patient's immune system rejecting the stem cells, since they come from another person. With adult stem cell research, the stem cells come from the patient's own body, so rejection is not an issue. Those who push for embryonic stem cell research seem to ignore or overlook these facts.
It makes one wonder if ideology, far from being separated from science, is, in fact, the driving force behind embryonic stem cell research.
-- Noel D'Angelo, Thousand Oaks
Please vote and urge other voters to reject any financial cuts to our educational budget and to maintain the 20-student class size for kindergarten through third grade. Increasing this number is a disservice to all of us, regardless of whether you currently have children in the public education system.
Many parents must work and are not able to volunteer in the classroom. All additional classroom aides have been eliminated due to our abysmal education spending decisions of the past. Our teachers are on their own and are already stretched thin to provide a quality education to our students.
California has one of the lowest per-pupil spending budgets in our nation, which should be an embarrassment to us all. Don't throw fuel on an already raging fire. We need to direct our limited resources to the greatest need -- educating our kids.
Please vote to direct spending towards education and keeping our K-3 classrooms at a 20-pupil size.
-- Dawn Robinson, Simi Valley
It is a most devastating thing to know that the budgets are being cut for schools and thousands of teachers are being laid off. Simi Valley itself is going to lose 230 teachers.
As it is, our country is being challenged by other countries in all education standards, and by this budget cut, the future of our country is being jeopardized. Losing teachers and increasing the class size will have a bad impact on our kids.
Please help us save the future of our proud country and our kids. Please stop this school budget cut.
-- Anjul Grover, Simi Valley
Re: Wendy Dager's March 12 commentary, "'Law Ma' roots for her team":
I loved the way Wendy experienced the competition of her daughter in the spelling bees, drama festivals, etc. I have been one of those sports moms she talked about and totally understand the fun of watching my child compete -- in anything.
We just went to Colorado to watch our oldest son compete in the U.S. Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association competition on the slopes of Winter Park for his school, San Diego State University. We have been involved in 10 years of Ventura High School football, track, tennis, etc., not to mention the countless years of sports before high school. We love kids competing. It's good for them and fun! And for some, it's the only thing they excel in.
Sports is the reason a lot of kids make it to college. I heard a head football coach say that he would not have gone to college if it wasn't for football. That is a great thing. So it makes them feel good about something in their life.
I thank Wendy for letting us know about the mock trials going on. I am glad to hear about those educational programs at schools. I just wanted to hear Wendy say that now she understands why the kids and the parents get excited about sports, or whatever it is, that she felt good when her eyes teared up watching her daughter and then she understood all those crazed sports fans.
There is no better feeling than seeing your own youngster do something spectacular on the football field or ski slope or in the classroom. It gives us something to cheer about. And we all need something to cheer about, don't we?
And by the way, the quarterback would probably love to play both games, but CIF rules won't let him.
-- Kathy Meyer, Ventura
After attending a recent meeting of the City of Ventura's Sales Tax Measure Committee, I came away a bit perplexed.
It was my understanding when this committee was formed by the City Council that one of its main duties was to determine, based on comments and feedback from the public, if it was appropriate to put a citywide half-cent sales tax measure on the ballot for city residents to vote on. Well, it was my distinct impression after attending this meeting that they had already made this decision and were now only interested in figuring out when to place it on the ballot and how to sell it to the community. There were even comments made by several committee members to the effect that they won't get much public input on this issue anyway, so why bother?
In my humble opinion, a sales tax increase for the city is a horrible idea at this time. As a regressive tax, it would hurt those least able to afford it in bad economic times, and it will further damage the local economy by driving up prices for goods and services on top of the additional 1 percent sales tax the state is imposing on April 1, thus harming our local retailers and businesses, particularly small businesses.
The other question for me is what happens when the economy recovers in a few years and tax revenues start flowing again? The city will now have an extra $8 million it can start frittering away on expensive and unnecessary consultants. No thanks. Been there, done that.
I also think, as a symbolic gesture if nothing else, Mayor Christy Weir and Councilman Neal Andrews should cancel their upcoming trip (junket) to Washington, D.C. In fact, all out-of-state travel by city personnel should be suspended based on the current budget circumstances. How can we be telling the public that we need to eliminate police officer and firefighter positions to balance the budget while we put two council members up at a ritzy hotel, dining at fancy restaurants and hob-nobbing with other city officials?
Our city leaders should be doing what they were elected to do -- lead.
-- Roger C. Clarke, Ventura
Re: Lisa Rands' March 4 letter, "Wal-Mart would help":
Rands states, "Who in their right mind would oppose Wal-Mart in Ventura?"
As a longtime Venturan, I oppose Wal-Mart in our town on Victoria Avenue. My reasons are:
-- We have one only five-plus miles away in Oxnard. That's not far.
-- It would be in an already overcrowded parking lot.
-- It would drive out small businesses trying to survive.
-- It would do nothing for the homeless. Since wages at a Wal-Mart are so low, the people who work there could not afford to live in Ventura. Thus, it could possibly add to the homeless situation. How could that be "giving back to the community" and be of any help?
If the leaders from Wal-Mart were smart, and I'm sure there are some, the north end of Pacific View Mall would be a better place, with all that huge parking area and several empty buildings to choose from. To me, that would solve the problem.
I don't shop at any Wal-Mart and never will, but they still have the right to run a business. I just think another location other than Victoria Avenue would ease things.
-- David Hodge, Ventura
Re: your March 4 editorial cartoon, "The flow of drugs across the border":
This editorial cartoon only showed half of the story.
I moved to Camarillo around Halloween from a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia, called Surrey. I had some typical Canadian "Oh my gosh, U.S. high crime rate!" worries, but I was glad to find out that Ventura County's crime rate is way lower than Surrey's. My family is still in Surrey -- they'll be joining me next month -- and they have to put up with gangland-style shootouts and executions in our part of Canada happening more and more frequently over the last few weeks and months.
Why? Because the same trade goes on across the 49th Parallel as it does across the Rio Grande: B.C. bud goes south, U.S. guns go north.
The number of marijuana grow-ops in residential neighborhoods like the one we own a home in is staggering. Add in more and more ecstasy labs in B.C. (to feed the insatiable American hunger for drugs) and cocaine flowing from Mexico through the U.S. to Canada (because we Canadians, sadly, aren't much better), and the result is that my family is actually looking forward to moving to America so they can be safer!
It's getting to be as bad as 1920s Chicago ever was.
So please, all you "casual," "recreational" drug users out there: Remember that every joint you buy is funding the guns that are killing thousands in Mexico and way too many other murder victims in "nice, quiet, peaceful" Canada. And if there aren't enough of you to elect pro-legalization politicians, then maybe you'd better cut down on the doobage in hopes that it'll cut down the rising murder rates in your neighbors' countries.
-- Robert Slaven, Camarillo
President Barack Obama needs to listen to the people more closely. His suggestion of tacking on to us -- the workers who pay their bills -- more than $1 trillion that must be paid back is outrageous.
I would suggest that Obama give every legal citizen in this great country $1 million and let the people turn the economy back. Probably all the citizens would pay off their debt, get a nicer home and a nicer car, buy more things like healthcare and solar energy for their homes, and that would stimulate this economy. Businesses would hire more people and bring us back to where we want to be as a country.
Do we as a nation want to be stuck with having to pay more than $1 trillion or get $1 million? I think the population is like 300 million people, making it much less then $1 trillion. There would be no need for our children and their children to worry about paying the government back.
I believe this plan would work wonders for all concerned, and everyone could breathe a little easier.
Like the Boston Tea Party, we need to revolt against all this spending going on now like there is no tomorrow.
-- Ryta Fofanoff, Simi Valley
Every morning after I read the front and business pages of The Star, I wonder if I am living in "The Twilight Zone."
With government encouragement, bankers and mortgage brokers abandoned all common sense and made home loans to people for homes they absolutely could not afford and without asking for income information or a credit report.
Then, stockbrokers packaged these worthless, bogus loans and sold them to the investing public and to foreign nations, all because AIG insured them against loss.
Now the banks that reaped enormous profits in doing this are in trouble and are receiving billions of dollars to bail them out, and AIG, which now has to pony up money on the insurance, has received more than $100 billion, and this is just the tip of the loss iceberg.
Locally, the treasurer for the city of Ventura took $10 million that was entrusted to his care and loaned it unsecured to Lehman Brothers stock brokerage. Lehman Brothers. then filed bankruptcy, and the city will probably lose all $10 million. Did this money come from retirement trust funds or city reserves for future expenses? No one has yet said.
Just in case there is a chance that the city will get some of the millions back, they have hired a Los Angeles law firm to represent the city, with the law firm getting 30 percent of anything they get from the bankrupt Lehman Brothers.
To make matters worse, AIG also insured derivatives, the worst contrived gamble to ever be invented to take away the public's hard-earned dollars. The losses of AIG will be in the billions, and the United States is bailing them out of this bottomless black hole of losses.
Please, someone, wake me up. I hope that my nightmare will end, and all of this will be just a trip to "The Twilight Zone."
-- M. Wendell Morrisset, Oxnard
This is a nation of freedom and opportunity, of personal liberties and equality, built on the deeds and ideals of generations of determined individuals working towards a common goal.
Whenever we rally to a common goal, we have improved the quality of life for ourselves and the generations that follow.
We are living with consumption and opulence as our measure of success. Maximizing profit without investing in the future has placed us in peril.
Why is education always the first and largest of budget cuts in an increasingly technological world environment when we are near the bottom-ranked educated in the world?
Why are we considering additional drilling and mining for fossil fuels when the future is in clean alternatives?
Convenience has made us short-sighted. Giant corporations are replacing small businesses, craftsmen are being replaced with assembly line production, local manufacturing is being exported and career is being replaced with part-time and temps. We owe it not just to the next generation but to ourselves to act now. We must unite in a common goal.
Education is our future. We need to increase the number of teachers to reduce the class size and provide a safe learning environment and include programs like music and the arts. We need to insure that all schools have comprehensive technology programs and community mentors. We need to support local small business. We need to use and stimulate alternative energy products and industry.
Necessity has inspired innovations in industry, improving the quality of life for all of us. Necessity is showing us the way. New opportunities in technology and energy provide businesses and investors the direction of the future.
We all share in the circumstances of this financial crisis, and we all must act together to recover from it.
-- Kevin Rice, Oxnard
I adamantly oppose the tax increase for Ventura. The city has to be able to show how this money is allocated.
Our new park on Kimball and Telephone roads has lost employees because of lack of funds. Weren't there funds allocated for grounds people when the park was planned? How can the city think it can put in a huge park and then not set aside money to pay for the grounds upkeep?
What about our city streets? Heading down Telegraph Road east to Petit Avenue, the sidewalks are filthy and full of debris. You can't even walk without turning your ankle on tree droppings or dog poop.
Why do we pay taxes and assessments on our properties? How about all the graffiti? The city of Oxnard has a crew that gets out so that no one ever sees the graffiti. How about considering that? What about planting vines on walls to distract graffiti artists?
Let's put a mandatory hold on all city employee wage increases and suspend contributing to retirement programs in an effort to not lay people off.
What is the city's logic behind higher taxes? How about they start with their own cutbacks in an effort to show the city is taking an active role in cutting back as well.
-- Barbara Lee, Ventura
Re: your March 7 Pa Ventura item, "To taxpayers":
I think it is a great idea for the youth of Piru to have their own skate park to be proud of in their city. They should not be punished for the problems in Camarillo.
I know how proud the kids and adults are of the great skate park we have in Fillmore. My son, who is an adult "skater," says the kids are great there, respect one another and are very well-behaved. I think it is one of the best things Fillmore has done. The kids are off the street and are so very proud of their space.
-- Joni Kadow, Fillmore
Re: your March 8 editorial, "Taking guns out of parks":
Oh, please, The Star must spare us from its dire predictions that unless President Barack Obama reverses former President George Bush's decision on gun ammo in parks, we'll have bullets whizzing over all of our heads.
The Star's editorial is typical of ignorant thinking that outlawing ammo in guns, and guns in general, reduces gun violence and crime. Besides, The Star completely ignores the fact that the law applies only to persons already having a right-to-carry permit. Permitting law-abiding citizens to own and carry guns deters crime and reduces gun violence everywhere it's tried. Yes, in our parks too.
-- Bob Scudder, Camarillo
Re: Alex Magdaleno's March 10 letter, "Gallegly's shtick":
U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly does not need to show an actual example of a special privilege or treatment being available to illegal immigrants. The fact that they are available is the cost and the problem.
-- Phil Poulsen, Port Hueneme
A few days ago, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared California to be in a drought. This will cause the local city councils to initiate some sort of water rationing. It will probably be their inclination to want to draw up some very complicated rules regarding how much water a particular house or business should be allowed. The rules will inevitably favor some folks over others, and there will be good reason to sue the cities. Houses sitting side-by-side will be granted significantly different amounts of water. This will end up pitting neighbor against neighbor and business against business.
Folks use water differently and for different reasons. Some like having a green lawn, which benefits the environment; some like to use their swimming pool and spa; and some like to take long showers. There are few people who really waste water.
There is only one fair way to reduce usage, and that is through the application of water rates. A series of escalating rates is the easiest way to manage usage. In this way, folks who are already conservation-minded will not be penalized, and folks who use a lot of water will pay for what they use. But progressively higher rates will certainly discourage overuse.
Allocations based on usage in previous years will only encourage overuse of other utility resources now to prepare for the inevitable time when electricity or natural gas is in short supply. Use a little more now so that you won't face a shortage in the future.
But it is politicians who should share the blame for the drought because they are the ones who continue to allow development in spite of scarcity of resources.
So, councils, please be smart in dealing with this drought.
-- Jerre Reimers, Simi Valley
Re: your March 7 article, "Limits on stem cell research changing":
I recently went to the Reagan Library to see one of the surviving copies of the Magna Carta. So much power in such a small piece of animal skin. But there it was -- the words, the ideology: "The King is not above the law."
That is ideology. Ideology is what America is all about. Civilization itself, the Bill of Rights, the Emancipation of the slaves -- it's all about ideology and where to draw the line to maintain our humanity.
But King Barack Obama wants to reverse a limit on taxpayer-funded research using embryonic stem cells. This is not only a moral travesty, but an economic and scientific one as well. He sees a problem with "ideology over science."
Obama is not the first leader who thought crossing the line was a brave thing to do to solve a problem. History has demonstrated to us what happens when we ignore ideology. And we have the likes of Dr. Josef Mengele to prove it.
All this is for the same old "potential" saving of lives and "hope" to harness and cells that "could" help. Adult stem cells are outperforming the zero results of embryonic cells by an impressive record of actual cures and treatments.
Alas, our king is behind the times. He is not above the law.
-- Dorothy Hage, Newbury Park
Re: Bill Walthall's March 10 commentary, "Where's concern about teachers?"
Walthall makes reference to Mickey Mouse's "three-fingered paw." Mickey Mouse has four fingers.
-- Tony Sereno, Simi Valley
Re: Barbara Ballenger's March 10 commentary, "Job or soul? Unfair choice":
As Ballenger wrote, we are well on our way to a state religion: amorality. Those who have strong belief in right and wrong, in the sanctity of life from natural conception to natural death, in the right to have a conscience, are whole-handedly dismissed as fringe lunatics.
Where are the freedoms that our forefathers envisioned for this country? We are taxed and mortgaged to paucity. We can no longer look forward to a well-earned retirement, since the banks and investment companies are not held responsible for their shenanigans. Money is just thrown at them with no accountability.
What if we chose to not disclose to the Internal Revenue Service where our income came from or what deductions we were legitimately entitled to? Would that be OK? I think not! So why is accountability for the billions of "bailout" dollars not mandated?
-- Claudia Satori, Newbury Park
I just heard on the radio that Citibank did the "right thing" and canceled an expensive retreat they had scheduled as a "reward" for their "top people." The announcer continued to say that instead of going to the retreat, Citibank gave each of their "top people" a gift card with up to $3,000 on it. If this is indeed true, we should all be outraged. These bankers just don't get it -- and they shouldn't get it from us if this continues!
A bonus by any other name is still a bonus. Why is taxpayer money being used to reward people who bankrupted Citibank and now rely on public funds to keep it afloat?
I urge all lawmakers to get back every penny of public money that has been used to reward these bankers and their "top people," regardless of whether it was called a bonus, a reward, a retention reward -- whatever! I also urge them to put back into effect rules and regulations to prevent this greed and shortsightedness exhibited by the banks and their ilk from ever happening again.
Are politicians listening? Enough is enough!
-- Betty Rouse, Thousand Oaks
Re: your March 8 editorial, "Taking guns out of parks":
This editorial on banning possession of firearms in national parks reflects a vision that national parks are a sea of tranquility. Nothing could be further from the truth.
National parks suffer from the same societal problems that most urban areas do. Alcohol or drugs are part of most violent incidents. Hideaway meth labs and marijuana fields in rural park areas and illegal aliens crossing through parks near the U.S.-Mexico border are part of a growing crime wave.
Law enforcement work in national parks is the most dangerous in federal service. National Park Service officers are 12 times more likely to be killed or injured as a result of an assault than FBI agents, the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility reported. With just one law enforcement officer for every 110,000 visitors and 118,000 acres of land, how can they be everywhere to protect us?
The criminals are having a heyday in the Park Service gun-free zones, which were seemingly made for the convenience of the bad guys. Remember, criminals for centuries have not obeyed gun bans, in parks or anyplace else. It is part of what makes them criminals. The Star's predictions of gunfights and shootouts in the national parks are the same as the predictions made of the concealed-carry laws. The availability of concealed weapon permits made us a safer nation -- much safer.
Allowing citizens to carry their firearms legally inside national parks -- as they already can in the national forest lands that surround the national parks -- would pose no danger to the public, and it would put would-be criminals on notice that their next intended victim just might be capable of fighting back.
-- David Stuck, Simi Valley
The state budget recently signed by the governor cuts school funding by a magnitude unlike any we have seen in our state's history. This must not become reality. Our students' futures are at stake.
Simi Valley Unified School District faces $10 million in reductions next school year. If this does become reality, close to 200 Simi teachers will be laid off. Class sizes will increase for students in kindergarten through 12th grade next year.
Many of us pride ourselves in living in Simi Valley, where our children are safe and the education is top-notch.
On May 19, everyone who cares about our kids must get out and vote so that we can prevent future cuts to education or restore some of the cuts that have already been made. Please let our voices be heard!
-- Dena Crawford, Simi Valley
We, the people of America, must accept the blame for our economic collapse. In the Depression of the 1930s, there were no credit cards. Mostly we paid cash for what we wanted. If we didn't have enough, we arranged to buy on a layaway plan. Week by week, we gave money to the merchant. When it reached the required amount, he let us take the toaster home.
Now, for two generations we have been buying things we couldn't afford. We borrowed against our credit cards, digging ourselves into a deep hole. Now they want us to borrow from our children to fill that hole for ourselves.
At the same time we supported the unions in their quest for higher wages. But we the people have been choosing to buy cheaper merchandise made in other countries where wages are lower. Result: We may lose whole industries here because we want to buy at lower prices.
-- Hal Wilder, Camarillo
Re: Bob Fitch's March 8 commentary, "Loheac's death shines light on state's dark secret":
The commentary concerning Helen Loheac and the manner of her death was truly disturbing, as is the issue generally of elderly inmates and how we treat them.
But just setting them free does not seem to be an easy alternative. Where would they go? How would they get the medical treatment they need? Where would they live? And on what?
I agree that by the time the inmate has reached a certain age and their general health is seriously compromised that it seems like cruel and unusual punishment to continue their incarceration.
And I understand Fitch's concern about the cost to taxpayers of continuing to keep these prisoners incarcerated. Would Loheac's hospital costs have been different if she had been released? And who would have paid it?
But what about the cost of setting them free? The cost to society at large and their -- our -- responsibility to provide care of these elderly people? The cost to the medical community that will be asked to provide healthcare to a very needy population? The cost to the remaining relatives of these people who will now have to find a way to provide financial, medical and other support for them?
This is not a one-trick pony, where releasing them from prison will automatically make it all OK. In the meantime, is there a way to find a different kind of facility for them -- one that will provide a slightly easier way of life, with the needed care and treatment they require? Or a different location within the prison set aside for them?
I know, I know. Our prisons are so overpacked now that it would be impossible.
But I believe it requires more thinking than just releasing them and letting them flounder about without resources. And compassion for such a disenfranchised population is certainly a good first step.
-- Jan Schulman, Oxnard
Re: your March 10 editorial, "In search of more Earths":
What utter foolishness, spending $572 million to search for more Earths!
Does anybody have a clue regarding the complexity of cellular biology? Living cells are absolute miracles. Any pharmaceutical or biotechnology company can tell you that just creating chemical and biological compounds is astronomically difficult and costly, let alone living cells. In fact, even with all the knowledge and purpose of Ph.D.s with massive amounts of financial backing, it is nearly impossible to create efficacious compounds that aren't toxic (life-destroying).
Living matter is not some random accident. Ask any scientist trying to cure diseases. It's a miracle of immense complexity and purposeful design.
Sorry, but the mission is a failure. It reveals the utter foolishness of man as he ignores the laws of probability. It is wishful and magical thinking. Basically, it is a waste of funds that could have been used for better purposes, such as schools.
The answer to the question, "Are we alone?": a confident and emphatic, "Yes!"
-- Sean Ragan, Camarillo
Re: Barbara Ballenger's March 10 commentary, "Job or soul? Unfair choice":
I understand -- in an abstract way -- pharmacist Ballenger's concern about the repeal of the "conscience clause" that would force her to dispense medication to which she has a religious objection.
So, let's take this to its obvious conclusion. The clause stays in effect, facilities have to schedule an additional pharmacist to be on site when Ballenger is working so that all medications can be dispensed -- lest they lose business or get sued -- and soon enough pharmacists with these objections will not be able to get hired.
All occupations have job requirements, and the ability and willingness to handle and dispense all legal medications seems to be a basic one for a pharmacist. If she is not willing to fulfill the job requirements, she should not be holding the position.
And doesn't it bother her that she is earning her money from an "evil" company that is willing to dispense these medications? Isn't the money she earns already "tainted?"
-- Lynne Nuibe, Camarillo
I think a lot of people in Ventura would like to see a Wal-Mart in town. I am one of them, for a few reasons.
First, there is the big tax money for the city. Second, there are the jobs. Third, I don't like a group of people telling me where I can and cannot shop. Fourth, I want to spend my money in Ventura, not drive to Oxnard and give them my tax money.
In my mind, those who don't want a Wal-Mart here don't need to shop or work there. The anti-Wal-Mart people can shop at all the businesses they think Wal-Mart will take away. If the anti-Wal-Mart people are right that Venturans don't want a Wal-Mart here, then no one will shop there and it will be forced to close down, right? And if there are a lot of people who do shop at a Wal-Mart in Ventura, that is evidence itself that people do want one here. And guess what? My money is on Wal-Mart being very successful here.
Wal-Mart does not need to put local shops out of business. I think a lot of businesses like being by a Wal-Mart because Wal-Mart brings retail traffic. If you look at the businesses in the Wal-Mart center in Oxnard, many have been there since Wal-Mart opened, including Vons. And Wal-Mart sells products that compete with most of these businesses. There is even a McDonald's in that center when there is a McDonald's inside the Wal-Mart itself! Apparently, the outside McDonalds does not feel threatened.
If anyone else in Ventura feels the way I do and wants our City council to approve a Wal-Mart, please e-mail me at email@example.com. If you want me to forward your comments to the City Council, let me know. And if you can volunteer a little time, let me know that too. One thing we need is someone to donate their talents to creating us a basic Web site.
-- Alison Carlson, Ventura
Re: your March 10 article, "T.O. hoping to entice workers into retirement":
After reading this article, I couldn't help but note that the $100,000-plus annual expenditure of our local and federal tax monies that the Thousand Oaks City Council irresponsibly spends to operate a day labor site could instead go towards saving one to two of these city jobs that are being bought out.
Once again, the council clearly demonstrates that its priority is in championing its taxpayer-funded site that permits illegal aliens to openly and unlawfully seek employment. And apparently the council doesn't mind eliminating some city jobs held by taxpaying American citizens to do so.
-- Dawn Williams, Thousand Oaks
Re: your March 8 editorial, "Taking guns out of parks":
You do a disservice to your readers when you editorialize from a biased position rather than facts.
The gun ban in national parks was lifted for citizens who had been issued a right-to-carry license. Obtaining this license requires state licensing, background checks and, frequently, gun training. These are the same responsible citizens who walk the streets of America with concealed weapons, and FBI statistics have shown that crime has gone down in the states that issue RTC.
There is no reason to assume that these citizens will suddenly go berserk in the wilderness and start shooting randomly, "having stray bullets whiz through a campground," as The Star painted the dire results of lifting the ban.
-- Joyce B. Goetz, Thousand Oaks
Re: Terry Paulson's March 2 essay, "Words fail to match reality":
Paulson's scolding words fail to match reality.
He states that "since 1980 the top 5 percent of American taxpayers saw their share of the income-tax load go from 35 percent to nearly 60 percent." Really!
What he deceitfully omits, while defending the righteous rich, is that in 1981 then-President Ronald Reagan reduced that top 5 percent of the highest earners' tax rate from 70 percent to 28 percent.
He also omits the reality that in the past 10 years, the 400 richest families in America have seen their hundreds of billions of dollars double.
Paulson's partisan finger-wagging doesn't fault the corporations that transfer their headquarters out of our country solely to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Instead, he accuses non-wealthy citizens of "greed" and "coveting what the rich have earned."
While praising Reagan's presidency for the things he did not do to help "helpless Americans," he fails to admit that what President Barack Obama faces is a quantum order of difference from Reagan's time. And he also fails to inform us that Reagan left the biggest deficit in U.S. history eclipsed only by President George W. Bush.
Paulson, the psychologist, needs a reality check.
-- Sheila Suarez, Newbury Park
Re: your March 9 article, "In need of a helping hand":
I would like to thank The Star for bringing the plight of Lutheran Social Services and other nonprofits to the attention of area residents. They are currently located in one location on Hillcrest Drive in Thousand Oaks, and some have been there for more than 20 years. If the Social Security Administration does not commit to another long-term lease, most of these vital service organizations would not be able to pay the rent without the presence of this federal agency.
To readers who may have never visited the Under One Roof Human Services Center, this place, which houses these nonprofits as well as Social Security, is a real asset to the whole area. It is conveniently located close to Highway 101 and a major intersection. The people they are helping could be our friends, neighbors or relatives. In this day and age, with apathy and doubt rampant about whether any agency or program works and is cost effective, these nonprofits are doing a great job and now need our help.
I would like to suggest that we write or e-mail our U.S. senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, as well as U.S. Reps. Elton Gallegly and Henry Waxman.
Also, these nonprofits are greatly helped by donations. The two that I am most familiar with are Senior Concerns and Lutheran Social Services. You can make donations of clothing, collectibles and household items to Senior Concerns. Lutheran Social Services has many needs as they serve the homeless and those seeking jobs. Give them a call and ask how you can contribute and make a difference in someone's life.
-- Elizabeth Saide, Westlake Village
The highest scoring elementary school writing team in Simi Valley is at Sycamore Elementary. The state of California is threatening to lay off fourth-grade teacher Karen Connor. I want to know -- from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger down to State Sen. Tony Strickland: How do you propose to replace the expertise you are about to toss away?
-- Ann Cogan, Simi Valley
Re: Bob Fitch's March 9 commentary, "Loheac's death shines light on state's dark secret":
Fitch's commentary about Helen Loheac, an 85-year-old California prison inmate who died after being denied parole because of "inadequate employment plans," does upset me. Is prison the right place for the unemployed? If California taxpayers are going to support elderly prisoners who are no risk to society regardless of whether they are in prison or not, can we afford the extra cost of paying guards to accompany them and building new prisons to relieve overcrowding?
Prisons are intended to offer an opportunity for rehabilitation. Parole boards are intended to assess whether rehabilitation has occurred. When the governor routinely second-guesses the decisions of parole boards in order to appear tough on crime, prisoners become political pawns.
Next time you hear a politician brag about being tough on crime, think about Loheac and weigh your wallet.
-- Nick Fotheringham, Thousand Oaks
I've just signed a petition by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee urging the Senate Republicans to disown Rush Limbaugh. He has twice stated his desire to see President Barack Obama "fail."
As even Limbaugh must know, the consequences would be grim if the president fails. Warren Buffett has stated that the economy has "gone over a cliff" and we now face an "economic Pearl Harbor."
Three Republicans who dared to criticize Limbaugh were forced to grovel. Limbaugh has thus been elevated to a position of real importance. The Republican Party can no longer pretend that Limbaugh does not speak for them.
Limbaugh's followers do not understand the difference between good ratings and moral authority. The former does not create the latter.
I therefore call upon The Star also to disown this man if it wishes to preserve its integrity.
-- Raymond Freeman, Thousand Oaks
The state budget cuts in education are an absolute backward approach from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He should be embarrassed by the $11.6 billion slated to be taken from our children. The elimination of science, physical education, computer teachers and librarians to start with, and then 180 teachers slated in Simi Valley so far, is putting our society into jeopardy.
Schwarzenegger's promises to get school kids fit and ready to compete with other countries in technology are now the first things on the chopping block. Education should never be one of these "programs" to be considered for cuts. Education is our country's backbone. Our children are the investment this country should be investing in.
Forget about these bailouts for the idiots in banking. Bail out education. Invest in our children -- your children!
-- Lisa Adlhoch, Simi Valley
Re: Roy W. Hogue's Oct. 13, 2008, letter, "Discipline lacking," posted on the Web:
When I wrote my letter, I was using publicly available information, my long life experience and knowledge of human nature to make an assessment of the real cause of the Metrolink disaster. I avoided the temptation to say I thought that the National Transportation Safety Board would conclude as I did, that poor oversight and supervision of operating personnel was the real failure.
Recent articles in The Star tell me I was right all along. The real culprit was the Metrolink management, which failed miserably to adequately supervise and otherwise insure that rules and procedures were being followed. The two fired managers have gotten off lightly, and their French employer should be ashamed to voice support for them.
It's now time for the Metrolink board to examine its own responsibility in the matter, because assuring the safety of Metrolink riders was ultimately their responsibility. The directors establish management goals for executives, and the executives are expected to meet them. One of those goals when you manage personnel who have other people's lives in their hands is routine supervision, observation and inspection to assure that rules are being followed and operating personnel remain competent. How much different would that day have been if someone had all along been checking randomly to see that employees beginning their shift didn't have a cell phone?
A lot of people were AWOL at Metrolink.
-- Roy W. Hogue, Newbury Park
It appears to me that the vehicle noise abatement laws are enforced unequally, or not at all, against motorcycles.
California Vehicle Code 27202 states, in part, that the noise limit for motorcycles manufactured after 1985 is 80 dbA. According to a "Decibel Table Comparison Chart" I found on www.sengpielaudio.com., 80 db SPL is the typical equivalent of 16 feet from the curbside of a busy street. It occurs all too often while I am driving with the windows rolled up that one or more motorcycles goes roaring by, cranking on the throttle, in a deliberate attempt to make as much noise as they can. The noise from their exhaust is so loud that it actually causes hearing discomfort for me.
According to the decibel chart I just mentioned, the "threshold of discomfort" is 120 decibels. And this is from inside my car, with the windows rolled up! I can't believe that these motorcycles are anywhere even close to meeting the Vehicle Code standard of 80 dbA. I bet if I tried driving around in a car with exhaust this loud, I would be promptly stopped by the police and cited for loud exhaust. So how come the police do absolutely nothing about this ongoing problem of noise pollution?
I believe in "live and let live" as much as the next guy. I have absolutely no problem with a decent-sounding, "healthy" exhaust system or motorcycles. I just think it is inconsiderate on their part, and it isn't right that the rest of us should have to put up with motorcycle exhaust systems that are so noisy that they cause hearing discomfort. I might add that sound pressure levels this high can cause permanent hearing damage.
-- Phillip Thiele, Simi Valley
The other day I was in a historical museum and from the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of a large glass container with an automobile in it. I walked over to get a closer view and noticed a sign on the end. The sign read, "The last automobile manufactured with turn signals as standard equipment."
This would explain why drivers don't use turn signals anymore. They stop in front of you and decide to turn, or they come to a corner and don't bother to tell you which way they've decided to go. I know that if they are in a left-hand turn lane, everybody should know what they are going to do! I know this is a traffic law and it is just plain courteous to other drivers to let us know which way they intend to go, but I have seen law enforcement vehicles, trucks and limousines do their own thing. It must be nice to be the only one on the planet!
Let us all learn how to drive like there are others sharing the road. I know the turn signals are standard equipment, but I wonder if the driver knows where the equipment is located. The location is on the steering column, on the left, under your pinkie finger. Try it. I promise it won't hurt a bit.
-- Jim Coniglio, Newbury Park
Isn't it ironic that Wall Street blames the latest downturn in the market on the fact that they don't trust the economic measures that President Barack Obama has been implementing to save the economy? Aren't these the geniuses whose short-sighted greed and blatant self-interest has attacked the very fabric of America just as effectively, if not more so, than al-Qaida?
And while countless working-class Americans continue to lose their jobs, these conceited thieves who have no conscience justify taking Troubled Assets Relief Program-funded "retention bonuses" because these failing companies can't survive without their prophetic financial insights and impeccable moral standards.
The best way to restore faith in our system is to start putting congressional subpoena dodgers in jail. Today in America, there is no shame in short-selling stocks of the companies that the government is trying to bail out. And, if you run a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme, you get to live in your penthouse and negotiate how much time, if any, you'd like to spend in some country club "rehabilitation center."
Do we need to investigate and potentially prosecute George W. Bush? Yes, we do, to restore faith in our justice system, our country, our markets and our Constitution. It doesn't make any difference how much money we throw at this economy. It won't fix what's broken. You don't fill up a pool until you've patched the leaks.
Arrest the lawbreakers, re-regulate the duplicitous money-grabbers who have proven that terms like "free-market" and "self-regulation" are right up there with "war-profiteering." Fire any upper management personnel above the title of bookkeeper who was on watch when this perfect storm was brewing and ban them from any and all financial industry jobs until they've completed a four-year degree in ethics. That's how we bring the markets back.
-- John Loprieno, Westlake Village
Re: Tony Strickland's March 4 commentary, "Higher taxes chill once sunny business climate":
It great to know that we have a guy representing us in the Senate who understands the economy like Strickland does. For years, the Democratic leadership in Sacramento -- of which some are under criminal investigation for corruption, such as Don Perata -- has been developing public policy that serves the interests of the powerful public employee unions that have a stranglehold over the California Legislature. The economy doesn't exist within a bubble, and changes to the economy have repercussions that many politicians seem to either overlook or deliberately ignore.
The problem with the California budget has been a long time coming. Over the past decade, the Democratic majority has proposed budget after budget that spends billions more than it expects to collect in taxes. The $40 billion deficit in California's budget didn't appear out of thin air. It was a collection the long overdue bills of a decade of overspending by the Democratic leadership.
Tom McClintock had long been known as a defender of sound fiscal policy in Ventura County, and during this recent election, it seemed like what had been one of the most financially sound representatives might be replaced by a politician known for making promises to labor unions that California taxpayers couldn't afford to pay. Fortunately, Tony Strickland was elected to be a staunch supporter of the California and Ventura County taxpayers and has kept his word to defend them from runaway taxes and spending.
The voters of Ventura County should take note. It is the Democrats who control Sacramento. They are the ones who propose budgets that cannot possibly be funded, taxes that increase the burden on families and shrink businesses. They are the ones who approve ridiculous contracts for public employee unions that pay more than we can expect to make at comparable private sector jobs and that fight to protect these obsolete union jobs with money we cannot afford to pay while the private sector gets laid off. They are the ones who ensure minorities continue to feel victimized in order to further their own political agendas.
The Republicans who opposed the budget, including Strickland, are not the bad guys. They are just the ones who have to tell us the bad news -- that the Democrats are ruining the economy.
-- Adam Haverstock, Moorpark
Fifty-two percent of America elected a radical far-left president, Barack Obama, who promised change. Obama is attempting to remake America into a socialist country. He wants a single-party political system. Obama's actions and policies are purely political and done at the expense of Americans.
How is Obama gaining control? First, he promises bipartisanship. Although he has met with some Republicans, it is just for show, as he ignores and dismisses anything they suggest. It is his way or the highway.
Second, Obama and the Democratic Congress plan on ramming through one spending bill after another at mach speed without letting the public read them. The stimulus (spending) bill is a potpourri of "pork" programs, including infrastructure, energy, healthcare, illegals, unions and special interests. It does little to stimulate the economy. It is done at the expense of future generations and is a "blank check" for Obama's transformative policies.
In the future, Obama wants government control of banks, healthcare, energy, education and courts that have activist judges. In short, he wants socialistic policies that will redistribute wealth, control our lives, destroy capitalism, harm small businesses and punish Wall Street.
Even worse, Obama wants to raise several taxes and let former President George Bush's tax breaks expire. During a recession, this is dangerous and destructive.
In summary, Obama is a socialist who wants to punish those who voted against him, those who are successful, businesses and the stock market -- Americans. He wants big government programs, redistribution of wealth, more taxes and many regulations.
Obama wants to change the political and economic landscape of America. It is about power and control. This is radical change.
-- Diana Thorn, Carpinteria
Re: Patricia Kochel's March 5 commentary, "Illegal-immigrant children penalized for adult choices":
There are so many stories in this country that can tug at our hearts. There are many youth in America who are trying to get ahead.
I am sure the children Kochel writes about are glad they have learned English. Like many children in America who are able to go to other states for education, they are allowed to return to their country of birth to continue their education.
It is time we stop giving noncitizens more taxpayer dollars for college education. We could write many, many stories of children of citizens who are unable to afford college education at this time.
We also have cases where illegal immigrants have received college entrance at "in-state" fees. That same university will charge citizens from other states an additional fee. We have had the argument that these immigrants are benefiting from the fact that they have come here illegally.
Right now, a couple of my college-age children are working hard to get enough money to pay current bills. They cannot afford to divide their time to attend college, let alone pay for it. I am not writing sad stories to the paper to try to get taxpayer dollars. I am working with our own family to come up with solutions.
The students Kochel writes about have been provided an opportunity for them to go to their country and use their education to get ahead and help others who are less fortunate in their areas.
Also, this provides an opportunity for people such as Kochel to create a scholarship fund for those who decide they wish to stay here. If private citizens and other immigrants wish to contribute to such a fund, that would be a worthy cause.
I have traveled extensively in many Central and South American countries. They have good universities. These educated "visiting students" can take their knowledge and succeed without having to ask the U.S. taxpayer for any more funding.
-- Carla Bonney, Ventura
Bernie Madoff lived up to his name: He made off with other people's money.
-- Tesi Wong, Ventura
I live in Santa Paula about half a mile from where the shooting of the mountain lion cub occurred.
I have come to realize that for whatever reason, the officers involved, I think, wanted to kill the baby mountain lion. I hope they are enjoying the press and limelight this act has given them. I do not call their act heroic. I would call it despicable, uncalled-for, unnecessary and inhumane.
I did some searching of the Internet and saw video after video of 6-week-old lions that have poor coordination and no teeth. They drink milk from large bottles with nipples.
I do not believe a word that is coming out of the police here in Santa Paula. With this one act, they have lost all credibility. I believe that they are trying to sweep this incident under the rug and hope that we will all go away,
but I will not go away.
I have made numerous calls to a variety of agencies and wildlife organizations. I had an interesting discussion with Department of Fish and Game and was advised that my only outlet is to go to the Santa Paula police because they are the ones who did the shooting. I explained that they are not even investigating the situation or admitting possible wrongdoing.
I want to encourage all environmentalists and nature lovers to contact Santa Paula's City Council. The e-mail address is: http://www.ci.santa-paula.ca.us/. It seems that if enough citizens voice their disgust at what has occurred and demand action, they cannot continue to ignore us as they have done since the shooting of this defenseless baby lion on Feb. 17.
-- Wendy Beam, Santa Paula
Re: your March 5 article, "Sudan's leader charged with war crimes":
The International Criminal Court has charged Sudan's president, Omar al Bashir, with war crimes. Why? Because during his presidency, 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have fled their houses.
Did Sudan's president kill them personally or torture them by his own hands so that they had to flee from their houses to save their lives? Of course not. But it was his administration's policy and his permission under which such heinous crimes took place. So, he should be held responsible.
Now, under the same argument, if we claim that during President George Bush's administration, 500,000 people died in Iraq and 3.5 million people left Iraq, can we charge Bush with war crimes? Of course not! Are you crazy? He was the president of the most powerful country in the world. Presidents of the poor and powerless countries should always be charged with war crimes, not those who belong to powerful countries.
Besides, it may appear that I am comparing apples and oranges. Bush was fighting in foreign countries. It is too bad there were some "collateral damages." But that was necessary to protect his country and his people from future terrorist attacks. Sudan's president might have similar justifications. Bashir could also argue that he had no choice other than to come down hard on his enemies, the "terrorists," according to his understanding and interpretation of his own problem.
The point is that nothing justifies war, whether in one's own land or in a foreign land. A leader who goes to war should be considered a war criminal, whether it is Bashir or Bush. Because we are not going to argue that it is all right to kill our own people while killing our enemies in our own country, why are we justifying killing people of other countries in the name of destroying our enemies over there?
The bottom line is we should not create such enemies who want to destroy us so that we have to go to war to save our lives and thereby kill innocent civilians.
-- Qazi N. Uddin, Ventura
In my world, whenever a picture of an American hero in a flag-draped coffin is printed in a national publication, two other photos must appear.
Right alongside the coffin pictures would be a close-up of one of the many innocent human beings hurtling themselves through the air from a window of the fire-engulfed World Trade Center in Manhattan, causing a thud heard by people on the ground that horrible September day. Thud after sickening thud.
The second picture would be of one of the many who have been beheaded by death-cult terrorists, starting with unfortunate journalist, Daniel Pearl.
It's all in the name of Islam -- radical Islam, to be sure.
Our American men and women come home from Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in flag-draped coffins to a solemn ceremony at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and are tenderly returned to their grieving families. A mostly grateful nation gives thanks to these heroes who fought and suffered for the freedoms we here continue to cherish -- fragile freedoms we are vigilant to preserve, especially lately. I am dismayed about the thinking and attitudes of some of our citizens, however.
Publishing pictures of hurtling bodies and beheaded humans, all precious lives, needs to take place in this world: one flag-draped hero picture and two "reasons why" pictures.
God bless especially our brave activated troops, our allies' troops and all their sacrificing and proud families. Always remember 9-11-01, New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.
-- Helen Torkelsen, Camarillo
During the last eight years, crimes like illegal detention, rendition and torture were routinely committed in the name of the United States. It is plainly the responsibility of congressional oversight to find the truth of these horrors, perhaps through Sen. Patrick Leahy's "truth commission," but this will be only a first step.
After 20 years of abuse by successive Republican administrations, the Constitution has suffered serious damage, most recently from the nullification of the Fourth Amendment by the mass wiretapping of American citizens, enabled by legislation dutifully passed by a supine Congress. I don't know about you, but I am just not comfortable without the Fourth Amendment.
Even more startling, we find that secret memos, written by invisible functionaries in the White House, tore the rest of the Constitution to shreds while we slept.
We must recognize that our representatives in Congress, by playing along with the fantasy called "the Unitary Executive" -- translation: "dictatorship" -- share some responsibility with the President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney torture regime for their actions, and that part of the truth to be discovered is that congressional leaders were fully briefed on what was going on and approved it.
Finding sufficient "truth" about these matters has already been accomplished. What needs to be done is to go beyond the scope of yet another commission, appointing a special prosecutor with the power to investigate and punish these war criminals so severely that no future executive branch will ever again escape the rigorous oversight leading up to, and including, the timely impeachment and removal from office explicitly called for in the Constitution.
-- Donald Wallace, Camarillo
On March 4, members of our non-profit organization, the Channel Islands Gulls, toured the Lighthouse shelters for women and children and the El Centrito Family Learning Center in Oxnard. Our community is fortunate to have two such "bootstrap" programs available to individuals who want to improve their lives. We were impressed with the cleanliness, organization and management of these sites.
We would like to thank Cassie Sorenson of Lighthouse and Luann Rocha of El Centrito for taking time out of their busy schedules to educate us on the inner workings of their services. Just as they and their skilled staff dedicate themselves to our community, so will we continue our dedication to raising funds to assist them and other deserving Ventura County charities.
-- Judith A. Farrell, Camarillo
-- Kim Henriksen, Oxnard
(The writers are president and charities chair, respectively of Channel Islands Gulls. -- Editor)
Re: your March 7 article, "Top two Metrolink managers dismissed":
It is always difficult to write or comment about a tragedy. The boundaries are blurred and respect for the families so often overlooked. But when a tragedy of this magnitude hits home, we almost have to be the voice for those who no longer have one, or those who are too pained to speak.
The dismissal of of Connex Railroad General Manager Tom McDonald and Assistant General Manager Gregg Konstanzer is a paltry consolation for the loss of 25 purposeful lives in this senseless tragedy. Heads had to roll, and while it is true that these men are not directly responsible for the driver's fatal errors, the company's share of ineptitude is not, by any stretch, insignificant.
The startling facts streaming from this case continue to convulse the community. The lack of policy enforcement procedures and the absence of cameras on these trains is shocking and unacceptable.
Driver Robert Sanchez knew no one was watching. The temptation to send and receive 43 text messages while on duty became irresistible to this unthinking and callous man, who, by the way, also agreed to cede control of the train to a teen friend, a rail enthusiast. Horror of horrors!
Watchfulness and strict enforcement of operating rules might have saved the victims. Cameras in the cabs could have alerted authorities. Surveillance and confiscation of electronic gadgets could have diminished Sanchez' intrepid nerve.
McDonald and Konstanzer can go on to find other jobs. The others are not as lucky.
Until the Metrolink disaster, I always thought trains were the safest means of transport. I still do and will look forward to changes in this usually efficient system.
Sometimes, it takes a tragedy to keep a community awake and hopefully cognizant of the lesson. An old saying reminds us that the purpose of tragedy is to harden us, and our duty is to never let it.
-- Maya Teague, Camarillo
Re: James R. May's March 9 letter, "Nice spin on not-so-nice issue":
I guess when it comes to bashing illegal aliens, facts and truth don't matter.
May claims that an illegal alien who murdered a California Highway Patrol officer was registered as a voter, and his father was also registered. I found nothing like that on the Web site of the paper he mentioned. I searched the Internet and could find no mention of an illegal alien who had murdered a CHP officer. I certainly do not remember ever reading about an incident like that.
May is just parroting the standard illegal-alien-bashing "facts" that people want to believe, whether true or not.
Our schools are not overburdened. I did some research on the U.S. Census Bureau's Web site and found that we have a smaller percent of school-age children in California now than we did in 1960 when I finished high school.
We also are not among the highest taxed states. Our ranking varies from ninth to 17th, depending on which study you look at.
-- Alex Magdaleno, Camarillo
Re: James R. May's March 9 letter, "Nice spin on not-so-nice issue":
Reading May's letter was like going back in time to the early 1900s, when this country was dealing with the African population. But towards the last two paragraphs of his letter, he mentions the cause of the problem: "out-of-control spending by Democratic politicians," and then I understood May's mentality and where he was getting his point of view.
-- Bill Harris, Oxnard
Having concluded after the fact that there was insufficient planning for extricating ourselves from Iraq after subduing Saddam Hussein, and faulting our president for the results, shouldn't we be asking for the plan to extricate ourselves from Afghanistan after subduing the Taliban -- again? Or do we just trust the new administration because it is intuitively more trustworthy and the new president doesn't "smirk?"
-- Roger Muir, Ventura
Re: your March 7 article, "Many forced to part with pets":
In this sad economic crisis, during which so many pets are being abandoned or relinquished to a shelter, I see two factors causing this problem: potential tenants giving up on their pets too easily, and landlords not allowing pets.
On the tenant aspect: I have had the same two cats for 12 years. I have moved five times, mostly during some economic downturn or other. Many landlords allowed pets; it just took a little more time to find or negotiate for one. I've even sneaked my pets into places. It's all about priorities. People should be so quick to give up. Trust me, your pet gives you a lot more satisfaction than a television or furniture, and you owe them that much.
The other factor in this problem, and one that could make it disappear, is landlords. Most pets cause destruction because they are not cared for properly. A landlord who takes the time to inspect a property on a regular basis can catch these problems before they become a disaster. Any landlord who doesn't visit a property for a year at a time is asking for problems anyway.
And to put my money where my mouth is, this summer, I and my husband will be landlords. Will we accept pets? Of course. Will there be an extra deposit? You betcha, but at $25 a month paid toward that deposit, our tenants will only have to give up their Starbucks lattes to keep their best friend. I challenge other landlords in the county to do the same. Make the choice that's humane to both human and animals and allow pets!
-- Mary Birch, Oxnard
I'm all for charging 25 cents or more for plastic bags. Better yet, have a law against them entirely.
-- Nelda Gruenthal, Camarillo
Re: Dan K. Thomasson's March 7 essay, "Wiping out 'nose marks'":
On most occasions, Thomasson is an old curmudgeon. This essay wasn't much different, just more annoying.
Using the term "flack" for White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was a thinly veiled attempt to disparage him. But calling Gibbs "myopic" and "overweight" was unnecessary and unprofessional.
Thomasson also avoided mentioning that many of these pork projects -- including the new presidential helicopters -- are remnants from the previous administration. Obviously, John McCain was fully aware of that fact but chose to misrepresent it when he had his shot in front of the cameras. Saying the "greed was fairly balanced" is patently absurd when Thomasson himself stated that almost $1 billion of the total $12 billion was attributed to just two Republicans.
It's frustrating that Thomasson and many others are so eager to denigrate President Barack Obama and his administration. They have been in office less than two months and inherited the most daunting set of challenges seen in decades. Call me naïve, but I'd honestly hoped for better from the talking heads, at least for a little while.
-- Joy Putinta, Camarillo
President Barack Obama asks God to bless America, yet he sanctions the killing of unborn children so their body parts can be used for research and to eventually help children and adults who are having physical problems.
He is failing to recognize the fact that God has created these unborn children and that his sanction is an offense to the very one from whom he requests a blessing. Considering the state of our economy and the moral decline of our beloved United States, it appears quite evident to me that we have lost the blessing of our almighty creator.
This research reminds me of what Adolf Hitler sanctioned during his days as chancellor of Nazi Germany. It seems quite obvious that Nazi Germany lost God's blessings.
My suggestion as a retreaded pastor is for Obama and all who support this research to do what everyone should do when they are wrong: namely, repent!
-- Richard Ewing Brown Jr., Ojai
Re: Tony Strickland's March 4 commentary, "Higher taxes chill once sunny business climate":
Only in a state with a self-inflicted financial crisis like the one we currently face could Sen. Tony Strickland's position in his recent commentary be met with any resistance. While the economic downturn certainly isn't unique to California, we have compounded the problem with wasteful spending and a bloated state government that has doubled in size over the past decade.
We now lead the nation in all of the wrong categories, and businesses and families in California encounter economic barriers that few other Americans do. Does anyone really believe that record deficits and the mass exodus of businesses from our state will be remedied with an ever-increasing tax burden? If so, I've got some gasoline you can put that fire out with.
There is nothing partisan about seeking to let people keep more of their hard-earned money, holding government accountable and incentivizing businesses to stay put, expand and hire more of the increasing numbers of unemployed Californians. The only disappointment may come from neighboring states that formulate ongoing ad campaigns to lure suffocating businesses, along with their jobs and revenue, across state lines.
Strickland continues to swim upstream against a tide of status-quo establishment politicians in Sacramento. We should thank him for standing up for the responsible, common-sense approach most of us make with our own family budgets when hard times arrive. Strickland understands that government should be held to the same standards as the people it is supposed to represent.
-- Debby Heron, Ventura
Re: Patricia Kochel's March 5 commentary, "Illegal-immigrant children penalized for adult choices":
Kochel, a counselor at Buena High School, spun a nice story about "Jose," whose family came here illegally. This commentary is a perfect example of what is wrong with California today.
Jose and his brothers and sisters have cost the state thousands of dollars for their education. Jose is attending college, no doubt receiving financial aid from the taxpayers of California. It's entirely possible that Jose's father and mother are illegally voting in state elections; according to the Orange County Register, the illegal who murdered the California Highway Patrol officer a few years ago was registered in two precincts and his illegal father was registered in one.
No doubt Jose is a very nice and smart boy. But we have a lot of nice and smart boys and girls who are citizens and legal residents of California.
Schools are always crying that they don't have money to do their job properly. They likely would if they were not burdened by the illegals and children of illegals whose families pay little to no state taxes. We don't have enough money to educate the world. We can and should do what we can to help the poor citizens of this state. If we have money left over maybe we can help the poor legal immigrants of the state. But we're not in that position. The state is broke and has been for more than a decade.
The state is broke because of out-of-control spending by Democrat politicians up and down the state. They are spending huge sums on aid to illegals in all kinds of ways. The people of this state are already among the most heavily taxed in the nation, and those taxes are going up very shortly. The spending must be brought under control. Increased taxes and poor performing schools -- no doubt related to their overburden from illegals and their children -- are driving the middle and upper income citizens out of the state, with 144,000 departing last year alone.
We can't tax our way out of debt. We must address the problems of overspending, and that has to include addressing the massive problem that California has with a burgeoning illegal population.
-- James R .May, Simi Valley
So Jason dumped Melissa after having proposed marriage to her six weeks earlier in an idyllic setting high in a secluded mountain retreat in New Zealand in favor of second choice, Molly, who foretold, "You are making a big mistake." Jason determines after another six-week hiatus with Melissa that, "We are not right for each other," and ends the relationship. Poor Melissa, whose parents refused to be seen on camera, wins favor of an overwhelming female audience who "feels her pain," and castigates Jason for his decision take away the final, final rose.
"Oh, the inhumanity!"
This contrivance now passes for prime-time television, whose only goal is winning viewership and smacks of nothing even remotely realistic. With six weeks of nonsensical courtships in extraordinarily expensive venues, 25 attention seekers compete for an impossible relationship with an improbable mate. Their personalities, or lack thereof, offer conundrums for psycho-babble analyses by legions of gender-biased viewers. Such is the price contestants willingly pay for the possibility of stardom, especially if their on-screen antics accomplish some irrational degree of exasperation over some trivial happenstance mixed with a plethora of phony boo-hoos when the outcomes do not relate to perceived fantasy.
After eight seasons, only one couple, Trista and Ryan, actually married and continue the parade before ABC cameras. This is the ideal to which future contestants aspire: absolute notoriety. To continue this farce, producers must come up with "twists and turns" designed to hook the audience into irate consternation over the conclusions to the fairy tale hypothesis.
Who's next to be asked, "Will you accept this rose?" Enter Jillian Harris, next season's bachelorette. What shocking twist will befall Jillian? Stay tuned. "The Bachelorette" will be right back after these words.
-- Charles Williams, Oxnard
Re: your Feb. 22 article, "Builders tactics touching nerves," and your Feb. 23 article, "Santa Paula proactive about possible budget cuts":
In the story about possible budget cuts in Santa Paula, Mayor Ralph Fernandez says that affordable housing remains a priority in Santa Paula. A 2007 editorial in The Star praised the builder's plans for Plaza Amistad and urged the City Council to approve this project. But the city apparently continues to ignore its own housing element plan.
As the article reports, the Cabrillo Economic Development Corporation is acknowledged for its high-quality projects and is sensitive to the surrounding community's needs. In working with CEDC staff members, I find they are very open and receptive to ideas and comments.
People affected by serious mental illness often need low-income housing combined with supportive services to help them remain in recovery and lead productive lives. Cabrillo is one of the very few developers in our county that has successfully brought in state and federal funds and leveraged local dollars to build quality housing to meet our needs.
Ventura County has adopted a strategy to end homelessness, but these hard economic times make it even more difficult for us achieve those goals. It's time that the Santa Paula City Council gets in sync, rethinks its stand and quickly encourages CEDC to come back to the table to begin its Plaza Amistad project.
-- Ratan Bhavnani, Newbury Park
(The writer is executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI Ventura County.)
I'm a longtime resident of Westlake Village/Thousand Oaks, and, as such, am very concerned about what's happening to our community.
Therefore, I spent seven hours at the Thousand Oaks Planning Commission meeting on Jan. 26, until, around midnight, I finally got my chance to speak and give my reasons for opposing the addition of a second Home Depot in Thousand Oaks.
Those reasons include: traffic congestion; pollution, which will hurt all of us, but especially cancer patients participating in programs at The Wellness Community; noise; violation of zoning, because the location is designated as a neighborhood shopping center, not a big box construction store; and industrialization of our beautiful rural suburban community, destroying its appeal and value.
Although I was one of the first to arrive at the meeting, I was one of the last called upon to speak. What's worse, I just found out that my name and statements were omitted from the record, along with about 15 other speakers against the proposal. (By the way, community members at the meeting were predominantly opposed to another Home Depot.)
Why was my statement omitted, while statements for Home Depot by people who didn't even speak that night were included? Why didn't I and other speakers "against" get at least equal treatment? These actions smack of stacking the deck.
I object to this violation of my rights to be heard and recorded just like others were, and I am concerned that the decision to set up another Home Depot in Thousand Oaks is proceeding despite the wishes of the community. It makes one wonder: What will come next?
-- Zita Rahbar, Westlake Village
Re: Timm Herdt's March 4 essay, "May election won't be pretty" and state Sen. Tony Strickland's March 4 commentary, "Higher taxes chill once sunny business climate":
Rarely is the gap between the challenges we face running the state of California and the leadership, or lack thereof, in Sacramento on display better than the March 4 Opinion pages in The Star.
On one side, we have Herdt discussing the painful choices on the ballot to help balance California's budget. On the other side, we have the state senator for District 19, Strickland.
While Herdt, the reporter, is appealing to our better angels, explaining that the voters may be choosing between the bad and the ugly, Strickland, the elected representative, spends his column ranting about taxes. Strickland does not mention the ballot initiatives, the very real $40 billion hole in California's budget or his failure in the recent 100-plus-day special session of the Legislature to implement any other alternatives.
I hope I can be considered one of Herdt's "most grown up voters" and make a reasonable, informed decision on these ballot initiatives. What I'd really like to know is when we can have "grown up legislators" who go to Sacramento to lead and address the problems California faces rather than spouting the same old party line. Maybe we could get Herdt and Strickland to switch roles.
-- Steve Kane, Thousand Oaks
It is baffling to me that many people have shown such a concern over the manner in which the president has described the precarious position in which the United States now finds itself. I believe that the arrogance and overconfidence displayed by the previous administration allowed us to be convinced that we needed to do certain things -- for example, go to war in Iraq and suspend certain privacy issues -- regardless of actual justification.
The fact that the use of statistics bolsters some claims that, compared to the Great Depression, we don't have it that bad (yet) is absurd. As reported in U.S. News and World Report, on average, employees lost 14 percent of their retirement savings in 2008. And those savers on the higher end of the scale lost as much as a quarter of their savings. For those who have lost their savings, home or job in this economy, quoting the statistics of history does little to solve the current predicament, especially when one takes into consideration the amount of global debt involved in this crisis.
What we now need is realism and honesty. We need to accept our culpability in this mess, and we need to hold the financial institutions -- and their management -- accountable for their greed for profit. What we don't need is to accept bogus excuses for their, and our own, hubris. And although that accountability must extend to the current administration, it is impossible to expect results after being in office less than two months.
Lastly, we must address what is the obvious: Barack Obama is not the president of black Americans. He is president of the United States, and all of us of every ancestry need to recognize this. If this administration "fails," as some may hope for, we all lose. And what we lose will not just be our wealth and standing. We will lose the promise of the Declaration of Independence and the guarantees of the Constitution. And what that ultimately means is that we will lose the soul of this great nation.
-- Rodney K. Boswell, Thousand Oaks
Re: your Feb. 24 editorial cartoon:
The Arnold Schwarzenegger "Terminator" cartoon, which stated, "I'll be back ... with more tax hikes a year from now," was not quite accurate. It should have included, "because of the state Legislature."
-- Doug Crosse, Simi Valley
It would seem that no one in this state is aware of the fact that it is normally an arid state and has been for centuries. The rains and moist periods are cyclical and always have been.
Perhaps what the state needs now is an old-time engineering office and a competent engine crew from the older Navy.
When we were totally steam-driven, the ship made water whenever possible. Our evaporators worked with total efficiency, and the crew used accordingly. The aircraft carriers normally carried a crew of 2,500 to 3,000 men and had steam-powered catapults that utilized that water in copious amounts. The crew was restricted to 8 gallons per day, per man. That included drinking, washing, cooking and laundry. And we often had working days of 20 hours or more, and we all survived in fine shape. A shower consisted of one minute rinse, water off, one minute soap-down, water on and one minute rinse. And we all survived that also.
The whole problem is one of self-control and responsibility.
The last time I followed that routine was in the Mediterranean area during winter and summer conditions, so I am aware that it can be done without damage.
Really, all we need is for people to grow up and accept responsibility for themselves. This state has sufficient water supplies if used properly.
-- Don Davidson, Port Hueneme