Let's face it: the war was good... except for the families of those who had to die, and probably not that great for those who had to fight and survive. Even at 100 lives, the war was too expensive, if it was fought not for security but for political or diplomatic reasons.
The arms race of the cold war era was not so much an arms race as a race to bankruptcy. Fortunately, it was the Soviet Union that "won." The war on terror is also shaping up as a race to bankruptcy (the terrorists are able to cause us severe economic hardships at little expense to themselves). Let's hope we don't "win" this one, either.
Dept. of Waste
Anyone paying attention to California's budget crisis is certainly aware of the legacy of corruption under the leadership of Gray Davis. The present administration's plunder of taxpayers' assets is unprecedented in the history of California. Thirty five billion dollars in debt and neither Republicans nor Democrats can find solutions other than raising taxes, gutting social programs or borrowing money from future generations.
One only needs look at the scorched trail of bribes from special interest groups to find where our money went. Energy company theft was a major portion, but others bored deeply into the budget-many with the blessing of Gray Davis. Just as California was the only state targeted by the energy pirates, the documented incompetence of Gray Davis even led our own state employees to grab shares of the taxpayer swag.
Consider the Department of Corrections employees-the highest paid jailers on the planet. After receiving $3.5 million from their union, Gray Davis needed a favor to help ease the budget deficit. Following is the reply of this powerful union that represents 28,000 California prison correctional officers and employees, which last year signed a five-year contract to increase salaries 37 percent.
"Our members, like many Californians, don't believe there is a budget crisis." Lance Corcoran, executive vice president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, said Friday. "They still see roadwork going on."
More than 80 guards earned $100,000 last year. A handful earned $145,000. Prison guards need only a GED, no felony convictions and six weeks of training for employment. School boards across the state are prepared to layoff as many as 30,000 teachers. These teachers have much higher education yet earn about half of what the prison guards make. Class sizes will increase, and those students on the edge will fail. Cities across the state are cutting their budgets, including law enforcement and court systems. However, it seems the California Correctional Peace Officers Association will have no part of cuts-or even believe a crisis exists.
CCPOA members operate the most wasteful state agency-the Department of Corrections-according to state auditors and the state's fiscal analyst. Twenty years ago, the yearly prison budget was $400 million. Today it is $5.24 billion dollars, of which 47 percent goes to pay the guards. Most of this dramatic increase is due to a failed "tough on crime" policy pushed by the nation's most powerful prison guards union. Their failure is proven by the 56 percent recidivism rate in the state, the highest in the nation. This "system" and its guards have recycled prisoners at a higher rate than aluminum cans.
This same union leadership has paid $27 million in "contribution" money to lawmakers to push their agenda. Those who refused were driven out of office through political retaliation. The same CCPOA leaders paid $100,000 in television ads to push "tough" sentences, then cashing in this investment by larding up at the taxpayer trough.
This budget can be cut by careful release and re-sentencing policies for many non-violent offenders. Many are elderly, about to die, and pose zero risk to society. Many more were sentenced under California's three-strike law for petty offences.
Rational solutions to absurd prison costs cry out to be implemented:
* Offer alternative sentencing for nonviolent offences.
* Give court-ordered drug rehabilitation programs for the almost 20,000 incarcerated for minor drug charges.
* Treat the mentally ill. California's Corrections Department is the largest mental health provider in the state yet offers no care. This could save billions of tax dollars and reduce the recidivism rate.
The Department of Corrections needs a citizens group to oversee its operations and eliminate the waste caused by the employees union, which now answers to no one. They must be open to the media to avoid the abuse and waste they have taken advantage of. It is time the lawmakers stand up against corruption, incompetence and greed. Our Legislature must take a hard, long look at a failed system, one that grows more wasteful and costly each day. Why should Gray Davis and his supporters not be held accountable for their economic disaster?
Fear & censorship
Loved the "Boycotting Dixie" article ["Sordid Tales," March 26]. My wife and I were both disappointed that Natalie Maines felt the need to apologize, and agree or disagree, we wish she would have stuck to her first statement since it was so obviously heartfelt.
We feel that with the attempted censorship (organized CD burnings and boycotts) and ridicule of artists and actors who speak out against the war, we are moving dangerously close to what happened in Nazi Germany. If this has taught me anything it's that for the first time in my life I begin to understand how the German people were bamboozled by Hitler.
We live in America, where we're supposed to be free to speak our minds and debate without fear of career and financial (or worse) punishment. With regard to your third point, I had a conversation with a young lady who said her father had never listened to the Dixies but went out after their anti-war statement and bought all of their CDs.
Fool with a thrill
I was briefly sucked in by your April Fool's editorial ("We were wrong," April 2), thinking, Wow, an honest leftist who actually changes his mind in the face of new facts! Such an occurrence is so rare that I get a little thrill when I see it.
But as I read on, I started to notice the sarcasm. By the punch line, I realized that perhaps I was a fool for thinking that those who still remain in the "anti-war" (a.k.a. anti-America) camp will ever be anything more than apologists for or appeasers of dictatorial thugs.
This morning, Baghdad fell. And the whole world got to see the glee with which its citizens greeted the freedom that people like you would have denied them.