Distract from real problems

Our executive and legislative branches are arguing for the agendas of their constituents as to whether to raise tax rates and/or cut services or other budget items.

This is a distraction from the real set of problems we are suffering. I think it may be clear to all what would serve the common good of many. The following should be the main agenda.

We need to amend our current policies regarding commerce, finances, taxes, environmental concerns, energy, labor, etc., in ways that will strongly encourage the offering of services and manufacturing of products locally by smaller private and public organizations. These services and products should be safe (not poisoning, polluting), lasting (repairable, inexpensively upgradable), and with a primary focus on what is more necessary.

I understand that this would be a major and complex task and not so much a matter of tinkering. The current policies in place are the exact opposite.

Ron Greenstein

El Cerrito

Pro-gun bullies are speechless

The National Rifle Association has refused to respond to media questions on its position after the Connecticut massacre. Thirty-one pro-gun senators were asked and refused to come on Meet the Press.

Even they don't have an answer to this tragedy and may finally feel the guilt that they so richly deserve.

Or maybe they really are guiltless but think in their cynical way that it isn't the right moment politically to suggest that this would not have happened if every primary school student should have their own gun.


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They all need to plead to their god or higher authority for forgiveness. Even more importantly, they need start thinking about a way to sign on to responsible limits on guns.

Steven Birnbaum

Richmond

Rhetoric not the way to go

According to columnist Thomas Sowell, the respected Stanford product, if the rich do pay the extra higher taxes, the amount would not run the country for more than 10 days with those extra funds.

Why is the Republican leadership so stupid not to point this out to our citizens day after day, instead of giving out the same old repetitious rhetoric, which makes them look like fools?

No wonder hardly any folks have a high opinion of politicians anymore.

Stan Ginn

Albany

Letters nearly identical

The letters from Ella Jensen and Sidney Steinberg printed in the Dec. 7 Journal are nearly identical.

Perhaps the letter writers might have identified the organization they are representing when they reproduce such scripted letters. The lack of independent thought highlights the intellectual limitations of the American wing.

Gregory Kalkanis

El Cerrito

Taxes will go up temporarily

I'm actually confident -- not worried -- that Congress will plunge off the fiscal cliff without those stonewalling Republicans extending a reasonable middle-income tax cut that's not held hostage by additional tycoon-coddling cuts.

Tax rates on everyone will go up temporarily. But more importantly, they'll finally go back up on those wealthy non-job-creators.

We the people will then be able to clearly blame GOP intransigence for raising everyone's payroll and income taxes -- all while overprotecting capitalists who'll still enjoy their pork of the low 15 percent capital gains rates.

The backlash could sound the death knell of austerity conservatism, the plutocratic GOP, and those mad-as-a-hatter tea partyers.

Ed Chainey

Richmond

Palestinians in United Nations

The admission of a Palestinian state to United Nations membership is a welcome event because it is a step in the direction of self-determination for Palestinian Arabs and counters Israeli denial in word and deed of the existence of a Palestinian nationality.

Golda Meir, the late Prime Minister of Israel, most famously expressed Israeli denial of Palestinian nationality, saying there was no such thing as a Palestinian (a stance echoed recently by Newt Gingrich). Successive Israeli governments quite intentionally have made impossible the establishment of a Palestinian state by continually colonializing Palestinian territory.

Additionally, their membership in the United Nations may afford Palestinians a chance of finding justice before the International Criminal Court (ICC), something Israel may have reason to fear more than rockets from Gaza.

Israel's violations of international law and war crimes are legion, and a short list would include: the continued occupation and colonization of the West Bank; the collective punishment of Gaza, including notorious operations Cast Lead and Pillar of Cloud; a 400-mile-long wall isolating the inhabitants of the West Bank, held to be illegal by the ICC.

Genuine peace requires recognition of realities and justice.

Larry Waldron

Berkeley

Hunger does indeed exist

In his Dec. 10 letter in the Times, "Don't let truth get lost in the hype," Harold Mantle warns against hunger "hype."

It appears he has conflated two separate concepts and then accused Jared Blumenfeld's Thanksgiving Op-Ed of "hype" based on this misinterpretation. Mantle has also not done the simple arithmetic involved in understanding the conclusion.

The Op-Ed piece states that "50 million Americans go hungry every day." Mantle then quotes a 2009 USDA study of surveys of households that found that "17 million households were food insecure." Mantle wonders how you get to 50 million people from 17 million households and how you get to "every day."

Firstly, households include more than one person. Sadly, most of the hungry are children. If each of the 17 million households referred to had four persons, the total would be 68 million -- far more than the 50 million cited. And this does not take into consideration homeless people who were not surveyed.

Secondly, the study does not purport to state that the same 50 million are hungry each day. The point being made is that on any given day 50 million people are hungry. Some of them have enough on other days, before their money or supplies are exhausted, because the government assistance is simply insufficient to provide enough food for the entire month.

Thirdly, unfortunately, the belief the government would be doing more to alleviate the problem, indicates a faith in our legislatures that is not justified when many elected officials and those who want to be elected continue to maintain the government should cut back on aid and leave the poor to depend on private charities and religious organizations.

These charities and organizations, by the way, have been crying out on behalf of the many they try to serve because the resources of these organizations are insufficient to make up for what the government does not provide.

Linda Burrell

Berkeley