Should be careful on purchase of drones

Thanks for publishing "Alameda County puts the brakes on purchasing drone," by Angela Woodall. The use of drones in American skies is alarming. Sheriff Greg Ahern's stealthy attempt to acquire a drone undercuts the credibility of his promises about how such technology would be used.

Documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation reveal that military drones, including the Reaper and Predator drones used in Afghanistan and Iraq, are already flying over the U.S.

All drones are subject to numerous hazards, including software and mechanical failures that can result in catastrophic crashes or interference with other air traffic.

In addition, drones could conduct unlawful surveillance on citizens at home or other private settings by intercepting cellphone calls, texts and GPS locations or by using cameras with facial recognition technology and which can see through walls.

It's unlikely that FAA drone guidelines will safeguard privacy or even effectively address many of the hazards inherent in drone technology.

Safety and privacy concerns should be addressed before drones are purchased by Alameda County, if indeed they are ever purchased.

Joseph Nicholson

Oakland

Voting system not what it should be

Three new Oakland City Council members are soon to be sworn in; however, two of the three failed to get the required majority -- 50 percent plus one vote.

Dan Kalb (one of seven candidates) mustered only 12,293 votes out of the 28,562 ballots cast for the District 1 Council seat, resulting in a mere 43 percent.

Lynette Gibson-Mchelhaney, (with six District 3 candidates) surprisingly leapt ahead of Sean Sullivan by gaining an astounding 9.4 percentage points in the sixth round of counting. However, with her total vote count at 9,397 out of 21,991, she received only 42.7 percent of the total votes cast.

On the other hand, At-Large Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan easily beat the majority requirement with a very respectful 55.5 percent. She received 71,038 votes out of the 128,097 cast for that seat.

Clearly, Oakland's ranked-choice voting leaves a lot to be desired.

David E. Mix

Oakland

Leave the Bible out of oath ceremony

When President Barack Obama is inaugurated Jan. 20, it's virtually certain that he will begin to dishonor the Constitution he is solemnly swearing to uphold within the first few minutes of his second term.

Article VI unequivocally states that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

The presidential oath of office is explicitly spelled out in Article II, Section 1, and ends, "and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." The Framers deliberately omitted any religious requirements.

The use of a Bible in inaugurations is clearly unconstitutional. He is not swearing to uphold any religious scriptures. Placing his hand on a copy of the Constitution would be more appropriate.

Over the years, Christian zealots have intruded Bibles and God oaths into what should be a purely secular ceremony. They don't belong there. Obama will kowtow to religious traditions because he lacks the courage to challenge these long-standing unconstitutional practices.

Burt Bogardus

Danville

Senseless killing of lion cubs

I was deeply disturbed, angry and ashamed to be a part of the human race after reading about the senseless killing of two 9-month-old mountain lion cubs in Half Moon Bay.

They were babies; they could have and should have been protected and saved. There are a number of knowledgeable and qualified people around capable of handling the situation properly.

I am appalled the California Department of Fish and Game people are not on that list. The warden who made this decision needs to have his ability to make decisions permanently revoked.

It doesn't matter how much technology we have or how advanced we think we are, the cruel way we treat one another and the reckless devastation we've inflicted on every other living thing on the planet seems to indicate we still are, and probably always will be, barbarians.

Nick Jury

Clayton

Pensions should be same as rest of us

I support firefighters and police compensation packages for any job-related disabilities and loss of life.

On the other hand, they should not be different from me in retirement benefits. I am not retiring at 50 (or 53) after 30 years work with 90 percent of my salary.

I am trying to spend less and save more to balance my retirement. I expect the same from state or government pensioners. There are more than enough qualified candidates who will accept lower-paid firefighter/police job and benefit packages.

Art Turhal

San Ramon