Too Much Mr. Nice Guy
How does a well-meaning progressive end up running some of the most violent jails in the country? Gene Maddaus concluded in last week's cover story that Sheriff Lee Baca's big problem is overreliance on his top assistant, Paul Tanaka ("Dark Side of the Moonbeam," Dec. 21).
Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, echoes that conclusion. "Gene Maddaus' perceptive profile of Sheriff Baca and Undersheriff Tanaka correctly noted that the blue-ribbon Citizens' Commission on Jail Violence laid much of the blame for the persistent pattern of unreasonable force in the jails on now-Undersheriff Paul Tanaka," he writes. "However, one important additional fact that the public should be aware of is that the Commission went so far as to conclude that '[t]he Undersheriff should have no responsibility for custody operations or the disciplinary system.' If the blue-ribbon commission recommends that the second-in-command in the department play no role in two of the most important things the department does, then how can Sheriff Baca justify keeping him in that position? And, why should the taxpayers of Los Angeles pay the substantial salary of an undersheriff who cannot be trusted to handle anything other than accounting functions for the department?"
KMA966 also was a fan. "This article hit the nail on the head," he writes. "I have been at a loss trying to understand how the Sheriff's Department has deteriorated over the years. This story explains it all. I remember dealing with Tanaka in Lynwood in the early '80s, and I was at a loss to understand how a man with such a mean and brutal streak could ever make the rank of sergeant. As he climbed the ladder under Baca, I became more and more horrified.
"The LASD of 2012 reminds me more of a Mississippi Sheriff's Department in the 1950s. Just recently I witnessed a Pico deputy lie to a field sergeant regarding his involvement with a shooting suspect. The deputy knew that I knew he was lying, and the sergeant knew he was lying, and yet nothing from the sergeant. Not a peep. This is what the LASD has become: uneducated thugs in uniforms with no discipline."
Mrdowntownla1 adds, "We can only hope Sheriff Lee Baca will read and comprehend the fine article by Gene Maddaus. This is important, award-winning copy." We agree.
The Play's the Thing
Our theater critics, surprisingly, had a few readers wound up this month. First, Jerry G of Studio City objects to Steven Leigh Morris' review of Other Desert Cities ("Palm Spring Story," Dec. 14). He writes, "Why so many of your reviewers keep exposing plot points and aspects of a piece meant to be revealed as a play progresses is beyond me. You either have a need to fill a word count or are unable to write without exposing key elements that are designed to be part of the audience's, and intended, paths of discovery.
"Respect the scripts. Respect the audience. Respect the process of theater — to carry the audience along for a journey. Your job is not to reveal choices made by the characters and author, hence destroying the opening flower of a script. Think about it and get better at engaging us or giving us an opinion without being lazy and cribbing."
And if you think Jerry G is wound up, consider theatergoer Thomas Jenkins' response to Rebecca Haithcoat's Dec. 7 review of Scarlett Ridgway Savage's She F*&%ing Hates Me. He writes, "After watching the response from the audience (they didn't just give a standing ovation, they stomped and screamed and clapped and cried), I felt confident that Ms. Savage's play would get the acclaim it deserved.
"Imagine my surprise when I opened the paper to find Ms. Haithcoat's hatchet job. The rich, layered, beautiful story was called 'overlayered and overstuffed'; the chemistry and wit was regarded as a failure. And you'll notice the incompetent Ms. Haithcoat didn't even mention the superb job by most of the actors. (I agree that the younger two weren't up to snuff, but the older three, especially the one who played Suzanne, knocked it right out of the park.)
"I don't know who this woman is, but I can only assume that her jealousy extends from Ms. Savage's talent and beauty — meeting her for the first time Saturday, she's an absolute knockout, despite the constant joking about her advanced age of 40." Ah yes ... because women can never disagree on anything without it being at heart a catfight over who's more sexy.
Defending K. Stew
We also heard from numerous fans of actress Kristen Stewart, who did not appreciate Jeff Weiss' piece about his interview with Stewart and her On the Road co-star Garrett Hedlund ("Team Kerouac," Dec. 14). Apparently Weiss' observation that Stewart was uncomfortable in his presence — and, OK, his description of her as "an L.A.-born goth locker pinup for kids who define old-school as before Instagram arrived on Droid phones" — was insulting.
MsHavisham79 writes, "I wonder if it ever occurred to this 'journalist' that Stewart behaved as she did, that is, nervous and cautious, because of the VERY TYPES OF THINGS HE JUST WROTE? Having someone scrutinize your every movement and speculate on your meal choices thanks to your size would make me an awful lot twitchier than she tends to be."
Bebe19 says, "Maybe Kristen saw right through this 'journalist,' and she made him defensive. She might have distracted him off his game and all he could write about is useless dribble." You say dribble, we say drivel — either way, can we call the whole thing off already?
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