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Bill Bradley’s article on the dirty dozen contracts [“The Dozen Rip-Offs,” December 14–20] does an excellent job of exposing the real damage done to the state’s energy policy and consumer rates by Governor Gray Davis’ hasty embrace of long-term obligations that perpetuate our addiction to natural gas. These contracts must be renegotiated to remove the long-term stranglehold on consumer rates and facilitate the rapid expansion of renewable energy in California.

I must, however, take issue with Bradley’s explanation of recent events relating to the bailout of Southern California Edison. Bradley incorrectly states that the settlement deal crafted by the California Public Utilities Commission would “cost several billion less than the bill Davis failed to get through the Legislature.” In fact, the Legislature considered (and ultimately rejected as too favorable to Edison) a total ratepayer-funded bailout in the range of $2.5 to $2.9 billion. By contrast, the PUC accepted a deal that would guarantee Edison no less than $3.3 billion. Had the PUC’s more generous package been before the Legislature, it would have been soundly rejected as excessive.

When Southern California consumers notice that their electric bills are not coming down over the next few years, despite lower power prices across the West, they can blame the governor and his PUC for circumventing the Legislature and making a rich deal intended to protect Southern California Edison’s shareholders by forcing ratepayers to pick up the very expensive tab for the failure of deregulation. Once again, consumers have become the insurers of last resort for public-policy failures.

—Matthew Freedman, staff attorney
The Utility Reform Network
San Francisco



Re: “Who’s Bin Smokin’ What?” [Dissonance, December 21–27]. There is a fundamental conflict between a U.S. imperial policy that requires the continuation of authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and South Asia, and the understandable desire of the world’s people to be free from fear of future 9/11s. The language pro-war left-liberals are using — comparing premodern religious radicalism to historic fascism — seems designed to cut off all debate in favor of an imaginary rerun of World War II. If the negative moral category of “Islamo-fascism” allows us to connect all the terrorists from Casablanca to Manila, then the only thing delaying the creation of a free-fire zone for U.S. military operations over half the globe is fitting pretexts. What makes the situation even more threatening is that the Bush administration’s formulation of a foreverwar against an elastically defined global “terrorism” is far broader than the more limited conflict that some left-liberals want to fight against “fascism.” Marc Cooper, Christopher Hitchens and others already seem to be more than halfway down this slippery slope of support for an open-ended war the U.S. and its rent-a-coalition partners have only just begun.

—John Riehle


“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words may be the best antidote to the confusion sown by Marc Cooper’s diatribe against the anti-war movement and on behalf of the “basic justice” of the U.S. military response. As usual, Cooper sets up an idiotic left-wing straw man to knock down. I have never heard any “peacenik” suggest that Osama bin Laden is poor or oppressed, or that he — or Mullah Omar, for that matter — gives a hoot about the poor and oppressed. Rather, the argument has been made that such power-seeking figures — like fascists generally, whether of the religious or the secular type — are able to harness and exploit the rage and frustration of those who do have legitimate grievances. Were the U.S. government to spend on international justice and constructive aid the amount it happily spends on bombs, the conditions that breed recruits for terrorism could be turned around.

Reading Cooper’s column next to Bill Bradley’s dizzying world tour of all the places the U.S. military may strike next [“Where to Now?,” December 21–27], one realizes just how high the stakes are. We must take on this notion that any military action can be “just” that sacrifices the lives of countless civilians in order to keep one’s own soldiers out of firing range. I shudder for the human beings who have the misfortune to live in the vicinity of the U.S. military’s next “triumph.” And for us.

—Leone Hankey
Los Angeles



Re: Greg Goldin’s “Assault on America II” [New World Disorder, November 30–December 6]. Osama bin Laden would love a civil trial so he can rise from the dock and use the occasion for a long-winded speech in defense of terrorism, just like Hermann Goering did at Nuremberg when he declared himself “not guilty” in front of the 35mm movie-newsreel cameras.

—Tom Corbin



Re: “Rolling Back the Years” [New World Disorder, December 14–20]. Ben Ehrenreich is right on target in his exposé of the conservative underpinnings of Tom Brokaw, Steven Spielberg, et al.’s nostalgia for the World War II generation. Yes, it’s very much another chapter in the “culture wars” that seek to turn back the clocks and erase, if not the results, then at least the memory of social ferment that occurred during the ’60s and ’70s.

—Barbara Tannenbaum
San Rafael


Rico Gagliano’s article on the labor dispute at Nickelodeon [“Naughty Nick,” December 21–27] has been gnawing at me all week. Like most parents, I have become an expert in children’s TV, and I’ll say here and now that
SpongeBob SquarePants, Fairly Odd Parents and — especially — Hey Arnold! are three of the best-written shows on television, period. The Amanda Show, on the other hand, is basically Cher for preteens. Why are the Amanda crew rewarded with residuals and benefits while the cartoon writers get squat? It’s an absurd distinction, and eventually the best animation writers will abandon the medium just to survive.

—Dino DiMuro


Re: Steven Leigh Morris’ “Waiting for the Cable Guy” [December 14–20]. Actors who focus on showcases are looking for the golden ticket — that one-in-a-million chance that a casting person will notice them, bring them in to audition, and then have the producer and director all agree that they are the one for the job. Slim chance. The actor’s number-one rule is: Work begets work. Do the work, and more work (paying) will find you. Circus stunts (read: showcases) and game-show appearances don’t count.

Secondly, I make my living as a commercial actor. When I do a “Jack in the Box” spot, I have not abandoned the theater — I am subsidizing it. Only 35 percent of small-theater budgets comes from ticket sales; the rest of that cash comes from the pockets of writers, directors and actors.

—John Williams


Manohla Dargis’ review of The Royal Tenenbaums [“High Hopes,” December 14–20] was the best I’ve read in years. This review and her tribute to Pauline Kael [September 14–20] were the two most memorable works of writing this year in your newspaper. Tell her I think she’s brilliant!

—Jackson Yee
Santa Monica


Ella Taylor begins her review of the film Ali by writing “the world’s most famous boxer, training for a rematch with George Foreman.” George Foreman and Ali only fought once! I know that most of your staff is made up of Noam Chomsky–regurgitating, self-righteous dweebs who typically frown upon things such as boxing.

—Max Acosta-Rubio
Pacific Palisades


EDITOR’S NOTE: Actually, it was Taylor’s National Review–citing, self-deprecating twerp of an editor who confused George Foreman with Joe Frazier and suggested changing “fight” to “rematch.”


Contrary to what appeared in last week’s feature “The Neurotic Superhero,” Stan Lee wrote the Marvel Comics adaptation of the Spider-Man movie, not the movie itself. Also, in the issue previous to that, U.S. Representative Richard Gephardt was indeed misidentified in a photo caption as “Senator.”

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