Some Changes Work Joe Hicks’ message that little good came from the Watts riot seems especially disdainful of the so-called “poverty programs” that flourished after the ’60s [“Lessons From the Ruins,” Aug. 12–18]. My career as a civil servant started with one of them — the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA). What amazed me then was the number of middle-class whites who also were employed with CETA funds. The program was never meant for them, but there they were, along with Latinos, Asians and, yes, blacks like me. I saw these poverty program recipients get a leg up as they used CETA jobs to build long careers. They bought homes, paid taxes and contributed to the prosperity of their ­communities. Middle-class whites and people of color also used funds earmarked for depressed urban areas as seed money for small ­businesses. These businesses provided jobs and taxes for municipalities. Money from those poverty programs reached far and wide.

Sandra Martinez Los Angeles

Payola Primer After reading Kate Sullivan’s rant [“Shit & Payola,” Aug. 12–18], I decided that it’s my duty, being a former independent radio promoter and currently a cog at a major record label, to give a more accurate portrayal of payola to your readers. I will explain the concept using the simple terms that Kate decided on in her piece. Before I begin I must preface by saying that I have never participated in, nor witnessed, an act of payola. Kate claims that major record companies are the pimps and the radio stations are the whores. She’s close, but she has the roles a little mixed up. Payola was invented and implemented by RADIO STATIONS long ago because they realized that record labels couldn’t sell records without them. So more appropriate roles would have the radio corporations as the pimps and radio stations as the whores. They’ll always follow their pimp’s orders for fear of being smacked around. So where do the labels come into play in this sordid situation? Record companies are proud fathers with many sons, all coming of age. And all they want is for their sons to get laid as many times, by as many women, as possible. So they contact a pimp, trying to hook up a fun evening to deflower their sons. The pimp (or madame, if this term suits you better) displays his wares and tells proud Daddy how much it’s going to cost to get his son laid, how the performance is going to go down, and how many whores his son can have for the evening. Eliot Spitzer comes into the fray as the Christian fundamentalist who thinks that all non-missionary sex is wrong, especially sex that’s paid for. He feels it’s his job to enforce his interpretation of the law, and he claims to be willing to close down a few whorehouses to prove he’s right. But why go after the pimp when it’s easier to arrest the kid as he walks out? His daddy must be rich if he can afford the prices these whores are charging. Daddy knows that if the story hits the press that he paid for his son’s sexual escapades, his peers will look down on him. He’ll pay anything just to hush it up as quickly as possible, as long as he doesn’t have to admit guilt. Spitzer will keep going after kids until there are no more kids having sex, or until he finds something else to occupy his time. He’ll never go after the pimp, because he’s afraid of getting shot.

R.D. Silver Lake

Fix the System It is interesting that you ran stories about the farm workers and Watts in the same issue [“Sour Grapes” and “Watts, 40 Years Later,” Aug. 12–18], because the solution to both their problems is the same, namely that the government must create good jobs for all and raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour — and much of that increase will have to be paid for by the government, because many employers cannot afford to pay much higher wages without raising their prices. To pay for this, we need to enact a large tax increase on the very rich, not the poor and middle class. This cause should unite poor people of all ethnic groups and the middle class — a large majority of the whole population — because only by levying heavy taxes on the multimillionaires, which they can easily afford, can we achieve such popular and necessary aims as balancing the budget and providing universal health coverage, along with building more affordable housing, eliminating world poverty, advancing space exploration, etc. Since Congress does not want to tax the rich, we will have to use ballot initiatives to do it. It won’t be easy, but do not shrug it off, because it is very clear that there will be no progress for the farm workers nor for blacks nor poor whites nor America nor the world in general unless and until we do tax the rich. The richest 1 percent have 40 percent of the wealth: The need for redistribution should be obvious.

Roger Skutt Los Angeles

Exploitation in the Fields Too bad about the exploitation of those workers [“Sour Grapes,” Aug. 12–15]. Did you ever think that they themselves are victims of continued illegal immigration? The growers have no incentive to treat them any better or pay them any more as long as thousands of eager replacements come over the border every day. Their suffering will never end until the flow of illegals is brought under control.

Andre Page Van Nuys

It seems that as humane and responsible people, we should support those farms and organizations that treat their workers with dignity and pay them living wages. My question is, how do we do this? Are there ways to find out which farms our produce comes from and if they are reputable?

Patricia Los Angeles

Protest Motives Marc Cooper makes a ridiculous assertion when he says that Cindy Sheehan is somehow “flaky” because she is associated with “the usual suspects” who opposed the Iraq invasion from the beginning [“Camp Cindy,” Aug. 19–25]. He’s uncomfortable supporting her because her son was an adult who chose to enlist. But he didn’t choose to fight and die in an illegal war or die for a kingdom of lies. Cooper has no standing to criticize Sheehan. He can play devil’s advocate or position himself as a low-level Christopher Hitchens, but in reality he’s the flake.

Paul Burton Oakland

Deposit Disappearance I enjoyed the story by Linda Immediato regarding the battle to save Lincoln Place Apartments in Venice from demolition [“On Borrowed Time,” Aug. 5–11]. Perhaps a follow-up story regarding the refusal by the current owner to pay interest on the apartment deposit would be pertinent. Per the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance, and as of 2000, interest was to be paid to the tenant every year on the amount of the deposit. This payment has never been made. Repeated requests for this payment have been ignored. I think this would be an item of interest if there is another story about Lincoln Place.

Barbara Eisenberg Venice

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