Re “Michael Jackson: 1958-2009,” by Ernest Hardy (July 2):

Ernest Hardy’s ruminations on Michael Jackson are deep and well observed, but his piece brought up a subpoint that needs addressing: While Diana Ross is indeed influential, talented, a showstopping performer, a doer of good works, and an incalculable mentor to Michael and his brothers in their halcyon days, it is too easy to chide critics for not holding her in high regard.

What may rile her critics is her personal life: She went along unhesitatingly with Berry Gordy’s decision to relegate the other Supremes (the equally talented Florence Ballard in particular) into positions of subordinate nonentities. At times she has been smug, snobbish, snooty and an arrogant bitch as if the title “diva” allows her to behave this way regardless of who gets offended or hurt. Real divas are more gracious, self-effacing and attitude-free, and are in no danger of losing their strength or dignity.

Give Ross her kudos and tributes, but let us be thorough and realistic about her yin-yang.

—James R. Nolan, Los Angeles

Re “Harder Than It Looks, Villaraigosa’s ‘Model’ Schools Bite Back as the LAUSD Dropout Rate Soars Citywide” by David Ferrell (July 10):

Mr. Ferrell’s article incorrectly states that the dropout rate of 34.9 percent for the Los Angeles Unified School District in 2008 “jumped by nearly 10 percent from the year before.” The preliminary dropout rate for LAUSD in 2008 was 34.9 percent. In 2007, the previous year, the dropout rate was 31.7 percent, representing an increase of 3.2 percentage points. The article also states that “…from 2006 to 2007, dropouts in LAUSD also soared by 10 percent….” In 2006, the dropout rate for LAUSD was 25.3 percent and increased to 31.7 percent in 2007, an increase of 6.4 percentage points.

—LAUSD Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines

Editor’s response: We are citing the actual percent change, which is made quite clear in the article. We find this to be far more accurate than your own use of “percentage points.” This usage can cause the public to believe that the dropout level last year jumped only about 3 percent, when, in fact, it jumped about 10 percent. We generally try to avoid repeating any confusing or even intentionally spun data. We are guilty of a typo, however. We said that the dropout level rose from 25.3 percent in 2006 to 31.7 percent in 2007, and described that as a jump of 10 percent. In fact, it jumped roughly 25 percent — not 6.4 percent.


Re “L.A.’s Reefer Revolution” by Daniel Heimpel (July 17):

What exactly is the problem here? L.A. has more medical marijuana dispensaries than other cities? And that’s a bad thing, why? Is it because children are buying medical marijuana on the street in front of Eric Garcetti’s office? No, that doesn’t read like political propaganda at all. So, let me get this straight…instead of having dispensaries that are licensed, taxed, and that generate financial windfalls for both the city and your newspaper, we should regulate the hell out of the weed business so no one can do anything. Then, we need to run some of the existing shops out of business so the city can fit the Weekly’s notion of a respectable dispensary-to-person ratio — moving the weed economy completely underground in the process. Then we squander precious city resources with a police crackdown to make sure the kids aren’t smoking dope in front of Garcetti’s office. Sounds like a plan!

—Comment by Sam

Just close them all down. I know a lot of friends that would love to have their jobs back dealing pot, but these dispensaries are cutting into their business. Put [the dealers] back in business please! Your high school teenagers depend on them!

—Comment by Rick, Los Angeles

Pot should be legal, end of story. It has so many uses, not the least of which is helping people (like you) take a moment to “chill out,” laugh and smell the roses!

—Comment by David Wyndham

This story would have a shot at showing some teeth if the author spent as much energy detailing the actual, concrete, negative socio-environmental impacts of the issue at hand, as he did philandering in bellicose rhetoric about hemp clothing and “pothead heroes.” Has there been an increase in dropout rates or child pregnancies that correlates to the increase in marijuana retailers? How about a citation here or there? The real question is about our futile obsession with attributing responsibility to the supply-side of this equilibrium. Does it occur to anyone else that perhaps the real, driving force in the drug hierarchy is the skinny, redheaded teenager’s desire to use drugs in the first place? I grew up in a city that regularly tops the lists of the safest in the country, and has zero pot stores (verifiable stats for Irvine, CA, population approx. 204,000). Yet as a teenager, getting pot (or worse) was as easy as showing up for first period. As someone who lived there for 18 years, I think I can credibly testify to that town’s ability to breed stoners with the best of ’em.

It would be nice to start having more mature public discourse about the possibility that the slew of violent crimes, robberies, gun-smuggling, disease-spreading, and life-shattering addiction related to drug use and distribution in this country are maybe, just maybe, in large part being caused by the prohibition of drugs, not prevented by it. If we really want to solve some problems we’ll create a legal economic sector for the currently illegal drug market, and in the process eliminate all the high-paying jobs that exist for the criminals that currently have a stranglehold on it. That’s a recession I could live with… and who knows, maybe since we won’t be so busy spending all our money on keeping people in prison, we’ll have some resources left over to tackle the crooks currently in control of the legal drug and health care providing market in America.

—Comment by Ben, Los Angeles

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