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12 MINUS 1


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

 

GLOBAL OVERREACH

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
Venice

 

“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

 

GOERING ALL THE WAY

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
Torrance

 

THE LOUDEST GENERATION

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

TOONTOWN FACING URBAN FLIGHT

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
Hollywood

JACK ON THE BOARDS

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
Hollywood

HIGH OCTANE

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

LOW BLOW

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.”

CORRECTIONS

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.”