Some of the choice reading in recent months has been the Letters to the Editor.  Here are several dozen juicy letters from the NYT, LAT, and OCR even including one from a troublemaker in San Clemente.
Letters to the Editor,  New York Times
Are Republicans now politically homeless?
David Brooks says Republicans are realizing that they are “politically homeless.” Nonsense. As a proud former Republican, I can say I have a political home. I am now a Democrat. It is that simple.
Are Estate Taxes reform or a gift to the super rich?
The fortunes of billionaires are often based on unrealized capital gains on stock or real estate. Therefore, taxes have never been paid on these assets. The pending tax bill keeps the “step-up in basis” at death, which wipes out the need for heirs to pay capital gains taxes on the appreciated value. The phasing out of the estate tax, along with a “step-up in basis,” is a double gift for the children of the 1 percent. How is this a benefit for the middle class? Shame on Republicans for this giveaway.
The writer is a retired tax attorney.
The Republican Party:  Government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich
 Re “With Few Hurdles Left, G.O.P. Sprints to Send Tax Overhaul to Trump” (front page, Dec. 3):
It is often said that the core guiding principle of the Republican Party is the conviction that the purpose of government is to benefit the rich.  The Republican tax plan is a perfect example.
Never have the Republicans fought so fiercely for an opportunity to transfer even more wealth to the rich.  They compounded their shameful actions by not only ramrodding it through Congress but also by concealing the contents and lying about the consequences.
It is too easy to place all the blame on an already tarnished President Trump.  It is clearly the unprincipled Republicans in Congress who disgraced the institutions of government.
Is there a long history to government lies about radiation dangers?
Re “Veterans Feel Cost of U.S. Nuclear Tests” (front page, Jan. 29):
In 1956, I was in the Army stationed on Enewetak, an atoll in the Pacific. Unlike the military men stationed there between 1977 and 1980, we were always warned about impending dangers. But incorrectly. We were told that everyone would receive radiation goggles to protect our eyes (or we’d go blind). One of my jobs was to requisition items needed for the tests, which included goggles. I was instructed to cancel the order for enlisted men (though not officers) to make room on the planes for new furniture for the colonel’s house.
We were told to face away from the mushroom cloud to protect our eyes before Test 1 (Codename: Lacrosse) of Operation Redwing in May 1956. The pilot hit the wrong target, and the bomb exploded in front of us (sans goggles). We were informed that there would never be fallout on Enewetak. There were many such instances. Each time, we were instructed over loudspeakers to go inside immediately and close all windows tightly. But the aluminum windows were defective and wouldn’t close. We were told before the tests began that the island would be evacuated if radiation levels were higher than 3.9 roentgens. When that happened, the allowable dose was increased to 7 roentgens.
I saw Navy men arrive at the island hospital after cleaning up contaminated islands. I saw them leave in body bags.
The writer is the author of “The Atomic Times: My H-Bomb Year at the Pacific Proving Ground.”
In the Alabama election, why were Christian Evangelicals the strongest supporters of a racist misogynist liar?
Re “Liberals Fighting for Their Faith” (front page, June 11):
The movement being led by the Rev. William J. Barber II, featured in your article, is important, not least because he understands that Christianity is more than a series of ethical demands. Religion is primarily a lens for meaning, and in our chaotic, increasingly globalized world, we on the left need this more than ever.
Jesus preached a sophisticated message that disrupts false binaries and upends conventional notions of how power works. If we on the Christian left better understood and were more fluent in discussing this aspect of our faith, we would not struggle as we do with the challenges inherent in having a diverse membership. We would not feel that we need to lean on the Democratic Party to fight our battles for us. And we would easily rebut baseless allegations by the Christian right that our faith is “Christian Lite.”
The writer is an Episcopal priest.
Why is the Trump Environmental Protection  Agency dismantling itself?  
With all of the turmoil in the Trump administration, it is easy to overlook how efficient and effective Scott Pruitt has been at dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency. Industry insiders are shaping policy. Coal is back as a primary energy source. The proposed budget for the E.P.A. would mark a 40-year low, adjusted for inflation.
The objective seems to be returning to the environment of my youth. Polluted streams and rivers where nothing could live, lakes so polluted that they caught fire, air thick with smog, acid rain, toxic waste dumps and carcinogenic building materials. If you think Mr. Pruitt is on the right track, please write and tell him so. However, if you have a different vision of the world for your children and grandchildren, please at least tell your members of Congress. And don’t wait too long.
Why is the Trump Dept. of Education Anti-Education?
Of all Donald Trump’s cabinet appointments so far, the one that threatens the future of our democracy the most is that of Betsy DeVos. Her appointment signals the desire of those on the right to dismantle all public goods, and especially public schools. Too often we forget that public education is a necessary cornerstone of democratic governance. In a democracy, citizens must have the knowledge and ability to make good decisions for themselves and for the greater good of the country. The more educated people are, the better equipped they are to understand the decisions of their leaders and the more likely they are to engage in civic life themselves.
Donald Trump’s statement early in the campaign that he loves the poorly educated was not just idiosyncratic blather; it was a harbinger of the policies Ms. DeVos will pursue to make education less accessible to people who cannot afford private education. Of course, Ms. DeVos and Mr. Trump will say they are all about better quality education for all children. But don’t be fooled. They benefit from ensuring that the very best educational options are available only to the affluent, and they see no reason to make education available to those who can’t afford to pay for it.
Weehawken, N.J.
The writer is dean of the College of Education and Human Services at Montclair State University.
Generals who lie should not be questioned.
Re “Video Disproves Story Kelly Told About Lawmaker” (front page, Oct. 21):
Let me see if I have this straight. John Kelly’s description of a speech by Representative Frederica Wilson is contradicted by a video recording. Mr. Kelly, who was present at the speech, is at best mistaken. The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, says it is “highly inappropriate” to question Mr. Kelly because he is a former four-star general.  So Mr. Kelly can say, “Up is down, and down is up,” and according to Ms. Sanders should not be questioned. Someone needs to tell her that George Orwell’s “1984” is a novel, not an instruction manual.
California Congresswoman blasts Pentagon waste.
Re “The Pentagon Is Not a Sacred Cow” (editorial, Dec. 14): The Times editorial board is exactly right. For decades, Congress has funneled trillions of dollars into the Pentagon’s coffers without a second thought, while self-proclaimed “deficit hawks” chip away at our health care, education and anti-poverty programs.
As the author of H.R. 3079, the Audit the Pentagon Act of 2017, I refuse to blindly accept the status quo of waste, fraud and abuse at the Pentagon. If Defense Secretary Jim Mattis truly believes that his agency needs upward of $650 billion a year, at the very least he needs to show us where the money is going.
I’m encouraged by the Pentagon’s announcement that the Defense Department will release its first annual financial audit next fall, but Congress needs to step up as well. It’s time for us to end the open-spigot approach to military spending and bring some much needed scrutiny to the bloated Pentagon budget.
The writer, a Democrat, represents California’s 13th Congressional District.
The Republican philosophy that government is the enemy of the people goes back to Ronald Reagan. 
As Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein point out in their excellent article, President Trump is not an outlier but rather a direct descendant of the modern Republican Party. However, this demonization of government did not start, as the authors suggest, in the 1990s; the current devolution of the Republican Party stems directly from Ronald Reagan, who at his very first Inaugural Address stated, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” This sentiment has only been amplified through subsequent Republican administrations as they encouraged the extreme wing of their party until it actually took over the party and eradicated the moderate voices.
Donald Trump is the political offspring of Ronald Reagan.
The Republican Party has done irreparable damage to the political system in America. 
Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein are certainly correct that the Republican Party “has done unique, extensive and possible irreparable damage to the American political system,” and they are right to point to the pernicious impact of right-wing media since the 1980s. The factors leading to this dangerous situation began a half century ago. In the mid-1960s, the G.O.P. could still claim to be the party of Lincoln, its congressional members having voted in larger percentages than their Democratic counterparts for the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. That changed when Richard Nixon’s Southern strategy brought the Dixiecrats into the Republican Party, thus setting the stage for a party marinating in toxic racism.
When Ronald Reagan subsequently courted the Christian right, he added to this mix a strain of authoritarian thinking by religious bigots unwilling to find common ground with people who differ from them. And given that the party’s donor class has condoned such a shift, the prospects of its becoming once again a principled center-right party appear dim.
Why does anyone pay attention let alone believe gossip boards like Facebook and Twitter?
While reports of entities associated with the Russian government posting propagandistic material on social media outlets are undoubtedly true, those reports are neither surprising nor significant. It is no secret that outlets such as Facebook and Twitter are online gossip boards rather than journalistic or scholarly venues. What is surprising is that people would base important decisions on social media postings since verification of their accuracy is virtually impossible. Doing so is intellectually lazy at best.
Government lies about civilian casualties of war.
Re “The Truth About the Cost of War” (editorial, Nov. 24):
I was in a unit in Vietnam in 1969 that called in air and artillery strikes on “free fire zones” in III Corps, northwest of Saigon. I asked an Army officer how we knew that the people we fired on were all the enemy. “By definition,” he said, “if we kill them, they are the enemy.” Part of the truth in your editorial isn’t that civilian casualties are underreported but that their deaths in battle are seen as irrelevant.
The media emphasis on false equivalence and negative stories about Clinton led to her defeat. 
Re “Clinton Says She Regrets Not Hitting Back at Comey” (news article, Sept. 8):
Upon reading your report on Hillary Clinton’s new book, I would expand her criticism of The New York Times’s negative reporting on her campaign to the media in general. As Paul Krugman has often observed, coverage of her campaign never failed to emphasize the negative: her “untrustworthiness,” her overweening ambition (talk about sexist) and the grossly exaggerated problem with her emails.
Drawing false equivalence between the two candidates diverted the public’s attention away from Mrs. Clinton’s experience, her competence and the other formidable strengths she would have brought to the presidency. By never failing to point out Mrs. Clinton’s “failings” — which were negligible and barely worth mentioning alongside Mr. Trump’s — I believe that the media created in voters’ minds a dislike and distrust of Mrs. Clinton that led to her defeat and the ghastly situation with Mr. Trump as president that the country is now in.
 Letters to the Editor, Los Angeles Times
The Trump/Bannon strategy is the same old Republican strategy
If I were a Republican strategist, I would hardly be losing sleep over the insurgency of the Bannon and Trump wing of the party. (“Has the Trump wing of the GOP handed Democrats an opening to retake the Senate?” Oct. 26) What they are offering is basically an updated, slightly cruder version of the traditional Republican campaign playbook since the time of President Nixon: Use divisive, often race-based tactics to stir up fear and anger among core voters, then once the election is won, pivot to serving the interests of your wealthy donors.  Trump is the modern master of this two-pronged approach, and there’s little evidence it won’t continue to be effective for Republicans, regardless of a few GOP senators suddenly discovering their conscience.
Jonathan Goetze, Pearblossom, Calif.
Why do Republicans love the new tax bill?
It looks as though congressional Republicans are going to get what they want for Christmas: a major piece of legislation to which President Trump will eagerly affix his flamboyant signature.
The massive tax reform bill that has been concocted on the fly with no hearings, no input from Democrats and scant public support now has enough Republican votes to pass the House and Senate (barring any last-minute defections from the Republican ranks). After nearly a year of legislative failures, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan are as gleeful as kids on Christmas morning. Finally, they are fulfilling a campaign pledge to slash taxes and are delivering a major hit to Obamacare as well, because the tax bill cancels the mandate that everyone buy health insurance, a key pillar of the Affordable Care Act. The GOP leadership even managed to slip a proviso into the bill that opens up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. The thing is a veritable Christmas tree for conservatives!
Under that tree, though, pretty much all of the presents are tagged for big corporations and very wealthy Americans. For everyone else, taxes may even go up over the life of the legislation. And for the kids? Well, there is a $1.4-trillion bill waiting for them down the road, because the tax cuts are expected to add that much to the federal deficit.
David Horsey cartoons
Why Republicans are so happy to pass a bill that is incredibly unpopular with most Americans is a bit of a mystery. Maybe they think people will forget about what they have done by the time midterm elections roll around next November. Or, more likely, they think they can continue to spin a massive transfer of wealth to those who are already wealthy as a boost to the economy.
They may be making a safe bet. After all, about a third of Americans have proved gullible enough to believe Trump when he claims this tax bill will be a great burden to him and his billionaire buddies when, of course, the opposite is true. Add to the votes of those Trumpian true believers the ballots of those who are simply not paying attention, count on the largesse of grateful dark-money donors with even more cash to contribute, thanks to the tax bill, and rely on all the gerrymandered districts across the country that have given the GOP far greater representation that their vote totals warrant — put all that together and 2018 may not look so bad for Republicans.
David Horsey,  Los Angeles
Remember the Republicans like Issa who went overboard to trash everything about Obama?
It was hard not to pass out while reading this essay, what with my eyes rolling at about 1,000 RPM through the whole thing. (“I worked with Republicans to hound Obama. I wish they would give Jared Kushner the same treatment,” Sept. 14) Kurt Bardella worked for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), the guy who spent years trying desperately to make a scandal out of anything and everything in the Obama administration, no matter how speculative, poorly sourced or false it was. This trivialization of the investigatory powers of Congress helped lead us directly to this moment: If everything is a scandal, then nothing is a scandal.
Now, the president and his family members shamelessly use the White House for personal profit, and the result is a national shrug. Instead of showing contrition for his role in this dangerous tuning out, Bardella has the chutzpah to cast judgment. I’ll start taking him seriously when he apologizes publicly for his role in demonizing President Obama to this nation’s profound detriment.
Branden Frankel, Encino

The entire Republican part is complicit in the degradation of America
It’s so great that Republican Sens. Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) have finally found the backbone to point out that our nation is being “debased” by President Trump and his infantile approach to governing, and that his behavior is “reckless, outrageous and undignified.” (“What rift? Republicans in Congress try to push forward on priorities despite acrimony,” Oct. 25)
But the entire Republican Party — the two retiring senators included — is complicit in the degradation of America. It has been ever since the debasement and coarsening began in the 1990s with Newt Gingrich and his Contract on America. (Oh, sorry, I meant “Contract With America.”) These men may, as the Trump henchman and former top White House advisor Stephen K. Bannon predicts, “reap the whirlwind.” But the whirlwind has been blowing in their direction for 25 years. Our present debacle is merely the logical result of the whirlwind of the rabid right.
Barbara Carlton, El Cajon
There might be two exceptions for the Republican degradation of America
While I applaud both Corker and Flake for speaking out against Trump and the damage he has done to the presidency, civil discourse in this country and the political process, I do not believe that by choosing to retire from public office instead of running for reelection they are courageous in any way.
In fact, they are walking away from the fight, as if they do not have the strength to participate. It looks like they are afraid to lose. Corker and Flake are creating a vacuum for more extreme right-wing voices to fill the void.  I understand that winning a Senate race in any climate is an expensive proposition, but if they truly had the courage of their convictions, they would speak out now and during a Senate race.
Wendy Prober-Cohen, Tarzana
Trump demands mandatory pseudo-patriotism
I’ve been struck by photos of pro football players during the pre-game national anthem.  If I were required to stand, I’d refuse on principle.  Manditory patriotism is about as un-American as you can get.
Diane Mitchell, Hemet
Iran is the voice of reason compared to Trump
Now that we have a reality-TV star as president, the leader of Iran comes across as a voice of reason at the U.N.  We’ve sunk far in less than a year.
Mike Greene, Tustin
Trump uses his daughter as a prop to promote image over substance.
James Kirchick nails it regarding the role Ivanka Trump appears poised to play in her father’s administration. For all her seeming intellect and prudence, Ivanka will function as President-elect Donald Trump’s deceptive prop, one Kirchick foresees as “providing feminine cover and a bogus veil of responsibility for the most crudely misogynistic and immature man ever to occupy the Oval Office.” (“Ivanka Trump is not going to save us,” Opinion, Dec. 29)
It’s all part of the president-elect’s push to elevate image over substance to manipulate public opinion. This tactic may work, given Americans’ love of “reality” TV shows and social media tripe. Grooming Ivanka to distract the gullible masses merely reinforces what most insightful observers already perceive in her father: a veritable caricature of a president, one who displays all the integrity and composure of a banana republic strongman. 
Gene Martinez, Orcutt, Calif.
Letters to the Editor, Orange County Register
Obama is the worst President ever
 Re: “How do you assess Obama’s legacy?” [Opinion, Dec. 3]: The legacy of President Obama will define him as the worst president in the history of this great nation. As he leaves office race relations have never been this divisive, our foreign policy or lack thereof has emboldened ISIS to expand and Putin to exercise control in the Middle East and threaten to be a controlling power in Europe. Obama’s pandering to the Black Lives Matter has increased the killing of our law enforcement officers, and his pandering to the Muslim Brotherhood has caused upheaval in the Middle East. Our debt has been tripled under his watch to over 20 trillion dollars. His lies to get Obamacare passed will haunt his legacy now that rates are going through the roof. His heinous and odorous excuse for Benghazi and the needless loss of four American lives should be laid at his doorstep. January 20th cannot come to soon. The swamp Obama created indeed needs to be drained.
— Ron Williams, Irvine
The Real legacy of President Obama
Creating 16 million jobs, getting 20 million more Americans affordable health care, cutting unemployment in half, killing Osama Bin Laden, saving the Detroit automotive industry, record stock market, bailing out the banks before total collapse, bringing troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, nuclear arms agreement, reconnecting with Cuba, all this and more after inheriting a total mess from the George W. Bush/Dick Cheney disaster. Thank You for standing up to the land grab of right-wing dictator Netanyahu in Israel and Donald Trump’s partner in Russia.
Thank you for standing up to the oil, coal, and gas companies and preserving our environment. I understand you will be moving to California we welcome you to the sold blue, liberal, progressive, secular state in the union.
— Ed Pyle, Laguna Niguel
It’s OK for Republicans to raise the national debt but not for Democrats
 In response to your question of the week, I find it disturbing that of all of the subjects that you broached regarding Obama’s legacy, you never brought up his biggest failure, the national debt. In just eight short years, he has taken us from $10 trillion to $20 trillion in debt. Democrats are like teenagers with daddy’s credit card, spending on whatever they want and never worrying about who has to pay the bill.
— Steven Cook,  Rancho Santa Margarita


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