Letters to the Editor

LETTERS War powers, arming Ukraine, Brian Williams

President Barack Obama asked Congress on Wednesday to formally authorize war against the Islamic State, arguing the militants could pose a threat to the U.S. homeland if their violent power grab goes unchecked and urging lawmakers to show the world we are united in our resolve to counter the threat.
President Barack Obama asked Congress on Wednesday to formally authorize war against the Islamic State, arguing the militants could pose a threat to the U.S. homeland if their violent power grab goes unchecked and urging lawmakers to show the world we are united in our resolve to counter the threat. The Associated Press

Here we go again

Re “Obama asks new war power” (Page A1, Feb. 11): I was so in hopes President Barack Obama could not be baited, but it appears this latest murder by the Islamic State tipped his logic.

I would much prefer that we deter those who want to do a story on what’s happening in that part of the world, or those who feel they must volunteer their service to those suffering, from going near that area. Maybe it is the danger involved that makes it so inviting, I hope not. It isn’t just the life of those who go willingly to help but think of the lives lost if we enter the fight. Showing our strength by aggression against uncivilized people is not working. They do not fear death and know how to pull our strings.

Volunteering is fine, but let’s do it in our own country, for our own people. And to journalists, I say: No story is worth your life and the lives of those who strive to avenge it. America, please stay out of that part of this uncivilized part of the world.

Norma Loudenslager,

Citrus Heights

No weapons to Ukraine

Re “Western unity splinters over strategy in Ukraine” (Page A1, Feb. 9): In the Ukraine, the Obama administration is now reaping what it has sown. The Russian-backed separatist activity is a reaction to Obama’s audacious support a year ago of efforts that overthrew a duly elected government in Kiev and replaced it with a pro-Western regime.

Given the region’s historical ties and its geographic proximity to Russia, the reaction of Vladimir Putin’s government is predictably defensive against U.S.-backed NATO incursions since the fall of the old Soviet Union into Russia’s historic sphere of influence. For the U.S. to give weapons to Ukraine now is truly dumping gasoline onto the fire. Defense Department nominee Ashton Carter should keep his sabre-rattling rhetoric to himself, especially since the CIA is probably already funneling offensive weaponry there.

The unanticipated consequences of Obama’s support for the overthrow of the Kiev government may prove truly dreadful.

Gregory Ptucha, Sacramento

Living in ‘1984’

Re “Obama seeks alternatives to arming Ukraine” (Page A6, Feb. 10): Sanctions are the only plausible response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Along with the despotic horror story, George Orwell’s classic novel “1984” describes a world dominated by three nuclear-armed superstates: Oceania (America), Eurasia (Russia) and Eastasia (China). While they struggle for world hegemony, each superpower is impregnable within its natural sphere of influence.

Geographically, Ukraine is within Eurasia’s sphere. Russia has tolerated Ukraine’s independence but not its alliance with the West. Similar events occurred in Chile in 1973 and have been ongoing in Tibet. Future military actions are expected in Cuba after the Castros die, and Hong Kong, should the people there insist on democracy.

If we would stop this bloody procession, we must take actions to stop living in “1984.”

Gregg Matson, Elk Grove

Tobacco study a diversion

Re “California has low cigarette taxes, high smuggling, study says” (Capitol Alert, Feb. 9): Doctors are trained to look carefully and objectively at studies that claim to advance the public health.

The supposed study referenced in the article was issued by The Tax Foundation – closely affiliated with the infamous Koch brothers – and takes its talking points straight from the tobacco lobby.

The smuggling issue is a diversion intended to shift the debate away from proven and well-known public health consequences of tobacco products.

Nearly half a million Americans die of smoking-related diseases annually, and credible studies show that tobacco taxes are an effective deterrent for younger smokers and save lives.

The public should not be fooled into being more concerned about the phantom menace of cigarette smuggling than about the lives of real people.

Dr. Paul Phinney, Sacramento

Selective shaming of anchors

Re “NBC shares blame for Williams’ fall” (Editorial, Feb. 10): The editorial made many worthy points regarding the longtime anchor Brian Williams’ shaky memory of his time in Iraq. However, Williams’ case is significant not only as an example of one reporter’s failure to uphold journalistic standards, but also for the stark inconsistency it highlights in how the public treats disgraced national news media figures.

Remember CNN’s Fareed Zakaria? It is amazing that after anonymous bloggers Our Bad Media aired more than 20 instances of plagiarism by the celebrity pundit, Zakaria retains contracts at CNN, The Washington Post and Time magazine, among others. As the examples mounted last year, the wagons were circled. Brian Stelter of CNN dismissed the charges on air, reviews of Zakaria’s work were promised and annotations attached to some of his articles.

Surely if Williams’ gaffe merits this public flogging – gleefully carried at the top of the hour by CNN no less – we should apply the same standards to the serial plagiarist, Fareed Zakaria.

Loic Hostetter, Washington

Williams and déjà vu

Re “Brian Williams shreds his credibility with tall tale from Iraq” (Viewpoints, Feb. 9): Doug Elmets takes a swing at Brian Williams but conveniently forgets his former boss set the gold standard for fibs a generation ago.

As Salon pointed out recently, Ronald Reagan told Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in November 1983 during a White House visit that while serving in the U.S. Army film corps, his unit had shot footage of the Nazi concentration camps as they were liberated. He repeated the same tale to Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal and other witnesses.

Reagan had indeed served in the Army and worked on morale-boosting movies for the War Department. But he had done so without ever leaving Hollywood for the entire duration of the war.

Michael Kelly, Chico

Kryptonite and credibility

In the interest of full disclosure, I have no respect for Brian Williams as a newsman. I consider him simply an entertainer who happens to work in the TV news industry. But on reading Doug Elmets’ article on Williams shredding his credibility, I had to laugh, and not at Williams.

Elmets attempts to establish his own bona fides early on by telling us how he worked at the White House press office during the Reagan era, but then proceeds to shred his credibility when he describes Williams’ exaggerated story as: “telling a falsehood stripped away his Kryptonite – that badge of credibility and believability.”

Excuse me, Kryptonite is what again? Has Elmets never read a Superman comic book? So much for credibility.

Bill Child, Fair Oaks


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