February 23, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Letters to the Editor:

Good Evening from Alberta, Canada.

I am writing to you because I am the mother of an 18-year-old son, who would be absolutely devastated if Zephyr Skateboard Shop should be torn down.

Here’s the scoop. We have never been to Horizons West Surf Shop and Zephyr Skateboard Shop, but are planning a trip to Palm Springs in April 2007. One of the best parts of the trip will be surprising Dave with a stop at Zephyr Skate Shop.

I can’t tell you how many times we have had the discussion of being able to visit this historical landmark! This is one of those things that perhaps people can’t understand, because they are not skateboarders themselves. I read the article in your paper (online) and can’t agree more that this is a part of your tourism that should remain for many years to come.

I have talked to my son about the possible demolition of the building, and will leave it at that. I can hardly wait to see the look on his face when he is standing right outside Zephyr Skateboard Shop.

Please don’t tear the building down.


Janice Bell

Alberta, Canada

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Like wow. After years of complaining about traffic, homelessness, crime, the paucity of community gardens, overbuilding, the difficulty of working with and the frequent lack of accountability of city staff, the total homogenization of the Promenade, the citywide planning process, the failure to get much of a (or any) reaction when trying to contact councilors, and on and on (Kevin McKeown excepted on almost all counts), the Santa Monica voters again went for the good old standbys. Those with name recognition and, of course, money to send out glossy mailers. Many glossy mailers. Very glossy. So the good voters have returned to office some of those who allowed significant deteriorations in the quality of life to occur. After 16 years, for example, of doing little, Holbrook said in his campaign literature that he wanted one more year to deal with homelessness. He also believes he can preserve this “old beach town” (a favorite phrase, too, of the publisher of the Mirror), not admitting that it is long gone in no small part due to what he and his colleagues have and have not done. As for SMRR: while insisting they have done nothing but good for the city, they have in fact held control of the council during the quarter-century that it has diminished. So let’s see: who will take bets that 24 months from now Bloom, Genser and Katz will also win re-election, as will Shriver should he find another hedge issue to stir the blood. Come on fellow citizens. This is still a terrific place to live: let’s stop the losses. We can’t complain and then continue to return the same people to office year after year. Okay. I guess we can. But the challenge is in the moment. And that moment is in our hands.

Ron Di Costanzo

Santa Monica

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If health outcomes determined drug laws instead of cultural norms, marijuana would be legal. Unlike alcohol, marijuana has never been shown to cause an overdose death, nor does it share the addictive properties of tobacco. Marijuana can be harmful if abused, but jail cells are inappropriate as health interventions and ineffective as deterrents.

The first marijuana laws were enacted in response to Mexican migration during the early 1900s, despite opposition from the American Medical Association. Dire warnings that marijuana inspires homicidal rages have been counterproductive at best. White Americans did not even begin to smoke pot until a soon-to-be entrenched government bureaucracy began funding reefer madness propaganda.

By raiding voter-approved medical marijuana providers in California, the very same U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration that claims illicit drug use funds terrorism is forcing cancer and AIDS patients into the hands of street dealers. Apparently marijuana prohibition is more important than protecting the country from terrorism.


Robert Sharpe, MPA

Common Sense for Drug Policy

Washington, DC

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A Peace Plan For Iraq (and a way out for us)

Separation is needed to stop the killing.

After WWI, Britain, still an active colonial power, conducted a nation-building experiment, and the country of Iraq was the result. The purpose was to establish a puppet government and enable the British to exploit the vast oil reserves in the area. For almost ninety years the unstable mix of peoples in Iraq had been held together by force and terror on the part of the governing entity. With the removal of Hussein from power, the country of Iraq is in the midst of splitting apart into warring groups. Apparently, the process is inexorable and the result inevitable. Why not encourage this “cultural correction” to proceed in an orderly fashion and reduce bloodshed? To allow the civil war to fester and gain momentum unabated, “letting the cards fall where they may,” is simply condoning genocide.

Any solution for the insurrection and civil war occurring in Iraq will be realized by the Iraqis themselves. The following describes a plan for three viable regions or states, with economic incentive for the Sunnis. Perhaps many Iraqis would consider this plan because it respects boundaries that existed long before Western meddling in the region. Feedback from Iraq indicates this is the case.

There are three dominant, disparate groups: Shiite, Sunni and Kurd. These groups should be allowed to divide the country into three autonomous regions roughly corresponding to the long existing historical-cultural divisions reflected in the recent elections. Since Baghdad sits on the natural boundary (Tigris River) between the Shiite and Sunni regions it would be divided between the two groups. The traditional Sunni region would need to develop its own oil fields (there are vast reserves in western Iraq) and also receive oil revenue from the Shiite and Kurd regions in the interim. The Sunni portion of Iraq unfortunately doesn’t include any developed oil fields, and the Sunnis have lost the political control they had under Hussein. Understandably, most of the insurrectionists are Sunnis. Common sense tells us that if the Sunnis had their own self-governing region and significant income from oil, the majority of them would be satisfied, and incorrigible members of the group could be isolated.

The Sunnis rightfully feel excluded from representation and income. Extreme elements in the Sunni community have been seduced by the nihilist notion that fomenting sectarian strife and civil war will improve their position, (Sunni extremists are encouraged and supported in this destructive behavior by al-Qaeda and other imported and native terrorist groups who intend to take over Iraq after creating anarchy.) The U.S.-backed elections that gave the Shiites majority control highlighted the deep divisions in Iraqi society and fueled the Sunnis’ desperation and the sectarian violence that followed. However, after five hundred years of dominance and harassment by the Sunnis in the area now called Iraq, it is incredibly naïve to expect the Shiites to be magnanimous and share power equally with the minority Sunnis. Recent events have made it painfully obvious that many Sunnis will never accept a secondary position, which is their fate in a “unified” Iraq. But the tables have turned and now it is the Shiites who are dominating and harassing the Sunnis. Sunni leaders are complaining about Shiite death squads and are asking U.S. forces for protection.

Meanwhile the Kurds, being somewhat insulated from the insurrection and sectarian violence, are already well on their way to autonomy. They have made deals to sell oil independently of the central government and are unifying their own government in the north. The Kurds are a distinct people and don’t consider Kurdistan a part of Iraq. Their involvement in the Baghdad government, usually aligned with Sunni Arabs, is a way to counter growing Shiite dominance and also satisfy our demands. The Shiites and the Kurds are approaching an accommodation in which the Shiites concede control of Kirkuk to the Kurds and the Kurds support Shiite independence in the south. The Sunnis see themselves left out of the equation and need reassurance; one way is for the Shiites and Kurds to support an independent region for the Sunnis along with financial help in developing the oil fields in the west. A little good will could go a long way: “Where there is love there is life.” – Gandhi

Ideally, the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds could each choose leaders and convene constitutional conventions and form democratic regional governments under the auspices of the United Nations. The alternative would be reversion back to the Middle Eastern paradigm of despotic rule. Either way, with three separate entities there would be tremendous motivation for each group to succeed on its own terms rather than continue inter-group fighting. Also, physical separation itself would eliminate a great deal of the ongoing bloodletting (which is the purpose of this plan). The borders between the regions and the external borders with Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria would have to be protected through a plan devised with international input and cooperation. Each region could arrest or expel foreigners who lack proper I.D. since many hard-core terrorists are from neighboring countries and abroad (currently, insurrectionists and terrorists have freedom to travel anywhere in Iraq). Instead of the U.S. trying to pacify and force these three diverse cultures together, the Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites should be allowed to form their own separate states and conduct their lives without U.S. occupation. As Einstein once observed, “Peace cannot be kept by force.”

The hopes for a unified Iraq have been shattered. “Unity Government” is becoming an oxymoron. Three regions are not the ideal solution but they may be the only answer to quell the violence and allow us to get our people out of a hellish situation. By most criteria, the Kurds have already achieved independence but fear the repercussions of declaring it. They’ve always been our loyal supporters and are more than willing to sell us their oil. Being the least sectarian of the three groups, the Kurds might even form a democracy. Regardless, this is the last, best chance for a Kurdish homeland, the subject of Kurds’ yearning for 2,000 years. Obviously, the Kurds know this better than anyone else and are working diligently to achieve their goal. A correspondent in Kurdistan tells us the major stumbling blocks are the same things plaguing the rest of Iraq: out-of-control militias, greed and corruption and the stifling of political dissent. Reforming and integrating the militias into a single police force which respects the rights of minorities, dealing fairly with Arab Iraqis displaced by returning Kurds and equitably sharing the newfound oil wealth are now the keys for Kurdish statehood.

The Kurds may be our only friends in Iraq. We owe them our support in their quest for independence (which includes keeping Turkey and Iran at bay) if they demonstrate efficacy in building a just society. We can’t let them down again. If Rice’s recent ludicrous comments connecting the Kurds’ security to the Baghdad government (which can’t even secure Baghdad) is any indication, it appears that is just what we intend to do. Instead, we need to warn Turkey and Iran about the consequences of invading Kurdistan and put our military on the borders now; unless the lesson of Kuwait is already forgotten. This is an opportunity for the Bush Administration to do something right.

The Shiites and the Kurds each want self-rule; they have for centuries and they have already demarcated their regions. Wouldn’t allowing them the choice be democratic? The Sunnis want to return to their previous position of ruling a strong central government and being able to derive income from oil appropriated from the Shiite and Kurd regions. But that dream is evaporating and many Sunnis are beginning to realize that they will never again control the country of Iraq. They are probably at the point of understanding that their own autonomous region is the best that they can hope for, especially if an agreement can be reached with the Shiites and the Kurds to provide the Sunnis with a share of oil revenue until the Sunnis can develop their own fields. The Shiites and Kurds would be wise to accept that responsibility since all are suffering in this current chaos. The Chinese and the Baghdad government are rekindling a $1.2 billion deal to develop the al-Ahdab oil field in the southeast. Al-Anbar Province in the west probably contains the richest oil fields in Iraq. The question is whether the Iraqis can achieve development without further exploitation by the petrochemical cartels.

The bottom line is that we have to present and encourage a solution that reflects the cultural reality of Iraq. It appears we are doing the opposite. The Wilsonian idea of promoting freedom and democracy around the world, which Bush has adopted as a fallback position, has backfired in Iraq. The elections decreased the chances for democracy by exacerbating ancient sectarian differences and hatreds. Our efforts in Iraq are doing nothing but adding fuel to the fire of insurrection and civil war. Recently, our people have been given the impossible task of separating battling groups of Shiites and Sunnis which further detracts from our hapless efforts in quelling the insurrection. Iraq is not a melting pot ready for democracy but a volatile stew that our interference has stirred up. The ever-increasing sectarian violence has changed the situation from horrible to humanly unbearable. Iraq is approaching the point of critical mass and ready to explode into anarchy. Reasonable parties must realize that the greatest chance for a lasting peace will be when each group is given its own space, relief from violence and a viable economy. Three independent regions would seem to be the best answer.

Is this the best approach? Or is there another, better one? Ask the Iraqis! So far, we haven’t done that; probably because three autonomous regions or states would be seen as a failure by the Bush Administration in its nation-building experiment. The war in Iraq is dragging on in a desperate and doomed attempt by the Bush Administration to save face. We have yet to learn the lesson that democracy cannot be forced upon a people by a foreign power. Have we liberated the Iraqi people or opened Pandora’s Box as an occupier? The fact that 87 percent of Iraqis want a timetable for our withdrawal gives a pretty clear indication of the Iraqis’ view.

John Zogby (Zogby International) wants to get into Iraq again this year; perhaps the subject of separate regions will be included in his poll. Hopefully, if given the opportunity, the same high percentage of Iraqis will endorse a plan leading to the establishment of three independent states and the return of peace to the Cradle of Civilization. But this would require cooperation and help from America. Now is the time for members of Congress from both parties to develop some backbone, come together, confront the president and devise a solution. Sen. Joe Biden is promoting the three-region idea, which is a start. If some prominent anti-Iraq war Republicans such as Sen. Chuck Hagel and Rep. Ron Paul reached out to Biden and his fellow Democrats and to the Iraqi people, it would get the ball rolling. A new mantra is needed: “Let’s correct the course.”

Richard Parr

Santa Monica

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