Security worth less freedom from spying

To paraphrase Ben Franklin, those who surrender freedom for security deserve neither. One wonders if Mr. Franklin would sit idly by as medieval death cultists, who couldn't conceive of how to create the Internet, use its capabilities to coordinate feckless mayhem.

The NSA surveillance mission is carried out for the purpose of saving lives; the alternative is that we accept an annual death count as a small price to pay for unfettered privacy. Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning aren't heroes; they're a pair self-aggrandizing Peter Pans with a liberal inculcated worldview; the kind in which the USA is the biggest threat to human rights. I hope they're prosecuted to the full extent of the law. With due respect to Benjamin Franklin -- we deserve intelligent, constitutionally restrained, meta data type surveillance that coexists with the Bill of Rights.

David Fore

San Ramon

The wrong way to say, 'thanks'

Once again, as we see from the Times' June 29 front page that no good deed goes unrewarded. For years, many of us have been exposed to the incompetents that manage EBMUD and their idiocy of passing on price increases because we are conserving too much water. Now we see another government entity, the state Board of Equalization, doing the same thing with gas taxes.


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Again, we have succeeded in creating an outcome we are told is our goal as conscientious consumers -- to use less gas -- and in doing so we are penalized with higher taxes. Am I the only one who thinks the inmates are loose and running the asylum? We have allowed ourselves to be fooled by our representatives in Sacramento, who are patting themselves on the back for creating a surplus (ironically it's on our backs with increased taxes), which in reality is not a surplus at all based on the incredible debt and obligations the state has that are not anywhere near being met. It's a sick joke, and the politicians are laughing at us. Our state government, just like that "fool's project" about to be started in the Central Valley, is a train to nowhere, and, like it or not, we are all aboard for the ride into insolvency. Is there anyone out there who has the guts to stand up and say, "Enough is enough."?

Charlie Brenner

Alamo

Airtankers needed -- now!

The recent deaths of 19 brave wildland firefighters near Prescott, Ariz., are directly attributable to mismanagement of the aerial firefighting program by the U.S. Forest Service.

Within the past few years, the USFS has whittled down the number of airtankers from 34 to roughly 10. As a result, ground firefighters are forced to enter remote and hostile terrain where a single puff of wind can spell disaster in every valley or gulch. Fortunately, the government of California has better foresight and runs its own airtanker program, which saves lives, land and homes. It is well past time for the federal officials to step up and redeploy a significant aerial firefighting capacity before more large fires ravage the western U.S. and kill some of our best young citizens.

Bob Fish

Danville

Break BART's union for the common good

I believe BART employees should not strike. We recall when Reagan fired all the air traffic controllers, along with the dissolution of their union, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization. That worked well and there has been no recurrence since.

Why can't BART management start training new candidates to possibly replace current strikers? Tens of thousands would love to work for BART's current wages and benefits. Put the down time, while union members are crippling our mass transit and economy, to good use. Train new people. When that is done, fire the current employees. BART employees and their union, are holding the commuters in the Bay Area hostage. Their greed has put us in a state of emergency. They need to open their eyes and realize the fairness of the present wage and benefits offer. If they cannot do that, they no longer deserve the title of public employee.

Doug Van Emmerik

Dublin

We can all cut AC use back

Since my wife bought our east Dublin home in 2000, we have used a simple method to beat the summer heat ignored by too many today: we use an indoor-outdoor thermometer to determine when to open and close our upstairs windows.

We hardly ever use our air conditioner (eight kilowatts!) more than an hour or so a summer (to test our system). Summer overnight lows near 60 degrees Fahrenheit keep our home cool. Even in a three-day heat wave with little overnight wind, the only extra step is to use our attic fans at the right time (less than one-eighth the energy of our air conditioner).

The key: use high overnight temperature differentials for cooling. A bonus: we have not spent a dollar on air conditioner maintenance or repair in 13-plus years. People a few miles west of us (cooler) won't need to be as careful as we are and people a few miles east of us still may want to use their air conditioners a little anyway.

Hugh H. Sprunt

Dublin

Clergy believing in same-sex marriage? I do!

The defeat of the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 are victories for religion and for American families. On the day that the Supreme Court decisions were released, I gathered with more than 100 fellow clergy on the steps of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. We stood together with a single message: couples in our churches, synagogues and temples have too long been denied the rights they deserve.

This has been an outrage not only for those families, but also for the free exercise of faith in this country. Many of our religions support and recognize the right of same-gender people to join together in marriage. By denying clergy the right to officiate such ceremonies, the state impedes the free exercise of religion -- not any longer, at least in California.

Last weekend I was to perform a wedding for two young women, one of whom grew up in my church. They are a wonderful, loving couple and deserve to have their family recognized. It will be a joyful honor to hear them say, "I do," without the state replying, "No, you don't."

Rev. Lucas Hergert

Livermore minister, Unitarian Universalist Church