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Week of November 19, 2003

Political Payback

Patronage costs us all: Matt Smith's column about politically connected Julie Lee's efforts to advance her son Andrew's career made for interesting reading ["Lee Way," Nov. 5]. I wonder how much of the state's $38 billion deficit is accounted for by useless political patronage jobs?

Richard Beleson
Russian Hill

Nice job, bub: The second paragraph in Smith's column about Andrew Lee was a remarkable feat of reporting. I'm in the public-affairs world after almost 30 years as a Chronicle editor, and love to see good writing anyplace. It's not rare on the sports pages, but is especially welcome when the subject is politics. Thanks to Smith for penning a good column.

Dave Hyams
Financial District

Dump the deadwood: Thanks for such a good rendition of what lurks behind the Chris Daly appointment brouhaha. I had no idea what all the fuss was about. Somebody needs to clean out the deadwood and replace it with a new set of values if S.F. is to return to its former glory.

Mari Eliza

Phil's spinning in his grave: As an official of the San Francisco Young Democrats back in the 1960s, I knew and supported Willie Brown. I was also a supporter of John Burton, his late brother, Phil, and George Moscone.

At that time these public officials did not take any money from corporate interests. We opposed the election of the late Joe Alioto because he was funded by developers and corporate interests. I'm sure that Phil Burton has been turning in his grave in view of how Willie Brown has performed as mayor.

Walter Ballin

Another noxious Willie legacy: The public career of Andrew Lee explains a lot about what's wrong with Willie Brown's style of politics and governance. I especially liked Smith's attack on "elevating process over product." What would he say about the current mayor's race -- that it's a case of packaging over ingredients?

Looking forward to more of his words.

Jason Born
Via Internet

A Routine Matter

Or is it?: Hey, Mecklin, where is the meat ["Rolling in War Bucks," Oct. 22]? What I read in your column about the state public employees retirement fund profiting from defense was an explanation of fairly common business arrangements, with an obliquely ominous tone, probably meant to frighten or enrage those who are unfamiliar with commerce. I think upsetting students, pensioners, and nonprofit workers is beneath you.

You do seem apologetic about it when you write that you are neither a "doe-eyed do-gooder" nor a "conspiratorialist." Come on, Mecklin, not all contractual agreements are evil.

You did make a logical fallacy. Carlyle II & III are investors in United Defense. United Defense is headquartered in Arlington, Va. They most likely domiciled Carlyle II & III in the Caymans to help allow foreign investors to invest, as it really does nothing for domestic U.S. investors. Presumably, you would not object to foreign direct investment in the U.S.?

Scott Olsen

John Mecklin responds: Because of the number of former political figures it has employed (including President Bush's father), the Carlyle Group is anything but a "fairly common" business enterprise. In fact, it is decidedly uncommon for public pension systems to purchase ownership in private equity houses whose other significant owners include the rulers of a foreign country (i.e., the Saudi royal family). And though many foreign investors seek to remain anonymous and evade U.S. taxation by organizing business entities in the Cayman Islands, I doubt it is common for public pension systems that have publicly opposed such secretive offshore arrangements to participate in them while acquiring control of a major U.S. defense contractor.

Smart People Can Be Sooo Dumb

But they still can be fun to date: I really enjoyed Nancy Einhart's piece on taking the Mensa test ["Brain Drain," Dog Bites, Nov. 5]. It brought back fond memories of when I took it more than 40 years ago.

At that time a beautiful English girl with a very upper-crust accent got up and asked, "What does one do if one doesn't understand the pictures?" She actually got in and I met her later and dated her once.

It so happens that I am the longest-serving Mensa member in the Bay Area and the 260th person to join Mensa in the U.S. If you qualify, you will find it well worth your while to join.

Ken Thomson
Bernal Heights


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