I remember a time when I, as a Democratic firebrand, could sit down with a Republican demagogue and have a civil conversation. We might even have had it over a friendly drink or meal. To remember those days now, however, tasks the limits of my memory.

I do recall having a very good friend who worked for the man considered by many, until George W. Bush came along, to be the worst president ever, that man being Richard Nixon. She and I would argue for hours over the merits of our respective parties, even though I was working for George McGovern at the time. Yet we would still part friends. Now I don’t know if this kind of amicable relationship can be had anymore.

President Obama has done all he can to reach out to Republicans but has repeatedly been met with rebuffs of the tersest and personal kind. When he chose Judge Sotomayor to be the next Supreme Court Justice, their party talked and voted in lockstep against her nomination. Not one Republican Senator supported her.

When President Obama wanted to talk to Republicans about much-needed health care reform, they unleashed angry mobs at town hall meetings that were clearly meant to obscure the issues. Senator Jim DeMint and the disgraced Newt Gingrich even said that the issue could be his “Waterloo,” saying that they could finally “break” him and beat him at something, anything, regardless of what it meant to the America people.

Now, they have played their most ridiculous card as of yet. They are asserting that President Obama is out to brainwash kids by talking directly to them about the benefits of staying in school. Republicans seem to think that encouraging kids to get an education is a bad thing; and from some of their rhetoric lately, I can see that many of the current party members are lacking in this area.

Honestly, though, I do not think that Republicans are anti-education, but I do think they have left behind the needs and wants of their own people so the party can achieve a not-so-subtle agenda.

That agenda is to “get Obama” at any cost.

John Darling, Ventura

GOP lies to “Kill the Bill”
President Obama spoke to a joint session of Congress regarding health care and insurance reform. While the debate has been robust and ongoing, there have been many myths and lies incorporated with the debate so as to destroy and “Kill the Bill.” Congressional Republicans and Congressman Elton Gallegly (R, Simi Valley) have all but been leading the fight to end health care and insurance reform.

Gallegly’s false claim on his Web site that Obama and HR 3200 are cutting Medicare benefits to seniors to pay for the health care reform is false. Still, it does not stop Gallegly from repeating such, ad infinitum.

The truth is that the pending House bill, HR 3200, extracts $500 billion from projected Medicare spending over more than 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Such extractions are not found in payments to physicians, rather they are found in trimming projected increases in Medicare payments for medical services and added increases such as, physicians payments, ultimately will bring savings down to less than half that amount.

The truth is that none of the predicted savings and/or cuts comes from reducing current or future benefits for seniors. AARP has said: “None of the healthcare reform proposals being considered by Congress would cut Medicare benefits or increase your out-of-pocket costs for Medicare services.” AARP is a seniors advocate group

Gallegly’s lies on health care and insurance reform need to stop, and work on reform needs to start.

Christopher J. Grant, Ojai

Torture to save lives
Since you did not directly respond to my question regarding torture to save a loved one, I must conclude that you would not do so and would allow the terrorists to brutally murder your loved one and broadcast it to the world.

Your actual response was (Letters, 9/10) — “It has been proven that people will say anything to stop the torture.” Yes, that’s correct, and it includes telling the truth. In the situation presented in my previous letter, whether the person told the truth or not would be almost immediately determined.

I highly recommend the following book— Torture: When the Unthinkable is Morally Permissible by Mirko Bagaric and Julie Clarke (2007). It’s only 114 pages. It is available from interlibrary loan, which is much preferable to the price (even from Amazon.com).

Robert S. Kennedy Jr., Camarillo

How to pay off the national debt
It’s all the rage these days to sell public assets to pay off government debt. We mustn’t default, after all. We just hate to see our national parks, public roads, energy grids, water, hospitals and schools being sold to robber barons. Do we have anything to sell that the majority of Americans wouldn’t mind parting with?

What about all that Pentagon real estate owned by U.S. taxpayers? More than 1,000 military bases worldwide. That real estate must be worth a fortune. Given the worldwide inflation of real estate values, created by the central banks, it must be worth trillions. We could close our worldwide military bases and sell that real estate to the locals, who would probably jump at the chance to get rid of a foreign occupying army. We could ask the buyers to pay for the land with worthless Federal Reserve notes. That would solve their problem of how to get rid of their worthless U.S. dollars and simultaneously give Americans a sufficient amount of worthless dollars to pay back the Federal Reserve for the national debt they created with worthless Federal Reserve notes. Without those military bases we couldn’t have wars and we should be able to drastically reduce the Pentagon budget, saving even more money and lives! Just think of it … close to $1 trillion every year being sucked up by the Pentagon would be liberated for health care, education, infrastructure and a peacetime economy. We could even get rid of the Pentagon all together. After all, we lived quite comfortably without it for 170 years.

While we’re at it, we could sell off those secret CIA torture prisons; close all those military labs that make chemical and biological weapons and the pharmaceutical labs that create deadly vaccines. This would free up enough cash to save our hospitals, schools and national parks with money left over to clean up all the depleted uranium sites contaminating 39 of our states.

We could get rid of the domestic surveillance apparatus and stop outsourcing intelligence gathering to private “security” firms, cancel the contracts with mercenaries and assassins, stop funding military recruiters in our schools and stop paying for coups in countries where people would rather elect their own leaders. That would save a fortune. Selling off the whole covert operations apparatus would have the double advantage of fetching a good price and freeing other people to live their lives in peace.

If we wanted to permanently flourish, we could get rid of the Federal Reserve and restore the function of money creation to the public — constitutional money backed by the full faith and credit of U.S. citizens. A new monetary system owned and controlled by the public would ensure that credit is always available to cities and states, schools, hospitals, small businesses and homeowners. We wouldn’t have to sell off the public assets we value because we wouldn’t have any government debt. Problem solved.

The public has plenty of toxic assets to sell. Wall Street hasn’t cornered that market. I wonder why Obama hasn’t thought of this himself. Perhaps the $900,000 in “campaign contributions” from Goldman Sachs is clouding his vision, or perhaps the advice he gets from the privately owned Federal Reserve is self-serving. Perhaps the corporate CEOs that rake in billions from public despair have his ear, or perhaps the beneficiaries of Pentagon wars have convinced him that killing people in Afghanistan and Iraq will bring greater returns than selling off the toxic assets Americans really don’t want.

Paying off the national debt is a no-brainer when you have a conscience.

Nikki Alexander, Ventura