EDITOR: The four-month delay in congressional appropriations and the concomitant uncertainties about the defense budget put our national security at risk. We are at war. Your Army is downsizing by 15 percent, yet it already has a $6 billion operating-accounts shortfall, which, if sequestration triggers, would make the total shortfall $17 billion for fiscal year 2013. Sequestration would bring significant further reductions in strength.
Your Army needs multi-year budget predictability to balance strength, modernization and readiness and to avoid the "hollow force" of the post Vietnam years. We ask that your readers join us in urging Congress to remove the fiscal uncertainty, avoid sequestration and give our armed forces the funding that is needed to defend our cherished freedoms.
THOMAS A. SWIDLER
President, San Francisco chapter, Association of the U.S. Army
Cutting trees for safety
EDITOR: Trees should only be removed when necessity demands. Protecting public safety is a good reason, e.g. preventing wildland fires. As the former director of emergency services for Marin County, I learned that trees hitting power lines are a common way that forest fires begin. Fires damage the ecosystem and homes, kill people and animals and increase flooding and erosion. Beyond that, power outages from fires are disruptive, costly and even life-threatening for some people.
Given that we are dependent on a reliable energy system, and at risk of forest fires, it is time to recognize that PG&E needs to remove trees that interfere with transmission lines ("County asks PG&E to avoid tree removal," Monday). The new federal guidelines demand it — charging a $1 million a day fine if power companies don't comply. Common sense and protecting the public, local economy and environment requires it.
We heap criticism on PG&E if it fails to do what is in the public interest; now is the time to let PG&E move forward with this necessary, vital tree removal so that our community is not at risk or facing a far more potentially destructive outcome.
CYNTHIA L. MURRAY
President, North Bay Leadership Council
Ruining court records
EDITOR: The authors of the Sacramento Bee editorial regarding court reporters ("State courts must enter the electronic age," Monday) don't have a clue. I've been a trial lawyer for more than 40 years. Personal experience tells me that the "electronic age" (digital recorders) is not an answer.
Court reporters were laid off to save money, but it does not follow that replacing them with cheaper tape recorders is wise policy. Recording testimony is only half of the trial record. The other half is transcription, needed to produce a written record for appeals.
There is no electronic device that records testimony and spits out an accurate transcript; only a human can do that. Transcribers can listen to court tapes and type testimony, but their product is full of error. They are never sure who is talking, and they weren't at trial. Reporters own their notes because only they can "read" them since each reporter uses different strokes for different words.
It is irrelevant that appellate courts use only electronic recording. They don't take testimony, and they decide cases upon the content of written briefs, not oral proceedings.
This is a crazy idea that will ruin the reliability of court records.
GREGORY E. STUBBS