Reader responses to stories about the Georgian government, USA Inc., and more
Georgia's Ministry of Justice would like to set the record straight on just a few of the multiple errors contained in your extremely one-sided article, "Trapped" (Features, Feb. 28-Mar. 6).
There was no entrapment in the bribery case of Rony Fuchs because there was no attempt to incite an offense—the definition of entrapment. Mr. Fuchs and his partner, Ze'ev Frenkiel, had a clear predisposition to pay bribes to Georgian government officials that long predated their Oct. 14, 2010, arrest.
In fact, Mr. Frenkiel first proposed an illegal $5 million bribe to Deputy Finance Minister Avtandil Kharaidze during a meeting with him at Georgia's Finance Ministry in Tbilisi on Sept. 1, 2010. This offer was repeated by Fuchs and Frenkiel at a Sept. 15 meeting with Kharaidze in Istanbul that was secretly videotaped for evidence. Mr. Fuchs repeatedly offered, cajoled, and bargained with Kharaidze over the size of the bribe (it was increased to $7 million) and described the method of payment. Fuchs and Frenkiel made the offer again at a restaurant in Batumi a month later, after which they were arrested.
We have never had direct contact with Mr. Fuchs about a plea bargain, and we have had only three conversations about this with his Washington-based attorney, Gregory Craig. Mr. Craig initiated all of those discussions.
Finally, the Council of Europe has evaluated the facility where Mr. Fuchs is incarcerated and found conditions there good. He has been given a private cell, receives the medicines he needs, is visited by a doctor daily, and is provided with a diet appropriate to his state of health. He is visited several times a week by a rabbi, Israel's ambassador, and other embassy officials. Suggestions that his treatment is less than exemplary are completely false.
Davit Sakvarelidze, First Deputy Chief Prosecutor of Georgia, Tbilisi, Georgia
Editor's Note: We reported that the Georgian government has accused Fuchs and Frenkiel of initiating discussion of a side deal or kickback. We also reported that Fuchs and Frenkiel deny this. During the meeting in Istanbul, it was Deputy Finance Minister Kharaidze who made the first reference to a kickback, as we noted. Fuchs then engaged in extended negotiations over the amount and payment method. Bloomberg Businessweek did not report, as the letter suggests, that the Georgian government had "direct contact with Mr. Fuchs about a plea bargain."
USA Inc.: Shareholders Speak
After reading the outstanding article by Mary Meeker ("USA Inc.: Red, White, and Very Blue," Features, Feb. 28-Mar. 6), I was left with both optimism and frustration. The article was the best yet in describing the grave financial problems faced by the U.S., identifying root causes and suggesting meaningful, realistic solutions. I am optimistic that we can indeed regain our fiscal health.
However, my frustration lies in the belief that we have become a lazy, selfish nation, no longer willing to make personal sacrifices for the benefit of all. Our will to stand up and fight on behalf of all our fellow citizens is slowly being strangled by a political leadership that is void of vision and courage and will only respond to financial contributions and the fear of losing the next election. The health and success of our country comes in a distant third.
I am confident, though, that Americans can overcome these obstacles. As the article points out, if the severity of our financial problems is communicated clearly, consistently, and often, the majority will respond. But will it be too late?
Robert R. Chasse, Apex, N.C.
I believe "USA Inc." is your most important article in years. It clearly states the conversation USA Inc. must have with itself. As a shareholder, I demand truthful conversation between the shareholders as owners and Congress as managers.
Ms. Meeker states unequivocally that we have a spending problem. She is right, because as the public well knows, we have passed the inflection point of Arthur Laffer's curve and are firmly on the too-much-taxes side.
I would dearly like to see a follow-up article where you get responses from the likes of such important players in this game as: President Obama; House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid; Governors Jerry Brown, Chris Christie, Andrew Cuomo, Mitch Daniels, Scott Walker, and Rick Perry; General Electric (GE) Chairman Jeffrey Immelt; Representative Paul Ryan; and the aforementioned Laffer. You can throw in a few union presidents if you want, but I won't expect much useful from them.
John MacDonald, San Ramon, Calif.
Mary Meeker mentions "... offloading expenses from the government onto the citizens doesn't constitute a solution ..." which is right on target. But Congress's and state legislatures' offloading the expense onto providers through fee reductions (when Medicare and Medicaid fees are historically below market) is not a solution either. That simply says we want all the same (and often unnecessary) care for all the beneficiaries for less money. The solution is making the tough decisions to get undeserving recipients off the entitlement rolls, eliminating the wastes, including 28 percent of Medicare expenditures in the last 12 months of life, etc. Once the real cost is under control, it should be shared by all and not a few taxpayers such as health-care providers. Perhaps a well respected speaker and analyst (like Mary Meeker) could broadcast that message, as it is only heard as a self-serving comment when spoken by a provider like me.
Anthony P. Johnson, M.D., President and Managing Partner, Jervey Eye Group, Greenville, S.C.
I was very disappointed that there was no discussion about taming spending on that bloated elephant we call defense.
Bruce Hansen, Ravendale, Calif.
Where the Cloud Thins Out
I enjoyed reading Ashlee Vance's "The Power of the Cloud" (Features, Mar. 7-Mar. 13). In my long career in high tech, cloud computing has been named a variety of things. But now it is definitely bigger, badder, and an important force in business. However, I think the article oversells cloud computing in some critical areas, and I wish the aspect of risk had been covered.
In cloud computing's past incarnations, getting to the cloud has sometimes been a challenge. It is the weakest link in the chain. In today's cloud computing model, the Internet is the communications channel. The Net can be irritatingly slow and is subject to spiky overload from unpredictable sources, including bad guys performing denial-of-service attacks or perhaps a debilitating electromagnetic pulse from a solar burst.
Companies and individuals that contemplate using software as a service should evaluate in what way each of their applications is critical to the mission. For each application one needs to determine what would happen if it were not available for a minute, an hour, a day, a week, or a month. Candidate applications can then be moved to the cloud after the risk is mitigated, perhaps by buying more expensive diverse and redundant Internet pathways. In the end, it is pretty certain that the number of applications ultimately moved to the cloud is not 100 percent.
Victor Dolcourt, Sunnyvale, Calif.