DEAR EDITOR:Many thanks to the Weekly for your continuing coverage of the campaign to pass a Free Burma ordinance with the city of Los Angeles. Your sharp look at the issues is always welcome. However, concerning Councilman Nate Holden, let's give credit where credit is due.
Alex Katz, in "Holden Discovers Burma" [September 4-10], infers that Holden's views on Burma have been influenced by the fact that ARCO has been a "generous contributor" to his campaigns. The reality is that virtually every member of the City Council receives the maximum $500 contribution each election cycle from the company. Councilman Holden has long been a supporter of human rights, and was a powerful advocate for strengthening L.A.'s original South Africa ordinance. He has been lobbied heavily by supporters of the military regime, supporters like UNOCAL and USA Engage, and has nevertheless come out on the right side of the issue. For that, we should be grateful.
-Jocelyn SeagraveLos Angeles
DEAR EDITOR:I would like to thank you for your excellent coverage of the campaign to pass a Free Burma law in the city of Los Angeles. However, I would like to call attention to a statement made by one of ARCO's PR spokespeople that went unchallenged in the article. ARCO's Al Greenstein insists that the company's recent withdrawal from Burma had nothing to do with human rights, but was based purely on economics.
The Free Burma Coalition has successfully pressured dozens of corporations to withdraw from Burma. Few, however, will ever admit that they are responding to public pressure; they instead fall back on "economic reasons." The bottom line is that because of the organizing efforts of the Free Burma Coalition at Occidental College, college president and ARCO board member John Slaughter took a public position against ARCO's project in Burma. ARCO has been the target of frequent demonstrations at its headquarters and gas stations, and has been attacked in giant banners held over L.A.-area freeways. ARCO shareholders have constantly had to deal with opposition to the company's Burma project at their annual meetings.
If corporations like ARCO started acknowledging that principled, organized grassroots campaigns can actually make an impact, then more people might begin to get involved in efforts to demand corporate responsibility. But we can't have that, can we, Mr. Greenstein?
-Brian Neil RudigerLos Angeles
DEAR EDITOR:I was bothered by the tone Marc Haefele took in his most recent coverage on the war over the Ballona Wetlands ["Trust Busters," September 4-10]. There tends to be a pervasive attitude in mainstream circles regarding environmentalists: They're silly and bothersome, and even if their cause is just, their arguments had also better be perfect. One false move - however that may be construed - and the critics fly in like vultures.
No one intent on saving Ballona from destruction is out to deceive anyone. Why is it so necessary to undermine the work, most of it volunteer, of people who want to maintain a certain quality of life for themselves and others? And to suggest that some "big lie" is undermining 25 years of environmental activism is at best cynical and naive, at worst suggestive of alliances with the myopic and destructive forces of the corporate world.
DEAR EDITOR:Marc Haefele is becoming a major embarrassment to the Weekly in his role as cheerleader for the Playa Vista development boondoggle. The distortions of fact, seemingly deliberate omissions, inaccuracies and interpretive contortions that his position has forced him into make his editorials on this subject resemble the vitriolic smear piece the L.A. Times recently ran attacking the growing movement to save Ballona.
Thanks to the Chandler family's investments, the Times has major stakes in real estate development plans from Dana Point to Ventura. The Times will never, therefore, look into the Playa Vista developers' $2 million in contributions to elected officials, nor into the sweetheart development deal with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, nor into the fraud of a "freshwater marsh" that will host no aquatic life and has drawn serious opposition from the developer's own biologists. It is clear why the Times will never risk delving into what makes Playa Vista run, and why the newspaper must attack and disparage the movement to preserve this land.
What's the Weekly's excuse?
-Marcia HanscomExecutive Director, Wetlands Action Network Chair,Wetlands Committee, Sierra Club California
DEAR EDITOR:When I was in the fourth or fifth grade, I walked a mile and a half home from school every day. And every day I would have to walk past a house that kept a large dog of indeterminate breed in the front yard. Every day, even if I crossed to the opposite side of the street, that dog would howl bloody murder at the sight of me, running across the yard and hurling its body at the fence, barking its head off. Its eyes didn't track, it stayed pretty much in one spot - it just wanted a reason to bark.
I think of that dog every time I read what Marc B. Haefele has to say about Playa Vista and the environmental community's opposition to this giant development scheme from hell. Why the Weekly will not or cannot rein in its idiot pit bull on this issue, I no longer even care to guess. But please at least remain cognizant of the city's leash laws and be sure you never walk him without a scooper and a trash bag (extra-large).
-Andrew ChristieSierra Club Ballona Wetlands Task ForceSanta Monica
MURDER, THEY WROTE
DEAR EDITOR:As authors of Death in Paradise: An Illustrated History of the Los Angeles Department of Coroner, we were amused by Steven Mikulan's blatantly vindictive and generally absurd book review [August 28-September 3]. Amused because although we had unprecedented access to coroner files, including autopsy and police reports, correspondence and newspaper clippings, Mikulan asserts that we somehow got scores of dates wrong. (Well, okay. You know that 300 B.C. date for the development of medical science in Alexandria? We may be a year or two off there.)
It was especially shameful for Mikulan to criticize us for listing the address and phone number for the Skeletons in the Closet gift shop, which provides proceeds for numerous L.A. coroner programs such as the Visiting Physician Scholar Program and the Youthful Drunk Driver Visitation Program. Still, that's his prerogative. So, apparently, is totally ignoring Death in Paradise's emphasis on forensic science, often pioneered by the LAC. And we're terribly sorry we didn't include his favorite deaths, or cite his favorite books. Finally, as for those "few unshocking archive photos" - which actually occupy dozens of pages and include everything from the 1910 bombing of the L.A. Times building to a magnification shot from the groundbreaking scanning electron microscope - it seems they were just not lurid enough for Mikulan.
We don't really care whether he likes our prose style or the pictures we've chosen. But Mikulan's vitriolic piece denigrates the archivists, researchers and cited authors who contributed to our pop-culture exploration of fame, forensic science and the crucial services provided by the Coroner's Office. Where's his hometown pride?
-Brad Schreiber and Tony BlancheLos Angeles