Re: Howard Blume's "Who Poisoned the Well?" [February 1218]. If we are to learn from the Belmont Learning Complex fiasco, we can't afford to skip over more recent history even as we review the "original sin" of purchasing contaminated land without following regular testing procedures. When I was appointed to the Proposition BB Blue Ribbon Oversight Committee in April 1997, I knew virtually nothing about the proposed Belmont Learning Center or the site. After a quick introduction to the facts, a review of public documents, and discussions with key staff persons and their attorneys, I urged my colleagues on the committee to oppose using Proposition BB funds for Belmont. I wrote on May 19, 1997, "I continue to be concerned about the site and the fact that virtually any significant site-related cost overruns, such as toxics and undiscovered oil wells and contamination, will have to be covered by the LAUSD . . . There is considerable financial risk to this project."
For these and other reasons, the Blue Ribbon Committee voted to oppose using BB funds for Belmont. Then, in an amazing act of hubris, the school board that in April had voted 4 to 3 to proceed with Belmont chose to ignore our concerns and voted -- again by a 4-to-3 margin -- to proceed, this time using Certificates of Participation instead of BB funds. These votes cannot be excused as having been cast without full knowledge of the risks, as was the original vote to purchase the land.
Perhaps the tens of millions of dollars wasted on Belmont will buy the public some assurance that from this point on the Los Angeles Unified School District will better manage the more than $6 billion in tax funding it receives each year.
Re: "With Friends Like These" [February 1218]. Harold Meyerson has reminded us one more time that, for the American left, this whole Monicagate affair was not about law or morality, but about politics. And Chris Hitchens committed the only remaining definable sin in the left's eyes: He broke ranks.
What was Hitchens supposed to do? It's one thing for the Clinton camp's habit of dealing with "bimbo eruptions" by lashing out at his accusers to be an open secret, but it's quite another for Sidney Blumenthal to lie about it under oath. And as casual as some would like us to be about such things when it suits us politically, the fact is Hitchens had evidence, testimony, that contradicted Blumenthal's, and the investigators came calling. This was not a reporter working on a story, and journalists should not have carte blanche to switch from reporter to citizen as it suits their own ends. Should Hitchens have lied and said he knew nothing, just another privileged journalist-insider who knows what's really going on but chooses to parcel out that truth to suit his own agenda? That would seem to pass Meyerson's loyalty test, a low moral threshold to be sure.
So Hitchens the apostate is in for one more round of invective, a last public purging, as it were, of all those who dared criticize the king. But in standing up to call Sid Blumenthal a liar, Hitchens was echoing the much-discussed "wisdom of the American people," though Clinton's apologists have conveniently avoided the subject of their verdict on his character, even as they avoid his and the Democrats' opposition to the clear will of the people when it comes to prayer in schools, the dismantling of affirmative action, bans on partial-birth abortions and a host of other public-policy issues -- all supported by the public in numbers equal to Clinton's "job approval" rating.
There are, it seems, lies, damn lies, statistics . . . and politics. Perhaps Mr. Meyerson should return to the irrelevant minutiae of state Democratic politics and leave moral discussions to those familiar with its terms.
I first read Hitchens during the Gulf War, and was impressed by his integrity as a journalist during that sad, disgraceful period of our history. But in recent years Hitchens has left me wondering what unfinished business his psyche contains that causes him to attack 1) Mother Teresa, 2) the Dalai Lama and now 3) a personal friend. He seems to be under the delusion that his particular version of morality supersedes any other, and is currently choosing targets that hardly deserve the harsh language with which he thrashes and trashes them -- especially considering how many really deserving villains he could be targeting. Hitch, get a grip! I'm sorry if you had some traumatic encounter with â religious zealots in the past -- many of us have -- but get over it, okay?
In David Chute's article "Greed Is Good: A Masterpiece Restored" [February 511], there is a factual error about the still photographs from Greed in our library. The material discussed was not donated by the estate of Erich von Stroheim. In fact, it was donated by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1978 and is part of the MGM Collection.
Also, there is a reference to The Complete "Greed" (Arno Press, 1972), which reconstructs the film with still photographs. The author is Herman G. Weinberg, not William K. Everson, as stated in the article. A copy of this book resides in the Academy Library.