THE CHATTERING DEAD
Alec Hanley Bemis' “Is Rock Criticism Dead? Maybe” [June 14-20] is brilliant, well-timed, and helps position the L.A. Weekly as one of the most sage, cogent Zeitgeist watchers around.
Without “positive reinforcement” from honest, perceptive critics, it's musicians themselves who are going to suffer the most. The days of a unified discourse are over — today music is too fragmented — but I wouldn't abandon all hope about the Net. Music nowadays occupies a whole different space, and fulfills a different function, in people's lives, when compared to the '60s.
The last thing we needed was another piece celebrating the wild rock & roll exploits of Richard Meltzer. He is one of our finest writers period, and yet he keeps getting pigeonholed as some sort of badass rock critic. He hasn't been a rock critic for about 30 fucking years! Why no mention of Meltzer's recent “Autumn Rhythm,” a funny, beautiful and knockout of a piece about growing old?
Still, it's always good to see him in the spotlight.
Alec Hanley Bemis' cover story contains a number of minor factual errors, most of which I can live with without wincing, but one major one calls for comment. His remark that “Meltzer frequently received death threats from female readers of his column in the L.A. Reader . . . outraged by his perceived lack of feminist sensibility” is patently ridiculous. The only death threats I got while at the Reader (or, for that matter, ever) were from fire-and-brimstone Christians pissed at my two-part response to a right-wing born-again screed that had appeared in a local slick. What makes this passage particularly irksome, sequenced as it is with some admittedly sexist bullcrap I'd written a full decade before, is the fact that one of my primary goals at that particular nexus was the overcoming of such bullcrap. Several of my Reader columns from that period were given over quite specifically to the dismantling of any lingering macho sensibility on my part.
As Casey Stengel used to say, you could look it up.
I am delighted by Alec Hanley Bemis' passionate writing about rock criticism and Richard Meltzer and myself. No argument there, but I would like to correct a tiny error. My new book of essays about rock in the '90s is called Back to the Miracle Factory, not Return to the Miracle Factory.
THE SPINNER SPUN
Re: “To Protect and To Spin” [June 14-20]. It is revealing that David Corn is so skeptical of Mike Ruppert while taking so little of the official story to task. After all that has happened since 9/11, this is not intellectually defensible, especially for someone who considers himself to be a serious journalist with long-standing connections in the “national-security community.” Corn dwells too much on the messenger. Whatever one believes about Ruppert personally, his analysis still raises questions that demand further investigation, in public. If a real investigation took place, Ruppert's claims could be scrutinized, and who is a kook and who is on to something would come out in full view.
Brooklyn, New York
We live in a culture that routinely dismisses and derides “conspiracy theorists.” Why, one wonders, does Mr. Corn feels so compelled to expose them for being exactly that? By continuing to point the spotlight at Mr. Ruppert, Mr. Corn only gives him wider exposure, and by railing against him as if it mattered, he only energizes Mr. Ruppert's paranoid but cunning suggestion that David Corn has ties to the CIA.
In any case, I think both David Corn and the L.A. Weekly missed an opportunity to explore a larger and more interesting story, which is why so many people crave the kind of information Michael Ruppert delivers. Mr. Ruppert may indeed be out to lunch, but people are interested in what he has to say because they know they aren't getting the truth from more mainstream sources. Instead of debunking the fringe, Mr. Corn might be better employed challenging the official “spin.”
I would like to know why Mr. Corn is so juiced up by such a crackpot theory. Ruppert has had it tough. Now he has found a way to make some money and have some social interaction. Let him. We seem to forget that we listen to a guy like Ruppert for the same reasons we read a spy novel — pure entertainment.
In his demeaning article on Michael Ruppert, I can see why David Corn gets accused of being a disinformation specialist. At the very least, his own work is shallow and serves his own prejudices, clearly stating his skepticism as to whether the Bush administration would “allow the murder of thousands of Americans to achieve a political or economic aim.” Many would find this a plausible characterization of the Vietnam military policy of two former administrations.
Corn also disbelieves that “any government agency could execute a plot requiring the coordination of the FBI, CIA, INS, FAA, NTSB, Pentagon . . . ” yet seems to forget that his own theory of the events of 9/11 (the one we’ve been handed) is that of a conspiracy that didn’t require the coordination of these agencies. Why should American complicity require it.
I have just returned from a lecture tour in Canada and read your amusing and tragic story about me. Previous discussions with your editor Allan Mittelstaedt regarding admittedly false statements the Weekly made in a previous article that I had been fired from the LAPD revealed that I would only be permitted a small space, even then, to reply to negative stories written about me and my body of work. Knowing that I will have to be brief here or else be “edited” I think it most important to respond to the very last assertion of David Corn’s meritless hit piece on me. The reason for that is because it is his statement implying that there will be no trans-Afghani pipelines which demonstrates the harm and the disservice that both Corn and the Weekly do to their readers by hiding other significant facts about the attacks of September 11 from readers whom you are obligated to serve with the truth.
By citing one story saying that Unocal had no interest in building the pipeline, post 9-11, Corn deliberately misled your readers by implying that no pipeline is going to be built at all. In fact a pipeline is going to be built, and Unocal is not completely out of the picture. Regardless of what company builds the pipeline (perhaps Halliburton, perhaps a revived Enron, perhaps Bridas), the major oil companies will still finally get the oil and gas out of Central Asia that they have craved for more than a decade. All of my research has been focused on what the major oil companies and financial markets need, not Unocal.
Consider these stories which Mr. Corn hid from your readers:
1) “Karzai to discuss pipeline with Turkmenistan, Pakistan” — Reuters, 5/12/02;
2) “KABUL, May 12 (Reuters) — Afghan interim ruler Hamid Karzai will hold talks with his Pakistani and Turkmenistan counterparts later this month about plans for a pipeline through his country to export Turkmenistan's rich oil and gas reserves to the Indian sub-continent, an Afghan minister said on Sunday . . .
“[Turkmenistan Minister] Razim said UNOCAL was the “lead company” among those that would build the pipeline, which is aimed at injecting 30 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas annually to Pakistan and beyond it through southern Afghanistan . . .
“‘The work on the project will start after an agreement is expected to be struck at the coming summit,’ Razim said.”
3) Or this one by the BBC:
“Thursday, 30 May, 2002, — Afghan pipeline given go-ahead”
” . . . The leaders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkmenistan have agreed to construct a $2bn pipeline to bring gas from Central Asia to the sub-continent . . .
“The project was abandoned in 1998 when a consortium led by US energy company Unocal withdrew from the projectover fears of being seen to support Afghanistan's then Taliban government . . .
“The three countries have agreed to invite international tenders and guarantee funding before launching the project . . .
“Unocal has repeatedly denied it is interested in returning to Afghanistan despite having conducted the original feasibility study to build the pipeline . . .
“The pipeline could eventually supply gas to India [Enron’s power generating station at Dabhol].”
Now that we have established that Corn misled your readers. I will just mention briefly that Corn’s statement that he became aware of me just a few months ago is also false and misleading. In late 1994 or early 1995, just after the release of his sanitized biography of CIA drug dealer Ted Shackley, I engaged in a heated, if brief, debate with Corn at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. At the time I was a member of the journalists’ roundtable hosted by the Grand Dame of Washington journalists, Sarah McClendon. There are many today who remember the exchange, but for Corn to have done so would have meant that he had to acknowledge my credentials as a journalist. But then again, neither he nor the Weekly have acknowledged that I have been invited by faculty and paid to lecture at both USC and UCLA, my alma mater either.
Knowing that you will edit this letter I will just say that in the post 9/11 world, with daily revelations of inconsistencies in the Bush administration’s 9/11 story, it is a shame that the WEEKLY and its parent The Village Voice would deprive their readers of valuable and necessary information at a time of great crisis. One thing is certain. If you keep doing it, I may one day have more readers than the WEEKLY does. That will be a blessing for all of us.
—Michael C. Ruppert
MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE RANCH . . .
Re: Michael Collins' “Earthly Secrets” [June 14-20]. Michael Collins does a superior job in writing about the need for ground-water tests at the proposed Ahmanson Ranch. This is a most controversial subject, and Mr. Collins handles it brilliantly. Thanks for a job well done.
Thank you for Michael Collins' article. We need the press to continue to expose the lack of concern big developers have for the welfare of the public. Greed drives these big developers — all they want is our money, no matter what the long-term consequences may be.
–Susan R. Ellis
Finally a great piece of work on the Boeing/Rocketdyne Santa Susana Field Lab.The article notes that the facility is in the midst of a “cleanup”. That's not exactly right when the current U.S. Dept of Energy and the CA Dept. of Health Services proposals are to clean up 1 percent of the site and leave the other 99 percent with radioactivity levels 300 to 10,000 times higher than the EPA says is appropriate.
Once again, Mr. Collins is playing fast and loose with incorrect and baseless accusations against Rocketdyne. Decades of environmental monitoring and sampling have not found any contamination that adversely impacts the community. This includes sampling on and around the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) and extending beyond the 118, 101 and 23 freeways and into Reseda. In fact, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) stated that “Based on available data and information, there is no indication that off-site residential areas . . . have been impacted by chemicals or radionuclides from SSFL.”
Nor was Rocketdyne involved in the production of warheads for nuclear weapons. Our nuclear research and development at the SSFL involved peaceful uses of nuclear energy for electricity production. In fact, on November 12, 1957, we powered the city of Moorpark — a town of 1,200 residents at the time. The “now-closed” facility? More than 200 employees currently work at the site conducting research and performing engine tests on a regular basis. As for the property being “riddled with earthquake faults,” after the 1994 Northridge quake, one door fell off its hinge at the SSFL. A far cry from any serious damage.
Rocketdyne maintains a comprehensive groundwater monitoring program at the SSFL. This program includes more than 300 monitoring wells and springs, extraction wells, and several groundwater treatment systems. Several of these groundwater monitoring wells are located in the south and southwest portion of the SSFL adjacent to the SSFL property boundary. These monitoring wells show that groundwater contamination is not migrating to the south and southwest (towards the Ahmanson property). Based on these results, there is no information or data to suggest groundwater impacts from the SSFL have in the past, or will potentially in the future, adversely affect the proposed Ahmanson Ranch development. Furthermore, the existing groundwater studies have found that faults beneath the SSFL are not preferred flow pathways for contaminants to be transported beyond the SSFL site.
Mr. Collins is also incorrect when he alleges “One surface water sample detected highly radioactive strontium-90 at a level eight times higher than limits set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.” The three water samples taken on Ahmanson property, to which he refers, had strontium results of 0.01, -0.03 and 0.08 picocuries per liter. How do these results compare to EPA standards? The proposed federal EPA standards for strontium-90 in drinking water were published in 40 CFR 141 and 142, “National Primary Drinking Water Regulations; Radionuclides; Notice of Data Availability” on April 21, 2002 (Federal Register Vol 65, No. 78, page 21576). The standard for strontium-90 in drinking water is 8 picocuries per liter. Therefore the maximum water sample was actually 100 times less than the federal EPA drinking-water standard. This is poor evidence of alleged surface water contamination.
We regret that with all of the information about the site that is available to the public, Mr. Collins prefers to rely on inaccurate and unfounded statements to make his point.
Rocketdyne Propulsion and Power
CLUELESS ON MELROSE
Let's all pity poor Maryam Henein. Her recent failure to successfully navigate a crosswalk, recounted in “The Guardian Angels of Melrose Avenue” [A Considerable Town, June 14-20], resulted in some broken ribs and a bruised tailbone. “Yeah, I spotted the SUV in the distance, but I assumed the driver would stop,” she writes. Well, duh. Your average 6-year-old knows to look both ways before crossing the street and not just make assumptions about what drivers will — or should — do. Rather than take some responsibility for lacking basic survival skills that most children — even most squirrels — possess, Henein instead launches into a campaign for airport-runway lights at crosswalks.
Exactly how many $30,000 blinking-light crosswalks would St. Maryam recommend we install in a county with tens of thousands of intersections? Should we just put them at trendy corners between bookstores and coffeehouses, or everywhere? Wouldn't it be cheaper to just hire crossing guards to hold the hands of folks like Henein at intersections? Better yet, let Henein hitch a ride with Ben Ehrenreich [“Instant Karma on the 710,” A Considerable Town, May 24-30], who's as clueless to his own idiotic driving as Henein is to her pathetic assumption that every driver on the planet should be looking out for her — a mistake, I dare say, she won't repeat.