Many thanks to the Weekly for your continued coverage of the crisis in Burma and of corporations such as Unocal, which have literally helped fuel the crisis [“Unocal Implicated in Burma Strife,” January 15–21]. Thanks also to the entire L.A. City Council, who voted unanimously to pass the Free Burma Ordinance. As a result of their action, and in the true spirit of democracy, L.A. will no longer give city contracts to companies doing business with the brutal military regime in Burma. Another local paper, the Los Angeles Times, didn’t even bother to report on the vote, which has international repercussions (and which was covered by papers as far away as the Bangkok Post). But to the many Free Burma Coalition members all over the world who read the widely circulated Weekly article, the city’s action was heroic and inspirational. I am grateful to the City Council for making history, and to the Weekly for reporting it.
Member, Free Burma Coalition
I am sorely disappointed, but not surprised, that the L.A. Weekly cited the Bangkok Post’s unsubstantiated report that “soldiers hired by Unocal and Total, its French partner, have engaged in violent campaigns against ethnic minority groups in the region” in an effort to protect the pipeline that runs from Myanmar to Thailand. Not surprised, because it is obvious that, with the exception of a few committed newspapers and magazines, accuracy and fairness in journalism have been sacrificed at the altar of expediency.
The Post report is preposterous, one of those stories created by spin masters to generate sympathy for anti-government groups. Far from being a ragtag band of mercenaries carrying out the wishes of foreign employers, the Tatmadaw is a well-trained self-defense force developed from a nucleus of 30 patriots who left Myanmar in the early 1940s to seek the assistance of the Japanese in overthrowing the yoke of colonialism.
With regard to the Yadana pipeline project, it is apparent that the Post and its partners have adopted a dog-in-the- manger attitude. Any disinterested observer can see that the pipeline has transformed the lives of the villagers in the area. Not only are the oil companies paying wages well above the market rate; they are involved in socioeconomic programs to help develop the area, improve health care, establish information and communication systems, and protect the environment. U.S. Congressman Tony Hall [D-Ohio], who visited Myanmar earlier this month, has also noted the success of the humanitarian projects carried out in conjunction with the Yadana pipeline.
Old habits die hard. The Post never tires of fabricating tales of human-rights abuses in Myanmar. While newspapers are entitled to print whatever they choose, they should keep in mind their responsibility to be accurate, fair and honest. The main enemy of a free press is the domination of ideological conviction over reliability.
Deputy Chief of Mission
Embassy of the Union of Myanmar
THE DUKE STEPS OUT
In “Music at the Turn” [January 8–14], Alan Rich created quite a list of 20th-century music. It’s too bad he ignored jazz altogether, especially Ellington’s suites and long-form works. Rich was speaking about the 20th century, right? A time when classical music was left in the dust by the saxophone, trumpet and rhythmic inventions of the American improvising musician, correct? Jazz at Lincoln Center once had a slogan on its T-shirts that described jazz as “the sound of the century.” Which century did Mr. Rich live in?
RIGHT — FOR ONCE
Since I’m a conservative/ libertarian, the extreme liberal bias of your paper generally makes me cringe. However, today I must congratulate and salute you as the only local publication that has followed the shameful LAPD “militia” case that has just cost us taxpayers $1.1 million. Thanks to Jane Hunter for covering the story [“LAPD Zealots Cost City a Cool Million,” January 15–21], which raises disturbing questions about police-state tactics, trumped-up charges, prosecutorial misconduct and official misrepresentations.
—Charles Robert Cramer
FEENEY ON MALICK
Re: F.X. Feeney’s defense of Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line [“Human, All Too Human,” January 15–21]. I don’t think the film needs a defense. Critical and audience opinion have always lagged behind when it comes to movies of vision and courage. Long after people have forgotten the overrated Saving Private Ryan, they will remember 1998 for Malick’s film and Bulworth, two thoughtful and courageous films that will stand the test of time.
F.X. Feeney’s apologia and “explanation” of why we dunderheads just don’t understand murky filmmaking is standard film-fanatic sputtering. Worse, his coda paragraphs contend, “Only human beings have the imagination to be rapacious, to seize more than they can personally use,” once again assigning moral “superiority” to inferior species. I would remind him that other species do not conduct environmental-impact studies — or grant learned degrees in the examination of ecological navels. It is only humans who consider the impact of their activities on other species. Not one single competitive species gives a conscious rip about us, or any other species. Every one of them, from bacteria and viruses to elephants and kangaroos, have no regard for anything but their own selfish hunger. Anyone who lives outside the protected preserves of city life has seen what overgrazing does, by cattle under man’s “selfish” management, and by deer, goats, buffalo and every other mammalian species that wanders this Earth.
Quit hating your own species. It tags you as a Boomer Baby.
In her review of Gods and Monsters, Ella Taylor identifies James Whale’s longtime lover as David Lewis the actor, whereas he was in fact a different person: my uncle, David Lewis, who produced many films, including Camille, Dark Victory, Kings Row and Raintree County. Moreover, Ms. Taylor’s error leads me to wonder whether the makers of the film were looking at pictures of the actor before casting David Dukes in the part. I couldn’t understand why he wore a mustache; my uncle was always clean-shaven, with matinee-idol good looks, whereas David Lewis the actor wore a mustache.
RUMOR HAS IT HE’S FASTER, TOO
Re: “Eddie Little’s Fall From Grace” [December 18–24]. I am sick and tired of hearing about this looser [sic]. The L.A. Weekly should cut the ties.
A production error in the January 23 issue cut off a line from an article about the school district’s rediscovered art treasures. The story should have noted that a final decision is pending in a matter of weeks about whether to turn the former Otis art-school campus, which was purchased by the school district, into a visual-arts magnet school.