From the Publisher: Here and There

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Arnold G. York

The Malibu kids are going back to school and that seems to have bought everything to a boiling point. Parents at Malibu High School have to decide whether this controversy about PCBs is hysteria or whether they want to keep their kids out of MHS. The school district says all the rooms have been checked, and they’re clean and fit for habitation. The EPA and the state of California Dept. of Toxic Substances have also signed off and said the buildings are OK and ready for students and teachers. The teachers and employees unions have not objected — at least not publicly. But there is still a group of parents and advocates who say it’s not good enough and the buildings are still dangerous. A number of them have pulled their kids out, including Cindy Crawford, who has taken to TV to make the case.

We also just received word that the federal government was just put on notice that the local Malibu group, Malibu Unites, led by Jennifer de Nicola, and a national group called the Public Employees for Environmentally Responsibility (PEER), a Washington, D.C., advocacy, are about to sue the school district and also the federal EPA for what they claim is nonenforcement of federal and state rules. Apparently this issue is only going to be settled by a judge in a courtroom.

We’ve already begun to see this battle played out in The Malibu Times “Letters to the Editor” page. In fact, last week we received a letter ostensibly signed by the Regan family, relating to the controversy that was probably a hoax. The Regans told us it wasn’t them and they were clearly justifiably upset, for which we apologize. So I’m going to reiterate our letters policy:

• When you send us a letter to the editor, we need your name, address, telephone number and email. We won’t print your address and phone number, but we need it so we can, if necessary, verify that you actually sent the letter. Although we occasionally will run a letter with name withheld, we will limit that to very special circumstances, like whistleblowers.

• Letters are limited to 350 words. If it runs over, we’ll ask you to shorten it or we can edit it for you. However, we like to let readers edit their own words. 

• Letters should be sent to managing editor Melissa Caskey at melissa@malibutimes.com and/or assistant editor Sarah Shmerling at editorial@malibutimes.com. Feel free to send me a copy of all letters at agyork@malibutimes.com, but understand that people love to spam newspapers, so I have several spam filters. 

• Don’t libel anyone, or accuse them of a crime, or some sexually nefarious acts just because you don’t agree with them, even if occasionally it might be true. We won’t run it anyway.

• We like letters on the issues, not campaign endorsements in the form of letters to the editor. Letters that say vote for this guy or against this proposition are really political advertisements and you have to buy that space. Then, you can say whatever you want and be as longwinded as you want, providing it’s not libelous.

• I don’t want to impose a civility rule on letters but I’ve seen some of the emails that have gone back and forth in connection with the high school issue and some of them are really nasty. It’s fun to read the nasty stuff but softer, more rational language is typically more persuasive. 

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Apropos of all this is the admonition that if you want some really hostile press coverage, make sure to arrest a few reporters, throw the cuffs on them and keep them for a few hours without filing charges. Ferguson, Mo., has become the poster child for how a city can be really dumb — so dumb, in fact, it’s difficult to decide where to begin. Before we jump to conclusions about what happened, remember that all these pundits, commentators, police and first responders were not on the scene when this happened. Typically, in this kind a situation, eyewitness testimony is suspect and the physical evidence is the most important. There are also bound to be some phone videos that ultimately show up. By physical evidence, I mean the cop’s weapon, the type and caliber of bullets, the number of bullets fired, the position of the shell casings, and the evidence — or absence — of the powder tracings in the police car, on the cops uniform or on the deceased’s clothing. Also considered physical evidence are the location of the wounds on the deceased, the trajectory of the bullets, the damage to the bullets, the ricochets, the organs hit, blood pooling, blood drippings, splatter patterns and many other factors. My guess is that, based on what appears to be the overall competency of the Ferguson Police Dept., most of this stuff is not going to be there. I wouldn’t be the least be surprised if they gave the officer his gun back and told him to get his uniform cleaned up because he looked like hell. As for the upcoming grand jury hearing, don’t hold your breath. The DA decides who to call and what to ask; no lawyers are present other than the DA, and the old adage is that if the DA asked, most grand juries would indict a “ham sandwich.”

One good thing that might come out of Ferguson is that the federal government may stop equipping police as if they were going into combat in Baghdad and instead spend that money on making sure that every cop and every cop car has a camera in it, preferably one that can’t be turned off.