We’re trying something new


From the Publisher/Arnold G. York

Over the last few years, a number of articulate people have sent us letters to the editor, which we have rejected because they ran too long, exceeding our 350 word letter maximum. We’ve asked people to shorten their letters or even to split them into two parts. Recently, perhaps because the election has refocused us o n a number of public issues, many of which could and should be discussed, we decided to create a Public Forum for longer pieces of writing. Here are the rules:

€ We’ll try and run at least one forum piece per week.

€ Maximum word length is 750 words (this week, the forum piece is a little longer, but we need to keep it shorter in the future).

€ We reserve the right to reject, send it back to you for a rewrite, edit, or shorten.

€ The topic should relate to significant public issues; the choice is yours. You can respond to something we’ve written, something in the news or anything you feel strongly about.

€ Submissions should be e-mailed to our editor, Laura Tate, no later than Friday, 5 p.m., to malibunews@malibutimes.com.

€ We not only don’t mind controversy, we actually encourage it.

€ Libelous pieces will be rejected. The attorneys at the California Newspapers Publishers Association and we are the final word on what’s libelous until a court tells us otherwise.

€ You have to send us your name and phone number. We won’t run anything anonymously.

For openers, we’re starting the Forum with a letter relating to Pepperdine and the issue of gays in the Church of Christ. There are other questions around this issue that could be explored, like the right to associate with whom you wish or the right not to associate with whom you don’t want to associate. Are private institutions different than public institutions? And under our system, do they have a right to be different?

There are a number of topics that come to mind that some of you might want to write about. For example:

Gay rights and gay marriage-What does it all mean and is the Bible the appropriate document for a public policy discussion? If so, whose Bible and which version?

Stem cell research-Is it real or a fool’s errand? Is it scientific or just political correctness? After all, if Bush is against it, I must be for it, or does it really make sense for the public to invest $3 billion if the federal government won’t do it? Is it the ultimate statement of our state’s sovereign right or have we been conned?

Abortion and the right to choose-Why is the country so split? Is it just religious fanaticism or have we reached the scientific point in our understanding of in utero development that we can no longer make believe that a fetus is just piece of tissue? Maybe a fetus is a human being? Does that mean we’re back to back-alley abortions or the affluent going to Canada or Mexico?

The war on drugs-We keep pouring more and more troops and dollars into the war on drugs and we still appear to be losing. Maybe it’s the wrong war. What’s the difference between nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, heroin and the entire legion of uppers and downers and siders the average M.D. proscribes on the average day? After all, it’s all just chemistry. Why is some chemistry evil and other chemistry OK? Don’t they all just alter our consciousness one way or another?

Crime and punishment-We’re really big on punishment in our society. In fact, we spend a fortune policing, arresting, prosecuting, defending, incarcerating, paroling, supervising, and re-arresting, etc. an ever-larger group of people. Does it make any sense? Does it make us any safer or is it just a big jobs program for thousands of people? If crime is something typically done in youth, does it make any sense to keep 50-year-olds in prison for life for something they may have done when they were 20 and a drug user?

Illegal immigration-Is it a terrible thing and does it breed contempt for the law or are we all just full of baloney? Is the truth that they park our cars, pick up the garbage, bus our dishes, take care of our children, clean our house and do it all pretty damn cheap and we love it?

Environmentalism and population-Has environmentalism in California become a secular faith? Does South Carolina have Jesus and we have the steelhead trout? Can the ocean ever be clean enough? Is it really worth spending $50 million plus dollars to tear down the Rindge Dam on the oft chance we may save some steelhead trout when we’re closing down emergency rooms?

Growth restrictions and elitism-Are our growth restrictions, tough zoning laws, ESHA limits, view sheds all just ways to cut off large chunks of the physical environment to keep people (who are not like us) out and get the state to subsidize our very nice standard of living? Are we paying our fair share or are we just passing all the bad stuff back to people who have less political clout than we do? Where’s the garbage dump in Malibu, or the industrial zoning? If we zone everything commercial, can a store like Malibu Lumber ever compete for space with a little froufrou shop that sells sequined T-shirts for $170?

What’s left?

How about animal rights, terrorism, Iraq, the state of education, our fat children, population growth, inflation, deflation, plastic surgery and a multitude of others.

OK, all you would-be columnists, get to your computers and start sending us some material.