Coming Soon: Cover Stories Shorter Than This Letter
Concerning the article written by Robert Andrew Powell entitled "The Graduate" (January 18), the movie by the same title was of less epic proportions. Perhaps your writers could adapt the New Times letters policy -- specifically the part stating that "letters may be edited for length or clarity" -- and call it the New Times writers' policy.
Evidently the research for this article was extensive, the tracking and tracing of information and people exhaustive. It is interesting that Cesar Odio has such a high-paying, high-profile position and yet lacks the basic elements that he requires of those beneath him. He has a questionable education and no diploma [from Havana's Universidad de Santo Tomas] A nada, finito, only a know-nothing piece of paper.
So what? Is this news? Of course it is, but why take so long to get us there? The big letdown was the end of the article. J.L. Plummer's "reservations" do not amount to a hill of beans. People lie -- big whoop. Steve Clark's Harry Truman comparison is so far out there that the writing staff of Sightings has begun working on Truman -- The First Interplanetary Being. And then there is Odio's own pompous comment: "I could write my own degree." Get a clue, Mr. Odio. That's one of the things this article is pointing out. Where's the 800 number to have the guy ousted?
Oliver and Me (As Reported in All the Finest Publications)
As a former Washington, D.C., writer newly transplanted to South Beach (and just in time), New Times has proven to be a topnotch, reliable provider of what's really going on in this model mecca. Alas, covering Ocean Drive magazine's third anniversary party for a Washington publication, I was surprised to find my conversation with director Oliver Stone "gracing" Tom Austin's account of the bash, to have that talk erroneously described, and to have me, of all people, accused of "making a cheap buck" by having Stone sign a Nixon envelope ("Swelter," January 18). My journalistic history with both Stone and Nixon is anything but cheap, and has never involved profiteering.
Three years ago imprisoned Native American Leonard Peltier hired me to collaborate with him on his autobiography. After we received a $70,000 offer for the proposal, Leonard said that wasn't enough, broke our contract, and fired me without paying me a penalty. As the Kansas City Star reported, I found Peltier to be a con man and a fraud. Stone, who had optioned Peltier's life story for a film, had independently come to the same conclusion.
I told Stone that Kurt Vonnegut had written me, lamenting Peltier's action, saying that "if Peltier was an editor or agent" he would "have had the Author's Guild cut him a new asshole." True Vonnegut.
Next we talked about how, on my eighteenth birthday, the Watergate break-in took place. And how, when I had my first article in a national publication -- Newsweek -- Richard Nixon was on the cover, the headline reading "He's Back!" I told him that last year, for my 40th birthday, friends rented room 723 at the Howard Johnson's across from the Watergate -- the room G. Gordon Liddy used as headquarters for the break-in. We sang "Ding Dong the Dick Is Dead" as 95 million Americans turned their attention to O.J. Simpson's exploits with his white Bronco.
Finally, as a graduate student at the University of Michigan, I'd done my thesis on "The Filmmaker as Historian." I pointed out preventable errors in Stone's film Nixon, and told him he should bring the story of Alexander the Great to the screen. He told me it would be one of his next projects, for which I'm offering my New Yorker-profiled research skills. Making Stone's films more historically accurate is, I think, a noble task, needed more than anything else for his films.
Before we said goodbye, I took out a Nixon envelope -- a four-color drawing of a headless man behind bars to which I affixed a 32-cent Nixon stamp and then (as the New York Times reported) had hand-canceled at the Watergate station of the U.S. Post Office on August 9 of last year, the 21st anniversary of "the Dick's" resignation. Stone laughed, accepted it, and signed one for me.
I've never considered selling it, as Mr. Austin concluded. In fact, I think it would make a great addition to a charity auction, to which I would gladly donate it. Maybe it should be a New Times auction to raise money for the homeless who seem to be all too prevalent in my newly adopted city. Mr. Austin can run the auction, showing he has some compassion and depth, neither of which his column evinces.
Fredric Alan Maxwell
River of Sass
Frankly, I was shocked by Kirk Semple's article "Resolutionary Tour" (January 18), which included a confidential memo from Marjory Stoneman Douglas advising the board of directors of Friends of the Everglades to resort to eco-terrorism to defend the Everglades.
Then I saw the Florida panther, the alligator, and the manatee with visions of plastic explosives before their very eyes, waiting for environmentalists to seize Everglades National Park's visitor center, take hostages, and bring the sugar industry to its paws.
Barbara J. Lange
Will the Real Cop-Basher Please Stand Up?
Just thought I'd ask: Who was the real author of "Copping a Profit," by Jason Vest (November 30), concerning the National Association of Chiefs of Police (NACOP) and the Police Museum? Obviously it had to be someone on the board of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). This, I feel, is the reason why the illegal activities and questionable acts of the IACP were glossed over as minor problems, while Gerald Arenberg and NACOP were slammed.
The IACP is now nearly 100 years old, yet it has barely a third of the eligible police chiefs in the U.S. as members. A couple of years ago, an IACP employee went to the U.S. Attorney in Baltimore and accused the IACP of fraudulently using federal grant money. The IACP was investigated by the FBI and was forced to pay a civil penalty of $340,000. Three years ago a delegation of IACP sponsors, with spouses, went on a trip to Japan sponsored by the electronics firm NEC. The cost was $20,000 per officer. NEC also made a $300,000 donation to IACP. What didn't make the news was that NEC was also attempting to sell its multimillion-dollar fingerprint-scanning machine in the U.S. IACP collects somewhere around five million dollars a year; more than two million is spent on salaries and benefits and nearly one million on travel expenses for IACP officers.
IACP collected $50 million to erect the $10 million National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. They received the land for free and maintenance is performed by the park authority. What did IACP do with the other $40 million?
IACP does something that NACOP will never allow, and that's accept foreign chiefs of police as members. This may not sound so bad, but many of the foreign members of IACP are from countries that are listed by Amnesty International as human-rights violators. Members from China especially have been known to violate basic human rights, yet still enjoy the privileges of IACP membership.
The New Times article failed to mention that IACP no longer allows the National Rifle Association to exhibit at its annual convention. NRA-certified instructors are still predominant in the firearms instruction of this nation's police officers. You will see at the IACP show, however, the Handgun Control, Inc. folks handing out literature that provides the public with false information concerning the manufacture, sale, and ownership of firearms.
I find it rather disturbing for an organization such as IACP to have human-rights violators as members and also to be in favor of HCI-type gun control. At least the National Association of Chiefs of Police didn't have any members in Tiananmen Square firing into a crowd of innocent civilians. I doubt that IACP can make that claim.
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Jason Vest responds:
Mr. Lesmeister's letter is not without merit, but on the whole it is a bunch of hooey. As my article noted, the International Association of Chiefs of Police is a professionally recognized organization that spends a great deal of its money providing regular training to law enforcement personnel. It has close ties to law enforcement, and was more than happy to disclose its specific finances, along with the names, ranks, and addresses of all its members.
Aside from helping run a garish museum and hitting up people for money that disappears into a for-profit management company immune from public scrutiny, the National Association of Chiefs of Police, which will not release a directory of its 11,000 claimed members, doesn't seem to do much with or for law enforcement.
As to Mr. Lesmeister's comments regarding IACP having members who fired into the crowds at Tiananmen Square, he is simply incorrect. While the Republic of China, better known was Taiwan, is a member, there are no representatives from the People's Republic of China in IACP.
With regard to Mr. Lesmeister's last paragraph, IACP severed all ties with the National Rifle Association after it referred to federal officers as being "jackbooted thugs.