Off Limits

Translation: No way, Jose.

Life sure has been a drag lately at the Rocky Mountain News. First the newshounds over at the Denver Post trumped it on the all-important bus-tour issue, dispatching editors and reporters around the state in a 1936 Hupmobile so they can get in touch with all the little people out there. Then the News got caught running seven-year-old Dilbert comic strips in its business section--while the Post is running up-to-date versions of Scott Adams's popular strip--as part of new editor John Temple's hard-hitting new regime. Now the News is embroiled in another fine mess over an ad that ran in its April 27 issue touting the venerable Victory at Sea video series of PBS pledge-drive fame. The ad copy for that assemblage of World War II battle footage enticed readers by promising the vicarious thrill of watching "boats, planes, subs and entire crews of Japs...sent to a watery grave," a piece of Forties-era political incorrectness that didn't sit well with some members of Denver's Japanese-American community. On May 4, News advertising vice president Richard Avery sent a letter to several Japanese-American groups apologizing for the use of the ethnic slur and explaining that the paper usually screens ad copy more closely. But somehow, a few little mistakes just keep getting through. For instance, there was the itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny notice the News felt compelled to run this past Monday admitting that a May 2 house ad in which it crowed about its circulation leads over the Post "did not meet Audit Bureau of Circulation publicity rules" because the figures were "based on non-comparable geographic areas."

Oops. Shot down in flames again.

The revolution is televised: No, man, we're not in the Sixties anymore. But it sure felt like it last Saturday night when Bobby Seale gave a "speech for posterity" as part of KBDI/Channel 12's The 11th Hour series. The only one of the four speakers to run over his time limit, the former Black Panther paid no attention to the TV director's insistent signaling to stop--even when she stood up and kept drawing her finger across her throat. Who was she kidding? Seale was bound and gagged nearly thirty years ago in a Chicago courtroom for refusing to stop talking, and it's going to take more than a TV director to shut him up now. Besides, nobody else in the audience at the Source Theater minded the long-winded rap, because Seale was easily the most entertaining of the four panelists. The graying but enthusiastic ex-Panther carried on about his dream of "cooperational humanism," showing not one iota of bitterness about times past and revolutions lost. Prancing and dancing as he recalled the halcyon days when the Panthers confronted the Oakland cops with guns and law books, Seale reminded those in the audience who didn't already know that the Panthers were much more than just "Negroes with guns"--as notorious cross-dresser J. Edgar Hoover once portrayed them.

"I wasn't a thug! I was educated. I was an engineer. I saw things in three dimensions," Seale said. Time eventually has proved Seale right on a number of counts. He called Judge Julius Hoffman a "racist, fascist pig," and a federal appeals court eventually agreed with him, overturning his convictions--and those of the Chicago 7 activists on trial with him in 1969--while condemning Hoffman's courtroom's behavior.

Seale was a stark contrast to the Nineties revolutionary who led off Saturday night's odd-bedfellows performance. James "Bo" Gritz, Green Beret legend and militia-movement hero, gave an engaging but confusing ramble about the CIA running drugs into the U.S. from Bogota, government assassins murdering JFK, Ross Perot hiring Gritz to wipe out drug dealers (but not Burmese heroin czar Khun Sa), Randy Weaver holding off the feds, Ollie North lying, Richard Nixon lying, blah, blah, blah. "Life is a test," Gritz said. "But life is fragile, like a snowflake. Life is unfair. See where you want to be on the last day and work backwards."

Will somebody please give this guy some Valium?
Following Gritz was Candace Lightner, founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who in her own quiet way gave a stern message: "Only cowards and weaklings blame others for their failings."

And following Seale was local missionary and man's man Bill McCartney, whose message for the ages boiled down to this: Believe in Jesus or else. "The highway of tolerance is no good," railed Coach Mac. "The straight and narrow road is the only way."

Coach Mac defined hell as "the ceaseless infliction of unbearable pain."
Finally, however, he stopped speaking.

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