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Letters from the issue of Thursday, May 29, 2003


Out in Left Field

Smarm school:Wuxtry! Wuxtry! In the May 22 Message, Westword's Michael Roberts breathlessly reports that the New York Times's Jayson Blair scandal leaves readers with the "impression that papers tilt major stories." What's the difference between a reporter using his invisible friends as sources and the blatant left-liberal drum most journalists beat loud and proud in their "news" stories? Which is worse, editors who look the other way for the occasional piece of prose-as-news, or those who stock their stables with reporters who can be counted upon to lard the news with left-liberal political ideology? When the late Alan Dumas relied only on his creative muse as a source for the "news" that the Catholic Church was considering actor John Wayne for canonization, it was not simply the humorous lark Roberts now, and Westword and Dumas then, made it out to be. It was a smarmy attempt by the far-left-liberal Dumas to poke fun at the Church and to make the politically conservative Duke look goofy.

Meanwhile, John Temple, publisher over to the Rocky, "discourages anonymous sources" because there's no way to know whether they are reliable. News flash, John: The increasingly leftward slant, spin and bias in your paper's "news" took the reliable outta your sails a couple or three years ago. Use to be we had two (count 'em!) papers of record in Denver. Now we have DNC Pravda and DNC Pravda Lite. And Michael Roberts must be kidding with his statement that the New York Times is "among the most trusted" news organs on the planet. Now, what planet was that -- planet Hillary? I, for one, look forward to an exclusive interview of John Wayne under a Jayson Blair byline.

Through the conscious decision to toe the left-liberal line and make a big deal out of not making a big deal out of Blair's race, the media has, en masse, managed to again deflect attention from the real story. Quick! Ignite another flashpot, and keep the man behind the curtain hidden!

JM Schell

Arvada


Lost at Sea

Rove, Rove, Rove your boat:John Hickenlooper may have traded name recognition into a run for the roses (Off Limits, May 15 and May 22), but how could Kenny Be have missed the symbolism of Don Mares's name? Mares means "seas," and Don Mares is caught in a perfect storm caused by the confluence of term limits and Karl Rove's Republican redistricting of America.

Term limits mean that every important elective office in Denver turns over this election and, most likely, not again for eight whole years. That means that not just candidates, but would-be staffers and consultants and PR firms and lobbyists all have to scramble to get on board or be left high and dry for years. When politicians say it is "not about a job," it's about a job.

And the brilliance of the Rove Doctrine on redistricting may finally be dawning on Democrats. The redistricting concentrates Democrats into fewer districts. Not only does this mean less Democrats in office, but they can only win elections by defeating other Democrats.

Democrats in Texas can seek sanctuary in Oklahoma, but Democrats in Denver have no safe harbor.

Joanne Marie Roll

Denver

There goes the neighborhood:I'm confused about who's running for Denver City Council in my neighborhood, District 10. Is it Jeanne Robb, the homophobic bigot who helped continue evictions of unmarried straight and gay couples from living in her neighborhood? Or is it the politician/user Jeanne Robb, who is a champion of civil rights for gay people?

Is it Jeanne Robb the registered Republican? Or the clever politician who changed to "Independent" status two years ago because she knew she wouldn't get elected otherwise? Jeanne commented in the a href="May 22 Off Limits that "We weren't aware of the sort of thing some of my gay supporters went through."

What did Jeanne think would happen to these couples in her neighborhood? What if the zoning had barred blacks from living in her neighborhood -- would she know the consequences to black people? How stupid does Jeanne think gay people are in District 10? Obviously, really stupid. She hasn't taken responsibility for her actions and hasn't apologized.

Jeanne has established a pattern of spinning, changing her story and lying before even being elected. I thought politicians were supposed to wait until they were in office to start with these shenanigans.

Ben Fiedler

Denver


Loss of Innocence

False accusations: Regarding Julie Jargon's "Judge Not," in the May 15 issue:

I wanted to thank you for covering Randall Zimmerman's story. I think it is sometimes politically incorrect to cover the fact that, in some cases, mentally disturbed people use the accusation of sexual abuse for power or vengeance. In my prior life in church ministry, I saw good people destroyed for the simple error of being available to a disturbed person but having boundaries. I hope this jury's verdict is an indication that we are recovering some sanity in this area.

Anne Speck

via the Internet

Not guilty! I worked with Randy Zimmerman at Mrachek and always believed in him. As an educator, it is good to know that some press is given when we are not guilty. After his face was plastered all over local news stories, he deserves to have his innocence proclaimed just as publicly.

Kristin Ayala

via the Internet

Meet Sam Stone:I have no doubt about the innocence of Randall Zimmerman from reading Julie Jargon's article relating his most memorable encounter with Arapahoe County Deputy District Attorney Christine Schober. Of course Schober is disappointed she didn't ruin Mr. Zimmerman's life even more than she already has, and she goes on to suggest that "just because someone's found not guilty doesn't mean they're innocent."

For Ms. Schober's edification, I would like to propose that ascertaining the credibility of others is not always as easy as you might think. In fact, the inability of "expert" evaluators to establish the credibility of the accounts of children is dramatically illustrated in the "Sam Stone" study by Leichtman and Ceci, 1995. Furthermore, I believe that the findings of their study have direct relevance to "Judge Not."

In their study, young children three to six years of age were interviewed under a number of different suggestive conditions about a stranger named Sam Stone. The experimenter informed children that Sam Stone was a friend and that he was very clumsy. Over the course of the next few weeks, these children were told numerous stories about Sam's clumsiness (a technique called "stereotype induction"). Ultimately, all of the children in the experimental group met Sam Stone. He made a single visit to their classroom and was introduced to them during story time. On the following day, the teacher showed all the children a soiled teddy bear and a ripped book. (Sam had not defiled either of these objects.) Every two weeks for the next few months, some of the children were presented repeated misinformation about Sam' s visit by being asked misleading questions, e.g., "When Sam Stone tore the book, did he do it on purpose or was he being silly?" These are just the type of questions I can imagine the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office posing to their star witness, "Mary."

Then, at the end of twelve weeks, all of the children were questioned by a new interviewer about what had actually happened during Sam Stone's visit. Not surprisingly, children who had been repeatedly interviewed with the combination of stereotype induction and repeated misleading questions made the most false reports about the events of Sam Stone's visit. Furthermore, some of the children went beyond simple assents to Sam's misdeeds. These children provided elaborate false perceptual details and used nonverbal gestures in order to embellish their false stories. For example, children used their hands to show how Sam had purportedly thrown a book up in the air; children reported seeing Sam on the playground, on his way to the store to buy chocolate ice cream, or in the bathroom soaking the teddy bear in water before smearing it with crayon.

Finally, and most important in regard to the topic at hand, so-called experts (including mental-health professionals, research psychologists, judges, social workers and prosecutors [such as Ms. Schober]) were shown videotapes of children in the Sam Stone study reporting the events of Sam's visit. When these "experts" were asked to judge the children's credibility, they proved to be veryinaccurate. They judged children whose reports were the product of suggestive interviewing as being highly credible, while those whose reports were more accurate were often judged to be less believable and credible.

Many of the children had likely come to believe the misinformation they were telling adults. Maggie Bruck, et al., refer to this state as "false belief," as opposed to lying. In fact, these children were not aware that their reports were factually false, and therefore showed no signs of deception. They appeared quite motivated to tell the truth, with their reports appearing quite consistent, animated and cohesive. With this in mind, I would like to throw Ms. Schober's accusatory statement right back at her: "Just because someone's found guilty doesn't mean they committed the crime."

Please send my heartfelt regards to Mr. Zimmerman and his family. Not that it makes their experience any less painful to know this, but I am certain that what they have endured is not that uncommon: The Salem Witch Trials are as alive today as they were in 1692.

Bert Dech, M.D.

Denver


Concrete Dreams

Beggars can't be choosers:Regarding Michael's Paglia's "Sunset for Skyline," in the May 15 issue:

I feel it's time we did something with that stretch of filthy concrete and piss-covered "architecture" as soon as possible. It's called a park, but there isn't a shred of greenery the entire length of it. It's mainly riffraff and mall rats who occupy the space, and personally, I can't see why it was ever built in the first place. As if there wasn't enough concrete in downtown to revere, the claim that the "park" was featured in an architectural-landscape textbook is hilarious.

The city should build the section of the park from 16th to 15th into a skatepark, a public graffiti wall and a performance stage. This would give incentive to the mall rats to do something productive with their lives and give the yuppies eating lunch or sipping Starbucks a chance to use their spare change wisely by supporting "artists" rather than beggars.

Brian Gavagan

Denver

The art of the matter:Michael Paglia's criticism of the impending reconstruction of Skyline Park misses the mark. I believe that it is telling that his column appeared in the "Art" section of Westword. Therein lies the problem: It is not enough for a public space to be beautifully designed. An urban park is not a static artwork that can be admired or ignored as one chooses. Whatever the aesthetic merits of Lawrence Halprin's designs, they have repeatedly failed to honor the public realm and attract the full spectrum of the general public. His Freeway Park in Seattle has been cited by that city's police department as one of the Emerald City's most dangerous places. His United Nations Plaza in San Francisco has been taken over by homeless people and dope dealers, as is the case with our own Skyline Park.

We all recognize that "living in a free society means that public spaces are open to everyone." However, poor design choices can guarantee that only certain groups will have any desire to occupy those spaces. Halprin's layout for Skyline Park, with its steep grade changes and plentiful hiding areas, violates rules of urban park design that had previously been adhered to for millennia.

Paglia's contention that the design of a park has no influence over the behavior of its users contradicts common sense and real-world experience. His citation of New York's Central Park as a place that is beloved and widely used despite its grade changes misses the mark, for Central Park is of an entirely different scale than Skyline Park. A much better analogy can be had without leaving the Big Apple: Bryant Park, adjacent to the New York City Central Library, was utterly transformed from a filthy, dangerous space to one that is beloved by all segments of the populace by removing hiding places, improving sight lines and bringing the grade closer to street level. The location, obviously, didn't change, nor did society's underlying social problems. Rather, an inferior park design was corrected, thereby creating a place that New Yorkers are now rightfully proud of. The same thing is about to happen in our own city, and that far outweighs the misplaced admiration that some members of the design community have for Lawrence Halprin.

Jake Wegmann

Denver

Pei as you go:The former May D&F plaza at 1550 Court (which is now the Skid...I mean Adam's Mark Hotel) was not, I repeat, not designed by the great I.M. Pei. It was discovered that one of his underlings within his firm was truly responsible. Although I will agree that Denver (and its people) seem all too quick to tear down any and all world architecture, I do not want 1550 Court included with the other classics that have been destroyed and might be destroyed in the future.

Just remember, Denver (read "the people"): This is your city. Fight for what should stay and what shouldn't.

Dave Mills

Denver

Michael Paglia replies:There is not now, nor has there ever been, any legitimate question about the authorship of Zeckendorf Plaza: It is the work of I.M. Pei. But don't trust me -- I've only been researching the topic for the last decade. Instead, check out Carter Wiseman's definitive monograph on the architect, straightforwardly titledI. M. Pei, in which Zeckendorf Plaza is discussed and illustrated with a period photo.

Meanwhile, the idea that there's a causal relationship between design and society's problems is incredibly naive and very easy to debunk. Lawrence Halprin's park designs, such as Skyline, are no more responsible for urban social ills than are the parks by Olmsted and Vaux, including Central Park. Skyline and Central Park both have their share of drug dealers and thugs, as does every other urban park in any big city in the country. As I said in my column, I guarantee that those pesky homeless teens will be hanging out in the new park that's replacing Skyline just as soon as it's finished -- and Halprin's not designing that one. Just wait and see.


Steer Clear!

Terrorists to the back of the bus:David Holthouse's article on RTD ("Security Reach," May 15) made me laugh more than the letters to the editor, an always welcome mixture of candor and lunacy punctuated with sharp expletives. The notion of the government protecting us is mildly humorous -- were 9/11 not such an effective action. The millions being spent by "think tanks" to produce the suggestions in Holthouse's article illustrate the effectiveness of terrorism. It turns the loonies loose to waste money, our money. What will this exercise accomplish?

Accountability is the issue in Holthouse's story (leaving aside the increasing attempts on the part of the government to make us all either criminals or law-enforcement personnel). The scenarios listed in the article range from impossible to ridiculous. How can the government, regardless of good intentions (yeah, right), make a bus driver responsible for stopping trained terrorists? Or for that matter, how can the government make any of us responsible for detaining or identifying criminals of any kind?

Don't we have law-enforcement professionals trained to find criminals? Did RTD bus drivers volunteer for this mandatory program, or is it simply another well-meaning but useless attempt to calm the jittery minority? Making RTD bus drivers responsible for anything but driving the bus is a misplacement of the resources allocated for terrorism. Where is the promised capture of bin Laden? How about first things first? Is Denver anyone's prime target?

Robert Train

Aurora


The Blame Game

Justin time:The May 22 letters regarding David Holthouse's story on Justin Green ("Justin Got His Gat," May 8) were alternately poignant, amusing and pathetic.

It's obvious Westword covers criminal-justice issues better than any other news source in Colorado. Yes, David Holthouse's emphasis on the alleged link between Green's crime and rap music was ridiculous, but that was one mistake in a detailed investigative story.

Green may be a "wanksta," as Justin Cremer writes, but his seven-year prison sentence was still too harsh, especially given that modern American prisons are psychologically destructive schools for the criminal sciences. Cremer adds, "No one who owns an AK-47 can be trusted completely," and thus displays his overt bigotry toward gun owners, almost all of whom are responsible, upstanding citizens. (Besides, as Holthouse notes, Green bought a "knockoff" of an AK-47.)

Instead of blaming rap music for Green's crime, Elizabeth Ward blames "the society that failed Justin." She continues, "What sort of a society allows an individual to buy an assault weapon? Who, exactly, needs an assault weapon in this country?" That's the equivalent of asking "Who needs to read a newspaper that isn't controlled by the government?" The Bill of Rights isn't about what politicians deem that we "need"; it is about our inalienable rights. Historically, an "assault rifle" is a fully automatic "select-fire carbine," according to Boston's Gun Bible. Today, an "assault weapon" is any politically incorrect gun that happens to scare the sniveling sycophants of the burgeoning American police state, in which only our approved masters can own effective firearms.

If Green's parents had raised him to be an adult -- say, by letting him home-school or teaching him how to use firearms and other tools responsibly -- instead of a prissy juvenile delinquent with his high-IQ head stuck up his ass, he never would have committed the crime in the first place. But Green can't blame his parents, either. I hope he gets out of prison early, and hopefully he'll emerge as a grownup.

Ari Armstrong

Westminster

White makes right:Nice try, Deputy District Attorney Diane Balkin. We all need the appearance of equality in the criminal in-justice system, and your efforts to make it seem like you go after everyone with the same zeal were commendable.

But if politicians were to push for equality in criminal enforcement, they would likely be voted out. Remember "Parents Against Mandatory Minimums"? It's clear that white wealthy America doesn't mind heavy-handed law enforcement against traditional criminal classes, but when it comes to their kids, such tactics will not be tolerated.

David Noland

Denver


Lost in the Translation

Nowhere man:After seeing the wonderful film Nowhere in Africa, I happened to pick up the May 8 Westword and read "Nowhere, Ma'am," Jean Oppenheimer's review of it. Now, I do agree that it might have been better if the film had more on the adjustment of Regina, the daughter, to Africa, rather than that of the mother, Jettel. However, I find it very difficult to make this conclusion independently, since I have not read the book. I searched on the Internet to find the book, but it appears that it is not yet available in an English translation.

Therefore, two questions come to mind: Does Oppenheimer read German and, if so, has she read the book? If so, I humbly defer to her review. However, if she hasn't read the book, I seriously question whether she is in a position to critique this film with regard to the perspective from which the director chose to film it. Upon visiting the official Web site, I found an interview with the director, Caroline Link, in which she discussed why she chose to lend more focus to the mother. Not having read the book, I found Ms. Link's explanation to be more than satisfactory.

This film deals with a very difficult subject in a most profound way: the decisions that we as adults have to make for the survival of our families. The film does a marvelous job of depicting that. Granted, a child's perspective would have given us a view that we might not normally get to see. That would have been a luxury in this case and would have detracted from the angst that the characters felt not knowing, or, in the end, knowing, the fate of their families left behind in Germany.

Given the choice, I prefer the film as delivered. However, if Nowhere in Africa is available in English, I plan to read it ASAP. If I feel differently after that reading, I will most assuredly defer to the review.

Tony Sharp

via the Internet


Let's Do the Time Warp Again

The long andRocky road:Thank you, Bill Gallo, for your tribute to the Rocky Horror Picture Show phenomenon in the May 15 issue. If the weekly midnight gathering at the Starz FilmCenter is a "family ritual," then I (as a 56-year-old regular celebrant) am the designated mom.

I also want to thank the CEI (Colorado's Elusive Ingredient) cast and crew for making Denver's Rocky such a wonderful celebration. As we say at the show, "Yay that type!"

Cheryl Kasson

Denver

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