The Martian Chronicles
In response to Steve Jackson's "Mars or Bust," in the September 18 issue, without sounding Amish or like a Luddite, I would like to say the following:
Has it occurred to anyone that the exploration of our solar system without a code of ethics that respects The Other is like putting the cart before the horse? After all, given the amount of commercialization and strip mining that we have engaged in here on the Big Blue Marble, what right do we have for shlepping our middle-class junk mail to other planets? Just because we have more missiles than anyone else in the solar system, does that mean that we have the right to franchise it out to a new generation of aesthetically bankrupt robber barons? Are we certain that Martians like sushi?
A country and an institution (NASA) that stand in awe of the universe (remember all those "golly gees" the Apollo astronauts cried when they saw things from a different perspective?), while appropriating a pristine sense of smugness based on some jerk's idea of legalities, are no better than used-car salesmen when it comes to "selling Mars." Your headline should have been "Mars for Sale--See the Classifieds." I can't wait to see the Red Giant overrun with sorority chicks in Bimmers (Future Shock).
The point here is not akin to that of Columbus (exhibiting prudery in the face of discovery). The point is that until we figure out what to do with all the landfills on Gilligan's Island, we have no legal, moral, cultural or logical right to dump our neuroses on Mars. Remember, kids, Lost in Space was a TV show--not an excuse.
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I really enjoyed "Mars or Bust." It was informative and lively. However, I wish to correct a minor point in Jackson's article. Many readers will say I'm splitting hairs, but some hairs need to be split.
Jackson compared the scientists dreaming of colonizing Mars amid much skepticism about the feasibility of such a project to Christopher Columbus and the official concern of advisors that Columbus would fall off the edge of a flat Earth.
This is a widely held, modern-day popular view of what happened in the court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. However, this view is a myth. The advisors to the royal couple knew the Earth was round; it had been known for some time among medieval philosophers and astronomers. The reason that the King and Queen's advisors were skeptical of Christopher Columbus's plans was that Columbus underestimated the circumference of the Earth by several thousand miles, and the advisors pointed out the error. Columbus did this to make the voyage from Spain to the East Indies appear shorter and therefore more feasible or palatable.
The common folk living on the land in that period may have believed the Earth was flat, but the advisors knew otherwise. I realize it's a minor point to make about an otherwise excellent article, but I wish to make it nevertheless.
All in all, "Mars or Bust" was a very enjoyable article and presented much of the flavor of the current interest in missions to Mars. It also presented the basic reason these missions are important: namely, as the first steps in the opening of a new frontier. Without such a frontier, I have grave concerns for the future of the American spirit.
I am afraid the article did have several factual errors, though. It was Apollo 1, not 10, that had the deadly launch-pad fire. Apollo 10 was a highly successful dry run of the subsequent Apollo 11 mission. In Apollo 10, the crew did everything but land on the Moon. Also, the article describes the Saturn-bound Cassini spacecraft as being "as-yet-unbuilt." Perhaps the author intended to write "as-yet-unlaunched," since the spacecraft is ready to go and is just awaiting its October-November launch window.
Rush to Judgement
Regarding "What a Rush," by Tony Perez-Giese and T.R. Witcher in the September 11 issue:
It made a pretty sensational story to send reporters undercover to CU's fraternity rush. However, the letter you quoted, co-signed by Boulder police chief Tom Koby and me, was from 1995 and referred to an episode at a fraternity from 1994. The university, the City of Boulder and the Greek organizations have done a great deal since 1995 to promote more responsible attitudes and behavior. We feel a lot of progress has been made.
No one from Westword came to talk with anyone from the vice chancellor's office of the Division of Student Affairs directly. In the interest of responsible journalism, perhaps in the future you could get information more current than two years ago and talk directly with CU officials before quoting them. We are open to questions from reporters.
Jean Kim, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
University of Colorado at Boulder
Perez-Giese and Witcher respond: Contrary to Vice Chancellor Kim's implication, we did speak with--and quote--university officials in our story, which gave the accurate date of the Koby/ Kim letter. Next time we go through rush, we'll invite Vice Chancellor Kim along so she can see what's going on at her school.
The Slime of Their Lives
I could not believe the September 18 letter that lumped Westword in with the "media slime." It's articles like Patricia Calhoun's "The Princess and the Peons," in the September 11 issue, that make Westword required reading in my house. When newspapers do their job right, they educate us and open our eyes. Admittedly, some Westword stories open my eyes a bit too far--and even raise my eyebrows--but that's one of the reasons I like the paper. It makes me think.
In "The Princess and the Peons," Patricia Calhoun wrote, "the Boulder County Sheriff's Department launched a full-scale search...until they finally found the culprits: a former sheriff's deputy." To assert that the sheriff's department "found" me is absurd. Had you or your staff conducted a modicum of basic research in the pursuit of accurate reporting, you would have discovered that I went to them; they did not come to me.
When I learned of the sheriff's investigation, I immediately came forth to disclose that in obtaining the photographs, there had been no crime committed. Silly me--I expected George Epp and Alex Hunter to acknowledge the absence of a criminal act and return to more mundane pursuits, such as solving the real crime: JonBenet Ramsey's murder. Alas, it was not to be. Someone needed hanging, and I was convenient gallows ballast.
Now, concerning Westword's reporting: I don't expect in-depth research on every story, but the arrest report supplied at the news conference by the self-praising Boulder County officials elicited this fact rather well. Westword is not alone in this gaffe--nary a single media agency reported the matter accurately. I really had hoped for more from you folks at Westword.
You, Peter Boyles and many others have ascended personal soapboxes on the Ramsey case. But your comments about me and my involvement are a puzzle. For instance, from Calhoun's January 16 "Global Warning": "There is one photograph in the Globe that is more telling, more true, than anything else that has appeared about this case over the past three weeks. It is a picture of JonBenet's lifeless hand, peeking out from under the fuzzy sleeve of her white nightgown...Amid all the glamour shots, it is the only photo to show JonBenet for what she truly was: a little girl." Great praise indeed for those who facilitated the release of the coroner's photographs.
The very next week, you showed no restraint in castigating and denouncing me and others who were involved in the release and publication of the coroner's photographs as being schmucks, liars and in need of counseling. But wait a minute--didn't you just the week before praise the release and publication of the photographs as essentially opening the eyes of the voyeuristic public? Seems to me that's tantamount to praising the message, then crucifying the messenger.
Though filled with remorse, I can find it in my heart to make you a deal, Patricia: I'll get counseling for trusting the promise--promise!--of a newspaper editor if you'll obtain the same for your blatant waffling and hypocrisy.
Brett A. Sawyer
Regarding Patricia Calhoun's "War of the Words," in the September 18 issue:
Glad to see Calhoun's journalistic latitude extends beyond Rocky Flats and the Ramseys. You can make a career writing about other "War of the Words" incidents--the incredible bias of the courts and justice system against men in domestic disputes. Thanks to the intellectual elite and the feminists, I now fear for my life and well-being. If my wife plants a bomb in my car and I discover it and take it to the police, I'll be charged with possession of stolen property (my wife's) and possession of an incendiary device. How cleverly innovative! I can choose between death and jail.
Check out the Internet and find out more about happenings in the war of the sexes. The constitutional rights of men are being blatantly violated--their property is being seized, their freedom of speech is being suppressed, and their right to due process is being ignored. Get more of your reporters on to this social trend and see what turns up. You'll be shocked at what's going on in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
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Westword makes frequent references to the Quigley/Aronson case. It is apparent that the reporting reflects either a shallowness in its analysis or a deliberate attempt to portray the Quigleys as completely innocent.
The charges against the Quigleys have been dropped, and they have collected $75,000 from the Jeffco DA. But let's not ignore the reasons for this twist in events. The Jeffco DA charged the Quigleys with twelve felonies based upon the content of tapes supplied by the Aronsons. The DA advised and encouraged the Aronsons to supply these tapes. Dave Thomas stated that he thought the charges filed against the Quigleys were reasonable and that the evidence would likely result in a conviction.
Unbeknownst to the DA's office, a new law became part of federal code. This new law presumably made the interception of telephone conversations with a radio scanner illegal. Thus, the Jeffco DA unknowingly encouraged the Aronsons to commit a crime against the Quigleys. Thus, the Jeffco DA's evidence was severely tainted and might not have been admissible in a court of law.
District attorney's offices across the country bring and often drop and reduce charges. It is unheard of for a DA's office to issue an apology and then pay the ex-defendant after charges have been dropped. The payment by the DA's office speaks volumes as to why the case was dropped. A DA cannot be sued for charges that he brings lawfully. This is called sovereign immunity. In this case, the DA lost his sovereign immunity. All the evidence collected may have been tainted, and the DA's office was open to a lawsuit which could cost the taxpayers millions. The $75,000 payment to the Quigleys was the only economical way out.
This does not change why the initial twelve felony charges were brought against the Quigleys. Do Westword reporters actually believe that the evidence amassed against the Quigleys was completely innocuous? Come on--twelve felonies!
The Quigleys have not been exonerated. The Quigleys were not paid because they were found innocent of the charges that were filed against them. They were paid because the DA may have broken the law while collecting the evidence.
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