Letters to the Editor
Mark his words: In "Marked for Death," in the May 25 issue, Alan Prendergast stated that there have been eight inmate homicides at Florence federal penitentiary since it opened seven years ago. This means 1.1 homicides per year. He also wrote that 94 assaults means "roughly one stabbing or beating victim among every ten inmates." This implies that the prison's population is about 940.
This translates to a murder rate of about 115 per 100,000 inmates. Compare this to a national murder rate of 9.5 people per 100,000 in 1993, and 6.3 in 1998. During the same period, the overall violent-crime rate in the U.S. dropped from 746.8 to 566.4 (World Almanac and Book of Facts 2000). This is nowhere near the violent-crime rate of 10,000 per 100,000 inmates occurring at Florence.
Since the idea that access to guns causes crime is unquestionable, perhaps Westword can print an article about how gun control in prison needs to be made more strict. After all, convicts in prison should be made as safe as the rest of the general population. The anti-self-defense lobby in this country credits strict gun control for Japan's low crime rate. This would easily explain why prisoners in Japan are much less violent than inmates in American prisons.
If people like Joni Brown (Letters, May 25) feel that letters expressing opinions differing from theirs are too violent, perhaps they would feel better living in a Japanese prison, where they would be safe from the dangers of reading something they disagree with.
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Rising to the top, with a bullet: Once and for all, you self-defending rootin'-tooters waving your God-given rights in everybody's faces, the Second Amendment is for the establishment of a "well-regulated militia," to be mobilized in event of foreign invasion or intolerable oppression by a corrupt government. In this respect, the fringe groups in their Idaho compounds are closer to the constitutional spirit than is the NRA. Not that they are mutually exclusive. So how do you gun fetishists square the Founding Fathers' intent with the right to blow away every criminal, ex-wife's lover, callous boss or obnoxious bicyclist? (See Patricia Calhoun's "Fire Away," in the May 11 issue, and letters in subsequent issues.)
According to your sacred Second Amendment, only the National Guard (active and reservists) should have firearms. And possibly the standing military forces, but only on base or when engaged in combat. And let's allow exemptions for subsistence hunters -- rifles only, of course. Guns are not collectibles any more than nerve-gas canisters or tactical nuclear weapons are. Let's round them up (to the cheers of the rest of the civilized world) and really usher in a new millennium.
P.S. for the "Tyranny Response Team": Mothers and children congregating for peace, or at least a less violent society, are not the Tyrant. Look elsewhere.
Age before beauty: Hey, Westword almost looks ready for the 21st century with that snappy new design. It's much more reader-friendly -- too bad reading will soon be obsolete.
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Merde, she wrote: Wow! Your new design in the May 25 issue looks great! Easy-to-read fonts and a much better layout on the page. Kudos to the design staff!
And my toque is off to Kyle Wagner. Thank you for her on-target 2nd Helping review of Le Central, "French Roast," in the same issue. I'm sure their loyal customers are screaming bloody murder -- or merde. I used to go to Le Central quite often, but not anymore. Meals are of inconsistent quality, the waitstaff is rushed and inattentive, and even their good bread occasionally arrives cold and stiff. So I say au revoir to Le Central.
Radio for spare change: I do station imaging (sweepers, liners, promos) as well as other production duties at 1490 KWAB/RadioForChange.com. After reading your article (Radio for (Lots of) Change, May 25), I felt I needed to add an addendum to Dani Newsum's statement, "What's the difference between the way people are treated at KWAB versus, say, KOA or KHOW. I didn't see a damn bit of difference."
Dani is incorrect. Or at least we have vastly different opinions. I can speak about this subject with the utmost confidence, because I worked for KHOW/KOA before I worked at KWAB.
RadioForChange.com pays their technical producers better than Clear Channel/Denver. RadioForChange.com management inspires their TPs, producers and station-imaging people to be creative. My experience offering creativity, extra work, as well as honest, constructive suggestions/criticism at KOA/KHOW was that unless it directly benefited their short-term needs (filling board shifts), they did NOT care one bit what you thought. There is camaraderie among the staff at 1490 KWAB Radio/RadioForChange.com that is desperately lacking at KOA/KHOW. The morale of many of their employees is piss-poor.
I was fired, which is fine, because it has allowed me to work with 1490 KWAB/RadioForChange.com. I now make a better hourly wage than KOA/KHOW, 7-Eleven and McDonald's. What 1490/KWAB currently lacks in "signal strength" it more than makes up in progressive, spirited, creative and diverse programming -- and employee relations.
Silly us: Saw the story re KWAB in Westword today via the web. The following is not a response from KWAB, but from me, personally.
I have major objections regarding both the accuracy and tone of the piece.
First, a few small details: your writer quoted me decently enough, but the title of my book (Steal This Book And Get Life Without Parole) was stated incorrectly, as was the address of my website (www.bobharris.com, which even most 4.0 browsers will not find from the incorrect address you apparently printed).
Even in the few lines devoted to yours truly, there were still other errors; however, I don't want to be petty, and for the sake of brevity, one might simply consider whether the misstatement of simple facts as verifiable as the above might reflect on the degree of care and thought with which the rest of the article was written.
I'm deeply disappointed your writer chose to devote so little of the article on KWAB and RadioForChange.com to what's actually *on the air,* which reasonable readers might agree is at least one useful measure of the station's value. One could wonder, after reading the article closely, whether the writer so much as listened to KWAB's actual programming at all.
I won't speak for anyone else at KWAB, but this morning -- in a typical show -- I spent a half-hour with a senior aide to Congressman Tony Hall (D-OH), who just returned from Iraq, where hundreds of thousands of civilians have died needlessly. Cong. Hall has since called for major humanitarian changes to the sanctions. Other topics discussed by email and with callers were genetically modified food, global warming, campaign financing, public education, and how U.S. government data indicates that the new China trade bill will cost almost a million U.S. jobs. This last should have been national news and might well have changed the debate and its outcome drastically had other news outlets seen fit to report it.
Other guests this week included Harvey Wasserman (one of the founders of Greenpeace), Kevin Danaher (one of the founders of Global Exchange), and Amy Allina (director of the Women's Health Network), along with almost a dozen other prominent progressive activists, politicians, and journalists. And that's just during morning drive time, during which most commercial stations are updating the weather, playing the latest Britney Spears single, or chortling over cheap sex jokes. Your readers can (and will, ultimately) decide if KWAB's alternative is worthwhile.
I don't know if our little experiment will work. I think so. I hope so. We'll all find out together. And maybe we'll do some good.
But good God, Westword, in a radio market where almost the whole talk spectrum is owned by two massive corporate conglomerates, *this* is the station your writer spent so much time nosing around for dirt? Are you kidding?
Apparently your writer's idea of worthwhile journalism is finding a fresh subject to attack -- even if it's one he knows has the best of intentions -- and then finding everything bad anyone has to say about it, whether the source is credible or not (and I know for a fact that your writer is fully aware that one of the sources he quotes is profoundly questionable, since he agreed to as much during our interview; I will supply further details if you like).
That's not news. That's not journalism. It's rock-throwing for its own sake.
You want news that your independent-thinking readership might actually be able to use? Your article didn't even mention that KWAB is the only place where Denver-area listeners can hear nationally-respected commentator Jim Hightower, who got canned by ABC radio for criticizing corporate monopolization of the media. We put him back on the air in this town. You might not think that's worthwhile, but Jim's KWAB-sponsored event last week brought a capacity crowd to the Chautaqua House. I guess maybe Westword's readership wouldn't be interested in that.
You didn't mention that we've forged relationships with almost every major progressive media outlet in the country, often airing investigative stories from magazines like Mother Jones and The Progressive before they've even seen print. Maybe that's not good enough journalism to meet Westword's stringent standards.
You didn't mention that our web presence allows us to reach listeners worldwide; during my show, listeners in roughly a dozen countries so far have emailed questions and live feedback which I can often incorporate even while interviews are in progress. You didn't mention how sorely needed a progressive national radio presence is becoming given the conflicts at Pacifica. Nor did you mention that our national scope will allow us to broadcast both the Democratic and Republican national conventions -- and, more to the point, the progressive protests thereof -- back to Boulder, continuously, live and as they happen. Or maybe that's all just not important enough for Westword's readers to know about.
And you also barely mentioned KWAB's contributions of $140,000 to local progressive groups, while skipping over KWAB's sponsorship of local cultural events entirely. If you ask me, all that is a pretty goddam good start for a 1000-watt station in Boulder.
I know for a fact that your writer wasn't interested in writing about any of the above, because I personally supplied all of the above information and much more during a phone conversation that lasted almost an hour. But gee, who wants to read all that good news? That's not how a budding Bob Woodward gets ahead, now is it?
Much better to devote almost the whole article to personal-level sniping from ex-employees, to whom, readers should consider, the station's General Manager (the supposed bad guy in all this, even though he wasn't the one who hired most of them in the first place), was too classy to respond in kind.
The fact that Chuck refused to say anything bad about any of them or their work -- even though he already sensed that a hit piece was coming (as he told me at the time) -- is a far better measure of the man than anything in your article.
Oh, and never mind his singular attempt to create a new model upon which socially-responsible broadcasting can be attempted. I guess that's not nearly as important to focus on as personal attacks from unnamed sources who allegedly worked with Chuck for brief periods many years ago and have nothing to do with RadioForChange.com whatsoever.
And as to the many producers and operations people behind the scenes at the station who enjoy their work (whose names I will happily supply if you're ever interested)? For the purposes of your smear job, they apparently don't even exist.
What remarkable hypocrisy: an independent commercial media outlet (you) attacks another independent commercial media outlet (us) -- for *being* an independent commercial media outlet.
What's your big point? That commercial radio is commercial radio? *This just in!*
Look, just so you realize how silly your article is: one could easily spend an afternoon tracking down a few dozen former Westword staffers; perhaps they might likewise vent about what it's like to work for you guys. One could also attack the credibility of your Borg-like out-of-town parent company, and with vastly more ammunition. And as to advertisers, one could sure as hell have a field day running down the backgrounds of the get-laid phone services Westword advertises every single week. I'm sure Mistress Sonja or whoever's paying your rent this month is clean as a whistle. But would that serve any useful purpose? Not really.
Matter of fact, tempting as the idea is, I do not currently intend to waste a minute of airtime pointing out the intensely amusing lunacy of your publication's current editorial position. I accept and trust that you guys are doing the best you can. Honestly, I do. It would be nice to receive the same courtesy.
Until then, this letter of response to your unwarranted and unnecessary attack, if printed -- and I assume you will realize on reflection that this entire letter deserves to be printed -- should be sufficient to clarify matters.
My time in front of the public (and KWAB's, I'm sure all involved would agree) is better served by going after the bigshots who truly damage our politics, environment, and culture -- not by taking cheap shots at other little guys who are presumably doing the best they can to get much-needed information into the public debate.
Your time, Westword, might best be served similarly.
At some point, perhaps you'll realize we're on the same team. Or at least we damn well should be.
Bob Harris, morning host
Michael Roberts responds: Harris uses a claim of errors regarding his Web site address and book title to back up his suppositions. However, the address was accurate (the "www" portion was removed in the editing process because of redundancy) and so was the title (although the word "and" should have been italicized). Elsewhere, Harris engages in similar tactics (including an unsubstantiated, McCarthy-like attack on my character) as a means to divert attention from charges levied by former KWAB employees -- the vast majority of which he doesn't dispute. In the end, he seems to believe that because the station is well-intended, nothing negative should be reported about it. That may be his definition of good journalism, but it's not mine.
Why spy? In regard to the city's plan to account for its employees' activity -- via satellite surveillance -- while they're presumably working (Off Limits, May 25), it is more than likely that the city will create bigger problems than it resolves. Instead of effectively dealing with "loafers" by further empowering them, giving them a greater sense of esteem, control, flexibility and skills so as to cope better with their more-than-likely monotonous and perceived-as-low-status jobs, the city has chosen intimidation as a result of the public pressure by a news organization. The city should reconsider its tactic.
Jonathan M. Dietz
Pan overboard! Just wanted to write a letter about the homeless and "aggressive panhandling," and I'm speaking from experience, because I've been homeless for the last ten years all over the United States, and the homeless is a nationwide problem. People think giving homeless people 50 cents when approached is helping, but just think how many people give them a half-dollar. These kind of people can make anywhere from $100 a day to $300 in eight hours, depending on their location. If you truly want to help someone, don't give cash. Buy McDonald's gift certificates; that way you know it's being used for food. But I don't see why people are hungry; there are a lot of places that give meals or will give food. Or if you have a yard, have them work for money.
But honestly speaking, if you just give them money, all it's telling the homeless is it's okay to be out here and live off of people.
Denver County Jail
International incident: Regarding Eric Dexheimer's very informative and interesting story about international adoptions and the story of the Thomases ("The Mother Country," May 18):
I have known Denise Thomas, a kind and caring person, for about thirty years, and I understand she finds herself in a very difficult situation and lost in a bewildering legal maze. It is sad and unfortunate that idealistic parents such as the Thomases have become victims of a system that does not support adoptive parents. Surely the Colorado authorities will reconsider the situation and choose a lesser charge. The Thomases have suffered enough economic and psychological hardship. Thank you for your compassionate story.
Suzanne L. Penegor
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No justice: As one of the subjects of "The Mother Country," there is, of course, no point in attempting to describe what this experience has done to our family. I would simply like to present one point to anyone who reads this: The Arapahoe County criminal justice system has lost sight of the meaning of justice. My wife is not a child-trafficker, not a criminal. The DA's office knows this but pursues her prosecution for reasons we cannot understand.
Denise was already a victim of a long chain of circumstances, but the response of Arapahoe County to this woman in trouble was, and continues to be, to victimize her yet again. Elena, as we discovered, had been victimized in Russia to an extent we never imagined, and the "professionals" on whom we relied kept this from us, for their own monetary gain. We continue to support Elena financially and wish her only the best. However, it seems that Arapahoe County wants to bankrupt us by also forcing us to fight vindictive and punitive criminal charges, which serve no purpose other than to create more victims. In the process, it has saddened me to see our son totally lose faith in our criminal justice system.
It is yet one more element of this tragedy that our "justice" system has apparently lost sight of the meaning of the word, seeing its function as only to create as many "criminals" as it can.
Peter A. Thomas
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Into thin air: Bravo to Robin Chotzinoff, for her article about the new REI ("Get in Gear," May 18). My thoughts about the place were: This is gross, still no real help, and what's the point? Years ago I used to work at REI, when it really was a true cooperative. However, it has become the Kmart of camping stores or, in this case, the Starbucks nation of business from Seattle. Do you know that the old granola-eating employees used to have a saying about what REI really stood for? It was not Recreational Equipment Inc., but Really Expensive Items. We do have a major problem facing our society.
Name withheld on request
A novel approach: Westword, turn in your muckraker's badge for allowing the puff piece on local lauded wordsmith Edward Bryant (Juliet Wittman's "Fright for Life," May 11). Where were the coke binges, the underage hookers, the dead illegal aliens roasting in a locked moving van outside El Paso? (And you think "Doing Colfax" was fiction?) This was not the "Big Man" Bryant his real friends know and love.
Actually, it was. All kidding aside, it was great to have multi-award-winning mega-talents like Willis, Ellison and Simmons sing Ed's praises, but that's only half the story. He's just as creatively nurturing, insightful and endlessly tolerant with a wide circle of no-name schmucks like me struggling to sell a first novel.
Ed, we may never say it, but we love ya. Now finish your damn novel . . .after you finish critiquing mine.
The runaround: Regarding Julie Jargon's "One More Time Around," in the May 18 issue:
Again we have an excellent example of the City of Boulder's determination to railroad the public on traffic mitigation. The first public information about meetings to discuss the fate of the Balsam and Pine traffic-circle experiments appeared on May 23, just the day before the first meeting. While residents within the ridiculously small 400-foot opinion-sampling zones may have received a mailing, the much broader public -- whose emergency services will be degraded by permanent traffic circles -- have been given no warning. The lack of respect for the general opinion of the community is appalling.
A search of the city's Web site as late as last week revealed no announcement of the meetings. City-sponsored notices in the newspapers over past weekends did not include the events. Individuals who had standing requests with the city for any information on traffic mitigation did not get mailings. The obvious explanation, of course, is that short notice reduces opposition to the predetermined outcome of this charade. When even those committed to involvement in a process cannot discover information about events of which they are forewarned, what hope does the average citizen without advance knowledge have?
Mr. Manager, councilmembers, you should be ashamed of your staff and yourselves for allowing this to happen. Of course, history suggests you will be pleased with the course of events and may even have encouraged it. You've certainly allowed a pattern of such actions over the years. Basic fairness, though, demands postponement of the meetings until adequate notice has been provided to the community. No one benefits from conducting the public's business in the dark.
David D. Wagner
A flawed sentence: Lisl Auman was wrongfully prosecuted and convicted. Foolish young girl, bad judgment, naive? Yes. Responsible for Officer VanderJagt's murder? No. Orchestrating a burglary? No. Deserving of a life sentence without parole? NO!
The "facts" surrounding this case -- so smugly defended by the district attorney's office on a recent Reggie Rivers show -- were so twisted, falsified and stretched out of proportion at the Auman trial in July 1998 that they can be summarily dismissed as outright lies and colorfully depicted suppositions. The politics-driven trial and conviction of Lisl Auman, based on these "facts/lies" that were then presented to the jury led to one of the most atrocious miscarriages of justice I've ever heard of in my nearly 75 years. Here was a "political judge," with full discretionary powers in sentencing, who arrogantly imposed the maximum sentence under a weird, flawed law (wisely abolished by the British, who wrote it hundreds of years ago). I wonder if Judge Rice -- who was subsequently promoted to the Colorado Supreme Court -- is as "comfortable" with her sadistic decision as the DA's office is with its gleeful, ill-gotten victory?
I have watched this case intensely from its inception and am constantly haunted by this girl's wrongful prosecution and malevolent sentencing. We have a really scary justice system! Congratulations to Juliet Wittman for her well-researched Westword articles, most recently "Murder by Death," in the April 20 issue.
Elvis lives: Michael Roberts thinks he knows everything about 'N Sync ("Sync or Swim," April 27), but he doesn't know much about them. Mr. Roberts thinks that 'N Sync is evil and creepy and too sexy for young children and youth. I think that 'N Sync is inspiring and lively. If I were to listen to Elton John or any other older guys, they wouldn't have that young liveliness that 'N Sync has. I have to admit that they are cute and I have their poster, but that doesn't mean much to me. Mr. Roberts says that "waggling" your "keister" is bad, because his young daughters are six. I am young (eleven), and I dance, and my keister happens to move. Does your keister not happen to move when you dance, Mr. Roberts? I've seen an 'N Sync concert, and they don't hump the floor! I never feel like kiddie porn after I listen to their songs. Mr. Roberts, does the name Elvis Presley ring a bell?
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Abba dabba do! As is often the case, I really enjoyed reading Michael Roberts's critical piece on 'N Sync -- and his daughters' comments, too!
As we have a five-year-old daughter (and a two-year-old one, too), we are sort of in the same boat as Roberts: stuck listening to lots of kid-oriented music. We're still in the "kids' songs" stage and less into the "pop kids" stage. But Disney songs can get old real fast, so about a month ago, I put together a compilation tape that I can listen to with them and actually have a good time, too. One of the highlights for the kids (and me) is a selection of Shonen Knife songs off of Happy Hour -- good pop-rock songs about innocuous subjects like hot chocolate, sushi, fish eyes, banana chips and snails. Abba and Southern Culture on the Skids are other highlights for us. Roberts might give these a try with his girls. Well, maybe not the Abba.
Thanks for the music articles!
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