Fashion victims: Thanks for Michael Roberts's great article on SUVs, "A Sporting Chance," in the June 1 issue. It should be required reading for all those considering purchasing one of those Stupid Useless Vehicles, as well as for those lemmings who have already followed the latest fashion by buying one.
Several things you failed to discuss, however, were the fact that these vehicles pollute more than "regular" passenger cars and are not even subject to the same pollution standards. In addition, they use more gasoline, which, as much as we do not like to think about it, is a finite resource. And recently, we have heard that as these behemoths have gotten bigger, the morons buying them are whining that they do not fit in their garages! One can only imagine how sorry I feel for them.
To summarize, then, SUVs pollute more than cars, use more gasoline, are more difficult to handle, are more dangerous to other vehicles, are involved in more than their share of accidents and don't fit in the garage. Would someone enlighten me, please: Why, exactly, are they so popular?
Na-na-na-na-na-na: Let me enlighten you and the readers of Westword to some facts of life. You get better medical care if you're rich like Mickey Mantle. You get better treatment from police if you're well connected like Mr. Sam Riddle.
You get away with almost anything if you're a member of the Denver Police Department. You're more likely to try a trip to Leadville, over a snowy pass in a storm, in your Toyota Land Cruiser than in your Toyota Tercel. You're more likely to survive any crash in your QX4 than in a Simca. That's simply the way it is.
Assault and batteries: Mr. Roberts's "A Sporting Chance" raises some important issues about the design and safety of SUVs -- or "Urban Assault Vehicles," as I called them when they first became a fashion item while I was living in Los Angeles in the late '80s. Such vehicles have been around for a long time. The early Chevy Suburban and the Chevy Blazer have always been monsters. The Ford Bronco was famous for its ability to roll over on its back. So I doubt the quote from the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association's Carole Walker that "SUV testing is in its infancy."
I owned a new Toyota Land Cruiser station wagon in 1973, purchased for family-carrying capacity and outdoor fantasy. I traded it after six months because the outdoor fantasies were too infrequent and I couldn't really see the difference between the four-wheel drive performance and the off-road performance of a pickup with a low gear in the hands of an experienced driver. Why carry all that extra transfer-case weight around?
The design issues need to be taken into account. Still, the mentality of inexperienced drivers who respond to "deal with it" and "no boundaries"-themed marketing campaigns aimed at Dilberts with Indiana Jones/Banana Republic/Eddie Bauer/REI fantasies who travel Colorado dot-com's frustratingly overcrowded highways are also important factors.
SUV's don't kill people. People kill people.
Harry T. Spetnagel
The invisible man: I drive a small, fuel-efficient car and will continue to do so. Lately, however, driving around surrounded by SUVs gives me the creeps: Their drivers have no realistic sense of their speed, they barrel through wherever they want to go, and the worst part is, they can't even see me!
via the Internet
When SUVs are outlawed: After reading Michael Roberts's cover story, I have finally realized that some of your writers have lost touch with reality. Yes, SUVs are bigger and stiffer than the sheet-metal coffins that pass for cars these days. And, yes, people survive accidents in the SUV more than their car counterparts (duh). But does eliminating the SUV make sense? What's next? Will tractor trailers be banned for the same reasons (bigger, stronger, their drivers survive)? Will Volvos be banned because they are safer cars than the Escort or Civic? Perhaps the author would feel better if we just eliminated all of the major car manufacturers and had the government design and build one car for all Americans. Then every driver would be safe, knowing that he was just as safe as the guy next to him.
By the way, I do not own an SUV.
Only outlaws will have SUVs: Many SUV drivers are assholes, pure and simple. They're tailgating, stereo-blasting, cell-phoning jerks who don't have enough hands or brain cells to use their turn signals. Allowing Sherman tanks on city streets makes less sense than permitting automatic weapons in private homes.
via the Internet
Arms and the man: It's all but impossible to find an SUV owner who isn't a "responsible driver who just wants safety." Okay, I reply, surely you could have no objection to speeding and other traffic penalties for SUVs that reflect their true potential hazard to other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists? Such conversations usually end abruptly at this point. People like Bill Brouse not only want to swap other people's safety for their own, but they want to do it as cheaply as possible, without regard to any present and future social costs of the automotive arms race.
Putting it less delicately than Westword's article, SUVs are designed to use smaller vehicles and their occupants as impact-absorbing material. In a fit of whimsy, I once suggested more realistic traffic penalties for SUVs to Boulder's supposedly safety-conscious city council, who predictably declined even commenting on the suggestion. They feel better continuing to pour thousands of bucks into quack safety nostrums like traffic circles.
Just the facts: I am so glad to see an article based on hard facts in Westword! "A Sporting Chance" is objective and informative, and it obviously required that Michael Roberts analyze a large amount of data, something that few reporters seem able to do. Why not share some of that data with your readers? I would have appreciated a couple of charts, or perhaps a table, to show me what the story is telling me. A clear chart should take up less space than any of the drab accompanying photographs.
We drive on the right: Thanks for Michael Roberts's May 25 "Radio for (Lots of) Change," about the progressive radio station 1490 KWAB (radioforchange.com). Roberts's remark that talk radio usually offers us hosts that "are only slightly less right-wing than Benito Mussolini" is too close to reality to be funny. We should be concerned that a person can drive across the country and hear little more than a chorus of right-wing propagandists attacking unions, the women's movement, environmentalists, mass transit, social spending and anything else that does not contribute to the holy crusade for profits and market share. What makes this scenario even more ominous is the way Rush Limbaugh and Mike Rosen and Michael Reagan and Oliver North and Michael Medved and Paul Harvey can simultaneously howl about the alleged "liberal" media. This is the same media owned by mega-corporations like General Electric and Westinghouse -- not exactly hotbeds of radical thought.
Hopefully, the workings of our totally rigged, conglomerate-controlled media market won't prevent 1490 KWAB and other alternative voices from expanding into the vast regions of our country that have zero access to views that challenge corporate dogma. In the meantime, there is a movie circulating at independent video stores and libraries called Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media. It's an award-winning film that pulls back the curtain on our modern day Wizards of Oz. Rent it, and copy it, now -- before George W. becomes America's CEO and declares it a threat to national security.
Far left out: I liked Michael Roberts's article that exposed Working Assets' anti-labor actions at the KWAB-Boulder station (which I've nominated for a Project Censored award). Regarding Bob Harris's reliance on the same law firm that represents the Scripps media conglomerate, Baker-Hostetler, to discourage his radical-left listeners from e-mailing him with their complaints, one point should be made. Harris is against allowing grassroots U.S. radical-left activists onto his show to formally debate with Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting executive director Jeff Cohen about whether it's "cool" for FAIR to accept grants from establishment foundations like the MacArthur and Ford foundations.
Incidentally, in 1999 Working Assets entered into a "Shop for Change" Web site business relationship with JC Penney -- which apparently has laid off over 5,000 employees during the last few years, in the course of shutting down its least profitable department stores and drugstores. JC Penney has also been cited by anti-sweatshop-movement activists in recent years for selling clothing made in non-unionized Central American sweatshops in its U.S. stores.
via the Internet
Air heads: I'm a technical producer (that's a fancy title for a board operator) at KWAB. While some of the events in the station's history have been unfortunate and some of the firings may have been poorly handled, overall I believe that Chuck Lontine has merely been doing what is in the best interest of the station. Shows like Prove It! and others on the weekend schedule just were not getting the calls or the listenership that make a radio show successful. While yes, they were interesting and entertaining shows (in most cases), they just didn't cut it. Also, I know for a fact that Chuck regretted to some extent having to cancel Prove It! My point is that often when people get fired, there is some animosity toward the company or person that did the firing. And while I'm not saying this is always the case, to put it bluntly, being an on-air personality gives a lot of people a bit of an ego. Thus, they take more of a blow upon losing their show. I am a big fan of what KWAB is doing, and I wouldn't keep working here if I didn't believe in it. While I play just a small role and am not often exposed to the politics around the station, I think that what we are doing is for the good of the community and is a wonderful alternative to the majority of radio stations out there.
via the Internet
Bad reception: KWAB won our award for Worst Radio Station in Boulder in 1999 for good reason. No one listens. Their staff members are from Denver and L.A. All of the people mentioned in Michael Roberts's story are not from Boulder. They are outsiders who thought they could ride our wave of individuality, come here and cherry-pick our culture and local businesses.
It didn't work when Dani Newsum and Tony Kindelspire and Will Bryan tried it. Three and a half million dollars later, the Bob Harris and Chuck Lontine regime has also failed.
KWAB is right on track for Worst Radio Station in 2000. We've seen it all before, many times, in our town.
One day someone will buy the station and put on local known talent who come with sponsors...and they'll be successful. Duhhh!
Boulder channel 54 and Denver channel 57
The liberal media: Readers of the recent piece on KWAB might reasonably wonder about what is actually being put on the air at the station. In recent months, they would have heard interviews with a remarkably diverse group including activist and author Rita Mae Brown, writer Kurt Vonnegut, congressional representative Dennis Kucinich, author Adam Hochschild, and hundreds more of the most interesting people making a difference in Boulder and nationwide.
They would have heard a live report from within a union march at the Seattle WTO protests. They might have heard a debate between a representative of Greenpeace and the Japanese Ambassador over Japan's whaling practices. They might have heard the Hightower Show, which was dumped by ABC after Jim Hightower criticized ABC's owner, Disney.
They might also wonder about the very brief mention at the end of the story about a donations contest. KWAB has given away over $100,000 to local nonprofits ranging from the Boulder County Safe House and the Whitter Elementary School PTO to the Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project. All because listeners nominated them.
For those interested, KWAB can be heard at 1490 AM and on the Web at radioforchange.com. I think your readers will like what they find.
President, Working Assets
Gunning for her: Patricia Calhoun's May 11 "Fire Away" is yet another example of the sensationalist, liberal hot-air blowing that we have come to expect from Westword. A lot of high-and-mighty talk about how terrible guns and gun owners are, but absolutely no proposal for action, and certainly no consideration of what the underlying problems might be.
I am a gun owner (and I'm sure that in Ms. Calhoun's eyes, that simple fact makes me a monster). Here are a few things that I am NOT: 1) a criminal; 2) a member of a militia group, or a proponent of such groups' beliefs and practices; 3) a proponent of violence and brutality; 4) a member of the NRA (surprise, Ms. Calhoun!).
If Ms. Calhoun and others like her would lay down their NRA protest banners and burning bras long enough to realize that not all (in fact, very few) of us who own guns are out to kill and maim our fellow citizens, perhaps they would also come to the realization that guns are NOT the problem.
The problem with Mr. Hall is not the fact that he owns and carries a handgun. The problem is that he is an ignorant, impulsive, hotheaded murderer (in short, a criminal). He and people like him will always be with us, and they will never obey our laws, no matter how many of them we make.
If Ms. Calhoun truly wishes to make a difference, perhaps she should stop attacking guns and their owners and apply her misplaced passions to the assistance and guidance of troubled youth. In other words, put your money where your mouth is.
Out at Second: This is for James Greenfield (Letters, June 1). Your logic is missing, dear friend. The Second Amendment is not for the establishment of a well-regulated militia! It is an individual right, just like the others. Herein lies the fallacy of your argument: You say that this militia is "to be mobilized in the event of foreign invasion or intolerable oppression by a corrupt government." Well, who is going to mobilize this militia? You have given that right to the government by your own admission, and yet you expect that this oppressive government is now going to mobilize the militia to suppress itself? Give me a friggin' break. If you would take the time to actually research the Second Amendment, you would find an excellent book called Point Blank, in which an English professor (with no political motivation) flatly states that the phrase you refer to is not a limiting qualifier to the phrase "the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Hence it is indeed meant to be the individual's right to keep them!
If looks could kill: I've read Westword since 1989, and, call me old-fashioned, but I loathe the new layout. It looks like a Web site, or USA Today. New building, new look? What's up?
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The Best is a bust! I was truly shocked and dismayed at your recent readers' poll survey form. As a local business owner, I noticed the obvious oversight in gathering readers' opinions regarding best retail store in your Goods and Services section. Unless, of course, Westword's opinion is that the only goods and services offered in this "moo town" are in Cherry Creek Mall, Park Meadows Mall or on Colfax.
Considering that, at a glance it appears as though at least half of your ads (and consequently your salaries) are paid for by local small business and specialty shops, I was appalled at your obvious snub. What about the local record stores that have struggled for years against the commercial gurus -- who would normally get a stellar review from Denverites (who more often than not will support an independent retailer over a corporate package). Or the local video stores that dig their heels in the sand against the attempted monopolization by blockbuster mega-thieves. Not to mention, itty-bitty grains-of-sand boutiques, not too unlike mine, that try to offer up exceptional services and unique goods to the community but are not located in -- and would never, ever consider being located in -- a mall.
You have ostracized many of the unique shopping areas and, thus, experiences by omitting this category from your survey. I remember when Westword was supportive of local business, perhaps because it was one. Now I see a corporation with a smoking gun.
Editor's note: Hold your horses! As the Best of Denver 2000 readers' poll notes, the listed categories are just a fraction of those that will appear in the June 29 Best of Denver. The poll is designed to whet readers' appetites (sadly, dozens of people no doubt are answering Taco Bell to the "Best Taco" question right now) for the issue, and also to inspire write-in nominations. So round up some of your favorite people, places and things, and go to westword.combestof/2000/ballot/index.html, where it's not too late to fill out a ballot.