Violators will be towed: I was amused by Julie Jargon's "Yeah, That's the Ticket," in the July 25 issue, and appalled when I read at the end of her parking-division timeline that John Oglesby is still on leave -- and still getting a paycheck. Denver should give that guy the boot!
Return to sender: When I lived and went to college in Denver, I worked for an armored-car company that picked up deposits from the parking-ticket bureau. I once noticed an envelope on a desk that was addressed simply "To the Sons of Bitches at City and County of Denver."
I asked how the mail carrier knew to deliver it to the parking-ticket bureau. The lady replied, "That address, or anything similar, is automatically routed to us."
I found that highly amusing, although she did not.
Here comes the judge: After a parking-sign misunderstanding a couple of years back, I faced the referee. Snapping at her that I wanted my case heard by a "real" judge, I headed to court. It was a smart move, since by law you are allowed to face your accuser. When the officer who wrote my ticket failed to show up in court, the case and the court fees were altogether dismissed.
via the Internet
Striking out: I enjoy your cynical and often irreverent viewpoint, particularly as it is expressed in your cartoons. However, The City's lampooning of the Ted Williams cryogenic "controversy" in the July 25 issue is not only an egregious error in good taste, but also deplorable in that the artist stoops to catering to the lowest common denominator in an attempt to be "au courant" in his/her commentary. Whether you endorse Mr. Williams's iconic status or not, the caricature is a shameful misuse of his image and is not amusing in any sense.
Puff piece: In his July 25 "Pack Mentality," Michael Roberts writes of Dave Kopel's "hidden" connections: "News readers who'd like to scrutinize Kopel's public positions face a key obstacle: The tag at the end of his columns doesn't even mention his affiliation with the Independence Institute."
How is this an obstacle? How is a reader -- even of the print version -- going to scrutinize Kopel's public positions? They're going to try to find other things he's written, either from their own computer or at the library. A Google search immediately brings up his home page and his archive of writings at the National Review Online. There's nothing hidden -- it isn't like he's getting $50,000 checks from Enron and keeping that from his readers.
via the Internet
Where there's smoke, there's ire: Rocky Mountain News media critic Dave Kopel likes to hold other writers to exacting standards but rolls out the tired accusation of "personal attacks" when legitimate questions are raised about his work. Michael Roberts's Message does a good job of touching on documents outlining Big Tobacco's financial support of Kopel's employer, the Independence Institute. But the article doesn't reference the "smoking gun" -- the document that shows what the tobacco industry expected to get from the Independence Institute.
Type "Independence Institute" into the search engine of the online archive of once-secret tobacco-industry papers that Roberts references (www.tobaccodocuments.org) and you'll find a memo from Denver public-relations agency Russell, Karsh and Hagan, which worked for Philip Morris on tobacco issues (as documented extensively by David Olinger of the Denver Post).
The 1995 memo proposes research into tobacco prevention organizations and suggests that the research could be done "by a third-party group (possibly the Independence Institute)."
Christopher Sherwin, executive director
Colorado Tobacco Education and Prevention Alliance
Petty is as petty does: Dave Kopel is under fire because the tagline at the end of his Rocky Mountain News media-criticism column doesn't mention that he works for the Independence Institute, which receives tobacco money.
Ho hum. Paul Krugman's tagline doesn't mention that he got Enron money, and the media-ethics watchdogs haven't been too hot on that. These sorts of charges are what Peter Morgan and I called "Petty Blifil" in our book The Appearance of Impropriety: How the Ethics Wars Have Undermined American Government, Business and Society -- the use of trivial ethics charges as a means of discrediting someone whose real crime is disagreement with the maker of the charges. (The "Blifil" part is from Henry Fielding's novel Tom Jones, which has striking resonances for today's political environment.)
In the interest of full disclosure, though I've never met Kopel, he and I have co-authored op-eds and law-review articles together in the past. And though I don't actually know of any, my law school probably got tobacco money from someone, sometime. If nothing else, it's getting it through the State of Tennessee - which, like most states, has been raiding the tobacco settlement money that it promised to apply to anti-smoking initiatives to meet budget shortfalls. So in a sense, we're all in Kopel's shoes.
Glenn Harlan Reynolds, professor of law
University of Tennessee
State of emergency: Thank you for David Holthouse's July 18 "Sip of Fools," on the prevalence and dangers of GHB. I can't help thinking how misguided the users are who write "G" on the backs of their hands so no one will call for help if they pass out. Just recently, I was reminded again of the dangers of GHB. I saw patients from the Big Head Todd concert at Red Rocks who were given GHB without their knowledge. One stopped breathing for a minute and a half en route to the hospital; another somehow sustained serious injuries that were only apparent after the drug wore off.
Kevin Merrell M.D., Ph.D.
Lutheran Hospital Emergency Department
Independent thinking: Regarding Patricia Calhoun's "Minor Irritants," in the July 18 issue:
I found the childish complaining of Allison Maynard and her ilk in third-party campaigning circles pathetic because they boast of their elitist educational backgrounds and the superiority of their political philosophies and platforms but continue to show they lack good old "Yankee Ingenuity," creativity and leadership. It does not take a rocket scientist to discover that these third-party candidates need to be taught the arts of salesmanship, public relations, publicity, public speaking and helping voters to succeed much better in their immediate personal lives. Even major-party candidates have complained how the press and the mass media have ignored or minimalized their candidacies.
As I see it, their biases and prejudices inhibit their political campaigns because it is most evident that true concern for others is reflected in the etiquette and high protocol that are massively lacking in our modern American society. Maynard and her buddies must understand what really is news and get in the groove and make their move.
Emzy Veazy III
Skin game: David Holthouse's "Skin Deep," in the July 25 issue, is hands-down, unequivocally, without a doubt, the all-time worst of Westword.
I look to Westword for information, inspiration, ideas, thought-provoking rhetoric, journalism that makes me laugh. Holthouse's descriptions of a skinhead "keg party" (I'm sorry, cases of Pabst) were like reading the diary of Hitler's secret admirer. I don't care that Jen 88 tirelessly raced around town to find a venue to push the obviously one-track, closed-minded, "I hate you...fuck you" racist agenda. I don't care that Jen 88 feels like she has to hide because of her racial ideology. Dig your hole deeper, baby. I don't care about the set list. I don't care about the lyrics. I don't care about skinheads sunning themselves; I thought they wanted to be "white."
What I do care about is a reporter who covers the night's events as though they were Ozzfest. Holthouse used his rhetorical savvy on the wrong subject. Reading this article gave me the sense of reading the Scene section of the Skinhead Post.
Listen, you can't just report the happenings of the skinhead hoedown without some mention of your take on civilized society. These are people who just arrived from a lynching, and Holthouse is taking their picture, interviewing them, writing about them as though they are "finally" getting a chance to let off steam. Holthouse writes about them as if they were just like us, just trying to have a good time.
Do not give us a story spewing racist propaganda. I think most of us know where skinheads sit. I thought Westword was the type of paper where skinheads would not get a voice.
Can't we all get along? I was very impressed by David Holthouse's article; it was well-written and unbiased. Being half black and half white, I don't know if my attitude toward the subject is different than most. But I do not like to be called African-American. I am just American. I have never been to Africa, and I don't plan on going. I was surprised at the harassment that these skinheads received from the police. If that was to happen to an NAACP gathering, they would be held on charges and it would be on CNN; years from now, you would watch movies about their struggle on Showtime and HBO. But since they were white, all they got was a mention in a local paper. Since I am of two heritages, both of which I am proud of, I can see their desire to celebrate theirs. They weren't hurting anyone.
After reading Holthouse's article, I read up on skinheads -- or white nationalists, as they sometimes call themselves. It sounded exactly like every black pride article I'd ever read. How is that fair? Isn't it racist to persecute them for their pride? But then it dawned on me that the word "racism" doesn't apply to whites -- then it's counter-racism, which in itself is prejudicial against them. The more I read, the more I surmised that a hate crime against a straight white male has never been committed, because it is legally impossible. Why is that? In America, of all places, this amazes me. I have never said, "Kill whitey," because one side of my family hundreds of years ago might have been slaves; it was Africans selling prisoners to the Europeans in the first place that made them slaves. And I have never worried if the other half of my family owned slaves. I don't really care, because it doesn't affect me as much as what is happening now. And I think these people being prosecuted for their beliefs is as wrong, if not more so, than if we prosecuted Jewish people. Or my fellow African-Americans.
As much of a joke as it has become, why can't we all just get along -- or at least leave each other alone?
via the Internet
Balls one: I think David Holthouse did an excellent job of reporting on the event in a fairly unbiased manner -- something I would have a hard time doing.
What Holthouse did definitely took balls and was more than a little dangerous. However, I wonder if he considered asking the group if he could attend as a reporter if he promised to report on it in as unbiased a manner as he ended up doing. Certainly he wouldn't have gotten the firsthand experience of getting frisked or of being a skinhead in public life, but it would have been much safer, and I think his story would have ended up being much the same. Just a thought.
via the Internet
Balls two: David Holthouse: Damn, bro, I'll hand you this much: You got some iron-cast balls. I'm glad you wrote up such a decent article. If you ever want to do a lil' undercover project, why not just ask next time? I'm sure you could have had more in-depth interviews.
Bismarck, North Dakota
Border skirmishes: I just read "Skin Deep," and what I find slightly disturbing is that although I am not Anglo-Saxon, I do happen to agree with one thing in the article. And that is border control. I'm a hardworking American and have spent a lot of time researching our falling economy. What I've found is that we allow illegal aliens into our country so we can pay for them to have health care and welfare, and their hobbies seem to only include breeding. I don't agree with boot parties, but I can understand that there seems to be a sense of urgency to get the American borders back under control. As citizens, we see that if we just sit idly by and do nothing, then the bottom-feeders will continue to spread like cockroaches and eventually will push us out of our earned and respectable places in this society.
Breed it and weep: There is something that skinheads should know.
Researchers of evolution have found that those of us who are attractive are likely to be healthier and more intelligent. A sampling of 10,000 people on the Internet found interracial mixes as more attractive than the pure races ("The Science of Beauty," Discover, February 2000). Perhaps Hitler can be credited for one thing: He tried to create a master race. He didn't have a clue how. So sad.
Selective breeding through free choice is the answer. Let nature take its course.
via the Internet
Look for the union label: I was reading the article on the Rocky Mountain Heritage Fest and noticed David Holthouse's mention that some of those pathetic boneheads were wearing IBEW union clothing. As a member of the IBEW local union 68 here in Denver, I am appalled that some bonehead who in reality probably has a diluted bloodline or is at least inbred would desecrate what we as a union stand for.
I am on strike at the moment against Ludvik Electric over unfair wages and benefits. It's bad enough to be battling the rats that are stealing my job, let alone the disgrace of such boneheads. Hopefully they were not truly members of the IBEW, but I will keep my eyes open. We have no time for garbage like them; please do not think they are a reflection of our union.
Tattoo you: I find it deliciously ironic that those whose claim "white pride" decorate themselves with tattoos. Do these "mentally and physically superior" individuals not realize that with every single tattoo they receive, they become a little less "white" and a little more "black"? By trying to distinguish themselves visually with black ink they, in fact, are destroying the very badge (skin color) that they believe so strongly in.
Like I said, deliciously ironic.
Name withheld on request
Balls three: Kudos to David Holthouse on the balls he demonstrated by going undercover among the skins. The closest thing I can relate it to is when Hunter S. Thompson hung with the Hell's Angels. But, of course, he didn't do it undercover. Thank you for raising awareness about the existence of the skins and white supremacists in general.
However, I did have a few questions that weren't addressed by Holthouse's story: First, is the ARA going to be charged with filing a false report with the police? And second, are the skins contemplating suing the Denver Police Department for violating their constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure?
A day at the anti-racists: David Holthouse's story on the hate fest was brilliant; it made me very proud to be an anti-racist! Although we didn't stop the hate fest completely, we sure pissed those racists off, and maybe next time around, we will be successful in shutting it down! I am confident that this article will build a firm ground for anti-racists to be more aware and more active. Thanks for bringing this important issue to the public's attention.
There goes the neighborhood: I was totally sickened to read David Holthouse's "Skin Deep." I was even more alarmed when I read that the Heritage Fest took place several blocks from my house -- one-half block from an elementary school and across the street from the North Jeffco Recreation Center.
My question is this: How did this happen in my neighborhood? Is Gregory Wolfe, owner of Small Gatherings, so greedy that he will rent his building to anyone for any purpose? He stated that he vehemently disagreed with the skinheads but believed they had a right to "freely express" themselves. Did it not occur to Mr. Wolfe that as the owner, he had no obligation to rent to the skinheads? Since he stated that he would have "thought differently if 50 or 100 counter-demonstrators were going to be chanting outside," Mr. Wolfe made his decision on greed. Mr. Wolfe also stated that they were "good clients" and that he would rent to them again.
Mr. Wolfe, do you base all of your business decisions on public opinion? What happened to your moral compass? Two other groups in Denver (apparently people with moral convictions), said no to the Heritage Fest organizers when approached to rent their venues. Mr. Wolfe, I urge you to think about your actions and consequences to our community before renting to another hate group.
Name withheld on request
The rights stuff: I was rather surprised when an elderly gentleman stopped by this afternoon to hand me a copy of the July 25 issue. In a loud voice peppered with swear words, he let me know how stressed he was that I had rented space for the "skinhead" event. His residence is only three blocks away, and after reading your article, visiting the local chamber of commerce, the City of Arvada and area ARMs (an association of religious groups), he was on his way to a nearby Presbyterian church to share his stress and to combat my presence in the community.
He was not interested in hearing about my participation on local panel television shows as a youth, my efforts on behalf of minorities and civil rights as an adult, or the thousand-plus events we host each year: Spanish-speaking Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus, a modest number of Protestants -- including nine small churches - and a variety of ethnic groups who prefer our halls because they feel more comfortable here. Nor did he want to hear that our chef is Jewish, or that a daughter-in-law is Hindu/Buddhist. In fact, he did not want to discuss anything with me since the "skinheads" were a hate group opposed to others having rights and being present in our country, and he certainly felt that was wrong and un-American.
There is at least a modest effort to "close us down," since we found two copies of a Boycott Notice attached to the front of our building with a very strong and ugly layer of broadly applied adhesive this morning. As a retired Army lieutenant colonel, I am offended that someone in the community feels that after I have stood ready for thirty years to protect our country, my business should now be boycotted because I continue to stand up for the rights that our country represents. It is obvious to me that this person or these persons do not understand that everyone has those rights in our country whether we agree with them or not. It is also obvious that they do not adhere to the laws of our community, since our building was vandalized and we were slandered by being declared Nazis because we honor the rights of others.
While David Holthouse had an unpleasant experience with police officers in Denver, the five Arvada police officers who came to our site just prior to the concert conducted themselves in a professional and appropriate manner. They made it clear that they would be available and ready to deal with any illegal activities of the "skinheads" or demonstrators who might come into the community, but they were not there to close down the event or to harass the participants. They did not ask if I supported or disagreed with the "skinheads" or if I liked rock music, which I do not.
In conclusion, I need to revise the part of the article that reads: "Wolfe says he would rent to them again." Given the possibility that a local citizen would put a brick through one of our windows or that a demonstrator from outside the community would come and do harm to our property or guests, it is unlikely that I would take the same risk in the future -- regardless of how much I favor all citizens having and being able to exercise their rights.
David Holthouse responds: To answer two of this week's letter writers, I went undercover because doing so afforded me the best chance of getting the best story. In the weeks leading up to Rocky Mountain Heritage Fest, I'd learned the Midland Hammerskins would be running security, and I'd read the following on their Web site's Frequently Asked Questions: "Does MHS speak to news reporters? No. The Media, Law Enforcement and the Judicial System have conspired many times to railroad White Separatists, and until these atrocities end we will continue to turn out backs on all of them." Frankly, I think I might have been the guest of honor at a surprise boot party had I shown up at a checkpoint with long hair, flashed my Colorado press card and inquired of the Hammerskins, "Hey, dudes, where's the party?"
As far as the false report of drug dealing in the grocery-store parking lot is concerned, no charges have been forwarded to the Denver District Attorney's Office in relation to that complaint call. And in terms of lawsuits, while organizers of the Heritage Fest still intend to sue the owner of the Aztlan Theatre for breach of contract, they have no plans to pursue legal action against the Denver Police Department claiming undue harassment.
Low blows: I can't believe that you have reached so low in replacing your former restaurant reviewer with so-called restaurant critic Jason Sheehan. Your choice couldn't be worse, if his review of Venice ("Now, That's Italian," July 18) is any indication of his ability in this area.
I want to know something about the restaurant based on his comments of either good or bad or something in between, not an "evaluation of himself." Tell me something about the restaurant, not conversations overheard from the next table. If this guy wants to report on anti-Semitism, let him go to the burger joint up in Idaho and tell the best and most lurid conversations of the Aryan Nation Brotherhood's quest for chicken-fried steak, biscuits and gravy along with greasy burgers. He will be able to tell about and describe their appetites along with all of their hatred for Jews, African-Americans and any other group.
What a joke! There must be a real shortage of applicants. How did he get this job? Go back to your interviews and find someone who knows something about food and service.
A taste treat: I am writing to show my appreciation of your new food writer, Jason Sheehan. Finally, a restaurant critic whose writing is worthy of Westword! I like the way he doesn't just give a list of things on the menu; I could have that faxed to me if that's what I wanted. And it's about time a critic introduced himself. Why should I value the opinion of some stranger just because it's in print? I think you guys are breaking new ground with this one. Don't give in to those whiners who demand something more predictable; there are plenty of newspapers out there boring enough to satisfy their mundane tastes.
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P.S. I agree with Jason's wife: Tommy burgers are the best.
Once bitten: I've been reading Westword cover to cover (always the restaurant column first) for more years than I care to count. I've read many food critics, both yours and others. Never before have I written about a reviewer, but now I must. Jason Sheehan is absolutely the worst. I doubt I'll weed through his personal drivel again attempting to pick out any morsel about food and/or restaurants. What an ego! And "Bite Me"? Too cute. I've always looked to Westword for fair, professional and thoughtful opinions on music, movies, art and food, as well as up-to-date insider tips. Please, please replace big-head Jason with someone who at least knows the local scene and in whom we can have some confidence.