Letters to the Editor
Lip-smacking good: "Westword provides a great community service," my mom observes as I share with her the May 29 issue. I was in stitches as I slow-framed my way through Kenny Be's wizardry that so perfectly etched the sinister weasel-as-moth: "Mothkabobs" and that lip-smacking kitty!
Joseph B. Green
via the Internet
Done running: Thank you for Alan Prendergast's "The Long Road Home," in the May 22 issue. I am an ex-con and have a very checkered past. I have given up and run so many times, and it did me no good at all. Now it has been over three years since I left prison, and I have fought to try to stay ahead by doing what is right and not getting involved in activities that would land me back in prison. My parole officer here has tried for over two years to have me released from parole. The problem is that I owe restitution. I have paid $7,000 of the $10,000 owed, and I don't have a good job any longer and am working as a nanny. Now I am due to have a revocation hearing in Montana owing to the fact that I cannot afford to pay off my restitution before the middle part of July.
The only thing that I can tell you is that if they want to try to put me back in prison, it will benefit no one. Prior to getting out this time, I had only paid a few hundred dollars. Now I have paid thousands. I know I have to pay, and I have been. It is tough and I pay what I can, usually more than the $219 a month that they requested. Now they are saying it is not good enough.
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Justice -- what justice? It makes me wonder and has me fearful of losing my freedom all over again. Kick you when you are down -- that seems to be their thought on the matter. I know that I am not the only one, but I have tried and have not run away from the problem as I used to -- no thanks to the system, just a stronger belief in ME!
Name withheld on request
Center of the storm: I want to thank you for Alan Prendergast's article about the John Inmann Work and Family Center. I initially became a client in 2001; at the time, I was fresh out of prison and housed in a Department of Corrections halfway-house facility. I was issued a case manager, and they set off on a mission to assist me with any and all problems that I was experiencing. They instilled in me a sense of hope and self-esteem, which had been completely destroyed during my three years of incarceration. With that hope and self-esteem, in addition to job leads, I landed a position with a construction company and, in a relatively short period of time, became a human-resources administrative assistant. In giving back to Work and Family Center, I then successfully placed some ex-offenders in other positions within the corporation.
Had it not been for Work and Family Center's encouragement and guidance, I would not be who I am today. I am a volunteer prison-ministry chaplain and am in the process of becoming a criminal-justice missionary with the North American Missions Board. I lead a Bible study in the halfway house that I had been a resident of, and refer ex-offenders to the John Inmann Work and Family Center, so they, too, may be recipients of individual reintegration assistance.
Once again, thank you for your awareness of the work being done at the center. It is amazing!
Pay as you go: They make them pay for drug classes? So they can't go if they have no money? That is just such an intelligent idea!
The plight stuff: Alan Prendergast's article on the plight of released parolees in Denver is excellent and incisive. But, as usual, taking the details from released felons contributes to journalistic errors. As a tenured Colorado state parole officer, I can guarantee you that the 1998 law concerning one year of "community parole supervision" does not set up a person to rotate from prison to parole to prison, ad infinitum. If a person fails parole and is revoked and sent back to the institutions, he will do one year only. If he fails that year, he goes back to do the balance of that time and then "kills his number."
The description that Atif Gamal gives of living at the 11th Ave. Hotel is accurate except for the part about parole officers never showing up. Most parole officers in the Denver area have caseloads approaching double that of a regular full-time employee, but visiting a warren like 11th Ave. is one of our evening stops on a weekly basis. As such, we are very familiar with the dead-end ideation of many of the residents there. It is a social setting of individuals who too often commit themselves to a downward and self-destructive lifestyle -- definitely the least ideal setting for a released parolee to arrive at with hopes of improving himself.
And yet, there are many released felons who succeed, sometimes heroically. The John Inmann Center cost-efficiently offers the options and pathways to rising from the destitution of cold prison release. Having a reasonable option toward normative life and living is perhaps a moral choice and obligation. Even in a depressed economy, there is always the possibility of giving motivated men and women the option toward gainful employment and eventual improvement. Giving incentives to private industry to partner in such endeavors is a clear obligation of government. A company that knows it is getting a motivated and committed employee, who happens to be a released felon from a prison, can only gain and profit from taking that person on its staff.
After years of parole work, I often describe parolees in the following manner: One-third are persons who messed up, know they messed up and how, and now desire only to do what they need to do on parole to get it over and done with and get on with their lives. They have no intention whatsoever of going through the experience again, and for some of them, in some ways, prison was actually a positive growth experience.
The second third are the sad types with the drug addictions and self-perpetrating behavior, figuratively going through life peeing and crapping all over themselves. Sometimes, however, they snap into focus, catch on, clean up and join the first group of successful parolees.
The last third are the types that the first and second groups, as well as all knowledgable parole officers and criminal-justice professionals, unanimously agree should never have been let out of prison!
Fashion victims: Regarding "Rant of the Week," in the May 29 "Off Limits":
The handle "GMan" seems apropos, given that this guy comes off like a pollster for the GOP. In a city occupying 153 square miles (not including the metro area) with a combined metropolitan population of nearly 3 million, he makes a beeline for the one street in Denver with probably the highest per capita concentration of bums, hobos and drifters (excepting maybe certain sections of Colfax). He spends a few minutes people-watching and broadly concludes that Denver is the least fashionable city he has ever visited.
First of all, fashion is overrated. There are too many overly fashionable people in the world, the country, the state and this city as it is. There are far more important things to worry about than whether the latest shade of sweatshop-produced lipstick matches that oh-so-now, outré, sweatshop-produced handbag. And I'm not a big fan of caps, but are there no jocks or regular guys in Broward County, Florida, who wear a cap, T-shirt, shorts and sandals to go get a couple of suds downtown on a hot afternoon? What do they wear, three-piece tuxedos with sueded top hats?
But if it's fashion GMan's after, did he bother to visit the rest of LoDo or Cherry Creek -- just to name two conspicuous examples -- or any of the hundreds of other places around town where scads of the fashion-conscious are likely to turn up? How about the peanut gallery in front of Paris on the Platte, where the ultra-goth wing of the Denver fashion elite -- in recent years sporting the $20K motorcycles waxed to a dazzling sparkle, Gucci watches and fashionable downtown lofts so germane to the goth lifestyle -- have been heckling less-modish passersby on the finer points of sartorial sensibility for over a decade? How about the dozens of yuppie meat markets, like Sushi Den, where you can't go take a piss without being checked out by at least a couple dozen conspicuously self-conscious people?
Anyway, he's certainly right about the parking and the pork-barrel dollars dumped on unnecessary "urban improvements." As if that's news to anyone who lives here, or unique to Denver. And where did this guy learn English? I'm surprised Westword only appended "sic" to a single word. Listen, we have a lot of problems in Denver right now, one of which is overpopulation. So, GMan, please move somewhere else, or stay in Broward County and wrestle alligators, or play shuffleboard, or screw up presidential elections, plunging the world into an unprecedented, bilious morass of neo-conservative totalitarianism, or whatever it is you people do for fun down there. We already have too many whiny transplants who come here with unrealistic expectations and then can't stop complaining about how much better it is someplace else. The only problem is, once they get here, those people never seem to LEAVE.
Thongs a lot: At first I thought that GMan from Broward County, Florida, had a lot of nerve dissing our fair city's sartorial style. Doesn't Broward County lead the nation per capita in white patent-leather shoes and belts for men, women who are grotesquely suntanned to the point that their skin could pass for saddle leather, the mullet and the thong (in each case for both sexes), and Miami Vice pastel sportcoats?
But the more I thought about it, I realized that GMan is absolutely right. We're worse than even Broward County. Our current mayor wears tennis shoes with a suit. The top contenders to be the next mayor were a guy who looks like he has a skunk growing out of his head and a guy who asked a Great Clips stylist for "the Bill Gates."
Our local TV role models include one female newscaster who aspires to imitate Captain Spock, another who seems to have a hairy shelf growing out of her forehead, several male anchors whose suit-color spectrum ranges all the way from dirt gray to dirt brown, and a self-promoting furniture mogul who dresses straight out of Love, American Style. Meanwhile, the average Denver citizen tries to squeeze his or her excess flab into rock-climbing or mountain-biking duds that fool absolutely no one, or tries to be a veritable sandwich board for our local sports teams. (News flash to Denver sports nuts: Purple, orange and maroon are not colors that go together particularly well.) Now that the warm weather's here, we can all look forward to the Official Colorado Summer Uniform of baggy T-shirt and baggy shorts, trying, without success, to camouflage the wearer's equally baggy gut and butt.
Just so no one thinks I'm snooty, I am a typical Denverite at heart and in style, and as such am guilty of most if not all of the above fashion faux pas. (If I had more hair up top, I'd probably violate all of them at one time or another.)
On the other hand, I will never, ever wear a thong. At least not with white shoes.
GMan, go home: So it was recently discovered by a Broward County resident -- who's thinking of moving here, no less -- that the people of Denver lack fashion sense. Yeah? So what? He also goes on to say he felt taken advantage of as a visitor here by paying what he thought were exorbitant parking rates. Again -- yeah, so what? Let me explain something to you: We wouldn't have exorbitant parking rates if this city hadn't filled up with mindless yuppies over the last decade, not only driving up parking rates, but falsely inflating real-estate values, creating massive gridlock on all the city highways, creating long lines no matter where you go or what time you go, behaving in a manner more rude than this city has ever experienced, and consistently disregarding longstanding city and state laws, filling up our jails to capacity.
You get the point. Lack of fashion sense is the least of our worries, bud. I do get incensed, however, when someone who has not yet even moved here starts pointing out our flaws, comparing our city to "theirs" in a fit of reverse penis envy. I get hot under the collar when a newly arrived immigrant starts bitching that "Denver doesn't have this...or this...or this," then starts on a campaign to redesign the city in the shape of NewYorkLosAngelesDallasChicagoAtlanta.
If you are moving here because you truly have a feel for this special place, you love the mountains, you love spending time outdoors and you think you can, in some small way, help to uplift your adopted space, by all means.... If you are moving here because this is "where the money is," or because your sister has a good job out here, or you're hiding a criminal past and you want to reinvent yourself, unfortunately you'll fit right in. But I personally have a few words of advice: Stay home. You'll be a lot happier -- and so will we!
Editor's note: Not all Floridians are as immune to Denver's charms as GMan. For another view -- as well as more fashion talk -- see Off Limits.
Waiting for lefties: JM Schell tosses and turns in a fevered sweat every night over the "blatant left-liberal" press (Letters, May 29). Yes, the press is left, but only left of Attila the Hun. Apparently JM Schell is to the right of Attila the Hun. I'm sure that Adolf Hitler would have been too far left for the likes of Schell, being that der Führer ran on the Socialist ticket. See how rampant those left-liberals are? They're everywhere.
Let's call a spade a spade and admit that nutjobs like Schell are not just funny, they're actually dangerous. I'm glad Westword has a forum to remind us of that.
Out in right field: JM Schell's paranoid-schizophrenic ranting and raving was typical of his right-wing keepers in Washington. No, it wasn't enough to reduce humanity to shades of black and white (good and evil). No, his beloved right-wing freak show has now traveled full circle to bore us all with more hallow accusations that the media is a left-wing conspiracy!
The tired old arguments of "liberal media" are not just whiny; they're also moot in these days of the FCC pandering to the likes of Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch's propaganda-filled television station, Fox News, has taken the concept of government-controlled media out of the realm of dictatorships and has shown that even in a capitalist democracy, the government can maintain media control through favorable regulation policies.
Thankfully, I'm of sound enough mind to realize that despite Fox's terrible assault on the integrity of the media, there are still other choices out there (for now?). So, JM: Watch Fox, eat your freedom fries, and shut the hell up!
Meanwhile, thanks to Jason Sheehan's Bite Me for a small slice of sanity in the May 29 issue. The French boycott undertaken during our recent nationalistic orgy is not just petty, but also a slap in the face to the concept of democracy. The French government echoed, and acted on, what the French people felt about the war. Shame on those of you who would eschew a government's right to listen to its own people. As Sheehan notes, the effects of this boycott are most likely to be felt here at home by American businessmen rather than in the country of France, anyway.
For my part, I intend to counter this tragedy by taking part in a French buycott. In fact, I've already started! On my recent trip to Europe, I drove my German car to the airport and used Air France as part of my trip to get to my final destination overseas (all flights were full, by the way). I'll continue by enjoying the now-forbidden fruits of excellent French foods and savory French wines far more than I ever did before to compensate for at least one childish American who refuses to accept France as an independent and free country.
The limits of the law: Regarding Stuart Steers's " Seize and Desist," in the May 22 issue:
If the administration of this city has any character whatsoever, and the facts are as Stuart Steers states them in his article, and complete, there should be no excuse whatsoever for the city to not fully reimburse the victim of this injustice. Not "the law is the law," not "the budget does not allow it," not "it was an honest mistake," not "as the owner of the vehicle, he is responsible."
Sometimes things have to be done just because they are decent, compassionate, honorable and just.
It has been my observation that when someone falls into a situation such as this, the prevailing attitude is that "the law is the law." Perhaps that is so legally, but no one worthy of calling himself human would be satisfied with that.
Get the Message? We, the undersigned staffers at the Denver Post, were so disappointed with "Post Toasts," Michael Roberts's May 29 Message, that we feel compelled to express our concern in writing. We can't understand how someone who writes about the media and often criticizes perceived shortcomings failed to follow the basic rules of journalism.
In his column, Roberts published a rumor that reporting errors had cost Ryan Morgan, a talented and respected intern at the Post, a permanent slot at our paper. Despite the seriousness of the charge, Roberts offered no facts to back up the claim. He made little effort to contact Morgan -- just one telephone message left at an office Morgan had not occupied for weeks.Roberts's sources were unnamed "rumormongers" -- whom he declined to quote. The one person Roberts contacted about the allegation, Denver Post editor Greg Moore, flatly denied it. Does the denial of a rumor constitute proof at Westword?
We recall that only three weeks ago (in his May 15 column "Coming Attractions"), Roberts criticized media columnists Diane Eicher and Joe Bullard for not naming or seeking comment from Post obituary writer Claire Martin before they disparaged her selection of obituary subjects. Contacting Martin, Roberts wrote, "...would have offered readers more information to use when making their own judgments. A critic might call the result an example of good journalism."
It's unfortunate Roberts doesn't hold himself to the same standards to which he holds others. His cavalier treatment of a young reporter's reputation is infuriating.
We suggest that it's time that Westword re-examine the purpose of The Message and ask whether its media columnist has sound, accurate, unbiased analysis to offer -- or simply an ax to grind.
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Smear campaign: "Rumormongers hint." That's all Michael Roberts needs to smear me, smear my work and my career.
For the record: I am not being asked to leave the Denver Post because of "several recent errors," as Roberts asserted in the May 29 Message. That is unambiguously false. Roberts should not have written it, and Westword should not have printed it.
Roberts, as usual, relied on an unnamed source to drag a Denver Post reporter -- me, in this case -- through the mud. Roberts doesn't name or document the allegedly job-ending errors. The only substance he offers his readers is the say-so of an unnamed, completely unaccountable "rumormonger." Westword's readers don't even know if the rumormonger actually passed on the substance of what Roberts printed or if Roberts drew his own, erroneous conclusion from a "hint."
The only person from the Post quoted in the story -- editor Greg Moore -- says the rumor is ridiculous. (I wasn't given a chance to respond, because Roberts's half-hearted, perfunctory effort to reach me failed.) So how can Roberts possibly justify repeating a baseless rumor that can sink a reporter's career?
Well, he's Michael Roberts, and he's writing for Westword. Unfortunately, that's all the justification he needs. As a media critic -- which, in his case, amounts to being a glorified gossip columnist -- Roberts doesn't worry about trying to hold himself to the most basic standards of journalism that actual reporters follow every day.
Michael Roberts responds: I did not "assert" that Ryan Morgan was asked to leave the Denver Post. I noted that rumors had been circulating, then immediately quoted Post editor Greg Moore refuting them -- and even made mention of an award Morgan won from the Colorado Press Association. As for what Morgan calls my "half-hearted, perfunctory" attempt to contact him, I phoned the Post, asked for Morgan, was patched into his voice mail and left a message well over a week before the column in question was published. Morgan did not return the call.
For the record, during a six-day span in May, the Post published corrections for two Morgan articles -- and on each occasion, the mistakes were described as reporting errors. In one case, John Hickenlooper and Don Mares were said to have received 46 percent and 26 percent of the vote, respectively, in the May 6 election, when they actually earned 43 percent and 22 percent -- numbers that were widely reported by virtually every major Denver news organization (as well as the Denver Election Commission). As it turns out, a June 2 Rocky Mountain News article credited to Robert Sanchez and Kevin Vaughan made a similar goof, stating that Hickenlooper walked off with 44 percent on May 6.
Rights and wrong: Regarding Ari Armstrong's letter in the last issue, about all the letters in response to David Holthouse's "Justin Got His Gat," in the May 8 issue:
Mr. Armstrong's assault of Elizabeth Ward wasn't "poignant, amusing or pathetic"; it was just plain moronic. Trying to say that owning an AK-47 is the same "inalienable right" as the right to read a newspaper is "dumber than dumb."
Aside from that, he never did answer her question regarding who needs an assault weapon in this country. You don't use an assault rifle to hunt game for food, because an AK-47 would shred the meat to pieces and render it not consumable. You don't use an assault rifle for protection in your home, because it's too bulky and unwieldy (a .357 magnum is much preferred for dealing with the casual intruder). Therefore, by process of elimination, the only valid purpose for an AK-47 is to compensate for one's weak character or to kill as many people as possible in the shortest period of time.
I only hope the "gunslinging" Mr. Armstrong doesn't venture too often from his "redneck" neighborhood in Westminster to the fair streets of Denver, where I reside. Should he, however, it should be easy to spot his pickup and thereby avoid him, by noticing the much-dated and faded bumper sticker that I'm sure he still relishes: "I'll give up my gun when they pry my cold dead fingers off the barrel." Now, that's what I call pathetic.
Gaylan Taylor III
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