Darts and flowers: Regarding Michael Roberts's "The Flag-Bearer," in the July 3 issue:
Thanks for the great cover with Tom Tancredo. It's just what my dartboard desires.
The Tom Tom club: As an American living and working in Mexico (with a legal permit, by the way), I strongly support Tom Tancredo. The Colorado congressman has a lot of guts to speak out about what the political establishment (of both parties) is shoving under the table. Go, Tancredo!
Tripe for the picking: It is typical of the leftist-Marxist-controlled media in this country to treat patriots such as Congressman Tom Tancredo with disdain. But never have I read such tripe as loony liberal Michael Roberts's slanderous and one-sided diatribe against one of this country's greatest heroes.
Roberts regards the congressman's John Wayne idol worship as expressive of a dark, brooding personality, hunched over movie memorabilia in his basement museum muttering lines from favorite Westerns. And observing that the congressman's office is littered with lucky charms and Reagan icons, Roberts goes on to label our hero as one of the House Crazies.
But all reasonable and rational Republicans (not the sellouts who inhabit the White House) know that Tom Tancredo is none of these things. He is, in fact, the Good Humor Man, the Jolly Giant of true Conservative Idealism and a Searcher with far-reaching vision, a funny story to tell and a heart as deep as the Rio Bravo. Just ask the Apodaca family.
Who says they're not illegal immigrants? I vote Democratic on most issues. One of the core support groups of the party is unionized blue-collar workers. If illegal immigrants were coming to Westword and taking reporters' jobs (or any other white-collar job in America) for a quarter of the pay, would your views change? Undocumented worker? Hmmm. So is a bank robber an undocumented withdrawer of funds?
A day at the racists: Tom Tancredo is certainly politically incorrect, and I doubt it is remotely possible for him to be anything else. As such, it has become politically correct to label him a "racist," "reactionary" and even "radical-right demagogue." Over five years before he hit Congress, I heard him speak on the issues of illegal aliens in this country. His view was that if they were needed here and were law-abiding, they should be able to come here legally. His primary issue is this simple question: If no other country on the planet is willing to give up enforcing its borders, why should the USA be willing to unilaterally do so?
I know Tancredo personally. Racism is essentially impossible in the character and personality makeup of this man. It is impossible because the thinking patterns of a person like Tancredo are too much into seeing people as single individuals rather than groups. He is also too much of a pragmatist when he does have to deal with groups not to miss their positive and worthwhile attributes. It is entirely possible that Tancredo has a prejudice against creeps, jerks and assholes, but they come from all groups, and too many of us share that prejudice to be faulted for it.
Teacher's fret: Michael Roberts did a superb job of catching the persona of ultra-conservative Tom Tancredo. Notice I said "ultra-conservative," because that's what he is. And he keeps getting re-elected by like-minded citizens. I am so lucky they had to redraw the congressional districts, because he no longer "represents" me.
But this is only part of the story. In the early '80s, Tancredo and other ultra-conservative groups went after some of the publications that were printed by the Center for Teaching International Relations at the University of Denver. Quite some controversy, too! All about supplemental teaching materials and how they were "anti-American." Their goal, although not stated, was to not only discredit CTIR, but to get DU to "shut down both the publications and the classes" offered by CTIR. I attended one of the debates between the ultra-conservative group and CTIR. It was very scary, and I got an insight into what it must have been like to attend a rally in Nazi Germany in the late 1930s. Thank goodness they didn't know I was a teacher.
I hope Tancredo keeps working on his "immigration problem" -- and I hope he is the first to leave the U.S.
Name withheld on request
The wages of sin: I liked your piece on Tom Tancredo for the most part, except for a few things. You point out the contradiction of a conservative who wants to limit immigration but benefits from immigrant labor. How about the liberal who cries about growth and urban sprawl, but refuses to address the impact of unprecedented mass immigration on U.S. population growth? Or the liberals who claim they want a "livable wage" for the working poor and blue-collar class, but fail to see that wages of these jobs are undercut by illegal immigration?
Open your eyes!
From Russia, with love: When I first discovered that the kind, motherly Russian teacher I had for two years at Oberon Junior High was in fact Mrs. Tom Tancredo, I was frankly shocked. It seems that behind every dangerously right-wing, giant-fence-building, immigration-halting extremist is a genuinely good woman.
Mrs. Tancredo was one of the best teachers I ever had the good fortune of learning from. She could be a stern disciplinarian when she wanted to be (as I had the displeasure of discovering when I made sarcastic taunts about a classmate's Catholic beliefs and was sentenced to a particularly lengthy stay-in time-out or, as she called it, "Siberia"), but she generally ran her class as an open forum for political discussions, ethical debates and philosophical deliberations. A particularly opinionated thirteen-year-old, I often engaged her in light rhetorical sparring, but her respect for the viewpoints of others, the principles of free speech and, yes, the fruits of America's hegemony always superseded her own personal attitudes. Add to that her extensive knowledge of the Russian language and culture, a sincere concern for her students' well-being and a passion for her profession (how rare is that?), and you begin to get a picture of what a gifted educator she was.
Yet all these traits are far outstripped by her greatest asset: She never once patronized her students. Unlike all the other condescending, head-patting "teachers" from whom I learned nothing but how to use stupidity to my advantage, Mrs. T. always taught up to her pupils, challenging us to challenge ourselves at something other than inventing creative excuses for missing homework.
After twelve years of suffering through average public-school teachers' reckless disengagement from their students, I have only begun to realize the depths of Mrs. Tancredo's commitment to America's youth. But I still think her husband's a dick.
Last but not leech: I've seen Amy around and never watched her act; I've always assumed she was "just another panhandler" and didn't want to subsidize what I saw (and still do) as a lack of work ethic. Now that I've read David Kawamoto's "Nail Art," in the July 3 issue, I don't know that I have any more sympathy for her, but I'd like to tell her something from the working public:
We've all accepted the responsibilities and difficulties that come with holding down a regular job, and as such, we enjoy the benefits that go with that: a regular paycheck and at least some measure of respect from the community. If you choose not to follow that path, that's your decision, but don't expect us to support you.
Get off the drugs, get a job, and we won't look at you like you're "here to be spit upon." Either take some personal responsibility for your life and support yourself, or learn to accept the idea that quite a few of us don't want to be subsidizing your laziness, and we will continue to consider you a leech on society.
As for suicide, give me a break. Your mentioning this as an "option" is nothing more than the lazy way out. And I know, because I speak from experience.
Mad max: Regarding Alan Prendergast's "Cowboy Justice," in the June 26 issue:
Given the overwhelming flaws in our present criminal justice system, it is imperative that both prisoners and their captors (rhymes with "raptors") be kept honest through omnipresent video and taping systems and snooping devices that cover every inch of prison space and are spot-checked frequently by randomly chosen, rotated teams of, say, three.
Most inmates are low-life scum, yes, but they have hearts, minds and souls "capable" of regeneration if they are treated with honesty, dignity and justice.
Larger problems are the need to keep prisoners segregated from one another and earning their full keep (if not also paying restitution). We could learn from the no-nonsense Japanese prison model. Predictably, our prison "system" needs a major overhaul from the ground up, just like all of our other institutions. Why is USP Florence filled to double max? What do you expect? Talk about an impossible situation!
Gene W. Edwards
Guarded opinions: I try not to draw conclusions without knowing all the facts, so I intend to comment on things I do know about our institution and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. First off, I have never worked at the United States Penitentiary in Florence, nor do I know any of the alleged "cowboys." I have worked at FCI Englewood for almost eighteen years, and currently hold the position of Drug Treatment Specialist, GS-11. It is important to note that I am not speaking for the agency.
It appears that at the time these alleged beatings occurred, inmate violence and abuse against staff was out of control, or close to it. Administrators were restricted and/or negligent in responding to the conditions, so they indirectly encouraged "old school" justice, then bailed out when the shit hit the fan. This is not to say that I would condone abusing inmates. That would be an inexcusable abuse of power. I thought Alan Prendergast's article offered a balanced portrayal of the prison conditions and the situation, but again, I was not there. Based on reports that these "beatings" never resulted in serious injuries, most union officials are taking the position that these correctional officers were railroaded.
As you may guess, labor and management sometimes disagree on circumstances and the severity of discipline taken against both staff and inmates, but what supposedly happened in Florence is an extreme example. Of course, confrontations sometimes occur in a prison setting, but the public needs to understand that despite that fact, most interaction between staff and inmates is positive. Fair and equal treatment, the importance of programs, and positive life changes are all emphasized. Most staff are very professional and take a lot of pride in their duties. Most inmates do their time smoothly and make some effort to change their circumstances. A major problem that perpetuates the public's opinion of "life on the inside" is the consistent focus on the negative aspects of the prison environment. I think that falsely misleads the public into believing that staffers are sadistic and all inmates are evil. That is just not the case.
Timothy D. Allport, president, Local 709
American Federation of Government Employees
The cowboy way: I am a former Federal Correctional Officer who was recently acquitted of all charges concerning inmate abuse at the U.S. Penitentiary in Florence, Colorado -- the "Cowboy" case. Instead of being elated, relieved and happy, I am bitter, disappointed and mad. Three of my brothers were found guilty. I am confident that they are victims of the whole weight of the U.S. government.
Prosecutor Mark Blumberg spent almost six years, three grand juries and more money (our tax money) than we will ever know to indict and bring to trial seven correctional officers, in the hopes that all or some of these officers would plead out and turn lies into truths so he could go after captains, assistant wardens and wardens, with maybe a few lieutenants thrown in for good measure. During the course of this indictment and trial, all seven correctional officers were afforded the opportunity of pleading to lesser charges if we cooperated and turned evidence against our superiors. Up to the final minute, the government was trying to get us to plea out.
The first indictment returned by the grand jury was incorrect, so Blumberg went to a fourth grand jury and changed some dates and added a new charge. The first charge, "conspiracy," had over 55 overt acts listed. During the trial, Blumberg did not mention two-thirds of these. In other words, the grand jury returned an indictment with evidence that the government could not prove.
During the trial, Blumberg did not want you, the jury or the judge to hear how the government coerced, threatened, intimidated and flat-out lied. Every time the defense tried to bring this information to light, the government sought to block the testimony. The government did not put the inmates who were allegedly assaulted on the witness stand. Why not? Here is one theory: Nothing the inmates said happened! The inmates' history, personality and lack of injuries were detrimental to the government's case. One inmate involved said all his front lower and upper teeth were knocked out and that he was beat within an inch of his life; pictures during trial showed this inmate standing with a smile and all his teeth. Another inmate was attempting suicide, and these officers went into his cell to save his life -- and now they are serving time for doing their jobs.
The grand-jury system needs to be revamped; the prosecutor now gets to present evidence without a judge or defense attorney being present. The government does not have to prove anything that is presented to the grand jury. This process is being manipulated by prosecutors across this great nation. Half-truths, misdirection, smoke and mirrors and straight-out lies spew forth from prosecutors and their puppets so that the agenda can move forward.
The notion of innocent until proven guilty is gone from this nation. I sat in that courtroom and had to prove I was innocent. I put witnesses on the stand who stated I did not commit the offenses I was accused of. And thank the Lord that I did, since when I testified, the government would not discuss the charges against me. Instead, Blumberg led me down the yellow hypothetical trail. The government's case and Blumberg's agenda were based on hypothetical incidents, and he was able to find some weak-minded puppets to confirm his position.
I will continue to support and defend my brothers until final justice is rendered and they are set free. God bless Mike, Rod and Bobby.
David A. Pruyne
via the Internet
We, the jury: I was a juror on this trial and found Alan Prendergast's article to be interesting and accurate. There was a time during deliberation when I felt the jury would be hung on the conspiracy count for LaVallee and Schultz, but by following the instructions given to us, it eventually became evident to all that they were guilty. I personally didn't see Judge Daniel's call for the five verdicts on Monday as an indication that he was pressuring us to reach a decision. I believe all of us were prepared to go another week or beyond, if necessary.
Harry today, gone tomorrow: This is in regard to "The Truth About Harry," in the June 26 Off Limits. I am amazed and appalled at the rubbish that was written about what went on that Friday night at the Tattered Cover. Nothing was said about the activities the bookstore put together for the fans. Yes, it was stuffy, and with a large amount of people in the whole store, not just the basement, the air is going to be compromised. Next time do us all a favor and just shut your hole.
Or would you prefer your own petri dish, since you seem to view yourself apart from humanity?
via the Internet
The gripes of goth: I found " Groovy Ghoulies," in the May 29 Off Limits, to be presumptuous of Westword, not to mention very stereotypical. You said that the people who did not accept the pink balloons were "too goth." I wonder, though, if anyone bothered to ask these people if that was their reason for not taking the balloons. The comments about the undead leading each other around on leashes, as well as assuming that everyone was a Marilyn Manson fan -- hence implying that goths fashion themselves after Marilyn himself -- were very ignorant stereotypes.
It seems to me that Westword has stated many times that it is an alternative paper, yet you clearly do not support the alternative scenes that are out there by publishing such things with interviews from only the two people who were trying to make fun of a genre of an alternative nature. Fair journalism should apply always, and in fairness, those in the gothic scene have fought hard to be able to be themselves without cynicism or stereotypes, and articles such as this only do damage to these efforts. Next time, try to at least get interviews from both sides.
I wonder if Westword would feel the same if someone went out of his way to make you all the butt of his jokes, as I would think you take your paper seriously.
Banned aid: Thank you very much for "Critical Condition," Stuart Steers's excellent June 12 article on the nursing situation in Denver, and his "Nurses Denied" followup last week.
I am another one of those nurses who no longer works in the profession. In my case, I left to pursue a public-health education and now work in the field of epidemiology/program evaluation. Dissatisfaction with the profession did not lead me to leave nursing. It was more a matter of feeling more drawn to work on the population and public-health aspects of health care. Even though I do not currently take care of patients, I do feel very strongly that the organization and orientation of our health-care system is dangerous and misguided.
One issue that is not often mentioned when reviewing the problems in the U.S. health-care system is the notable lack of physician voices when it comes to the problems facing nursing. Occasionally, physicians bemoan the shortage of nurses or the replacement of professional nurses with less trained workers. However, I rarely hear any collective physicians' voice advocating for nurses.
I follow health-care-system developments closely and am convinced that until there is a unified physician voice addressing the misinformation that we are fed about everything from a single-payer national health-care system (often labeled "socialized medicine" by politicians, insurers and even physician groups -- even though that is incorrect!) to how a purely business approach to health care (known as "managed care") is good for America, we will not see real change.
I believe in the power of unified nurses. But let's face it: Physicians are still the health-care providers with the most power in the system. Where are they when nurses are advocating for change?
Art or wart? I have just read Michael Paglia's "Dumb and Dumber" in the June 26 issue, and I must say that Paglia has never been wrong in his general opinion that Denver, and the Webb administration in particular, has been absolutely tasteless regarding its misguided attempts at public-art spending and "beautification" (i.e., uglification). Though I have not looked too intently upon "The Dancers" itself to form any real opinion of my own regarding this specific piece (I would guess that my subconscious warned me away from looking too closely), it is obvious that this sculpture is not the only incident of Denverites' tax money going to making this city, uh, hideous.
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Along with the new Webb building, an architectural embarrassment to this city, and the destruction of Skyline Park (however you feel about this space aesthetically, was it so unappealing as to justify spending taxes to destroy it now, during this economy?), I have had the most problems with the new convention-center expansion. I pass this monolithic monstrosity many times a month in my travels downtown. Along with the many objections I have always had regarding this overrated expenditure and the subsequent corporate-welfare hotel (too late to bitch about any of this now, sadly), I must say that the entire convention-center project to date is absolutely the most hideously ugly monstrosity the Webb administration has yet to dream up...and that's saying a lot!
And oh, by the way, in order to build this blight, the city had to blow up one of the most beautiful buildings in Denver (in a city with a dearth of any beauty), going over budget just to do so!
I have an idea: Take that 1 percent of all public-project spending that is supposed to be used on public art, and spend it instead on arts education for Denver's schoolkids (which, unfortunately, is being drastically cut). Then, contrary to the spending-money-only-on-out-of-proportion-projects-is-the-only-way-to-"support"-the-arts belief of the outgoing Denver City Council, art will actually be encouraged and fostered in Denver. If the new city government uses my idea, maybe someday some of these arts-enlightened kids will themselves enter Denver government, and Denver might then finally be transformed into more than an oozing wart on the Colorado plains.