It's easier to get out of United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum -- ADX, as the maximum-security prison in Florence is known -- than it is to get inside.
If you're a publication, at least.
As recently as this summer, Westword was banned in accordance with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons' Program Statement 5266.09, Incoming Publications, which states that "the Warden may reject a publication if it is determined detrimental to the security, good order, or discipline of the institution or if it may facilitate criminal activity." In this case, the warden was worried about a May 23 story by Alan Prendergast, which detailed how Timothy Stoakes, a 33-year-old convict in the Colorado Department of Corrections system with a history of theft, forgery and other nonviolent crime, wanted to invoke his "right to euthanasia."
You might think a taxpayer-dollar-saving, self-imposed death penalty for prisoners would be the sort of thing the penal industry would want to encourage -- but you'd be wrong. Michael Pugh, then warden of ADX, rejected that issue of Westword -- just as he's rejected copies of not just this Denver weekly, but the Christian Science Monitor, the New Yorker and USA Today. In fact, any story about an inmate is often enough to get a publication banned, in recognition of the warden's concern that it contains "third party inmate to inmate correspondence."
Prison-break instructions in the cartoon on page 32 of the New Yorker!
But in the meantime, one of ADX's most notorious inmates -- and that's saying something of a place that once housed Tim McVeigh and Ramzi Yousef, the 1993 World Trade Center bomber, concurrently -- had no problem getting his own manuscript out of prison and into print. Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, whose 35,000-word manifesto published in the New York Times and the Washington Post back in 1995 was a key piece of evidence in solving the crimes and putting a stop to his seventeen-year bombing career, this spring sent a handwritten missive to John Zerzan, one of the editors of Green Anarchy, an environmental newsletter based in Eugene, Oregon.
Zerzan had visited Kaczynski in jail in Sacramento -- prior to the deal that sent the bomber to ADX -- and had been corresponding with him since then. So he wasn't particularly surprised when he received the manuscript, and while he didn't particularly agree with the content of "Hit Where It Hurts," either, he published it in the spring/summer issue of the newsletter.
"The purpose of this article," Kaczynski writes, "is to point out a very simple principle of human conflict, a principle that opponents of the techno-industrial system seem to be overlooking. The principle is that in any form of conflict, if you want to win, you must hit your adversary where it hurts....
"I have to explain that when I talk about 'hitting where it hurts,' I am not necessarily referring to physical blows or to any other form of physical violence. For example, in oral debate, 'hitting where it hurts' would mean making the arguments to which your opponent's position is most vulnerable. In a presidential election, 'hitting where it hurts' would mean winning from your opponent the states that have the most electoral votes. Still, in discussing this principle, I will use the analogy of physical combat, because it is vivid and clear."
Particularly to those 23 victims who survived being on the receiving end of a Unabomber package. (Three died in the blasts.)
Although Zerzan has yet to hear any reviews from the Bureau of Prisons -- or from Kaczynski himself -- following the publication of the Unabomber's latest screed, the national media has been filling him in. The Washington Post, for example, told him that under BP rules, "an inmate currently confined in an institution may not be employed or act as a reporter or publish under a byline." Which means the bureaucrats could be going after Kaczynski.
"But that talks about a professional journalist," Zerzan says, pointing out that the prisoner's missive was more like a letter to the editor -- a very long letter to the editor. "He couldn't make any money."
Fox News followed with an interview in which Zerzan was drafted to speak for the Green Anarchy group, which focuses on prison support work as well as environmental causes. "How can you publish this terrorist?" the reporter asked Zerzan. "We had two different rejoinders, but he didn't let us give either," Zerzan remembers. "The mainstream media disallows open information."
The same issue of Green Anarchy -- "free to prisoners!" (and also to anyone who logs on to www.greenanarchy.com) -- that leads off with Kaczynski's piece features another article of interest to Coloradans, both in and out of prison. "Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens" is excerpted from an essay by University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill. "Looking back," Churchill writes, "it will seem to future generations inexplicable why Americans were unable on their own, and in time to save themselves, to accept a rule of nature so basic that it could be mouthed by an actor, Lawrence Fishburn [sic], in a movie, The Cotton Club. 'You've got to learn,' the line went, 'that when you push people around, some people push back.' As they should. As they must. And as they undoubtedly will. There is justice in such symmetry."
There's also a reminder: Only six weeks until Columbus Day. (Churchill has also been active in the Denver/Boulder chapter of the Colorado American Indian Movement.) "Oh, yes," says Zerzan, when the Colorado connection is pointed out. "That anti-Columbus Day thing.... It's going to be big this year."
Also big, at least this summer in Clearwater Junction, Montana (just down the road from Lincoln, the town where Kaczynski had holed up) is an official Unabomber bank. Drop a quarter in, and the structure blows up.
We're ready for our close-up, Mr. Webb: The gig seemed too good to be true -- especially to people already working with Denver's Office of Television and Internet Services at Channel 8. This spring, despite a citywide hiring freeze, OTIS was able to add an eighteen-month "transition position" and hire Dreux DeMack to fill it.
Until Friday, August 16, that is, when DeMack -- who'd moved out here for the job -- was let go. "I wasn't given a reason why, wasn't told that I was fired or laid off or whatever," he remembers. "I felt it was because of budget concerns."
Concerns that grew even larger when members of Denver City Council realized that DeMack's primary responsibility was producing an hour-long documentary on Denver since 1990 -- a time span that happens to coincide with Mayor Wellington Webb's three terms in office. First working title: Denver, a World-Class City. First rumored budget: $200,000.
Although last week councilmembers were acting shocked -- shocked! -- to learn of DeMack's duties, many of them had already been interviewed by the producer, and they'd had to approve his position this spring, when the documentary work was packaged into an eighteen-month deal that included heading up coverage of the 2003 elections for Channel 8 ("The Big Cheese," June 6). "This job was created above and beyond the existing 2002 budget," DeMack says. "It used supplemental funds."
But the first priority was the documentary, picking up where an earlier film, the one-hour Imagine a Great City, which took Denver from its founding in 1859 through the end of the '80s, left off. DeMack spent much of the past four months researching history and conducting interviews -- "some good interviews, some really boring interviews," and even interviews with some of the councilmembers who now are playing dumb (typecasting).
The best interview was with former mayor Federico Peña, "who was incredible," DeMack says. "He was so vocal, and he didn't hide anything; he didn't hold anything back. I'll regret not being able to link the Peña administration to the '90s prosperity." Although DeMack hadn't gotten around to interviewing Webb, a former city manager provided his least interesting interview, "through no fault of his/her own," says DeMack. "There were obvious slants toward wanting to make it a profile of a lot of things Webb did during his administration," he acknowledges. "You face those kind of challenges in a political position."
But those challenges are easy compared to battling budget cuts. "I felt that once the 2003 part of my job kicked in, there were going to be some eliminations," DeMack says. Instead, the documentary -- now known as The Mayor's Documentary, with a budget pegged at $87,300 -- has been dropped...along with DeMack.
DeMack isn't giving up on Denver, though.
"We moved from Oklahoma in April and bought a house -- not a cheap house," he says. "It's been our goal for a long time to live here. We don't intend to leave. The glory of this job is that in five months, I met a lot of people...a lot of people who are advocates in my post-8/16 era.
"I'm a survivor," he adds. "Television is a very volatile business, but it's one I chose almost thirty years ago."
He pauses, then says, "I don't want to burn any bridges...but a few I want to tear down."
Unless someone resurrects this one -- and already rumors are flying that OTIS has the funds to finish the documentary -- Webb is 0 for 2 on his movie career.
Back in the early '90s, when Webb wrested the mayor's chair from odds-on favorite Norm Early, former Early campaign advisor Yaphet Kotto (who'd been living in Conifer during the 1991 Early/Webb match-up) decided he wanted to make a movie on the race, called War of the City.
And, hey, since this was Hollywood, not a documentary, Kotto was willing to switch sides and star as "Clarence Chancellor," a figure modeled after former nemesis Webb.
Ready for our close-up, part two: The Webb documentary may be a goner, but OTIS has a hit on its hands with Johns TV, the public-access show busting folks who've been convicted of soliciting prostitutes. No surprise that Johns TV producer David DiManna would know how to create a crowd-pleaser: He played a critical role in the success of Flashdance.
Welder #2, to be exact.
"It was mere seconds, but a dynamic mere seconds," DiManna remembers. Although his role called for no dancing, he did get to utter the immortal words "See you later, Alex. Don't get dirty" to star Jennifer Beals.
"And I have the last joke," he says. "I still get paid every time Columbia Pictures makes a deal."
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Peak performance: U.S. Senate candidate Tom Strickland has been dogged by supporters of his opponent, incumbent Wayne Allard -- and some even beat him to the top of the Fourteener the Democrat was climbing for this past Saturday's photo op. "While we were celebrating Colo-rado's special places, Allard is playing petty and negative politics," says Strickland spokeswoman Chris Watney.
But this week, Strickland finally had his campaign to himself -- even if he had to leave Colo-rado to accomplish it. On Tuesday, he headed to Jackson Hole and a fundraiser at the home of former Denverites John and Nancy Carney. No, Allard's folks weren't waiting for him on the top of Grand Teton.