Week of June 23, 2004

Jun 23, 2004 at 4:00 am
Watching You
Everybody's doing it: I just read Malcolm Gay's piece on the FBI's investigation following a strongly worded e-mail "Egregious E-Mail," June 9]. What amazes me is that perspective is lost in coverage like this. Several years ago we had an inner-city high school student investigated for saying less on a school computer. I remember a piece on a college student in Iowa from about the same period. He sent an e-mail one evening and had Secret Service agents at his college dorm the next morning.

What I would ask of the press is that things be put into a realistic perspective. This is not a new thing in our country. It went on long before the Patriot Act. Gay's piece is not good news coverage. It lacks both depth and comprehension. You have, I am sure, your facts right about this case, but you made very poor use of them. I would challenge you to do your research before writing about these issues again.
David Fulbright

Even in Tennessee! Malcolm Gay's article was extremely interesting, especially considering that I've also had rather Orwellian "visits" from the federal government. Two in fact, from two separate agencies -- the FBI and the State Department. The big difference, however, is that I am a polar opposite, religiously and politically, to Mr. Hakim.

In October 2001 I telephoned a Canadian imam to voice displeasure at his involvement in the prosecution of a Canadian Christian who'd been charged with the crime of handing out leaflets in 1998 warning that a major terrorist attack was coming from Muslims based in Canada. Two months later the FBI came pounding at my door, asking if I had been making threatening telephone calls. The imam had obviously embellished his version of the story so it would play better with authorities. I later learned that the man's family has high-level associations with George and Barbara Bush.

In May 2003 two agents from the U.S. State Department came pounding at my door. My crime this time? I'd sent Bible verses to the State Department that warned them about God's wrath upon those who "divide the land" of Israel. This time the agents weren't so friendly, and they even interviewed my neighbors about me.

The entire story is quite long, but suffice it to say, I believe that we are living in a quasi-police state, and it will get much worse. The federal government, which was totally incompetent in preventing 9/11, is now attempting to regain stature by harassing citizens who speak out. As I told the agent from the State Department: Do you really believe that a true terrorist would do anything to draw attention to himself?

After those two visits, I was stopped by local police on five separate occasions, once for matching the description of an alleged wanted man "with a crooked foot" as I walked home from the library. (I don't have a crooked foot.) The cop who stopped me had just returned from Iraq. Another time I was simply walking my dog. The hassles stopped after I hinted that I was aware of their targeted harassment of me and that perhaps a civil suit was required.
Tony Meeks
Martin, Tennessee

Bob vs. the Suburbs
Bob vs. Bob: After reading Ben Westhoff's article about Baton Bob's recent diatribe against the invasion of the city snatchers, my friends and I struck upon an interesting hypothetical: Who would win in a Pseudo-Celebrity Death Match between Beatle Bob and Baton Bob, St. Louis's two most eccentric Roberts ["Baton Bob to Suburbanites: Drop Dead", June 9]?

While I feel wholeheartedly that Baton Bob would whip Beatle Bob's ass with his pent-up rage and namesake accessory, my friends feel that Beatle Bob's hypnotic head bobble and cat-like dance moves would give him a distinct advantage.
Travis DeRousse
University City

Bob vs. the RFT: I e-mailed my Open Letter to the Central West End Neighborhood to Tom Finkel, the editor of the Riverfront Times, in hopes that he would print it so the whole city could have access to it, in case they did not know my Web site, ambassadorofmirth.com, where it was initially posted.

Instead I got a call from Ben Westhoff, who wanted to do an investigative article on the situation. So the pure nature and purpose of the Ambassador's intent was distorted by Westhoff's garbage. All negative bullshit from the word "go."

His opening assumption that the Ambassador is now bitter is so far from the truth that it does not warrant repeating. Disappointed, yes, for a couple of reasons:

1. I find it a pure joke that Dennis George of the Central West End Business Association only wanted to fork out $35 for my scheduled Friday- and Saturday-night appearances, as opposed to the normal $125 per fifteen-minute gig that my true fans are paying with glee. The $35 doesn't even cover the cost of my non-smudging lipstick.

2. That the association wanted to use profanity as an excuse to no longer pay the Ambassador is typical. And in due respect to the two twelve-year-old girls having dinner with their mom, I bet these girls have used the "fuck" word more times by the time they reached age twelve than your grandmother can shake a stick at.

All in all, the article is only something to give people with boring jobs something to talk about around the water cooler, and I give no credence to it. Just another piece of journalistic trash! If you are really interested in reading something of truth and substance, check out the Ambassador's Open Letter to the Central West End Neighborhood -- and have a nice day!
Bob Jamerson
St. Louis

Knife Moves
Shades of the "Group W" bench: Suddenly the handy and versatile tool I have carried in my left front pocket for 40 years has morphed into a dangerous weapon, making me a suspicious character and barring me from the courthouse, airport, Arch, or even meeting my wife at her city-hall office for lunch [Malcolm Gay, "Arch Nemesis", May 19]. I'm reminded of Arlo Guthrie writing of his shovels and rakes as "implements of destruction" -- as defined by Officer Obie.

Afterthought: I wonder if the "courthouse whittlers" of my rural southern youth are now viewed as brazenly flouting Homeland Security!
G. B. Burton
St. Louis

Barge On
Good work: As the president of MEMCO Barge Line, I was pleased to open our doors to Randall Roberts for his feature "Mississippi Drifting". It shows that he developed warm relationships with our mariners on the towboat and got a good feel for working life on the river.

In reading the story, however, I was concerned that your readers might take towboaters' jokes as facts and then undervalue our commitment to safety.

At MEMCO we place a premium on hiring the best-qualified people to work on our towboats. We carefully screen people's backgrounds to make sure that we meet this goal. Once hired, MEMCO trains and coaches our mariners so they understand that our policies provide them with a safe and healthy workplace. That's our first and top priority.
Mark Knoy, president
MEMCO Barge Line

All and Al
Broadening our horizons: Regarding your Al Sharpton for Mayor button giveaway: What about doing a Draft William Buckley or Draft Rush Limbaugh? (Rush is from Cape Girardeau.)

Either one of those guys would make a good mayor of St. Louis. Maybe have all three of them be co-mayors of St. Louis. Collectively, they can solve our problems.
John M. Clones

"American Cutie," Brooke Foster's June 9 Night & Day item about David Sedaris, linked the radio show This American Life with National Public Radio, which is misleading. While This American Life airs on NPR affiliates, the program is produced by WBEZ and Chicago Public Radio and distributed nationwide by Public Radio International (PRI). Additionally, in the same issue, Michael Renner's restaurant review provided an incorrect telephone number. Taylor's can be reached at 636-461-2240.