Week of October 24, 2001

Police Action
Articles like this mischaracterize the police: I am not condoning the actions of Officer Kevin Jones if what this article insinuates is true [Wm. Stage, "Good Cop? Bad Cop?" Oct. 17]. However, it is unfortunate that the action of a single individual is portrayed as a moral misdeed of an entire department. It would be refreshing for the Riverfront Times to report on the positive actions of a police officer, which are more common in occurrence than misconduct. Articles like this mischaracterize the St. Louis Police Department. Do you ever think, as a "journalist," what message you are sending the general public? Or is it only about the story and not what the repercussions could be to impressionable youth? I see with my own eyes the distrust and disrespect the St. Louis police officers are up against every day, yet would you want to live in a city without them? The majority of them are truly out there to protect and serve, so why not shed some light on what they are doing for us instead of against us. You would be doing a service to the entire community.
Amber Mueller
St. Louis

Why didn't the cop bust the illegal operation? My question to Officer Jones is, why would he attempt to win a stuffed toy at an illegal vendor in his own neighborhood? As a peace officer, Jones should have known the intersection of Marcus and Natural Bridge was not in a special vending district. His first action should have been to check for a vending license and then report the lack thereof to a police officer who was on duty. Obviously no one involved was on the up-and-up. I certainly don't carry $160 in my pocket for spending money on a daily basis. Furthermore, shooting at someone is not a way to convince someone to return your money. However, Darnell "Duck" Harlston should not have been slain at the hands of a peace officer that Labor Day weekend.
Michelle Onkle
Edwardsville, Ill.

Cop asked for gas-station owner's cooperation: Well-written article that explains the shady events that had occurred. I am the son of the owner of the Shell station where the shooting occurred. I happened to be working that Sunday around 6 p.m., when the shootings happened. Darnell was a frequent customer at our store and had a kind nature. Your article has reaffirmed my belief that Darnell was not another stick-up robber trying to make $20 from robbing and wounding these "honest" men selling stuffed animals. My father let them run their business [because] the police officer had approached my father, identified himself as [a police officer] and asked for my father's cooperation in letting them set up a stand in order to find a local drug dealer.
David J. Chung
via the Internet

Ray of Spite
You suck, you piece of shit: I think you have to look at the facts [in the Jack in the Box killings] -- not the race of the victims [Ray Hartmann, "Losing the Battle and the War," Oct. 10]. Let's pretend that everyone in this situation is white. So we have two youths, one of whom has 3 grams of cocaine. This is breaking the law. Often the activities that occur with drugs are the activities that also lead to robberies, assaults and murders. So we have cops who have no idea whether these young men have weapons or not.

You can print as many testimonials as you want from brokenhearted loved ones, but the fact remains that because someone has a mother or aunt or brother that says, "He was a good boy, he would never hurt anyone," that doesn't mean the cops know that just by looking at them. As much as these family members grieve these boys, so would the families of any officers hurt. So the boys ram a police car. If someone throws a car in reverse, what do you think the next step will be? If someone smacks you, are you going to wait and see if they do it again? Cops are trained to think one step ahead. If they had told these men to step out of the car, they did not comply, and they threw the car into reverse, you're damned right I would shoot them too. Black, white, purple, plaid -- I don't care.

It's easy for you to criticize, Hartmann, but let's stop being a bottom-feeding sensationalizing suction fish long enough to look at the facts. You would have done the same thing, and you're full of crap if you say you wouldn't. You say you're not trying to demonize the officers. Bullshit. Your headline says it all.

The men and women of law enforcement put their lives on the line every time they go to work. They are paid to defend us. Those officers were just doing their job, just the same as you are paid to be a stupid piece of crap that has no other purpose than to grab onto a hot topic and suck the life out of it like the media whore you are. To put it simply -- you suck, you piece of shit.
Beth Buschard
St. Louis

Pick on Osama instead: Hartmann, take off your rose-colored glasses. You appear to have a problem knowing the difference between good behavior and bad. If a person chooses to abuse drugs that are considered illegal in this country, they must also be willing to pay the consequences. Have you had to pay consequences for a bad decision that you made? Apparently people like you are not willing to pay any consequences. It is "goody" people like you that allow crime to go unpunished.

Police officers are not perfect. Most of them are just trying to protect and uphold the laws. If you want to pick on someone, try Osama and his followers. Or do you think we should drop daisies instead of bombs?
Carol McKenna
St. Louis

Starting to look like prewar Germany: It is very important that we stop being held hostage by a group, any group, of terrorists [Ray Hartmann, "The Anthrax Is Not in the Mail," Oct. 17]. We must move on with our lives. Yes, we need to take more precautions when we fly, go in tall buildings or even open our mail. We cannot blame Muslims because the terrorists are Muslims.

McCarthyism was wrong in 1954, and it is wrong now. If we continue to point the finger at Muslims, we start to look like prewar Germany!
Robert Morgan
St. Louis

Absentee Landlord
To me, Wash. U. means deferred maintenance and higher rents: As a Washington University graduate student who lives north of Delmar in University City, I am concerned about the recent property purchases by Wash. U. [Elizabeth Vega, "Buy and Swell," Oct. 17], less for tax reasons than for maintenance and rent reasons. The outside maintenance of buildings and property has improved with time since the purchase (though our backyard was not raked last fall), but the inside maintenance has gone to pot. In June, a leak in the apartment above ours caused a hole to form in our bathroom ceiling. We immediately called Parkview Properties (the Wash. U. company that manages the property).

After three weeks, plumbers showed up to fix the leak. A week later, the hole was fixed. The plaster has still not been painted. While the apartments north of Delmar are large, amenities are scarce -- no dishwasher, lead paint, old windows that sap the heat out of our apartment, a closet door made of a set of French doors with particle board nailed to one side and broken glass on the other. Amenities are what makes a place worth more money -- not just ownership by Wash. U. The condition of our apartment has not improved in the last year-and-a-half.

Wash. U. has increased the rent on buildings east of U. City that it purchased in 1998 by 300 to 400 percent, with little to no improvements on the quality of the inside of the apartments. An apartment that some friends lived in that once cost $350 per month is now $1,280. Our rent has not yet gone up. But if maintenance continues to be so poor and our rent does increase drastically over the next year to two years, we'll be moving.
Desiree Floyd
University City

Out for Blood
It was a cold and rainy night: I don't usually do these kinds of things, but your review of The Vampires has compelled me [Dennis Brown, "Bloodsucker," Oct. 17]. Thank you, Mr. Brown, for awakening my own bloodsucking impulses and shaking me out of the marasmus I have sunken into lately in regards to theatrical criticism in this town.

It is no surprise to me, having worked in St. Louis theater for several years, that this script would receive negative reactions from critics -- I did my production research on the play as well. I realized, as Harry Kondoleon so astutely puts it in the play when commenting on if the work will make any money or be a commercial or critical success, that "It is just not that kind of thing."

Unfortunately, it seems to me that Brown had already made up his mind about the play prior to experiencing the production. He very well may have fallen into the trap Kondoleon was setting for "critics" of the theater -- predetermined stoicism. Also, Brown's comparison of our audience turnout with the Gregory Peck film was sophomoric at best. This seems to me to be yet another trap laid by Kondoleon that Mr. Brown so easily stepped into -- drama critics' making obscure comparisons to even more obscure pop-culture references. In The Vampires, it so happens to be The Donna Reed Show that gets skewered.

The fact of the matter is that it was opening night and there were 10-12 people in the audience. However, Brown conveniently forgets to mention that it was a cold, rainy Thursday and that opening nights, especially for small theater companies trying to establish themselves, are generally not well attended. But to mention that would weaken his tenuous and vituperative argument that people were staying away because they had a premonition that they wouldn't understand or enjoy the play. Not to mention audience attendance has been down for a lot of St. Louis theaters lately.

I commend Brown for doing his research. Again, conveniently, he failed to mention the positive criticism of later productions. Kondoleon is utilizing a nontraditional structure in his writing, but it is too easy a potshot to dismiss someone who is consciously attempting to liberate himself from what have become standard theatrical conventions as unfocused -- Kondoleon is way too intelligent a writer. Something has not been working in American theater, and Kondoleon was attempting to address this. I don't feel he completely succeeded. I don't feel that most writing in Western theater succeeds at what it is attempting to explore, if it even gets that far. However, there is a powerful force at work in this script that surpasses the surface commentary on American domesticity -- a force driving us to recognize tendencies that put us at risk for a form of eternal damnation.

Perhaps it is the fact the Kondoleon is just not writing in a style that Brown has the patience for and, subsequently, he has difficulty critiquing the material.
Ted Gregory
Artistic Director
City Players of St. Louis

Paying the Price
Remember Saddam? I read and reread the article "Cleaning House" [Oct. 10], looking for something that wasn't there: the name of the person who was the cause of, and could immediately resolve, the problems in Iraq, Saddam Hussein. Remember him? He ordered the invasion of Kuwait and was poised to invade Saudi Arabia when we kicked him out. He could immediately end the United Nations sanctions by allowing inspections. He could have, over the years since the Gulf War, used some of his personal money to relieve the suffering of his people instead of building palaces with gold plumbing fixtures. Some of the reasons stated in the article why we are resented may be valid, but to print something on this subject without mentioning Saddam Hussein is ridiculous.
John Brangle
St. Louis

No one in Congress is willing to tackle these issues: Kudos to Safir Ahmed and the Riverfront Times for having the guts to tell it like it is. Most Americans are under the mistaken impression that Muslims who hate the U.S. do so because of the "American lifestyle" or "American freedoms" and other generalizations; just look at the "Street Talk" responses to the question "Why do they hate us?" As pointed out by Mr. Ahmed, there are specific, unambiguous reasons for their hatred.

This conflict will not be resolved until Americans ask some tough questions about our Mideast policies. I am not pleased, for example, with my tax dollars' being sent to Israel to oppress Palestinians. And it won't help to label me or anyone else who feels this way as anti-Semitic. I want what's best for the U.S. and the world, and I conclude that we have paid too high a price for our Mideast policies. No one in Congress is willing to tackle these issues -- and that has me worried.
Christian Stone

We'll always think differently: I heard a story a few years ago. A Westerner was in court in a Middle East nation for a traffic accident. He was sitting at a traffic stop when he was rear-ended. The judge found him guilty of causing the accident: He didn't belong there; the person who hit him was a native. If the Westerner was not there, the accident would never have happened.

I don't think we will ever come to an agreement concerning the rift between the East and West. We think differently. We always will. Safir Ahmed's article fails to mention that the last two wars fought by America were in defense of Muslims. He mentions the presence of U.S. troops in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia but doesn't mention that a repressive regime, Iraq, is the reason we are there.

He claims that the "grief of Baghdad hasn't shown up on our television screens." But the cause of Iraq's sanctions is a Muslim, Saddam Hussein. If Iraq had just lived up to its agreement with the U.N., the sanctions would be over. So the U.S. is blamed for the starvation, not the Iraqi leaders. If the Muslim freedom fighters had the best interest of their people in mind, they would go after Saddam to make him live up to his word. They would have united to fight in Bosnia, not waited for the U.S. and its allies to stop the ethnic cleansing.

The bottom line: If the country of Israel was eliminated and became Palestine, and all Israelis left the region, the radicals would not be happy until all Israelis were dead. It's not about fairness, it's about ethnic cleansing.
Robert Wilson
St. Louis

René the Destroyer
In her defense, she is an idiot: René Spencer Saller is ruining the music section of your paper. I am constantly annoyed by her boring Radar Station column, which becomes blander by the week. When she's not talking about Sexicolor, she is plugging some other generic no-talent act from the area, such as Colony or Mesh. If it isn't Sexicolor, it's Spitzie Q. West. If it isn't Spitzie Q. West, it's Jason Hutto. If it isn't Jason Hutto, someone else must have written Radar Station that week. In her defense, however, she is an idiot. It's obvious she doesn't know how to write anything worth reading. In the end, it all works out because it sucks equally as much as the bands whose ass she can't stop kissing.
Chris Boron
Belleville, Ill.

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