Johnny Law wronged
Any sort of blanket statement about an entire group of people is always a bad idea. Not only is it a bad idea, it's ignorant. Saying all blondes are stupid is a pretty stupid statement in itself, as I'm sure there are at least a few blondes who are actually smart.
Hearing that the Seattle Police Department [see "Calling for a crackdown," 6/29] is bad is getting as old and tired as that whole Elian thing. It seems as if it's something people are expected to say because everyone is saying it, and if you don't think Seattle cops are jerks, then you must be some sort of an idiot and against black people or something. I think the whole police thing is out of control. We've developed this 'us against them' mentality and all that's going to do is feed off itself, and the media, until people hate cops for no reason except that they're cops.
I would hate to think the police would shoot a man for no reason. But there was a reason they shot the man on lower Queen Anne; he was threatening peoples' lives, and he did the same thing just the week before. He was clearly a little out there. Yes, he was black, but if some crazy white man had the same criminal resume as this guy, walking down the street with gun in tow, I'm guessing they would have shot him too.
I'm sure there are bad cops, but there are good cops that actually care and don't want to shoot people or pull black drivers over just for the hell of it. Just like there are bad teachers who molest students, there are good teachers who dedicate their lives to teaching and helping children.
The sad thing about this whole deal is that I know good cops and all they want to do is to be Good Cops. All this trashy media coverage and trendy SPD hate is tarnishing the good job they want to do, which is to protect good people, which is the reason why they wanted to be a cop in the first place. Yes, the Seattle Police should be monitored, just like we all are at our own jobs, but how about working on changing the stigma that the police are the enemy, just like we should change the stigma that all black men are criminals? Let's not be so stupid to think that EVERYONE in one group is bad and EVERYONE in the other is a victim.
Policing the police
In regard to Geov Parrish's cover story "Who will watch the cops?" ["Calling for a crackdown," 6/29] I am acquainted with a retired former SPD officer, who is a decent, moral, church-going man. Yet while he will admit that the NYPD officers who shot Amadou Diallo were more than a bit careless with their guns, he becomes defensive whenever the local media becomes overly aggressive in chronicling police misdeeds and leaving the impression that the police are people who find a bit too much enjoyment in the exercise of lethal power. While I myself have little liking for police in general, having been the target of "profiling" on more occasions than it is good for me to think upon overmuch, I will grant that most police officers are not, in fact, by nature bigoted thugs.
Still, the problem as I see it is this: that the police have become so entrenched in their siege mentality that they have lost, if they ever had it, the ability to police themselves. How often have we seen the police circle the wagons around a fellow officer who has committed a crime or used unnecessary violence? The SPD and other departments have repeatedly demonstrated that they themselves cannot be trusted to root out, discipline, or remove officers who are unfit by temperament to wear the badge. While certain segments of the population rather approve of the tactics the police employ against the "elements," the majority of the citizenry finds itself at the mercy of an unaccountable police force that obeys no rules— despite the fact that they are paid to uphold the law, not break it, with the tax dollars of the citizenry. That latter alone should be grounds enough for independent civilian oversight.
The bottom line is that police are solely responsible for the way they are perceived and the lack of trust they embody. The post-Stamper SPD promises to be even more reactionary, with the bad apples running the show—or rather, the "good" cops letting them run it.
The business of news
Kenneth Gouldthorpe's "The death of Life" [6/29] is on the money in more ways than one. As the public turns increasingly to Internet and TV "infotainment" for its media diet, the virtues of old-school journalism are getting trounced for the love of commerce. Fast-track news that simultaneously shocks and inspires us to buy the item du jour has become the status quo. Room for probing, sensitive reporting seems tight to me, a former documentary studies student turned media advisor bathed in the rectitude of "the decisive moment."
News has always been a business, but in its slow slide towards a business that delivers us news, I wonder if we're losing more than just the golden virtues of a changing profession, but one of our most penetrating methods to learn about the world. The question Gouldthorpe's piece begs but doesn't answer is: How will our perceptions of humanity change as getting the news becomes more an act of serving our own interests—based on corporate sponsors, cookies, and the whimsy of our mouse?
A bitch is a female dog
In his article "Principal problem" [6/29], James Bush says that Gatewood Elementary School principal Dan Barton received an official reprimand scolding him for "some minor transgressions (a few public uses of the word 'bitch' and a middle-school-caliber sexist joke)."
Let me quote from the reprimand: "More than one school employee reported that you [Barton] have used the term 'bitches' when referring to adult female employees. In fact, more than one employee reported that you had told a team of females something to the effect of 'if you b-i-t-c-h-e-s leave you will not get a good evaluation/ recommendation.' Another overheard you say something like: 'I'll never hire another b-i-t-c-h again.'
"Another example is your inappropriate reference to, or discussion about, females, breasts, and breast-feeding while at work. One witness even reported that in a team meeting you remarked how lucky your infant son was because he was 'getting breast' all the time. Although you either deny using these words or claim they were taken out of context, a significant number of employees report that you used these words and did so in an inappropriate context."
In a letter to the editor of the West Seattle Herald (2/16/00), a Gatewood refugee teacher wrote, "The parents need to know five signed affidavits are on the books . . . beginning in 1994." This was for five separate situations of sexual harassment.
I was also surprised to see Tim Moynihan described as the assistant principal. Funny, the school district doesn't list an assistant principal position for Gatewood, and few, if any, elementary schools of that size have such a position. I also got a chuckle when I read that Barton was given a clean bill of health by Superintendent Joseph Olchefske. Would that be the same Joseph Olchefske who hired former Garfield Principal Al Jones, who had been FIRED from an earlier position? I smell fish.
Gosh, if principals who commit such "minor transgressions" as babbling about the 'bitches' on their staff breast feeding, incurring a rash of sexual harassment grievances and lawsuits, and excelling primarily in staff turnover, only to have their quirks explained away as the mark of education reform geniuses at work, then one has to wonder what the hardcore derelicts Bush alluded to are all about. Still, such antics really don't explain what drives our teacher shortage, do they?
Geov Parrish wants to know why opponents of big government all favor the death penalty [Impolitics, "The evils of big government," 6/29]. I am an opponent of big government, and I oppose the death penalty as well.
Recently George Will very clearly articulated two good reasons for conservatives to oppose the death penalty (I agree with both): 1) If you support life, it must be supported in all cases. Specifically, if one is against abortion, one should also be against the death penalty. 2) It's a government program and they'll screw it up.
JEFFREY A. THOMAS
Not EVEN stealing
While Ms. Gunn appears to create copyrighted material for a living, she apparently supports the unfortunate notion that the Internet has rendered concepts such as intellectual property and copyright obsolete [Kiss My ASCII, 6/22]. According to Ms. Gunn, "linking to a picture on someone else's Web site is not hacking. It's not even stealing the photo. If you didn't want the picture to be seen on the Web, you shouldn't have put it on a Web server, capisce?"
While I might agree that it is not hacking in the way hacking is commonly defined, the "deep-linking" technique used by the Cantwell campaign sure smells like stealing.
As an example: I assume that since the publishers of the Seattle Weekly put a lot of time, energy, and money into creating their newspaper and Web site, including paying writers and photographers to create content, they might find it upsetting if someone else published that content without permission. Cantwell-style "deep-linking" is exactly that.
However, Ms. Gunn assures us that "deep-linking" is not stealing. So it occurred to me that there is a golden business opportunity here. I figure I can publish a great online magazine that features articles on the Seattle arts and culture scene, technology issues, even restaurant reviews, all created by talented local writers and photographers. The great part is, I don't need to hire any of these people. All I need to do is "deep-link" to the articles, photographs, and illustrations at seattleweekly.com.
I'm sure Ms. Gunn and the Weekly's publisher won't mind. After all, linking to an article on someone else's Web site is not hacking. It's not even stealing the article. If you didn't want the article to be seen on the Web, you shouldn't have put it on a Web server, capisce?
Angela Gunn responds: Deep-linking is one of my favorite moving legal targets and has been since the days when Microsoft annoyed Ticketmaster by wedding their events calendar to specific TM pages. At the moment, the courts are looking kindly on deep-linking, as long as such links don't cause undue burden to the linkee (such as AuctionWatch's high-traffic spider searches of eBay, which cause discernible server load). Linking to just one photo, especially with no claim made by Cantwell's folk that they owned that photo (in other words, within the bounds of fair use), is only going to annoy the judges in the court of public opinion—as it clearly has in your case.
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