Letters from the Issue of July 25, 2002

Why is "airport security" such a maddeningly frustrating oxymoron?

What's that Little Bird Doing in My Soup?

Ummm...the backstroke? Mike Clary has written a great report on the situation surrounding the Cape Sable seaside sparrow and Everglades restoration ("God's Eye on the Sparrow," July 18). Those federal agencies and private groups comprising the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force should be asked to include in their Coordinating Success document a plan for how they will relocate this bird to its original habitat.

If they cannot do this, then we cannot restore the Everglades. Any layman can see this by looking at the topographic maps and the water depths the Department of the Interior wants for the Everglades, including the water-conservation areas. It will not work.

L.J. Moller
Pembroke Pines

Don't Let the Nun's Habit Fool You

That broad just might be an al Qaeda sleeper: After reading Chuck Strouse's "Mindless Security, 2002" (July 18), I wondered if I should stop bellyaching about being frisked and my underwear mauled four different times while flying between Atlanta and Green Bay, Wisconsin.

I am a five foot, three inch, sixty-ish female of slight build. During one of my searches I noticed that next to me a nun had surrendered her luggage for a similar rifling. When I finally made it to the plane and asked the stewardess to whom I could write in protest, she began telling me her tale of woe about being searched. Then the pilot came out of the cockpit and told me his tale of woe. Does anybody feel one bit safer because the federal government is making sure there is no senior citizen carrying a nail file at 35,000 feet?

On my flight they also protected passengers from a nun carrying a small Swiss Army knife with those tiny scissors, but they allowed a (burly male) passenger carrying a military-strength umbrella, another male carrying a large wooden easel, and any number of people with wheelies, which surely have much more potential as weapons.

I don't believe for a minute that frisking me is about security. It's about the federal government telling citizens they'd better march quietly in step -- and definitely not carry a nail file.

Susan Ohanian
Charlotte, Vermont

The Terror of Security

Idiotic airport inspections will backfire big time: I read with interest Chuck Strouse's article about airport security measures. I am from the United Kingdom, where we have extensive experience dealing with the terrorist threat. Some of the examples he cited -- the Swedish businessman, the student, the man with the Publix knives -- aptly demonstrate the well-known fact that heightened security measures only affect the innocent. The consequences for those people demonstrate a complete failure of the system.

Time wasted on innocent people is time averted from the real threats. Security is a delicate business and relies on the cooperation of the public to ensure its effectiveness. If authorities are using their powers mindlessly, chasing the wrong threat, that balance will slip in the wrong direction and a justly irritated public will, ironically, create the perfect climate for another terrorist atrocity.

Let me explain. In a free society terrorism is free too, and therefore can never be eradicated. Any promise to a public that it can be is either disingenuous or foolishly naive. A terrorist will always find a way. They appraise the current weaknesses and exploit them accordingly. Several months ago that allowed them to stroll onto planes with knives. That option is unavailable at present, so they will look for other means or avenues of entry. It takes initiative and guile, which they possess in potent measure.

The only answer is to allow life to go on. If innocent people live in fear of petty officials abusing their authority, then terrorism has won. If lines at check-ins last longer than ever before, terrorism has won. If people are afraid of the erratic nature of paranoid security personnel, then terrorism is at work.

The wider question of solving the threat of terrorism is a political, not an operational, problem. Communication is the only way to resolve this issue. As terrorism is the voice of unrepresented people, it is that gap which needs bridging, as countless similar disputes have demonstrated in other struggles around the world.

James Fletcher
United Kingdom

Miami's Little Engine that Could

Chugging along with engineer Johnny at the throttle: Kirk Nielsen's article about Miami City Commissioner Johnny Winton was insightful ("Mission Man," Kirk Nielsen, July 11). In truth, however, "Mission Impossible" is more like it. Talking softly and carrying a big stick just doesn't work anymore. Commissioner Winton knows that talking the talk and walking the walk might come close to getting results, but it is not enough.

It is his willingness to follow through, even to the point of irritating and offending others, that says much about his can-do approach to good government. I say hurrah for being a different type of public official, one who knows that the "public" comes before the "official."

Thank goodness city staffers have no option but to take and return his phone calls. With more favorable New Times articles like this one, maybe others will want a seat onboard Johnny's Good Government Train.

Benedict P. Kuehne
Coconut Grove

Hard Lessons for Aesthetic Infidels

Off with their heads! Colleen Martin and the City of Miami Beach seem to have made a good start in attempting to preserve homes and other structures with some character. Their efforts, as reported by Jeff Stratton ("A Tree, a House, a Sign," July 4), are commendable. But $16,000 in fines and the occasional rescued banyan tree won't cut it in the long run. The city needs to toughen its ordinances.

If you tear down a protected structure, Miami Beach should mandate nothing less than replacement with an exact copy, including fixtures and architectural gewgaws. The offending party should be required to replace what they have illegally destroyed. A couple of doses of reconstructive reparations might give pause to the Noah Breakstones and Franz Reuthers of this world.

Additionally the three-strikes (or two -- whatever your pleasure) philosophy might well be adapted to include something like this: The third time you've had to rebuild a Pancoast home is the last. Personally and corporately you'll be ineligible to receive a building permit from the City of Miami Beach. The regulations should apply both to owners and contractors, right down to the bulldozer driver.

After that, other municipalities in the region should take note and copy the edict. Mediterranean revival homes and other buildings, neighborhoods with character, trees, and commercial structures with human scale and details are what people want from their city. Areas with flair -- including the Gables, the Grove, and the Beach -- are beloved because they have, at their core, the human element in their planning, construction, and detailing. Cookie-cutter suburbs may be lived in, but they're hardly beloved.

Architectural and aesthetic diversity is endangered in South Florida. Every chrome-and-glass monstrosity on Brickell Avenue or in the ravaged core of Coral Gables lessens the cultural vitality of the community and rewards the public with little beyond a continuing degradation of the communal fabric. Ugly homes on barren lots do not enrich the lives of South Floridians either; they serve only those who can make a quick dollar or two. Thoughtful architecture, careful landscaping, and human-scale development can provide both a livelihood for workers and a pleasant, livable environment for all. Jobs don't mandate ugly, anti-human architecture -- greedy builders and bad architects do.

Lewis Day
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts

Including but Not Limited to Really Bad Writing

Are the inmates running that asylum? The Miami Herald definitely has many shortcomings, especially pandering to its advertisers and Hispanic-American readers. But Rebecca Wakefield's article about the paper hiring former New Times columnist Jim DeFede ("Buying Time," June 27) did not mention the biggest shortcoming of all: the terrible quality of writing, especially in the sports section. This includes but is not limited to typos and errors in the use of English, writers fabricating information and not doing any research, pandering to public officials and sports teams to the point of being biased, and not giving both sides of the story.

This all happens under the watch of the editors at the Miami Herald, and yet nothing changes or improves.

Jason Nall
Miami

Harvey to DeFede: Keep Your Legs Crossed

Otherwise, you traitor, you'll get what's coming to you: I've just read, in "the mullet wrapper by the bay" (the Miami Herald) that Jim DeFede, who regularly hot-dogged the Herald with relish, is now just another drone of a writer there, who in time, owing to "financial restraints" at 1 Herald Plaza, will find his very testicles fed to the sharks. His journalistic testicles anyway.

There is no fucking way in hell those assholes in the Herald's ivory tower will allow the now-compromised DeFede to operate as he did over the years at New Times -- in a straight and forceful investigative manner. There are too many skeletons in and around Miami-Dade County that, for reasons other than good journalism, are taboo at the Miami Herald. It appears that DeFede has sold out to the enemy -- at least to the Herald, which is the real enemy of the taxpayers and citizens of South Florida.

Bad luck, Jim. You deserve it. What's next, the Washington Times?

Harvey Slavin
Hollywood

Balmaseda Bashing Baffling

Maybe we're not talking about the same person: This is the first letter to the editor I've written in 35 years. It's about a friend, but it's also about the most talented journalist I know.

I was disappointed -- baffled, actually -- by Rebecca Wakefield's references to Liz Balmaseda in her story about recent staff changes at the Miami Herald. The anonymous slams in the piece are not just unworthy of New Times, they are also dead wrong.

If there is a writer who has made a lasting and substantial contribution to South Florida in the last decade, it's Liz Balmaseda. She has written with honesty, passion, and grace about the thorniest issues in our community -- from unfair immigration laws to censorship to health care for the poor -- not looking for controversy but meeting it courageously when it came.

As for early promise, we should all come as close to fulfilling ours as Liz has come to fulfilling hers.

Ileana Oroza
Miami Beach

Editor's note: Ileana Oroza, a professor at University of Miami's School of Communication, is a former Miami Herald managing editor.

Open Your Suitcase, Please

Now look the other way and count to 30: Airport officials are worried about small knives and scissors when they should be more worried about their own employees. My sister just took a flight from Miami International Airport to Tallahassee. At the baggage checkpoint someone stole all her gold jewelry and some new clothes. Total value: about a thousand dollars.

After robbing her, you'd better believe they didn't try searching her carry-on luggage. That simply would not have been proper.

Ximena Johnson
Miami Shores

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