Letters from the Issue of May 27, 2004
And a crime unsolved: Bill Jensen's article about my late son RJ Lockwood ("Hardcore and Bleeding," May 20) was great except for one thing: I didn't see the sentence for people who want to help to contact me or law-enforcement authorities. I also didn't see his Website for others to visit.
Otherwise Mr. Jensen did an outstanding job with this article. Even though it was difficult for me to read, it meant a lot. Maybe something can come of this.
Saying "Thank you" just isn't enough to tell him what it has meant to me.
Editor's note: Anyone with information regarding the murder of RJ Lockwood can contact the Miami Police Department or Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS. Links to RJ's Website (and that of his girlfriend Kaytlynn) can be found in the story at www.miaminewtimes.com. In the print edition, Kaytlynn's boyfriend was inaccurately reported to have been interviewed by police in mid-January. In fact he was interviewed in mid-February.
Oops -- make that The Poor White Underclass Rocks: Why is it that the last slurs allowed and indeed sanctioned by the media are redneck and hillbilly? New Times and writer Lee Zimmerman ("Local Heroes: 18 Wheelers," May 20) need to understand that referring to the poor, white underclass by using these hurtful and hateful words is the same as using the word "nigger" to refer to blacks, or using the word "kike" to refer to Jews.
A long history is attached to poor whites in this nation. Most of them are the offspring of indentured servants, who were horribly treated. In fact most indentured servants were treated worse than the black slaves were. (Think about it: If you rent a car you beat the crap out of it. If you own a car you take care of it.)
It is time the media stop being bigoted hypocrites and stop putting down and slandering those of less fortunate means. Remember that this country was built on the backs of those rednecks and hillbillies -- the coal miners, steel workers, and farmers. Please stop this hatred.
Rochester, New York
On Behalf of Minister Farrakhan ...
... I charge falsehood, defamation, and journalistic fabrication: In Brett Sokol's "Kulchur" column about Karen Hughes and George W. Bush ("Behind Bush," May 13), he wrote: "And then there's Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who last week echoed the views of the left-leaning journal The Nation, calling Bush merely an empty 'vessel' for a neoconservative cabal of Pentagon insiders hell-bent on a new Pax Americana, even suggesting that Bush had secretly planned the September 11 World Trade Center attacks on their behalf."
Contrary to his assertion, at no time did Minister Farrakhan suggest that Mr. Bush "had secretly planned the September 11 World Trade Center attacks." Mr. Sokol's statement is not only journalistically false, it fits the legal definition of libel. The actual words can be verified in Minister Farrakhan's press conference, which is available in its entirety on the Web at www.finalcall.com/pressconference.
Barnar C. Muhammad
FinalCall.com News Services
Brett Sokol replies: If Louis Farrakhan wants to start backpedaling on his sophistry, he should first make sure C-SPAN doesn't have its cameras rolling. Readers are invited to watch that cable channel's broadcast of Farrakhan's May 3, 2004, speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. It is archived online at cspan.org. After very clearly blaming the September 11 deaths on a neoconservative conspiracy, at whose service Bush is merely an empty "vessel," Farrakhan goes on to call the World Trade Center attacks a staged pretext for war, comparing it to the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine warship in 1898 and the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964. Be sure and watch through to the end, where Farrakhan returns to one of his favorite themes -- Judaism, labeling neoconservatives fake Jews who belong to "the synagogue of Satan."
A little research might go a long way: Humberto Guida is not too bright. He should be writing for People magazine. In his "BuzzIn" column, he reported on one meeting of many regarding Miami Beach nightclubs ("Party Poopers," May 13). At that particular meeting club promoters filled the city commission chambers early with clubgoers and club staff, leaving no room for residents.
Mr. Guida obviously has no idea what goes on around here. Yes, people shit and piss and fornicate in our bushes or in our carports. His comments about the age of residents showed no class or taste. There are plenty of twentysomethings and thirtysomethings like myself who couldn't make this meeting because of out-of-town work but are actively involved.
It's funny how the reporter at the SunPost did research before he wrote about the subject. I had expected higher standards at New Times.
Leans on old pals for helpful tips: Perhaps somewhere deep inside the New Times office, where many of your male writers spend most of the day arm-wrestling, playing tic-tac-toe, or dreaming up assignments that might put them in direct touch with hip-hop celebrities, there is a conviction that my town, Miami Beach, its city commission, and its residents are ridiculous. After all, what in my town deserves your respect above and beyond our beach, our blue Atlantic waves, and all the pretty girls sunning themselves on the sand? Answer: The clubs and bars where those pretty girls can be found after sunset. Ah, that's the essence of Miami Beach, and it needs to be nourished, doesn't it?
So when Humberto Guida, your paper's most-developed Homo sapiens specimen, heard that the Miami Beach City Commission was going to vote on an essential ordinance that would plug a loophole permitting places licensed as restaurants to turn themselves into noisy nightclubs in areas zoned residential, he decided not to pass up an opportunity to prove to the world -- and his editors -- that he could write well enough to connect a trivial subject with a satirical predicate.
In my mind's eye, I can plainly see Humberto approaching the jammed city commission chambers. Pushing aside several elderly ladies (that is, women over 30), he spots his old pals Carmel Ophir, Michael Capponi, and Roman Jones, surrounded by their flacks, lawyers, and camp followers. Looking at his watch, Humberto says crisply: "Somebody brief me. You've got 60 seconds!"
Ophir steps up: "Listen, your theme is the young, the beautiful, the healthy, and the hip versus the old, the ugly, the diseased, and the ignorant." Humberto nods. Ophir continues: "Look, use phrases like 'the theater of the absurd,' 'the elderly,' 'a meeting rife with hilarity,' 'residents whining about dog doo,' 'pompous commissioners,' 'a Monty Python kind of circus.' Then top it off with a memorable quotation: 'Club life made Miami Beach, so why are the old, the ugly, the diseased, and the ignorant trying to kill the goose that laid the golden egg?'"
Humberto nods enthusiastically: "Yes, but who made that brilliant statement?"
In grave tones, Capponi replies: "I did. Don't you remember?"
And that's how Miami New Times usually covers politics in Miami Beach.
Let the runoff decide: While Brett Sokol's column "The 3% Man" ("Kulchur," April 29) plays on the controversy of third-party and independent-candidate participation in presidential politics, he fails to mention the proverbial elephant in the room. The "blame Greens for splitting the vote and spoiling the election" circus is an utter distraction. The real spoiler is our election process. Its features include unusually high qualification thresholds, bans from public debate, and a plurality voting system.
In our current system, three or more candidates competing for a single seat can result in the winner having less than a majority, and the majority of the electorate actually opposing the "winner." This "minority rule" system ascribes "spoiler" status to any candidate or party that would take votes from either of the two major-party contenders, thereby splitting the vote. This forces many of us to vote strategically for a "lesser evil," or for whom we deem "electable," rather than for our preferred candidate.
Fortunately a solution is within our reach. It's called instant runoff voting, or IRV (see www.fairvote.org). IRV is a much more optimal alternative. It's a ranked choice system that is gaining momentum around the country. Simply rank your preferences first, second, third, etc. The winner must receive a majority. Count all the first choices. If one candidate receives a majority, the election is over. If no candidate receives a majority, the low vote-getter is eliminated, and the ballots are retabulated. If your favorite candidate has not been eliminated, he or she is counted in the retabulation. If your favorite has been eliminated, your second choice is counted in the retabulation. The process continues until one candidate accrues a majority.
It's done in just one visit to the polls. The real support behind independent and third-party candidates can be seen because people are no longer fearful of voting for them, since there is no risk involved. The spoiler effect has been eliminated.
Preparations for an IRV ballot initiative are in the works here by a political action committee, Citizens for Instant Runoff Voting in Florida (see www.cirv.org). It's high time we have no more excuses why third parties can't play. A broader public discourse is desperately needed in American politics. Let's restore majority rule, create more political choice, and eliminate divisive "spoiler" politics, all at the same time. Bring on IRV!