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Letters to the editor, 2/17/00

Thursday, February 17, 2000

How can we trust network news reports?

We now know that the current White House administration has, in effect, paid TV networks to air entertainment programs with anti-drug messages in the scripts. This is sad in two respects.

First, TV programs used to sign off with a pledge that they had adhered to a code of promoting good conduct. Virtue and advertiser dollars were their rewards. Relaxing public service announcement regulations so that compliant networks can sell extra air time is like Johann Tetzel selling indulgences.

Secondly, surreptitious insertion of a message in a mass media vehicle to mold public opinion in favor of a governmental policy is by definition propaganda. Which brings me to this point: Does anybody doubt that the news arms of these networks have also complied with this administration in fostering notions beneficial to them? Perhaps notions that are not as benign as an anti-drug campaign?

I'm so confident that they have done this that I'd like to conclude by borrowing from the script to "Candid Camera": "Smile, you've been propagandized."


The Cooperstein verdict sends the wrong message to many

Last week, the city of Pittsburgh put another notch in its gun belt of racial intolerance. The jury sitting on the Jeffrey Cooperstein murder case vindicated a white police officer in the senseless killing of yet another African-American man ("Cooperstein Not Guilty," Feb. 9). How many times will we have to suffer this diabolical indignity before this city wakes up and realizes the harm being done to everyone when a verdict like this is handed down?

As I sat in horror and listened to the newscaster who interrupted my daily afternoon programming to give us the all-too-familiar, and I guess anticipated, decision in this case, my heart broke. The tears I shed were not so much for the family members of the victim, though surely they must be extremely disillusioned and totally devastated. I wept for the city.

My guess is that two very distinct mind-sets will be formed by this ludicrous course of action. The first being that any overzealous civil servant with the built-in escape clause to use deadly force will do so without impunity. It has been demonstrated time and time again that the jury pool in this county can be manipulated to acquit the most blatant vigilante in spite of the overwhelming evidence against him.

The second school of thought is that of the young African-American males who are being slaughtered. How are they to react when approached by a police officer not knowing if this particular officer has a hair-trigger finger and/or a racially motivated authoritarian ax to grind? Should they pull over and possibly be the next victim? Or do they not dare stop because someone they knew and loved lost their life in a similar situation? What would any of us do? It's a difficult decision that has to be made in a very short time span.

Not only are the young potential victims worried, but also the average police officer has to be very concerned. Fear can cloud their judgment, too. A sudden move or inadvertent nervous twitch by the stopped motorist might get misconstrued as an act of aggression, and the whole circus of jurisprudence in Allegheny County starts again.

Maybe the jury members in this case thought they were doing the sensible thing by acquitting a policeman of homicide. Apparently they were persuaded to use the statute in the law enforcement code that allows for the use of deadly force when public safety is threatened or an officer's life is in jeopardy as reasonable doubt, circumventing the moral question of this case: "Did Officer Cooperstein have the right to kill Deron Grimmitt?"


Try changing places

To anyone who feels anger toward our police, I ask only that you spend one or two nights in a patrol car. I would like to say put on a police uniform, but that is against the law. In the uniform you would then see what a police officer has to face every day or night of his or her life, and how often his or her life is on the line.

Brighton Heights

Editor's note: The writer's daughter is a police officer.

Why special treatment?

Methinks Dr. Paul J. Friday, chief of clinical psychology at UPMC Shadyside, needs a major operation to correct a very serious attitude flaw. In his Feb. 8 letter ("Let's Redevelop Attitudes"), he states, "I bent the law." He was issued a traffic ticket, and the policeman was chastised for his behavior by Dr. Friday in issuing the ticket.

Dr. Friday somewhat objected to the precautions the policeman used in protecting himself when establishing Dr. Friday's identification and ownership of the vehicle. But even more troublesome, the policeman did not appreciate that Dr. Friday was so very important.

He says he told the policeman that he was to be in an operating room to help a patient prior to surgery and was going to be late. Dr. Friday was very disturbed that the policeman didn't quickly complete his ticket-issuing duties. Maybe Dr. Friday never sat in a doctor's waiting room, where patients' schedules are of no concern to the doctor.

Finally, Dr. Friday states, "Perhaps East Liberty and the police who protect us are not quite as special as they used to be." Well, Dr. Friday, maybe the people who "bend the law" aren't quite as special as they think they are.


Stop restricting turns

I empathize with Dr. Paul J. Friday, whose letter ("Let's Redevelop Attitudes," Feb. 8) spoke of his encounter with the police over an illegal right turn on a red light, at a time when safety was not an issue. This brings into question the issue of why the city of Pittsburgh has placed so many restrictions on this time- and energy-saving maneuver.

Why can't there be signs that say "Right Turn on Red with Caution," or words to that effect, rather than partially or totally restricting such turns at so many intersections? Wouldn't this help to enhance the quality of life in our city?

Highland Park

About the Frick papers

When I first wrote about the Frick archive at Clayton for the Post-Gazette, I could not wait for it to open to the public as promised. That never occurred. I am sorry that the Helen Clay Frick Foundation is thinking of moving those papers to New York.

While writing "The Architecture of Benno Janssen," I received permission from Dick McIntosh, Frick Art & Historical Center executive director, to research papers relating to Janssen and Abbott's design of the William Penn Hotel for Henry Clay Frick.

I gleaned a Frick order to his subalterns -- "Do very little talking and keep your eye on the ball" -- that perfectly characterizes Frick. Think how much more difficult, time-consuming and expensive it would be for writers here to study those papers in New York. More than that, they belong in Pittsburgh. They help to form the sinew of our heritage. I fervently hope a home -- and proper maintenance -- will be found in Pittsburgh.

Bradford Woods

Editor's note: The writer is a Post-Gazette senior editor and longtime art critic.

Union's lack of service

The United Steelworkers of America have raised union dues again this year, just the same way it did last year. It complains about decreasing membership and insists it needs the union dues increase to organize the unorganized.

My suggestion is that if the union movement in this country is to survive, union leaders must learn to serve the union members they represent.

An example of my case in point are the workers at Allegheny Ludlum Steel. At the recommendation of the international union, the workers ratified their contract six months early in 1998. The international union promised to have a grievance regarding profit-sharing arbitrated. That was two years ago, and the issue is still not resolved.

If the international union wants to sell the idea of unionism to the unorganized, it should know the best salesman is a satisfied customer. Ignoring its obligations to the members whom it is supposed to represent is not going to sell the union.

Natrona Heights

Editor's note: The writer is a member and past president of Local 1196, USWA.

A promoter of morality

The primary elections have begun, and I can't help but wonder where all the pro-life and Christian voters are. There has been much ado about the lack of morals in our country. Many blame the fact that prayer has been deleted from our schools.

Yet here we have a candidate running for president, Alan Keyes, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Social and Economic Council, who will fight for these issues, and the media push him to the rear.

Keyes is neither afraid nor ashamed to mention God in his speeches and debates. He is passionate about his moral and constitutional beliefs, yet, at the polls, we vote for politics as usual. If you share his vision for this country, don't be afraid to vote for him.


Tired of rubber stamps

I am writing in reply to David Christopher's Feb. 8 letter concerning the Fifth and Forbes corridor project ("Tired of Naysayers"). All Pittsburghers, including City Council, want to see the Fifth and Forbes corridor be redeveloped. All one has to do is walk Downtown and see what the potential could be.

The controversy is which plan will benefit Pittsburgh and the taxpayers the most. Surely there is a happy medium.

Unfortunately, the Post-Gazette acts as a rubber stamp for anything Mayor Murphy proposes, whether it benefits the taxpayers or not.

Squirrel Hill

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