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Letters to the editor: 03/11/01

Sunday, March 11, 2001

We must heed the call to put city schools first on the agenda

Elsie Hillman's insights about the region's schools being our No. 1 priority ("The Region's No. 1 Priority: The Pittsburgh Public Schools," March 4 Forum) are a cogent argument for a radical reassessment of the assumed priorities of this community. She is correct in saying that without a solid and successful school system, we will not be able to recruit and retain the talent that will be needed to rebuild Pittsburgh in a post-industrial era.

A major issue that must be addressed is the large and growing disparity in academic achievement by race in the city. Unless we ensure growth in resources for education and at the same time an equitable distribution of those resources in all neighborhoods, we are in danger of creating the two-tier system Ms. Hillman cautioned us about.

Unfortunately, with rare exception, we do not hear this same concern from our elected officials, and with a major election approaching, we should call on candidates to clarify their positions on our education system. More important, we should hope they take the time to listen to the majority of the city's residents who are far less interested in stadiums than they are in our schools.

Ms. Hillman's commentary should serve as an agenda for action in Pittsburgh. Who will respond to this challenge?

Squirrel Hill

Editor's note: The writer is a Democratic committeeperson for the 14th Ward.

Leaders, take note

Boy, did Elsie Hillman hit the nail on the head in the March 4 Forum piece "The Region's No. 1 Priority: The Pittsburgh Public Schools." What good is a city with a Lord & Taylor if all of the young families are moving out of the city because the schools aren't meeting their needs?

I really don't care about Lord & Taylor and have personally never set foot in the store, nor do I ever intend to. It's not what I need right now. I need the schools to be a place where my kids are safe and where they can receive a good solid education and to provide child care so that I can continue being a productive citizen who pays taxes.

Both my husband and I have been lifelong residents of the city, and we have two elementary school-age children who attend a Pittsburgh public school. With all the talk of school closings and the lack of after-school child care (have the schools never thought of this for working parents?), we are seriously considering moving out of the city.

I feel that the city is in no way doing anything to keep people here, nor does it seem to care. I really don't understand to whom our leaders are trying to cater. Families are the foundation of a community; what does Pittsburgh have for its foundation?

I just hope the mayoral candidates have read her essay, because they should use it to be one of the first things on their "to do" list.


No rejection of Provan

The article by Dennis B. Roddy on Charles Provan contains numerous errors regarding Holocaust revisionism ("A Change of Heart: Why Holocaust Deniers Turned on One of Their Own," March 4). First, the headline is extremely misleading. The Institute for Historical Review (which is composed of revisionists and not "deniers") knew about Mr. Provan's belief in homicidal gassings for years before inviting him to speak at its revisionist conference in March 2000. However, because revisionism is a method and not an ideology, the IHR welcomed Mr. Provan's contribution.

In fact, I have for years been urging Mr. Provan to finish various of his research projects so that they may be presented in the pages of the IHR's publication, the Journal of Historical Review. Clearly, the IHR, which just happens to be the leading revisionist publisher in the world, has neither "turned on" Mr. Provan nor rejected him.

Second, it is misleading to refer to Mr. Provan and Jewish author John Sack as either aberrations or fig-leaves for what revisionists really think. Revisionism as practiced by the IHR is inclusive, not exclusive. The IHR should be commended for inviting "dissident" revisionists such as Provan and Sack; instead, the Post-Gazette questions our motives.

Third, the article glosses over other statements in the Gerstein "confession" besides the one that Provan believes to be correct. As revisionist Paul Rassinier has put it: If it is not true that Adolf Hitler ever visited Lublin, if it is not true that 700 to 800 people can be contained in a gas chamber of 25 square meters, if it is not true that winter occurs in August in Europe and if it is not true that the Germans gassed 25 million people then, because the document contains little else, we should ask, what does it contain that supports the received version of the Holocaust story?

Fourth, the preliminary conclusion arising out of Mr. Provan's investigation of the alleged gas induction holes at Birkenau has not received a critical response from the revisionist community merely because it contradicts the current revisionist thinking, but rather because the investigation itself was conducted improperly and Mr. Provan ignores a wealth of germane and well-known facts on the subject. I hope Mr. Provan will take into consideration the work of other revisionists before he finalizes his report, which to the best of my knowledge has yet to be published.

Associate Editor
Institute for Historical Review
Newport Beach, Calif.

A waste of space

I cannot believe the Post-Gazette used more than two pages of its Sunday edition detailing how a Holocaust doubter looked at the evidence and said, gee, maybe the Holocaust did happen ("A Change of Heart," March 4). You consider this serious subject matter worthy of coverage in your newspaper? What's next, the touching story of an 18-year-old coming to the realization that there is no Santa Claus? What a waste of newsprint!

Castle Shannon

You call this news?

I'm writing in response to Dennis B. Roddy's March 4 article "A Change of Heart." I find it inconceivable that you would publish a front-page article recounting one man's illogical progression from being a Holocaust doubter to a "believer." Somehow the editors allowed this substandard human interest story to take priority over articles addressing actual current events.

While Mr. Roddy's article served to insult the 6 million-plus Holocaust victims and their families by even acknowledging the absurd viewpoints of these "revisionists," the Post-Gazette also insulted the three Army personnel and 18 Air National Guard members who were killed only one day previously in a military plane crash ("Military Plane Crash Kills 21 in Georgia," March 4). Somehow, Mr. Roddy's article, which did not contain a semblance of news, took priority over the plane crash, which resulted in the death of 21 people dedicated to defending this country. The Post-Gazette editors found that news worthy of Page 10.

Who is this Charles D. Provan to decide whether he even "believes" in the Holocaust? The Holocaust is not something in which to believe, but rather the most tragic fact of modern-day history. This man's opinion is of absolutely no relevance to me or the city of Pittsburgh and undeserving of front-page attention.

Mount Washington

Some moral support from my colleagues would have been appreciated

Back when I began my career in law enforcement, 1976 to be exact, people in law enforcement stuck together. No, not trying to cover up illegal activities or wrongdoings, just backing each other up and helping each other when a fellow officer was down and out. They supported each other when in the crucial times of their lives and when they needed help.

Well, after being in law enforcement for more than 20 years and also in a volunteer fire department for 28 years, I saw not one person from either agency at my trial in February. I was left sitting there in the hot seat all by my lonesome self. Officers who were even in court on cases couldn't stop in Common Pleas Judge David Cercone's chambers just to show their appearance.

I am appalled at this. After all the police officer funerals I went to, not one police officer could show his respect for the badge. Let me take that back; my ex-girlfriend, who is a city of Pittsburgh police officer, Norine Kelly, was there almost every day. I guess she was the entire Pittsburgh Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 1 representative, or just maybe she knew how I felt and what I was going through as a former police officer, and she wanted to show her support for me.

I was not asking anybody whether they agreed with the fatal shooting or not, just show a presence for support behind the badge. Do you know how lonely and rejected I felt not seeing any of my fellow officers in the courtroom? I had no organizations backing me. I am not bitter, but disappointed in today's law enforcement society. It appears everybody is out looking for their own job security.

Civilian review boards wanting to fire every officer who has to use any amount of force is ridiculous. And as far as me being a racist, I worked for the city Housing Authority police department for 13 years and who lives in public housing? Afro-American low-income people. I helped as many of them as possible in my career.

And also, why did former director of the Housing Authority police Harvey Adams Jr. give me two written commendations, send me to be a police firearms instructor and give me the task of talking to the district attorney's office and trying to arrange for funding for the purchase of the first Housing Authority police narcotics trained K-9 dog? In five years on the street, we seized more than $100,000 in illegal narcotics, $50,000 in drug money and two motor vehicles involved in drug trafficking. I always acted in a professional manner and always gave the citizens of the public housing communities the same respect and service as anybody else.

The night in question, April 6, 1995, at 0100 hours, I was sitting in my police station parking lot filling out my daily activity report when I heard a Pittsburgh police unit stating he was following a stolen vehicle and it was coming into the public housing community on Burrows Street. I had 35 minutes left until the end of my shift, and I could very well just have sat in my station parking lot and not gotten involved in the pursuit at all. But, I was not that type of police officer. I was always there assisting every unit I could, and anybody who knew me knows that's the way I worked. So, after getting involved in the pursuit in assisting a Pittsburgh police unit trying to stop a stolen vehicle, I take the brunt of everything and am sitting in jail to be retried on a first-degree homicide charge for doing my job.

All that I can say to the officers today is that when you put your uniform and gun belt on, you better think twice before you do anything that is going to result in one of the following: you getting killed because of hesitating, or fired from your job and sitting in jail being charged as a criminal.

The thin blue line has dissolved and no longer exists, and until you have to go through what I have for over five years, you will never know what it's like. Just think about it, OK?

Allegheny County Jail

Editor's note: The jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict in the writer's trial in the shooting death of Jerry Jackson.

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