I only met Molly Ivins once, when she came to College Station to rhetorically twit George Bush in the heart of Bush Country ("She told you so," Feb. 10). But I bought all of her books, read her in the Texas Observer and her syndicated columns. Sure, she had a serious agenda to promote, but she was funny, clever and a master of wit. Her only rival in delivering a zinger was Ann Richards, the former governor of Texas. They both knew how to operate in the "good ole boy network" of Texas politics and how to take the starch out of some of the puffed up penguins in the Texas legislature. Oil money dominated their era just like the big banks dominate ours. But they didn't affect a folksy style just to BS their audience, like the junior Bush did. It wasn't a put-on.
Unfortunately, journalism and politics have slid downhill together into a quagmire of mud, thievery and demagoguery they could not have imagined. The family-owned community newspaper is dead and along with it the integrity to withstand the pressures to sell out. Without public financing of state and national campaigns, we have no hope to dig out of this pit of a corrupt system that we have fallen into. Money always has talked loudly and bought the weak, but it never was as effective in hoodwinking the common sense of most people as it is today with the big lie and media saturation campaigns.
It isn't an issue of Republican vs. Democrat or liberal vs. conservative anymore; all sides are selling out to the highest bidder. The question of whether our country will survive or decline to become a second-rate, has-been, debtor nation that has lost the leadership to China will depend upon what we do not only at the polls but how we live.
I just want to thank Mr. Crowther for his excellent column on this most wonderful writer and human being, Molly Ivins ("She told you so," Feb. 10). The damage to truth and freedom in this country without her voice is a true calamity to our democracy; she was one of the last bastions of truth to power in this country. Few have the balls to continue on, and now with this heinous Supreme Court decision I suspect no one with heart and intellect will long have a voice in this country even if they have the balls. Two of the negative comments shown at the bottom of the [online] column excoriating both Mr. Crowther and Molly Ivins more than validate the perspicacity of both Ivins and Crowther and say it all as to how far our democracy has and is crumbling. People have been so dumbed down they no longer see their own true self interests. It is just so "angrifying" ... and sad.
As a New Orleans native now living in the Triangle, I can say that Chris Toenes "gets it" ... both about the city and the Super Bowl (Front Porch, Feb. 10). Many have tritely said that New Orleans "deserves" the Saints' Super Bowl win. But he rightly casts it in light of the hard work both the city and the team have done since Katrina.
People forget, but like most other New Orleanians, the Saints lost their home, too. They, too, were sent wandering across the nation, for an entire year. They, too, had to rebuild their flooded and tattered home before returning. They, too, had to work day in and day out in a city lacking many basic services, with much of the infrastructure around them barely functioning. Yet they kept their perspective—when many would have lost their sanity—and persevered until they succeeded. The citizens of New Orleans have been doing those very same things for more than four years now.
The Saints' win is not a salve to temporarily soothe the ills of a wearied populace. It is merely the most visible example of that populace taking itself up by the bootstraps, working under hellish circumstances to rebuild, and excelling and succeeding when no one thought it would be possible. THAT is where the importance of the Saints winning the Super Bowl lies.
One of the advantages to being icebound several days from last week's snowstorm was extra time forcing me to do things long postponed, like going through stacks of unread papers. Among these, I came across your fine tribute for the well-deserved ChathamArts (Indies Arts Awards, July 29, 2009). We are very proud of that award, as well as of our creative chair, Lesley Landis, and dynamic director, Molly Matlock.
But I was very surprised to find all but omitted a key person without whose leadership, creativity and inspiration ChathamArts would not be where it is today, if in existence at all. That person—Gilda McDaniel—worked for at least six trying years and through three directors to create a solid base for the arts council and an important place for it in the Chatham community. Within a weakened organization with only a handful of solid workers, she dedicated her energies, imagination, intelligence and diplomacy to binding ChathamArts into a viable, active, relevant, important presence in Chatham County, carefully laying the groundwork so that terrific current programs like the 100-Mile Sustainable Cinema Series, Clydefest, ChathamArts gallery shows, Arts-in-Education, etc., could be welcomed and supported.
For the record, I felt that Gilda must be acknowledged. Thank you.
Daryl Farrington Walker
ChathamArts Advisory Board
It genuinely pains me to write to you objecting to Adam Sobsey's review of The Last Lawyer by John Temple, as I have long admired the commitment of the Independent to highlighting the injustices that many in our society face ("Grinding out justice," Feb. 10). In truth, there can be no greater injustice in our society than the operation of the death penalty, which I have had occasion to view up close. I have known Ken Rose for more than 20 years and co-counseled with him on a capital case. I've also worked as co-counsel with other attorneys at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation and know most of the people featured in the book.
Ken Rose is not an implacable cipher, and he certainly does not fit the detached, patronizing and alienating portrayal that Sobsey accomplishes by unfairly selecting various adjectives used by the book's author to describe Ken—a litany that is devoid of any context whatsoever. In my experience, I have found Ken Rose to care deeply about his clients, his colleagues and, most importantly, the cause for which he has dedicated his professional life, the end of capital punishment. Ken is one of my heroes, and I can't imagine a more unlikely candidate for the derisive treatment that Sobsey dishes out. The Independent owes Ken an apology.
John R. Rittelmeyer
Adam Sobsey's review of The Last Lawyer seriously misrepresents the book's account of a lawyer's effort to stop the execution of an innocent man ("Grinding out justice," Feb. 10).
Sobsey falsely claims that the innocent man, Levon Bo Jones, was present at the shooting and possibly trying to rob the victim. Nothing in the book (or anywhere) supports this wrongful accusation. As the book details, but Sobsey ignores, Jones's lawyers, Ken Rose and the Center for Death Penalty Litigation (CDPL), discovered that the testimony of the only witness to Jones' supposed involvement, his ex-girlfriend, was concocted (contrary to Sobsey's review, they pursued that claim for years in state and federal courts). Her entire story—that Jones was present, that he shot the victim and that he was committing a robbery—was made up. She ultimately recanted her story, the state dismissed its case, and Jones was finally free. After spending 14 years on death row for a crime he didn't commit, Jones deserves better than to have this bogus claim given new life by Sobsey's reckless review.
Rose and the CDPL deserve better, too. Sobsey blithely claims that "Jones' absolute human value to the CDPL is, like the true identity of the killer, fundamentally unimportant." Sobsey bases this false conclusion on Rose and the CDPL's pursuit of strategies not limited to exonerating Jones, but also to avoid his execution. As a matter of legal ethics, the lawyers were required to do so. As a matter of humanity, no lawyer will stand by as the government prepares the death chamber for an innocent client while valid legal claims still exist.
Along with Buddy Connor, we represented Jones in his retrial. We personally observed Ken's commitment to Bo, which has continued long after the attorney-client relationship ended. Sobsey's assessment of Ken couldn't be further from the truth.
Cassy Stubbs and Brian Stull
ACLU Capital Punishment Project
I was very disappointed to read Adam Sobsey's review of The Last Lawyer ("Grinding out justice," Feb. 10). Having read the book myself, I came away with a starkly different opinion. I, as well, was at first surprised that the book was so focused on Ken Rose's work without more personal life information. But I fairly quickly concluded that this was perhaps to reflect the degree of his dedication to his work. And, where Sobsey makes critical and deflating interpretations, I came away with a greater regard of how challenging the tedious elements are in fighting legal issues. This is the nature of our legal system, and thanks to John Temple for allowing us to go in depth in this way with a case fought for so many years. Equally, rather than question Rose's quality of involvement, I cannot imagine what is required to maintain a caseload of so many cases on death row. Add into that the question, Who is willing or able to stay in work that must be so deeply discouraging? How many clients executed over this long career? I am humbled and admiring of his dedication. I regret that the Independent printed such a review.