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Letters to the Editor 

Much Ado About Nooses

I just read Ms. Reckdahl's article ('Ties that Bind,' Jan. 14), and I think that there is really much ado about nothing in the controversy over racism in the Jefferson Parish judicial system. Trust me on this -- if prosecutors had been wearing real nooses around their necks, Judge Hand would likely not have noticed. The man is a legal purist; he sees the law, and nothing but. He loves the law so much he consistently has real problems moving his docket and is, in my opinion, the best read, legally, of all of the 24th's judges.

Most of the people who inhabit the JP District Attorney's office have developed a 'Hawkeye Pierce' mentality. It is no surprise to me that they have adopted a joking veneer, dealing from day to day, as they do, with the dregs of the criminal justice system and having to make and live with their decisions about prosecuting the less desirable of the criminal element.

Mr. Stafford-Smith has his job to do, also. The legal canons do state, if I am not mistaken, that a solicitor must be zealous in the defense of his client. Filing a million motions in a capital case is a given; who knows, maybe the judge might be having a bad day or might inadvertently slip and grant one, thereby gaining the defense attorney an acquittal for his client.

I am not even a lawyer (yet), but even I have discovered the power of motions -- especially ones that have some real basis in law at the heart of their theses. It is my great fortune to have been through the judicial system as everything but a judge, and I now freely inform my fellow citizens that the system does, indeed, work. If you don't think so, consider the alternative(s).
--Charles Harris


Nims and Noma

The New Orleans Museum of Art is another fortunate institution graced by Jeri Nims' visionary generosity ('Feeling Lucky,' Jan. 7). Her wonderful support has helped make our new Sculpture Garden a reality, and the enthusiasm and personal involvement she brings to each project is truly inspiring.

We congratulate Mrs. Nims on being selected as co-New Orleanian of the Year, and we congratulate Gambit Weekly for recognizing her spirited philanthropy and exceptional contributions to our community.
--E. John Bullard
Director, New Orleans Museum of ArtD


Divisionary Tactics Regarding 'Operation Clean Sweep' ('2002 in Review,' Jan. 7), what has happened in the past year underscores the need for an investigation into how a major capital project for restoring Jackson Square could be hijacked by City Councilmember Jacquelyn Clarkson's mean-spirited French Quarter cleanup.

The restoration of the Jackson Square Pedestrian Park was approved in late 2001. Its aim was simply 'to return Jackson Square to its 1970s renovated state of function and aesthetics.' That meant repairing and replacing worn flagstone paving and repainting and repairing much-utilized and celebrated park benches -- without adding dividers. The Vieux Carre Commission gave its blessing to both parts of this project last April.

Following a state public records request of the Upper Pontalba Commission, it was revealed that: 1) $10,398.91 was spent on fabricating and installing metal dividers onto the original Jackson Square Mall benches and 2) no permit was secured before the work was completed.

Despite this photographic and documentary evidence, the Vieux Carre Commission granted the additional permit to endorse the placement of the dividers Dec. 17. The metal bench dividers are only there for the expressed purpose of publicly insulting the poorest and most hard-pressed of our community. Why else would Clarkson seek their installation secretly, before securing the required permit?
--Brad Ott

The meaning of Mustaches

As one of your '40 Under 40' awardees this year, I was appalled at the Dec. 17 column 'Notes on the Mustache' written by Andrei Codrescu.

Primarily, Mr. Codrescu makes a gross error in stating that most men in America are 'cleanly shaven' and furthermore by stating that all our American enemies have mustaches -- Saddam Hussein, Adolf Hitler and obviously one group which he mistakenly omitted: 98 percent of all African-American men. (Coincidentally, 100 percent of your '40 Under 40' African-American men do also.)

Throughout history, African-American men have had to deal with the media vilifying them, when in fact the perpetrators of the original evil done to them actually run the country which African Americans now reluctantly call 'home.' I can deal with this insensitivity in other mainstream publications, but this was very unnerving in your very progressive paper. It is inane, insensitive material like this that eats into the subconscious of the white American psyche and causes white people to fear men of color in America. A whole portion of Bowling for Columbine was spent examining how white America is bombarded with images of black men as evil and untrustworthy. Mr. Codrescu goes even one step further by saying that 'a hairless upper lip denotes sincerity now while the mustache encloses something hidden, menacing, pointing to a lie É'

I love the Gambit and will always support it, but the content and message of this column, no matter how light the intention, harkens to the 'subconscious' rant of the former House Majority Leader Trent Lott. The majority of a population can sometimes be so insensitive to the minority that it makes the minority lash out due to emotions, emotions that are currently inculcating my sphere of consciousness at this time.

And for those of your readers who may feel that these words are the rantings of an overly sensitive African-American male, I will remind them that the words of ignorant, insensitive white men usually precede the reactions of level-headed black men.
--Corey J. Hebert, MD

Andrei Codrescu responds: Thank you, Dr. Hebert, for bringing to light another side effect of the mustache: in rare cases, it can smother one's sense of humor.

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