Letters

Fowl Play
As the No. 1 ranked Scrabble player in Arizona, I feel forced to respond to Jamie Massey's flip comments dismissing Scrabble as a genteel alternative to cockfighting ("Out, Out, Damn Sport!" David Holthouse, October 8). At least on this end, there is no vicarious avian schadenfreude. The emotional and intellectual blood spilt on the board is ours, and it's real, baby. A steel blade in the head would seem like an old friend compared to the horror of a naked Q pasted to your rack while your opponent inflicts death by a thousand cuts.

Jim Geary
Glendale

I just finished reading your article on cockfighting. It seems a little slanted in favor of the people who support this "sport." This surprises me, considering New Times' general opposition to Sheriff Joe's treatment of individuals in his jails.

I was horrified in reading this article. I can't imagine finding pleasure and joy in watching two animals fight to the death--and feeling a sense of accomplishment from that!

Yes, I do eat chicken and I am opposed to the treatment of animals in the slaughter house. I try to show my opposition by where I spend my money.

I was not aware of Proposition 201, but do thank you for your article. I'm glad I read it, and plan to cast my vote in favor of banning cockfighting in Arizona.

Carlyn Sikes
Scottsdale

I read with amazement David Holthouse's article on cockfighting. Somehow, I just didn't feel my heartstrings tugging at the thought of those wonderful family and ancestral cockfighting traditions around the globe that span our planet's history. I get the same warm feeling thinking about genocide, Nazism, racism, etc.--all of those other wonderful "traditions."

There is a simple reason this activity draws the type of people it does, and also why cockfighting is only fractionally as popular as it was centuries ago: Civilized people recognize this is a sick, dysfunctional, abnormal way for human beings to entertain themselves. Society evolves and betters itself, and barbaric rituals fade away, admired only by that certain percentage of the human race that will always be identified as the "lowest common denominator."

The issue is not chickens dying. I think almost everyone agrees that chickens and other animals must be bred for food. This is a must--the value of human lives are more important than the value of animals' lives. But killing any living thing for the sole purpose of providing lower-class people a means to get their jollies is simply wrong. No, I will not be a hypocrite here--hunting is wrong, too. But I will not live to see hunting banned. Unfortunately, politics cannot override everything that is simply a moral wrong. Banning cockfighting is a start, though.

You know, Mr. Holthouse, I love many of Arizona's great Western traditions. However, lynch mobs, gunfights, prostitution, racism and, most certainly, cockfighting are not among them. Let's try to preserve old traditions that we can be proud of. I'll be at the voting booth helping Proposition 201 pass, thinking about how someday, Arizona might actually be thought of as a state proud of its ability to preserve what is right and to change what is wrong.

Carl Chartier
Phoenix

I mostly enjoyed David Holthouse's article on cockfighting, but it contained two mistakes too significant to ignore. The number of volunteers who gathered signatures was 822, not 200. This was one of the bigger volunteer efforts in years, something the article didn't get into.

The other mistake was that Proposition 201 would prohibit ownership of roosters. We patterned this law after the dog-fighting law, which certainly doesn't prohibit ownership of dogs. It prohibits ownership with the intent to fight.

Jamie Massey, campaign manager
Citizens Against Cockfighting
Tucson

Editor's note: Holthouse did not report that Proposition 201 would make it illegal to own roosters. He did report that it would be illegal to raise gamecocks, meant for fighting.

Proposition 201, a felony law against cockfighting, is not a cockfighting law; it is an "intent" law. It allows authorities to arrest a person and confiscate and kill game fowl whether you were to fight them or not. If you can make someone's intentions a crime, what's next? Your "thoughts"?

The issue is control--by animal-rights groups over citizens' and organizations' rights to keep or use animals (hunting, fishing, rodeo, cockfighting, etc.)

Punishment stated under Proposition 201 is too severe. How can raising a chicken be compared to a Class 5 felony such as aggravated assault on a police officer or public sexual indecency to a minor? There is a reason the Legislature has not passed a ban on cockfighting; lawmakers saw through the emotional issues and recognized that making this a felony was outrageous.

Contrary to the propaganda put out by the animal-rights groups, there is no peripheral crime connected with cockfighting in Arizona. There has not been a single arrest made at any cockfighting facility in Arizona. Personal attacks on the integrity of our families--by naming us murderers and drug dealers and our wives prostitutes--is what has upset us the most. It is estimated that the enforcement of this law would cost the taxpayers of Arizona millions of dollars, plus the costs of prosecuting the arrested patrons and housing them in our overcrowded prisons. There are thousands of people who own and raise game fowl but never fight them. Under this law, they would also be considered felons.

Game-fowl breeders give back to the community. Over the last 10 years, Arizona game breeders have donated to local charities such as Valley of the Sun School (a facility for the daily care of the mentally and physically handicapped), Maryvale's Little League, Shriners, etc. The sport makes economic contributions to Arizona; enthusiasts from other states spend millions of dollars in our motels, restaurants and tourist attractions. The feed stores that provide the supplies, feed and material to maintain the upkeep of the game fowl would be dealt a major economic blow if Proposition 201 passes.

If these groups can take away the right to own game fowl, what's going to keep them from taking away your right to own the animal of your choice? Don't let the animal-rights extremists run Arizona; vote no on Proposition 201.

Warren R. Glick, chairman
Citizens Against Proposition 201
Tempe

IRS Ire
Everyone agrees that the federal income tax needs improvement. However, a vote for Proposition 202, which would require federal candidates to choose between the federal income tax and a national sales tax, is a vote for a pig in a poke.

Amy Silverman's October 8 Wonk column, "Tax Rebels With a Cause," gives little analysis of the effects of eliminating the federal income tax, and raises some questions: 1) Should we depend solely on a consumption-related sales tax to "prime the pump" in a recession, when consumption is down? 2) Is the FICA payroll tax, which accounts for almost as much revenue as the personal income tax and which two-thirds of taxpayers pay more of than the income tax, eliminated too? 3) Doesn't replacing the income tax with a sales tax shift taxes to the poor and the middle class from the rich? 4) Doesn't the U.S. already have the most regressive overall tax system of the industrial democracies?

Nevada has the most regressive state and local tax system, in which the rich pay the lowest percentage and the poor pay the highest percentage of income, because it has no state income tax. The City of Phoenix has a doubly regressive sales tax on apartment rentals, but no sales tax on mortgages or on most single-family home rentals.

Tax reform that reduces taxes on good things (like work and savings) and increases taxes on bad things (like pollution and waste) should be a good basis for a sustainable and fair tax system. Additionally, a simple "flat" income tax could be developed to reverse the increasing gap between rich and poor and help reestablish both responsibility and relational justice in the U.S.

Real tax rebels should have a cause that does more than simplify the system and aid the rich.

Roland James
Phoenix

Amy Silverman's column regarding Proposition 202, the IRS Elimination Pledge Initiative, reveals a wolf in sheep's clothing. The initiative's supporters claim that the existing IRS code is taking more out of the little guy's paycheck because of many big-business tax breaks. While it is true that powerful big-money special interests have adjusted the code to give themselves many advantages, and while it is true that the code needs extensive revamping, the federal income tax is still progressive. A progressive tax system is one where those with higher income pay a higher percentage of their income in tax.

On the other hand, what do the pledge proponents propose as a substitute for income tax? They want a national sales tax--a highly regressive tax in which those with higher incomes pay a lower percentage of their income in tax. The sales-tax system in Arizona paints a clear picture of the results of such a regressive tax. In Arizona, sales tax takes about 4 percent of the income of those in the bottom fifth of our population, while the top 1 percent of our population pays less than 1 percent of their income in sales tax. The pledge proposal would mean huge tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. And guess who will pick up the loss in tax revenues? The other 80 percent of us who can ill afford an increased burden.

It's no wonder Proposition 202 is supported financially by many CEOs and a former chair of the Arizona Republican Party. They're the ones who normally champion tax cuts for the wealthy--exactly what this pledge attempts to achieve. When these people say they want to help the "little guy," we'd better watch our wallets.

Gary Tredway
Scottsdale

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