Fly the Friendly Skies
Not for party animals only: Skydive Arizona is not the party animal place you make it out to be ("In the Zone," Susy Buchanan, April 22). It is the home of world champions -- first and foremost.

Arizona Airspeed has dominated U.S. Nationals and the world competition scene for many years. Many competitors come to Skydive Arizona to learn from the very best in the world.

Skydive Arizona has also been home to world champion Dale Stuart, one of the pioneers of freestyle skydiving. It was also host to many world and national meets. These meets were run under the exceptionally talented staff there.

The 300-way World Record Event exemplified the extraordinary logistical expertise of Larry Hill, Bryan Burke, Arizona Airspeed and others in running an event with multiple aircraft, hundreds of international jumpers and precision to meet clockwork demands.

Portraying Skydive Arizona as a place where some bimbo female jumper can experience orgasm, and all the jumpers want are more of these bimbos, is so far from the reality of the drop zone that it is almost laughable. It says that you are an uninformed reporter who does not have a clue about what Skydive Arizona is about.

Skydive Arizona did not have six fatalities in the last year. (The letter writer is correct. There were two skydiving fatalities in Eloy during the 12 months before the story was written, and another on the day of publication.)

Furthermore, your sexist description of the Skydive Arizona athletes is inexcusable. About the title of the article ("In the Zone, Eloy's skies are raining men, and sprinkling hot chicks, too"), I have news for you: Women are allowed to jump from perfectly good airplanes now. "Hot chicks" are those bimbos in the bar who tell outrageous stories to get laid. Funny how some reporters actually think there is truth in those bar tales.

Here's how you describe Betsy Barnhouse: "Barnhouse keeps one blue eye on the landing area as she dutifully goes over terms like relative work, freeflight, freestyle and sky-surfing, each a different style of making your way out of the plane and onto the ground." What does the color of Betsy's eyes have to do with performing coaching duties?

And your description of Amy Chmelecki: "During the 10-minute rise to 13,000 feet, skydivers discuss the previous night's rampage in the Bent Prop saloon. Amy Chmelecki, a champion freeflyer and member of the all-girl Sugar Gliderz freefly team, leans back against the wall of the plane and catches her breath for a minute. Chmelecki's an adorable twentysomething blonde, and although she's got a boyfriend, she remains the official drop zone sweetheart. 'She's totally cool, totally beautiful and a fuckin' awesome skydiver,' says one male admirer. 'If she didn't have a boyfriend, any guy on the drop zone would marry her in a second.'"

You place too much emphasis upon a woman athlete's appearance and discount her athletic performances. Women athletes should be afforded the same descriptions and respect given to their male counterparts -- such as when you describe Omar Algehelan as "revered by his peers as one of the sport's great athletes."

Your blatant sexist descriptions are a good example of what is wrong with today's media.
Jan Meyer,
National Director,
United States Parachute Association

A language of their own: As a skydiver and fellow reporter, I have to commend you on the outstanding article you did on the skydiving community that has been built at Eloy. I've read dozens of articles about skydiving over the past several years written by non-skydivers, and none has captured the true essence (and lingo) of the sport as you have.

Though skydivers tend to be some of the most welcoming people with a sometimes overzealous desire to talk about our passion for jumping from planes, getting inside our heads can be next to impossible. Others simply cast us aside as crazy, perhaps rightly so. But it's clear that you took the time to find out why these people spend all of our free time and cash pursuing this sport.

By the time I finished the story, I was very much expecting to see an editor's note indicating that you're an experienced skydiver. If you hung out at Eloy as much as the story indicated, you'll know this is about the highest compliment one can bestow on a whuffo.

The article was also very well received on www.dropzone.com (which is where I learned about it), and the people there are usually a tough crowd when it comes to the media.
Matt Dowling
Newark Star-Ledger,
Newark, New Jersey

Sun Worshipers
An unlimited supply: Arizona would be a perfect place to shovel sunshine into the power-generating furnaces, so to speak ("Power Vacuum," John Dougherty, April 22). We have endless amounts of it, as well as endless amounts of hot air generated from millions of Arizonans bitching about the heat.

Wind power aside, solar power is a perfect solution for the sunny Southwest. It would go a long way to solving pollution and help end our dependence on Middle Eastern oil regimes. But the usual problem exists in implementing this clean, cheap, reliable source of energy. It is the wealthy folks who stand to lose some of their filthy lucre if the public utility system is changed for the good of all.

It is no use pressuring Governor Janet Napolitano about this. The fault lies with the Corporation Commission. These clowns are the ones blocking solar power from becoming a reality in our state. Can't have less profits for power company shareholders, can we? Arizonans who want clean energy need to get off their collective butts and elect Corporation Commission officials who will support solar power.
Pat Beck

A wise investment: You made our day a bit more sunny! Thank you for your clear and direct statement about the energy issues facing us in Arizona.

I am one of the cadre you mention who are working to promote the rapid adoption of solar energy here in Arizona. My recent article in Home Power magazine discusses the economics of distributed solar energy. A competitive investment analysis shows that today in Arizona, an investment in supplemental solar electric energy, with incentives, can achieve a better equivalent return than the historical, long-term average rate of the stock market. Without incentives, the solar investment still outperforms comparable, low-risk investments.

At the very least, the peak energy we buy from the utilities is too expensive. If solar were allowed to fairly compete against the heavily subsidized fossil fuel energy industry, then distributed solar energy would command the market here in the Southwest.
Paul Symanski

Cheaper is better: John Dougherty's piece is an example of simplistic energy policy. We could all have cheap, clean power if only the big bad companies would simply let us.

His use of statistics is minimal, but even the statistics he submits are contradictory. Even the author's optimistic figures show that solar power is 100 percent more expensive than conventional power (10 cents versus 5 cents per kilowatt hour). Based on average U.S. electricity consumption (about 3.6 trillion kilowatt hours per year), this is about $600 extra per person. But somehow he also says, "Arizona is letting the Big Three utilities steal countless millions from us by standing in the way of solar energy."

So how can something that costs 100 percent more save us money?! The large utilities have a mission to deliver reliable, affordable power and to meet current environmental laws, and the lack of solar power is simply an effort to minimize rates.

Solar energy is neither good nor bad, it is simply an option with pros and cons. Yes, we could convert a great deal of generation to solar, but this would probably generate large costs for rate-payers and/or taxpayers.
Andrew McNeil

Reckless Abandonment
Jumping to false conclusions: In an otherwise brilliant expos of the crimes committed by polygamists, John Dougherty does Flora Jessop a disservice when he jumps to false conclusions characterizing her actions as reckless ("Too Little, Too Late," April 15).

The same might be said of his one-sided reporting about her activism. There is nothing reckless in rescuing girls from forced marriages, something the state is mandated to do but has yet to accomplish.

The fact that the state refuses to implement Jessop's suggestions as sound public policy reflects poorly on the policy, not her. Why wouldn't two young girls who ran from home to protect themselves be concerned when the state removes contact with their support system, a brother, a sister-in-law, cousins and Flora -- their friend and rescuer? Why would the state make such outrageous moves if its plan is to protect and implement an exit policy for girls escaping forced marriages? Why is the state intent on gagging 16- and 17-year-old girls who want to speak out about their destruction at the hands of old men?

This is why the girls sought outside legal help. The state's only moral position is to immediately release the two from state custody and allow them to live in the loving home of relatives outside of polygamy. To delay their freedom one day longer subjects them to intentional harm. Secrecy, state incompetence and lack of will to prosecute offenders is what allowed these human and civil rights crimes against humanity to exist and flourish.
Linda Walker
Los Angeles

Not all polygamists are bad: Just because the people in Colorado City have problems doesn't mean all polygamous societies are the same. No decent person believes in forced marriage, underage or not.

I don't believe in any underage marriage, but if my 16-year-old daughter came to me and said, "Hey, I'm ready to get married," I certainly would listen to her reasoning.

Perhaps Flora Jessop's motives are noble, but perhaps she has a bone to pick with that society and is stirring up more trouble than truly exists.
Lucy Crosby
Washington County, Utah

Church Chat
Pope pious: Your article was well-researched and exciting. I enjoyed the comedy of Bishop O'Brien's bedside visit to "console" you ("The Divine Sociopath," Michael Lacey, April 15). More important, I'm impressed that the torrid mess in the Catholic church has brought you back to practicing a faith you never seemed to have lost.

You quoted existentialist philosopher Arendt. She writes a profound and exciting prose herself, but she is also a creature of the academic establishment, which suffers from a pathological hatred of God's Church. There was scarcely a class I attended at the University of Minnesota where my faith was not attacked!

Despite noting the communist tactic of portraying a political enemy as mentally ill, you seem to believe the lies about Pope Pius XII. Do you believe that Pius XII remained silent during World War II about the Jewish persecution? Are you familiar with his Christmas address in 1942 when the German Army was beleaguered at Stalingrad? I'm sure you are aware of the claims that Pius XII was involved in the rescue of an estimated 800,000 Jews.

Finally, I just wanted to encourage you to find a traditional Mass where you won't see plaques dedicated to felons or degenerates and will only hear the tones of the Gregorian chant that are never trite and banal.
Cyril Koob
Minneapolis, Minnesota


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