Chicken Chronicle
I must say I am shocked by the laughable one-sidedness and aggressive tone of the cockfighting cover story ("Out, Out, Damn Sport!
" October 8). And shame on David Holthouse for going to such great lengths to portray this as a question of socioeconomic class rather than one of ethics.

According to the cover, "Voters are poised to outlaw cockfighting--and sever yet another link to Arizona's heritage." I'm sorry, but tradition has never been, and will never be, a valid defense of something that is simply wrong. It didn't work for slavery or segregation in the South, and it didn't work for keeping women out of the Citadel. Didn't Barry Graham recently bash similar arguments offered by defenders of the practice of female "circumcision" in Africa? If you came across a headline from 145 years ago saying "Yankees are poised to outlaw slavery--and sever yet another link to Dixie's heritage," you might not be shocked, but I would hope you would at least shake your head and marvel at how stupid we used to be, and how far we have come (at least in some respects).

This is simply not a question of freedom or rights, arguments that are raised repeatedly throughout the article. I don't think you should have the right to torture an animal, even if you own it. If you want to have a death match and gamble on it, by all means, go right ahead. Just make sure that all those involved are willing participants who know what they're getting into. Don't force stupid chickens who have no say in the matter to kill each other. That's not freedom. Belton Hodges wants "to see the other guy's bird get hurt." I don't think he should have the right to do so.

I am not a vegetarian. I understand that it is natural for animals to kill and to eat other animals. However, I believe that as humans, we have an ethical responsibility to do so with consideration for animal comfort and humane treatment. I eat chicken, and if there are problems with the way chickens, or any other farm animals, are treated and slaughtered, let's do something about it. Don't use that to justify more pain and suffering, especially for sport.

As humans slowly come to grips with the fact that all animals share a common descent and heritage, and give up their arrogant notion of divine superiority, they will find that they get something just as valuable in return: a strengthened community and newfound respect for life.

Amazing that in a week where everybody seems to be talking about the abhorrent behavior of the "Ahwatukee cat killer," you waste a cover story glorifying a "way of life" that represents violence and brutality against animals.

Lyle Decker

Thank you for the fine article about the cockfighting initiative. I believe that you presented both sides fairly and with enough accurate detail for the reader to gain a real understanding of the issue.

George DeLong
via Internet

Art Attack
What a laughable puff piece on The Hammer, Art Hamilton ("The Work of Art Hamilton," Michael Kiefer, October 1). Are you guys trying to get hired as the spin team for the Clintons? Hamilton's "integrity is legendary." As a father, he's "puritanically old-fashioned." "Moral conservatism." Oh, yeah--been through five wives, didn't live with the kids, didn't get caught in AzScam, no legislation of any note, assaults a legislative aide. Quite a list of accomplishments.

Why run for secretary of state? Well, it's a job that is primarily one of applying rules, and that's about all he has any experience in doing. When others in the Legislature were moving bills, The Hammer's contribution was to twit the leadership about following procedures. "I wanted to be Brother Cleaver," you quote him. More like Eddie Haskell.

But it pays off, doesn't it? When serious press coverage of Hamilton is warranted, New Times reporters (and the Arizona Republic's, too) seem to lose their pens as soon as they write down his opinion. If the press in Arizona wants to be taken seriously, try to be . . . serious.

George Ertel

Good article by Michael Kiefer regarding House Minority Leader Art Hamilton. However, I take issue with Lori Daniels' quote, "No one can question his ethics." Art voted to bypass the voters and allow the County Board of Supervisors to impose a stadium tax. How can he claim ethical behavior while joining Jane Hull and others in the wee hours of the morning to usurp the Arizona Constitution?

Dan Judge

Close Friend
Well, there you go again . . . awarding another Bill Close award (Flashes, October 1)! There are just a few problems with naming shoddy journalistic efforts after a man who strived to keep local newscasts at a high standard. How do I know? I worked alongside Mr. Close in the then KOOL-TV newsroom from 1978 to 1982 and saw firsthand how he mentored future network reporters like Peter Van Sant and Mike Leonard. He taught them fairness and honesty, to take care of the English language and to tell a story so a 9-year-old could understand the ramifications.

I left broadcast news journalism, now considered by many a contradiction of terms or an oxymoron, because the attitudes, values and beliefs espoused by Mr. Close have long since vanished from the newsroom.

If you were watching KOOL News in those days, then you'd realize that every story counted. There was no fluff, no features passing off as news, and no music for background. Just straight reporting from the old school. I admire what Close did for this market.

Was he a perfect person to work with? No! He was people-skills deficient, and it took him a long while to welcome women into the newsroom.

I left broadcasting because of the lack of people like Mr. Close, who was more concerned about the story than the almighty ratings. The ratings, he always said, would take care of themselves. And he was right, since Channel 10 was always head and shoulders above the nearest competitors. The Channel 10 Avondale story that you cited never would have run with Mr. Close at the helm, especially without all sources being questioned.

Yes, Frank Kush, Bobby Knight and Bill Close are perhaps past their primes, but all these men had some things in common. They are and were leaders, who when you least expected, showed amazing compassion toward the human condition.

I miss Bill Close and hope that he is enjoying a wonderful retirement along with his loving wife, Joy. Oh, how soon we forget, and it brings tears to my eyes.

Matt Ganis

Gamble Grumble
Regarding Amy Silverman's "Lotto Blotto" column (Wonk, October 1), how come the increase in gambling addiction is not a story? Does it happen too slowly? Gambling addiction is up 65 percent from the 1980s. But there aren't any paid lobbyists to tell the gambling addiction side of the story.

For more information, please see the gambling addiction pages on: NoLottery.com

You may also be interested in the link to GTECH's Web site. Find out what new products it will be pushing on the Arizona Lottery--Internet lotteries, video lottery terminals. GTECH likes to boast that 163 million people play a GTECH lottery game somewhere in the world each week. GTECH is a story in itself.

John Wake
via Internet

End of Sentence
Trial lawyers practicing in the Maricopa County criminal justice system do not need a half-million-dollar study to know that more people are now being sent to jail senselessly, and to the detriment of everyone in society, than ever before ("Billion-Dollar Bad Guys," Tony Ortega, September 24).

During my 15 years of professional involvement, an alarming trend has become clear: Lawmakers use a broad brush when painting their solutions to social problems with mandatory jail sentences.

For example, everyone convicted of sitting behind the wheel of an automobile in his own private garage, even with the engine off, is required to "serve" 24 consecutive hours if his judgment is impaired by alcohol (or prescription medication) to the slightest degree. This can occur at alcohol concentrations of .02. Everyone convicted of driving on a license suspended for DUI-related reasons must do 48 consecutive hours regardless of circumstances.

This is also why the length of time imposed is increasing. For example, effective November 30, a first offense "extreme DUI," actually an alcohol concentration of .18 or more, will require 10 consecutive days in jail. According to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee staff, 43,000-plus misdemeanor DUI cases were filed statewide in fiscal year 1996. Thirty-five percent of those involved alcohol concentrations of .18 or more. The 1996 conviction rate was reported to be 96 percent. Notwithstanding this and the increased penalties, the JLBC assumes no deterrent effect will result "in the short run."

Squandering a fortune in tax dollars to impose institutionalized inactivity on so many people injures society through lost income to the prisoner's family, lost productivity to the employer, and the drain on public resources. Moreover, one detention officer for every 100 to 132 inmates is not enough for the sheriff to discharge his legal duty to provide the required care and safe-keeping to prisoners with diminished mental capacity, those who are 70 years of age or older, the handicapped who need assistance, or the chronically ill on medication or needing treatment or therapy on a regular basis. Those who are weak, defenseless or needy will be abused and neglected.

The forever increasing costs of pursuing such a course in policy must cause thoughtful people to see that the illusion of security and deterrence by incarceration is a tragic farce that will eventually bankrupt our society. If we are to change human behavior on such a grand scale as needed, we will need laws that address the substantive causes at the roots and not merely warehouse the results in tents behind rows of razor wire.

Michael L. Scanlan


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