Tree Tops
Hats off to Michael Kiefer for his excellent two-part feature article "Government by Litigation" (December 18 and 11).
Regarding the statement that "less than 10 percent of the nation's timber comes from the national forests": According to the most recent U.S. Forest Service records, the total timber for consumption annually cut from national forests actually comes to only 3.9 percent!

Rodger Clarke
North Olmsted, Ohio

As an education activist, I was impressed by Michael Kiefer's insights. I have looked at financial reports issued by the Arizona Department of Administration. From time to time, there are announcements of massive budget surpluses. Fact is, there is likely eight to 10 times as much money in reserve now than in the "rainy day fund."

Rush clones like Brenda Burns and Rusty Bowers would suffer convulsions having to solve a problem with state money, as well as having to respond to the people. Regardless of whether New Times follows up on that, it is doing Arizona citizens a valuable service by documenting these issues.

Steve Muratore
via Internet

Crystal Clear
Excellent article, long overdue ("Methology," Paul Rubin and David Holthouse, December 18). As a public defender, I deal with tweakers on a daily basis. Having had long exposure to many illegal substances, I can honestly say I have seen no illegal substance so gruesome as methamphetamine.

There is only one addition or correction I would add to this article, and it concerns the "drug court" section. Not everyone who successfully completes drug court will have his or her felony convictions "erased." Moreover, no one who successfully completes drug court will entirely clear his or her records. The best thing that will happen to select drug-court participants is that their felonies will turn into misdemeanors upon successful completion of the drug-court program.

In Arizona, possession of methamphetamine, or "possession of dangerous drugs," is a Class 4 felony. Possession of drug paraphernalia is a Class 6 felony. Arizona has what's called a Class 6 "undesignated" felony. That means that upon conviction of a Class 6 felony, if the felony is allowed to be "undesignated," the defendant will have an opportunity to have that felony designated a misdemeanor upon successful completion of drug court or supervised probation.

Currently, unless the crime was committed before June 1996, only Class 6 felonies can be undesignated. That means that the only way a drug-court graduate who was busted for possession of dangerous drugs can have his or her felony "erased" (dropped to a misdemeanor) is if he or she were allowed to plead guilty to a Class 6 felony, possession of drug paraphernalia. Thus, any person in drug court who was actually convicted of possession of meth (after June 1996) will not be able to have "felonies erased."

There are plenty of people who will graduate from drug court who were not convicted of undesignated offenses, and who will, therefore, carry around their felony conviction for the rest of their lives.

Douglas A. Passon

I wanted to let Paul Rubin and David Holthouse know that I really enjoyed their article "Methology." It really exposed the problem that Arizona possesses with this methamphetamine epidemic. Thanks.

via Internet

Party Line
As a longtime Democratic-party activist, I'd like to take exception to some of the points expressed in Amy Silverman's article "Hee-Haw Politics" (December 4). While I can't argue the party's underdog status, great strides have been made under the leadership of state party chair Mark Fleisher. Since he took the helm in January of '97, Democrats have been outregistering Republicans by a sizable margin. County chair David Eagle has made similar progress in the Republican stronghold of Maricopa County.

I'd also like to point out that Art Hamilton and Janet Napolitano are very solid candidates. No one is more aware of the state's business than Hamilton, with more than two decades in the Legislature, and Napolitano is a tough crime fighter who'll probably face scofflaw John Kaites.

With that said, I'm afraid I'll have to agree with Silverman that the Democratic party will probably get its ass kicked in '98. A ticket is only as strong as the candidate on top, and Paul Johnson has a snowball's chance in Mesa of getting elected governor. His politics are Republican-lite, and he has frequently endorsed Republicans against fellow Democrats. Many party regulars cannot forgive him. Johnson topping the ticket is like floating a turd on champagne. Unfortunately, it is too late in the process to hope for any change. But the party is growing stronger by the day and will eventually overcome even this predictable future setback.

Jeff Bollerman

Gender Snap
Based on Michael Kuprin's letter (December 11), I can only conclude that he is insensitive, ignorant and/or bigoted. His letter left me with the impression that he believes anyone wearing the clothing of the opposite physical sex is a drag queen. While it is true that many drag queens are men merely impersonating women, there are many who are also transsexuals, people with the mind of one sex and the apparent body of the other sex. And not all transsexuals are drag queens.

It appears that Kuprin has the common misconception that the sex of one's mind is always the same as one's body. Most people see a person's sex in terms of one-dimensional black and white. However, the sex of one's brain and one's body can be (and sometimes is) completely opposite of each other. Since the sex of one's brain is intangible, most people have trouble understanding and/or accepting that the sex of one's brain doesn't always correspond to the sex of the body. A physical crossover also occurs in intersexed people, a condition where a person has characteristics of both sexes, but these people are rarely heard of, either because of the social stigma attached to it, or because they were surgically "corrected" at birth, often with disastrous results, since the decision of which sex to alter rarely takes into consideration what the brain sex is.

If speakers and writers really want to refer to people "in precise, accurate language," then the choice of pronouns needs to be based on how the particular individuals being addressed perceive themselves. In my case, it is "she"!

Jeannie L. Crewson

In regard to Michael Kuprin's letter about what to call a drag queen, I think he may call a drag queen anything he wishes that is not hurtful. Here are several lines from Edmund White's latest, fine novel, The Farewell Symphony:

". . . I was being introduced to a tall, slender drag queen in a sequined ball gown. She was young but had a mature, expertly painted face . . . She took my big mitt in her tiny, slightly feverish hand."

And I don't think either drag queen would mind being called "she."
Robert Bear Miller


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