The review of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil ("Curious Georgia," Michael Sragow, November 27) contains an error that is becoming increasingly common in written and spoken language: the use of female pronouns when referring to a drag queen. What writers and speakers need to remember is that no matter how convincing drag queens may be in their impersonations, they are still men, and should be referred to as such by anyone with an interest in precise, accurate language. A drag queen can no more be called "she" than an Amazon can be called "he."
Crime and Punishment
Fyodor Dostoevsky observed, "The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons." By that measure, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who exercises administrative control over Maricopa County jails, has made the county uncivilized ("Waiter, There's a Lie in My Soup," Barry Graham, November 6).
Under Arpaio's jail administration:
* Scott Norberg suffocated at Madison Street Jail on June 1, 1996, after being tackled by 15 detention officers and placed in a restraint chair with a towel over his face.
* The internationally respected human-rights organization Amnesty International issued a 12-page report in August detailing the mistreatment of inmates in Maricopa County jails.
* On October 31, the attorney general of the United States filed a complaint in the United States District Court alleging that Arpaio has been "deliberately indifferent to" the "use of excessive force and use of excessive and improper restraints by jail employees."
Despite this lawlessness, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors seeks to increase the sales tax we pay in order to raise $1.4 billion to double the size of the Maricopa County jails. In order to ensure that a higher degree of civilization is restored in Maricopa County, the Arizona Legislature should not approve this tax boost until Arpaio and the Board of Supervisors implement each of the 13 recommendations included in Amnesty International's August report.
Mitchell S. Rubin
People are fed up with crime, and most demand changes in the penal system. With Maricopa County having the fourth-largest penal system in the United States, some drastic changes needed to be made. Before Joe Arpaio was elected sheriff, we had an inept sheriff who mismanaged money and was more interested in his own personal and political gain.
Enter Joe Arpaio. Before he was elected into office, he had worked for 30 years with the Drug Enforcement Administration. I was impressed with this no-nonsense type of man. I have been following Sheriff Arpaio ever since he was elected back in 1992, and, I must admit, I have been a supporter of his almost from the start.
Since coming into office, he has had his share of naysayers. Some accuse him of grandstanding, others say he relishes the attention he receives, while some of his employees call him egotistical. I call him a man with integrity and a leader who is dedicated to making this county a better place in which to live.
I have lived in Phoenix for 40 years, and I think Joe Arpaio is the first public servant who has continuously striven to make the necessary changes in our jail system, to make our jails one place where people wouldn't want to go. So many prisoners have complained about the lack of amenities our system has to offer: bad food, little or no medical treatment, poor treatment by the guards, etc.
If criminals want better treatment, next time they should commit crimes in Florida. Its system has basketball, volleyball and racquetball courts. Inmates also can participate in arts and crafts and weightlifting. There is even a baseball diamond. So, vamoose, criminals, or you'll have to face the "Toughest Sheriff in America."
I would like to comment on the "Name withheld" letter to the editor (November 6) about "Sheriff Joe Arpaio's cruel and unjust treatment of the inmates in the county jails": Since when do those who truly break our laws get rehabilitated during a jail term?
"Name withheld" must be one of those inmates presently serving time in Arpaio's brig who expected a country-club atmosphere. Sorry, fella, there are no benefits as far as the sheriff of Maricopa County is concerned. Good going, Joe. He may have an ego, but what human doing a good job doesn't?
Here's the Hitch
I read Barry Graham's response concerning his apology to the people who felt insulted by his statement that "[Joe Arpaio] is one step from the trailer park" (Letters, November 20).
I believe Graham knew that he had made a mistake when he wrote his apology: "I apologize to anyone who felt insulted by that line." But he confused me when he went on to write, "I'd certainly be insulted if someone compared me to Joe Arpaio because I lived in a trailer." This statement is what was confusing, because letter writer Dick Prosence was not complaining about being compared to Joe Arpaio. He was insulted by Graham for stigmatizing him as being a low-class citizen just because he lived in a trailer.
This makes me wonder if Graham realized how he insulted people who live in trailers. I would not have any doubts that Graham understood how he insulted those people if his statement after he apologized was, "I no longer think that way about people living in trailers." This statement would have definitely been in context with his apology.
Pen and Stellar
I just wanted to compliment Tony Ortega on his article about Robert Burnham Jr. ("Sky Writer," September 25). It is a fascinating story, thoroughly researched.
I was told about this story by an entry into my guest book. I'm a recording artist/concert performer, and last year wrote and recorded a song called "Planet X," about Clyde Tombaugh's work discovering Pluto. Every once in a while, I'm tipped off to interesting astronomical stories by fans of my music, and this is another such case.
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It's so sad that Robert Burnham died the way he did, but sweet to know that there's an asteroid up there with his name on it. I'm sure that would make him happy. I hope that Ortega's article goes a long way toward making sure Burnham's contributions to science are not forgotten.
New York City
Thanks to New Times for the article about astronomer Robert Burnham Jr. I'm sure many other astronomers share my sense of sadness about how his life turned out. Still, it seems that those around him did all they could; if we had known, we still could not have helped. His work stands as a far more enduring monument than most of us will achieve.