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Letters from the issue of Thursday, February 21, 2008

A VOTE FOR B-ROCK

An earnest, honest shake: I've been talking to a lot of people who have taken this attitude: "I can't believe Barack has the audacity to think he can win!"

Oh, The Audacity of Hope! Why not Obama? He is an intelligent man who acquired his juris doctorate in 1990 at Harvard and has proved to the people of Illinois that he can fulfill his promises ("Presidential Contender Barack Obama Rocks Veterans Memorial Coliseum," Feathered Bastard blog, Stephen Lemons).

And he is honest and nonjudgmental toward people who have made mistakes, because he has had to go public with his own [drug use as a young person]. Obama fought his way through a crowd (perhaps because I was wearing a funny shirt, which he referred to) to shake my hand — a hand that never handles more than $800 a month. And his handshake was firm and earnest and personal as we made eye contact. I looked quite disheveled, so I was taken aback when this man chose to shake my hand.

At first, a lot of people thought Obama was too young, and I admit I was one who did. I had this attitude that if you're too young to recall the JFK assassination, then you're too young. But then, eventually, [I] realized that what we need is not just another old cougar. Obama isn't white; Obama isn't black. Obama is true blue (he represents blue, liberal states) and is truly honest when he promises us a better tomorrow.

Obama made me feel like someone special. Maybe he can do that for everyone in America.
Melanie Bulseco, Phoenix

SPEECH IMPEDED

Demise of a good paper: Congratulations. You opened an ugly can of worms that has been brewing for some time at Globe High School ("Whudafxup With That?" Sarah Fenske, February 7). As a 3A school, Globe used to have a terrific journalism department. Both the yearbook and newspaper won many awards at Journalism Education Association conventions.

Your article exposed a tiny bit of an iceberg of wrongdoing. Students aren't stupid. They want and have a right to be heard. My only fear is that innocent students will be punished. They had no adviser. They wanted to publish their school paper. The adviser is at fault. The administration is most definitely at fault. You hit the target on the head.

Sue Brown, Globe

Bureaucracy over freedom of speech: This type of censorship isn't anything new. I grew up in Globe/Miami and served as editor-in-chief of Miami High School's Vandal War Cry and Northern Arizona University's Lumberjack. In both cases, my staff's articles and editorials were reviewed and censored (and removed, at times) by administration.

Sad but true: Bureaucracy reigns over true freedom of speech.
Sonia Yanez, Flagstaff

No regrets at Globe High: The readers of New Times have not been served well. I was part of the decision to pull the December 7 issue of the Papoose, and it had nothing to do with the well-known term "Whudafxup."

Rather, the reason to pull the newspaper was because of an article describing how to build and use a hookah, a front-page picture of a person smoking tobacco, meth, or marijuana from a hookah, and quotes by children known to be under 18 talking about using tobacco.

Hookahs have another name in modern culture: bong, the possession of which could be a felony.

It is the duty of the school administration to protect children and not to expose them to articles about how to use and build bongs. And although we can't be certain that the article was a thinly veiled reference to the use of marijuana, in today's anti-drug culture, we could not risk that liability.

Even if the article was merely about the use of tobacco products, quotes by high school students using such products illegally could have exposed them and their parents to unnecessary and embarrassing scrutiny.

This is not a case of simple censorship based on the word Whudafxup. And to suggest such a reason is absurd.

Additionally, in the coming weeks, the administration will be sponsoring a public student debate on the administration's efforts with educational reform. In that debate, scheduled well before this article appeared, students will be able to publicly call into question the wisdom of the administration's decisions and initiatives. That hardly seems like the act of an administration that demands homogeneity of opinion and stifles debate.

The most disappointing thing to me is that the students who were quoted knew the truth and decided not to share it with Ms. Fenske. Had facts been checked in more detail, and had more people been interviewed, and had we known Ms. Fenske was looking to discover such facts, we would have gladly cooperated.

 

We stand by the decision not to let a "how to build and use a bong" story go to press.
Robert Miller, Globe High School

Funny, indeed: Robert Miller, your ignorance of what a hookah really is is pretty amusing. It's not a bong in the traditional sense. In fact, many say smoking pot out of one is nearly impossible. A hookah is simply a wet tobacco pipe popular in the Middle East. Funny stuff!
Jacob Smithe, via the Internet

Editor's note: Many of the comments about Globe High School's censorship debate appeared under Sarah Fenske's column on our Web site.

Channel One? It's not so bad: Ms. Fenske is correct in her assessment of the quality of past issues of the Papoose. However, for the December 7 issue, students took advantage of a situation in which they had little supervision from an adviser to attempt to publish inappropriate material.

The district certainly had valid reasons and every right under the law to censor such a story.

However, I would also like to address Ms. Fenske's criticism of Channel One. As a former journalism teacher, I have always been impressed with the journalistic quality of its news programs. The content of the program is far from insipid. Indeed, since Globe High School is no longer able to get copies of the Arizona Republic delivered to every classroom daily, and few students have a daily newspaper delivered to their home or watch television news broadcasts outside of school, the Channel One news program is often the only exposure students receive to timely national news stories.

Yes, Channel One does have advertisements, but they are easily ignored, and I encourage my students to do so.
Wendy Hankin, Globe High School

Don't let your youth go to waste: Is anyone else sad? The young in this country are dying in a foreign war. Our rights are being taken away by the federal government, and innocent children of illegal aliens are being harassed and discriminated against by a thug sheriff [Maricopa County's Joe Arpaio].

Yet the future of our country is writing articles about how to build a bong and claiming infringement of the First Amendment when it gets censored. Maybe it is just in Globe. I would hope that high school students in the rest of the Arizona are actually standing up and fighting for something worthwhile.

As for the students mentioned here. I am deeply ashamed of you. As it seems that you fancy yourselves journalists yet have twisted the facts to serve your own personal ends. When is it okay for a journalist to become the story and want justice because of an issue like this?

I hope you learn from this. You have your future ahead of you. Please don't waste it like this.
John Hagel, via the Internet

STILL WRONG

He needs a national advocate: I was wondering what could be done to help Bryant Wilkerson ("The Wrong Driver," Sarah Fenske, January 24). The girl deserves the prison time, not this man. Clearly he made a mistake, but her money is working against him.

Is there anything that could be done to help save him? Has anyone suggested calling a nationally recognized civil rights leader or a prime-time news show? Thank you for advocating for justice for this man.
Amanda Parker, Grand Terrace, California

Why wasn't Varker arrested?: Please continue to shine a huge spotlight on this case. It is bad enough that having lots of money can buy lawyers who buy easy verdicts for people charged with acts they committed. But when the police don't even arrest people who plainly were underage and intoxicated?

In my mind, I fully believe Laura Varker wasn't arrested because it was apparent to the police that they were dealing with an SUV full of rich kids.

Sadly, someone died in this wreck.

Also terribly sad: Wilkerson made a very stupid decision when he left, and let him be judged for his mistakes.

But to let the underage drunken driver walk away with no charges is so wrong. Please help this man with your continued updates on his plight.
Randy Merritt, Mesa

Let's avoid further tragedy: I can't seem to get over your piece about the Laura Varker/Bryant Wilkerson accident. I would like to voice my interest in securing that no further tragedy follows the already horrible situation. It seems a crime that Wilkerson would face such a harsh punishment.
Emily Murphy, Tempe

PUTTING ON AN ACT

Petty's okay and hip-hop's overrated: In ways, I understand what you are trying to say about how many NFL players are likin' hip-hop and about how it would be nice to have a hip-hop star as a halftime act ("Snooper Bowl," Niki D'Andrea, January 31).

 

However, I really can't stand the stuff. Now, trip-hop (i.e.: Tricky, Massive Attack), and now we're talkin'. But this isn't really popular with Americans and wouldn't make a good halftime act, unfortunately.

So, I'm fine with it being Tom Petty, a name everyone recognizes, and a symbol of Americana. Aging or not, he's got a lot of good tunes, and it's good to see him still around. Who cares if he's pushing the envelope or not?

As far as hip-hop is concerned, I'm puzzled by its popularity. It lacks a lot of respect and positive vibe. And all the hip-hop headliners at the Scottsdale Super Bowl events were insane. Certainly made me not want to shell out any money to go, or even go if I happened across a free invitation.

Folks in Arizona have gone ape-shit over this stuff for some reason, as if there is nothing else to listen to in the world. Hit a Burger King in London, and you're likely to find an odd Faithless or Underworld tune playing. They wouldn't give as much of a shit about Snoop Dogg, Diddy, and the like.

I mean, the stuff isn't really that good. I think it deserves a place in the music world, for sure, but damn, for the popularity hip-hop has gotten, something is kinda screwy.
Rob Sembrat, Tempe

Petty's legacy will endure: This in response to Niki D'Andrea's article on the Super Bowl halftime show. She is clearly mistaken when it comes to what makes a good halftime show. Tom Petty was an outstanding choice for it, and proved it with his great set.

We know this, for sure, because we were also part of the audience at the Super Bowl. Tom Petty keeps it honest and real.

Perhaps Niki should be reminded that the reason they don't have acts like Janet Jackson is the stupidity that comes with them. This also goes for any of the other [hip-hop] people she recommended. Petty's legacy will endure 20-plus years from now. Janet & Company's will not.
D. Smith, Tempe

And regarding local hip-hop: "Raising Terrazona" (Niki D'Andrea, January 10) was a good article from an outside point of view. In Arizona, just as well as everywhere else, there is a divide in entertainment.

Why everybody on arizonabeats.com had their panties in a bunch and was about to picket, I don't know. What I do know is that there are a lot of whiners who feel as if they should garner attention.

Pokafase asked Niki where his cover was. If you do great things, that alone will garner recognition. Poka had a machine behind him; he has had write-ups in numerous publications. Poka is a talented artist (deal or no deal); he's on the radio every week. I hope he does get a cover and a deal.

Karlie Hustle and her Round Table movement was big, and I wish her all the success in the world. But both Poka and Karlie are on the radio and can make shit happen larger than life for the Valley. But only if their execution is on-point.

There is more to this story than some race-driven, pseudo-political hip-hop bullshit activism. Back in the day, there were people making moves. Who comes to my mind is a white cat named Ztrip. Most of the people he [influenced] are doing big shit on the radio nowadays, or have moved on.

The problem is, it took 10 years to get to that point. Why hasn't Karlie played local cats' material on the radio? Why don't we have our own local radio show?

These station programmers are concerned with a bottom-line demographics, SoundScan and Billboard album sales. For progress to take place, these station directors need to involve themselves in this dialogue. Karlie and Poka could be instrumental in this.

This article sparked a fire. A few cats got upset; a few are mad they didn't get exposure.

Now to the white rapper thing: Eminem is in my top five, dead or alive. Nobody, I repeat nobody, mentioned in the article or on arizonabeats.com can go toe-to-toe with him.
Karilli Blaque, Phoenix

PRETTY "DIRTY"

Where's our side of the story?: When we heard that a reporter from New Times wanted to talk to us about our unionization effort at Milum Textile Services, we were grateful for the opportunity to tell our stories. We assumed the reporter, Ray Stern, would come with an open mind. Unfortunately, we were mistaken.

Our voices were silenced in the article titled "Dirty Tricks" (Ray Stern, January 24). We told Mr. Stern that we are working with Unite Here because we want to be safe at work, have health insurance for our families, and have dignity and respect at work. For us, not being given protective equipment or vaccinations when handling infected garments (as required by the law of the United States) is not "pure gold," as Mr. Stern claims about the meaning of OSHA's findings for the union. It was a risk to our health and safety.

 

When Milum retaliated against our efforts to organize by firing and disciplining our co-workers and threatening to cut our wages, we testified against the company and were vindicated by a judge for the National Labor Relations Board. After we testified, Milum continued to punish us, and is facing [further NLRB scrutiny].

We are angered and saddened that Mr. Stern has removed our stories from his article.
Eva Guzman, Luz Acosta, and Maria Delgado, Phoenix

Here's one from the reading-impaired: I'm writing in response to the lack of journalistic integrity displayed in "Dirty Tricks." It seems the last thing this writer desired is to be impartial. The way he attempts to blatantly impose his ill-concealed right-wing views is deplorable.

The title "Dirty Tricks" is a prime example. When did a rally or boycott become dirty?

It also accuses union supporters of trying to "force management into contracts." I wonder who was quoted saying that. Referring to the young union official as a "twentysomething" is obviously trying to make us think she is incompetent and immature.

And since when is asking the employer to provide safe, clean, average-paying work environment considered wrong?

Hispanics aren't against the company itself, as the article states, rather the work conditions they're given.

The top of the article certainly should've read "editorial," because that's precisely what it is. The writer clearly wrote this not only against the United Food and Commercial Workers, but all unions. His bias is reproachable.
Justin Hannahs, Tempe

It's all about the money: I think the unions are very unfair. It is obvious that they are playing dirty and really don't care about the people, just about the money! Thank you for publishing such an enlightening article. Go Bashas' and Milum! Hope you guys win!
Monica Kopp, via the Internet

No shame here, Michael: This is one of the most biased and one-sided articles I have ever read. I hope you're ashamed of yourself, Ray Stern. Though I doubt it.
Michael Preston, via the Internet

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Bashas'

1920 W. Chandler Blvd.
Chandler, AZ 85224

480-855-1133

www.bashas.com


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