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Letters to the Editor

Standing Up for Stalder

Your mostly one-sided feature "Whither Stalder" (Jan. 27) ignores everything that Richard Stalder has done and is typical of a left-wing publication in the heart of New Orleans. Pay closer attention to what Bucky Rives said about the ACA accreditation of every state prison. Only one other state can make this bold statement. And who better than the ACA -- a world-renowned jail safety and risk management organization -- to speak about how safe and well-run a prison is? I suggest we leave it to the experts and not the political pundits to judge how effective Stalder really is.

Those who speak against Stalder don't have a clear understanding of what he inherited or of his accomplishments. In one part of the article, you state that we have the highest incarceration rate in the United States and that, if we were a country, it would be a worldwide ranking. Subsequently the article states that we are simply too "huge." Well, where are you going to put these enormous numbers of people? You criticize him for the highest incarceration rate in the world and then criticize him for being too large. The last time I checked, Stalder never sentenced a single individual to serve time in a prison. This type of attack erodes any legitimate credibility you may have had.

Lastly, Stalder brought the prison system out of federally mandated control and provided enough beds for the single largest inmate population per capita on the planet. Blame the judges for imprisoning too many criminals, not Stalder for creating a cheap space for them to do their time.

Congratulations, Mr. Stalder, on a job well done. Most citizens of this state support your efforts in providing enough space for all of the non-working, unproductive drug offenders and criminals put behind bars by district attorneys.

P.S. Start sending the parents and absentee parents of these juveniles to serve time with their children and the juvenile justice system will shrink before our very eyes. If you can be held civilly responsible for your minor children, why not criminally as well? Oh, that's right; it makes way too much sense!

--Mark R. Tammariello


Missing the Point

I've appreciated Rick Barton's insights my entire adult life, ever since his review of Crimes and Misdemeanors way back in 1989. But he misses the mark completely with Bubba Ho-Tep ("Face Value," Feb. 3).

In his view, an aging Elvis impersonator fighting a soul-stealing mummy is a silly distraction that gets in the way of a thoughtful meditation on identity. Sure, that's one way of looking at it. Or there's this: All of us pretend to be more than we are and feel superior when we're surrounded by others engaged in the same pretenses. We all feel constrained, angry and more than a little befuddled by the circumstances we one day wake up to: unfulfilling jobs, bad relationships or nursing homes in the armpit of Texas. Most of us confront soul-sucking adversaries every day, often on distasteful and unfamiliar turf.

To the extent that a piece of B-movie fluff like Bubba Ho-Tep is supposed to have a larger, resonant theme, it is this: Sebastian/Elvis quits feeling sorry for himself and fights off the encroaching demons of indignity and impending death. He rages, to get literary for a second, against the dying of the light, a proxy for infirm senior citizens and all our disappointed hopes. Sebastian Haff -- half? Half a man, perhaps? Come on, Rick. It's not like it's hidden.

But if you're unwilling to just go with the B-movie trappings, well then, no, none of it's going to work. If the title didn't clue you in to Ho-Tep's pedigree, perhaps the fact that it was directed by the guy who gave us Phantasm -- and stars Bruce Campbell, for crying out loud -- might have nudged you along. There is some small sustenance to be found even in throwaway films like this one. But it helps to be dialed in to the right frame of reference first.

--Kevin Forest Moreau
Atlanta, Ga.


Paternity Tests

Mark Twain once said that a lie can make its way around the world before the truth can get its boots on. He might have been referring to your article "What Would Jefferson Do?" Jan. 20), which states, "Jefferson ... sired a child by his slave Sally Hemings ... and [never] acknowledged his own paternity of the child by Hemings." I really have to wonder about your agenda and your motives in presenting such a statement as if it were a fact.

Dr. Eugene Foster, the pathologist who led the 1998 genetic analyses, stated in The New York Times (Nov. 9, 1998) that "the genetic findings my collaborators and I reported in the scientific journal Nature do not prove that Thomas Jefferson was the father of one of Sally Hemings's children. We never made that claim. Nor do we believe that the Y-chromosome type we found in a Hemings descendent occurs only in members of the Jefferson family. Long before we had any idea of what the genetic findings would be, I repeatedly said for the record that this study could not prove anything conclusively."

The Jefferson-Hemings Scholars Commission of 13 eminent historians, after spending a year reviewing all of the historical evidence, concluded that "it is our unanimous view that the allegation is by no means proven; and we find it regrettable that public confusion about the 1998 DNA testing and other evidence has misled many people into believing that the issue is closed. With the exception of one member ... our individual conclusions range from serious skepticism about the charge to a conviction that it is almost certainly untrue."

The sole dissenting member of the commission stated: "I dissent only in believing it somewhat more likely than not that Thomas Jefferson was the father of Eston Hemings. ... It is, this fact notwithstanding, a mistake to jump to the conclusion that Jefferson must have been the father of Sally Heming's children."

--Bill Myers


Healthful Advice

Re: "Dotcom Doctors" (Health & Wellness, Feb. 3). A great and true topic very well-explained by Nital Sheridan. These Internet seminars/ forums should be held all over the area. My daughter was saved by such information; when a doctor prescribing her medicine was shown the side effect, he said he believed the manufacturer did not reveal the side effect. He was apologetic and grateful for the information he was provided.

--Suren Patel

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