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Numbers Game

To the Editor,

Damned if you aren't my favorite Tucson news source, but when you get the facts wrong you're no better than the rest. In Dan Huff's cover story, "Nightmare in Tin" (July 22), he cites a deputy city planner -- himself quoting a UA economist -- in stating that the bottom fifth of Arizonans earns $7,200-$7,300 in annual income, while the top fifth earns $103,000-$392,000.

Well, you don't have to be a city planner, an economist, or even a high-school graduate to question such figures. One of every five Arizonans earns between $7,200 and $7,300? That's a rather narrow range for 20 percent of the population to fit into, isn't it? And not a single Arizonan earns less than that? At the other end of the scale, not a single Arizonan earns more than $392,000? What do Lute Olson and Jim Click -- among many others -- have to say about that?

I have no idea whether the UA economist was properly quoted, misquoted or misinterpreted, but the fact remains Dan Huff should have known the statistics didn't make sense. Reporting statistics that are wrong on their face calls into rather severe question all the other statistics and "facts" that make up this article on poverty -- a numerical subject if ever there was one.

Huff later tells us that approximately 20 percent of Tucsonans -- some 130,000 people, he says -- live in poverty. (All of them earning $7,250, apparently.) Well, the City of Tucson estimates it has 475,782 citizens as of July 1 of this year, not the 650,000 that Huff's figures extrapolate to. Tucson doesn't expect 650,000 until 2034. Could he have been referencing Pima County? Nope: 842,289 there on July 1.

That's about where I stopped reading. Bottom line: credibility is in the numbers.

-- Steve Barancik

Dan Huff replies:

I'm sorry, there must be some sort of misunderstanding here, Steve, you're reading the Tucson Weekly, not the Anal Retentive Weekly.

Those income figures from the top and bottom quintiles of the state's income-earning population are obviously meant to be ballpark figures, so get over it.

You are correct in listing the city and county projections, based on previous census data. But nobody really knows what the population of this area is, projections or no projections. For example, the Tucson Chamber of Commerce currently lists the "Tucson metro area" at 725,000. The 650,000 figure I based my 20 percent estimate on was a deliberate effort to be conservative when stating the extent of poverty here. When all is said and done, there are probably more than 130,000 poor people -- men, women and children -- suffering in poverty hereabouts. But, alas, we'll never have an exact number, which is why I also included the words "roughly" and "more than." And if you think it makes a difference whether they live in the county or the city, well, be sure to point that out to the cops when some desperately poor person steals your car.

I'm sorry data comes from many different sources and is gathered in many different ways, and I'm equally sorry life just isn't precise. In the future, however, perhaps you'd be happier if you confined your reading material to thermometers and other such exacting paraphernalia -- but try not to have a cow over those pesky half-degrees.

Missing the Point

To the Editor,

Every time Tom Danehy addresses the issue of guns in America he embarrasses the Tucson Weekly. The fatuous little stunt entitled "My Chat With Charlton" (July 8) is Danehy's masterpiece of tripe to date. Such an article does nothing more than encourage a lot of smug head-nodding from like-minded readers. Is it that Danehy loves easy victims like Charlton so much because he's too feeble or compliant to take on a stronger opponent in the popular press?

Danehy cannot defeat Heston, or even LaPierre, for that matter, if all he has in his arsenal are a lot of juvenile antics and a voice tuned to sound like a degraded Holden Caulfield. Most unforgivable of all is how patently unfunny the piece was. It failed even at the level of low comedy.

As for the so-called "collective right" argument some people enjoy parroting so much, even most who favor gun control are rarely very impressed by such a transparently willful and sophisticated approach to the interpretation of the Second Amendment. This collective-right sophistry would have made the drafters of the Constitution, all shrewd and worldly men, laugh in contempt.

-- Chris Brehm

To the Editor,

I must admit Tom Danehy's article is the first article I read in your paper. In fact, having little interest in local politics, sometimes Danehy's article is the only item I read in your paper (that and the movie listings). His clever, quick-witted weekly article is a beacon of enjoyment amidst long-winded articles detailing obscure government/real-estate scandals. None of which the public cares enough about to vote. I applaud his column's slow but steady climb from the "pay your dues" back end of the paper to its rightful place among the illustrious first 10 pages.

However, if you haven't figured it out yet, Tom, this is a kiss-kick brand of criticism and the kiss ends here. This is the part where the kiss being over, I tell you "I'll call you sometime" and avoid all further eye contact with you.

Your swift kick to the shin comes in response to your cleverly written, satirical article opposing gun ownership ("My Chat With Charlton," July 8). For the record, I did find it amusing. I may have even chuckled at it. And therein lies the bone of contention I have with you and other writers like you who favor more gun control. See, when it comes to public debate in this country, God is on the side of the more clever, more witty and more rational argument. In the gun control debate, as in most politically fashionable debates, it is the liberals who have the monopoly on the more clever and witty writers. For this reason alone we who oppose gun control will probably never win popular sentiment and support. Add to that the gun-control supporters' charge of the more aggrieved victims and the better bumper stickers. On top of all this, they present the more rational argument. I'm sure you'll agree that being more clever, more witty and more aggrieved doesn't make one right. Nor does being more rational.

Take corn for instance. It looks like a vegetable, tastes like a vegetable; it's even placed alongside other vegetables in your local grocery store. You'd be completely rational in concluding corn is a vegetable...but you'd be wrong. My 7-year-old daughter recently informed me that corn is indeed a grain and not a vegetable. Nonsense, you say? Ask any second-grade teacher. I know what you're thinking: "This will put the four food groups in a state of total disarray." Before you call the FDA I'll spare you a bit of embarrassment. There is no such thing as the four food groups anymore. Things have changed, Tom. Ask your kids, they'll tell you.

Anyway, if reason can be wrong about corn, can it also be wrong about gun control? Reason says guns have no place in a genteel and enlightened society like our own. I, on the other hand, reckon owning a gun is like owning a flashlight. We rarely plan on our power grid going out, but we keep a flashlight around just in case. Now before you bang out your quick and clever response, I've spared you the trouble and attempted one for you:

"The Venus de Milo herself could count on both hands the number of times a 12-year-old found Dad's Maglite and accidentally beat his best friend to death with it."

A typical gun antagonists' response to any feeble analogy by gun supporters. Completely rational, but it misses the point. What then is the point?

That it is more prudent to have a gun and not need it, than to need it and not have it. Is there anything more genteel and enlightened than prudence? I don't wish grave danger on anyone, but when steroid-pumping licensed U.S. bounty hunters come knocking down your door, guns ablazin', you'll need more than poignant sarcasm to make a fair fight.

Now I'm not naïve enough to think this letter will sway any opinions. Even the lowliest, bottom-feeding liberal writer (no offense Tom) could write a savagely clever response that will paint me as the government conspiracy hatching, camouflage fatigue-wearing, semi-automatic assault rifle toting, 30-round banana clip packin', human silhouette shootin', Second Amendment supporter that I am.

And I'm okay with that...just spell my name right.

-- Samm Washington

Sounding Off

To the Editor,

Being in a punk/rock-and-roll band in Tucson, having been in a band previous to this one, and having played several shows here in the last five months, I find it very frustrating to read Stephen Seigel's Soundbites column once again and read nothing about over half of the punk/rock-and-roll bands in Tucson. Instead he dedicates a huge chunk of the section to complaining about Tucson's desperate need for more cable television offerings ("I Want My VH-1," July 22). Yes, Stephen, I would stay home on a Friday night in this happening metropolis in order to watch Tom Waits on VH-1, but is this really relevant to the local music scene in Tucson?

It's true that many times I have read bits about local bands like the Weird Lovemakers, James Dead and Clovenhoof, but what about other bands out there? Weird Lovemakers are great, and my band has played with them several times, but there are other punk/rock-and-roll bands in this city that never get acknowledged in your column. I'm not just writing to whine about my own band, The Wrecks, or my previous bands playing shows on a weekly basis. A lot of these bands have records out, the releasing of which has never been announced in Soundbites. It's as if these bands don't exist according to The Weekly. It's a joke to think that the Tucson music scene is so elitist to dismiss bands that might not be hip in some particular "underground" scene. This is Tucson, not Seattle. Please, look around, go to some other clubs besides that bastion of rebelliousness, "The Hotel," and acknowledge that Tucson does have more bands out there that work hard and deserve to be recognized in the one weekly rag in their town.

-- Katie Rogers

P.S. In reference to Kathy Rivers' band The Wonder Twins claiming, on the back page of the July 22 issue, to be the only "girl" band in Tucson, I say WAKE THE **** UP!!

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