And Who Cares That Wal-Mart Helped Write That News Release?

I read Jim Hightower's column on Wal-Mart conspiring with George Bush to violate child labor laws with only a slap on the wrist ("Wal-Mart's White House Sweetheart," Jan. 11). I quickly Googled to get the gory details that Jim, for some reason, left out, and discovered the true horror: "The department's investigation revealed that Wal-Mart employed 85 minors aged 16 and 17 who performed prohibited activities, including loading and occasionally operating or unloading scrap paper balers and operating fork lifts" (according to the Department of Labor news release).

Yes, teenagers were showing some incentive, earning money for their iPods and iTunes and doing what every 12-year-old farm boy does: operating heavy machinery. Oh, the humanity. (And how dare Wal-Mart let teenagers actually work at their stores? Isn't it enough to just force them to buy the cheap, Chinese merchandise they sell?)

Thank you, Department of Labor, for only letting me drive a car at 16, and not a forklift.

Patrick Murphy

Claim: Arizona List Uses Sleazy Tactics, Wastes Money

In response to Pam Grissom's letter defending Arizona List ("In Defense of Arizona List," Mailbag, Jan. 11) after the Weekly revealed that only 15 percent of contributions go to support their endorsed candidates ("The Nature of Support," Currents, Dec. 14), I would like to point out that the organization's seven highest contributors have bankrolled the entire amount of money ever donated to either candidates or other political committees.

The other 1,000-plus contributors' money supported design consultants, fancy invitations and parties, and 40 percent went to salary. No other comparable political group in Arizona spends such a small proportion on election activities. In fact, all but two give more than 90 percent of contributions directly to candidates or other political groups.

Grissom describes Pam Sutherland as a savvy political strategist. We came to examine Arizona List's expenditures as a result of one of her more illustrious strategy forays--the infamous push-poll conducted against Ted Downing in the District 28 Senate primary, the misrepresentation of Downing's voting record and the portrayal of him as a supporter of spousal rape.

Downing, who had an excellent record on women's issues, was viciously smeared by Arizona List and its beneficiaries, evidently just because he is a man. Grissom may describe these tactics as savvy, but I think most recognize them as plain-old sleazy.

People should think carefully before giving to Arizona List. You can check the Secretary of State's Web site to see how political organizations spend their money before you give.

Merrill Eisenberg

Mojave Preserve Cross is Small, Not Linked to Dubya

Perhaps correction of a small point of fact is necessary in Tim Vanderpool's otherwise excellent Jan. 18 Currents article, "Creating a Ruckus." A reference is made (in a quote) to "a giant cross displayed at Mojave National Preserve" as evidence for "President George W. Bush's penchant for inserting religion into public policy."

Facts about the controversial cross in Mojave National Preserve do not support the assertion. First, the cross is actually quite small, only 4 feet tall and 3 feet across, and composed of 3-inch metal water pipe. I think "giant" is a bit of an overstatement. Second, the cross was erected in 1934, 60 years before establishment of Mojave National Preserve, as a memorial to World War I veterans.

The controversy over the cross was raised by a disgruntled National Park Service employee. It was not caused by Bush's penchant for religious insertion. I find it unfortunate that we are making grandiose claims over bits of metal pipe stuck in a rock, and are unable to honor the sentiment that led to placement of the cross more than 70 years ago.

Tom Schweich

Serraglio Needs to Learn All 'Born-Agains' Aren't Intellectually Dead

I suppose it's a good thing to give voice to a wide range of opinion, even a voice as cynical as that of Randy Serraglio (Guest Commentary, Jan. 18). Never mind that cynicism is so 1990.

Having conceded that, I must ask a question: Did I read correctly, or did he actually compare his virtues to those of Christ? He tried to cover up this claim by wording his feelings carefully. Then he tries to mask the comparison by calling himself the only one in his family who "remotely resembles" Jesus in his lifestyle. Nice use of the water-down-the-words method, but I don't buy it.

Here's a suggestion: Save these kinds of commentaries for MySpace blogs. We all have issues to take up with different members of our families, but unless there's something profound to be learned from the story, it doesn't really belong in a dignified publication. Your family may not mirror the life of Jesus in your eyes, but just the fact that you're dressing up like Jesus with such a lack of reverence tells me that maybe His example isn't what's on your mind. Your piece just sounded bitter, and bitterness probably has more to do with the embittered than the object of his/her spite. You've already grouped "born-agains," in one fell swoop, and claimed they were the source of the world's problems. Please don't punish us for the "sins" of your intellectually dead relatives, too.

Jason Martinez

Serraglio's Cartoonish Depiction of Christians Is Unfair--But You DO Need to be Born Again

I not only am a "born-again" Christian, but I pastor a church full of "born-again" Christians. Although Randy Serraglio appears to loathe "born-again" Christians more than the average loather, he represents a phenomenon that I am used to running into. Father Andrew Greeley wrote a book last year about this phenomenon. In a talk at the Arizona Inn a year ago, he said, "Conservative Christians get a bum rap. They are the new hate group. It is all right to hate evangelicals."

We "demonize" the people we hate so that we don't feel guilty about our conduct. Hatred toward a hypothetical person feels better than fessing up to hating actual humans, who are much like you and me. I don't much like the cartoon character Serraglio has described, either.

My question is, who do you actually despise, sir? We are the fastest-growing social/spiritual movement in history. Most of us are poor and live in the Third World. The typical "born-again" Christian is a mother in Africa living on the edge of starvation, a cab driver in Nicaragua or a farm worker in China who lives under the threat of imprisonment for his faith.

Perhaps it is only "born-agains" in the First World that you despise? President Jimmy Carter? President Bill Clinton? Lute Olson?

If "born-again" Christians are expected to fit your caricature, I guess I didn't get that memo in time to stay in banking 12 years ago; instead, I took an 80 percent pay cut to become a pastor, because I wanted to serve people more. Perhaps my 5-year-old should not have sent more than $11,000 to New Orleans for relief efforts last year (not to mention that team of our people who spent a week of backbreaking work on four devastated homes there, while the homeowners stood outside and wept). Perhaps we shouldn't be planning to send a team to Sri Lanka this year to help our three sister churches there.

It takes more than long hair or an independent streak to be like Jesus. It takes love. It takes a willingness to forgive the people who have wronged us, be they one's mom or a street preacher. And, yes, according to Jesus, "You must be born again to enter the kingdom of God."

Gary Stokes


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