Alibi V.13 No.14 • April 1-7, 2004 


All Cigs Kill

Dear Alibi,

[RE: March 25-31]: Last week's Alibi included a slick four-color insert promoting free cartons of Natural American Spirit cigarettes. It's another attempt by Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company to reach the target demographic for the brand: young, college-educated hipsters interested in natural products.

Ads proclaim that Natural American Spirit uses "100% additive-free, natural tobacco," leading people to believe that they're healthier than other cigarettes. While no one enjoys smoking the ammonia and formaldehyde you'll find in Marlboros, natural tobacco will kill you just as fast. And a recent study showed that Natural American Spirit had the highest level of free base nicotine of any cigarette on the market, making them much more addictive.

More troubling is Natural American Spirit's logo: A stereotypical "Indian chief" smoking a sacred pipe. This image confuses Native Americans' traditional use of tobacco for ceremonial and religious purposes with the addictive use of commercial tobacco. It demeans Native American cultures and traditions.

But aren't Natural American Spirit cigarettes made by an Indian-owned company? Guess again. Santa Fe Tobacco is a wholly owned subsidiary of RJ Reynolds, the folks who bring you Camel, Winston, Salem and Doral.

Cancer, addiction and racist rip-offs brought to you by big tobacco. How hip is that?

Denis Doyon,
New Mexico Media Literacy Project

Assumptions and Assertions

Dear Alibi,

[RE: Newscity, March 18-24]: Somewhere on the UNM campus, and undoubtedly elsewhere, students and faculty in logic, demography and statistics classes are shaking their heads over the assumptions and assertions of Scott Darnell and the report issued by the NM Federation of College Republications showing that approximately 83 percent of the UNM faculty are registered Democrats while only 11 percent are registered Republicans. The only valid conclusions that can be drawn from these figures are the figures themselves. When Darnell and the report equate Democrats with liberals and Republicans with conservatives, things fall apart because of the wide range of political stances in both parties and because of the considerable agreement between the centrist members of each party. I question, too, just how Democratic or Republican professors would differ in their teaching of soil mechanics, calculus, organic chemistry, the zoology of South America, music history, the British novel, psychology or any of the many other courses.

Darnell insinuated that recruitment, promotion, tenure and perhaps even teaching assignments "prevent conservatives from being hired." I taught at the university level from 1962 until 2002 (rising from teaching assistant to chaired professor), during some of the most politically charged times, and served for many years on committees responsible for student scholarships, honors, recruitment, promotion and tenure. I also served on tenure grievance committees at times. I can truthfully say that I had absolutely no idea what the political leanings of most of my colleagues were, just as I rarely had any idea what views my students held. Even working daily with students whose research I was directing, I had little sense of their political leanings, even when they were researching political topics. When the departmental recruitment committee was interviewing 20 to 30 candidates for positions, for some reason we were much more interested in their research projects, their conception of course syllabi, their awareness of funding prospects and their teaching and assignment styles than for whom they would vote. Of course, I saw many problems over the years, but these were problems involving sexual harassment, misuse of funds, failure to heed departmental requirements, substance abuse problems which left the individuals unable to meet classes and so on.

The Federation report is an ongoing exercise in Republican organizations. It has been going on for about 20 years, and it always shows the same: more Democratic faculty than Republican faculty. Responsible demographic studies done during the last 40 years have shown that certain disciplines attract more liberal bents of mind, while certain disciplines attract conservative minds. Each year the Chronicle of Higher Education issues a survey of faculty political commitments, but it avoids the either/or framework and uses five to six categories which much more accurately reflects the range of opinion. It has shown for years that the majority of college and university faculty are moderate or liberal. If there are problems, they involve the makeup of students who enter graduate school and who complete their degrees. It is very easy to say, "We ought to hire more x, y or z," but it is very difficult to accomplish this. My university was almost desperate to hire an Hispanic professor. In the 30 years I've worked with recruitment, we received only three applications where the surname was recognizably Hispanic. One of them turned out to be a red-haired, freckled-faced Irish woman who had married a Hispanic. The exercise is largely designed to create controversy even though no problem exists.

What bothered me particularly about Darnell was his rush to assumptions and possible conclusions on the basis of invalid figures and utterly no evidence that his charges of "oppressive nature toward campus conservatives" had any solidity whatever. Obviously Darnell and his colleagues have never read any faculty handbooks, acquainted themselves with the recruitment and tenure policies, looked at the state laws which regulate faculty political activities or accumulated any evidence supporting their assertions. Oh well, the exercise keeps young Republicans off the streets and shows that they have learned their lessons well from the elders in their party.

David Leon Higdon

Mind Your Ps and Qs

Dear Alibi,

[RE: The Talk on the Street, March 11-17]: I read with horror and bewilderment that those people you spoke to over the age of 40 seem to believe being gay and getting married is already anti-constitutional. My wife and I have had many friends who happen to also be gay or lesbian, and knowing that did not change who our friend was in our eyes. If two consenting adults wish to get married, I say let them and keep the already overly powerful government out of the bedroom and marriage halls. My wife and I both feel that our marriage is in no way threatened by gays or lesbians getting married. After all, how could it be? Are we suddenly going to stop loving each other as much? Or is there something more sinister afoot? The religious reich and their master plan of creating America as a corporate theocracy where only the wealthy and privileged, not to mention Anglo-Saxon Protestants of the fundamentalist persuasion get to not only rule but also to reap all of the benefits. The truth of the matter is that those people want to maintain the benefits afforded them by marriage, particularly financially.

In conclusion I'd like to address one other ridiculous idea professed by those people; that any children brought up by homosexual couples would automatically become homosexual themselves and the mother of all outlandish statements, that if gays marry, "everyone would turn gay". Where do people get these ideas? First, if a child is automatically whatever the parents are, why do children of heterosexuals turn out to be gay? Also, I highly doubt people will suddenly decide to just give up their current sexuality and turn gay. Live and let live. Who your neighbor loves is their business, not yours, and not the government's. We'd be in much better shape financially if the federal government spent as much time and money on feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, finding jobs for the jobless and affordable housing for the homeless as they do on trying to legislate morality. Moral lessons belong in houses of worship, not in state houses and Congress.

John Diffley

Love Mail for Gwyn

Dear Alibi

I think Gwyneth Doland is a very intelligent and talented writer, incredibly so. Her "Soul of a Restaurant" article (about the restaurant Lutèce) also indicates that she one of the very few who has the food and dining "soul" to actually write relevant observations on the genre. As a chef, I rarely read food writing but her writing makes my profession and craft seem ... authentic. Thanks.

Vince Bosnar
Sunnyvale, Calif.

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