Puppy Love

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[Re: Newscity, “Pet Peeved,” March 26-April 1] As the president of the Alliance for Albuquerque Animals, I was stunned to see last week’s article regarding Petland and its practices. The owner is quoted as saying that she "tried to get in touch with members of the Alliance for ABQ Animals, but no one wanted to talk to her."

I want to go on record that [to my knowledge] she never [contacted] anyone from our organization. Furthermore, I would ask everyone to think of the enormous suffering created by every single person who buys a puppy from any pet store that sells puppies and kittens. Go to stoppuppymills.org for more info if you want to be an informed buyer. Why would anyone pay $1,000 for a puppy, anyway, when there are literally thousands of dogs and cats that have to be killed every year in this state (more than 90,000 per year) for lack of a loving home? On April 25 and 26, there will be wonderful puppies from shelters and rescues all over the state at the "Pet a Palooza" adoptathon at the Journal Center. Put your money where your heart is. You can save a life, or you can support the misery and horror of puppy mills. I know
Alibi readers know the difference.

Letters Forty-Five Million And Counting

Since I live in the Old Town area, I especially enjoyed your review of Pro’s Ranch Market [Restaurant Review, March 19-25]. However, your very first sentence stating that the U.S. Hispanic population is "poised to eclipse the white population any day now" is wildly off the mark. The U.S. Census stats show 241 million White and 45.5 million Hispanic. Since about half of the Hispanics (c. 23 million) describe themselves as White, the White non-Hispanic would be ca. 221 million. Not even close. Perhaps you are extrapolating New Mexico’s unusually large Hispanic percentage to the nation.

Letters Priorities

The late George Carlin once said there are three types of people in America: Stupid, full of shit and just fucking nuts.

I just read that a state legislator in West Virginia has proposed a bill that would impose a statewide ban on the sale of Barbie dolls in the whole state. Mind you, this legislator is a Democrat. His state is one of the poorest in the entire United States of America; 17 percent of the population lives below the poverty level and the percentage of related children below the poverty level is 24 percent. Yet, instead of taking cues from the president and working toward common sense proposals to help lift his state out of poverty, his priority is banning Barbie dolls. He fits all three of Carlin’s descriptions.

Further evidence of a nation that has its priorities mixed are the probes into steroid abuse by baseball players. Congress, under the control of both parties, wasted valuable time and resources investigating steroids in baseball. What is it to me and other Americans if some overpaid athlete wants to take the bargain of big muscles for a shrunken ding-a-ling and raisin-sized testicles? What bearing does that have on jobs, world relations and the quality of life for the American people? None.

In 2008, there were some Senate subcommittee hearings on Spygate; the scandal of the New England Patriots videotaping opposing teams’ defensive plays and signals. This was a national priority while the Republic was burning. Congress also wants to hold hearings on the fired U.S. attorneys and whether or not politics had a part in those firings. While the actions of Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson were inappropriate, the fact remains that U.S. attorneys are at-will political appointees; unfortunately, they can be fired for any reason or no reason whatsoever. Whether partisan politics played a part is of no bearing. The fact is that U.S. attorneys serve at the discretion of the president. That’s that!

Yet, in the midst of this nightmare, certain representatives see fit to waste time and resources arbitrating an issue that by default is a non-issue. Yes, Bush was an a-hole. But, he, along with any other occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, did have the right to hire and fire his appointees.

Under the Republican Congress, time and money were wasted on Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction, along with the aforementioned steroid hearings. They also debated vital issues like flag burning and the estate tax during the time they decided deficits did not matter.

Democrats have their pet issues as well: reinstating the assault weapons ban; the Fairness Doctrine and the aforementioned hearings on the fired U.S. attorneys. The West Virginia legislator is a microcosm of the U.S. Congress—ass backwards priorities. I leave with a question first posed by the comedian Gallagher: What is the opposite of progress? Congress!

Letters Talk About A Revolution

[Re: Book Review, “Starting Over,” March 26-April 1] It looks like Emile Nakhleh, author of A Necessary Engagement: Reinventing America’s Relations with the Muslim World , or your reviewer Tom Gibbons expect us to take the word of a CIA agent on what to do about conflicts our country has with smaller countries. Aren’t they the people who’ve been getting us into trouble with those countries ever since the CIA overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran in the ’50s?

The reviewer points out that many Americans wonder, concerning Muslims, "Why won’t they stop fighting?” Rather than start by consulting a CIA agent, we’d do well to notice that for the last thousand or so years it’s been people in Europe and the United States who’ve been doing the most fighting, especially including invading Muslim lands. And a long book could be written trying to count up the governments the CIA has tried to subvert or overthrow, and trying to evaluate what we got for it.

Letters Down On Death Row

As an innocent man who spent nearly 18 years on Florida’s death row and who would have been executed had it not been for a complete quirk of fate and had the appeals process not been so rigorous, I would like to thank all of the legislators who voted to repeal the death penalty in New Mexico and the governor who signed the repeal bill into law. I would like to thank them for their courage and wisdom in abolishing an error-prone, inefficient and exorbitant punishment that has not proven itself to deter murders in our communities or in our prisons. As the 99 th person since 1973 to be exonerated from death row in the nation with evidence of innocence, I offer the following observations.

To start with, it is important to stress just how frequently the death penalty system gets it wrong. The number of people who have been exonerated from death row in the United States since 1973 stands at 130. This number is but a very small reflection of the number of death penalty convictions or sentences that get reversed because of error considered so significant that a sentence other than death was ultimately imposed in the case. Approximately two-thirds of death penalty cases get reversed in this way, and this is at least part of the reason why the death penalty system has proven to be so expensive.

I know all too well just how easy it is to convict and sentence an innocent person to death. In my case, there was no physical evidence against me, and my conviction and death sentence rested on the testimony of two very questionable witnesses: One was a police informant who was paid $5,000 for his testimony against me, and another was a man who himself had been threatened with the electric chair unless he testified against me. Thankfully, a confession of the real killer was discovered 16 years after I was sentenced to death, and in the end it came to light that the real killer had confessed to more than a dozen people.

Many prosecutors invoke crimes like this as justification for maintaining the death penalty when in fact, ironically, they show (in part) just why the death penalty system is so prone to error. When these particularly horrible crimes take place, deep passions are triggered in our communities, rules get broken, and all too often innocent people like myself are wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death, and in some cases executed.

New Mexico is not immune from wrongful executions or wrongful death sentences. There are at least two documented cases of executions of individuals in New Mexico with strong claims of innocence—Thomas Johnson and Louis Young—and New Mexico has the highest rate of exonerations in the country, with four exonerations to one execution.

How does a law that all too often puts an innocent person on death row while permitting the real perpetrator to remain on the streets protect our communities and our children? How can it reasonably be argued that the death penalty deters murders any more effectively than the harsh and arguably harsher punishment of life without the possibility of parole?

Moreover, empirical evidence has shown that those serving natural life sentences tend to be model prisoners who mentor and pacify the more volatile and younger prisoners who will ultimately be returning to the streets. Those serving natural life sentences have every incentive to behave well within the prison walls from which they know they will never be released. By contrast, those who have been sentenced to death have absolutely nothing to lose. How can they be executed twice?

Likewise, there is no empirical evidence to support the speculative argument by death penalty supporters that the death penalty protects our law enforcement officers. To the contrary, all evidence indicates that by abolishing the death penalty, non-death penalty states have been able to focus their resources on effective crime prevention measures and have consequently enjoyed lower murder rates.

Our courageous and thoughtful elected officials who voted to abolish the death penalty and replace it with the harsh and arguably harsher punishment of life without the possibility of parole recognized that New Mexico does not deserve the death penalty. New Mexico does not deserve a law that can kill an innocent person; New Mexico does not deserve a law that squanders millions of our taxpayer dollars; New Mexico does not deserve a law that tortures murder victims’ families and the families of those accused of capital murder as it drags them through a merciless and endless process that more often than not results in a sentence other than death; New Mexico does not deserve a law that fails to protect our communities in part because all too often the real perpetrator remains on the streets; and New Mexico does not deserve a law that a majority of countries in the world and almost all of our democratic allies have abandoned as unnecessary, cruel and subject to irreversible error.

As my dear friend and fellow exoneree Freddie Pitts has stated: You can sentence a person to life in prison without the possibility of parole, and if you find out later he is innocent, you can release him. But you can never release an innocent person from the grave!

Letters Petland Story

[Re: Newscity, “Pet Peeved,” March 26-April 1] Franchise owner Kern says she doesn’t have a list of the breeders she buys from.

Enough said.

Let’s put aside our emotions for a moment and forget about animal rights or animal welfare or whatever you want to call it. Let’s forget whether or not the Humane Society is a fringe group that exists solely for its own financial welfare.

None of that matters.

Because the bottom line is, if you are in business to sell animals as pets to the general public, you have an obligation to ensure to the best of your ability that they are physically healthy and temperamentally sound. There is no way to do this if you are not acquainted with the breeders who provide your animals.

As ter Bruggen rightly points out, responsible breeders take personal interest in each and every home they sell an animal to. They interview. They do home checks. That’s because they take pride in their breeding programs and the quality of the animals they produce, whether those animals are meant for the show ring, the working farm or the family home.

If Petland truly was in the business of providing healthy, temperamentally sound animals to good homes, they would be able to provide the
Alibi , and anyone else who asks, with the names, addresses and contact numbers for the breeders who supply them. I don’t know about anyone else, but if I’m paying $1,000 for a puppy (!!!), I would at the very least want to know where it came from.

Letters should be sent with the writer’s name, address and daytime phone number via e-mail to letters@alibi.com. They can also be faxed to (505) 256-9651. Letters may be edited for length and clarity, and may be published in any medium; we regret that owing to the volume of correspondence we cannot reply to every letter. Word count limit for letters is 300 words.

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