Our readers talk back.
Fri., June 18, 2004
Forget Mere Facts
The U.S. taxes more corporate income at higher rates than most of the world, but mere facts won't stand in the way of Jim Hightower's class-warfare agenda ["The Hightower Report," June 4].
The U.S. corporate tax rate is 40%, which is one-third higher than the average for developed countries. The U.S. also taxes money corporations make abroad, which most developed countries don't. Then, when overtaxed corporations take advantage of the screwed-up tax code that Hightower and his buddies write for social engineering, they are evil and "shirking their responsibilities to the society that makes their wealth possible."
First off, companies that pay more taxes than they have to are stupid: I'll bet Jim Hightower took all his tax deductions; is he shirking his responsibility as well? High taxes drive corporations overseas; reform the tax code and lower taxes and they'll come back.
Second, Hightower wants corporations to pay more money for a society with more bureaucrats to over-regulate them, more lawyers to sue them, and more politicians to be paid off through lobbyists. Most importantly Hightower wants to take money from the people and companies who earned it and buy the votes of everyone who would rather blame "the rich" than get off their ass and work.
Why don't you replace Hightower's column with a big scrawl, in crayon, that says "Corporations and rich people are bad, Democrats should control everything to take care of you poor little babies." It would be easier to read and more accurately convey his views.
[Jim Hightower responds: Whoa, Robert, save some of that breath for breathing! First, the formal corporate tax rate is 35%, but major corporations use loopholes to cut theirs to an average of less than 15% (according to Citizens for Tax Justice), if they pay at all two-thirds of them paid zero taxes from 1996-2000, for example. Yes, I take the standard tax deductions available to everyone, but I don't hire $600-an-hour lobbyists to gouge new, special loopholes into the law just for me, nor do I reincorporate myself in Bermuda just so I can escape what I owe to pay for America's schools, highways, water systems, parks, libraries, and other essentials of our society.]
Levin Running Positive
I appreciate ACC union leader Mark Goodrich's complimentary statement about my approach to labor issues at ACC ["ACC Run-Off: Levin Defends His Record," News, June 4]. He also referred to my campaign as a "stealth" campaign ["Postmarks," June 11], which I will also take as a compliment.
The focus of my campaign in this nonpartisan race has been on my positive vision for the future of ACC, not on partisanship or on issues like global warming that have no relevance to ACC. More down-to-earth environmental issues should concern ACC, and I have advocated better promotion of recycling on campus.
Perhaps my campaign is "stealth" because of my genuine and long-standing support for affordable higher education. I worked against tuition deregulation and have voiced disapproval of cuts in community college funding made in the last legislative session. While I am a strong advocate of fiscal responsibility and believe that ACC's internal auditor should report directly to the board so the board can verify that taxpayers' money is being spent wisely, I feel strongly that funding of higher education is too important not to be a bipartisan issue.
Finally, I would note that many of the characterizations in the Texas Freedom Network attack on me are either inaccurate, misleading, or taken out of context. For example, I have never advocated racial profiling of Arabs. My article advocated subjecting to greater scrutiny citizens of countries designated by the U.S. State Department as state sponsors of terrorism when they attempt to enter this country.
The Freedom Network was also highly selective, leaving out parts of my record such as my successful free speech lawsuit against the University of Texas with the help of the ACLU and my published articles advocating mandatory rehabilitation, rather than prison time, for some minor, nonviolent drug offenses. Indeed, in the same editorial in which I criticized the Kyoto global warming agreement for completely exempting so-called developing countries like China, I also advocated repeal of the 1872 federal law that allows private companies to mine federal lands for minerals while compensating taxpayers at rates far below market value.
Perhaps it is "stealth" to run a positive campaign focusing on the real issues facing ACC and to contribute independent thought to a wide range of public policy discussions. If so, I am going to continue to fly high above misleading negative attacks on issues irrelevant to ACC.
Marc Levin Marc Levin for ACC Board, Place 6
A Hit-and-Run Piece
To the editor(s),
We just had the chance to read the "After a Fashion" article [May 28] by Stephen MacMillan Moser, and we were quite surprised. It is unfortunate that Mr. Moser did not have a positive first experience in our store. If he would have spent more time actually reviewing the merchandise I'm sure he would have found many unique lines and items that are not currently being offered in Austin (DA-NANG, Capitol Tailors, Cigena, R Jean Blouse, Sacred Blue, etc.).
The day Mr. Moser showed up at our store we were very busy helping several customers. We pride ourselves on our customer service and so far have served over 300 satisfied clients. We also try to give our customers space when it appears that they prefer to shop without interruption (as Mr. Moser appeared that day). Perhaps if he had asked for assistance we would have tried to find something for him in his size.
His "review" of our store seemed more like a hit-and-run piece. To insinuate that we may go out of business by process of natural selection was below the belt (our store is doing very well since our opening April 7). As a locally owned and operated Austin company we're very disappointed by Mr. Moser's lack of professionalism. I expected more from your publication. Perhaps if the Chronicle were to send a more unbiased reporter into our store he or she would do a more professional piece.
Eric Simone, Toni, & Koshla (Owners of Girl Next Door)
Wants to Be Shot in the Dark
It's been a secret dream of mine to be a Shot in the Dark target. I read them diligently every week, smiling. I am touched by people's faith in destiny, perceiving love in a fleeting moment. It's a lovely concept. For, upon the random chance that someone felt that way, had the courage and the know-how to put it in Shot in the Dark, and the other person read it and responded, well, I forgot where I was going with this, but hell, it sure beats meeting someone at a bar. It shows you each have a little faith, at least a little of your heart invested in something beautiful and unknown and true. And you don't have to recognize it right away. Shot in the Dark gives you another chance. In love, you've got to grab those while you can. Destiny does not limit our choices, only what may spring up as a result of those choices.
Peace, Kelly Davis
Every year I look forward to the Chron's Restaurant Poll because it gives me ideas on where I might dine next time I return for a visit. However, for the past decade, there's been a very disturbing entry in the critics' choices: the Ed Ward Memorial Sandwich.
While I don't dispute the excellence of this chicken-and-garlic marvel that Phoenicia makes, I'd like to point out that memorials are almost invariably to the dead, and, while my career may be almost dead due to the difficulty of selling stories from Europe to a U.S. media that's indifferent at best about the place, I, personally, am still alive, as some who attended SXSW this year no doubt noticed.
I'll spare you the gory details, but I'm trying to post them every day at
, in case anyone's interested.
Eat that chicken!
[Virginia B. Wood responds: The intended "memorial" was not for Ward's death, but rather in honor of his tenure as the Food editor here many years ago. We've given the award regularly for years and years. No harm intended.]
Michael King describes some of the dramas and machinations that went into the drafting of this year's Texas Republican Party platform ["The Elephants at Play," News, June 11]. It's a pity the GOP didn't just look to their platform statement from 2000, which included the following gems:
"The Party demands the elimination of presidential authority to issue executive orders, presidential decision directives and other administrative mandates that do not have congressional approval. Further, we demand a repeal of all previous executive orders and administrative mandates.
"A perpetual state of national emergency allows unrestricted growth of government. The Party charges the president to cancel the state of national emergency and charges Congress to repeal the War Powers Act and to declare an end to the previously declared states of emergency.
"The Party believes the president of the United States and all members of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of the federal and state governments shall be held to the same standards of conduct as other law-abiding citizens. We call for the investigation and, if appropriate, prosecution of any and all members of the Clinton [insert your president here] administration that have committed crimes, up to and including possible treason against the United States of America, without respect to the office served."
[Michael King responds: For the record, the planks on "executive orders" and "emergency war powers" remain in the 2004 state GOP platform. The plank on investigating the Clinton administration has been dropped apparently the delegates believe "without respect to the office served" has a partisan exception.]
'Chronicle' Coverage of Hate Crime and Assault Lacking
Usually I commend the Chronicle for its coverage of Austin antics and news thanks for a quality publication. However, I am deeply disappointed by the coverage of the "brawl" involving Jack Culverhouse and several hate-mongers that occurred outside of Emo's ["A Gay-Bashing in the East Sixth 'Dead Zone,'" News, June 11]. Of course it is important to expose and discuss the facts and failings of the Austin Police Department that subject has been plumbed many times in the Chronicle. In this particular instance, though, the issue at hand is not really the police presence what is shocking and sickening is the sexual assault and horrific hate crime that went down in our fair city. First, a woman is violated by a random stranger gloating on his cell phone. When her friend, who happens to be transgendered, is unwilling to stay silent about this unacceptable behavior, the perpetrator makes hateful comments and proceeds to physically assault this person on the basis of his gender presentation. Those were not just some guys "looking for a fight." This is not just one of many incidents involving neglectful police. This entire awful story illustrates the narrow-mindedness, misogyny, and hate that plagues towns even as enlightened as Austin purports to be. Those are the true issues at hand. We citizens of Austin should be saddened and disgusted that such a terrible hate crime could tarnish our own precious Sixth Street, and we should take this opportunity to raise awareness and speak out against sexual assault and hate crimes here and everywhere. If our city refuses to tolerate such despicable behavior, the police presence will follow.
Just Cut Lamar in Half
Is it too easy? Does it make too much sense? Cut Lamar Boulevard in half. Why? Make the other half the Armstrong Expressway. No motorized vehicles allowed except to cross intersections. Some businesses will be harmed; they would have to have special considerations. Many would thrive. European tourists would come from their countries to see where Lance Armstrong developed his stamina, strength, and an unbelievable heart. They could brag to their friends that they rode on it. Pollution would be cut down, obesity would be cut down. Traffic would be cut down to those who wished to pedal it. Doesn't Austin deserve to celebrate Austin's son in a valiant trendsetting way? It would be cooler if it was ..., we just might save a few million, dollars and lives.
Ms. Moser may wish to refresh her arithmetic abilities, or else explain how Katherine de Roet born 1350 died 1403 could have died at age 62, as she asserts in her review of Anya Seton's novel ["Summer Reading," May 28].
David L. Kent
Michael King's article "Testing, Testing, 1 2 3 ..." [News, June 4] came very close to telling the public what has really happened in Texas concerning the TAKS test. However, he, along with the governor and the commissioner of education, has taken the 11th-grade test results this year and compared them to the 11th-grade test results last year. Can anyone explain what statistical significance this comparison of different students in different years shows us? It is like an eighth-grade football team that goes 8-0 and the next year a completely different team goes 4-4 and someone says that the 8-0 team was a better team. This of course is possibly not true as many other variables can come into the picture. Maybe the competition in the 8-0 year was weak and in the 4-4 year it was very strong. At any rate, saying that the 11th grade this year improved 23% is meaningless. If you want to find out how much they improved you would have to go back to the 10th grade and find out what they scored. Using the math test as an example the 10th grade last year had 71% of all students pass when the passing rate was 44.6%. This year the passing rate in the 11th grade was lowered to 40% and the percent passing rose to 79% which the governor announced with "great pride" and our cheerleader education commissioner declared as "awesome."
The 11th-grade passing rates this year were as follows: math 40%; language arts 49%; science 44%; and social studies 40%. For the results of these low standards to be met with comments of "with great pride" and "awesome" shows the name of the game is to look good. Don't do anything to derail the Texas miracle. It is an election year!
Tax Figures Wrong
Dear Mr. Lucadello,
I work in a relatively conservative environment and I got so tired of hearing stupid statements such as "the upper 1 percent pay 70 percent of the taxes in this country." So many right wing and conservatives get these idiotic figures by listening to Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, and other opportunists and liars motivated by personal profit. I'd like to know what mindless boob could possibly listen to Rush or anyone else for three hours every day. One thing that I have deduced is that they are some of the least informed people on political issues around. They get the vast majority of their info (frequently lies) from these sources or Fox News (the self-appointed White House public relations department). I suspect Mr. Lucadello ["Postmarks Online," June 10] that you may be one of these followers from the tone of your letter. I personally got tired of these bullshit tax debates one day so I did something unthinkable. I went to
and lo and behold right there in simple print are the tax breakdowns for the year 2000. This was six months ago and completed figures only went through 2000 at that time. Stats are as follows: Of all federal taxes collected by the IRS, corporate pays 8%. Out of the remainder of individual returns: The wealthiest 1% pay 33% of the total of all individual returns. This was also verified by John Stoessel (a conservative) on the TV show Dateline in January of this year. It's a very far cry from the 70% so I was more than happy to share this info with certain co-workers. Also, one thing to keep in mind Robert is the fact that due to that dumbo president we have now, the upper 1% has had two huge tax breaks since those figures were published. I guarantee that the 33% of their tax burden is a thing of the past and I guarantee you that corporate is not taking up the slack either. We'll find out when the figures for 2001 and 2002 come out. So lay off of Hightower, get your info from published government figures, which they have to do by law. It's right there in plain black and white and very easy to find. These are the reasons that I never listen to talk radio with the exception of NPR. It's just too easy to find the truth out on your own without being lied to.
Allen Cunningham Wimberley
The Imperative of Spewing
To the editor,
Marc Savlov's review of the sci-fi flick The Chronicles of Riddick did its job admirably, up to the jarring point where Savlov decides to take a break to announce his ideological proclivities to the Chronicle's readership ['Film Reviews," June 11].
My instant, explosive hoot sprang not from the fact that this guy actually appears proud of a residual, goose-stepping democrat-socialist pacifism, but that he believes the imperative of spewing his unethical propaganda outweighs the need to adhere to painfully obvious fact.
His sermon: "... perhaps the most daring bit of flimflammery in this bloated-but-enjoyable production [sounds like a self-appraisal of his own prose psychological projection, anyone?] is the (perhaps unconscious) allegorical allusions to the United States' current imperialist mindset toward the globe. The Necromongers' cry of 'join or die' echoes President Bush's 'You're either with us or against us' foreign policy."
Errmm, Mr. Pavlov would do well to extract his head from his last political science professor's rump and sit down on his own to peruse a little recent history. We'll skip the "imperialist" epithet as a comical identifier of this guy's intellectual pedigree (my guess would be: William Greider 101) and move on to his contemptible evasion.
Yes, there's a clear allusion to the contemporary geopolitical situation in Riddick clear enough to make the task of spelling it out to Savlov immediately evocative of teaching a cat to fetch: The idiot will just stare at your finger.
"Hmmm, lemme see here ... the film's protagonist is pitted against a rampaging, fanatical cult of religious nihilists whose credo is 'believe or die.'
"Errrmm, contemporary politics ... Hmmm, think, think ...
"Oh, gotta be the imperialist Americans. Yeah, that's it."
The more I contemplate the semicoherent mental sputum of the residual and clueless American left, the more I'm drawn to archeology for descriptive imagery:
Feed a tar pit, nudge a dinosaur.
Here's wishing Mr. Pavlov a speedy(?) evolution.
I hate to sound like a hair-splitting, snobbish European, but in your short article on Serge Gainsbourg ("I've Come to Tell You I'm Going: Serge Gainsbourg and the French Pop Experience," Other Screenings, June 11) you spelled the title of the French national anthem as "La Marselleis." This will probably horrify French nationals and all francophones. The actual spelling of the anthem is "La Marseillaise." To those readers who think this is not really a big deal, try to imagine traveling or living in France, opening a magazine, and reading that the U.S. national anthem is something like "The Stark-Strangled Bummer."