Black a Lackey
Dear Mr. Black:
I am enclosing a copy of Proposition 1, the campaign finance reform amendment, since you keep getting it wrong. You assert that groups like Priorities First! can still accept contributions of $40,000 from developers like Bill Pohl. You are exactly $39,900 too high. Please see Subsection (1) Contribution Limits for Non-Candidate Political Committees.
One hundred dollars is the new contribution limit to PACs like Priorities First! It's an easy number to remember. You owe it to your readers to correct the error, especially since you rue "the loss of intelligent and honest political discussion." I realize it makes your criticism of Linda Curtis a little less potent.
The Linda Curtis I worked with on Proposition 1 is a dreamer and a schemer. She is not cowed by tradition or intimidated by power. She finds her grassroots battle for power and representation in all political issues and she's usually right. She embraces the conflict and does not stop in vanity to worry how her actions may be criticized. Linda should be judged on her successes and failures, not on her style.
Nothing satisfies the ruling class and its lackeys more than a complacent population. Grab your speculem and stir it up, Linda. It's not divisiveness they are scared of, it's the "risk" of democracy.
Out in Front
Both of the major U.S. political parties, designed, as they are, as influence-peddlers rather than as genuine forums for people's concerns, pander shamelessly, unapologetically, to the big money. Republicans, supposedly in the name of freedom, are eager to simply hand over the entire public trust to the fastest money scheme they can find, let the cow-chips fall where they may.
Democrats are merely holding out for a few more government jobs for their next of kin, it seems (promoting regulatory agencies designed and controlled by the regulated industries themselves), while offering pale appeasement programs that confuse and divide progressive activists, and soothe and distract well-intentioned, rightfully concerned citizens into blind trust and apathy. (My apologies to individual democrats and republicans, whom I tend to respect much more than their parties.)
Fortunately for America, there seems to be a new independent politics on the rise recently, and it's beginning to become clear that open-minded progressives and responsible populists can come together outside of the false left-right dichotomies brewed up by the, oppositional by nature, two major parties. There is common ground on key questions like political accountability, genuine democracy, personal rights and freedoms; but also, more recently, on such promising areas as corporate accountability, consumer and community rights and values, and support strategies for sustainable local economies.
People like Linda Curtis, willing to cross party lines and even traditional left-right divides to champion increased citizen participation, political reform, genuine democratic process and creative open dialogue, should be applauded and encouraged. If she has an abrasive or confrontational style, this would be cause for constructive criticism (thanks Audrey Duff ["Inside Agitator," Vol.17, No.15]), not character assault and condemnation (some friendly advice, Mr. Black ["Page Two, same issue]).
Neither left nor right but out in front. That's an old German Green Party slogan that they've never lived up to by not letting go of their self-pride in the left nor their prejudice of the right. Can Austin progressives do better and try to work with Texas Populists towards a common high ground?
Are we ready for our date with destiny and an opportunity to be the vanguard of a new independent American grassroots politics?
Ready or Not...!
To Display Advertisements Editor:
I am a Chronicle-reading regular. I think you guys are great! Lately, I have been a little disappointed. Though your advertisements are from locals around and in the Austin area, things have slowly turned for the worse. What's up with these huge, full-page advertisements from Camel -- or Kamel? -- tobacco advertisements?
Give me a break, because my intelligence is not only being tested but insulted! There have been full page ads for the past four weeks: pg.33, Dec.12; pg.7, Dec.5, pg.85, Nov.28; pg.29, Nov.21. As many corporate advertisements go, there are a few ads (i.e. pg.33 in Dec. 12th issue and pg.85 in Nov.28th issue) with lame, waif, un-womanly women.
Besides this, my main dispute with the Chronicle over these ads is that Camel (or Kamel) has systematically manipulated mainstream culture to believe smoking is cool, safe, fun, and easy. The easy part is true if you are wealthy enough to support such a drug addiction.
This is not an issue of smoking, I smoke tobacco, but it's a matter of corporate manipulation and the Chronicle is taking part. Please, is this the preliminaries to selling-out the men and women of The Austin Chronicle? At least advertise a better tobacco (i.e. Drum, Winston). But no tobacco company is worthy of a full-page ad in the Chronicle. I will continue to send warm fuzzies out to you guys, but I would appreciate a change.
I have three short responses to three letters published Nov.28 ["Postmarks," Vol.17, No.13].
1) To Paul Wilson: Your mouth needs a good soap washing, and some respect for others with whom you disagree is definetely in order perhaps?
2) To Kristina Schneider: You called Michael Bertin an idiot because you disagreed with him. Is it possible you recognize an idiot when you see one, or is it just reserved for music critics who exercise their rights to express their opinions?
3) To Christina Cogdell: If as a swimmer you knew a certain part of the lake was treacherous (seaweed, undercurrents, heavy boating, etc.), would you swim there, or avoid it? Unless or until the Lamar bridge is renovated, you choose to risk your safety and that of your dog when crossing it?
KOOP Open & Democratic
As KOOP Board of Trustees members we are working hard to secure the funding and structure to carry out our mission to provide space and voice for the underserved. We realize in order to represent and serve the voiceless we need increased funding and structure, while avoiding the problems that often wreck other progressive organizations. It is the board's legal as well as moral responsibility to professionally develop procedures will enhance communities' ability to access KOOP, thus contributing to our survivability. We understand that this may be frustrating to some groups who are used to privilege and assume there will always be money, that tomorrow will bring another oportunity if today is lost. However, for the majority of us in Austin, KOOP is the only opportunity for a proactive access to media.
It also is up to the Board to insure that all voices at KOOP are heard, including those that feel overwhelmed by the violence of the voices of a few. Nor can we limit our view of communities to the traditional concept of liberal versus conservative. Eack of us have voices unheard in our communitites; of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, class, and other identities.
The board is developing plans that will increase discourse over divisions and to welcome the voices not yet heard at KOOP. To those who say they are excluded we ask that you actually listen to our very diverse programming schedule. You will be surprised at how often you are included, when you don't limit yourself to rigid concepts of race, gender, and class. For example, we're delighted to know that when gays and women developed programs that provided a safe space to speak for their communities without limitation, they picked up a very large and enthusiastic audience of heterosexual males.
KOOP is an open democratic cooperative always ready to listen to those willing to work to promote a voice for the underserved in Austin.
Throwing Down With Cap Met
The Cap Metro Board of Directors has just done a severe disservice to the citizens of the Greater Austin area. They have fired the most competent manager the agency has ever had. It is a slap in the face particularly to the African-American community because Justin Augustine is a highly intelligent and competent man whose only fault is that his subordinates didn't keep him informed of actual conditions. The Metro board must apologize to the people in the Metro service area for its foolish and foolhardy actions. Its action smells to high heaven of political intrigue and games-playing. The effect is devasting to the communities in the Cap Metro service area.
I challenge each elected official on the board to report publicly what has happened in their respective jurisdictions for the last six months. They have until January 1, 1998 to present this information to the public. Failure to do so will show their incompetence and lack of accountability.
Don't Attack Coop
Re: "Postmarks" letter from Augusta First in the Chronicle Vol. 17, No. 13, in which First expressed her negative impression of the Cinemaker Coop's super 8 film festival, "Attack of the 50-Foot Reel." As a Coop member, I am genuinely sorry that there was not a formal apology about the show's delay, but her other comments strike me as spiteful and inaccurate. For instance, I have looked at the program several times, and still I cannot (without being creatively paranoid) find any films listed with "higher honors" than others. Her accusations that the Coop is cliquish and nepotistic I also find to be unfounded. I passionately believe that the Austin Cinemaker Coop is a great resource for new local filmmakers. I am 25 years old, and for far too many years, I have unproductively yearned for the time when I would start making movies. Since I joined the Coop three months ago, I have made two short films, I have been asked to co-direct a feature, I have met many wonderful people and filmmakers, and have gained a great amount of knowledge and inspiration from Barna Kantor, one of the Coop founders. To all of you who attended "Attack...," I truly thank you for showing your support. You were part of the second audience that has ever viewed a film of mine, and that is more exciting than I can say. I know that Mr. Kantor and everyone at the Coop will work to make every Coop event a delightful experience. We're more than grateful for a good audience, and we aim to please.
Right On, "Augusta"
I would like to give a hearty "Right on!" to Augusta First for her letter to the Editor ("Film Flop," Vol.17, No.13) regarding the conduct of the Austin Cinemaker Coop.
My wife and I are professionals who engage in Lo-Fi filmmaking as a "serious hobby." We heard about the Coop after moving to Austin from the Northwest and attended one of their meetings before deciding if we wanted to become members. Our complaints with their organization were so similar to Ms. First's. The meeting started late, was poorly organized, and was dominated by Mr. Kantor and Ms. DeForest (the founding "members"). The experience left us wondering if they realize that the term "Coop" is derived from "cooperative." Needless to say, we did not fork up the 20 bucks each for a membership and have steered clear from anything with the Coop name on it. Reading Ms. First's letter only solidified this decision for us. Since that time we have had two Super 8 shorts admitted to festivals on the East and West coasts and chose to spend our limited free time making films instead of wasting it on immaturely managed "club meetings."
My guess is that there are others out there who've had similar negative experience. In the future I hope that Austinites will have an organization whose sole purpose is to encourage creativity and a sense of community amoung Lo-Fi filmmakers.
Thank you for the opportunity to share this with others.
To the Editor:
"Austin deserves better," writes "Augusta First" in last week's "Postmarks" [Vol.17, No.13] regarding the latest showcase from the Austin Cinemaker Coop. We regret we did not meet Augusta's expectations. In our defense, let us explain that we were working with a new location, a larger audience, and a longer program. We received more entries than ever before; unfortunately, some of them were delivered at the last minute, and we decided to include them. Perhaps we made a bad judgment call, but we did not want to disappoint the filmmakers. The many people with whom we talked after the show not only enjoyed the program, but went home inspired to pick up a super 8 camera.
That Augusta would focus solely on our mistakes (admittedly they were big ones) and take the opportunity to paint us as a cliquish, exclusive club seems calculated and malicious. Our phone number was on every piece of publicity that went out. Augusta, why didn't you call us to express your frustrations?
In one year, since our inception, the Cinemaker Coop has co-sponsored and held numerous screenings (featuring mostly small-gauge, local work), taught and hosted workshops (including visiting super 8 expert Toni Treadway), and held regular monthly meetings to bring together a growing community of "low-fi" and beginning filmmakers. All of this is done by sheer volunteer effort; every dime we earn goes directly into the Coop; to present all of the above and to purchase quality equipment, which we rent to the public and to UT-RTF students at affordable rates. As a result, together with other local film groups, we are nurturing a community for small format film that is very unique in the U.S. Despite the screw-ups at our recent screening, the Cinemaker Coop remains a competent and inclusive organization. We cordially invite you to attend one of our meetings.
Austin Cinemaker Coop
The Federal Nature
Dear Austin Chronicle:
Those of us who love Central Texas understand that clean air, clean water, abundant wildlife, and vegetation play vital roles in creating the unique quality of life we enjoy. But many in Congress do not share our concern. One republican member has gone so far as to describe the Environmental Protection Agency as the "Gestapo" of America. I believe only a strong, negative reaction against the republican's anti-environmental legislation has forced them to move more slowly and subtly, but it certainly has not caused them to stop.
The appropriations measure funding in the Department of the Interior contains a number of anti-environmental provisions, including the weakening of the ban on log exports from our national forests, which makes the program now dependent on the "voluntary compliance of exporters." In addition, the bill siphons off vital Land and Water Conservation Fund monies for purposes other than land acquisition and prohibits the Forest Service from updating any of their current forest management plans. Recent "reform" legislation only increased the fees for grazing on public lands a paltry 1/5 of the amount that would be required to bring these fees into parity with those charged on private lands. In addition to preserving this corporate giveaway, the bill actually increased the amount of grazing that may be done on these lands.
Over my strong objection, the leadership also won House approval of a plan to dump nuclear waste in Texas. I succeeded in securing adoption of an amendment that will limit the potential size of this dump but continue to oppose its placement in our state. And finally, led by Sen. Gramm in the Senate, there are those who are attempting to repeal the new EPA standard for clean air. These standards are reasonable and flexible and must be allowed to take effect if we are to protect air quality for future generations.
The powerful special interests who stand to gain from the depletion of our resources continue to influence the legislation affecting the environment in this Congress. Sustained resistance by Congress can combat the efforts of large timber companies, polluters, and mining companies. Please be assured that I will maintain my long-standing commitment to the protection of our natural resources. In the meantime, I welcome your continued input and stand ready to assist in matters of a federal nature.
Blues Artist Blues
The articles by Andy Langer on touring musicians of Austin and Davis McLarty ["For Whom the Road Tolls," "Working for a Living," Vol.17, No.14] were outstanding. My drumming career on the Austin scene began around 1975 at age 15, eventually as a founding member of Third Degree, later recording and performing with Don Walser and Gary P. Nunn. In 1994 I moved to Marble Falls and founded Delzhaus Productions and organized my own blues rock act, The Gary Delz Power Trio. Since then, I've built a roster of clients across the Hill Country, and my band recorded and released a debut CD, so I certainly understand McClarty's difficulties, as it takes long hours to make it work. Airplay for Austin artists is a real problem as well, except on the Fredericksburg station KFAN, where Austin artists are played constantly (without having to beg or giveaway trips to Vail). I recently took time to package a complimentary CD and press release for Austin's "big paper" on the release of our CD. After hearing nothing since August, I made six calls before the editor's office replied. The editor assigned to my release then put three lines in their music rag stating "since I had called at least 100 times and was not going to quit, we had released a CD," one example of the smart-assed crap we go through just to receive print. (Last time I checked, I thought that was their job.) The subject of low wages to Austin-based acts is also something that hits home with me. I don't understand how venues charging $2-15 covers and selling $2.75 longnecks all night can tell you they just can't pay you any decent wages. The entire music community suffers, venues, agents, acts, fans, stations, and media when these happen. Time changes everything, hopefully again... soon.
Yeah, thanks to Andy Langer for his story about touring. It really brought back some great memories from our tour last summer that brought us down to Austin: the plethora of unreturned calls and wasted postage in setting up the tour, the overheating car, the two people at our show in Dallas, the all-night No Doz-fueled drives, the $20 gig in Kansas City, the unairconditioned sweatbox we played at in Wichita, the asshole soundguy in Chicago who cut our set off halfway through, the absolute idiots at U-Haul who gave us the wrong trailer twice, and of course the enormous credit card bill awaiting when we returned to Minnesota. All of this while most of us were using "vacation" time from our day jobs and worming our way out of previous commitments for 9 lousy days on the road. You've really got to have a sick, masochistic streak to be an unsigned band hitting the road without even so much as a booking agent helping you out, much less a major label and/or a manager. Who on earth would turn down $200 a night? I don't think we made that much the whole tour! On the plus side, though, were our great friends and fans in Austin (and a couple other places) and a super nice bar owner in St. Louis who couldn't pay us much but sent us back to our motel with a "variety pack" of 30 or so bottles of imported beer. So, I guess we'll be hitting the road again next year, just as soon as we're ready to take on some more humiliating, thankless punishment.
Dan Israel (and the Cultivators)
Your article on touring problems and difficulties ["For Whom the Road Tolls," Vol.17, No.14] was interesting. I'm your basic living room spud guitarist that has been following the local scene since the early Seventies.
The biggest problem with local bands not making it is they simply aren't very good, especially electric rock/alt bands.
You've got to have three killer elements -- good tunes, good instrumental, and good singing. Economics, business, and radio is secondary (I may be too idealistic here).
Most Austin electric bands are nothing more than what we would call garage bands back in the early 70s. The few good ones like Vallejo and Ian Moore are great instrumentally but they sound too much like other big acts.
When Austin electric guys start playing and writing at the same level of competency as Sheryl Crow, Los Lobos, Phish, Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors, and older ones like Bob Dylan, The Band, Greatful Dead, Dire Straits or the Stones, then maybe they have a chance.
I just don't see any local electric bands with tunes and guitar playing in this caliber. If Escovedo is your idea of state of the art locally -- I'm sorry, I just don't get it. I'll stick with local stuff like Threadgill's troubadours, Nortons, Tish H., Toni Price, Don Walser, Meat Purveyors, Lounge Lizards, Fire Ants, etc. Keep an eye on Ana Egge. She's got the tunes, voice, and instrumental talent -- if she gets a hot band behind her like Sheryl Crow or Mary Chapin Carpenter -- she could be a local that can become big. She's young and has plenty of time to choose which way to go.
A sloppy guitarist and music lover,
Eye on the Assassins
"Military Hospitality: Austinites Warmly Received at School of the Assassins" [Vol.17, No.14] was welcome coverage of Austin activists taking part in the largest act of civil disobedience of 1997.
Chronicle readers might have been more interested to read more about the actual demonstration than the sanitized and protester-friendly "field trip" the army clearly ordered their PR flak to give us. It's not news that his job is to paint a smiley face on a national disgrace. (If the SOA were really a "bastion of democracy," it wouldn't have gone to such great lengths to arrest some harmless protesters.) When 2,000 people spend long hours and their hard-earned money on the road away from family, work and school -- and 601 of them get arrested risking their necks for democracy by peacefully assembling and exercising free speech -- now that's news! Activists deserve more ink in a progressive publication than the military mouthpieces of the world. After all, we can read Pentagon press releases in the daily rag.
Furthermore, the heinous acts of SOA graduates are well-documented, not alleged. The United Nations Truth Commission in El Salvador documented that the victims -- 900 in El Mozote, eight Jesuits and housekeepers, four church women, and Archbishop Romero -- were all killed by SOA-trained army personnel (not death squads). While Hugo Banzer may have been elected democratically this time, he should be aging in jail for his past crimes as Bolivia's brutal dictator. Ask Fr. Roy, leader of SOA Watch, who got deported during Banzer's reign of terror.
So why aren't more Texans, who live in a state so connected to Latin America, protesting this human rights atrocity factory? Outraged taxpayers can join the campaign to close the school by viewing the SOA Watch website, http://www.soaw.org, and by calling 512/474-5677 in Austin.
Andy "Shut It Down" McKenna
To the Editor:
Regarding Mr. Hendryx's letter about city clearance of trees from power lines ["Postmarks," Vol.17, No.14], as a member and chairman of the city's Urban Forestry Board for seven years, I would like to respond to some of his questions and comments.
First, I believe that Mr. Hendryx is totally correct when he describes the city's current line clearance practices as "over-reacting to a past event."
The city's current level of line clearance is radically severe in comparison to that which ocurred prior to September 1995 -- the month in which the city experienced what was described as a "30 year tornadic storm." This gave the utility the excuse it needed to perform the kind of clearance they had wanted to perform for years, but had been prevented from doing so by those of us who advised them on proper arboriculture.
Utility spokespersons, nice as they are, have said thay they have not changed their policy, but are merely adhering more strictly to existing policy. Regardless, the end result is the same: instead of "tunneling through" tree canopies, leaving much of the overhanging branches, now, anything overhanging the wires, or that has the potential to fall on the wires, is removed. While this certainly reduces outages, many residents are outraged by the disfigured, health-stressed trees that result.
According to the Electric Dept.'s own figures, approximately half of all outages in 1995 were from trees. In 1996, tree-related outages were reduced to one third. Also at about this time, the Dept.'s line clearance budget was doubled (for the second time in about five years) from $3.2 million to $6.4 million. So they spent double the money, but did not cut the so-called "problem" in half, only reducing it from one-half to one-third.
There are ways for citizens opposed to EUD's current tree-cutting policies to voice their concern. One is to write letters of complaint and mail them to council and the Urban Forestry Board (c/o the city, P.O. Box 1088, 78767). Another way is to visit city council meetings as well as meetings of the UFB and the Electric Utility Commission in person and voice your opinion. I recommend that you ask each of these entities to direct the Electric Dept. to revert to their previous clearance levels. In today's atmosphere of "utility deregulation," good luck.
But How Was the Acting?
Last Sunday night, the 23rd of November, I experienced true evil. I went to a play with no preconceived notions other than that it was allegedly religious, its name is "The Current Darkness."
The play is said to be about the "Forces of Darkness" attempting to take over a small town. It has a deeper message that can only be described as pure evil.
I don't mean this to be a review of the play, If one wants to go see its full four hour length and dive into its ankle depth then please go. It's free and worth every bit as much as one pays for it.
We all remember the scapegoating, stereotyping, debasement, and murder that Jews have suffered. Well now. New-Agers, Universalists, Buddhists, meditators, and homosexuals, line up, 'cause here comes the Christian Right. If you are any of the above, you are on their hit list. No "Christian" mercy, none of that silly "Forgiveness," just blood and guts and nooses. The play's bad guy is Old Scratch himself, fronted by a company called The Universal Consciousness Organization, run by a demon and several sympathizers, one of which (a woman) teaches high school kids demonic concepts such as "try to be at peace" or "meditation can be positive." According to the playwright everyone that has not sold their souls to Jesus in exchange for whatever the market will bear is demonic! This play is spiritual pornography, hardcore `My-way-or-no-way' stuff. It is no sweet Christmas pageant. As I once read in the Chronicle (loosely interpreted) it's hard to even think about the Christian right. One, you simply must because I guarantee that they're thinking about you. They are one of the true evils in the world.
And Then There Was...
Since Mr. Black has failed to make any coherent arguments against campaign finance reform, I thought I'd give him a hand.
An unintended consequence of campaign finance reform is the death of the Gentlemen's Agreement. The Agreement was, after all, among big campaign contributors not to fund Anglo candidates for two of the city council seats. Now these big contributors have no such control.
Single-member districts will not preserve fair minority representation either, due to the spreading out of minority voters across Austin.
If we want to continue this quaint tradition of minority representation, we're going to have to switch to proportional representation.
Unlimited choice voting (aka preference voting) would give minority voters a true opportunity to elect their representatives.
Under unlimited choice voting, you rank the candidates according to your preference. Your vote goes originally to your first choice. If your first choice is eliminated, your vote goes to your second choice, and so on. A candidate needs only a certain fraction of the total vote to get elected. Those who voted for a winning candidate split up her/his excess votes to give to their next choices. The candidates with the fewest votes are eliminated one by one until all the seats are filled.
Thus, for example, several African-American candidates could compete to represent the African-American community. Similarly, lesbians, gays, bicycle commuters, and more women could be elected.
It's time for true community representation. It's time for unlimited choice voting.
To the Editor:
Judging from his appearances at out-of-state candidate forums, Governor George W. Bush, Jr. believes he has the leadership qualities to contend for the Presidency in the year 2000. If that is the case, why hasn't the Governor taken a leadership position on an issue of critical importance to the health and safety of Texans for generations to come -- the site selection process for a radioactive waste dump? In his public statements the governor distances himself from the decisionmaking process. Using former Governor Richards and the Texas legislature as political cover for his approval of the Sierra Blanca site may be smart politics, to me it demonstrates an absence of leadership.
Other opponents of the Sierra Blanca site have voiced their concerns about the technical issues which make it unacceptable for a shallow pit, radioactive waste repository. Those private citizens most engaged in the TNRCC hearing process feel that the hearings are a pro forma exercise and that the decision to go ahead with licensing has been taken behind closed doors at the highest levels of state government in consultation with shills for the nuclear power industry. Why else would the TNRCC exclude a 1983 engineering report which found Sierra Blanca unacceptable? And why hasn't the TNRCC committioned a transportation safety study to inform the public and itself of the risks entailed in shipping radioactive waste across Texas? Why hasn't the governor insisted that such a study be done?
Once the Sierra Blanca dump is liscensed, radioactive waste, including plutonium-contaminated components of decommissioned nuclear reactors, will begin moving across the breadth of Texas. Given the incidence of hazardous materials spills on the State's highways and railways, a nuclear spill with the possible dispersal of plutonium is inevitable. The transportation safety experts cannot tell us where or when an incident will occur, they can only tell us how frequent such incidents will be with some statistical accuracy.
Any Texan who thinks putting a radioactive waste dump in Sierra Blanca is okay ought to call his county commissioners and ask them what preparations they have made to contend with a radioactive waste spill in their jurisdiction. do they have the special personnel, equipment and training? Then call the local hospitals and ask them the same question. If dissatisfied with the responses, one ought to call the TNRCC at 1-800-687-4040 and demand that transportation safety issues be included in the hearing process. Then call the governor's office and ask why he isn't proactively engaged in this issue for the protection of those whose votes he now solicits.
I read with alarm Bill Toney's ("Postmarks," Vol.17, No.13) editorial proposal for a Universal Identification card. Such a card is offensive to me as someone who would follow Christ (and thus is leary of anything resembling the mark of the Beast), and as a lover of true liberty, which we seemed to have lost in this nation. For those who are unfamiliar with the term "mark of the Beast," it is a Biblical reference found in the book of Revelation to a mark of allegiance to a global dictator, the Antichrist, without which you will be unable to buy or sell, i.e. conduct the necessary economic activity needed to acquire food, clothing, and shelter. Think about all the permits you need now just to be able to conduct economic activity. You need look no farther than your own bank account. Try to conduct business without a bank account. Try to avoid giving out your Social Security number on a credit application, employment application, or even an application for a driver's license. You will rapidly see how difficult it is to do things and I can guarantee that you will see that you are all tied together more closely to the powerful State than any of our freedom-loving ancestors ever envisioned. And for those of you who think that a Universal ID is such a great idea, consider this: Every time you give out this info, whether it's a photo, digital signature, registration number for a piece of equipment, fingerprint, blood sample, drug or urine test, it means it's in somebody else's database, and that info can be used for all kinds of mischief. If our government or corporate America ever succeeds in building a cashless society, one where all financial and medical data is tied up in one big database where the right government official can decide on the basis of information in your file that you are a dissident/in-valid and are therefore to be denied credit, access to your finances, or access to medical care, you are effectively enslaved. Those of you who have had credit problems in the past can surely relate to what I am talking about. I urge all Austinites to actively oppose such mandatory forms of identification, because they are not really about allowing trade to occur more freely, they are about controlling the types of transactions that can occur, allowing Big Brother to track you more easily, and giving powerful institutions the ability to control your lives. For the doubters among you, I urge you to contact the U.S. Postal Service and ask them about their plans to issue national ID cards, and also read the Wall Street Journal article about Texas Congressman Lamar Smith's proposal of a chip implanted in the hand for identification (November 1995 [year plus or minus one?] issue of the Journal). And check out the Net at some of the privacy sites to get more info.
Wooley in Dark Ages
I am compelled to respond to George Wooley's letter to "Postmarks" (Vol.17, No. 13). What planet is this guy talking about? The reason that such a large number of people live within 100 miles of the coast is because the interiors of many continents are predominantly barren wastelands (Africa and Australia, for example). There may be more trees in the world now; quantity is not quality. Saplings do not replace old-growth forests that are being hacked down, and the trees that are being planted are usually pines which will be harvested within 20 years.
I do agree that places like Somalia and Bangladesh have food distribution problems. But if those countries had smaller populations to distribute to, it would be a more manageable problem. And if you think that cities like London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and New York have no starving people, you haven't looked under any bridges or in any alley dumpsters lately. You haven't been down by Town Lake, or on the Drag, where vagrants panhandle every few yards.
People are the greatest resource on this planet because we have the ability to work to solve our problems. We should work toward educating our youth so that abortion is less necessary, not more dangerous. People who support the right of every woman to choose are not pro-abortion. We support every woman's right to choose to either have a healthy, wanted child, or to have an abortion. Organizations like Mr. Wooley's seek to keep women in the dark ages and in the back alleys. As the 25th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade approaches, we have come upon a generation of people who do not remember the devastation of illegal abortion. Anti-choice groups would have those times revisited. Stand up for your right to chose. Keep abortion safe and legal.
Heads and Hearts
Thank you for printing letters from those of us who are diametrically opposed to your general world-view. This shows courage and integrity on your part, which are words not usually associated with liberals.
My previous letter in "Postmarks" sparked a criticism of my facts as well as the expected ad hominem attack from the small-minded. Ignoring the spittle flung at me personally, let me address the issue that was questioned.
The reason none of us has ever seen anyone starving in America is because it just doesn't occur unless it's done on purpose (like bulemia or willful neglect). I have spent years working in social services, finding jobs and counseling the unemployed at a state agency which distributes food stamps, and I have spent months as a volunteer at H.O.B.O. I never once saw a person who was starving. There are plenty of helpful resources available to the needy.
Reiterating my previous letter, according to the experts, (like von Mises), there is no food shortage or over-population problem nor is there any predicted in the forseeable future. Therefore, these are not valid reasons to justify murdering our children by abortions.
Does anyone see the hypocrisy in Travis County declaring itself a no-kill zone for unwanted animals, yet the same county and city officials making this pronouncement have voted to use your tax dollars to kill preborn babies as a matter of local government policy? These same thick-headed and hard-hearted bureacrats insist on every parent's right to choice when deciding to kill our kids but refuse citizens the choice to even remain unannexed. Let us practice random acts of kindness and senseless beauty. Save a baby from a horrible death in an abortuary and vote these soulless hypocrites out of office!
Gore's Hot Air
To the Editor:
Al Gore's hot air contributes to global warming. He talks from both sides of his mouth. His one liners are perfect sound bytes: "I have instructed our delegation to show increased negotiating flexibility...." Sighs of relief turn to groans as he adds, "...as long as basic principles of the U.S. position are preserved."
What exactly are these "basic principals?" Is the Clinton Administration working to protect the profits of coal-based industries over the health of Americans? Many concerns are raised. "What about jobs?" In Energy Unbound, Amory and Hunter Lovins compare the number of jobs created by spending one million dollars on the petroleum industry versus energy efficiency. The petroleum industry provides 10 jobs whereas energy efficient alternatives creates 50.
Gore believes very strongly that "our proposal is environmentally better that all of the other proposals." He must be a mathematician. The European community called for 2010 emissions to be 15% below 1990's emissions. Therefore, the Clinton administration's proposal is 15% weaker than that of the European community. Austinites, let Congress know that they must ratify the proposed 7% reductions in emissions. We obviously can't depend on governments to clear the air. We must change our habits. If everyone in America used compact flourescents, the energy saved would be equivalent to all the nuclear energy output in the country. The bulbs are more expensive, but you end up saving a lot of money in the long run. While politicians blow hot air, we'll take real actions.
Save the Waitresses
Dear UT Students and Austin Employees,
Well, Mayor Watson and Professor Spelman thought you needed a place to stay. They voted for affordable apartments, but the others killed this "movement" again.
Who needs affordable apartments? How about the salespeople at Sears and JC Pennys? How about the over 500 people who were laid off from Power Computing this week? Daily Texan December 10 issue reported that UT has experienced a 400% raise in fees, so how are these middle class parents supposed to pay for "luxury college," "luxury apartments," and "luxury Christmas gifts" when they are middle class? I have seen students who work as waitresses in Austin, about 40 hours week, after IRS grabs their "imagined" tips, resulting in weekly paychecks under $50. Shocking. Immoral. Mrs. Griffith and Mr. Slusher, at Christmas one is supposed to care about the "less rich." Your behavior is callous. Please care.