Thursday, March 12, 5:57pm: I reach Star Tickets at Eighth and Brazos in a last-ditch effort to snag a $60 SXSW wristband, only to find a human snake extending infinitely toward the misty, gray horizon. 6:07pm: Still in denial about my abject hopelessness, I try to comprehend the market forces that have put me in this inconvenient situation. Clearly, a conspiracy is afoot. Once my initial anger subsides, my mood turns to self-loathing for being such a f!#$ing idiot and waiting till the last minute. 6:15pm: As those at the front of the line filter their way back - new wristbands in hand - word spreads that SXSW organizers will release an extra 100 bands. The prayers begin. 6:21pm: In a display of capitalism in its purest form, the first scalper makes his way to the end of the line, offering bands for $80. Considering the weather and the grim prospect of ever getting to the ticket window, several would-be SXSW-goers eagerly accept his offer. 6:37pm: The crowd grows quiet as an official-looking guy with a walkie-talkie and a SXSW shirt approaches. Gazing earnestly toward the end of the line, he mutters something into his radio and disappears. We interpret this to be a good sign. 6:51pm: Feeling as though the worst is over, hope spreads through the crowd as we join hands and break into a chorus of "Kumbaya." The mood turns giddy as the spirited singing metamorphoses into a medley of 101X hits culminating in Marcy Playground's "Sex and Candy." 6:53pm: A stretch limo glides past the crowd. A tinted window lowers to reveal Austin's own Matthew McConaughey. In his own inimitable style, the "mayor of all good times" offers a thumbs-up and encourages his many fans in the crowd to "jus' keep livin', baby." The crowd roars its approval as the limo disappears into the darkness. 6:57pm: The official-looking guy returns, announcing that all wristbands are sold. 7:00pm: Back in the car, warm and dry, I conclude that there's nothing like waiting in line on a cold, dreary night to make me question the true value of SXSW. $60? $95? As a music fan, I know that for five nights of non-stop live music, the correct answer is: priceless.
The System Is Broken
To The Austin Chronicle,
Your "don't know, don't care" lack of endorsement for the Third Court of Appeals in your last issue is not just embarrassing - it is a red-flag waving high that illustrates how ill-conceived our judicial selection is in Texas. It's not much of a stretch to assume that an open election process depends upon an informed electorate (as opposed to an appointment process), yet the flippant attitude of the Chronicle regarding the Third Court of Appeals flies in the face of this premise. Not only are the voters ignorant of who's running, but the press, the would-be progressive press at that, is ignorant as well. Okay, there's a lot to keep up with, but we're not talking about some two-bit judicial position here - the appellate court for this district will be the final word on 90% of all court cases in this area. The next stop is the Texas Supreme Court and your chances of making it there are slim. Let's stop pretending that we're populists when it comes to selecting appellate judges in Texas - if the press is ignorant and apathetic, just think of the state of the everyday voter who spends most of their time making a living doing something else besides following politics. Let's let the insiders make the decisions - we're obviously not up for it.
John H. Duncan
Iraq Is Guilty, Too
With all due respect and gratitude for the information provided by Michael Ventura in his column "Collateral Damage," [Vol.17, No.26] I would like to point out that Iraq did invade Kuwait in 1991 and commit many atrocities, not only on civilian populations, but even on zoo animals and all the life of the Persian Gulf. Further, while we were guilty of selling the weapons to Saddam, he was guilty of buying them. And it has been revealed that many in Iraq are now profiting greatly from the sanctions which cause such hardship to their countrymen, and which might cause significantly less were they not to grub for this money. There's enough evil to go around, Michael, which is sometimes why our government does not and cannot act in a perfectly moral manner.
Over the years I've come to look forward to reading your spirited publication. You have aged well, managing to keep your editorial and graphic edge. Must mention that the first thing I turn to each issue is "Page Two" (not always on page two) by Louis Black. It often captures the soul and heartbeat of your paper. Although many a mile separates us I have long felt a camaraderie with your community thanks to "Page Two." Sometimes it is braggadocio in nature (sometimes deservedly so). Often it is historical and informative. Best of all, it is never dull or pompous, something that cannot always be said concerning most editor's soapboxes. Keep up the good work, Louis. It is appreciated.
Dennis Metrano, Publisher
The Port Planet
There must be a typo in last week's "Council Watch" column [Vol.17, No.26]. The sentence that says Austin "lacks the public transportation necessary to make a truly dense downtown workable, and parking in the area is already at a premium" makes no sense. High population density puts lots of people within walking distance of lots of destinations, reducing the need for any kind of vehicle transportation, especially personal vehicles, which frees up downtown parking for more productive uses. Also, parking is nowhere near a premium; the state, county, and city provide acres upon acres of free or practically free parking for all their employees and visitors, removing a huge chunk of valuable downtown real estate from the tax base and diverting the area's natural, original customer base away from downtown businesses. That sentence should read, "Austin lacks the public transportation necessary to sustain a central business district within our current pattern of low-density sprawl, and cheap downtown parking perpetuates the problem, but in a truly dense downtown, no one would need a car."
Doing the Superior Ride
As a dedicated "car basher," I feel compelled to reveal the fallacy of Mr. Wall's attack on public transportation in our city ["Postmarks," Vol.17, No.27]. He states that automobile drivers are not subsidized by tax money. One local example suffices to show that his reasoning is far from sound.
In our most recent bond issue election there were two questions which concerned spending millions of tax dollars to construct highways. One of these was about SH130, and millions will be spent to purchase the right-of-way for the first few miles. Before it is finished, this "bypass" will probably cost one billion dollars (that's about $2,000 per Austin resident). I ask, will pedestrians, bicyclists, or even Capitol Metro buses be seen on this billion dollar highway? Who, then, does it serve?
Mr. Wall is not unusual in his perceptions by any measurement, which is a sad fact of life when few, if any, people can remember the extensive tram service criss-crossing our city in bygone days. In our auto-centered Zeitgeist it is well beyond the pale to imagine a billion dollars being spent on any form of transport besides the motor vehicle. The Austin Bike Plan, made ready for implementation by the city Bicycle Coordinator, awaits funding, and will probably continue to wait while the concrete pours on the prairie east of town. Its cost is one two-hundredth that of State Highway 130 (or about $10 per Austin resident).
Perhaps it is true that Mr. Wall's Honda does "less damage" to the environment than does a bus, but it carries only him, not hundreds of commuters. And while bus riders are paragons of civic virtue, Mr. Wall sits alone in his Honda, rationalizing the damage he is doing to the environment with his self-importance.
Valuable real estate devoted to free parking? Has Mr. Wall been driving his Honda with his eyes closed? From the seat of my bicycle, I have noticed that a large number of buildings all over town serve no function other than storing automobiles. In fact, the city itself provides subsidized parking in a garage that looms over Republic Square. Mr. Wall should get over his put-upon attitude and realize that fully 50% of the surface area of our city is devoted to his Honda, and the host of other polluting vehicles driven by the majority of our fellow citizens.
I ride a bike, and I never pay to park, never have to park more than half a block away, and sometimes even bring my vehicle with me inside a building. I never pay for gasoline (cheap as it is), nor insurance. I don't need to pay the state for the privilege of driving, and since the helmet law was repealed for adults, I never get pulled over. I never get speeding tickets, and I never accidentally kill people or animals. Neither do I produce air pollution on my daily commute. And best of all, I never get stuck in traffic.
Peter Wall (no relation)
I was encouraged to read that Dalton Wall will sell his car when everyone who runs Capital Metro, including the board of directors, sells theirs ["Postmarks," Vol.17, No.27].
In order to accomplish this, we'll need to replace the top brass and directors' board of Capital Metro, but this needs doing anyway. Capital Metro is currently run by car worshipers who don't like or believe in public transit. That's why it's run so badly and corruptly.
If we want a good transit system, we should get non-drivers to run it. People who take on the task of running the city's transportation system should sell their cars (if they have cars) the day they start work. They should never be provided with free rental cars.
Mr. Wall claims to pay the whole cost of running his car. I can't buy this. We all pay for a vast support system for private cars. Our city spends millions on new roads and road-widening to accommodate ever more private cars. We all pay for EMS services. Think how empty emergency rooms would be without cars! There's also the cost of oil wars, oil spill cleanups, and disposing of the car when you're done with it.
The biggest costs of cars are non-monetary: polluted air, urban sprawl, groundwater pollution, ugly highways and strip malls, loss of mobility for non-drivers, deaths, injuries. All this costs us more than money.
We waste real estate on car parking all over town. We all pay for parking spaces for city employees. Cars park free in our so-called bicycle lanes. We continually pay to widen roads because the rightmost lane is devoted to free parking.
Let's put non-drivers in charge of public transit (rail-based, not bus-based), and get Mr. Wall out of his car.
Keep Them Doggies Runnin'
I enjoyed the article on Austin dog parks last summer ["Dog Daze," Vol.16, No.47]. I actually visited one while I was there and my dogs and their humans had a great time! I am working on getting a dog park established in Houston and would really like to talk to people who helped create the ones in Austin. If you can provide me with any contacts I would very much appreciate it! Thanks much for your assistance.
Phone:281/575-0983 or 281/575-0238
Reporting Reduces Risks
I read with interest Sandy Barlett's "About AIDS" column in the Chronicle on February 27 concerning the Texas Department of Health's proposal to require HIV reporting by name. I manage the STD program for the City of Austin/Travis County and, unlike Mr. Bartlett, I'm personally in favor of confidential HIV disease reporting. Confidential HIV disease reporting will help local health department staff to assist physicians in locating and notifying patients who fail to return for their HIV test results and therefore remain unaware of their infection. We know that early entrance to care slows the development of this disease. Early intervention is the key to prolonging life, lowering the spread of HIV, and lowering medical costs of care. With confidential named reporting, health professionals can follow-up with newly diagnosed HIV positive people to help ensure early medical intervention. With the present unique identifier system, much of the reported information is discarded. Follow-up, disease intervention, voluntary partner notification may not occur. They need to occur because those exposed to the virus may be unaware of their exposure, may not get tested, or counseled about their at-risk status. I've worked for the Health Department for 18 years, and have never seen nor heard of a breach in confidentiality either in communicable diseases or primary care. Upon employment, local health department staff are counseled about confidentiality and sign a confidentiality policy with a zero tolerance level. Confidential reporting will enable physicians to better carry out planning and implementation for prevention and clinical programs, enable appropriate allocation of funds, link patients to needed care and services, provide voluntary partner notification and identify persons early in their disease so we can get them care.
Obstruction of Niceness
Meals on Wheels and More provides life-enriching services to the Austin homebound and disabled population. Medi Wheels is one of the programs offered.
Medi Wheels provides transportation for disabled and/or homebound people to doctor's appointments. We currently have more than 240 people that are recipients of this service and only 26 active volunteers to help us.
The reason I am writing to you is to complain about the police department that is giving tickets to our volunteers when they are unloading clients with walkers or in wheelchairs which makes it necessary to park in a handicapped space or curbside for a short period of time. In one case the policeman was watching a volunteer unload a very frail, handicapped woman, he watched and then immediately ticketed the car.
The Medi Wheels program is very important; without our volunteers, which are very few, many people will not be able to get to their health care providers. We need all the help we can get! We do not need the volunteers to be punished for their efforts.
We have inquired about handicapped stickers for our clients but have been told that only people that own cars and are disabled can have these stickers. If our clients had cars and could drive they would not need our service.
Coordinator for Medi Wheels and Groceries to Go
Meals on Wheels and More
Don't Nuke My Food
The FDA appears to give food processors full protection, no matter the consequence to the health of the consumer that ingests their product through years to come. Why? They are exempt from labeling "hydrogenated" on their own oils. Why? Food processed with their oils as an ingredient must list it as hydrogenated. Why? Only oil processors are exempt.
The FDA in early December 1997 approved the irradiation of red meat with gamma rays to kill E-coli and other bacteria. Irradiation had previously been approved for pork, poulty, spices, and various fruits and vegetables. And new labeling requirements allow packers to move the irradiation message to small lettering on the back of the package rather than prominently on the package front, as was previously required.
Irradiation kills all life in the food, but does not change how it looks or tastes. You now have supermarkets full of beautiful looking food in which all the life and enzymes have been destroyed. This cannot help but have disastrous effects on the health of our nation. The same as hydrogenation has destroyed our daily essential amino acids with chemicals and extreme heat. These two types of food preservation to give their products longer shelf life that will never become spoiled, even though they have no food value.
The epidemic of degenerative diseases will only get worse. Our testing finds that a great deal of the food in the supermarket tests unfit to eat, and irradiation is probably the reason for some of the damage.
Mrs. Jessie Speegle
It's a Gamble
What has happened to the individual constitutional rights for small business owners? Can one small, influential "Big Business" group decide to put little business into bankruptcy at the drop of a hat?
In 1997, the Texas Legislature gave small business the right to continue in business for at least the next two years. Now a small (and influential) group decides Texas small businesses need no warning that the law which was upheld by the Texas Legislature is being ignored... tossed out... by those who didn't like the Texas Legislature's democratic decision. This small group went behind closed doors (following their carefully orchestrated campaign to get people and the associated press thinking that the video amusement games are "slot machines" or "gambling devices") and decided to launch a sneak attack on small businesses. These video amusement games look similar enough to those not familiar with slot machines, but the inner workings are entirely different. Skill is involved. Maybe some of those who back this move think that they will be getting rid of those terrible gambling machines. Not true! Wake up folks, one small business goes down the drain, a large corrupt conglomerate will take over - Big Business for the State, as the Lottery is now run. If they want to get rid of gambling they should attack the real gambling, the Lottery, and see how far they get against Big Business!
I expect all of the businesses which are "wiped out" or just severely financially damaged will file a class action suit to recover some of the loss. Does Texas really need to spend our tax dollars defending these hasty communistic actions by one man (and his followers) against free enterprise?
The Attorney General gave a different opinion about these games earlier, and will have to defend saying that we now have a new law - obey it immediately. The Legislature should not be reversed by one man's `opinion.' Do we really want this type of governmental aggression in Texas? What will come next? The courts have upheld the right of video amusement redemption game players to accumulate their points for bigger prizes. Dave and Busters give away large screen TVs for accumulated points. The "8-liner" players usually accumulate some, and purchase merchandise in the store, such as lottery tickets. The Lottery Commission gains from the games, and while some would try to convince you otherwise, the only items shown in anyone's laws as illegal to give are cash and alcohol. The games stay within the law as passed by the legislature in 1995 and upheld by the next session in 1997. This gave honest business owners the green light until 1999, and their plans were made on that basis.
Now those that didn't get their way are making bogus ghost laws, like dictators. What happened to "by the people and for the people"? Are they really trying to protect people from the games they enjoy playing? Get Real! Bush wanted, Sibley didn't get it, so Morales changed the law concerning it. I hope those who agree that we do not want dictatorship and trampled constitutional rights will vote accordingly at their next opportunity.
W. Wayne Cassity
Come On Down!
It strikes me as passing strange, what has been taking place in Texas political and governmental circles in the last several years, all calculated, apparently, to bring political control of this state's government to the Republicans. Back when I was teaching Texas Government, I interviewed a top Republican official who outlined to me what seemed like "Mission Impossible." The ambitious goal they set for themselves was capturing majority control of the Texas House and Senate. I saw no way it could be done, at the time.
Now, a pattern has emerged to effect that aim, or so it would seem. Out of a clear blue, job opportunities of a lifetime are offered to longtime highly placed Democratic officials, who then resign or retire from their top political offices, leaving vacancies by governor's appointment or election. Numerous Democratic candidates for House and Senate seats have suddenly "turned in their badges," as Ralph Yarborough would have called it, when confronted with job offers paying far above their state salaries, while others have switched parties without giving their constituents a chance to accept or reject them as Republicans.
The strategy has become clear, that most of us Texans can be "bought" if the price is right. I had thought the Republicans were above that; apparently it's "any means to a right end": namely, the political control of this state. All of this is pure coincidence and conjecture, I'm sure, with "good" Democrats suddenly going for the golden chance at security, offered by someone, for some reason.
Clerics Keep Silent
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
The reason that the Catholic clerics are silent with regard to the alleged problems at the White House is that unfortunately, Catholic theology prohibits the mixing of religion and politics, keeping Catholic clerics silent.
This is a political issue, and not a moral issue, brought on by those who utilize the narcissistic political method. The "holier than thou" method (e.g. Limbaugh, Fallwell, O'Chester) predominantly impacts those with a dominant emotional hemisphere of the brain, instead of the logical. Fundamentalist followers are all emotionally suggestive, as an absolute component and requirement of complete trust, which forms the core of fundamentalist practice, as "accepting Jesus as your personal saviour," as the minister's personal interpretation sees fit. This places an obscene level of unbridled interpersonal power into the hands of these church leaders, because of the following reason:
In other churches that have a theological hierarchy, even a natural personal accumulation of referent power, even simply from a cleric doing a job very well, is closely monitored by a Bishop. This is necessary because of the ever-present danger of other types of power to be compulsively put into the hands of any religious leader by followers, or, other type of power may be usurped, all as a failing of human nature.
These include personal power, coercive power, legitimate power, and political power. The exercise of these often leads to moral conflicts of interest, which we see all over the place with Fundamentalism. Certainly, most Fundamentalist leaders are good Christians. However, clearly also there are those whom have become drunk with the exercise of the wrong kinds of power.
Sadly, many in the press may not realize these sins of the clergy.
Thank you so much for your valuable time to consider my letter.
BA Psychology, Theology
Doggett Dodging Calls
Congressman Lloyd Doggett apparently is embarrassed by his part in taking healthcare freedom away from Americans over age 64. His written response to letters asking for this freedom to be restored is evasive.
Telephone calls to his office are even less satisfactory. Nine separate calls over a period of three months have gone unanswered. Neither Congressman Doggett, nor any of the 40 people we pay to work for him, chose to return a single call.
Congressman Doggett, like all incumbents, has access to some of the pork our $1.5 trillion in taxes buys for members of Congress to disburse. In addition, he has about $1,000,000 in his political war-chest. No Democrat is willing to oppose him; neither is any Republican. As with most incumbents, there is miniscule chance he can be defeated for re-election. Therefore he does not have to be straightforward in answer to constituent letters. Nor does he have to trouble himself (or his staff) to discuss matters on the phone that he doesn't want to.
There are 434 other members of the House of Representatives who can vote to restore healthcare freedom to Americans over age 64. But those of us living in Travis County, Texas, can not vote for these 434 House members. Americans over age 64 living in Travis County are disenfranchised on the subject of healthcare choice. This is a gift from Congressman Doggett, a gift he does not want to talk about.