For the Record
In response to the Chronicle's May 8 article ["Naked City," Vol.17, No.35] concerning the dispute between myself and Southwest Texas State University, I would like the following facts to be known:
1) My dispute with Southwest Texas State has to do with the University's, and in particular the English Department's, deceptive and dishonest practices in bringing me to Southwest to begin with, a practice which involved their withholding crucial information about the "diversity" line they wished to fill, and which led me to move myself, my wife and son here all the way from the Middle East under false pretenses, and with the misleading (but not abandoned) expectations of being able to make a permanent home for ourselves here.
2) My dispute with the University, at its core, has nothing whatsoever to do with affirmative action, which (when openly and justly applied) I wholeheartedly support, and have supported all of my adult life. It has, rather, to do with unethical (indeed, immoral) behavior on the part of the University towards myself and my family - decent, well-intentioned, trusting and honorable people who it manipulated for its own purposes. In my meeting with Dean Gravitt during the week of February 16, for example, the Dean admitted to me that the position for which I had (now twice) applied had, all along, been set aside as a (his words) "diversity line."
3) My hiring of Steven W. Smith, the attorney who represented the Hopwood plaintiffs, was simply a result of two, highly practical, considerations, namely (1) the fact that Mr. Smith was willing to represent me without an initial fee (a matter of no small concern to a man with a wife and son who has just lost his job), and (2) my sense that, precisely because Mr. Smith was the attorney for the Hopwood plaintiffs, the University would take the threat posed by his representation of me seriously.
I would add to this that - had I felt Mr. Smith, in any way, to be a racist of any sort, or a person of bad faith - I would never, never have engaged his services, no matter what the fee or the threat. While I may not agree with, or support, the Hopwood decision itself (or other aspects of Mr. Smith's politics of which I may be unaware), I feel him to be a decent person, and - insofar as my dealings with him have gone - a man of good faith... of better faith, I must sadly confess, than some of my colleagues at Southwest Texas State have been.
4) Against everything I believe and stand for, as a person and as a writer, and everything I have, my entire life, stood for, the University - through the various comments made by members of the English Department and the release of private communications to the media - has tried to suggest that, by having Mr. Smith represent me, I am implicitly allied with the Hopwood decision, or against affirmative action itself, both of which implications are utterly untrue to everything I believe in, have written on the subject, and stand for. Anyone who knows, or has known, me, here in Austin or elsewhere, knows this to be true.
5) Notwithstanding all of the above, because my dignity and good name mean more to me than any possible Pyrrhic victory, because I no longer wish to subject either myself or my family to the kind of slander, innuendo and bad faith which the University has subjected me to - and because, finally, I utterly refuse to engage in the kind of name-calling and bad faith which SWT has engaged in - I am discontinuing any and all complaints or contemplated actions against the University and, my dignity and self-esteem intact, terminating this conflict.
Thank you very much for your attention.
What Old Guard?
I had a good laugh when I read Lisa Tozzi's recap of the AISD Board elections, complete with David Butts' "spin" on the outcome.
I have never met this "old guard machine" which Ms. Tozzi refers to in her article, and I wasn't aware of their endorsement. I filed for District Four after visiting with parents, teachers, and friends, without any prior political experience and without any agenda other than my interest in schools and children, much the same way in which Ave Wahrmund began her campaign. I sought advice from people such as Willie Kocurek, Gary McKenzie, and Tom Agnor, as well as other board members, and I know Ms. Wahrmund did the same. Mr. McKenzie supported Ms. Wahrmund, but was always gracious when I called.
We ran a great campaign, stayed on issues, and lost a close race to a wonderful lady. Whether Mr. Butts' assertion that Ms. Wahrmund is "much more moderate and reasonable" than Mr. Agnor remains to be seen. I do know that, like Tom Agnor, Ave Wahrmund will do her homework and make decisions which she feels are in the best interests of the children.
It's odd, though not entirely unexpected, that neither Ms. Tozzi nor Mr. Butts bothered to interview Ms. Wahrmund or myself personally during the campaign. I guess positive campaigns don't sell newspapers - even free weeklies!
This election could be analyzed in several ways, particularly the impact which the Bond propositions had on the school board races. But if you're going to include opinions from people who did not even talk to the candidates, you're likely going to put the wrong "spin" on your story.
I wish the new board all the luck in the world. They are truly a great group of public servants, and they deserve the support of the entire community for the work they are about to undertake.
And if I ever choose to run for public office again, please provide me with the location of this "old guard machine."
I'd like to see it.
[Ed. note: Writer Lisa Tozzi did, in fact, interview Mr. Newberry and Ms. Wahrmund before and after the AISD school board election. She also posed questions for both candidates during a Chronicle endorsement meeting. Further, Tozzi attended public forums for AISD board candidates as part of her coverage of the races.]
Why Jack Lost
To the Editors:
Poor Chronicle! You seem to think your candidate, Jeff Jack, lost because of negative campaigning or a personal vendetta by the outgoing trustee.
The fact is, Mr. Jack's opponent had a stronger background, more related experience, and more knowledge about the schools.
A centerpiece of Mr. Jack's campaign was his promise to "ensure that our School Board increases school funding by building AISDs tax base, not raising taxes."
Well, it sounds reasonable, it sounds rational, and after all, it helped Daryl Slusher in his city race. A growing tax base can produce more revenue for a city or a county, and even for the state. But under our statewide school finance system, tax-base growth does not produce more money for our schools.
The more your local tax base grows, and the more revenue you can produce locally, the less the state chips in for your schools. That is a first principle of our school finance system. Mr. Jack's campaign made clear that he either did not know or chose to ignore this fundamental fact of school finance.
The Texas school finance system is complex, but the public has every right to expect that a candidate for School Board and the public media and other endorsing organizations have at least a rudimentary understanding of how our schools are funded.
It is not dirty politics or negative campaigning to point out that someone doesn't have the basic knowledge to hold an office. With his connections and endorsements, Mr. Jack should have been expected to ride the coattails of Proposition 2 to victory in this mostly liberal near-south district. But maybe the voters understand that you have to pay for quality in the schools as well as the environment with money, not empty and expedient promises.
Acts of Love
This is written in response to Diane Hardin's letter ["Postmarks," Vol.17, No.34]. She doesn't understand what kind of music community we have here, and the acts of love between artists.
Carrie Clark, although not a close friend, is one of my peers who is brave and conscientious and loving to a fault. The last Sixteen Deluxe gig at Liberty Lunch, Carrie was telling every one she could that she was trying to quit her (heroin) drug habits, find some drug rehab program, and was very realistically calling for help. So maybe it would be easier to keep her commitment to cleaning up.
I was immediately reminded of how fragile our lives are and how a lot of us never catch ourselves as we fall.... A lot of us are always at the brink of self destruction. We need each other to lean on, push forward, and just be there, sometimes.
This is why SIMS was founded in the first place. It is another way people can reach out for help. Gratuitous plug indeed!
I applaud Ken Lieck and her, for their bravery to expose this kind of news. It wasn't sensationalism or bad judgment. It was an act of a friend.
This is a town where we help each other (Jesus Christ, they are having a freakin' benefit for a dog this week.)... Get a clue... or a friend... or something better to do, like a self awareness workshop... not kvetching about something you don't even stop to understand.
Todd V. Wolfson
Fairness Act Is Far From It
This March, over my serious objections, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment containing the misguided proposals of the so-called "Fairness in Musical Licensing Act."
This amendment essentially legitimizes the theft of a songwriter's private property by allowing restaurants and other enterprises to broadcast music without compensating the artist holding the copyright. I fought for a substitute amendment which was supported by the American Society of Composers, Artists and Producers and BMI, but that substitute was defeated.
The proponents of music theft have decided to reject any reasonable compromise and instead push blatantly unfair legislation that directly punishes musicians and songwriters. Their amendment now sits in a Senate subcommittee.
During the debate on the amendment, I made remarks to the House to communicate my support of the Austin Music Community and my opposition to the Music Theft Act. Rest assured I will continue to work to prevent this dangerous proposal from becoming a law. As always, I welcome your continued advice and stand ready to assist with matters of a federal nature.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett
My partner and I are wondering why your restaurant review would include a piece about restaurants in Portland, Ore. We enjoy and rely on your reviews. However, we were very disappointed in this week's issue. We highly recommend for you and/or your staff to concentrate your efforts to the immediate Austin area. Thanks for listening.
Regards From Milan
Dear Chronicle and Dear Mr. Pipkin,
As a longtime Italian subscriber of your great magazine I want to thank you for the article about Giancarlo and the Folkstudio. It is a great piece of love and in Italy I did not find an article with the same passion about him and what he did. It deserves to be translated and published here also for the right photography of one of the darkest periods in recent Italian history. For sure in my next trip to your beautiful city I will look for the Fast Greens novel.
In the interest of provoking a little public discussion, I'd like to report an ugly little rumor that's been making the rounds. I've heard that within the next two weeks the City Council will decide the fate of Barton Springs Road in front of Zilker Park. It is my understanding that a plan has been developed, and is about to be implemented, turning the road in front of Zilker into part of a cross-town expressway linking 360, Mopac, and I-35. Is this true? Is this one of those smart growth ideas, or just a dumbass one?
Patrick "Zootz" Haney
[Ed. note: See article "Bumpy Road" on page 28.]
Finding Common Ground
Steve Mason's vitriolic letter ["Postmarks," Vol.17, No.35] attacking Carl Villarreal and UT's SAO probably discredits itself sufficiently, but I would like to point out some of his more glaring distortions of this activist organization. Mason blasts SAO for demanding Lino Graglia's resignation, but clearly, this is an entirely different matter than demanding his firing. When SAO takes direct action to censure (but not censor) Graglia or The Daily Texan, it is an exercise in free speech, not a suppression of it. SAO has no administrative power to restrict the speech of UT employees or publications.
As for the characterization of SAO as "a pack of Communists" and "radical Mexican-supremacist Aztlan Chicanos," this only begins to touch on the wide diversity in the SAO membership. As a white member of SAO, I have found the group to be genuinely committed to finding common ground, if not consensus, within a wide range of ideologies and perspectives. Not everyone in the group is socialist, and I doubt that anyone is a "Mexican supremacist," but we all agree that Dan Morales' and UT's ravaging of affirmative action is a catastrophe for racial justice in Texas and needs to be fought.
I suppose that if Mr. Mason is representative of the readership of the Chronicle, it begins to make more sense that the affirmative action fight at UT has so often been covered in the paper by the super-conservative, neo-segregationist Marc Levin. It kind of changes my understanding of the role of an "alternative press," though.
[Ed. note: Of the five articles which The Austin Chronicle ran on the Hopwood/UT affirmative action controversy [Vol. 17, No. 22], one was authored by Marc Levin.]
A Lazy Musician Responds
To Stuart Reichler:
You obviously have no idea how the club/live music scene operates, so if you could keep your inarticulate insults to yourself for a moment, I'll let you in on why your "amazing idea" shows your amazing lack of knowledge.
First of all, some clubs do not allow early load-in. There are certainly those clubs that do, but then the musician is faced with either leaving his/her gear unattended or hanging around until the show that night. Would you want to go to work six hours early, or leave $2,000 worth of your belongings somewhere unattended?
Second, it's simply not possible to always arrive at a venue early. Some people have day jobs, some bands are coming from out of town or another local gig, or the actual transportation of the gear might be an issue.
Third, on multiple band bills, there is no possible way to set up early. If your act follows another, you do not set up until the prior act is finished and off the stage. Hence the "screwing around" and "downtime" you are so sick of, Mr. Reichler. Ever think of giving a band a hand with their gear to speed things up?
Finally, when a band is finished with a show, the same problems arise with loading the gear to leave.
Being in a band is not easy, but some of us put up with the system's idiosyncrasies simply because we like to play. Others do it for the money, some both. In either case, it's people like you, calling musicians "lazy" and "whining" while showing your own ignorance, that make us take a second thought. Amazing, indeed.
Paul Betts, Hisologist and Lazy Musician
Musicians of the World, Unite!
Lisa Mednick sure hit it on the head last week ["Postmarks," Vol.17, No.35]. She's asking the same ubiquitous questions I've been hearing among Austin musicians for years. Unfortunately, she's not likely to get honest, reasonable answers to them any more than I have. Live Music Capital of Somewhere or other? Maybe in the Convention and Visitors Bureau employee manual... but it's a fairly tired joke on Sixth Street.
I'm gonna find out where Lisa's playing, grab some friends, buy a few drinks and toss a generous tip in the jar. You see, that's the sort of collective behavior that the "few cold ones after work" crowd ought to engage in. That would go a long way to making Austin the live music capital of something or other. Sure it's a small start, but for the vast majority of this town, it's do-able. Save that 95 bucks you wasted on a SXSW wristband (Who the hell could you possibly see on a Friday or Saturday night that's worth that much? Michael Jordan? At least he plays for more than half an hour!) and support the local players who bust their asses to play night after night in some half-empty ratty bar, without a manager or some 15 minutes-of-fame hype machine behind them.
Lisa, you go, girl ! If you ever need a guitar player... call me. For you, I'll work cheap. See ya soon.
Gene Stevens seems to be confused. In his letter regarding Eduardo Vera's views on the situation in Chiapas ["Postmarks," Vol.17, No.35], he claims, "Like the Mexican government, our government massacres our people, e.g. the Branch Davidians and the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City."
The Branch Davidian "compound" was raided because David Koresh was a child molesting rapist with delusions of godhood; and the Branch Davidians were a murderous cult which brainwashed mothers into handing their pre-teen daughters over to be raped by David Koresh. The raid was certainly handled incompetently, and a lot more heads should have rolled at the BATF and FBI for how badly it was bungled, but just because the Davidians hated the government doesn't automatically make them angels. This was a doomsday cult; they burned themselves out. And I'm sorry, but if law enforcement officers tell you to come out with your hands up, if you shoot at them you deserve every bullet you get.
It's perfectly damn obvious that the Murrah Federal building was bombed by Timothy McVeigh, a psycopathic failure who appears to share the same paranoid anti-government fantasies as Mr. Stevens. He's not some valiant crusader, valiantly fighting an oppressive regime, he's a fucking murderer. He murdered 158 innocent men, women, and children to feed his hatred and delusions.
Mr. Stevens also claims that, "As in Chiapas, people are in prison now in Texas for attempting to set up alternative governments (Republic of Texas)." The "Republic of Texas" lunatics are in prison because they passed dozens of worthless checks totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars, filed hundreds of bogus liens on others' property, threatened and harassed numerous people, and kidnapped one of their critics at gunpoint. Until they started breaking the law, the government and the people of Texas treated them as the deranged posers they were - by laughing at them and ignoring them.
Sick to death of all this
"The U.S. Government is evil incarnate!" crap,
Starter Light Rail
Howdy! Want to know what voters will get in terms of a "starter light rail" for Austin? Load your browser with this url: http://www.io.com/~bumper/cs_rail2.htm. Link on in and find out more about the Cap Metro Light Rail workshop. But for now, here you go: For light rail an estimated $700 million price tag, from Howard Lane to Ben White. Jump to 861 million if you vote in addition to go to the new airport with light rail. If a "yes vote" on light rail passed today, and if the rail was started next week, it will take six years of construction to complete.
Better hope the sales tax revenues stay high, that the boom doesn't go bust, or who will pick up the rail tab? Voting "yes" will double the bus fare for all, including the disabled and poor of Austin; won't that be interesting. Also if the bus farebox revenues drop... who will pick up the tab? Electric lines in the air over streets like Lamar, Guadalupe, the Drag, Congress Ave. to Ben White. These rail electric lines for the trains will be eye candy for all of us. Vote for light rail and you can kiss the left turn lanes good-bye, one of the two light rail lines will run exclusively there. Some merchants will lose the parking in front of their business, to make room for the rails. Some East-West streets in Austin will have to be blocked off, fewer cross streets along the route. Think traffic on those streets full of light rail cars will improve? Heck no, you are supposed to ride the trains. Think light rail will stop another high temp pollution-filled inversion layer over Austin like last week's sweat box? Think again!
Another First for California
Thanks for covering the campaign finance angle on the May 2 election ("A Fistful of Pennies," Vol.17, No.35).
Although the debate over the bond package was more vigorous than I've seen in a long time and turnout was high for a bond election, the vast majority of voters still didn't know there was an election going on.
Some would advocate going back to the dark days of campaign finance deregulation as the solution, even though mega-campaign-spending has not been shown to significantly increase turnout. I, on the other hand, have a constructive suggestion:
The City can publish a Voters' Guide, allowing space for committees supporting and opposing each ballot item to give their arguments, unedited. The Guide could then be mailed out to each and every registered voter in the city.
California already has this common-sense approach in place. An on-line version of their 1998 Primary Guide can be viewed at http://Primary98.ss.ca.gov/
City Council can take the initiative in campaign reform by putting out a Voters' Guide for the September bond election. Then, nobody will have the excuse that they didn't know there was an election or they didn't know what they were voting on.
A Place for My Huffy
A really good idea for the future of the Seaholm Power Plant was recently proposed by Fred Meredith in Austin Cycling News. Seaholm could become a Bikestation, on the model of the Bikestation in Long Beach, California.
The Bikestation is a facility for bicycle commuters. It offers secure bicycle parking, bicycle rentals, repairs and tune-ups, transit and bike route information, a coffee shop and a bicycle tool and accessory shop, restrooms and changing rooms with showers. It's also an organizing center for employer bicycle programs and a place where bicycle commuters can meet each other.
The Long Beach Commuter Bikestation has been open since March, 1996. When it first opened, it was used by 300 bicyclists per month; the number is now 1,500 bicyclists per month and growing. The Bikestation has a webpage at http://www.bikestation.com.
Austin is a great city to traverse by bicycle. But bicycle commuting receives no official encouragement or sanction. If we want the number of bicycle commuters to increase, the city should provide some amenities for bicyclists.
A commuter bikestation would be a great use for the Seaholm Power Plant. And it wouldn't need a parking lot for cars.
Nothingness Doesn't Exist
Modern theoretical physics, headquartered in the Physics Department at the University of Texas, has subjected the taxpaying public to the biggest intellectual fraud in the history of Western Civilization. This has resulted in the appropriation of enormous sums of money in the pursuit of such glaring epistemological absurdities as the Big Bang, black holes, and matter/anti-matter annihilations.
This scenario was made possible through a process one might call the "Platonic Fallacy." In this process, certain elements of experience are abstracted to an organizing principle, or model. Then a strange reversal takes place, in which priority is assigned to the model. Once this step is taken, it becomes possible to misinterpret, or even severely distort the original phenomena which generated the model. When several such organizing principles are combined, it may be possible to completely refute the original elements leading to the model.
In theoretical physics, the organizing principles are the mathematical models used to define and relate physical phenomena. We are all familiar with the incredible success these models have had for our daily lives. The discovery of the planet Neptune is an example of an instance in which the model correctly predicted the existence of a previously unknown entity. This discovery, however, was consistent with the original physical phenomena which generated the gravitational equations making the discovery possible.
Unfortunately this is not the case for certain objects of current physics investigation - in particular, the Big Bang, black holes, and matter/anti-matter annihilations. There are specific reasons in each case for making this claim. One primary consideration common to all is that it is simply impossible to extrapolate from a theory based on physical phenomena, back to a state of nothingness - a point at which the original phenomena no longer exist. This is pure mathematical trickery. Einstein repeatedly emphasized that any mathematical model reaches a point at which it loses its utility in the physical world.
As the verification of these concepts becomes more costly, and their empirical justification more contrived, we need an epistemological test to determine when a physical concept has simply gone over into the realm of absurdity. But first, we probably need to examine the inertia behind current academic policies and research funding which brought about this situation.
You Are the Victims!
Who are we going to believe, that these disasters that face humanity today are due to the angry pagan god, Gaia, or are they a punishment from the Almighty for our heinous transgressions, worse than the evils of the ancient ones of Sodom and Gomorrah?
These environmentalists in striving to bring into being the Post Industrial Society have hopes that this event will kill off 200 million Americans and several billion worldwide. Will you be one of their victims? Yes.
Our fathers and their fathers used their God-given faculties to forge a better life for us. Yes there are many more of us around today but because our forefathers obeyed the dictates of the Almighty given in Genesis, we today are enjoying a much higher standard of living than them. If we follow the dictates of these bankers in bringing about this caveman Tarzan and Jane Post Industrial Society, we will go back to the slave era that our forefathers endured.
Yes, this will bring depopulation, but will it bring a Utopia for the survivors? No, it will bring the new slave era of misery and drudgery. The farmer at planting time will scratch the earth with a stick.