Libertarians Say No to Doggett
I know that The Austin Chronicle thinks highly of Lloyd Doggett, but the October 9 issue was completely over the top, coming as it did in the thick of the election season ["From Leftist to Left-ish," Vol. 18, No. 6]. As the Libertarian Party Chair for Travis County, I must protest that his opponent, Vince May, did not receive a single photo or a sidebar to balance the 7 photos and 6 pages of gushing coverage.
While I was not surprised to learn that Lloyd has become a dedicated career politician worried about his personal future, I much prefer that he worry about the future of our state and country. For example, I am completely mortified that Doggett voted to allow armed Mexican police into our country with complete diplomatic immunity while simultaneously raining herbicides on Mexican indigenous populations. (See HR 4300 for the details.)
Also shameful is Doggett's vote against open debate among ballot-qualified presidential candidates. (See HR 2281.) His explanation to me about this vote was that too many candidates in the debates would "confuse the voters". (Of course, 6 or 7 Democrats in primary debates is OK.)
I'm sure that most thinking Austinites are as disgusted as I am by the big money politics of the Democrats and Republicans as depicted on Frontline and elsewhere. While "campaign reform" is the typical mantra of the concerned citizenry, it is past time to realize that making the campaign financing maze increasingly more byzantine won't dissuade the corporate rats from their cheese.
The real solution is to reduce the power and scope of government to the core set of concerns outlined in our Constitution. Only then will multi-national corporations and other "old money" institutions be unable to buy preference from our government because that kind of power will no longer be for sale. If you agree, please join me this year in casting a vote that cannot be misunderstood. Vote for liberty. Vote against career politicians. Vote Libertarian.
Robert "Rock" Howard
Travis County Libertarian Party Chair
Doggett Doesn't Hafta NAFTA
I was pleased about your Lloyd Doggett article ["From Leftist to Left-ish," Vol. 18, No. 6], as I've fairly recently begun to correspond with said Rep. on issues "of a Federal matter" and with the upcoming election, the coverage was appreciated, if a little cult-of-personality-ish. I've learned a bit more about his record on myriad issues recently, and while he is a virtual saint on issues such as abortion/choice, civil liberties, the environment and a number of others many of us hold near and dear, he is a lot more cloudy in other areas. Free trade is the number one Achille's heel, with Lloyd still offering up support for NAFTA, its extension to the other countries of the hemisphere, and Fast-Track trade authority for the president. While these views may jive with the environmentalism of high-income nature-lovers in the Aquifer recharge zone, NAFTA/environmentalism would be a hard sell to the folks in the border areas of this state, as well as scores of thousands more just over the border. All this is not to disparage Lloyd completely, as his office has been a helpful source of information on legislation in this area for some time, and while I wouldn't expect him to drop me a letter saying, "By the way, I'm a shill for free trade ..." I was a bit taken aback by his, shall we say, trickle-down-ish views on this subject among others (supporting stricter national air quality standards while remaining silent on support of stricter emission standards for automobiles?!? ... how's that again?). Just playing for the "gallery" perhaps, but you can be the judge ...
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P.S. What's with all the Luddites and their pro-car rants? Amy Babich's ideas may sound off kilter here and there, but who would've thought the smoggy skyline, endless stopped traffic and fumes that could send an adult at the corner to the doctor in a few hours is rational? ... Certainly not people who used to walk five times as far as the convenience store drive to get to the next house. All change involves dialogue, which is what Ms. Babich seems to be attempting, but anyone who thinks we can drive our way out of the mess we are already in has been breathing too much exhaust.
VanScoy: Devil's Advocate
Did I get a special edition of Vol.18, No.5 of the Chronicle? Clearly I read Kayte VanScoy's interview of Mayor Watson ["Saturday Night Live"] quite differently from the readers whose letters you published. It seemed obvious to me that Ms. VanScoy was playing devil's advocate and not, as one letter-writer suggested, "trying to look stupid so that Watson would look that much better" ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No. 6]. I certainly hope our mayor doesn't need that kind of help. More importantly, I think Ms. VanScoy provided a great service by challenging the mayor on most issues. I did not interpret her questions as a reflection of her personal beliefs, but as a device to elicit full explanations from the mayor. If all I wanted to hear from the mayor was slogans and promises, I'd just tape his campaign ads. I wanted to hear Mayor Watson explain why he favored policy x over policy y, and what alternatives had been rejected in favor of the chosen solution. For example, it seemed clear to me that Ms. VanScoy was not arguing against the apartment complex that is planned for the lot next to the Electric Lounge. To me she was asking a question I want the mayor to answer, that being "So does the E-Lounge just get screwed by this development or was any consideration taken for a popular venue that has helped create the appeal of the downtown area that is now drawing these developers?" So lighten up, readers, and be grateful that Ms. VanScoy is out there asking for the other side of the story.
'Bladers Banned, Too
Dear Ms. VanScoy,
In your interview with Kirk Watson, ["Saturday Night Live," Vol. 18, No. 5] you appear to assert that skateboarding on sidewalks in certain areas of the city is prohibited while rollerblading is not. Section 16-1-19 of the Austin City Code applies the same restrictions on Rollerblades as it does on skateboards. Section 16-1-19 provides in part: No person upon roller skates, in-line skates, or riding in or on any skateboard, toy vehicle or similar device shall go upon any sidewalk or way intended for use by pedestrian traffic in the following areas: [goes on to list 6th Street downtown, the Drag, and Congress Avenue].
[Kayte VanScoy responds: Thanks for the clarification. It is interesting to note that the perception of this law is that it only applies to skateboarders. Perhaps it has something to do with the law's enforcement. However, I would question whether it is somehow more just that both innocuous modes of non-motorized transport are banned from downtown rather than just one.]
Spare 'Em No Quarter
There are several faulty logics in the Mayor Watson's answer to taking care of the homeless downtown ["Saturday Night Live," Vol. 18, No. 5]. First is the premise that the only way to solve this problem is to expand the existing facility. Before providing additional bedding to house 500 homeless men in the downtown area, he and the City Council should first look into the existing facility and learn how it is being underused. They should also research into the reasons some of these people choose not to use the available resources that are already in existence. Secondly the mayor states that because the homeless are already downtown so should the services. Just because they congregate downtown does not mean that this is the area where the services would be more beneficial to them. The city and the mayor are creating a disservice to the homeless population by putting them in the middle of the largest selling liquor district in Austin. Even with his proposed "conditional overlays" to prevent the sale of alcohol close to the new facility, all they would have to do is walk a block to Sixth Street to buy liquor. Thirdly Mayor Watson logic, that by expanding the facility and thus taking care of the homeless, this will create an incentive for businesses to develop in the area, is completely warped. Who will want to run a business next to a facility that houses 500 single homeless men? Realistically the expansion of the Salvation Army facility will definitely decrease property values in the area, thus making the city lose thousands of dollars in taxes and revenues. We do want something done about the homeless situation in Austin, but you can never convince me that the answer is to expand the existing facility downtown. Drive by the Salvation Army facility sometime day or night and see for yourself what kind of business this environment attracts. Would you feel safe walking to your car or with friends to Sixth Street, by a facility that houses 500 single homeless men? Is this the image we want tourists and visitors to have of Austin -- homeless guys hanging around peddling drugs and asking for spare change?
Laughing About Suicide
Regarding Ken Lieck's offhand comment about singer Del Shannon's demise ("Given the choice between joining the Travelling Wilburys and suicide, Del chose to eat the bullet. An admirable act ... " ["Dancing About Architecture," Vol. 18, No. 6]): No matter how lightweight or insubstantial the Wilburys' albums were, was their music really so deserving of Lieck's contempt that it was worth making light of an unrelated performer's suicide in order to take a swipe at the group after all these years?
A Sticky Situation
Ada Calhoun's article "The Man who Loved Little Girls" [Vol.18, No.6] perpetuates the notion that Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) might have been a pedophile, even while trying to be objective. But Dodgson's seemingly strange personality is quite understandable in the context of his condition. It's known that he suffered from epilepsy, although he didn't realize it himself until he was in his fifties, when he and his doctors diagnosed it. In his diary entry for January 20th, 1886, he says, "I had an attack ('epileptiform' Dr. Morshead called it) which left me with a sort of headache and not feeling my usual self for a week or 10 days." What they didn't know then, which is still relatively unknown, is how dramatically a particular type of epilepsy called temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) can affect behavior.
Paraphrasing from the book Seized: TLE as a Medical, Historical and Artistic Phenomenon by Eve LaPlante: "By epileptiform, his doctor was indicating his seizure was not the grand mal type (involving bodily convulsions) but instead a petit mal seizure characteristic of the condition now known as TLE. Five years later another doctor confirmed the diagnosis after another seizure. Dodgson also displayed other known symptoms of epilepsy at the time, such as prematurely white hair, a strikingly asymmetrical face (often indicating damage to the brain), deafness in one ear, a stammer, difficulties eating, sleeping, and relaxing, and visual hallucinations. Today neurologists consider Dodgson an undisputed case of Geschwind's syndrome, a list of traits used as a tool to diagnose TLE. These include stickiness (hypersociability), hypergraphia (compulsiveness in writing), altered sexuality (more often hyposexual than hyper-), and hyperreligiosity. His affection for young girls (this is a stickiness) was well-know, in spite of having been celibate his entire life. His hypergraphia was astounding. At age 13 he single-handedly produced a magazine containing 15 verses and 28 pages of sketches and watercolors, and during the course of his life wrote approximately 2,000 letters each year, detailed in a meticulous log with 98,721 entries of every letter he ever sent or received beginning in his mid-twenties."
Other dead-on giveaways of TLE are Carroll's writings of Alice's experiences with jamais vu and feelings of expanding and shrinking, both very common in TLE petit mal seizures. Understanding TLE should dismiss the suspicions surrounding the life of Lewis Carroll.
P.S. Another famous individual of the same era was diagnosed with epilepsy in his time and is now considered a classic case of TLE -- Vincent Van Gogh. His strange behavior is also made strikingly clear in the context of TLE. (BTW, self-mutilation is sometimes seen in TLE sufferers, apparently related to feelings of jamais vu regarding their own bodies.)
Turning the Other Cheek
In response to "no name," the 33-year resident of Austin who writes to complain about the filthy ads which infiltrate the Chronicle ["Postmarks," Vol.18, No.6], I say that as a squeaky-clean 22-year resident of Austin, I just don't read ads anywhere which are offensive to me. The Chronicle is here for all of us and thankfully, we have a newspaper in town which can reach the wide diversity of citizenry we have in Austin.
"No name" says you've lost five readers. I say, who cares?
Bad News at KVET
As a one time reporter and news anchor at KVET-AM radio, I was saddened to hear that Chancellor Broadcasting gave up on news radio in Austin. While I would be the first to admit that the station's shallow coverage and cumbersome format didn't work at all, I also will say it was inept, inexperienced management that was responsible, not the good reporters who manned the microphones.
Instead of seeking out skilled journalists, properly equipping them to do their jobs and making excellence a priority, KVET fell back on a consultant driven, all-things-to-all-people mismash. Instead of offering a bold, progressive alternative to KLBJ, KVET management, with no radio news talent or experience whatsoever, struggled to create a pale replication of it. The ratings were abysmal due to a dreadful AM signal, misplaced priorities and a woeful lack of equipment and technical support. That doesn't even consider the total lack of leadership that seems to permeate the entire KVET/KASE operation.
While I certainly don't lament the loss of the dumbed down format that was offered on AM 1300, I will wonder out loud at the blow real journalism continues to take in the electronic media. The gathering of news, once assigned to skilled, proud professionals is now handled by either low-paid, ill-trained drones or given over to contract "talent" to use as fodder for their drive time giggle fests. It seems to me that even the most basic knowledge of government, economics, politics and geography are no longer required or even valued in electronic media in Austin. Program directors position themselves to win statues and plaques, not cover news thoroughly and creatively. They hire whoever will stand the low pay and capricous news judgements, not those who have the skills and background.
My condolences to my friends at KVET, [who] were misled into thinking that hard work and tolerance of management's bungling and interference would soon be rewarded. To quote Paul Harvey, "Now, you know the rest of the story ..."
Former reporter/anchor, KLBJ-AM and KVET-AM
[Ed. note: See this issue's "Media Clips"]
Pay Your Workers, Austin
How interesting to see the business community damn themselves with their comments on the living wage issue ["Pocketbook Politics," Vol. 18, No. 5]. So, Mr. Garey, you see no one making the minimum wage in Austin. Well, excuse me, but that's not the issue. Plenty of people, myself included, are making less than the living wage, and would benefit by the raise being advocated by the living wage coalition. And you say those with families should plan ahead, as if anyone can plan for all of life's uncertainties. I'm certainly glad you could always adjust to a layoff, a catastrophic illness, or the death of a partner, even possibly more than one of those at a time. And Mr. West, the business community believes that the less regulation of wages the better; of course, how else could we have executives making tens and hundreds of millions of dollars, while some full-time workers still need public assistance? I guess let them eat cake was already taken.
In the summer of 1974, I walked into the Sunken Garden Theatre at Brackenridge Park in San Antonio to see a band called Navasota. As I waited, the first band came on but I could not figure out what kind of music they were playing. I got up to get closer and I could see the guitarist, who was wearing what looked like a colorful ruffled shirt and light yellow baggy pants standing there muscling out the greatest guitar playing I had ever heard. I know that on that day I heard a little of Mahavishnu, Jeff Beck, and Hendrix all in one. The sound just blew me away. I found out later they were called the Electromagnets. After the concert, I went straight to the Record Hole in Alamo Heights, but they did not have the record. A year later I found the album in the "import" section at the same record store. I just bought the Electromagnets on CD and it sounds great in my car. Eric Johnson is truly one of the greatest guitar players around. I now realize that the Electromagnets were way ahead of their time when they first came out. They deserve a place in history.
Last week's oil spill (from an underwater pipeline) that is the current source of pollution in the Gulf should have set off alarms about the proposed gas pipeline to El Paso. This oil pipeline was obviously deemed safe by the Federal government, and yet it leaks -- boy does it leak! The Feds will most likely decide that the trans-Texas pipeline is safe also; they obviously don't mind that a few leaks over our delicate aquifer might pollute our water supply for 50 years or so. Can you imagine the potential for terrorism of an un-policable 1,000-mile-long firebomb across our state? It boggles the mind and sets the terrorists aslavering!
Headgear for the Heights
In response to Letitia Gutierrez's letter of October 9 ["Postmarks," Vol.18, No.6]: Welcome to Austin, Letitia. My husband and I have finally figured it out: Amy Babich was dropped on her head one time too many, without her helmet!
Mrs. P. Sandoval
I've been accused in these pages of riding my bicycle like a maniac and ignoring traffic laws. This charge is entirely false. My policy as a bicyclist in traffic is to obey traffic laws, ride predictably, and be as visible as possible. I signal turns and stop at traffic lights. Sometimes I step out of a traffic jam and walk my bicycle on the sidewalk, but this is perfectly legal.
Quite a few young people, especially UT students, ride bicycles in irritating ways. They pass on the right without warning and ride too close to pedestrians. I find this annoying, but it is not my doing.
When thoughtless bicyclists invade my personal space, I am annoyed. When thoughtless motorists drive too close to me, my life is threatened.
I've noticed that several motorists of the letter-writing variety seem to think that no one on a bicycle is en route to work. This is probably because not very many Austin bicycle commuters ride their bicycles in business clothes. It's hot in Austin. Most bicycle commuters here carry extra clothes in their saddlebags, and change when they get to work.
Some Austin businesses have locker and shower facilities for their employees, as well as secure bicycle parking. This makes it easier for their employees to walk or bicycle to work. It's an important step toward treating people who walk or bicycle as full citizens.
In places where bicyclists are treated as citizens, they behave as citizens and not as outlaws. Many car drivers and police officers here regard bicyclists as outlaws. Sometimes they don't know the rules of the road for bicyclists, and abuse bicyclists for obeying the rules.
It would be nice if it were easier to be a law-abiding bicyclist in Austin. It would be a sign of civilization.
Pedal Your Blues Away
Babich may be hacking a bunch of you off, but she's had this effect on me: I now ride my bike to school and the bus to work. And you know what? I'm happier. I don't have to fight for parking. I get fresh air and play the crossword (poorly). I see more.
I'm on her side,
P.S. I love my car and my television and I'm for the death penalty.
The Dumbasses, the Dreamers, and Me
When Amy Babich feels compelled to send her resume to "Postmarks" to satisfy the enraged curiosity of car-driving zombies angry that there is someone out there who doesn't think and act exactly the same way they do, then things have gotten just a little bit out of control. Letitia Gutierrez [Vol. 18, No. 6] writes, "what does [Babich] have against cars in the first place? I lived and worked in Houston for seven years and without a car, I would have been screwed." Did it ever occur to you that there is actually something seriously wrong with the fact that you have to have a car if you live in Houston? (Of course not, you have no brain.) Yes, Amy Babich is a dreamer, but you're an idiot. There's no question which is worse.
Jimmy Beitman [same issue] writes, "your constant whining about cars has become tiresome." Well, if you don't like Babich's letters, then don't read them, dumbass. Honestly, I think some people must have a feedback system in their car which pipes exhaust fumes directly into the cockpit, killing brain cells on contact.
I happen to know that Ms. Babich does not, in fact, own an automobile, and that she does use her bicycle for everything, including commuting to work and buying groceries. She's even planted a peach tree in the middle of her driveway, having no other use for it.
I also happen to be a transportation cyclist, but that's not the point. Whether or not I agree with all of Ms. Babich's opinions doesn't concern me; at least she's not polluting the air I breathe, unlike you whiny jackasses. So please shut up. Or actually, continue to write letters. You're clearly in need of some learnin', and we're more than happy to continue to learn ya. Whether that be in the form of a logical argument or a slap upside the head makes no difference to me.
Babich Scaring Readers
It's real funny to see the responses to Amy Babich. I've been following her letters and the letters of response for I guess at least two or three months. There seems to be a pervasive attitute of a select few to write in and completely blow there tops, and using personal attacks to try to dismiss anything that she has to say. I am not going to say on which side of the issue I stand because that is not the point here. The point is that those people who are breaking blood vessels every week trying to denounce Amy Babich for her ideas are scared shitless. Her views might seem far-flung to you, but countless "new" or "out there" ideas have been treated with the same disregard throughout history as hers have.
Take a minute, relax, and save yourselves from that early heart attack or stroke.
Also, next time try not to react in such a reactionary way; it doesn't look good. Besides, what could a bicycle rider ever do to you? Do you feel threatened by her ideas? Is your "lifestyle" being threatened? Cheer up, there's worse things in this world than somebody just trying to create a dialogue for public debate.
Leave the Driving to Them
Dear City of Austin:
Let me begin by saying I have no illusion that any Austin resident would willingly give up their car, now or ever. I am a professional who has lived in big cities all over the country, including San Jose, Dallas, Phoenix, and Detroit.
I do not have a car, I do not want a car, I do not need a car! I have lived downtown (Congress and Riverside) for five years and I do just fine, thank you. I do not need your pity, or your constant whinings of "but how do you get around?!" Most of the people complaining about how bad the busses are have never even tried to ride an Austin bus. Ride for a month, then gripe.
Contrary to popular belief, with a little planning I can go almost anywhere in the city without a problem. I don't have to park, get gas, get repairs, pay insurance, get tickets, have accidents, or ever be the designated driver. I only cross the street to get to the greenbelt. I get to my job for free on the Dillo in 10 minutes everyday. In five minutes I can walk to 13 restaurants, four convenience stores, two banks, three hotels, City Council meetings, Palmer Auditorium, and the bar in my parking lot. I can see and hear every event on Auditorium Shores from my bedroom. I have an extra $350 to spend in Austin each month. The HEB is a $4 cab ride away.
I am ecstatic that the downtown area is being revitalized, and the more people that live down here the better. I want to make one final thing very clear ... I chose to live this downtown lifestyle first and the rest of my life was molded around that decision. Learn to read the bus schedule and quit bitching!
Our Special "Everybody Ever" Issue
Dear Mr. Black,
My class is studying the views of today's media around the U.S. I was hoping I could recieve your paper for Oct. 1, 1998 [Vol.18, No.5]. The reason I sent to your paper is because I respect every Texan both alive and dead and I believe your paper will give me the straight facts. Thank you for your time.
Benjamin Z. Stewart
The Starr Over Bethlehem
Historics and Heretics
Dear Mr. Black,
I appreciate John King ["Postmarks," Vol.18, No.6] taking time to correct the historical gaffe in my heretical letter. I indeed misread the Roman numeral XIII for an VIII in the fine print of my dictionary, and should have a better command of American history, anyway.
This raises the point, however, that the eighth amendment, condeming cruel, unusual punishment, is also a supression of Biblical morality, as well as the 13th which outlawed slavery.
I acknowledge that Mr. King takes issue with my implied contention that Christianity ever had cosmological significance (no god), bettered the human condition (atrocities outweigh), or that the birth of a millennium has any social or spiritual consequence (superstition).
I will nevertheless reiterate the point, given that there are sincere Christians and there are corrupt pseudo-Christians, that Kenneth Starr is a hypocrite of portentous proportions, who has substantially stigmatized the U.S. justice system and the G.O.P.
Carry On, Babich
I, for one, have this to say to Amy Babich: Carry on. While I do question the feasibility of some of her strategies, her commitment to print the voice of many of us, those who routinely wonder "does it have to be this way?" (You remember ... dream!) was/is courageous. During my thoroughly enjoyable and invigorating bicycle ride to my job as Vice President & CEO of a small corporation (sorry, Ms. Gutierrez ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No. 6], I, like Ms. Babich, am a graduate-degreed, non "hippy-dippy-do"), I am consistently astonished at the vile hatred directed towards a fellow human being for simply wishing to go from one place to another utilizing his own power. It is quite comical. There is some deep-seated stuff here (both their hatred and my resulting humor) that is interesting to ponder.
To Ms. Gutierrez and Mr. Beitman ["Postmarks," same issue] I ask: Is that how you treat your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, etc. when they present ideas for consideration? Dismiss, disagree, and offer thoughtful rebuttal, but please keep your bitterness to yourself.
Paul T. Gibb
More Support for Jackson
Dear Mr. Black:
I have some objections to Michael Ventura's review of Jack Jackson's Lost Cause. ["The Lost Cause," Vol. 18, No. 3] First, it reveals a complete ignorance of the graphic novel medium. To dismiss the book simply because "without pictures, the 148-page story would shrink to maybe 25 pages, if that," is to completely miss the point of the graphic novel -- that pictures can be used to tell an intelligent story and that the graphic novelist's task is to tell the story in as few words as possible.
Also, Ventura's review reads more like a personal attack than a review. Ventura is certainly entitled to his opinion that Jackson is "racist," however to use a critical forum to smear Jackson's character in this way is inappropriate, if not downright uncivilized.
Furthermore, your readers should know that Ventura's opinion is not shared by everyone who has read the book. I have read it, and so have a number of my colleagues in the comics community. No one has found the book to be at all racist. The book is, in fact, a gripping, realistic depiction of Reconstruction-era Texas; it is beautifully drawn, excitingly written, and excellent history.
It would be nice if there were space in this letter to refute all Ventura's claims with regard to the book's "racism." But the claims are so many, and the issues raised so complex, it cannot be done in a letter.
That is why Jack Jackson should be allowed equal space to respond to this unfounded attack ["Page Two," Vol. 18, No. 5].
[Ed. note: An online comic art discussion group took up the Jack Jackson issue. The Chronicle received three similar letters from that group. They are available online.]
Doesn't Want Family Values
Matthew Shepard died this morning. Welcome to Republican America.
Ever since Lee Atwater and Roger Aisles hatched their strategy to break the post-Nixon centrist Democratic coalition, the now-dominant right wing of the Republican party has led this country in a downward spiral. The New Right has prospered through an appeal to self righteous family values, a validation of the fear of the different in a rapidly changing world, and the demonization of liberals, environmentalists, foreigners, immigrants, feminists, the poor, unwed mothers and anyone else not like the mythical "us".
This has created a political and social climate where the near routine murder of medical practitioners in abortion clinics is greeted as God's work. Conservatives want to go back to the "good old days." In the good old days black men were tied to trees and blowtorched to death by white men who went to church on Sunday. Now the children of conservatives tie gay men to fences and pistol whip them to death.
Abortion rights activists don't bomb churches, and gay men don't hunt down and murder straights. If you voted for Ronald Reagan, if you participated in the conservative triumphalism that has been surging higher and higher in the past two decades, then Matthew Shepard died for your sins.
I don't want your family values.