Death Penalty Violates Constitution
Fri., Jan. 29, 1999
Thank you for your informative article on the Board of Pardons and Paroles ["Death Row Dilemma," Vol.18, No.21]. I have long held that capital punishment is a religious act: To make decisions concerning life and death requires moral judgment on spiritual issues, and for government officials to be in charge of such is in direct violation of the Constitution.
Advocates against the death penalty need to get real about the fact that the state is in the business of playing God, instead of giving officials the power to take someone's life and then complaining when that power is abused. Resources currently spent fighting against the state are better invested in alternatives to the death penalty. Similar to privately funded religious schools operated independent of public schools, by religious freedom, citizens morally or religiously opposed to executions by the state have the right to support prison institutions of their choice.
People Against Capital Crime and Punishment
Neighbors Oppose DIY Development
I want to respond to the "Council Watch" article [Vol.18, No.21] that referenced a zoning change for a Home Depot that will be built on Stassney Lane in the upcoming year. A direct quote from the article, "which has some opposition (but not from the relevant neighborhood association), which cut a deal with developers that's to their liking," has prompted this response. I am assuming you are talking about my neighbors and myself. I did speak in front of the City Council as an individual opposing this development, but I am also a member of the Battle Bend Springs Homeowners' Association which, too, opposes this development and which has fought for months over this issue. I live almost directly behind where the Home Depot will be and am very upset by that. However, there is only so much legal recourse afforded us by the city. We were only allowed to oppose the zoning change for the six-acre tract that will contain the Home Depot and could not discuss the rest of the 49-acre tract that will be developed (even though we did mention our concerns about the entire tract whenever possible), and, even if we had been able to overthrow the zoning change, the landowner would only have built another retail establishment with the zoning that is already in place. The landowner and their attorneys have satisfied the city's requirements, we had our shot at citizen intervention, and so much for the political process. Members of the Planning and Zoning Commission as well as the City Council had the attitude that "development was inevitable" on this tract, but that our efforts were honorable. I believe I stated to the City Council that just because the landowner has fulfilled the city's requirements for this development, does not mean that everything will be just fine. We will still face extreme traffic, continuing pollution of Williamson Creek, noise and lights from this development, and a total reduction of our privacy. We did what we could do -- we fought for a higher fence, more vegetation, and to keep existing vegetation, integrated pest control and a reduction in hours of operation, dumpster service, and truck unloading. We were able to get some councilmembers interested enough to ask questions, but in the end, they approved the zoning change. As long as the city keeps handing out approvals for these "big-box home repair stores" because they satisfy city guidelines and restrictions that are in place, there's no stopping the development simply by citizen intervention. I am very offended that your mention of our efforts made it appear as if we just crawled into bed with the developers and did not fight for our neighborhood. Next time please contact the "relevant neighborhood association" before you judge us. Thank you.
The City of Austin is thinking about taking land and homes away from property owners along a select section of East Bouldin Creek in South Austin.
Recently (1-14-99) at a public meeting city officials baited and pitted South Austin residents against neighborhood association members with a proposed "greenway" including a "limited" hike and bike trail along one section of East Bouldin Creek. One "catch."
To legally use the $2 million in leftover bond money for an East Bouldin "greenway" the city needs property acquisitions: about 14 properties need to be bought outright as a "flood control" measure. "All" owners of land involved (trail easements too) would have to "voluntarily" agree to sell.
Those gathered wondered what chance there was that every one of the property owners targeted would agree to sell their property to the city.
One calloused person seemed to think the city should just take homes/properties from the residents who might not want to sell. There was open protest to that kind of strong-arm procedure; the official method used is called "condemnation."
Will city officials continue to set neighbor against neighbor, with those same officials suddenly taking on the role of referee or moderator? Will these same officials and City Hall then come for your suddenly condemned property?
Did the Watershed Department address at length the excessive storm water runoff East Bouldin Creek is getting from the last improvements to Ben White Boulevard or to discuss an underground bypass tunnel to divert the wall of polluted water that sudden storm runoff flushes down from Ben White?
Did officials discuss cleaning up the adverse toxic discharge from the Ben White roadway or outline any effort for the environmental preservation and restoration of the East Bouldin Creek Watershed? Nope. The city sure does want those properties/homes.
All Growth and No Smarts
I applaud the actions of Austin's City Council in buying land in order to have it undeveloped, for the sake of preserving our air and water. But I'm very disappointed in the failure of so-called Smart Growth and New Urbanism policies to address transportation issues.
The number of cars in Austin is growing at a faster rate than the human population. You can call such growth smart, but it doesn't solve the problem. The streets of Austin stink of gasoline fumes and are filled with deadly weapons and the noise of car alarms. You can call such streets great, but it doesn't change the situation.
I recently received some junk mail inviting me to participate in a Sustainable Communities conference in Detroit. The brochure made no mention of transportation. "Sustainable" used to be a transportation buzzword. Now its meaning has been changed. I think that the whole idea is to reassure the car industry in Austin; we're slated to spend more public money on private cars than ever before, in the name of Smart Growth.
If our leaders had courage and the will to solve problems, they would adopt (or, at the very least, discuss publicly) a policy of reducing the number of cars on Austin's streets by two-thirds every five years. That's the sort of policy that can actually solve something. They'd be talking about getting people to CSC by rapid transit, not building parking garages. If there were even one non-motorist in the City Council, I think we'd see a big shift in perspective.
Really smart growth would involve reducing the number of cars in Austin, even if the human population continues to increase. Really great streets don't smell bad and threaten the lives of pedestrians. Please, let's say what we really mean.
The Hall of Forte
In responding to Dan Forte's letter concerning the Texas Hall of Fame nominations ["Postmarks," Vol.18, No.21], I'll try to moderate some of my ego's reactions. First of all, let me say that I actually agree with Mr. Forte's assertion that many great musicians are or have been overlooked, and that there exists a big discrepancy between categories and purpose of this sort of recognition. I've never been clear about what the Hall of Fame is supposed to really recognize -- "local" talent and contributions, or work of significant impact on the artform by persons who happen to come from (or live in?) Texas. All of the musicians on his suggestion list are worthy of note, but his list is by no means exhaustive. Missing were Dewey Redman, Julius Hemphill, Kenny Dorham, James Clay, among many, many others.
However, while I agree with many of his points, I must say that I felt unnecessarily singled out and slammed by his mention of me as being not worthy of this honor, however questionable it might be. And while I appreciate the gesture of whoever did do the nominating, I feel that my name without the band (Creative Opportunity Orchestra or CO2 -- including creative stalwart musicians John Mills, Randy Zimmerman, Martin Banks, James Lakey, Bob Rodriguez, Edwin Livingston, just naming a very few) indicates a lack of understanding of whatever contribution has been made over our 19 years of musical collaboration.
The only occasion that I felt mildly titillated by the idea of being inducted into the Hall of Fame involved the notion that perhaps that honor could generate an actual gig for this wonderful band of creative musicians. While most of the Chronicle's reviews of concerts and/or recordings have been highly favorable, there has been a noticeable lack of enthusiastic and knowledgeable feature press which could help generate audiences. There has been no mention of our week-long tour to the Northwest this fall. I do think traveling with 13 musicians, driving over 2,300 miles, taking great financial risks, and meeting up with highly receptive audiences in Portland, Seattle, Spokane, Helena, and Berkeley, as well as releasing a new recording of all original material, are all matters that bear reporting.
I have never met Dan Forte and I have serious doubts that he has frequently availed himself of our work. He certainly has a right to his opinions and, as I've said, I agree with some of his stated positions, but wonder what was the point of slapping my face.
Very truly yours,
Greed, Not Weed, Doomed Antone
"And Clifford Antone, pleading guilty last week to drug trafficking charges," was the opener to the inane plea to "free Antone" ["Dancing About Architecture," Vol.18, No.21]. Why don't you take away this emotion of the drug trafficking charge and focus -- as did Johnny Law -- on the federal racketeering/money laundering charges? The local television news focused more on these charges than on the drug trafficking charges. The feds knew they could get far more prison time sentencing a federal racketeer/money launderer as opposed to a rock club owner selling weed (see the case history on Paul Cornwell and Atlanta, Ga.'s famed Metroplex club). I think despite the politico's cries of "zero tolerance" a jury would be much kinder to weed than to greed. I too am sorry about Mr. Antone's arrest and don't mean to be arrogant; however, I do not think over-publicizing his drug case is going to help any movement against the drug war. It's time to find someone to keep his club going -- not to lament over and over again that he got caught.
KOOP Thief Spoiled Democracy
I've been harboring suspicions about who might've mislaid the Community Board election ballots, and I wish I wasn't.
All I want to say is, I've done a lot of community activism with individuals on both sides of the KOOP radio controversy, and it really has been difficult trying to stay neutral and continue to be effective in my work.
I think that this well-meaning, albeit unfortunate, fascist-like tactic by an apparent "Friends of KOOP Radio" zealot/ally would help greatly to return the process to a fair democratic direction it was headed before this interruption, by coming forward and confessing the deed and apologizing; now can you see how you've complicated and aggravated things?
Grassroots News Network
Does Anyone Here Know My Jesus?
I can't help but let out a healthy gut laugh when I read the letters of Stephen Cunningham and Kurt Standiford. Both respond that Michael Ventura "doesn't have a clue" about Jesus. I think it's pretty presumptuous for anyone to think they know who Jesus is. I'm sure other views of Jesus confuse you because you've based your interpretation of Jesus strictly from the Bible, while Ventura obviously looked into actual history and made comparisons. Hey, every man's entitled to his opinion, right? "No! I know what God's plan is! My way or hell!!" Ooooooookay. ...
Kurt, my main reason for responding is to clear something up for you. Ventura's sources were "historians," not "sodomite heretics." Sodomite heretics. ... What are you? Amish? Do you realize the only people in the Gospels to cry "heretic" were the religious leaders who killed Jesus? Way to go, buddy. I know you like using big words to make you feel superior to us heathens, but let me say one thing. If you are a Christian, try following Jesus' example. ... Try loving others instead of judging. God hates fags? No, God hates hatemongers.
Riddle Wrapped in a Shroud
Stephen K. Cunningham's statement ["Postmarks," Vol.18, No.20] that "Jesus always spoke to the people in riddles" is so full of bologna, I don't know where to start.
What has come down to us from 2,000 years ago is that Jesus spoke very straightforwardly at times; for example, "Thou shalt not steal" (Matt.19:18), and "Deliver us from evil" (Matt.6:13), but then also spoke to his followers in parables, which were lifelike stories designed to keep his message clear and understandable.
A riddle is a puzzle and not at all what I believe Jesus wanted to leave for his followers to remember from his ministry.
Clemency for Cordova
We urge Texas to stay the execution of George Cordova scheduled for February 10, 1999.
George was convicted in 1979 of the murder and robbery of Joey Hernandez and the aggravated sexual assault of Cynthia West. The conviction was based primarily upon the eyewitness testimony of Ms. West. Although she testified that four persons were involved in the murder, only two were arrested and charged: George Cordova and Manuel Villanueva.
According to the testimony at trial, George struck Mr. Hernandez with a tire iron and Manuel stabbed him with a knife and killed him. The state was permitted to plea-bargain with Manuel, who received a life sentence.
When George was granted a retrial in 1989, he was again convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. At the second trial mitigating evidence was presented as evidence of George's difficult upbringing; a juvenile probation report was presented. Manuel was also called as a witness.
As a young child, George received no discipline or supervision. Often he and his 13 brothers were left alone in their home for periods of time when they lived in filth and went hungry. After the family moved, the new house was well-kept, but the boys still lacked supervision and basically did as they pleased. By the age of 12, George had experienced frustration and deprivation and had been forced to learn to take care of himself. One juvenile probation officer stated that George "has never know discipline and has little cause for optimism" when describing George's poor attitude as a child.
Again, we urge that George Cordova's execution be stayed and that the sentence be commuted to life imprisonment.
Gladys B. Lewis
Beware Armed Sodomites
Does Kate X. Messer ["Public Notice," Vol.18, No.21] know something about the murder of Donald Scott Fuller that she's not telling the police or D.A.? How is she so sure this murder was a result of Fuller being a cross-dresser? Would it be a "hate crime" if Fuller was killed by a homosexual? To what end do we invoke "hate crime" status to murder in Texas? What are you going to do, give the murdered two needles of lethal injection instead of just one? No last supper? Messer writes: "... seriously consider the positive aspects of armed insurgence as a possible means of plowing through gutters and sewers of hate." Messer needs to reflect on these old words of wisdom: 1) Don't let your alligator mouth overrun your mosquito ass. 2) Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.
Hypocritical sodomites need to stop believing their own bullshit, because rational people have already categorically dismissed it (and them).
Or Was That "Saddamites"?
Saddam Hussein isn't the primary threat to the enslavement or total destruction of our life on earth that the real perpetrators of these acts, the international bankers, portray him to be. These enslavers and destroyers' primary pawn that is used by them is aggressive Zionism. Is the anti-Christ alive and active in Israel today? Is he behind the tens of thousands of blasphemies hurled at the Christian community each year by the media? Examples of some of the worst of which are "The Last Temptation of Jesus Christ," "the Piss Christ," and the current movie that portrays our beloved savior as a homosexual.
Ever since the establishment of the nation of Israel, has the Israelis waged such a murderous campaign of "ethnic cleansing" against the Arab population, who had owned their homes and properties for centuries, as to be comparable to the atrocities committed by Adolph Hitler?
That concerned widower and grandfather of eleven angels,