The Real Obscenity

To the Editor:

Because I am no longer a resident of Travis Heights, and because I appreciate many of the social activist efforts of my friends who live there, I have been silent regarding the Cinema West debacle, but the latest update in your paper ["Naked City," Vol. 18, No. 33] begs for additional input.

This theatre was opposed by many for being a "blight" on the neighborhood, which quite frankly, they want to see gentrified. Many of these opponents have been admirably honest in admitting they saw it as an impediment to property values and development in the area. Well, I would argue that any impediment would only have been noticed by the most greedy of humans, as property values and retail development there soared continuously while Cinema West was in operation.

As for being a blight on the area, I don't remember any kids being abused there. I don't recall seeing any unpleasant sights occurring in public in front of the place. No, I take that back. I did see Mark Weaver's fat ass protesting there once. You remember him, don't you? The anti-gay, anti-sex, anti-everything (except food, apparently) crusader? Now there's an obscenity.

Perhaps the greatest irony in all this is that many of the politically correct people who opposed Weaver's anti-sex crusades are on the same side as he when it comes to sex theatre's existence as any threat at all. They knew that, just like shit, sex happens.

I admire the ability of those who opposed the theatre to "do something about it," even if they don't agree with them. I was a little bothered when the possibility of city financial assistance was being considered. After all, didn't they get help enough from the police department? I know there are enough burglaries going on in Travis Heights that we don't need cops on Pee Wee Herman patrol.

In closing, I'll refer to your article, which stated that the retail outlets Gap and Brooks Brothers were possible new tenants. Now there's an obscenity!


Guy LeBlanc

Stupid Growth


Well, well, well, its seems that Williamson County has it own Bob Moffett and Gary Bradley to contend with now! Well hope you all enjoy the gridlock, pollution, and yes, higher taxes these type of people will leave you with. When will the people get tired of the messes that the citizens of this state have to clean up and pay for? Bill Pohl is going to screw y'all just like the other Moffet's and Bradley's of the world have. I know that there are other people who have to believe that licensing of these people has to happen soon. But don't fret Williamson County, because Travis County has a new one now, I just don't know who it is yet. Why, just look at Bee Caves and Hwy 71. They built a shopping center there, narrowed the road, and created gridlock in the country. It used to take 10 minutes to get from Oak Hill to Bee Caves, and now it takes 30 to 45. Then there is the Park 22 office complex on 2222. By time it opens, probably 22 people a year will die there. Maybe it should be renamed Death Park 22. It's nice that Austin has Smart Growth, and Travis and Williamson County have Stupid Growth.

Wallis Parnelle

Who Runs Texas?


It seems the Texas Legislature has finally (and unashamedly) decided to show us who really controls the business of running this state. With recent bills like HB 1704 which will punish cities trying to grapple with their local growth problems (in favor of a wealthy individual's right to rape and pillage their property for profit!), and SB 766 which coddles and cajoles the state's largest air polluters to continue polluting at will (Texas already has some of the worst air in the nation!) -- our state representatives have handed the legislative reigns over to their buddies, the big oil companies and large real estate developers.

Is it any wonder our legislature only meets for one session (six months) out of every two years? As one of the few states without limits on campaign contributions, it takes them that long to collect all their bribe money. Call your elected officials now. Tell them to represent you and your local interests over the pile of shit bills at the end of the corporate money trail ...

Bruce A. Hop

Do You Know Where Your Bond Money Is?

Dear Editor:

This city council and mayor have consistently skewed your vote.

You voted for "greenbelts." City hall then decided to buy with the bond money expensive "greenbelt" land. The city breaks some of that property up into 5-acre lots and put those up for retail sale. This is called fragmented development, the most expensive kind of development there is. The cost of providing infrastructure to widely spaced housing is extremely expensive for developers. City hall took your vote and set the city of Austin up as a civil developer; is this what you were voting for?

Waller Creek "flood control." You voted to provide bond money to construct a tunnel with backflow water from Town Lake to "flush" into Waller Creek as a kind of San Antonio Riverwalk. You found out after the vote that the tunnel would not actually stop flooding problems. There would still be the same 15' walls of floodwater in Waller Creek. Is that the "flood control" you voted for?

You voted to turn Palmer Auditorium into a performing arts center and "park." Now it is revealed that Riverside Drive is to be removed and Dawson and Bouldin are to be blocked off. This has also opened up a retail shopping mall planned on the ground floor of the parking garage. Is that what you were voting for -- street removals and a mini-mall?

At the Smart Growth meeting at the convention center two weeks ago city officials heard one intelligent person say, "we as residents should be telling you city officials what we want you to do. Instead you are here telling us what you want us to do."

This type of "top down" government is not a true democracy, this is called autocratic fascism. Vote wisely, and good luck.

Best regards,

Rick Hall

Comments Reflect Concern

To Members of the Texas State Legislature:

It is my understanding that my comments in last week's Austin Chronicle referring to the Legislature as a "cesspool" have caused some concern ["Council Watch," Vol. 18, No. 34]. I regret my choice of words. However, I hope you will nevertheless understand my deep frustration with continual cycles of legislation that hurt Austin's efforts to protect our environment and our economy.

I have respect for the legislature and the electoral process and the difficulty you face with competing agendas from your constituents. It's my sincere hope that we can work together more collaboratively in the future. Please don't hesitate to call me if I can provide any further insight into my concerns. My office number is 477-2320x13.


Brigid Shea

Hometown Heroes

To the editor:

Some unsung heroes: the employees of Pronto, Fresh Plus, Mother's, Casa de Luz, West Lynn Cafe, Wheatsville Coop, the 7-11 on 15th Street, and Anthony's Dry Cleaning and Laundry. These people help make Austin a wonderful place to live.

Laura Anderson

Spinning Wheels

Dear Editor,

Many people remember that Gandhi promoted the spinning wheel during the Indian nonviolence movement for independence. I think few remember why.

The spinning wheel was a much older technology than the garment industry that existed in the 1920s. Gandhi adopted daily spinning of yarn and encouraged others to take up spinning not because they created better yarn and fabric. They did not. Not because the yarn and fabric were cheaper. Not to destroy British industry or because he hated machinery (a spinning wheel is no less a machine than a garment factory). He spun and promoted spinning because the garment industry both foreign and domestic had usurped Indian workers and Indian culture, giving rise to poverty, idling workers, and corrupting Indian heritage. Gandhi wrote, "The message of the spinning wheel is much wider than its circumference. Its message is one of simplicity, service to mankind, living so as not to hurt others."

In many ways, those of us who promote bicycling and choose the daily discipline of living car-free are following Gandhi's path. I don't claim we are all Gandhis, far from it, but the automobile has stripped something from our lives, our communities, and our traditions. The automobile is not evil, but it is laying waste to our neighborhoods, our planet, and our souls.

I choose to give up convenience, speed, and a climate-controlled environment for the joys of greeting my neighbors on every city block, knowing the weather without turning on the TV, and arriving at work peacefully having had time for a prayer instead of a curse.

The time has come to step back, to serve others, to simplify, and to live so as not to hurt others.


James E. Burnside

Support High School Theatre


The Austin community that did not see "Hands of the Enemy" missed one of the most professional, powerful, and artistic productions yet to be matched by the arts community. Mr. Rick Garcia, drama instructor at Johnson High School, has crafted the work to embellish the talents of all the actors. It was so sad to note that so few people were in the audience to witness the tremendous work of these young students and the excellent direction of the staff.

This play is Johnson High School's entry into the state competition. It is a winner. With all the focus on horrendous school incidents, the Austin community and parents need to support and attend these type of activities created by our youth. The more school events and youth activities that we, as a community, attend, the less likely it will be that this community will be visited by violence.

"Hands of the Enemy" is spellbinding. ... Bring lots of tissues.

Rodolfo Mendez

Violence Is Relative

Dear Editor,

The media has been continuously referring to these United States as "the gun-toting nation" since the tragedy in Littleton, Colorado. The First and Second Amendments to our Constitution seem to be the "enemy" that we cast blame upon for such horrible occurrences.

I have heard on television that Europeans look upon us with disdain for our "violent culture." I disagree with the notion that ours is the violent society. Here in the States, we rightly mourn in anguish when the downside to our Second Amendment freedoms cost the lives of innocent citizens. This usually takes place one victim at a time. Sometimes, as happened in Colorado, as many as 15 to 20 perish. In Europe, when things go wrong, millions die. Men, women, and children are sent to their deaths as they are lined up along freshly dug ditches and executed mercilessly. This is not ancient history.

There is no need to recall the history of the Holocaust. More European genocide is taking place even as I type this letter. All the while, they think we are excessively violent! During both world wars, which were started on the European continent, these "non-violent" societies have twice had to call upon this "gun-toting nation" to pull their butts out of the fire at the cost of hundreds of thousands of American lives.

Is there too much violence in this country? Yes. Would I trade my freedoms for safety? No. Give away your freedom to speak freely and/or defend yourself and you invite to your front door the ultimate horrors that the Europeans know so well.

Andy Raiford

School's Out Forever

Dear Editor,

In the midst of the post-Columbine High School teen-bashing frenzy, let me point out something. In 1972, weeks before I graduated from high school, Alice Cooper had a hit song entitled "School's Out." The last line of that angry, noisy, smart-alecky, and entirely joyful song went "School's been blown to pieces !" and was followed by an explosion and a throng of cheering students.

So. Does Alice get a trial or should we just get him a reservation on death row now and avoid all the legal niceties? Oh. I forgot. No one blew up or even attempted to blow up any schools in 1972. And of course, teenagers are always hoodlums until they prove otherwise. We god-fearing adults must protect ourselves from our wayward progeny who would surely murder us in our beds if we were to rest. They're just born evil, you know.

Sorry, false alarm. Return to your hysteria.

Larry W. Cordle

Starr Power


One day we may forgive Ken Starr for blaming his flawed $44 million investigation on the law which enabled his appointment as prosecutor. But we shall never forget Inquisitor Starr's indelible TV image: his dimpled angelic smile, his chubby cherubic chops, Starbucks in hand, departing each morning for his Starr Chamber to skewer sin.

T.S. Corin

Cinco de Mayo 101


The 5th of May, 1862, involved the histories and destinies of both the United States and Mexico, and their leaders were Abraham Lincoln and Benito Juarez.

In 1862 soldiers came from France and their plan was to capture the capital of Mexico, Mexico City, and the rest of the country would have surrendered.

The French were not afraid of anyone since they had not lost a war in 50 years and the United States was embroiled in a Civil War.

On May 5, 1862, 10,000 French Army soldiers armed with cannons and rifles took on 5,000 ill-equipped Mestizo and Zapotec Indians armed only with pride and machetes commanded by Texas-born General Ignacio Zaragoza.

When the Mexican peasants realized their culture and land was being jeopardized, they were eager to fight alongside their Indian President Juarez.

Many honorable Mexican farm workers died so Mexico could remain independent. The Mexican soldiers knew they had to fight for all they were worth; if they lost they knew they would become part of France.

This the Mexican farmers would not tolerate. On this day, May 5, 1862, General Ignazio Zaragoza and his ragtag Indian forces were convincingly victorious in their fight against the French army, in what came to be known as "Batalla de Puebla." The city is now officially called Puebla de Zaragoza in honor of this victory.

American Union forces were then rushed to the Texas/Mexico border under general Sheridan, who made sure that the Mexicans got all the weapons and ammunition they needed to expel the French.

In gratitude, thousands of Mexicans crossed the border after Pearl Harbor to join the U.S. Armed Forces.

Mexicans, you see, never forget who their friends are and neither do Americans. Mejicanos, pueden ver, nunca se olvidan de quien son sus amigos, y ni unos ni otros los Americanos.

That's why Cinco de Mayo is such a party that celebrates freedom and liberty. Por eso el Cinco de Mayo es una Fiesta -- un Fiesta que celebra la libertad.

This is why we celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Estos es sobre porque celebramos Cinco de Mayo.

This is what Mexico is all about. Estos es sobre El Pais de Mexico.

Jimmy Castro

A Voter's Laundry List

Dear Citizens of Austin,

Every once in a while, I am actually overjoyed at something that the City Council does. I called the mayor and left messages explaining what terrible condition the public computers at the downtown library were in, and asked for Dell Computers. I walked in on Sunday and there were Dell computers in the place. Gosh, I am happy!

Well, while I am on a roll, I will make some other requests. I am going to say this honestly, in order to gain my vote, in this upcoming election, the City Council will have to do some simple things:

1. Build some affordable apartments in this city. I am tired of the 97% apartment occupancy rate. These reasonably priced, even smaller apartments, are for students and responsible people (not drunks.)

2. Bring more corporations into the area that pay over $8 an hour. There was a brief mention in the Statesman of the possibility of a GM plant in one article. There is plenty of land undeveloped out near AMD that could be developed as factories that would not endanger Barton Springs.

3. Actually supervise the police department. Twice in this city I have had people under the influence crash into two cars that I owned in this city. Both times the cars were parked by the curb of expensive neighborhoods. Both times the police department's response was improper. Both times, the cars, which were only damaged and were not blocking anyone's path, were quickly towed off. The second time the police wound up with a signed confession from the violent, drunk frat who plowed into my car, and they did nothing.

Earn my vote,

Frank Bartlett

Albanians Were There First


Although I have no problem with your publishing a pro-Serb letter ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No. 32], I found the headline for the letter offensive ("Kosovo Belongs to the Serbs"). At this point, Kosov@, as it's now being spelled (Albanians spell it with an A ending, Serbs with an O), doesn't really belong to anyone. Albanians have lived in the area far longer than Serbs; perhaps that's why they feel a little proprietary about it. If Serbs think the area is so wonderful and holy, why didn't more of them settle there? C'mon, Mr. Lovric: We all know the Albanians are being forced out of their homes by Serbian milicija, not NATO's bombs.

As a documentary photographer working in the region since 1992 I am thankful I was able to photograph the people of Kosov@ before its destruction. As far as I know, only one of the many friends I made there has made it out: Afrim Hajrullahu, with whom I was working on a grant project. Before he was forced from his home and put on a train for Macedonia a week ago, he was able to take some clandestine photos and get the film to the Associated Press. I wept with relief when I saw his photos online and then later in a news magazine.

At this point it is impossible to predict an outcome for these unfortunate people, as each day's news brings forth more horrors. I had my own little horrific encounter with some Serbian officials in 1996, when I was detained for inadvertently taking a photo of the TV station in Prishtina. Although this was a frightening experience, it was instructive, because I then realized that Albanians living in Kosova have to expect this sort of harassment at any moment, simply because of their ethnicity. I wonder how long the Serbs thought they could treat the Albanians like scum and not have them rebel.

I'm sorry that so many people, regardless of their ethnicity, are having to suffer because of the will of one madman. Milosevic should have been taken out a long time ago.


Martha Grenon

Go From Jesus


Last week in his letter to the editor, Kurt Standiford once again speaks his "words of wisdom" ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No. 32]. Republican Christians outnumber the rest of us, huh? Well, that explains Clinton being elected twice ...

It amazes me how some followers of Jesus like yourself are so judgmental and condemning ... something Jesus stood against. I bet you're just the apple of your church's eye ... "Hey, brethren! Did you see my clever letter? Yee haw! I told them sinners somethin'. ... I know we're supposed to minister to them and lead them to the Lord, but I thought I'd piss them off instead and drive 'em away from Christ. ... Ain't I a hoot?"


John Rabon

Diplomacy, Not Bombs


The precipitous chain reaction of events in the Balkans and their progression toward more destruction and human suffering beg for an urgent re-examination of the U.S. policy in that region. We have been premature in relinquishing the requisite posture of impartiality in a complex situation. The hotly contested issue at hand is the right of a large immigrant majority -- much of it recent -- to conquer a province of the host nation by armed insurrection. Such practice is not favored by international law, although there have been familiar precedents. Unfortunately, our diplomacy appears to be influenced by people sympathetic to the Albanian revolutionary agenda, and it is executed by personalities devoid of diplomatic courtesies: Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and special envoy Richard Holbrooke. Their heavy-handed and overbearing actions left the Serbian people no other choice but to rally behind their leader. The Serbian people may not love Slobodan Milosevic, but they like his policies. What is the point in demonizing the established leader of a small country with the Hitler hyperbole?

The loss of life, the exodus of refugees and the destruction of bombing raids are tragic because they could have been avoided by a more competent diplomacy. We could have pointed out to the Serbs, ever so politely, that while they let the Albanians move into Kosovo, the Serbs themselves preferred to populate the fertile southern province of Hungary. Having achieved a majority, they gained control of the Hungarian province in 1920. We are talking about Voivodina, which had been as sacred a soil and historical part of Hungary since the year 1000 as Kosovo had been for the Serbs. Milosevic could have been told that the Serbs cannot have it both ways. If they wanted to keep the Voivodina, which was given to them by the Western powers on the basis of their majority population, they would have to agree to majority rule also in Kosovo. If they insist on their historical rights in Kosovo, they would have to return Voivodina to Hungary, who had the historical rights. There can hardly be any doubt that a more balanced stick and carrot diplomacy would have worked toward a satisfactory outcome. What we need is a return to sanity and diplomacy. It is not wise to allow the Second Law of Thermodynamics to rule in foreign affairs. We cannot afford another Marshall Plan to rebuild the Balkans.

Joseph Nagyvary,

College Station

Air Strikes Make It Worse


The NATO attacks on Yugoslavia are, in a sense, business as usual. Described by Albright as moving from defending only NATO members to defending "our common interests," this attack on a non-NATO country effectively circumvents UN condemnation. But the Pentagon is also willing to fly solo, as the attacks on Sudan and Afghanistan illustrate; both actions were taken without consulting either the UN or NATO. The Pentagon has long led the State Department as the most active agent of American foreign policy.

Again we must ask: Cui bono? Who benefits? This operation will advance further expansion of U.S. arms sales throughout the region, for which Kosovo provides a real-time product demonstration, Eastern Europe being the second largest recipient of U.S.-funded military equipment after the Middle East.

Make no mistake: U.S.-NATO attacks were not motivated merely by humanitarian concerns. The CIA explicitly warned Clinton that military intervention would only escalate the atrocities. His decision to attack should concern us, not only over boldly hypocritical concerns for the welfare of the Kosovars, but also because of the arms race being fueled by the U.S. in Eastern Europe. With depictions ranging from "civil conflict" to "ethnic cleansing" to "massacre" to "genocide", the increased violence came largely after the attacks by U.S.-led NATO forces.

Have the Serbs committed murderous acts? Certainly. Did the U.S. arming of Bosnian Muslims hurt stability in the area? Absolutely. Was the senseless murder of roughly 2,000 Kosovars last year really genocide? No. Comparisons made by some to our own civil war are entirely reasonable: Do the Kosovars have a case for secession? Perhaps. Does Milosevic have the right to take military action to uphold the unity of Yugoslavia? Definitely. Is U.S.-NATO escalation of the atrocities helping Yugoslavia to resolve its own conflict? Absolutely not.

Mark Dennis

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