Press Bush on Wiccans


Your George II articles qualify you as a newspaper of record for the campaign. Junior's record: None. And amply described.

The Austin American-Statesman has had a most interesting time with the Wiccans-at-Ft. Hood subject. As you have seen, Rep. Barr has taken the flaming brand in his teeth and today has a slurry of some 13 rightist outfits behind him: AA-S, A1, 10 Jun 99.

The AA-S neglected to give us the list of organizations. Let the battle lines be drawn! No Wiccans or civil rights people were interviewed for today. I wish I knew some Wiccans to give the following information:
  • Rep. Bob Barr; 1130 Longworth Office Bldg., Washington, DC 20515; Fax# 202/225-2944.

  • Lt. Gen. Leon LaPorte; CO Ft. Hood; Killeen TX; Voice (main) 254/287-1110 & Fax: 254/225-2580.

These cats are nailing down the military as second-class citizens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Phil Gramm voted to uphold the "ban" on abortions at military facilities. The officers get RU-486 for wives, family, and mistresses -- no medical officer will deny a brother -- or sister -- officer a remedy for "irregularity." Enlisted personnel are sort of third-class there. The enlisted cat cannot go to the BX for a copy of Playboy or Playgirl. Now they don't get first amendment rights if Barr and the 13 apostles get their way.

I wonder what Junior Bush would say if you can pry it out of him. After his "Jews don't go ..." apology he's staying away. If we could get the "13 organizations" to ask him, it might be interesting. This would be the latex waffle in action.

Isn't there some really old law about "interfering with enlistment" that was tentatively trotted out during the anti-Vietnam protests? Paul Weyrich should feel the bite of that toothless old dog.

This is a teacup tempest but it might be fun to keep the heat on and see who blows a gasket. These 13 apostles are using the military as an experimental body to see how many sumptuary laws and regulations they can pass before everyone departs for classes at Screw-U. Then they'll decide how many the Republicans can force on the rest of us ... for our own good.

Bryan Ogburn

Bush Is Least Qualified


George W. Bush is running for president against an opponent that will have spent eight years in the White House during two of America's most prosperous presidential terms ever, has every international contact possible, and has very strong environmental views.

Bush on the other hand, has allowed Karla Faye Tucker to die while sparing Henry Lee Lucas, tried to flunk half of Texas' eighth-graders on a whim, devised a corporate welfare scam in Arlington that netted him over $16 million after the smoke cleared, and has given a speech in Iowa.

Bush is easily the least qualified presidential candidate in the 2000 race and it's frightening to me that he is the GOP frontrunner.

Richard Harvey

Mistakes Were Made


Ya'll made two mistakes about the newspaper story ["Smoke Gets in Your Mouth," Vol. 18, No. 38]. The first one was 1) Need teef to eat my beef. It was supposed to put Need no teef to eat my beef. 2) You said we put eggs in our potato salad. And we don't. Because I don't like eggs.

From: my dad's daughter
Olivia Sullivan, age 7
House Park BBQ

Tom X Alive, Well, Dancing

Dear Editor,

Re: "Paging Tom X" ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No. 41]: Tommy X, at 70, is very alive, exceedingly well, and can be found dancing every Sunday afternoon at Guero's on S. Congress to the music of his wife and daughters' band, the Texana Dames. A documentary video based on his book Zen and the Art of the Texas Two-Step is in the works. Stay tuned.

Charles Harp

A True Believer


I was lucky enough to catch Alejandro Escovedo on the radio playing live on KUT's John Aielli's show the other day. Along with the string section of Tosca playing, it was some of the best music that program has ever had. Later, at a CD release party at Waterloo Records, he performed again with his regular group. With many packing the aisles between the CD racks, they heard what was truly an Austin moment.

Alejandro has traveled a long hard road to reach this point, but here is an artist at the top of his craft. His back-up players are simply marvelous, and all together they create music that is stunning. For the last two songs, the group unplugged their instruments and came out in the audience and Alejandro sang a couple of songs, unamplified, that went straight to the heart. Those there felt a shared event that will be long remembered.

Ernest Garza

America's Most Wanted

Dear Editor,

The FBI recently released its list of the most wanted fugitives in the world. Sadly, it left out the most dangerous man alive. William Jefferson Clinton should've headed the list for all the genocides perpetrated by his administrations against countless innocent lives.

It is the U.S.-forced "genocide by sanctions" of Iraqis that have killed 1.5 million people over there. So many people die each day because of starvation and disease induced by the sanctions. Furthermore, daily air strikes continue, for no apparent reason, on Iraqi military and civilian infrastructure without any U.N. authorization or clearance.

Last year, U.S. cruise missiles struck huts in Afghanistan and a pharmaceutical company in Sudan on the pretext of attacking "terrorist" targets. The factory in Sudan, mistakenly thought to be producing chemical weapons, provided cheap anti-malarial medicine for most of Africa. Millions of people will die in the absence of such drugs, but this is just "collateral damage" to Clinton and his staff.

Both attacks, allegedly against bin Laden's assets, were recently acknowledged by the State Department as "mistakes." And now with the mismanaged Operation Allied Force, we have mounting civilian casualties every day. After all the innocent lives he has killed and the billions of dollars in property damage he has inflicted, maybe we should be asking ourselves if the FBI is looking for the right man. Historians will remember these incidents (and Monica) as being Clinton's legacy -- ironically so, since he proudly describes himself as a pacifist and a feminist of the Sixties.

But according to the "experts" at the State Department, Usama bin Laden is the greatest "threat" to world peace today. These are the same eggheads that were guarding America's nuclear secrets from such "threats" -- that was until the Chinese came along and pulled off one hell of a cleaning job.

Zafar S. Choudhury

Eye on Acosta

Dear Editor:

Thank goodness for Belinda Acosta. Now, I truly have a reason to look forward to The Austin Chronicle every Thursday. I thought that I couldn't relate to a column about (of all things) television (indeed, I never have before), but I was wrong. Ms. Acosta makes amazing and important connections that I would not have thought possible in a column about the small screen. Ms. Acosta leads me to consider issues of representation ["TV Eye," Vol. 18, No. 41] and even helps me to feel less guilty about enjoying television [Vol. 18, No. 40]. ¡Que viva Belinda!
Dennis G. Medina

Bikes Across America

Dear Austin,

On June 3, my wife and I were driving back to Austin from our mountain retreat in Cloudcroft, N.M. We had spent a week there camping on our land and planning our little cabin in the woods. As we drove past San Angelo, we saw a man on a bicycle headed for San Angelo. His bike was loaded with assorted packs and camping gear. This guy wasn't just headed across town (there was no town). My wife and I ride motorcycles and have ridden on many long, hard rides. We know a serious biker when we see one. We made a U-turn out in the middle of nowhere to speak with this impressive figure. "Hi, I'm Billy O'Leary," he said. "I'm riding to San Francisco. I left Austin two days ago. Right now I'm headed up to an Earth First gathering outside Durango, Colorado." Billy was young and lean and fit for the road. He seemed to blend in with the hilly Texas high country around him. We shared a cold drink with Billy O'Leary and relished with him for a moment the adventure he had embarked upon. Billy finished his drink, mounted his bike, and rode off down the road.

My wife and I have recently purchased two bicycles. It's great fun. It's good exercise. It's a good way to go. Billy O'Leary is in the mountains now. He can smell them. He can see them. He rides on them. He is part of them on his bicycle. We are back in the big city.

We remember you, Billy O'Leary. Take care. Ride hard. Ride safe. God bless you, Billy O'Leary.

Mike and Tina Claxton

Thanks, Thanks a Lot


I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest appreciation to the group of twentysomethings seated back in the corner at Jovita's Tuesday night, June 8. Their loud conversations drowned out any chance of enjoying the great music of Don Walser, which we originally came to hear. It was fascinating to hear all the intimate details of their current life. One can hear Don Walser anytime, but to be part of such interesting conversation is a rare occasion. Once again, my thanks to them.

Nelson Haldane

Flippancy Affects Children


I am writing in reply to the letter from Leslie Smart regarding an award ceremony at her son's AISD school ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No. 41]. While I make no comment on the issue she raises about her son not getting a reward, or any cookies, I take strong issue with her flippant remark about the matter, "No wonder kids bring guns to school."

Ms. Smart is willing to put this comment in writing in a public forum. What effect can this attitude have on him?
According to the evidence of her report, her child is an extension of her ego. I doubt that he has considered mortal violence as an appropriate response to an alleged injustice involving recognition and cookies, or, under her parentage, maybe he has.
K. M. McDaniel

Babich Doesn't Understand


As a long-time reader of the Chronicle, I'm amused by Amy Babich's constant comments in your "Postmarks" section. Her letter in the June 11 issue ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No. 41] convinced me of her lack of understanding about why certain areas have successful public transit systems and why others do not.

In her anti-car crusade, Ms. Babich pointed out that there are no real public transportation systems in Texas. She's right, and for a good reason. Public transit works well in a high-density city like Manhattan or San Francisco, where a small number of stops can serve a large number of citizens. But in a low-density city like Austin, Houston, or Dallas, mass transit won't work well, because the sheer number of stops required to cover the community simply can't be supported, and most of us aren't willing to walk a mile in the Texas heat at each end of our journey, as would be required by a network with fewer stops.

She closes by saying that "Cars work well where there is plenty of open space." Inadvertently, Ms. Babich undermines her whole argument, because as urban areas go, Austin is very low-density ... it's exactly the type of environment where cars work well, assuming political forces don't undermine the development of a road network that is not 10 years behind demand. Her characterization of Austin as a "crowded city" tells me that Ms. Babich simply doesn't understand the issue about which she writes so many letters.
Albert Nurick

Good Work, Amy


I think we all know that Amy Babich is an extremist in her (noble) cause. Rational thinkers do not expect the city to become car-free in our lifetimes, but working toward that goal is certainly admirable. Keep up the good work, Amy! Don't you find it amusing to see how threatened people (like Mr. Torres-Torres ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No. 40]) are by these proposals ... isn't it fun to watch the car addicts squirm? I certainly think it is ... and I suspect Amy is laughing, too.

Kelly Harper

Build Cities for Humans

Ladies and Gentlemen:

There is a lot of discussion of bicycles or cars in your publication. I'd like to move the discussion to bikes and cars, and perhaps expand it to transit and walking, too.

Since World War II, the basis of Austin's Land Development Code has been functional zoning -- putting facilities for living, working, shopping, educating, recreating, worshiping, and civic governance in separate and large zones. This system assumes that one has a car. This assumption is devastating to the young, the old, the poor, the disabled, and those who simply don't wish to drive by choice.

For centuries prior to World War II, our civilization was built in the form of walkable neighborhoods which aggregated to form villages, towns, and cities. These historic areas accommodate transit and autos quite well. They contain many or all of life's daily needs within walking distance. They are some of the greatest places we know today.

Everything today is built to automobile scale, and nothing is built to human scale. Few if any of life's daily needs are within walking distance. Automobile usage is mandatory, not a choice. It would seem that democracy is strengthened by choice.

To make matters worse, and in a variety of ways, automobile usage and the consequent suburban sprawl are encouraged, entitled, and subsidized.

As a body politic, we can insist that streets and neighborhoods be built to human scale again, just as our Land Development Codes (every municipality has one) mandate that they be built to auto scale today. We can stop subsidizing sprawl. We can start building real neighborhoods that will be better 100 years from now, instead of building the cartoonish, temporary, ugly suburban landscape that we have been building for 50 years.

Get involved in changing things.

Rob Dickson

No Cars Downtown

Dear Editor:

Urban car-free areas are not a fantasy. Many older cities (especially in Europe and the northeastern U.S.) have always had car-free areas. The central square of a city is often car-free, as are shopping districts.

Austin occasionally has car-free areas, but only on a temporary basis, when streets are closed to cars for a special occasion. After the governor's inaugural parade this year, the Statesman printed an editorial saying how nice it was to walk up and down Congress Avenue and see old friends. If Congress Avenue were car-free, people would walk up and down it and see old friends more often.

Ambulances and fire trucks are, of course, permitted on car-free streets. Deliveries by truck are not made during business hours. Public transit takes people to car-free areas.

Recently, some cities (Paris, Rome, London) have been increasing their car-free space. This is because these cities, despite their excellent public transit systems, are being choked by cars. People drive cars even when it is impractical, because they regard cars as status symbols.

Parisians like cars, but they don't like the effect of car overpopulation on Paris. They want Paris to look like Paris, not like a parking lot. Last year they held a one-day event called En Ville Sans Ma Voiture ("In Town Without My Car"), in which they closed some sections of town to cars. It was very popular and reduced traffic dramatically. They're going to do it again this year.

Austin has more to lose to cars than Paris has. We still have a river you can swim in. Please, let's start solving our problems before they get worse. How about a car-free downtown?

Yours truly,
Amy Babich

Drag Solutions

Dear Sirs:

Improving the Drag, no matter who does it, is not just a matter of prettification. Trees would be nice (they're nice enough anywhere, so it's easy to be in favor of trees), but the more important thing is cohesion. A fairly wacky but illustrative example of something that would bring this about: a people mover. Talking about the Drag as one area is strange sometimes, when people's definitions of it seem to stretch at least from 19th Street to 29th Street; those are Austin blocks, too. If Desert Books (Bank One building) and Fringeware are both on the Drag (and I'd personally like to think of Ken's Donuts as the honorary end of the drag), it would be hard to walk the Drag in most people's lunch hour. How to make a long stretch part of a unified whole? Better transport! Better transport!

The Drag will be widened, I understand, as part of this clean-up-the-Drag effort. So why not lift the ridiculous and dangerous ban on bikes? I've thought about getting a unicycle to protest the inanity of forcing bikers onto potholed, Austin-driver-infested Guadalupe. If the Drag is widened, just put in a stripe that says "Watch for Bikes in This Corridor" and be done with it. Oh yeah, allow rollerbladers and skateboarders too. Car vs. Foot is an artificial dichotomy.

Allow/encourage/ignore pedicabs. That would make it an acceptable option for someone who works on 18th Street (like me) to say "Sure, I'd like to eat at Thai Noodle House today, but I only have 10 minutes to walk through this broiling Texas heat to get there if I am to get back to work on time. Good thing a pedicab takes three minutes and only costs a buck twenty-five!"

Timothy Lord

Painful Parking

Dear Chronicle:

I read weekly with bemusement the letters for/against cars, bicycles, pedestrians, etc ... I see the same arguments that "cars are freedom" and "cars hurt the environment" over and over again. Yet many of these arguments for better public transportation revolve around issues that don't really hit me in my suburbia home. How about this one? Why does Boston, Mass., have a very good rail and bus system? Do the citizens in that city value the environment and exercise more than those in Austin? I seriously doubt it The reason that Boston, New York, Washington, D.C, Chicago, and other Northern cities have good transportation is that cars aren't affordable there. If you want to live in Boston, you can't find a parking spot for your car or you pay through the nose to park in a garage. Therefore, people in those cities make the value judgement that traveling by mass transit is cheap enough in comparison to warrant the extra hassle. Public transit will never be more convenient and very rarely faster than travel by car. However, in large metropolitan cities, it can easily be cheaper. If you want to prove that point today in Austin, charge $400/month or $7/hour for a downtown parking space (day or night). See how many people who love the freedom of their cars suddenly see mass transit as a good idea. Don't get me wrong, I'm not condoning doing that today. However, look forward to Austin 20 years from now. As urban development makes apartment complexes and businesses a more profitable use of land than parking lots, parking space costs could rise to that of Northern cities. What do we do then? Will we have a good transit system that the people of Austin can use when we finally want it? If we don't fund it now, I'm afraid the answer will be no.

Joel Sumner

Turning Austin Into Dallas


Why are people hellbent on turning Austin into Dallas? Leslie, on Sixth and Congress, represents the quirky, free-spirited individualism that has been Austin for years.

I like living in a town where people like Leslie can be themselves. I like cruising through town and seeing pyramids of old TVs in someone's yard, too. These are a few things that make Austin Austin.

When all this is gone, and it's disappearing quickly, then I suppose you can pave over everything. Go ahead, replace all the neat people, quirky shops, and greenbelts with miles of concrete and stodgy stuffed shirts like you find in Dallas or Williamson County. By that time I will be gone and sad, for I truly loved the old Austin and those who represented its free-spirited individualism, past and present.

William Dumas

Thanks From Inmate Families

Dear Mr. Black:

This letter is to say "Thank You" to you and to Mike Butts for the publication of the article "The Other Side of Prison" in your April 30, 1999, issue [Vol. 18, No. 35]. The article was straightforward, and allowed me the opportunity to expound on the goals of the Texas Inmate Families Association and make more people aware of the organization.

My compliments to Mr. Butts for an article written with no bias and which I sincerely hope has helped more families in need of TIFA's assistance know how to reach us.

Again, my heartfelt thanks for a job well done!

Linda F. Reeves

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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July 9, 2004

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