Benefits of Frankenfoods


Why is it that every time an environmentalist mentions genetic engineering (GE) they invoke Frankenstein's monster? Why are they afraid of science?

In the recent "It's Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature" [Vol. 18, No. 49], Virginia B. Wood's "reasonable voice" was anything but. Wood's argument was nothing more than an ignorant fear of viral promoters and an anecdote about butterflies. She ignored any legitimate value that GE foods create, such as higher yields, better taste, and pest resistance found in such products as Bt insect-protected crops and Monsanto's Roundup Ready line. And rather than suggest more study of GE foods, she concludes that concerns "should be voiced repeatedly until governments and the businesses they support begin to listen" -- as if repeatedly voicing concerns makes them true.

Wood's premise is obviously Environmentalism. The fundamental idea of Environmentalism is that man should not alter or affect nature, so when we start controlling nature's building blocks, environmentalists start screaming. Environmentalism decries that man's means of survival is unlike any other animal. Animals eat and drink what they can find and seek shelter in caves. Man grows the food he needs, builds irrigation, water purification systems, and houses. Rather than adapting to his environment, man survives by adapting the environment to himself. This is an unchangeable part of man's nature, and he cannot live otherwise. To decry this fact and claim that man should live as the other animals is to call out for billions of deaths by hunger, thirst, and exposure.

Science isn't the monster, Environmentalism is.

Shawn Bodmann

Challenge Sprawl

Dear Chronicle:

Thanks for the "Page Two" [Vol.18, No.50] response to the local daily's recent anti-environment tirades. Thanks also for raising the question of how the council handles many tens of millions of square feet and more than 10 thousand acres of "grandfather wannabe" developments. The answer will determine the face of Austin for decades to come.

The council needs to challenge HB 1704, the new, retroactive grandfather law that could allow two or more downtowns to be built on the Barton Springs watershed, not to mention grandfathered projects in other parts of the city. The gridlock, pollution, flooding, and creek destruction that would result if these old projects are resurrected is truly frightening. The hundreds of millions that we will have to spend to add lanes of traffic to MoPac and other area roadways, build new interchanges, channelize overdeveloped creeks, etc. in a hopeless effort to pave our way out of the grandfather problem is even scarier.

It may be that some members of council aren't aware that suburban and rural residents now facing the brunt of the sprawl assault are leaping on the pro-environment bandwagon. Contrary to Mr. Oppel's claims, these voters want more environmental protection and less development. If you agree, please call council members and urge them to stand up for local control and take decisive action to prevent wholesale grandfathering that would, quite literally, ruin Austin.

Bill Bunch

Save Our Springs Alliance

Lay People, Rail Benefits

Dear Editor:

I moved to Austin six years ago from Long Island, NY. I just read the letter from Rick Hall, ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No 49]. In '93 I would get caught in 15 minutes of traffic. Now every rush hour is more like 45 minutes. Mr. Hall spouted shortsighted numbers and tried to sway "lay persons" -- the people that would benefit from the rail -- from building one. We should think of the money spent as being spread over the next 50 years. We should realize this green line of 17 miles and 11,500 riders per weekday is the beginning. We will build connecting lines, and improve as we go. We have to start someplace.

Living around the Long Island Rail Road, "The largest commuter rail line in the world," was great. It was not perfect, but better than driving to New York City. I'm not proposing light rail; I want a full-fledged all-out rail line/elevated subway. I want it 24/7. I like to party downtown and I don't have DWIs. I'm a responsible driver. The Boston complaint is "The subway shuts down at 2am." I'm scared of traffic, and wrecks are not glamorous.

Yep, I'm a Yankee, with Yankee ideas. When a rail strike occurred and riders would commute, I'd realize how many people commute. Thankfully, it was temporary. Build a rail that is practical and provides good service to all the big employers and other functions. Round Rock has a ballpark, and a big Dell factory. The rail must include the new Austin airport and of course East Austin. Think realistically about doing without a car. We should provide room for bikes on trains. It's an expensive proposition, but without a rail in 10 years will we have any kind of lifestyle?

Brian Mulligan

The Smart Growth Jihad

Dear Editor(s)

There is movement at City Hall to use the light rail and bus transportation corridors as rezoning gentrification projects. Think your property values and the resulting property taxes are excessive now? Wait until City Hall's special Smart Growth DDZ rezoning goes into effect.
From the City's Smart Growth "Initiative" guide:

"Transit Nodes -- Focus on higher density transit-oriented development within 1/4 mile radius of light rail stations": "Generally, the goal is to provide for the completion of Neighborhood Plans that, at a minimum, cover areas within 1/4 mile radius of transit stations and within 300 feet of the pavement along designated corridors."

So right now there is planning going on to cause deep rezoning development into city neighborhoods along transit corridors, rail and bus stations, nodes, and corridors.

Likewise from the "Initiative" guide:

"Transit Corridors and Nodes (August 1999) -- The transit corridors and nodes focus Smart Growth on the relationship between land use and transportation. This is an important aspect since, perhaps more than anything else, it affects very specifically 'how and where' development occurs, the impact on 'quality of life,' and also the attention to 'increasing tax base.'

The reason I am against the use of light rail in Austin is simple. There are more modern transit systems which could be set up as a network. These types of network systems would be true transportation systems that address transportation issues only.

City Hall planning plus light rail corridor rezoning is a project of gentrification.

This is a bully boy, selfish misuse of transit funding and makes Smart Growth planning resemble a one-sided war on select residents of Austin. This Smart Growth planning looks more and more like a jihad.

A jihad is a "social war" conducted in peacetime.

Rick Hall

Reinventing the Rail

Dear Editor:

If anyone has ever tried to drive up or down I-35 after 1pm they have noticed that it is impossible to drive faster than 10-15 mph to their destination. There have been many ideas on how to reduce the traffic on I-35, such as creating an HOV lane, which restricts one lane solely to cars with one or more passengers. My concern is that politicians are trying to fix the wrong problem. The easiest way to prevent traffic is to supply an alternative, more efficient form of public transportation so that people will realize the advantage of not driving their vehicle to and from work.

The Metropolitan Planning Organizations of Austin and San Antonio, in cooperation with local governments, are planning a 110-mile commuter rail system from Austin to San Antonio. The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority in Austin recently got the funds to build a 54-mile light rail system with hopes of making it the center of a regional system reaching out to small towns like San Marcos. This kind of public transportation would prove to be successful because in a survey taken, 63% of motorists said they would take this alternative form of transportation to work. In smaller towns like Buda, people are in strong favor of the commuter rail because many take the long drive in the morning to Austin for work. To add icing to the cake, a ticket price from Austin to San Antonio would cost about $9, while a ticket from Georgetown to San Marcos or from San Antonio would cost only $4.50.

Now, with prices like this I would expect more than 63% of the people to take the commuter rail considering the price of gasoline, the amount of traffic, as well as the hassle of driving. There is one problem, though. The city is planning to make a new railway system when there is already one ready for use. The price difference is minimal; let's say about 200 million dollars different. Now, I know that a lot of people like their tax prices to increase but for those few that hate high taxes, let's give them a break and support the idea to use the old Union Pacific railways for the commuter rail. The idea sounds too good to ruin it by raising the tax prices. Many people approve of the public transportation, but let's reduce the non-supporters by not giving them something to complain about. Help the city make up its mind.


Ricardo Vazquez Saenz

Props for Pekar, Penny

Dear Chron:

I greatly enjoyed the Harvey Pekar comics you published ["T-Bone & Bo Diddley," Vol. 18, No. 49] and look forward to seeing more. To top it off, Penny Van Horn's "Back Page" illustration was her coolest and wittiest yet. This type of excellent graphic narrative and commentary makes your mag so much more interesting.

Noel Waggener

Thanks for Nothing

To whoever stole the suitcase from my car:

Thanks for taking nothing but this one item, which contained only CDs I've recorded and copies of a book I've written.

If you've been able to convert any of this stuff into money, please contact me. I need a business manager.

Tommy X Hancock

Burning Bush


Gov. Bush's "sworn afadavit," which supposedly clears him of any knowledge of the whistle-blower firing of Eliza May, appears to incriminate him more in my eyes. His "jocular exchange in passing" says "are those guys still bothering you -- I'll have someone take care of it." This is a prime textbook example of "good ole boy" political string pulling. This may be a prerequisite for being governor of Texas, but is it what we expect in a president? Enforce the law -- except, of course, in cases where my Big Money political contributors are involved!

Jeff Burke

Thanks to Steamboat


Last Sunday night (August 15) an event of monumental proportions transpired inside the soon to be transplanted Steamboat. I was told that if a bomb went off at the height of the night, there would be no more bands left in Austin. Whether people were there celebrating Danny Crooks' "37th" birthday, enjoying the music of Jeff Buckley, or just passing time, it was clear that for once in as long as I've lived in Austin (which is only two years), there was a vibe in the room that bodes favorably for the hobbling "Austin Music Scene." I can't remember a time when I felt such love and community and such little bullshit. As the co-promoter of the event, I'd like to again thank everyone who participated in helping us raise money for The Austin Music Network. Big love out to Jeff for his songs. Big big love to Danny and Steamboat for shaping lives and careers past and future. Thanks to Nancy Cartwright at AMN. Thanks to The Austin Chronicle and the Statesman. Thanks to KGSR and KLBJ for supporting the dream. Big love to Bryan Keeling for the artwork. And lastly thank you to all the performers ... I think there were close to 20 acts who played their hearts out to celebrate a life that in some way has touched us all so deeply. I know he was shining down on all of us as we were giving it up for him!

Thank you, thank you thank you. Long live Steamboat! Long live the Austin music community!

Wes McWhorter

Blue Light Arkestrah

Stale Public Radio


In response to Caryl P. Weiss' retort ["Postmarks," Vol.18, No.49] to an earlier letter [Vol.18, No.48], allow me to vent my spleen about the lousy Eklektikos program on KUT.

While I agree with Weiss' sentiment that Austin needs an alternative to the oppressive lameness of commercial radio, I don't think it follows that we should have to endure the self-absorbed wank-a-thon that is John Aielli's Eklektikos. My ears have witnessed excesses of self-indulgence on this show that would make a college-radio freshman hide his face in shame. (Try this on for size: Aielli plays a track, says without a hint of irony that, well, he likes that one so we'll hear it again, and then plays the song three times in a row; or how about the time he started up a song by Dead Can Dance, cut it off in mid-play, then cast aspersions on both the track and the person who requested it.)

It should also be mentioned that John A, like most of his colleagues (with notable exceptions) speaks in that annoying, haughty delivery endemic to public radio. The question "can you speak in a pretentious, droning monotone like Thurston Howell III on Xanex?" must be on the job application at every public radio station in the country. And that pompous-windbag vocal style employed by so many of these public radio announcers is as much the ripe-for-parody cliche as the obnoxious work-puke hysterics of Top 40.

To be frank, while we definitely need radio stations willing to air music and viewpoints outside of the mainstream, public radio is, with some notable exceptions, loaded with uptight, unimaginative individuals entrenched in their positions. It's a system badly in need of a shake-up. But don't hold your breath.
Andy Schell

Support Latino Actors


Let's look at the entertainment industry, which has not and will not give Latinos visibility, nor support Latino projects if it is not good for their business. It's time we formally make it our business.

Anyone interested in seeing more films about Latinos, produced by Latinos, and starring Latinos -- should support any and all such films -- past and present. Because the only element that will make a difference for Latinos in Hollywood includes network TV equality and diversity -- muy pronto!

Films like My Family are extremely important because they portray a realistic sense of who we are and why we are fast becoming the mainstream in America. Alfonse Arous' A Walk in the Clouds captured the true sense of family roots, tradition and proper and moralistic values that most of us grew up with. Both of these are a slice of Americana -- they just happen to feature Mexican-Americans. But there are hundreds of stories to tell relating to to all Latinos and when Latino-themed films are released, we have to lead the way with box office sales.

Something needs to be done concerning U.S. major networks (TV) -- their foot-dragging and as usual not featuring our Latino actors. The question was asked in various printed media sources. What happened to black families on network TV? Reply where are the Latino families on TV or in movies? Poorly portrayed.

Latinos shown in movies or TV are running a poor third place, or lower, in comparison to their fellow white or black actors.

Latinos are good for business, but if we do not prove our buying and spending power we will not be given the opportunity to promote our work and artists.

You want to see more Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Latin Americans, Native Americans, Spanish, etc ... on the big screen and on TV? Lead the way at the movie houses and holler at your major network TV!
Moses P. Saldana, Jr.

No Austinites Need Apply


It took a dozen people, with the help of the media, to fool hundreds of thousands, to accept a candidate who's never been here, to "lead" an Austin school district. When your little losers grow up, unable to find a real job, look back into UT, AISD, APD, TV stations, the Statesman, big companies for answers, pendejos!

Paul Avina

Getting Bush's Attention


Why did I boo Bush at Lance Armstrong's victory celebration? Because he refuses to debate me.

I booed because the most underqualified presidential candidate in history raised the most money in campaign history (saying what about the state of democracy in our great country?) and then showed up for a photo op at Armstrong's expense.

I harnessed the First Amendment at the only level Bush and his wall of million$ will allow ... an unnoticed, gutteral, animalistic grunt in a wide-open space. (Imagine expressing Bush's precious Second Amendment at such a gathering.)

Rick Harvey

Movies & Babies Don't Mix

Dear Editor:
I'm writing to plead with other parents out there to please stop taking your babies to movie theatres! There is nothing more annoying than paying $7 for a movie and having to listen to a crying baby. Many times the parents don't even take the baby outside when this happens, which is incredibly rude. When my child was a baby I never dreamed of taking him to a movie. Please just get a babysitter or rent a video!

What's worse is the growing number of small children accompanying their parents to R-rated movies. I recently saw South Park and The Blair Witch Project, and in both theatres there were children that couldn't have been more than five. One has to wonder what kind of effect movies like this that are meant for adults have on such small children.

Thanks for letting me get on my soapbox!

J. Bernal

P.S. I also saw Drop Dead Gorgeous and thought it was very funny. What's up Marc Savlov's butt anyway?

Defending ADA

Dear Editor:

People with disabilities across the U.S. are gearing up for another fight to defend the section of the Americans with Disabilities Act which applies to state and local governments. On July 23, the Eighth Circuit Court ruled in the case of Christopher B. Alsbrook v. City of Maumelle, Arkansas "... extension of Title II of the ADA to the State exceeds Congress' authority under Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment." The Fourteenth Amendment bars lawsuits against states unless Congress expressly authorizes such suits in legislation.

The Circuit Court said "... it cannot be said in applying Title II of the ADA to the states, Congress has acted to enforce equal protection guarantees for the disabled as they have been defined by the Supreme Court. We find, therefore, that the extension of Title II of the ADA to the states was not a proper exercise of Congress' power..." This ruling is in conflict with four other Circuit Courts which have ruled that Title II of the ADA is constitutional. In such cases where Circuit Courts decisions differ, the U.S. Supreme Court can decide the case.
Title II of the ADA prohibits public entities discriminating against or excluding people from programs, services, or activities on the basis of disability. State and local governments are responsible for a broad range of public services and programs, including voting, vocational services, welfare programs, and many other government programs.

Disability advocates fought for, and now defend, the Americans with Disabilities Act because state governments have shown, throughout our nation's history, that they are unwilling to protect people with disabilities from discrimination. That is why we need a federal law. Recent events show that many of our elected officials are willing and eager to strip away the most basic civil rights protections from America's largest minority group.

John Meinkowsky

Mr. Robison's Neighbor


Please help stop the murder of Larry Robison. This is a travesty of justice! Where was the help for Mr. Robison when he was a victim? A victim of the mental health system in Texas? Larry tried several times to get help and was refused. He was diagnosed several years ago with paranoid schizophrenia. There is a world ofdocumentation on this. It is not something drug up at the last moment. No one can overlook this fact and say it isn't so.

His medical history was never told to either trial juries. Therefore he was convicted and sentenced to die. The state of Texas is partly responsible for five deaths. Deaths of victims who would still be alive if Larry had been helped when he and his family asked for it. Those people died needlessly and have left families behind who loved them as much as Larry's family loves him.

I am not asking for Larry to be let out of prison. After all he did kill five people. Given medications he will do very well on life without parole. His sister has it and is on the medication and is doing good. If that had of been given to Larry, what would his life have been like? Like most of us ... working, loving, hoping, dreaming and doing the best he can.
Thank you,

Pat Hoover

Puritanism Must Go

Dear Editor:

I've noticed a disturbing trend lately in our society. More and more it seems, various groups want to limit my personal freedoms and return this society to a God-fearing Puritan ethic. I do not debate the fact that the Bible preaches a great message about loving one another, learning right from wrong, etc. What I disagree with is the desire to turn those beliefs into laws and imposing them on me. It must be understood that not everyone believes in God and one person's beliefs cannot be forced on others. This is not to say that I advocate an anarchist society; however, any actions that do not cause harm to anyone else should not be outlawed. Some examples:

Prostitution -- Two consenting adults who agree to have sex for an exchange of money. Exactly what crime has occurred? What is the basis for declaring this a crime? What would the difference be if money was not involved?

Drugs -- Undoubtedly some drugs, such as heroin, are extremely harmful. But does the consumption of intoxicating substances constitute a crime? If so, why aren't alcohol and cigarettes added to that list? Aren't they just as harmful and destructive? According to the Office of Drug Control, our country has budgeted $17.9 billion for FY2000 to fight the drug problem, yet the flow of drugs has not been significantly reduced. Maybe the focus should be on treatment, rather than incarceration. It would be far more beneficial to the drug user, and society as a whole, to provide more treatment opportunities instead of filling our jails with nonviolent offenders. I can't say whether out-and-out legalization is the answer, however it is a better solution than our current policy.

I could cover numerous topics, but it all comes down to this: People will continue to do these things regardless of the cost involved or what laws are passed. To quote an article that appeared in the Dallas Morning News a few years ago written by George McGovern: "Where do we draw the line on dictating to each other? Whose values should prevail? ... In all cases, we require individuals to make certain their behavior doesn't have an impact on others. To the degree that it does, they will be held responsible for their choices." As a responsible adult, let me decide what is moral, right or wrong, or even what god to believe or not to believe in.

Eric Harwell

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