We are wrong, wrong, wrong. So is golf.
Flesh & Blood Teens
In her introduction to "Scenes From a Digital Revolution" [March 3], Sarah Hepola draws a contrast between young techies Melissa Sconyers and Bryan Boyer, and other digital revolutionaries who "are well aware of life without computers." She's jumping to a dangerous conclusion, that because Melissa has been fiddling around with computers since she was a little kid, they are all that her life is about.
Actually, young people online and off are interested in a wide variety of things and participate in lots of activities outside of the tech world. Being tied to a computer all day and all night is a disease, and it's not normal behavior for your average young techie, or even your overachieving young techie like Melissa.
I know Melissa speed-skates, works with horses, and has an active social life. On the morning the Chronicle was released, she was eating lunch with tons of other teenagers, discussing the picture on the cover and lots of other things.
I think it's dangerous to assume that young people want a life that revolves completely around computers. Schools and materials aimed at teens and young adults are growing more and more focused on the technology world, and while that is in most cases an advance, it's not what life is all about for any of us. We love our earth and our friends and our paper and pen. Don't take them away from us!
Thanks for the great publication that you put out. I am, however, very put out by Mike Clark-Madison's poor piece this week ["A Day at the Races," March 3]. In it he makes many errors. First off, he never once mentions Pete Waering in the CD 7 race. In fact, Waering is endorsed by the Houston Chronicle, and most polls show him and Culberson heading for a runoff. Where did you get the info that McConn was the favorite? And why did you not mention Waering?
Secondly, a Bill Archer filed for that race, but later withdrew. You reported that he's still on the ballot.
And finally, the Congressman from CD 17 in Illinois is Lane Evans, not "Smith." Where did you get that name from?
Please check out http://www.texascampaigns.net or http://www.politics1.com the next time you get ready to write a political story. It obviously could help you out. Those of us who are C-SPAN junkies expect better from The Austin Chronicle.
Thank you for keeping your readers informed on the Balcones Canyonland Preserve (BCP) system ["Land Mine," March 3]. I must, however, correct one glaring (albeit understandable) error. It is the Travis Audubon Society that is a partner in the BCP, not the Texas Audubon Society. The Travis Audubon Society is the local chapter of the National Audubon Society, and it is our 670-acre Baker Sanctuary near Cedar Park which is part of the BCP. The Texas Audubon Society is the state office of the National Audubon Society, but it is not a land-owning partner in the BCP.
While on the subject, the Travis Audubon Society is holding our annual open house of our Baker Sanctuary on Saturday, March 25. We will do our best to show our guests a golden-cheeked warbler, the males of which should be singing on their territories by that time. For more information, contact me at 443-2155 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or our Baker Sanctuary managers, John and Marcie Wilcox, at 219-8425 or JMW_TASBS@msn.com.
All are welcome.
Bob Warneke Jr., President
Travis Audubon Society
More Water, Less Golf
Dear Chronicle Editor:
Golf courses provide a valuable asset to communities by creating a relaxation/sports facility and establishing an open space.
Given the high water usage necessary for the maintenance of a golf course and the existing desert nature of our region, and given the existing drought conditions and rapidly increasing numbers of residents to this region requiring water, we consider it imprudent to create further golf courses at this time.
We request a voluntary moratorium on the development of golf courses at this time which is to include the currently proposed golf course. There are already 24 golf courses in this region which together consume millions of gallons per day.
We believe it is unconscionable to create a development that is not sustainable in drought conditions and to have people buy and invest in a region where water is mostly of poor quality prior to extensive treatment.
Also, the availability of water is finite, and its exhaustion point has yet been determined. In addition, delivery of water to existing residents by pipeline or private well is unsure or cost prohibitive.
We believe it has fallen to the residents of Austin and the surrounding areas to take the historic stand of stating that the region has already exceeded its sustainable growth level, and that all future development of ranch and farm land must be in conjunction with a larger regional plan.
This plan will ensure a quality of life worthy of our current standars and leads toward our future aspirations.
Roger Kew, Manager
Radiance Water Supply Corp. (Hays County)
I always read Michael Ventura's column and find it to be thought-provoking and intelligently written. So it was eye-opening to read his piece on Southern racism and see how naive and ill-informed it was ["It's Time," Feb. 4]. I grew up in the South and spent many adult years there before moving to Texas. I find the racial attitudes there (the South) to be on par with the rest of America as a rule. Mostly you find tolerant, well-meaning people mixed with a minority of small-minded bigots. Most Southerners that I have been acquainted with find slavery as repellent as any sane human would. There are no wistful remembrances of the "old days" or wishes for its return except for a misguided few. Those same few people have used the Stars and Bars as a symbol for their twisted cause. However, for most people raised in the South, the Confederate flag is a symbol of Southern pride and culture. I was not raised to view it as a symbol of hate and it does not stand as such in my eyes. Mr. Ventura's contention that the Civil War was fought to free the slaves is laughable at best. Since when would a group of rich white businessmen go to that amount of trouble for their black brothers? That doesn't ring true! It was about money and power as it always is! If the "white north" cared about Southern blacks, where were they when blacks were being lynched at the rate you claim? They already had what they were fighting for; they could care less about the black man and woman. The white power establishment still doesn't care about the plight of black americans. What makes you think they were having fits of compassion for the blacks in the South while millions of Native Americans were being systematically slaughtered for their land by the same government? It was and is about money, Michael! If we are going to do away with a symbol of racism, how about starting with the Stars and Stripes? Ask yourself when was the last time a cop sodomized a black man with a stick in Mississippi? Racism in America is not a Southern problem. I think all Americans should quit patting themselves on the back and think about more important issues than the Confederate flag.
See Land, Save Elgin
When Anne Lewis' documentary film To Save the Land and People premiered in Austin last August, she expected a small turnout since the resistance movement against strip-mining in Kentucky seems far removed from Central Texas consciousness.
But Austin media had recently covered Neighbors for Neighbors, the citizens group opposing Alcoa's new strip mine and water grab in Lee and Bastrop counties.
The movie sold out.
SXSW showcases To Save the Land and People at the Dobie Theatre on Saturday, March 11, at 1pm and on Wednesday, March 15, at 6:30pm.
Historic footage of the mountain people defending their lands and homes, gut-wrenching destruction caused by coal mining, and the exhilaration of impossible victories make this one-hour film an emotional roller coaster.
From outrage to elation, from despair to hope, it is a testament to the strength of the human spirit.
Please see this movie. It will open your eyes and your minds.
Neighbors for Neighbors
Dallas Is Worse
I was poking through an old issue of The Austin Chronicle that had been eaten by my car at some point in its journeys.
In the editorial section I saw a letter accusing the fair city of Dallas of having some of the "illest honkies" known.
Well, I'll have you people in Austin know, after moving to Highland Park, Dallas, after a six-year stint at UT, Dallas is much, much much worse then you could ever conceive.
Reporting from the front lines of yuppie hell,
Congratulations on your endorsement of Ann Kitchen in the Democratic primary contest for State Representative, District 48 [Feb. 25 & March 3]. You noted Ann's experience working with the Legislature and her articulate stance on the issues; I wanted to share with your readers the reasons I am supporting Ann and why I believe she is the best choice for this seat.
I've known Ann for years, and I've worked with her on several initiatives to protect our quality of life, in particular the founding of the SOS Coalition. Time and again Ann proved herself to be energetic, principled, and committed. Most importantly, I've seen Ann consistently demonstrate superb coalition-building skills which will be critical at the Legislature. Even in the heat of controversy, Ann has helped keep the individuals in a group focused on their goals -- and has helped to reach them. She communicates with opponents as easily as she does with supporters and is truly a professional in negotiations.
These skills will serve Ann and Austin well in the Legislature. At a time when capable people are shunning public service, we are lucky to have Ann Kitchen as our candidate for District 48.
Former Executive Director,
Subject: Barton Creek, Bridgepoint amazing makeovers
You know, the Barton Springs greenbelt, and the area at Bridgepoint where the 360 spans Lake Austin, are such beautiful, scenic, rustic, and fabulous spots, so why on earth are there so many people trying to make them look like downtown Austin?
Not Making the Grade
This is yet another letter from yet another trans person, regarding your feature on Lauryn Fuller ["The Lauryn Paige Fuller Story" Feb. 18]. I feel a mixture of sadness and anger writing this. Sadness because this issue was a very pertinent and timely one, and was poorly addressed; anger at the "defense" of the article in subsequent issues ["Page Two," Feb. 25 and March 3].
I felt that the article by Ms. Smith was fairly respectful to Lauryn and genuine, if somewhat misinformed. I had been impressed with Ms. Smith's former article on Lacresha Murray ["Justice Denied?" and "She Believes," Aug. 7, 1998]. The photos ["Mighty Real," March 3] were gritty and real, but came off like a bad imitation of Diane Arbus. The captions to the photos were annoying and lurid. The presentation of the feature was shoddily edited. The entire thing gets a grade of C minus. C minus does not mean failing, only an indication that improvement is needed.
Mr. Black's pathetic "defense" of the feature incurred my failing grade. Instead of addressing your readers' concerns, Mr. Black regarded the many responses as an attack on the lofty battlements of the Chronicle. Then, in the next issue, he states that the Chronicle "is not a tabloid." Apparently it's becoming one, though. That feature would have been cozy in the Enquirer. Grade: F.
I want to close by saying that I know lots of crossdressers, transsexuals, transvestites, gender benders, transgendered people, drag queens, etc. The most interesting thing about them is their diversity. Please bear this in mind when you attempt another feature on any of them. Lauryn, R.I.P.
Walk the Talk
Austin's new city hall will cost the taxpayers $90 million. Half this sum, or $45 million, is for parking 1,500 cars underground.
Every year the city of Austin budget includes $5 million for pedestrian facilities (usually sidewalks). But year after year much of this money is "diverted," and spent on something else.
What if we spent $45 million on sidewalks and bikeways? Austin's streets could be transformed. Unfortunately, $45 million doesn't buy very much when it's spent on facilities for cars.
Our City Council claims to want to get people out of their cars. If we really want to do this, we should spend at least as much on sidewalks and car-free bikeways as we're spending to park private cars downtown.
Let's remind the City Council of this, come budget time.
OK, so there I am perusing the letters to the Editor in the Feb. 18 issue hoping against hope that there is another letter from Amy Babich, but instead I had to settle for the one from Michael Bakunin. After reading it three or four times, I thought, Jesus, this guy needs to lighten up a little. Can you imagine my surprise (and delight), when I look over at the next page and by God there is the very ad that Mr. Bakunin so vehemently opposes? Why you naughty boys, someone ought to spank you.
Samuel E. Sims
Dear Austin Chronicle,
I am an avid patron of Mojo's, and I could care less that some kid with a cookie-cutter job at a McDonaldland coffee shop dislikes the initiative that Wade Beesley has taken to combat the usurpation of our fair city's awesome small businesses by giant, unfeeling corporations ["Postmarks," Feb. 25].
Austin used to be rolling in really cool small businesses which are quickly dying out due to corporations driving up the cost of space. Mojo's Daily Grind gives its patrons a funky, homey place to hang out and study, and good coffee which isn't always exactly the same (thank goodness). It gives its employees a place to work where they don't have to sell their souls and suck up to impolite yuppies who can't distinguish a macchiato from a mocha or who are honestly too stupid to know that a "frappucino" is only served at Starbucks.
As to Mr. Villere's objections to the ad itself and the Chronicle's running of it, I have just one thing to say. Mojo's (and many other people's) attitude toward the Starbucks invasion will have as much effect on Starbucks and its patrons as they allow it to. Unfortunately, Mr. Villere, all of the sheep will return to the pasture; fear not. The rest of us people will continue to patronize Austin's small businesses and boycott Starbucks in hopes that this city will retain its personality and never become another land of strip malls.
More Coffee Talk
Regarding the Mojo's ad in the Vol.19, No. 25 issue, all I can say is it made me laugh (a lot). And then I read Jean-Paul Villere's letter of complaint in the following issue, and ... I had to laugh again! Upon further review, however, something really disturbed me about it.
First of all, to declare a case of "penis envy" on the part of Mojo's for Starbucks, is kind of laughable in itself. Aside from the fact that both establishments sell coffees, we're talking about two pretty different critters here. Mojo's is a small, privately owned business that feels to most of its regular denizens like a hip, cozy, extended living room, full of familiar faces and a genuinely friendly atmosphere. Starbucks, on the other hand, is yet another in a long line of generic, corporately owned giants who are very efficiently squeezing the personality out of most of America. It's kind of like comparing dinner at Mom's to Taco Bell.
But what truly bugs me is Mr. Villere's feeling that Starbucks needs to be defended in the first place. That implies that we're talking about a conflict of equals here. Don't worry about your employers, Jean-Paul. I'm sure their lawyers are already on this like flies on you-know-what.
I'm not worried about the Chronicle's integrity at all. I applaud your having run the ad in the first place, and hope that you continue in any way possible to support the little guys in the face of our seemingly inevitable Third Mall From the Sun destiny.
Corporate Coffee STILL Sucks,
Grindin' It Out
What I find amazing and extremely hypocritical about Mr. Villere's letter to the editor (Feb. 25) is the fact that he criticizes the Chronicle for "being neither wholly original in execution of content nor style" as "every major city has a version of you," yet he writes a letter of support for the McDonald's of all coffeehouses.
Is it just me or is advertising space just that -- space for sale? It is not the opinion of the publication that prints it. My suggestion for anyone who doesn't like the kind of truth that Mojo's is printing: "Enjoy the quality coffee (or rather lack thereof) at Starbucks. Pay exorbitant prices and receive atrocious service." Me ... I'd rather sit back with an Iced Mojo in a friendly, unique atmosphere. Because I know the truth -- corporate coffee sucks!
Jean-Paul Villere's letter "Bad Mojo" (Feb. 25) was truly lame. In his letter, Jean-Paul whines that a local "mom-and-pop coffee shop" runs an ad that is less than kind to Starbucks (his employer) and then rags on The Austin Chronicle for running it. So what! Who really cares if Mojo's slammed on the aggressive corporate giant Starbucks. Good for them! Heaven forbid anyone local own their own business. What sterile, flavorless Southern California strip mall did you crawl from under? Please return.
Christopher W. Ringstaff
I agree with Jean-Paul Villere's view that The Austin Chronicle is whoring itself to advertisers ["Postmarks," Feb. 25]. In last week's issue, I noticed that the Chronicle ran an advertisement for the Red Eyed Fly's ...Trail of Dead show on the night of February 25 while also advertising the Coffee Sergeants at the Hole in the Wall and Handful at Gaby & Mo's. Clearly a case of "conflicting interests." Cancel my subscription!!!
The rodeo will be here soon, and it's important that Central Texans realize that if they purchase a ticket to the rodeo, even if it's just to hear their favorite country-western artist, they are contributing to violence to animals for entertainment. One ticket purchases both the rodeo events and the music.
If you do decide to attend the rodeo, please keep your eyes on the chutes because that's where a lot of the cruelty is inflicted. Rodeo officials would have you believe that the animals running out of the chutes are dangerous and wild. In fact, they have been kicked, hit, and had their tails viciously twisted so that they'll flee from their tormentors.
Calf-roping is one of the most brutal events. Calves can be running as fast as 27mph when they're abruptly thrown to the ground. Docile animals are painfully stimulated with bucking straps so that they'll appear wild in the arena. Anyone can see that the bucking stops once the straps are removed. Horses and calves have actually been killed in rodeos.
Central Texans, please don't contribute to violence to animals for entertainment. Skip the rodeo.
Bigger Is Bigger
I've just finished reading Jean-Paul Villere's letter in the "Postmarks" section of your Vol. 19 No. 26 issue and will address the criticism therein on two points.
First the timing and placement of the ads in question have more to do with publishing schedules and available space than with journalistic integrity. In addition, my studies in radio/television broadcasting at CTC in Killeen, which included print media courses, consistently mentioned eliciting from businesses how their product or service differed from their competitor's. In the process of composing the ad, any media venture that depends on advertising for all or at least the majority of their revenue must exercise caution and work closely with the business placing the ad.
Second is the issue of national chains versus local "mom and pop" operations. I work for Wal-Mart. This worldwide retailing giant and Starbucks, at their core, offer only one significant advantage over one-store locally owned operations, economy-scale. This simply means that both Wal-Mart and Starbucks can purchase far larger quantities of the items they need to sustain their respective business ventures, thus reducing the cost for any given unit volume. This economy of scale and especially the notion of a business moving in that is not locally owned and operated and thus perceived as not having any local ties, lie at the heart of some communities' well-publicized efforts to block Wal-Mart's entry into their markets. This situation can be at least partially defended if any of the Austin Starbucks outlets are locally controlled franchises in lieu of being company owned. However, even franchises have to toe the line when it comes to any standardized appearance requirements up to and including uniforms. If Ruta Maya, Metro, Spider House, and Mojo's are any indication of the current state of Austin coffeehouse culture, any standardized appearance criterion, especially uniforms, are at best an awkward fit. In addition, given where most of the Austin Starbucks locations are situated, the company doesn't seem really that interested in catering to the same demographic.
This letter is in response to Jean-Paul Villere's letter denouncing the Mojo's ad for Starbucks ["Postmarks," Feb. 25]. First off, Mr. Villere claims that Mojo's "has a bad case of penis envy for the company by which I am employed." That company is Starbucks. Man it's one thing to work for Starbucks, but to admit it in print is rather shameful. I expected a lot more dignity from a man with a hyphen in his name! Having dispensed coffee at Mojo's and other "mom and pop coffee shops" for 10 years, I can assure you that no one has penis envy for Starbucks. I know this because Starbucks has no penis. Starbucks is the eunuch of the coffee world. And every time you manufacture another corporachino to pour down some sorority girl's ranch-coated throat, you my friend are furthering the evil agenda of a giant cockless empire! Starbucks sucks ass! Every time I pass that eyesore they built on top of Les Amis, I am sickened. Every time I see a flock of crackers on that patio sipping double tall skinny decaf mochachinos, I want to blow chunks all over their Tevas. Starbucks is evil, and you my hyphenated friend, are an ambassador of evil. So even though your letter may impress the boys at the corporate offices and even though they might give you a stock option or promote you to head frother, you still work for a pack of fuckin' eunuchs. Mr. Villere, it's nice to know who you work for. It's nice to get a martini after work with your company's CEO. It's nice to know you didn't sweat all day so some impotent bald guy in Aspen can level a "mom and pop coffee shop" and build yet another cappuccino trough for high-tech cattle. It's nice to lay your head on the pillow at night knowing that you didn't put $1 into the Starbucks machine. Until you come to this realization Jean, have fun at the latte plant. Just don't forget to pick up your soul again when you punch out.
Justin B. Andrews
Surrender Drug 'War'
The United States has a higher percentage of our population imprisoned than any other country in the world. The number of prisoners is expected to double over the next 20 years. We can barely build enough prisons to keep up the pace. All of this at a time when FBI statistics show the crime rate to be dropping steadily each year.
The vast majority of these prisoners are nonviolent drug offenders. These nonviolent prisoners are held for long periods under mandatory sentencing laws while murderers and rapists are allowed early release in order to make room for more prisoners.
I ask you -- is drug use really such a heinous crime? Tobacco and alcohol are acknowledged to be two of the most harmful drugs, yet they are used without penalty by a large segment of the population. Most other countries in the world regard drug addiction as a medical problem, similar to alcoholism. Imagine how many people would be in prison if alcoholism or cigarette addiction were treated like other drug addictions.
The problem is this -- the government, through its "War on Drugs," has so demonized illegal drug use that it is impossible to speak about solutions other than incarceration. Yet this "War" has not been able to reduce the availability of drugs one iota. In fact, the U.S. is still the single largest consumer of illegal drugs in the world after 10 years of "War" -- a "War" which has so far cost over $50 billion dollars in taxpayers' money.
People use illegal drugs for the same reasons they use legal ones. Humans have always used drugs of one sort or another. This is a fundamental aspect of human behavior which can be traced back thousands of years in almost every culture.
The question in our time should be one of personal accountability. Obviously DWI should be a crime, for it endangers the lives of others. But should someone go to jail because they drink responsibly in the privacy of their own home? This analogy holds true for other forms of drug use.
The simple fact is that the "War on Drugs" is a war on a large segment of the American people. It is unsustainable, as no amount of legislation can modify human nature. It is a waste of our money and is destroying many more lives than it is helping.
Rev. H.W. Skipper
Try the Decaf
To Whom it May Concern,
This musing is in response to Jean-Paul Villere's letter concerning the Chronicle's perceived conflict of interest in running advertisements from competing establishments (namely Mojo's Daily Grind and Starbucks' generic coffee drinks for the masses) in the same paper ["Postmarks," Feb. 25].
Hopefully sir, the next time you choose to drop the gloves, you actually know what the heck you're talking about so that you never look this silly again. In this instance, the paper's integrity is beyond reproach. Any newspaper has a right to print anyone's advertisement, provided that the advertiser pays the appropriate rate. That's how newspapers (particularly free ones) survive.
As to the issue of whether Starbucks is good coffee, that a matter of opinion, and mine is that it's crappy coffee for conformist yuppie pricks who think that when they move to an environment that it should be altered specifically for their benefit. Screw whoever was there before their candy-asses arrived.
Case in point: The 24th Street Starbucks takes up the space previously held by one of the most magical cafes this side of New Orleans, Les Amis. The place had been there since the mid-Seventies and was the only cafe in the campus area that provided pleasant sidewalk dining and was also open past midnight (they closed at 4am). Their landlord forced them out so that he could "upgrade" the building to allow for the ever-original Starbucks Austin location No. 8,000 and its wholesome monument to mediocrity.
Tread lightly, friend, and remember ... the next time you decide to volunteer a self-absorbed diatribe, get your facts straight first.
As a long time Perot/UWSA/Reform Party volunteer I am outraged by the conduct of the Reform Party Executive Committee and the "beer hall push" they staged recently in Nashville.
This past July in Dearborn, the Reform Party National Convention overwhelmingly demanded and achieved new leadership when we rejected the hand-picked candidate of Ross Perot and we elected Jack Gargan as National Chairman. The media was thereby forced to report that the Reform Party had evolved into a party of the people.
The Nashville power grab initiated by a small number of Dallas infighters is an attempt to steal the Reform Party from the grassroots volunteers who built it.
The Nashville disgrace is an embarrassment and an insult to all Reformers because it undermines the open, ethical, and democratic principles to which we have dedicated countless sums of time, money, and effort.
Thusly, I will join with my fellow grassroots Reformers in Las Vegas, March 17 through 19, to assure that the Reform Party remains a party of the people.
Grand Old Problem
This year's presidential election just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser. The GOP is determined (read: will stop at nothing short of political genocide) to back Geo. Bush, who is in a virtual dead heat with Al Gore nationally. The Dems, on the other hand, are crossing over in the primaries to vote for McCain, who leads Al Gore nationally by 20 or more points, depending on what poll you read.
Why would Dems risk crossing over in the primaries and vote for a candidate who leads their front-runner in all national polls by such a huge gap? There is only one conclusion to be reached, and it may surprise you that it hasn't a thing to do with the strong charging John McCain or the new-and-improved Al Gore.
George Bush is that bad.
He's certainly bad for the GOP, considering the amount of money and endorsements they've wasted on his campaign, not to mention the crow they are eating in the national media right now. But if we are to use the polling data for the very reason polling data exist (objective analysis!), all indicators point to this most disturbing message -- George W. Bush is bad for the country.
The Grand Old Party that suffered huge political losses by trying to remove a sitting president with a series of frivolous lawsuits is now caught once again with its own pants dragging from the ankles. And if the GOP has to back McCain in the fall, they won't have any clothes to speak of.
U.S. Alienating India
Some Democratic Senators have urged President Clinton to include Pakistan in his South Asia trip in March. They want him to maintain a balance between India and Pakistan.
In February 1999 the Indian Prime Minister visited his Pakistani counterpart in Lahore Pakistan. Both leaders signed a declaration pledging to work out all their problems peacefully. But in the summer of 1999, Pakistani soldiers and Islamic terrorists infiltrated India and captured territory. They were kicked by the Indian Army. Pakistan denied it controlled them, but under U.S. pressure finally made them return to Pakistan, proving that it was in charge of the armed aggression against India.
Pakistan stabbed the Indian leadership in the back just three months after signing the peace deal.
In this light it is amusing to hear Democratic Senators talk about a balance. How can you treat a mugger and his victim as equals?
The USA will not gain anything by thinking of India and Pakistan as equals. India is a stable democracy with a booming economy. Pakistan is fast degenerating into Islamic theocracy and drug trafficking and has turned into a rapid-action force for international Islamic terrorism.
The USA cannot talk about democracy on one hand and treat the world's largest democracy at par with a military terrorist dictatorship on the other. Using Pakistan to balance India or put pressure on India will not work any longer.
Why alienate a friendly democracy in favor of America's sworn enemies?