Raves for Marc Savlov's recent article on Ecstasy.

The Ecstasy Answer


At last, a well-balanced and truthful article on Ecstasy -- without all the scary media and government lies ["Countdown to Ecstasy," June 9]. I am by no means an abuser of drugs, but I was there in the Eighties at Hall's doing my fair share of X and I must say that the wonderful effects of this little pill are still with me today. People's bigotry, racism, and hatred seemed to melt away -- everyone doing this drug truly felt love, empathy, and acceptance for everyone else. It opens one's mind to everything and allows one to express their deepest thoughts easily. I will never forget what I learned during those few "trips." However, the X of today pales in comparison to the X of the Eighties. I don't know what's in this stuff kids are buying, but it's not the true and original Ecstasy formula -- it's milder. I hope they are experiencing and learning what I did. While all things have the potential for abuse (like guns and alcohol) I think this drug has the potential to heal and expand our love and spiritual horizons tremendously. Want to end bigotry and racism? Just prescribe a few doses of the real Ecstasy.

By the way, I think we need to have a "War on Guns" by the government. X may kill a few brain cells, but I do believe that freaky people with guns kill far more people than all the illicit drugs combined.

David Durham

Dispositions of Problems



Marc Savlov's article on Ecstasy ["Countdown to Ecstasy," June 9] was disturbingly biased. Though it appeared factual, it presented the dangers of MDMA as grave, unavoidable, and ignored by the community. In fact, none of these is true.

The risk of overheating while on X is real, but the article makes it sound as if MDMA creates an overwhelming, mechanical compulsion to dance to exhaustion while not maintaining proper hydration. This is simply ludicrous. There is no reason ravers cannot take care to drink water and rest, and no shortage of sources begging them to do so.

Fake or adulterated MDMA is also a serious problem, but not one that has gone unaddressed. I was stunned to discover that Savlov spoke with a representative of Dancesafe, but did not mention their Ecstasy testing program! Dancesafe sets up booths at West Coast raves, where individuals can bring their drugs. Using a simple chemical test, they can immediately tell if a pill contains MDMA, or if DXM, amphetamine, or other drugs have been substituted. Testing kits can even be purchased legally from Dancesafe's Web site! Information from testing booths and individual users is publicized at raves, and later placed in Dancesafe's national database of Ecstasy brands.

Finally, the research on brain change from Ecstasy use is still quite weak. The users in the Johns Hopkins study cited (and all subsequent studies) were far from typical; they had taken Ecstasy an average of 228 times, at an average rate of six doses per month -- an extraordinarily high level. This proves nothing about the effects of taking MDMA once or twice a year, with time to recuperate in between.

Additionally, the study provided no information about the control (no-drugs) group. Since Ecstasy users generally use many other drugs, Ecstasy is hardly the only possible explanation for neurological differences. Finally, Ecstasy users may have lower levels of serotonin to begin with, which some theorists believe may be responsible for their attraction to the drug.

I am glad that Mr. Savlov did not gloss over the many real dangers of drug use. However, his failure to include any of the mass of harm-reduction information that he must have encountered does a great disservice. By opting to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt without offering any of the widely available solutions, his seemingly sympathetic article became just another piece of drug war propaganda.

Michael Cohn

Rave On!


Thanks for a refreshingly well-researched and colorful article on Ecstasy ["Countdown to Ecstasy," June 9]. Marc Savlov really did his homework and, as a fellow journalist, I enjoyed his writing style.

As a thirtysomething, longtime member of the rave community (who, by the way, is gainfully employed full-time with a major corporation), I get sick and tired of the multitude of "sweeps week horror stories" perpetrated by mainstream media that are increasingly creating a sense of hysteria towards raves among the general public.

Raving is an activity I hope to continue to enjoy well into my gray-haired years, including getting high on the music, and not drugs. I think Ecstasy hysteria is misplaced; however, here in the Midwest, we have had an increasing problem with drug overdoses at raves. I don't think anyone wants to see these young people dying, or even using drugs before they are mature enough to handle it. Ecstasy was not the focus of the rave scene in most parts of the U.S. until relatively recently, when an increase in young people attending raves combined with an explosion in Ecstasy availability (and in even more dangerous look-alike drugs) to make a dangerous combination. I think the solution is 18-and-over raves and continued education through organizations like Dancesafe.

Thanks for putting this important issue into perspective.

Robin Urmanic

Kansas City, Mo.

Well, We Printed This One

To the editor:

You guys at the Chronicle are sleazier than the Statesman gang! I sent you two letters outlining the scientific evidence about why HIV and AIDS are unrelated. You wouldn't publish them. Then you have the gall to let Sandy Bartlett (AIDS Services of Austin) write in his column that the scientific evidence does not support the HIV/AIDS denialists ["About AIDS," June 2 & 9]! What sleaze!

Thabo Mbeki, the president of South Africa, is reported to have said that "AIDS experts suppress the free expression of counterclaims by the critics of the conventional wisdom. He compared the situation to the suppression of freedom by the authorities in power under apartheid." (Tom Seigfried, The Dallas Morning News, June 12)

Ask Sandy to produce the scientific paper outlining why HIV and AIDS are related, and to outline the logic behind this link. See if he can convince you. Then read Peter Duesburg's book, Inventing the AIDS Virus, and decide like so many other intelligent scientists like myself that HIV and AIDS are unrelated. Then read Deadly Deception and tell your friends who are HIV-positive that there is nothing wrong with them, and to stop taking the medical community's drugs that are killing them!

Andy Gray

PS. Sleazebags! Your suppression of opinion is sickening. Remember, it is just the goddamn opinion page, a place for free exchange of opinion! It really pisses me off that you wouldn't publish my letters but you will let Sandy publish his opinion without any scientific statements supporting his own assertions! May the drug/psyche deaths of millions of harmless HIV+ people be on your conscience.

Denialists' Claims Don't Cut It

Dear Chronicle:

Regarding Eric Matus' letter ["Postmarks," June 16] criticizing my recent "About AIDS" columns (and you for publishing them) about the AIDS denialists who claim that HIV doesn't cause AIDS, this is the first negative comment I've received, but its style is not unexpected.

There's certainly room for discussion around this controversy. However, with 14 years dedicated to AIDS education, no one could legitimately accuse me of not having "put proper research and study into the subject matter" or of being untruthful. Sometimes a necessarily brief column precludes the luxury of in-depth exploration, including in this case more extensive explanation of why the dissidents' claims don't hold up. The reality is, they don't. Nonorthodox thinking is often very useful, but this time it hasn't panned out.

Without evidence to support their speculations, denialists typically resort to broadside attack and outrage about conspiracies to stifle dissent, including the Chronicle's "very scary ... deception in the media." However sincerely felt, often what should be a scientific argument becomes instead a polemic of political or philosophical nature.

Anyone who follows my column knows my perspectives about typical dissident concerns:

  • Yes, there is much more to learn about AIDS. Still, we have made astounding progress, often with tremendous benefit far beyond HIV.

  • Yes, we are being gouged by high drug prices, often for medicines developed with our own tax dollars. Work to change the system!

  • Yes, present anti-HIV medications are toxic with resulting side effects. However, they are keeping many people alive pending a better solution.

  • Yes, our society and health care system have many dysfunctionalities and inequities, but the AIDS epidemic has brought significant change. Work for further change!

    Anytime anyone wants to talk about HIV/AIDS, please contact me (458-AIDS or Maybe we'll turn it into an "About AIDS" column!

    Above all, stay informed and always play safe!

    Sandy Bartlett

    Community Information/Education Coordinator

    AIDS Services of Austin

    On Antone's Sentencing


    Working hard in the Austin music scene for six years now and observing for 15, I feel compelled to write and voice my opinion on Clifford Antone's recent sentencing. Out of everyone I have ever worked for, Clifford has to be the nicest, most down-to-earth person I have ever met. He has done so much for the Austin music scene and practically brought back the blues for the world to hear. I must say he will be sadly missed in his absence. I hope his time passes quickly and when he returns I know there is going to be a hell of a party in Austin.

    Best wishes, Clifford.

    Darrell Todd Dragoo

    Production Manager,

    Chamber 36 and Taboo

    Learn From STNP


    Some newcomers to Austin have asked about the South Texas Nuclear Project (STNP, aka "The Nuke"), recently mentioned in the Chronicle's "Postmarks" section [June 2, 9, and 16].

    Austinites were told in the 1970s that we couldn't survive without nuclear power, and that electricity would be so cheap it wouldn't even pay to meter its use.

    Voters turned down STNP several times before it finally passed. STNP was built with major cost overruns; had horrendous construction deficiencies; was out of operation for several years for repairs; and cost the city huge amounts in attorneys' fees in several lawsuits. Some claim that the portion of our electric bills used to pay for STNP is much greater than the portion of our electricity provided by STNP. They also claim that the decommissioning costs for STNP are yet to be levied on Austin electric ratepayers.

    The Chamber of Commerce, the City Council, the Mayor, and the Austin American-Statesman all heavily promoted STNP. (A former publisher of the Statesman was also the president of the Chamber.)

    Today even Japan, a country with little fossil fuel, is rejecting further construction of nuclear plants, while re-examining other energy sources. In Germany, the government is beginning a program to shut down 19 nuclear power plants in the next 20 years and phase out nuclear power entirely.

    Some Austinites look at the costs of the South Texas Nuclear Project (now conveniently forgotten) to wonder if, for other reasons, light rail will become Austin's "déjô vu all over again."

    Werner J. Severin

    Jackie Front Well-Covered

    Dear Stephen,

    I thought your review of my work, and of my book, Jackie, Ethel, Joan ["Saint Jackie," June 9], was perceptive and I appreciate your kind words. I have found that as a writer gets older he, hopefully, brings to his work his life experiences and his evolvement as a person, which is why I think my Jackie, Ethel, Joan is a very different book than my Call Her Miss Ross of 11 years ago. It sounds like you have actually read my books, which I so appreciate and I thank you for that.

    Best Regards,

    J. Randy Taraborrelli

    PS: Do you know that after countless Time Warner editors and proofreaders, hundreds of letters from my own readers, at least a hundred reviews worldwide -- and not to mention my own obsession with the work -- you are the first person to find the mistake regarding the Jackie/Marilyn caption! I couldn't believe it when I read about it in your review. I now have this urge to go into every bookstore in America and change that damn caption! (Also, as you may have read, Jackie, Ethel, Joan is being filmed as a miniseries by NBC to be broadcast Nov. 5 and 6. We start shooting this month.)

    Killing Cars With Kindness

    Austin Chronicle readers:

    A few things, please ... (a) The vast majority of drivers in our city are or seem to be sympathetic to we who ride bikes. For this, we are deeply appreciative. Thank ya'll for not running us over. (b) For the slim minority that are or do not seem to be sympathetic, please chop up and recycle your PTA (Personal Transportation Apparatus) to your favorite scrap-metal yard. (c) To the two men of low or no integrity who pulled the drive-by water shooting on me on bicycle at 45th and Speedway the other night: HA! I was wearing a water-proof vest so I survived but your poor souls shall surely suffer ... (d) The future of mass transport in America is electric buses within cities and suburbs and a Hang Train System similar to some roller coasters connecting most cities and towns. Hey, everyone is welcome in our city but please, don't make it into another reason why you left your own city! (e) The Austin Chronicle: Not the only source, just the best! (f) Prepare yourselves, for the day of the PTA is at an end ...


    Clifford Stringfellow

    Bike Rights

    To the Editor:

    We wish to correct a widespread misconception about the place of bicyclists on the road. According to the Texas Driver's Handbook, bicyclists have the same responsibilities and rights as motorists. Among these is the right to travel in the middle of a traffic lane (though we may, and often do, ride to the right). This means that harassing (i.e., honking or yelling at), following too closely behind, or passing a cyclist in the lane is illegal and no more legitimate than pointing a gun at someone.

    Many motorists engage in this behavior apparently convinced that bikes have no business being in front of them, but this is simply untrue. We do not ride in the lane to make you angry, but because it is our right to be there, and safety often requires it.

    Motorists, especially those in SUVs, must consider the tremendous harm they can do with their several-ton vehicles to those of us on 40 or 50 pound bicycles. How many collisions are caused by rage and a false sense of entitlement to the entire road on the part of motorists?

    If you are a responsible driver, we thank you and ask that if you see a motorist using his/her vehicle as a weapon, you report the license plate number to the Austin Police Department at 974-5000.

    Like guns, cars and SUVs can kill in an instant, and the victims can never be brought back.

    Megan Baker, Kristy Chaudoir, and Andrew McKenna

    Go East, Old Men

    To the Editor:

    What would you do with $66 million? How would you spend it improving transportation, education, and public health?

    The Texas Department of Transportation would spend it on a western alignment ($913.9 million) for SH 130, which costs $66 million more than an eastern alignment ($847.8 million). TxDOT is promoting the more expensive western alignment over the objections of local governments and is endangering the federal funding for SH 130 in the process.

    The western alignment for SH 130 is neither a reasonable nor a responsible use of our transportation dollars.

    Jeb Boyt

    Don't Ignore Nader

    Dear Sir/Madame:

    In my experience, people are bored and/or disgusted with Bush and Gore, yet they are the only candidates that get any press coverage. From the mainstream media you'd never know that Ralph Nader will be on the ballot in almost every state this November, a man whose name is synonymous with integrity, intelligence, and public service. The only reason he isn't a "viable" candidate is that the media has largely chosen to ignore his candidacy. But even without any media coverage to speak of, a recent Zogby poll shows that already 6% of voters plan on voting for Nader. Please help democracy flourish with an ongoing coverage of Nader's Presidential campaign! (See for press releases, etc. or call their headquarters at 202/265-4000)


    Chuck Sher,

    Petaluma, Calif.

    Purveyors of Pain


    When the spokesman for Ringling Brothers informs us that the circus animals are his "prized possessions," he makes the activists' case. Elephants, tigers, camels (yes, camels) are sentient creatures who are not anyone's "possession." The mistake the circus and other exploitative practices make is to think of animals as resources or commodities, things that are on a par with pieces of furniture. It is unsurprising, therefore, that the circus is blind to the suffering that they cause. In the case of elephants who have a rich and nuanced emotional life, the circus destroys families by taking baby calves from their mothers far earlier than the separation would occur in nature. Elephants are shackled 23 of 24 hours every day. Their nature is perverted when they are forced into performing unnatural acts (elephants do not stand only on their rear legs in nature, e.g.).

    The "lives" of the big cats are equally diminished. They spend 50 weeks every year in cages so small that they can barely turn around, much less walk or run. Think how perverted we would consider someone who coerced their own cat into a tiny kennel for virtually their entire lives. The solution? Obviously, don't patronize the oppression. Take a few minutes and write the circus sponsors telling them that purveyors of pain should not be supported. And teach your children that cruelty isn't a family value.

    Dr. Mark Bernstein

    A Very Big Hug

    Dear Editor:

    May 28 and 29, the first annual Aquatica was held on Town Lake. The music and environmental communities in Austin united to show support for what we think will become a very important annual event. We threw a first-ever boat party on Town Lake to promote local electronica music and a follow-up cleanup of Waller Creek the next day funded with proceeds from the party along with donations from local sponsors. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Clean Water Action, Capital Cruises, Stubb's BBQ, Hill Country Springs Bottled Water, Caucus Club, the Chronicle, the city of Austin, and Please show your continued support by going to our sponsors for the particular services they provide. We also send thanks out to all the people that turned out to help get set up and stayed for the party. A very big hug goes out to all those who came to the cleanup and worked on what was a very hot Texas day.

    We truly are grateful for all the participants. We could not have pulled this off without you. See you next year!


    Brent Brunning, Chris Carter, and Janelle Norris

    Aquatica Productions

    Foot Patrol for the Footpads


    Judging by his words, [Austin chief of police Stan Knee] is probably addressing the middle class when he cites a 2.1% increase in local crime, as reported by the American-Statesman. Heck, maybe the mayor's losses to burglars in December 1999 set his analysis off, and we are just jumping in without being invited, but Mr. Stan Knee's little numbers are out of reality. Many burglaries, rapes, and violent acts committed against businesses or individuals are never reported to his department, because of the cops' refusal to follow up on them, and the bureaucratic, despotic behavior that distinguishes everyone there from the 911 operators to the jail clerks. Now banks are getting hit every week and suspects are fleeing on foot, rapes are being committed in daylight, guns are abundant, auto fatalities are increasing, alcohol sales and drug addiction are up, more people are getting into poverty, and honest folks need to work more to get more of what this city offers, due to the newcomers' privileges. (Of course, his ranked officers and planners are never held responsible for our miseries, they just get transferred with glory to their next post.) Austin is still an isolated spot run by designated immigrants, but politics are changing around the world, and the impact wave is here. If he wants to make the finest out of his guevones boys, he needs to stop the stalking from underpasses or behind trees, harassment, racial profiling, speeding, the long lunch brakes, and the brainwashing during training, and start getting them out of their cars, on foot, in their own neighborhoods. Oh, and integrate airport and UT forces under his orders, and cut loose from standardizing of the law for each arrest, by adopting a deep consequential view. Forget about what the FBI requires. He works for the Austin diverse community, rich or poor.

    Paul Aviña

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