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Yoga and Starbucks. Karaoke and republicans. Squirrel rifles and Al Gore. Together for the first time in this week's letters to the editor!


Graphic Shaft

Editor:

The only thing you got right in your graphic representation of UT salaries ["Staff Infection," Sept.1] was the shaft.

Jerry Buttrey


A Streetcar of Yesteryear

Editor:

Mr. Robert Bryce's great (short) story (7-21-00) about Austin's streetcar system -- 1891-1939 -- was really great!!

This really brought back wonderful, vivid memories -- that as a boy of seven years of age boarding the streetcar (on Sixth) accompanied by my dad Juan. Remember, we rode it all the way to old Canadian Street (east).

Milgracias (thanks) for talking me back to my old Austin days! (Can't remember; did we have streetcar named Austin?)

Semper Fidelis

Moses P. Saldaña Sr.


Slam on Starbucks

Editor:

Thanks for taking your papers out of Starbucks. What a bunch of corporate idiots. Guess how they replied when I took the time to write to their corporate offices about offering non-rBGH dairy products in their cancerously expanding franchises? They replied with a cookie cutter postcard with no human being's name on it.

If our world continues to be taken over by these gluttonous, community-ignoring corporate monsters, how would we ever know about the free day of yoga in Austin last Labor Day Monday, for instance (and next Labor Day Monday, 2001)?? Or the Yoga and Sound workshop coming up on Saturday, Sept. 16th?? The New York Times sho' won't tell us, on this you can count.

Sincerely,

Peggy Kelley

Director, Austin Yoga School

[Ed. note: As we noted in last week's issue, we did not take our papers out of Starbucks. They removed us.]


Public Transit Politics

Editor:

As Karen Rae points out in her letter of August 31, lateness in buses cannot be completely prevented. But lateness in buses is not a serious problem in cities with real public transit systems, where the buses come at seven-minute intervals. When a bus breaks down or fails to arrive, another shows up within seven minutes. If Capital Metro ran buses at shorter intervals, lateness would not be a problem.

There used to be a saying. "Men are like streetcars. There'll be another one along any minute."

Capital Metro should build neither roads nor sidewalks; it should run a first-class bus system, soon to be supplemented by a first-class rail system. The city of Austin should take responsibility for building and maintaining city roads, sidewalks, and bikeways. All roads within city limits should have sidewalks and bicycle lanes on both sides. They don't.

The new roads of the upcoming bond election will be built to facilitate population expansion, at the expense of local and global ecology. I'll be pleasantly surprised if these roads are equipped with sidewalks and bicycle lanes. Even if they are so equipped, I'll vote against them. We don't need more cars and more people.

On the other hand, I'll vote in favor of light rail. I think it would be smarter to start with electric buses and lightweight trams than a large rail system. But I'll vote for the rail system that's being proposed, because at best it provides rail travel of some sort. No first class transit system runs entirely on gasoline-powered buses.

Meanwhile, the polar ice is melting. And Austin's "green council" is hustling to build more roads.

Yours truly,

Amy Babich


Bus Drivers Deserve Thanks

Editor:

Because of economics, I am forced to live 50 (one-way) miles from Austin where I work.

I hate the drive.

Numerous times my vehicles broke down in Austin and I had to rely on Capital Metro buses.

While I abhor the bus stops, I have never had a bad experience with a Capital Metro bus or Capital Metro bus driver in the almost 10 years I have been back in the Austin area.

Without exception, the bus drivers I encountered have been delightful -- they have been extremely informative, helpful, and courteous to me. I have also seen the concerned and professional manner in which they often made the extra effort to assist the elderly, youngsters, and the "differently abled" with compassion, thoughtfulness, patience and consideration.

I wish I could ride Capital Metro buses every day and I haven't read nearly enough nice things about the good folks I met who are Capital Metro bus drivers. I think they are exceptional and they do the extremely difficult vocation of public service with grace, style, and class.

I look forward to my next bus ride!

Thanks, Bus Drivers

Helene R. Schmidt


Rotten Radio

Editor:

I enjoyed Ada Calhoun's piece on the stage production "Lipstick Traces" ["Everything Is Possible ... Again," Sept. 1]. I can certainly appreciate the dedication, endless energy, and total commitment that went into writing and producing this work. However, I'm very curious to know whether the play's creators have ever had the opportunity of consulting with a most reliable source: John Lydon, Johnny Rotten himself. He is a wealth of information -- and opinions, of course -- and is very accessible, much more so than the public would believe. He can be contacted during his program, Rotten Radio, which airs on Saturdays at www.eyada.com. Greil Marcus himself has been on the show to give insight into his book, and both Lydon and Marcus had an interesting exchange of ideas, to say the least. You can find this Marcus interview-of-sorts in Eyada's archives. And no, Ada, Lydon is not a "poor dear flailing around in TV Land as of late." There is more substance and intensity to his madness than meets the eye.

Thank you,

Laurie Gallardo

El Paso


Kill Your TV

Editor:

The "Who Asked You?" portion of the September 1 issue posed a hypothetical question based on the TV show Survivor. By far the funniest response came from Guy Forsyth, who said, "I have no idea what you're talking about." Give me a break. Guy, Honey, have you been under a rock? Personally, I never watched a single Survivor episode. I don't know how long the show ran. I don't know when it aired. I don't even know what channel it was on. But I do live on Earth!

Painfully obvious parallel: I don't own a Guy Forsyth album. I don't really know if there is one. I can't name a single Guy Forsyth song. I'm not sure what kind of music he plays. But have I heard of him? Well, I do live in Austin, and I do read the Chronicle.

What really kills me is that the Survivor question didn't really presume any knowledge of the show!

Hint for Guy: Just don't stop going to your gigs because there are people there.

Kelly Hall Delonay


Chron's Ethical Errors

Editor:

Michele Polgar's letter ["Postmarks," Aug. 25] once again brought up the sensitive topic regarding conflicts of interest as it pertains to Chronicle writers Robert Faires and Robi Polgar. Letter/column discussion of this has failed to focus attention on codes of ethics adopted by the journalism profession. Please allow me to bring to your attention those aspects of the codes that relate to this problem. Perhaps with clarification, a new platform might be constructed upon which the debate might advance.

Most newspaper writers adhere to a standard of ethics which have been codified by two documents, one adopted by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the other adopted by The Society of Professional Journalists.

The ASNE document stipulates that "special treatment or privileges can compromise the integrity of journalists and their employers. Nothing of value should be accepted." It also stipulates "service in community organizations should be avoided if it compromises the integrity of journalists and their employers. Journalists ... should conduct their personal lives in a manner which protects them from conflict of interest, real or apparent."

The SPJ document stipulates the following:

  • Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.

  • Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.

  • Refuse gifts, favors ... and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement ... and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.

    The SPJ code also states that journalists should "Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media," and "Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant." I add this, because, regardless of whatever commentary is proferred, your "bitching" should be "encouraged."

    It should be recognized that codes of ethics are not legal codes. They exist to foster credibility and trust among the public-at-large. If these codes have been trampled, the publisher can either uphold the codes or wink an eye and ignore the complaints. If the latter situation prevails, then those who complain have the right to boycott the publication and any event they sponsor. If allegations of impropriety are unproven, then it's time to pack up the sour grapes and move on.

    Steve McDaniel

    A "self-indulgent" person who has been around long enough to know better


    Cell a Work of Art

    Marjorie,

    Rarely have I been in disagreement with the film critiques from the Chronicle, but Marc Savlov's recent review of the The Cell is simply dead-off [Film, Aug.18]. I have been a fan of the horror genre for the better part of my life, in both literature and film. The Cell is a modern horror film, and ranks highly in my catalog of fantastic horrific experiences. I was disappointed to read Savlov's knocking at the less-important features of the film, like the story (which is not remotely as bad as Savlov relayed), and Lopez' performance as the under-trained, child-loving social worker (Marc might have been in the bathroom when in the film it is quite concisely and believably explained why her character was the one chosen for the job). Forgive me, Marc, but if the story wasn't there, you probably wouldn't have had your eyes shut. Or perhaps you were simply asleep, believing it was just another music video or commercial.

    What disappointed me the most about the review was the misdirected focus. Yeah, we're all getting used to amazing special effects, but finally a film has come along that suggests that special effects can be utilized in a truly artistic fashion, one that is divorced from the necessity of a "message," like our daily bombardment from similarly stunning TV ads. Savlov's failure to emphasize the incomparable visualization behind The Cell makes me wonder about his aesthetic sense, and in his desire to get the right people to see the right movie, instead of the movie he doesn't want to see. Sorry to crash down on you, Marc, but perhaps horror films just aren't your cup of tea.

    Dan Schmiedeler


    New Austin, Old Tricks

    Editor:

    In last week's issue, Werner Severin ["Postmarks"] laments the loss of the old Austin where employees would take less pay for the privilege of living here. While those were no doubt special times, the cat's out of the bag now: Everyone knows about Austin and everyone wants to enjoy what Austin has to offer. Unfortunately, there's no going back to the old days when Austin was relatively unknown outside of Texas.

    Mr. Severin and others have also often repeated their dislike of the idea of light rail in Austin. I think I see what they're driving at now: Since light rail has been proven to enhance quality of life in the cities where it has been implemented, the anti-railers think that they can stop gentrification if they can stop light rail.

    While I agree that there are deleterious side effects to skyrocketing property values, I cannot see how chucking light rail is a viable remedy. If a city is desirable, property values will rise. That is usually viewed as a good thing. These anti-rail folks are so hellbent on avoiding higher property values that they would sentence us to relying solely on more road-building blight for our transportation needs. A look at any huge city in this nation should cure anyone from wanting to follow that path, unless they plan on turning a quick profit and then hightailing it out of here before the asphalt dries.

    Let's make a better, more sustainable Austin first. Then we can deal with this "horrible" situation of all our property values rising in a more creative manner than ruining the town with the worn-out refrain of the road brigade.

    Phil Hallmark

    member: Light Rail Now!

    www.lightrailnow.org


    Spreading the Word

    Editor:

    Thanks for your review of the Austin Jazz Workshop's recent CD release, Take to the Sky ["Texas Platters," Aug. 25]. We appreciate your help in getting the word out on our outreach program in Austin elementary schools.

    This recording project would not have been possible without support from the Webber Family Foundation and Jamey Aebersold Jazz. They covered all the up-front costs, making it possible for the CD's proceeds to go directly into funding our ongoing season in the public schools. We cannot thank them enough.

    And thanks once again to the Chron, not just on our behalf but for all your work for the local music scene. Your contribution to the public's awareness of live music has been instrumental (no pun intended) to the success of countless fine artists over the years. We appreciate it, folks!

    Michael Melinger

    Austin Jazz Workshop


    Invasion of the GOP

    Dear Austin Chronicle editors,

    I've been enjoying Saturday night cocktails at Club DeVille for many years. But what happened Aug. 19 can never happen again. Republicans were en masse and singing karaoke onstage. It was actually two nightmares rolled into one. If Jim Bob Moffet and Kay Bailey Hutchison mated, this is what their offspring would look and sing like. Bouncing their overdone hair to "We Are Family" in a mini-GOP convention at the last place I expected to see these people. Sixth Street is thatta way, people!! It was so weird, it became freaky, and we left and damn near jumped the check. It was the wrong place at the wrong time. Profane.

    Mark McKinnon, if you want to help Bush get elected president and remain an investor in Club DeVille, who am I to mess with your money? Forgive me. I don't want to go there. But show us regular Club DeVillians a little more respect than to subject us to that hell ever again. I'd rather eat glass.

    For the love of God, please

    Dan Shenkman


    Speed Bumps Pose Danger

    Howdy y'all:

    Berkeley's Commission on Disability report to the Berkeley, Calif., City Council: "Vertical deflection devices, which are designed to work by causing discomfort, create a wide range of serious problems for a variety of persons with disabilities and, therefore, should not be used on public rights of way."

    From the Federal ADA ACCESS Board: "Drivers with disabilities report that a speed bump (or a hump) is a barrier to roadway use, not merely an [in]convenience. The jarring that can occur at even low speeds can be painful or dangerous. Other traffic calming approaches should be considered where feasible."

    The Berkeley COD has adopted the concept of "Blue Streets" aired here at the February ADA meeting held at the Texas Department of Transportation Greer building. One disabled Austin resident offered the idea of a grid of existing residential streets across Austin marked with signs and/or painted blue, like a blue disability parking space. Blue residential streets would not have vertical deflection devices. This network would not block street access, injure or cause pain to the frail elderly or the disabled in Austin. EMS and AFD, Cap Metro Special Transit services and AISD Sp. Ed. buses would safely use these streets as well.

    Berkeley Daily Planet: "Commission takes stand against any new speed bumps":

    "The commission (on disability) voted unanimously at a special meeting Friday to support Berkeley's bicycle boulevard plan, having received the guarantee that there would be no speed bumps included in it.

    The plan creates a half-dozen safe and convenient bike routes throughout the city."

    San Francisco Chronicle: "Berkeley to Build Bicycle Roadways; Visually unique grid will crisscross city":

    "Bicycle boulevards will mean quieter, safer streets for residents, pedestrians, children and wheelchair users as well as bicyclists in a day where traffic congestion and road rage makes people scared to take a step."

    Rick Hall


    Gore Smug on Guns

    Editor:

    If Al Gore loses in November, he will lose for the same reason that Ann Richards lost. His arrogance over private firearms ownership issues may cost him the election. It was hypocrisy for Ann to stand behind a shield of armed DPS bodyguards telling ordinary citizens that they have no right to concealed-carry legislation for self-protection. It is folly for Mr. Gore to advocate dismantling the Second Amendment. In a case now on appeal, the position of the U.S. Department of Justice (or is it "just us?") is that the Second Amendment means only that the military or police have a right to bear arms. I invite Mr. Gore to move to the People's Republic of China to enjoy the benefits of a "government use only" firearms policy. Ann lost, concealed-carry passed, violent crime decreased. What a novel concept! Allow honest citizens the right of self-protection and crime goes down!

    What I fail to comprehend is the news media's bias against privately owned firearms. I miss the days when checking facts was part of reporting. Crime reporting seems reduced to a contest to see how many times the phrases "high-powered rifle," "assault rifle," or "semiautomatic weapon" can be used in a single paragraph. Fact: FBI statistics show that rifles are used in less than 1% of all violent crimes. Fact: FBI statistics show that the vast majority of violent crimes with a rifle involve .22 rimfires. I guess less newspapers would be sold or less TV ratings boosted if the term "squirrel rifle" was appropriately substituted for "assault rifle." I wonder if the smug anti-firearm propagandists in the news media have given any thought as to how long they would continue to enjoy First Amendment protection without the Second Amendment around to protect the rest of the Constitution? You lost my vote to the Libertarians, Mr. Gore.

    Very truly yours,

    D. Honish

    P.S. Court case referenced is U.S. v. Emerson.

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