The Austin Chronicle


December 22, 2000, Columns

A Special Journey


I would like to share a brief account of my visit to Saigon, Vietnam, in November. As a Vietnam vet, I've had my share of issues to deal with over the past 32 years and this is not about that ... It is about the acceptance and the respect and the openhearted manner that the Vietnamese displayed constantly during my two weeks in their homes and businesses. I enjoyed two weeks of touring and visiting around Saigon on the back of a Honda motorcycle. You think Austin has traffic jams? Ha. Our roads are tame by their standards. As we motored around, I caught the eyes of men and women and the kids and their looks were absolutely priceless as they realized that there was an American on their street. When our eyes met I gave my best "Davey Crockett bearstopping smile" and a thumbs up or the OK sign and the results were just magic. Their faces lit up with incredibly bright and even joyful smiles. And they waved and returned a thumbs up or tossed a kiss my way. I was thrilled and excited about the openhearted manner they displayed. I believe that the Vietnamese love us, and need to know that we have not forgotten them. They don't need our "official charity" as much as our individual personal smiles.

I would like to honor my friend Son Le, restaurateur/owner of Cong Ly Restaurant on Sixth Street for inviting me to accompany him to Saigon. I would also like to pay my respects to his four sisters who produced some of the most delicious meals for us.

To Tam, Loch, Phuc, and Le, I was both honored and humbled that your care for my needs was so selfless.

To my fellow Vietnam vets, if you haven't been back, take some advice. Pick out a good camera, lock and load at least 10 rolls of film, take shirts that are for vacationing, and invest the pittance required for airfare and hotels and go. I said pittance because the return you will receive far exceeds any mere money spent. Go, and take your smiles and your goodhearted ways with you, and just respect and love them back. You will return a better person, changed by the magic of a smile. Lock and load your cameras with at least 10 rolls of film, pack some tropical vacation shirts, and go!

James Oliver

X-River Rat

A Call for Green


The prospect of Tony Sanchez leading the Democratic Party in the 2002 governor's race powerfully demonstrates the need for the Texas Green Party. In a race between whatever Republican, as always in the pocket of the oil, banking, and real estate developers' special interests, and a Democrat who is a multihundred millionaire in oil, banking, and real estate development, the Green Party will run a real progressive and do quite well. The vacuum on the left is obvious.

Amy Smith's puff piece on Tony ["Looking for Tony," Dec. 8] is an excellent example of how American journalists, even those from ostensibly enlightened publications, wear the lack of a class perspective as a badge of honor. Rarely is credence given to the concept that in most political issues the interests of the multimillionaire capitalists and those of the average citizen often tend to be antithetical.

D. Hamilton

Our Mistake


I thought it really funny that the article "Kiddie Spree" by Stephen MacMillan Moser in the December 15 issue contained the sentence, "Gundan. Learn to say it now, parents; you'll be hearing it a lot in the future as Pokemon steps aside," as the name of the product is actually Gundam.

Take care!

Brian Ruh

Straight Talk on Stratus

Dear Chronicle,

Last week's report on the Stratus/Mueller City Council hearing ["Swap Meet," Dec. 15] was a disservice to your readers, especially in light of your other excellent coverage on this topic. Since the Chronicle's voice on the future of Barton Springs, Mueller, and Stratus Properties is critical to the community, it is necessary to correct Mr. Madison's misconceptions.

First, if the "original Stratus term sheet is dead," then why are city board and commission hearings going forward on the term sheet? While the council would likely sweeten such a deal, the basic terms are very much alive and requiring thousands of hours of time from citizens, board and commission volunteers, and city staff.

By contrast, the Griffith/Thomas motion would have those thousands of hours developing a plan for saving Barton Springs. Madison's assertion that Griffith sought a "process, devoid of product" is simply not accurate. One might think that a council that supports saving the springs would have a plan for doing so. Then the question of "what to do with Stratus?" or any other developer would be answered by the community in the context of a plan with a clear goal and utilizing the best science rather than as just one more deal.

As for swapping, your story left out a critical point: Most citizens who spoke support council's move to trade development out of the Barton Springs Zone but prefer a fair and competitive process, one that assures the maximum development traded out of the watershed. Both the taxpayer and the aquifer suffer by a council resolution that singles out Stratus for such trading.

Finally, thanks to Robert Bryce for revealing Freeport McMoRan's continuing links with Stratus (to the extent such can be gleaned without any help from Stratus).


Bill Bunch

Executive Director

SOS Alliance

A Cold Day in Hell


I couldn't help but reflect on Mother Earth's recent decision to freeze Austin and our newly appointed (certainly not elected) president's Texas home under a blanket of ice on the eve of the Supreme Court's recent decision to freeze the process of justice in our nation! Could we take this as a sign? Could this be what it takes to wake us all out of the warmth of complacency and into the fire of action and change? Let us pray!


Sherry Gingras


More Words on the Pathetic Pogue


Shane MacGowan's comments on the ethnic composition of his La Zona Rosa audience were no joking matter. Those of us who walked out did so not because "we didn't get it" ["Postmarks," Dec. 15] -- we walked because we did get it and knew that it stunk. Shane MacGowan is a brilliant lyricist and one pathetically fucked-up human being. Idolizing his bad behavior is to tolerate the intolerable. One of his former Pogues bandmates, referring to him, said it best: "In rock & roll, a star is someone nobody tells the truth to."

Sharon Lynch and Raymond Donley III

Big Myths Revealed: Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Popular Vote


'Tis the season to be brokenhearted. The season to lie to the youngest about Santa Claus. Do we tell these cruel "stories" so we can enjoy the looks on the little faces when they learn the truth?

The "popular vote" is a bigger lie than Santa Claus because it is told to millions of adults. We do not vote for a presidential candidate, we vote for electors. They vote for president. So we should be talking not about eliminating the electoral college but eliminating the popular vote. We could dispense with billion-dollar, divisive campaigns because the only names we would need to know about are the candidates for electors. When the electors vote on Dec. 18, we would only then find out the identity of the new president/vice-president. We need not know any more about them in advance since they are irrelevant to the populace's vote.

Now look at the faces of the brokenhearted millions who have just learned that there is no such thing as Santa. Did our parents turn out to be Santa's electors? Was Santa not really listening to us as we sat on his knee?

It would be a fine justice if all the adults who told their kids the Santa lie should have to go to malls and sit on the laps of old men with fake beards and tell him all the things they want.

Those people who will say "This was a fair election" will tell their most precious and dear children, "Yes, there is a Santa Claus."

The "smirk" comes from trying to say these things in front of adults "with a straight face."

Jim Franklin


Leaving on a Jet Plane


Thank you Capital Metro for adding an airport bus stop by the UT dorms. I rode the route 100 bus on return from the Thanksgiving holiday. Students appreciated the 50-cent service, and were already using the new stop. The job is not finished yet. Please use the same logic regarding location and convenience for downtown and the state complex. Why make most state employees walk four blocks to find the bus? Why force our hotel guests to use taxi cabs? Please choose locations near pay phones. Make them visible to high rise offices. Additional holiday service is nice, but does not address the problems of serving a business area. With better placement, this airport route will become an asset for our convention business, and introduce city bus service to many.

Jerry Balaka

The Pot Calling the Kettle Racist


Once upon a time, long ago, there was a man in America who had a positive message of racial equality and harmony, a man with a vision. His name was Jesse Jackson. That man, his vision and his dreams, are long gone, replaced with a miserable, racist piece of crap who should change his name to Jesse Jackass. He is a Capo, like the Jews in the death camps in Nazi Germany who sold their own people out for selfish gain.

This pandering, mumbling moron recently said words to this effect: He said "Jews who survived the Holocaust had their votes stolen by Nazi tactics." This from a pig who called New York City "Hymie-town," who fawns over some of the most anti-Semitic people in America, the Nation of Islam. Suddenly, pal of people who calls Jews "devils," this from a man who calls New York Jews "hymies." I wonder how many Jews who survived the Nazi atrocities would compare what happened in Florida to what happened in Germany?

Jesse and his organization are nothing more than extortionists who threaten corporations with boycotts to garner "contributions" to his personal piggy bank, the Rainbow Push Coalition. His most recent target was Burger King, which apparently had the gall to offer entry-level jobs to blacks.

His complaint that blacks in Florida were prevented from voting is asinine at best, and shows his true opinion of blacks. He is not smart enough to consider that many blacks in southern Florida are registered Republicans. Many if not most Haitians and Cuban blacks do not support the liberal agenda of the Democratic Party; most of them are doing extremely well financially and they vote Republican. I doubt many black Cubans would support the party that sent Elian back to live in a police state.

He also seems to be suggesting blacks are too afraid of whites to actually walk past white people to vote, showing that he believes blacks are less able to stand up for themselves than others in this country. He is a racist pig and George Bush was an asshole for even calling him and legitimizing his racism and hate.

Carl Swanson

Something Wicked This Way Comes


The Supreme Court did itself "irreparable harm" voting five to four to protect Bush from the "irreparable harm" that a recount in Florida would do to Bush. This reminds me of Vietnam when the Supreme Court decided not to decide whether the war was legal or illegal, constitutional or unconstitutional, right or wrong.

So the war went on ... and on ... doing "irreparable harm" to two million Asians, and 58,000 U.S. troops, plus 60,000 who committed suicide when they came home. However, in spite of the Supreme Court, the war finally ended in the following way: Many young men put their lives on the line as refusenicks and were tried and imprisoned. Daniel Ellsberg attended the trial of one Randall Keeler and was inspired by Keeler to put his own life on the line also by criminally publishing the top secret Pentagon Papers, which told the truth about Vietnam. And the truth did "irreparable harm" to the war itself.

Thank God!

Jewel R. Johnson

Fight the Power


The U.S. Supreme Court's decision against counting the people's vote has cured me. I tried to excuse the hateful dishonesty of political conservatism as well-intended but misguided. How foolish of me. Excusing evil only encourages more evil. The proper response to evil is complete, constant opposition without compromise.

Howard Thompson

Granite Shoals

An American in Paris


I am a Texan currently living in Paris. While we have the threat of mad cow disease over here, there seems to be a lot more crazy bull infecting my homeland. Living abroad during the Y2K presidential election has given me a perspective virtually free from the daily influence of political rhetoric or media sound bites. My perspective is perhaps a naïve one, but it would seem to me that the people should be allowed to elect the president.

I haven't had the benefit of the pundits telling me what to think, or maybe it's the early onset of mad cow, so correct me if I am wrong. Both candidates championed the will of the people, but only the will of those people who were likely to have voted for them. Gore chose to pursue an accurate count of votes only in counties that were favorable to him. Bush, "the states rights candidate," appealed to Washington to quash attempts of a state to determine legitimate votes left uncounted due to mechanical error. The Supreme Court initially refused to make a decision and returned it to the Florida Supreme Court because it was out of federal jurisdiction, only to interfere when five of the federal justices did not like the state court's decision. Then, rather than try to ensure a process to accurately determine those legitimate uncounted votes, they hid behind the law and denied the rights of those voters to receive justice.

I suspect we haven't heard the end of this. Some journalist, historian, or lawyer, filing a class action suit on behalf of the uncounted voters, is liable to unearth all those suppressed votes. If that happens, and it is found that Bush is a pretender to the throne, what becomes of all the legislation he will have signed into law?

It is a sad day when the president of the United States is elected not by the people, but by the judicial system. Perhaps the sentiment of the Shakespearean character in Henry V is sympathetic in saying, the first thing we do is kill all the lawyers.

Disclaimer: The Shakespeare quote is rhetorical; don't sue me.

Patrick Haney

A Very Short Leash


No, I didn't see Gore concede the presidency, though shortly after I was informed of that event, I heard that my mother-in law called her daughter crying because she had been so moved by his speech. I must admit that I am slightly more disappointed that W gets the throne than I would have been had Gore sat there. Bush is an idiot with friends; Gore is intelligent and educated. Both, however, stood to become figureheads of a system that hardly represents the interests of the majority of American citizens, much less those of global citizens. Each day this planet becomes smaller on a variety of levels, and each day that the most powerful nation in the world remains oblivious to its role in today, (encompassing both yesterday and tomorrow, yet consisting wholly and exclusively of right now), the harder the perceived leaders of this country will take the news that their behavior is no longer acceptable. The more power they retain over such institutions as, say, the military, the more devastating the tantrum they will throw as they lose their power over the people (you and me), where the true power resides. I fear W's tantrum no more than Gore's. I do believe that he is more susceptible to the pulling of his strings by the corporate puppeteers, but in the long run that may just catalyze the uniting of the people, whereas Gore can at least speak on our level well enough to string us along for another four or eight years. I don't disbelieve his good intentions. I am skeptical of the nature of his power, and as long as we have someone vaguely competent in the White House, we have a scapegoat. We can continue to believe that the power lies outside ourselves. With a bumbling imbecile dangling like a drunken pit bull at the end of some very small marionette wires, we (The People) shall sooner have to look in the mirror, and realize that we put that pit bull there, that we chose the puppeteers, and that the only power anyone has over ourselves is that which we have denied to ourselves.

Justin Farmer

San Marcos

At Least We Got Closure


The stunning success of the Bush coup d'etat is scant reason to actually start speaking of Dubya as "the president." (I don't think I will ever bring myself to do that.) It is, however, good reason to start (or continue) speaking, and speaking ill, of the Republican win-at-any-price and so-much-the-worse-for-democracy contempt for the will of the people. We saw an excellent example of that in our local Republican daily newspaper's remarkable editorial which disparaged as "Machiavellian" the notion that we should actually count all the votes in Florida. I would have called that an "American" rather than a "Machiavellian" idea. I guess I am insufficiently versed in Republican Newspeak.

And later in that same newspaper's misinformation campaign, the editorialist offered the amazing opinion that a voter's physical robustness should determine whether the vote gets counted. Old? Can't punch that ballot all the way through? Tough luck! Hey, tell it to the Supreme Court!

Ever since Nov. 7, we have had Republican apologists for election-theft arrogantly pretending the Bush Restoration had already begun, never mind that the Crown Prince (already preening himself for the inauguration) in fact came in second by a quarter of a million votes nationwide and except for the ill-fated accident of the butterfly ballot complementing the, well, Machiavellian Republican tactic of deploying an emergency planeload of lawyers and a mob of well-coifed and no doubt well-paid campaign apparatchiks to make sure a fair count of Florida votes did not go forward, Prince Dubya would today be out by himself picking up leftover confetti on the Governor's Mansion lawn while the rightful president of the United States, Al Gore, named his cabinet.

But I suppose we can forget all that, now that the Supreme Court has given us closure.

Best regards,

Jim McCulloch

No More Scapegoating


I have to laugh at all of the Democrats spilling hatred forth on Nader and his supporters, as though the Demos are entitled to the Green vote. Several prominent Democrats have used the word "reprehensible" when referring to Nader, as though it's his fault Gore did not do as well as he "should" have done. I didn't hear the Democrats calling Perot reprehensible for splitting the Republican vote during the last two elections. I suppose it's all right until it happens to them. Every day my assessment of Democrats as hypocrites continues to be proven correct.

I applaud the people who voted for Nader, as well as other minor party voters who, realizing that real change will never come as long as one of the two major parties holds power, voted their conscience rather than responding to brow-beating from the arrogant power structure and their dupes. The current whining over the vote count further demonstrates the real moral character of the elite on both sides.

Vic Parrish

San Marcos

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