Global Warming, Public Schools, and Jazz a la Zorn.
Lands' Demeanor All Wrong
In this day and age of threats and suits, I am surprised by the Reverend Sterling Lands ["Sterling Lands' New Mission," Jan. 12]. Threats and suits are stemmed by violence, not community and compassion.
I agree that the AISD does need to take action to stop a legacy of racist and unequal public education, but threatening the school board with political and financial setbacks, to name a few, goes against everything that should be taught.
Threats have not worked in the past. What makes the Reverend think that they will work now? I say it again, Mr. Lands: Build the community up to the level that you are seeking. Teach, pray, listen, and learn, then disperse your people into the school boards, the classrooms, the administrator offices.
That is the only way to handle this situation. Change does not happen overnight. It never has. It never will. Start with the community. Be a leader. Not just an antagonistic.
Global Warming 101
I have sometimes wondered if Amy Babich might not actually be a fictitious creation of the anti-environmentalists; she plays the role of the constantly complaining liberal that conservatives so love to hate. Now we have Carl Swanson ["Global Warming Causes Hot Air?" Jan. 19], whose combination of arrogance and ignorance regarding all things environmental would seem even more improbable if it were not already evident in our new administration. A few tips for Carl:
1) Global warming has nothing to do with ozone depletion.
2) If you doubt scientific results, fine. However, be consistent. Question your scientific "counter-evidence" with equal rigor. "Hadley Convection Cells" are dominant in the troposphere, the lower atmosphere where our weather occurs. Ozone is at the top of the stratosphere. CFCs generated in the U.S. or Europe have no trouble reaching the stratosphere and causing worldwide ozone depletion.
3) Question the motives of those who say everything is just hunky-dory. Follow the money. If you think work demonstrating global warming is all "junk" science that is "embraced so desperately" by environmentalists, think of all the junk science being distributed by industries and politicians who desperately want to convince us that nothing needs to be done. First they denied there was global warming, then that we cause it. The current argument seems to be, "OK, it's happening and it's our fault, but maybe it won't be a big deal."
4) The problem with global warming is not simply change, but rapid change. The change in our climate is happening too fast for ecosystems to adapt. Living things die a lot faster than they grow. Coral is dying worldwide much faster than it can spread. Other examples are becoming commonplace. In the oceans and on the land, our excessive energy consumption is building deserts.
No Longer an Island Unto Itself
Dear Mr. Black:
I'd like to suggest that The Austin Chronicle consider assigning one of its environmental reporters to do a little investigative piece on the destruction of beautiful Red Bud Isle. You may know that this has been going on for several years now, courtesy of PARD, who brought in heavy bulldozers to scrape clean the main peninsula so heavy machinery could be parked there while they did repairs on the low-water bridge. That has been several years now, with the island become progressively so damaged it is almost unrecognizable.
And just today, as I crossed the bridge, I saw bulldozers on the dam side, scraping clean other smaller islets where there was a pristine stand of cottonwood. Large granite blocks that have long stood mute testimony to the time the dam broke in the 1920s are being smashed to rubble, and there is a new sign out front, titled simply "Capitol Investments."
It sickens me to see this unique piece of local beauty being irreparably destroyed. It was a lovely little park, dotted with shady little natural alcoves where families could picnic and our dogs could swim and play off-leash. Generations of Austinites enjoyed this little island, according to my father, who remembers fishing there with his grandfather (that would be around 1930). No doubt Barker History Center would have some photos of it and a good amount of its history. Beyond human amusements, it was home to any number of birds and game fish, including bass.
I have placed several calls to PARD to ask about the destruction of this city park, how long it will continue, why it is occurring, and how it will be repaired. Not surprisingly, no one has called me back.
Thanks as always for the great job you guys do on our city politics, I hope you will consider this request.
Bitchin' 'Bout Babich
So is it safe to assume that Amy Babich is a "featured writer" for the Chronicle now? I'd just like to know 'cause her letters are in the "Postmarks" section each week and maybe she should have her own section so I know what to avoid reading instead of having it sneak up on me every week like a garlic fart.
Justin B. Andrews
More Fuel Frustrations
In case you don't think global warming is anything to worry about, there are plenty of other reasons to cut down on our truly excessive use of cars and oil. Local air and water quality are deteriorating. You can see the haze over Austin for yourself. Exxon is still planning to run gasoline through a 50-year-old oil pipeline under South Austin. More and more roads cut into wildlife habitat and make it hard for animals to survive. Species are dying out right here in Austin. The streets smell bad. It has become routine to read of a person attempting to walk across a road and being struck not by one but by several cars, none of whose drivers stop to render aid. People drive farther and burn more gasoline every year, but it doesn't make them happier. Instead, they're frustrated and angry.
One cheery note in all this is the current popularity of children's motorless scooters. It's good to see children playing outdoors again, and moving around without burning fuel. Now if we just had some sidewalks and crosswalks, children might even be able to bike, walk, or scoot to school.
Motorless transport is silent, relaxing, and very enjoyable. Maybe someday Austin will even have cycle paths that go somewhere. Then we might see a reversal of the grotesque trend in which fuel use per person rises every year, while fuel supplies shrink.
Biodiversity: Extinction & Idiocy
I am writing in response to Mr. Swanson's latest exercise in ignorance ["Global Warming Causes Hot Air?" Jan. 19]. He states, "This planet has been through far worse ... and it seems to be doing pretty well ..." This is flat-out wrong. The planet Earth has never before seen such destruction of its life. Right now life on Earth is in the midst of the largest mass extinction in its history. Humans are destroying more of the Earth's biodiversity than nature ever has, and at a rate far greater than past die-offs. Biodiversity is the foundation upon which life rests. By destroying half the world's tropical rainforests, we've already decimated a third of the planet's biodiversity, in a mere century or so. In our lifetime we will witness the extinction of over 90% of species on earth, due to the biggest natural disaster of all time -- humans.
Meeting on Magnet Schools
The community study group for the AISD magnet school programs appointed by the AISD board of trustees met for the second time yesterday, Wednesday, Jan. 17. This group is in the process of looking at any and all aspects of the magnet school programs at Kealing Middle school and LBJ and Johnston high schools.
The next meeting is on Jan. 30, 6-8pm, at the AISD board meeting room at 1111 W. Sixth. Further meetings of this group, as well as public hearings and input from students and ex-students in the magnet schools, are scheduled in February and March, 2001.
I read the good article in this week's edition about Rev. Lands' group ["Sterling Lands' New Mission," Jan. 12]. I hope they will be involved in the process of finding solutions to the problems in the magnet schools.
One may contact Mel Waxler's office at AISD for information on the activities and schedule of the community study group. The number is 414-6425.
Keep up the good work at your newspaper!
Member of the Community Race/ Cultural Relations group
Zorn, Others Keeping Jazz Alive
Thank you for publishing Harvey Pekar's curmudgeonly yet reasoned criticism of the Ken Burns PBS Jazz series ["Better Than Nothing," Jan. 12]. As much as I have been enjoying the program, I fear that Pekar is right in his assessment that Jazz will do little to get people into the jazz clubs and performance halls. Jazz and improvised music exists in the moment, and for this reason it must be experienced live. In an age of box set retrospectives and reissues, it is easy to overlook musicians who are taking artistic risks and keeping the music alive.
Pekar mentions a number of contemporary creative musicians whose contributions were ignored by the series. He mentions specifically Joe Maneri, John Zorn, Mark Dresser, Chris Speed, and Joey Baron, as well as Sixties innovators Albert Ayler, Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill, and Paul Bley.
It is unfortunate that Burns overlooks so many contemporary innovations, but it should be pointed out that these and other noteworthy musicians have also suffered neglect from this very newspaper. To choose one high-profile example, the prodigious and vast output of composer/saxophonist John Zorn has never been discussed in these pages.
There is a wealth of wonderful music being made today by musicians keeping true to the adventurous spirit of early masters like Ellington and Armstrong. I urge you to take the lead from the Pekar piece and give these contemporary masters more coverage. The future of jazz in the "Live Music Capital of the World" depends on it.
Pedro G. Moreno
'Jazz' the Story of Civil Rights
Ken Burn's epic documentary Jazz is far more than nothing ["Better Than Nothing," Jan. 12]. To say that it doesn't go far enough or that it slights various subgenres of jazz and therefore is a failure is to miss the point. The film is not meant to be a catalog or a sampler of all of jazz, but a history of how America created jazz and jazz helped create America. Jazz is part of the trilogy of documentaries including The Civil War and Baseball that shows how the interactions of disparate Americans (especially blacks and whites) has made us what we are as a people. In this light, Jazz is very much a success.
My father grew up in West-Central Texas, a provincial world and a society that instilled hatred of anyone and everyone deemed foreign or alien. In the 1920s and 30s in rural Texas if you were white and did not profess your hatred for and superiority over black people, you were a traitor to your peers, your family, and your ancestors. And so, my father has always sprinkled his conversation with the N word and has repeated his parents' teaching that black people are the "Children of Cain" and therefore condemned by God to be inferior to white people for all time. Into such a world came, in the form of phonograph records, Dixieland jazz and the genius of Louis Armstrong. Despite my father's racism he has always spoken in reverent tones about this colored New Orleans jazzman. The greatest compliment my father could ever muster was when he would say about Louis Armstrong, "He's not a n-----, he's a musician."
No documentary film, however lengthy, can encompass something as massive and complex as jazz. Other films will come along to list and demonstrate the music and the personalities who have created it. For now, Ken Burns' Jazz has done its job.
Learning From the Fire?
Regarding the article on the student co-op housing facility which recently burned ["Co-op in Smoke," Jan. 12]: The writer should be commended for accurately reporting the cause as "unattended cooking." (Contrary to the piece in our esteemed daily rag which attributed the cause as a "cooking accident.")
In addition it appears as if everyone, or just about everyone there, knew that the toaster oven was dangerous and in need of repair/replacement. Yet despite this the students left it unattended.
What was not emphasized enough in the personal interest item was that the fire resulted from carelessness and even negligence of the residents. Their great loss could have been prevented.
Hopefully some of this has sunk in and will not be entirely lost on the young kids who resided in the facility.
More Dem Inadequacy
Two months have passed since your bitter denunciation of Nader supporters; the more-than-ample response by the "Naderites" need not be rehashed here. I would, however, point out what I believe to be a constructive insight into the political mix. Ralph Nader joins the handful of politicians -- nearly all Republican -- supporting legalization (and thereby regulation) of illegal drugs. When he spoke to this issue at the Berger Center rally more than 5,000 people gave Nader the biggest cheer of the night. These 5,000 made not a difference in Texas; how many were in the state of Florida is unclear. But if "Naderism" includes the common sense policy of not voting for politicians who want to put you in jail for what politicians do, that number had to be substantial. And if the Dems didn't get these votes then they have only themselves to blame, for it was they who studiously discouraged these voters (many seasoned activists) from joining the new "leadership" of the Democratic party.
Certainly, the Democratic party's rightward lurch can be seen in rollbacks in environmental protection, labor protections, consumer rights, and fair trade. But the Dems' savagery in the War on Drugs proved most critical. Knowing the Dems' propensity to cow down on social issues, the GOPers used the WOD to publicly bully progressives. Predictably, the Dems loaded up their own 'leadership' positions with drug warriors like Donna Shalala, Barry McCaffrey, and Diane Feinstein and began to play with the shiny new assault rifle allowed them by the Republicans. It was a Faustian bargain. In exchange for a modicum of relief from GOP bullying that they were soft on drugs and crime, the Dems gave up their most sacred issue: civil rights. Who could have come up with the best plan since slavery to jail vast quantities of young black males, Mexican-Americans, and counterculture whites? Not the Dems. They just follow orders.
All those civil rights acts, all those agencies of equality, all those speeches by Dems before black church congregations -- mere cardboard shacks before the storm of the Drug War. You don't see this, Louis? Five thousand in the Burger Center did.
Stephen W. McGuire
Let Me Work!
I am a 13-year-old kid who would like to get a job but due to certain laws I am unable to. There are several things I would like to be able to save up for such as college and a car but I have no sufficient way of earning money to do so.
These days the need for money is becoming more and more demanding for young people. I'm not saying we should be able to work like 10 hours a day but more like four to six. We might not need as much money as say, a 17-year-old, but we would still like to be able to earn some money for ourselves. I'm not sure about other people but I would like to be able to learn what it's like to be able to earn money for myself to prepare myself for when I move out of my parents' house.
I hope you will consider what I have said and maybe do something about it.
Prepubescent Learner's Permit
I am a 12-year-old boy and I have been wanting to drive but I have to wait two more years. I think we should have more practice and get to get your driver's permit. Also your parent can be with you until you're 16. It takes a lot of skill but you get to have some fun. I hope you read over this and think about it.
'No Depression' Handicaps Class
2001: Class Acts & Clowns
Enjoyed your "Class of 2001" roundup [Jan. 19]. Found myself prognosticating along as I read through the piece, and figured I'd share my thoughts with y'all.
Those who will stand as stars head-and-shoulders above the rest at year's end: Charlie Robison and Bob Schneider. Hmmm, there's one particular thing those two have in common ...
Those who probably deserve some sort of major breakthrough but won't get it: Abra Moore, Davíd Garza, Kacy Crowley.
Those who will roll right along as ever, and be just fine: Alejandro Escovedo, Damnations, Spoon.
Just as books sometimes can be judged by their cover, those whose imminent demise can be judged by their band name: Dynamite Hack, Schatzi, Ünloco, Riddlin' Kids.
Those who are ultimately, no matter how good, not stars, but a rhythm section: Double Trouble.
Wild cards: Shawn Colvin and Patty Griffin. Colvin's comments in the "Class of 2001" piece were the most insightful of the bunch. She's right that her age and her music style would suggest commercial doom. But I suspect that her "intuitive sense it will be okay" is also correct. In a marketplace where shit floats a lot more often than cream rises to the top, she's the rare exception that proves the rule. Griffin might belong in that same category above with Abra, Davíd and Kacy - but I've heard the record and have a hunch something will happen. She just might do so well that next year's Robison/Schneider will be Troy Campbell.
Help Free Mr. Meaux
Dear Friends of Huey P. Meaux:
The time for a parole hearing for Huey is drawing near. He is due for a hearing in September of this year, but the Parole Board begins its investigation six months before the actual hearing.
Because of this, Huey needs you to write a letter to the Parole Board, telling them of your relationship to Huey, how many years you have known him, how you feel about his returning to society and that he will prove to be no threat to anyone if he is released. You can say what you feel makes him innocent of the crimes he was convicted of, if you so desire. Anything you can say that you feel would help the opinion of the Parole Board in investigating Huey's upcoming parole would be appreciated.
Many of you have written letters in the past, but please, even if you have, write another. He needs as much support as he can get.
Those of you in business should write on your letterhead to add credibility to your remarks.
Huey has asked that you write them at:
Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Shoal Creek Blvd.
Austin, TX 78711
If you would please, make an original to send to the Board and two copies to Huey at this address. In case you have been out of touch with him, please address him as follows:
Huey "Pops" Meaux
Ellis Unit D10-44
Huntsville, TX 77343-0001
Thank you very much for taking the time in this very worthy cause.
Marilyn von Steiger
'Partisan Five' Decision Still Hurts
It has been over a month since the Partisan Five said no to the will of the people. I still feel pain. My son will not grow up in the Land of the Free. He will not have faith or trust in the legislative, executive, and especially, the judicial branch of what was once our government. I will have to explain to him that at one point in time your vote counted.
Unfortunately this is no longer true. We the People now means we the money. Excuse me, big oil money. G.W. Bush and his cronies have successfully stolen the election and in the process destroyed our government.
The U.S. Supreme Court has trampled on state's rights and violated Statute II of the U.S. Constitution. Democracy will never be the same.
I rarely agree with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, but in his denunciation of the Partisan Five decision I do. I've had some time to introvert and extrovert, but my feelings remain the same. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling has made me ashamed to be a Texan, and moreover ashamed to be an American.
The "Balance of Power" no longer exists. When nonelected officials, the Supreme Court, can overturn the U.S. Constitution with a completely unsubstantiated ruling, our democracy is over. I will never vote for a Republican again. It is incomprehensible that more Americans do not see what has happened.
When the government no longer represents the people, it is time for the people to represent themselves.
ashamed, sad, bewildered, mad American
Mideast Peace in Bush's Hands
If a main problem in the Middle East is Israeli militaristic hegemony, historical precedents can lead to peaceful resolution.
When Israel invaded Egypt, Eisenhower threatened to end aid to Israel if they did not stop. The threat turned the armada around and stopped the war before it started. Since then the two nations enjoy peace.
Carter kept Begin and Arafat at Camp David for 17 days until Begin finally agreed to withdraw and remove the Sinai Settlements, thus establishing lasting peace in the area.
When Israel, with U.S. support, invaded Lebanon, 500 U.S. troops perished in explosions in a barracks and a returning plane. Finally, an angry Reagan phoned Begin and shouted, "Stop and get out!" And with tears in his eyes Reagan told surviving families that the invasion was the saddest regret of his presidency.
Neither G.W. Bush nor Clinton have displayed such courage, but if G.W. Bush will act courageously as an honest broker ô la Eisenhower, Carter, and Reagan, then peace shall prevail. So be it!
Jewel R. Johnson
Query From Across the Pond
Dear Sir or Madam
I am contacting you in the hope that you might be able to assist me. I am researching professional baseball players who served in the military during World War II. More than 1,000 major league players joined the armed forces between 1940 and 1945 -- many fought on far-off battlefields and some, sadly, never returned. More than 50 years have now passed and it is my fear that information on the military activities of these men will be lost if it is not gathered soon.
I am particularly interested in Eddie Kazak, who is from Austin. I would be very pleased to hear from anyone who may have information about his activities during the war.
My contact details are listed below and I thank you for your time, trouble, and anticipated co-operation.
55 Capel Road
Austinites Against Ashcroft
I urge others to take action now to stop the nomination of John Ashcroft for attorney general -- here are three great reasons why:
1) Ashcroft voted:
2) He has received accolades from prominent ultra-conservative groups and institutions, for example:
3) He is opposed by many progressive organizations, such as People for the American Way, the NAACP, NARAL, LCCR, the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, and the National Council of Jewish Women.
"There are voices in the Republican Party today who preach pragmatism, who champion conciliation, who counsel compromise. I stand here today to reject those deceptions. If ever there was a time to unfurl the banner of unabashed conservatism, it is now." -- John D. Ashcroft, Human Events, April 10, 1998
Chavez' Nomination DOA
Linda Chavez' withdrawal from the Labor nomination had very little to do with her housing an undocumented person. She was already opposed by Democrats and others for major ideological reasons and would have faced nasty confirmation hearings. I'm sure this was a fight she was not looking forward to.
Chavez complained about Washington's so-called game of "search and destroy." No one needed to do any searching, she already had a bad reputation among Latinos, Blacks, women, and working people. It seems that she has been out to destroy the efforts of Americans to gain equality, fairness, and better wages. While supposedly helping a few people, she has denied millions of others by opposing needed programs and civil rights policies. Bush, in his usual obtuse fashion, hailed her as an advocate of "civil rights for everyone."
Linda Chavez was definitely not qualified to be Secretary of Labor in this new millennium. The fact that she worked under Reagan alone is enough for many to feel she is unsuited for such a position. She is a disgrace and insult to her race and gender. She's also an insult to labor. It would have been quite ironic indeed if such an anti-labor person were head of Labor! As the GOP's "good Mexican girl" she would have continued to work on their behalf and not on the behalf of minorities and working people.
Restoring the Economy the Right Way
Dear Editor and Readers:
First, there are serious questions as to whether a candidate who lost a national election by 540,00 votes is the legitimate president of the United States. Obviously, the founding fathers intended, set up the electoral college to reflect the majority vote. The press reports that Gore presently leads in Florida. I abstained, but the conclusion of this vote is obvious.
Second, are the daily press (newspapers) and national press reliable? Previous polls showed that 80% of the public did not believe they were reliable, but at this point, one wonders if they are just not promoting people they want in a position -- or have avoided any objective investigation or background check on candidates ... or just can't count.
Third, Bush has almost caused a recession, before even taking office. He stated, "I am worried about an economic slowdown," which is printed in USA Today. All the leader of the nation has to say is such a phrase and the majority will stop buying big-ticket items like cars, TVs, computers and families will start pulling their money out of stocks. Bush has already created economic chaos, and some Austin companies have shown a 45-degree drop since November, when he grabbed a presidency. The majority remembers the recession he caused as senior adviser to President Bush (he was living in Washington, D.C., when the recession hit).
Fourth, what would restore the economy? Certainly a huge tax break to the top 1% will not even increase their wealth. The top 1% own businesses or properties that must sell their products to the 99%. Therein, increasing the income of the 99% by $100 a month will enable them to buy more services from the 1% at the top. Second, Texas and California polls showed the majority wants the college grants to cover the cost of college -- as existed from FDR to Kennedy. The 90% decrease in college grants, due to Republicans, results in less than 35% of Texas college students being able to graduate from University of North Texas, ETBU, UT-Arlington, UT-El Paso, etc. Only an educated population, making higher wages, will be able to afford cars, computers, large homes, and newspaper subscriptions ... and keep these companies growing.
Let us provide 80% of a potential tax surplus to marketable college skills, and 20% as tax breaks to the 99% of the population. The phones are open and you may express this opinion to Bush, or live to regret it.
Frank D. Bartlett