Our readers talk back.
Good Cop Bad Cop
Q: What do you call a good cop who covers up for, or keeps silent about, a bad cop?
A: A bad cop.
So it appears that APD has at least one good cop on the force. Until other officers come forward to join officer Farris in becoming good cops ["Bad Blood," Feb. 23], APD will remain the most dangerous gang in Austin because no one can stop them.
You are certainly right in your comments concerning the Austin American-Statesman's coverage of the investigation into police department misconduct, etc. Theirs was a very thin and unprofessional bit of journalism -- mental pap for the masses and a gloss-over of a significant story. Luckily, there are locals such as y'all who can and do delve more deeply into local affairs and give some real in-depth reporting and research into local issues. Maybe the daily realizes this and figures anyone who really cares will get their news and information on local activities from y'all.
More Bad Cops
One of the things I hate about your paper is the reaction as the Statesman's younger brother on affairs like Mala Sangre ["Bad Blood," Feb. 16]. At the end of 1993, and after a scandalous string of robberies in my barrio, two cops answer our call and find a thief still inside a neighbor's truck, and they just let him go. In another occasion, a house got broken into, and the cops showed up two hours and 15 minutes later, as they did many times then. We heard excuses of lack of officers from their commanders, and yet I clocked them at 50-plus minutes breaks at 7-Elevens, two-hour lunches at restaurants, and long hours stalking on drivers all over town. Oh, and after some angry neighbors asked the Mayor (Todd) about the strange attitude of these officers, he talked, and talked, and talked more. But hey, he was able to stop channel 36 and the Statesman from reporting on our plight. We got a little exposure from the Chronicle back then. Gracias. Afterward, I got sued by the city (strange). I tried unsuccessfully Internal Affairs several times, the FBI, the sheriff. Nothing worked. People here were sniffing glue, smoking abundant coke, and stealing from one house and selling the loot just around the corner. One neighbor had to disconnect his TV every morning, take it to work and plug it back in at the end of the day. The detectives? They are the very worst. They manipulated reports from the cops for the convenience of the APD, from their air-conditioned cubicles. We just quit calling 911. In addition to their reluctance to "protect and serve" I have seen acts of abuse -- mostly against brown people -- from them that get turned around in the wordery behind their legal shield. They are nothing but a herd of cowards with guns that prey on the elderly, the poor, the immigrants, but listen closely to the NSA. Cops hate to live in the communities they serve, so they are recruited from around the State. Again, you have to wait until the Statesman reports it first.
HB 1387 Unfair to Magnet Students
Louis Dubose is sadly misled that Representative Dukes' proposed HB 1387 is good ["Off the Desk," Feb. 23]. This bill amends the current law, which provides that students ranked in the top 10% of their class are guaranteed admission into a Texas state college. Where magnet or IB students and neighborhood students share a school, HB 1387 would prorate between these groups who is guaranteed admission. Under 1387, lower-performing students gain automatic admission at the expense of students who demonstrated academic excellence during high school.
Example: Johnston High School. There are 280 seniors. By current law the 28 students with the highest GPAs are guaranteed admission. If HB 1387 were in effect, nine magnet students and 19 "neighborhood" students receive automatic admission. 19 "neighborhood" kids with far lower GPAs and rankings (between 55 and 150) would displace 19 magnet kids. Thus Johnston students whose GPAs truly rank them 10-28 in their class would lose automatic admission to neighborhood kids with true rankings between 55 and 150.
Who are these "magnet" students? Nearly 40% are black or Hispanic, as the Johnston Magnet is the most integrated AISD honors program. Of the 19 "magnet" kids that will be displaced out of top-10% ranking, eight are minority and four are "neighborhood" kids. One "neighborhood" kid was among those who filed the successful federal lawsuit against an AISD district policy that would have done what 1387 proposes and which was struck down as discriminatory, unfair, and unjust by the court. Two of three who filed this suit were Hispanic and from the Eastside.
"Neighborhood" kids can all take "magnet" courses. Only 20% of the classes magnet kids take are "magnet" -- the rest are regular or honors classes open to every Johnston student. HB 1387 penalizes and discriminates against students for their achievements simply because they participate in a demanding academic program the district recruited them to join.
If That Wall Could Talk --
We wanted to take a minute to commend The Austin Chronicle on its "Lost Austin" issue of January 26. As the city we all love grows, it's always important to take time to reflect on the past. We would also like to clear up some confusion concerning the Joseph's Men's Shop mural/sign which was featured on the cover and the artists responsible for painting it.
This image, possibly of LBJ wearing a cowboy hat, was initially an advertising sign used by the Texas clothier. Wear and tear had taken its toll on this sign. By 1995 it had been almost lost due to the sun and weather. At that time the Joseph family commissioned the partnership of Skagen-Brakhage to restore this time-honored landmark. The final work on this mural was approved by the Josephs, as well as the Austin Historic Commission. (Controversy ensued as permission was never secured by the owner of the building to rework the mural.) The intent of everyone involved was to merely restore this icon while remaining faithful to the original artwork.
The partnership between Rory Skagen and Bill Brakhage was formally dissolved in the spring of 1998. Skagen Art started at that point and operated until early 2000, when it merged with Black Mountain Art to form Blue Genie Art Industries Inc.
Unfortunately, the Joseph's Men's Shop sign was repainted by Brakhage along with several other artworks the two had painted, including the Blue Ribbon Day Mural at Fifth and Colorado. These acts occurred in the fall of last year prior to Brakhage moving away and are in no way condoned by Skagen or his affiliates.
Blue Genie Art is committed to producing quality commercial and public art, hopefully contributing to the special character of Austin. We are excited and proud to be part of this community, and look forward to creating new works which have a chance in time to become future landmarks. To see examples of the work that we have produced, our Web site is
. Thank you.
President, Blue Genie Art
Mag of Constant Sorrow
Your magazine seems incapable of writing anything about bluegrass music without committing some ridiculous blunder. In last week's article about the band Split Lip Rayfield ["Bleeding Kansas," Feb. 23], your writer states that, "At one time, the word 'bluegrass' conjured images of poker-faced geezers in matching Colonel Sanders ties, spinning laconic tales of train wrecks and dead relatives." This may be true of people who are completely ignorant of the music, but the Chronicle is supposed to be (at least in part) a music magazine. You're supposed to know something. The Chronicle's reputation for being interested in what's hip rather than what's good is only perpetuated by comments like these. As a bluegrass musician and fan, the word "bluegrass" conjures, for me, the image of Bill Monroe and the Stanley Brothers making some of the most intense, soulful music of the 20th century.
While we're on the subject of musical styles where the Chronicle has displayed, shall we say, a less than compelling interest, I have to mention the irony of your recent article about Ken Burns' Jazz ["Better Than Nothing," Jan. 12], where Burns is criticized for ignoring modern jazz musicians by a magazine that's written (with the exception of Jay Trachtenberg's excellent, but extremely rare pieces) scarcely a word about any jazz musician, living or dead.
Paul R. Sweeney
Keeping the Kickapoo Pride
I enjoyed reading your article on "Lost Austin" [Jan. 26] but noticed one error. In your timeline you mention that Josiah Wilbarger was scalped by the Comanche, but in reality he was scalped by the Kickapoo. I live in the area near Wilbarger's homestead and am of Kickapoo ancestry myself. The Kickapoo migrated from the Great Lakes region and moved to Mexico at the request of the Mexican government to serve as a buffer zone against Texas. They were sometimes allied and confused with the Comanche. They made frequent raids into Texas and were on such a raid when Wilbarger and his friends were attacked. The Kickapoo were also responsible for defeating the Texas Calvary in battle after the cavalry led an unprovoked attack on the Kickapoo. This is a well-known fact to people living in the Wilbarger Creek area.
Pro-Life is Anti-Choice in Many Ways
On Monday, Feb. 19, my daughter came home from UT visibly shaken and on the verge of tears. She described a gigantic display on campus that completely blocked her path into Gregory Gym. She felt violated, visually raped, assaulted by 15-foot-high, billboard-sized photos of bloody, disembodied limbs and decapitated heads of unborn fetuses -- magnified hundreds of times and posted high in the air, facing all directions with a guard rail around it.
The display was dramatically offensive. There was no way around the monstrous structure if a student had to walk to the library anywhere else on that side of campus. It was an unabashedly pornographic display that capitalized on partially shredded, bloody body parts. This patio is a public place not only for students, but also for innocent school children on field trips, sidewalks where sensitive souls have the right to walk. The anti-abortion display featured brightly colored close-up images of the contents of a woman's uterus, ripped out for all to see. It was a distasteful and insensitive use of images of women's bodies.
I honor our right to freedom of expression. However, I highly object to the use of hugely magnified photos of entrails, bloody deformed skulls, vaginal blood, and in-your-face gore in a public place. These images of terror and death are a reflection of the gruesome, anti-female, murderous "snuff-film" genre. Those horror-sex films provided bloody visuals of women's mutilated bodies. The gigantic display on campus for four days expanded the visuals of anti-female snuff-films into multicolor oversized poster art in the service of political propaganda.
I can choose to go to the Holocaust Museum in D.C., but life-sized posters of piles of corpses are not hung in public view on the outside of the museum. I can decide if I want to buy a ticket to a horror movie, read a book about bloody murder, look through a textbook with color photos of dead babies. I can decide if I want to fill my mind with bloody images. X-rated political propaganda is no different, yet these photos designed for shock value were forced in my face.
Yvette Claire Rosser
We're All at Fault for Losing Austin
I have been quiet for far too long. The recent spate of letters condemning KUT for not carrying the full slate of NPR programming are obviously from newcomers. Now wait, before you jump on me, I was once a newcomer. Born and raised in Dallas, I longed for a place that was smaller, quieter, and more tolerant than Big D. In 1980, I made the move and KUT was part of the reason. I wanted everything Austin had to offer and nothing Dallas had. I never told anyone how we did it back home, I learned to do things the Austin way. The bottom line is, Austin didn't need me, I needed Austin.
Back then there were only a few radio stations, and KUT was the only one with a huge range of musical styles. It still is, and I hope they don't change it anymore.
The fact of the matter is, it is now 2001. People have over 20 radio channels (even more on cable), hundreds of TV channels, and the Internet. If you can't get NPR broadcasts, you're not trying. Nothing has made me more angry than changing KUT programming. Not the stupid "Amy Babich" letters, not the arguments over AIDS (hoax or real threat), not even the ongoing battle over Carl Swanson's lack of knowledge about global warming.
If there is a "Lost Austin," it is because of people who don't or won't respect what was here when they came.
You Draw More Flies With Honey
So, it's Friday, before a long weekend, I'm waiting for my to-go chicken club at the Chili Parlor. I grab a Chronicle and figure I have time to read the "Postmarks" while I wait for my sammie. The first letter I read was from Sabrina Coppola [Feb. 16]. I have no idea what she is so angry about, but do you think she kisses her mother with that mouth? Whatever, wherever her point, it is lost in the vitriolic, obscene rant. Thank you, Amy Babich, in the same issue, for clearly, concisely, "with malice toward none" expressing your opinion. OK, so if you scream loudly enough, push hard enough, are bigger, meaner, nastier, you will sometimes get what you want, but is that really what you want? And will you even know when you get it? Or will you still be angry that you didn't get it soon enough? In Amy's letter, she urges those who write strings of insults disguised as letters to the editor to consider their options. I would like to extend that invitation to anyone who thinks that aggression and violence solve the problem rather than add to it. So, Sabrina, you didn't go to finishing school, but there are still anger management classes and writing courses available that could give you the skills necessary to fight those battles against the establishment, but this time fight to win.
Donna Rene Johnston
Check Your Local Listings
I noticed a bit of bellyaching around concerning the Ken Burns Jazz series. If you thought that was bad, just wait till PBS captivates the nation once again with the 10-part series on hip-hop hosted by Alan Alda.
Justin B. Andrews
No More Above-Ground Garages
I hereby propose that the city of Austin ban all further construction of above-ground parking garages. Developers would be required to provide adequate below-ground parking for residents and employees. All land that would have been allotted for above-ground parking garages or parking lots would be converted to landscaped open space, i.e., parks. What to do with all that excavated dirt? Take it to flat parts of the state that wouldn't mind having a little Hill Country of their own.