Readers sound off on a variety of touchy subjects: politicos, abandoned kittens, even the brachiation of apes.
Fullerton Gets Schooled
I was very interested in the well-researched and clearly written article by Kevin Fullerton, "University High" [June 8], until I reached the paragraph in which he quoted me. Now I wonder if the words attributed to others are equally misleading. I am appalled at the use of sensationally edited, seemingly incendiary observations, out of context, which misrepresent both my views and my conversation with Mr. Fullerton, even if they seem to add sizzle to his piece.
First and most obvious, no one believes that it is necessary to gather only "superior students" to form a college class. My central point to him was that I support any course taught by adequately prepared faculty following a syllabus that has the blessing of a college or university. In Laredo, both Texas A&M International and Laredo Community College offer fine opportunities for high school students who wish to pursue a dual enrollment option. Indeed, one of our very finest adjunct faculty members at A&M International is also a Master Teacher of Spanish in a local high school. In the model we pursue and I heartily support, classes are taught by our faculty and the community college faculty in the high schools, and are the same college courses offered on our campuses. I expressed strong opposition to a course not approved by a department in a college or university nor taught by an appropriately prepared instructor.
Moreover, to mix cohorts in one classroom, some taking the course for college credit, others for high school credit, reading the same texts and preparing the same assignments, runs counter both to common sense and to the best practices of our profession. And finally, the observation related to numbers of universities and colleges and relative political strength suggests a polarization that I neither accept nor have experienced. At present, I serve on a committee called together by the Coordinating Board to study problems students face as they transfer and move between various institutions of higher education in Texas. That committee has confirmed with hard data what we had long suspected: At universities, there is no significant difference in performance of native students and community college students when the latter group transfers at least 30 hours credit from the college.
The good in Mr. Fullerton's work exposes an erosion of rigor and validity in courses of study, a condition that distresses faculty in both colleges and universities. That he also posits a conflict of a deeper nature distracts everyone from the serious concern of all faculties to protect the integrity of what we do. On this issue, the central one, there never has been any dispute.
Ray M. Keck III
Provost and Vice-President for Academic Affairs
Texas A&M International University
Setting the Record Straight
I was very concerned to read a recent issue of The Austin Chronicle (June 1 edition) and see grave inaccuracies reported in the story written about the draft ordinance that would prohibit sitting or lying down on the sidewalks in the central business district ["Naked City: Austin Stories"].
In it, the reporter attributes the following to me:
"Unlike the Seattle ordinance, which prohibits sitting or lying down between 7am and 9pm, Austin's law would apply all the time. The reason, Steiner says, is that many downtown businesses stay open late, and so need the 'protection' from the homeless promised by the ordinance round-the-clock ..."
I said no such thing. I said, in response to the reporter's question, that the draft ordinance being considered by the Austin City Council was not limited by time because the area to which it applies has 24-hour activity. I said nothing about needing protection from the homeless or from anyone else. This proposed ordinance is aimed at conduct, not at a group.
It is unfortunate that I have to write this letter, but I believe it is warranted. Further, it is important that the Chronicle's readers get an accurate depiction of not only what I said, but also what the draft ordinance is designed to accomplish.
Assistant City Attorney
City of Austin
The Councilman Weighs In
I offer the following in response to Jim Harrington's letter to the editor of June 8, 2001 ["Postmarks: Spotlight on Alvarez"], regarding the development project on Robertson Hill (aka the Bennett Tract). I obviously do not agree with his creative interpretation. What we were attempting to do is strike a fair balance between competing interests, which is the fundamental nature of this job. At the first meeting I attended with all the stakeholders, everyone seemed hopeful that it was possible to reach agreement and get this issue behind us in a positive way. Without recounting the entire process, I will state that my notes from the first meeting with the stakeholders demonstrate that all but one of the five or so identified neighborhood issues were addressed substantially. Negotiations with Riata Partners revolved around these initial issues. Other issues surfaced ostensibly when the issue came before council, but the development incentives and the zoning case came forward as a package that I felt compelled to support because I was instrumental in crafting it. As the process moved forward, we were able to address some additional neighborhood issues but certainly not all of them. The neighborhood made it appear that the council was completely unresponsive; however, it is clear that the final outcome was a significant improvement from the Planning Commission's recommendation. Maybe I was overly optimistic to believe that the neighborhood and the developer could come together on an issue such as this, but I felt that the positive effect that a negotiated agreement would have -- for this neighborhood and for East Austin in general -- outweighed the risk that it would become a knockdown-drag-out fight, which it was going to be anyway. The outcome of this struggle can still have a positive effect for East Austin if all of the parties involved continue to show respect for each other and work together on issues of mutual concern. I am hopeful that this can and will happen.
Raul "Clarence Thomas" Alvarez
Austin City Council
Cigarette Glossies Pollute, Too
I can't believe how disappointed I was seeing the glossy cig ad spill out of the Chron last week [June 8]. We know that you have to generate revenues from ads; however, don't degrade the hip reputation that you have by including cigarettes as a source of income, especially in a glossy, fall-out pollution-maker like this one. They were all over the street where I got my copy. Cigarettes are horrible, any way you slice it ... get yourselves above it, and learn to live on conventional ad space, otherwise we'll just use XLent for our source (especially since they got Corky back!).
I feel better now,
Mr. Smarty Pants & Simian Skeletons
In today's Chronicle, you gave an inaccurate definition of brachiation ["Mr. Smarty Pants," June 8]. It is not simply moving your arms around like an ape (or like Jim Carrey). Brachiation is a form of locomotion employed by certain primates (mainly the gibbons and siamangs). It is an overhand "monkey bars" reach-and-swing motion. Due to humans' upper-body skeletal structures, we could never even come close to imitating brachiation very effectively -- just as gibbons and siamangs cannot walk more than a few paces upright.
It was sad to see such touching images and text about the hate crimes law ["Hate Crimes Law Caps Long Struggle," June 1] followed immediately by "The Hightower Lowdown," in which the author refers to people who live in Minnesota as "dumber than wood chips." When did it become OK to degrade an entire group of people (or even one person)? Is it only unacceptable behavior when we are referring to one's sexual orientation or skin color? Hatred is instilled in those around us first by the words we use. It is an easy attempt at humor to make stereotypical (lame) jokes that demean others, but it is not a sign of intelligence, class, or honor. My secondary point is this: To give him the benefit of a doubt, perhaps President Bush is not trying to "pull one over on" We the People. Maybe he does not see the world the same way the author does. Maybe he really believes he is doing the correct thing. On that premise alone, the author would have a more persuasive argument if he would pick apart what the president thinks are the strengths behind his beliefs and actions instead of picking apart the man himself. The author has some good points, but he's losing them in his delivery.
Kelly A.S. Borsheim
Stop Dumping Unwanted Pets
This is an open letter to the people who find the dirt roads on the outskirts of South Austin a convenient place to drop off unwanted pets. Congratulations! It worked! I am the "someone" who you hoped your kittens would find, your babies who came to me bony and diseased and crying in hunger, infested with fleas and ear mites. Two such creatures found me this way, a month apart and obviously from different parents, last spring. I thought you'd want to know that after thousands of dollars in spaying, neutering, vaccinations, surgeries, vitamins, prescription medicines, and food, they are doing quite well and are both celebrating their first birthdays. The still-tiny black one, Cookie, continues to struggle with her fear of humans, but at times expresses love unbounded. The silver-and-white one, Booger (so named for the dark spot on his nose, and his early respiratory infections), faced death from a snakebite but has healed nicely thanks to surgery, home care, and medication. They have formed a family unit with the other three rescued cats in our home, they are the loves of my life, and they'd like to let you know they don't begrudge your decision, not knowing what happened to them and figuring they like me better anyway. As for me, I'd like to thank you for placing them in my care, and for making on my behalf the financial decision to provide them health care instead of myself. Not having to weigh those pros and cons is a real load off my mind. Surely you abandoned them only because you could not afford the $0 to $25 required to spay or neuter the parents, a choice that resulted in -- surprise! -- unexpected kittens. Who could see that coming? And certainly it was more convenient to drop them at the edge of town than to answer the questions you'd face at the Humane Society. So, bravo to you! If only there were more conscientious pet owners like yourselves. I can only hope your presumably numerous children (you don't believe in birth control, correct?) will learn your values well, and will offer you such stellar treatment when you become as feeble and helpless as the five-week-old pets who depended upon you. Perhaps when you get tossed on the side of the road like so much garbage, "someone" will pick you up and take care of you. Just know in advance that that South Austin won't be a lucky place to try.
With warmest regards,
Mad at M.A.D.D.
Regarding the letter submitted by Jeff Burke ("Postmarks: Like Father, Like Daughters?," June 8). I am so sick of these fanatical right-wing extremists (M.A.D.D.) who pass themselves off as do-gooders working for the betterment of society. Mr. Burke cites the actions of the Bush daughters and claims it "has the potential to overturn in minutes, years of work that has been done by this fine organization, Mothers Against Drunk Driving." Let's hope so! Eighteen-year-olds can vote, can fight and die for their country, and are considered adults under all other statutes of the law, but when it comes to having a couple of beers, well, they're just too young to handle it. Right.
"Fine organization," my ass! Having worked as a bartender and bar manager for over 18 years I have seen a fun and profitable industry turned into a nightmare of Big Brother paranoia thanks to that "fine organization" known as M.A.D.D. who have hounded and besieged our spineless legislators into enacting law after stifling law. I've seen numerous innocent hard-working people thrown into jail for performing a legal service by providing a legal product to consenting adults (and I'm referring to those over 21), and I've been arrested for the same crime myself. What a farce! I've seen countless ordinary businessmen harassed and harangued and fined and threatened by the Gestapo tactics of our taxpayer-funded T.A.B.C. (M.A.D.D.'s S.S. army), and wasted many an hour in contemplation wondering how those jerks can sleep at night knowing they are enforcing unjust laws on the innocent citizens who pay their salaries. But the T.A.B.C. doesn't want prohibition, and neither does M.A.D.D. They make far too much money in taxes off the sale of alcohol! Talk about taxation without representation! M.A.D.D. and T.A.B.C. -- I fart in your general direction.
Wanted: Personal Responsibility
In response to the letter "Like Father, Like Daughters?" ("Postmarks," June 8), I have some points to make myself. First, if the staff member of the restaurant had not overreacted and called the police on the Bush twins, the incident would have never become a public issue. Second, if individuals would take responsibility for their own actions and not base their personal and moral decisions on the behavior of public figures, we might not have a need for so much control. People want to gripe and moan about how the government is too controlling, and then they take something such as this and begin lobbying for more and more laws. Heads should be rolling, Mr. Burke, not because the president's daughter tried to purchase alcohol, but because if you have it your way, we'll soon be a nation of people completely dependent on the government to legislate our every thought and move. Please learn to think for yourself.
Of Oil, Roads, and Interests
In Texas, roads are close to pure politics trying to hide behind a fig leaf of traffic engineering meant to facilitate future growth projections. In an era of seriously shrinking public funds, roads have tended, in Central Texas at least, to become political favors bestowed on the most politically powerful land development interests, and those regions that can offer the most matching funds.
The shortfall in funds needed to conduct business as usual has now led the Texas Legislature to sanction the planning of many new Texas highways as toll roads, proposed to be built with loans from the big New York bond houses. If you examine the documents produced by the Texas Turnpike Authority in favor of its current toll roads projects like SH 130, the future toll revenues are banking on car-centric, low-density suburban sprawl trends continuing for decades into the future until the bonds are paid off.
Now for a reality check. The USA currently depends on imported Persian Gulf oil for about 60% of our transportation energy needs, and this dependency is constantly increasing. What is more, world oil production can barely keep up with world oil demand even today. World oil production is now predicted to peak within five or 10 years by a growing number of internationally respected petroleum supply geologists such as Colin Campbell and Jean Laherrere.
Forget global warming. If we believe the oil supply experts are right, gas prices will soar when world oil production begins to decline, and this will likely leave the new toll roads as stranded costs to be picked up by somebody. This somebody will likely be either the bond houses or Texas taxpayers, whichever ones are the better contract negotiators, if you get my drift. Get the facts regarding future world oil supply at www.oilcrisis.com.
Gramm's American Nightmare
I am writing about the 14 Mexican men. The ones that were left to die in the desert. I lay their deaths upon Señor Gramm. In my opinion, it is in no small way his fault that they died. Señor Gramm has proclaimed a "guest worker" program, which amounts to, in my opinion, an attempt to circumvent the immigration laws of the United States. There are three million illegal immigrants in Texas. All of them, apparently, invited by Señor Gramm to take American jobs. The Mexican government is providing them with survival kits to invade our country. We are told there is no opportunity. Why is there no opportunity? Because in Mexico, there is a 25% and 30% unemployment rate. The government is racist. The racism tends to send these people to the United States, and Señor Gramm calls them on. They died answering the hollow call for opportunity that Señor Gramm has made. What is not talked about? Their families. They came for a dream and they met the nightmare of Señor Gramm. They are taking jobs that belong to Americans, and Señor Gramm knows they will take less money to do them. He knows they will do anything to get these jobs, that they will die to get them. Three hundred sixty-nine died last year. In a dark dream, I see Señor Gramm standing in the desert. He stands as their last moist breath is exhaled into the consuming heat of the desert. He watches as they wither and die. He is not concerned, however; he knows there will be more. If they slow in their pace, he will call out to them to the United States, to take our jobs, it makes no never mind. Just another day for Señor Gramm. Another day those 14 men won't see.
Alfred Lee Brock
Chuy's Made the Right Move
I'm beginning to see a pattern of accusation in news reports regarding Chuy's handling of the Jenna and Barbara Bush affair. There is no doubt that Austin is a liberal town and that there is no love lost between the president and many Austinites. Nevertheless, it is dismaying to see the motives of the Chuy's staff questioned in this matter.
I've waited tables in Austin for years, and like almost every waiter, bartender, and restaurant supervisor in this state, I've attended Texas alcoholic beverage server certification classes. The classes serve several purposes: They help the folks who serve the drinks to understand the scope of the alcohol laws and they help us to identify and deal legally and ethically with alcohol-related trouble when it arises. The classes are not mandatory according to Texas law; however, almost all businesses that serve alcohol compel their employees to attend -- once servers have attended a class, the burden of liability for a wrong move shifts from the employer to the individual server.
What this means is that a Chuy's employee who allows an underage customer to break the alcohol-related laws of the state of Texas can get in legal trouble him- or herself. High-profile customers were flaunting the alcohol laws in the restaurant; the employees were faced with a situation that put their jobs in jeopardy and could have resulted in their being fined. The restaurant could, in an extreme case, even lose its license for failing to uphold the liquor laws. The owners of Chuy's should be standing behind their staff rather than hanging them out to dry; could the public relations threat to the upcoming Chuy's location in Williamson county be affecting their judgment? Let's not criticize the employees for doing their job and obeying the law. If everyone in this situation had obeyed the law we wouldn't even have to discuss it.
Repeating a Racist History
"I be quiet. Yeah, I be real quiet. You ain't hearin' me be nuthin' but real quiet."
Rewind 80 years ago.
"Dis sho' am good."
Is there any person on this planet who can tell me why movie studios routinely shelve movies, cartoons, and shorts from the early days of film citing the racist content, and then turn around and make brand-spanking-new films for the year 2001 with close-up zooms on black people's eyes bugging out and their voices girly screaming comically as a bug bites them on the butt? Having to listen to Eddie Murphy as the donkey who would not ebonically shut up was already bad enough. Watching Cuba Gooding Jr. twitch and bugaboo his way through Chill Factor was even worse, but having to think that people's own blindness to what they are seeing on screen by whitewashing it with the sad thinking, "We've shelved those awful films of the past, therefore we are not racist" is the worst offense of them all.
Immigration Sweeps Week
It's been a week since another sweep program of immigrant families began. I've heard reports of car dealerships, restaurants, and construction contractors being hit by la migra, forcing some to work overtime to keep their schedules. This time, even apartments units, Fiesta, and some pulguita markets have been stalked by the verdes, in order to flush as many off to Mexico as possible. The quality of their disciplined work is undeniable, known among some of us who need them sometimes, compared with the bossy attitude that frustrated local workers show (thanks to the brainwash they succumb to in high school). This is the way regional commerce announces that another boom is over, and INS utilizes Mexican agents to kick Mexicans out. Have you guys checked out your cleaning team lately?
While watching the IMAX film "Amazing Caves" at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, I was struck by the repeated scenes depicting the collection of biological samples in remote and dangerous places to develop life-saving drugs.
Many scenes showed an attractive young "teacher's aide," risking her life while working in harsh field conditions, sometimes in a remote camp with a laboratory microscope, searching for new life forms.
One could not help but wonder if the dramatic film had not been subsidized by the pharmaceutical industry in a subtle (or not so subtle) attempt to influence public opinion at a time when the industry is being criticized by many sources for several reasons.
Werner J. Severin