Our readers talk back.
Attacking Smoot Points
Chronicle readers have now been smooted (Kelly Smoot's letter re Dawson NPCD, Sept. 14, 2001). Ms. Smoot's rants against the neighborhood planning process should elevate her to the Republic of Texas Hall of Fame.
Apparently the business owners still sporting signs resist an extremely limited overlay which, as passed by council 7-0 at second reading only limits conditionally expansion of three types of businesses: drive-through restaurants, pawn shops, and adult oriented businesses. Do Ms. Smoot and those businesses support pawn shops and porno houses along the corridor of our four-block-wide neighborhood? So much for a livable residential neighborhood.
While Ms. Smoot has apparently now settled on the "This will cause a massive tax increase" theory to arouse last-minute resistance from those too busy to participate in this long and open process, I must point out it is diametrically opposed to her own position as stated at the Planning Commission July 10. At that time, she demanded her large tract of MF2 zoned property be exempted from the NPCD because it would be "devalued" by the plan's implementation. So much for logic or consistency -- pedal whatever sells.
If there can be no infill development, even of such clearly owner-driven things as grany flats, does it not stand to reason that the owner of a large developable tract of MF2 zoned property would stand to personally benefit? So much for a neighborhood perspective.
Finally, despite draping herself in the property rights flag in her attack on the planning process, Ms. Smoot had no compunction against adding her neighbor's MF4 zoned property at 400 Alpine (she has been feuding with several owners since moving in a few years back) to the list of properties which are recommended for a base zoning change via the NPCD, again to her own personal benefit. So much for the Constitution and the high moral ground.
Ms. Smoot certainly has the right to peddle her viewpoint (du jour though it may be) far and wide. I am simply advising: Let the buyer beware.
The Meditators' Mess
Why am I not surprised that the good ol' Chron would paint the flower-child foundations of Radiance in such glowing, sympathetic terms ["Matter Over Mind," Sept. 21]? As a 17-year property owner in Goldenwood West, I've had lots of personal experience with the legal and financial mess left by the business naiveté and unfulfilled promises of the oh-so-gentle-and-laid-back TM-ers who headed long-defunct DevCo. And, as far as "Not all the residents practice Transcendental Meditation ...," I'd be surprised if even one-third of today's residents of what used to be the Christal Ranch indulge in this moribund, "dream-on" Sixties movement ... and the majority of those that do are from Radiance.
'Pacifist Professor' Revisited
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the professor that you labeled "Pacifist Professor" [UT journalism professor Robert Jensen, "Media Clips," Feb. 5, 1999, austinchronicle.com/issues/vol18/issue23/pols.media.html ] is actually writing for an Islamic propaganda site. See his article: www.iviews. com/scripts/articles/stories/default.cfm?id=13189&category_id=39.
Nowhere in the article does he regret what happened on Manhattan, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania recently.
This man's CV has "Islam" written all over it.
Why did you interview him and not state his ideological background? It is quite relevant for the reader to know the real agenda of someone whose objective it is to change the current world order.
Frankly, I find that another interview with this person would be appropriate now.
Thanks in advance.
[Ed. note: You're welcome -- see this week's News section.]
'Chron' Not Showing NY Respect
Your decision to go on with "business as usual" ["Page Two," Sept. 14] this week grated horribly on this transplanted New Yorker. I am a retired university professor who moved to Austin two years ago and have been a fervent booster of the city. But this past two weeks of Chronicle have soured me considerably. What an example of sheer immaturity and bad taste, not to say chutzpah! Just the usual ads, the usual announcements, the editor's explanation of how everyone else is doing the job well so the Chronicle doesn't need to, the article protesting development in Dripping Springs, for God's sake, stuff about the latest city council budgets, etc., etc., and oh yes, the usual threadbare hippie-lib posturings by one damn fool named Belinda Acosta about terrorist America ["TV Eye," Sept. 21], and how a lot of what happened is our fault anyway for being so oppressive, echoed by some mea culpas from your Ventura lad ["Letters at 3AM," Sept. 21]. That was your response to the destruction in NY and Washington, destruction that could only be matched if all downtown Austin had been leveled.
I was born and bred in New York, lived there all my life till now, and am a card-carrying liberal Democrat, so you can't pin this down as a letter from a right-wing jingoist. I say again, after mourning for my hometown for 10 days and reading an adult newspaper, The New York Times, all week, that you guys with all your posturings and protestatings of virtue, soi-disant liberalism, and high-mindedness don't come a patch on us, or on the rest of America. Talk about inappropriate affect. Talk about bad taste. What a sophomoric crew you all must be! Grow up, Chronicle!
Dr. Zelda Austen,
Long Island University
Ventura: 'Eloquent, Insightful'
Thank you and especially Michael Ventura for one of the most eloquent and insightful pieces that I've read on current events in the last 10 days ["Letters at 3AM," Sept. 21]. (I didn't see an e-mail address for Ventura so please forward my comments.) I live in L.A. and have been reading anything I can get my hands on about our current situation, from mainstream stuff to the best of the L.A. alternative press, so to say that this piece stands out is saying a lot. I lived in Austin from 1980 to '84 and still miss Austin and the Chronicle. I'm really glad that an Austin friend brought this to my attention and that I was able to access it on your Web site.
West Los Angeles
'P.2': 'Gratuitous, Shallow Carping'
I'm pretty sure that you are going to have something negative to say about President Bush no matter what he says or does. Nevertheless, I need to point out that your characterization of his recent comments as "bullshit Rambo posturing," or whatever, misses the point ["Page Two," Sept. 21]. Government rhetoric since Sept. 11 hasn't always done a lot for me either. But I also understand that statements from our government have had specific, nonliteral purposes. Louis: Attend to the subtext. When the president talks about "acts of war," "barbarians," or "justice" and "retaliation," he is attempting to do a number of things. Obviously, he is offering comfort to the angry literal-minded. He is warning us of sacrifice to come, soliciting our support for the effort. He is also feeling out world political leaders and popular opinion, indicating that a substantial response is likely and justified. He is soliciting world consensus for a fundamentally changed approach to international terrorism -- augmenting its traditional treatment as the criminal activity of individual actors with treatment as acts of war the activities of countries that aid in its execution. (Only in this way can such countries be sufficiently isolated and threatened as to raise the cost for supporting terrorism to an unacceptable level. The previous administration's response to Osama's terror bombing of American embassies -- symbolically dropping some half billion dollars in space age ordnance somewhere out on the Afghan desert -- quite clearly did very little other than to increase the Taliban and Osama's sense of impunity.)
By publishing these editorials you hold yourself out as a political commentator with something useful to add to the public colloquy. Gratuitous, shallow carping ain't it.
Does Not Compute
In the Sept. 21 "Naked City" column, political writer Michael King blasts American-Statesman editor Richard Oppel's poorly written column of Sept. 16, yet, in [Louis Black's] latest editorial column ["Page Two"] you claim that: 1) Terrorism can't be stamped out, but that the long-term failure and fate of these terrorists is in our hands; 2) No matter what government policy/corporate policy changes are made the terrorist will continue to attack us, but we need to make these changes anyway; 3) If we make any changes in the way we conduct ourselves the terrorists have won (so, we can't make any changes?); 4) The Americanization of the world by American corporations will continue at an ever faster pace (was this supposed to be good or bad?); 5) Anything we do, or try to do with these people will result in more bloodshed (because these people are "tar-babies"! Personally, I like "rag-heads" better). On top of all of that nonsense you have to throw in some retro-Vietnam-era insults at those good people who might have a flag waving on their car antenna or on the front porch (I have both). Do you think you could be a little more contradictory and fatalistic, please? I am not depressed enough right now.
Perhaps Mr. King should review your work as well, before it goes to press.
Focus on Middle Eastern Culture
Thank you for your most eloquent "Page Two" in the Sept. 14 Chronicle. I sincerely wish our president had expressed himself in the manner you did.
I'd like to offer one suggestion for the next Chronicle (or maybe the one after that): an issue focusing on Middle Eastern and Muslim culture in Austin. In effect, an issue whose very purpose is to prevent the backlash against Muslim Americans by showing that we, the civilized folks, will not tolerate our local, all-American brand of terrorism directed against our compatriots whose only crime is to call the same God by a different name.
I realize, of course, that the Chronicle's raison d'être is not to preach but rather showcase the Austin community and inform people of events. But within the confines of this mission, I believe that it is quite possible to increase understanding of those subcultures; and understanding is the foundation of peace and civility. Maybe an article on Middle Eastern restaurants. Maybe a couple of recipes. Maybe a review of Middle Eastern films. Maybe a review of books and articles about the oppression of women in Afghanistan. Maybe all of the above. You know best how much would be too little or too much.
Just a thought -- as you, I feel that keeping our community together is paramount at these times of tension; and I believe the Chronicle can further that goal.
With best regards -- and a lot of admiration,
Apostolos "Toli" Lerios
Kind Words in a Cruel World
Hello, I'm a dedicated front-to-back reader of the Chronicle. I read the article several weeks ago about the Golf Cart Incident ["The Golf Cart Story," Sept. 7]. Thanks for the story, it cheered me up a lot as I had been involved in an awful bike/car accident and needed a good laugh! I also commend your re-organization of the Chronicle. Some folks I know (musicians) are mildly annoyed because they can't find things in the same spot as they used to, but they didn't know about the re-organization; they'll figure it out though. Also, you can count me as supporter No. 3 for the Toni Price cover last week ["Postmarks," Sept. 21]. I admit I was surprised that the cover wasn't related to the New York attack, however I quickly surmised that the editors were being kind to us by diverting our attention. In any case, Toni Price put on a nice show in regard to the tragedy that same Tuesday, so she was quite fitting for the cover.
Just Say No to Tree Butchers
I want to offer these responses to the "Surgery or Slaughter?" piece [Sept. 14] outlining the ongoing tree mutilations the city is inflicting on Austin's formerly leafy neighborhoods. First, this has been going on for a long time, but few people realize it until it affects their own neighborhood. I engaged in a heated battle to save my own trees way [back] in 1997 in Pecan Springs, and wrote to the Chronicle at that time to bring this issue to light. City officials have always been unhelpful and uncaring with the exception of former Council Member Brigid Shea, who aided me even though she was no longer in office.
Next, it is important to note that many certified arborists are outraged at the city's tree-cutting policy and do not agree on its merits. Also, it is possible to resist; simply refuse permission to cut, and stick to it.
The city is being very deceptive when it says it will "replace" cut trees. Replacing a mature tree with a sapling is scarcely a replacement in monetary or aesthetic value.
The money wasted on denuding our landscapes year after year in what must be a sweetheart deal for these out-of-town, won't-talk-to-reporters tree butchers would be better spent on burying power lines once and for all. It's a typical example of how Austin would rather do anything but plan for the future or take care of the basic, unglamorous business of providing quality services to its citizens. This is something I would have brought into public debate if I could have run for mayor this year -- however, even though I have lived and worked here since 1976 with only a few short breaks, my current residence in the city's extraterritorial jurisdiction precludes my eligibility to hold elective office. Pity. I'm not afraid of Gus. He was no friend of my old neighborhood or those folks living near the new day labor center in central Austin who were railroaded by the City Council. Gus will bring us only more of the same ol' same ol', and that's what's wrong with Austin. How sad that not only must we suffer under an appointed president, we now must locally endure a mayor by default.
Everybody Is Wrong
First we have racist ex-Council Member Eric Mitchell calling then-Council Member Lewis a "house nigger." This term, which manages to be an insult to both blacks and whites, was spit out during the psychotic temper tantrum Mitchell delivered in lieu of a concession speech. Contrary to Donald McCarthy's opinion ["Postmarks," Sept. 14], Mitchell's racism and homophobia should be hung around his political neck like an albatross, forever.
A few years later, we have Michael Clark-Madison, in a truly embarrassing piece of writing, calling Mitchell a "field Negro" (as if using a euphemized N-word somehow mitigates it)["Round Up the Usual Suspects," Aug. 24]. Thus, his lame-brained attempt to criticize Mitchell becomes an insult to pretty much everybody. Simply put, no responsible journalist would ever use any variation of the term "nigger" in any form, ironically or otherwise, to describe anyone. Clark-Madison sounds like some juvenile white fan of hip-hop trying to be "down"; his explanation for using such terminology is a baroque embarrassment and I call bullshit on it. How this one ever got past the editor, much less how the Chronicle could defend it ("Shooting the Messenger," Aug. 31), is a mystery.
Lastly, we get the infantile invective of Dorothy Turner ["Postmarks," Aug. 31], who can't complete the first sentence of her letter without using the racist term "white boy." Then she calls the Democratic Party a "plantation." Bet the Black Congressional Caucus would have something to say about that! Turner then inanely slags Gus Garcia, almost as an afterthought, and throws in praise for the odious Nation of Islam. One might hate Turner, but her letter reads so much like the demented ramblings of a street lunatic that the appropriate sentiment is probably pity. The punch line is that there are people out there who want to name a street after this sad individual.
Follow the Blood Money
Bombing Afghanistan makes no sense at all. What makes bin Laden go 'round is his money. And his money is surely not in Kabul. It is, according to former CIA Director James Woolsey (La Republica, Sept. 18, p.15), mostly in Cyprus, Panama, and the Cayman Islands. If these three rogue states don't freeze and seize bin Laden's money right now, let's bomb them until they cough up the last terrorist penny. Bin Laden would be finished on the spot. No distinction between terrorists and those who harbor them -- or their money. Cyprus, Panama, and the Caymans are fattening off Twin Tower blood.
The Unusual Suspects
Jerry Falwell, et al., has found me out. As a liberal and a pro-choice supporter, I must obviously be responsible for the carnage of Sept. 11. However, unlike conservatives, we liberals always feel contrite after acting naughty. I therefore have decided to do my part for the war effort and will give up a fellow traveler. As George W. wants to eliminate those who harbor and support terrorists, I will reveal one of the culprits. It won't be much of a victory, as he's quite old and has Alzheimer's, but in his prime he aided terrorists who killed and maimed men, women, and children indiscriminately. The terrorists of Central America owe a debt to Ronald Reagan, who currently lives in California. I suggest the FBI go in with guns blazing as if they were attacking some environmental group.
I also want to do my part for the War on Drugs, so I'd like to report on a nebulous group that supported drug lords in order to arm the aforementioned terrorists. The group hangs out in Virginia, and again I suggest the FBI go in with guns blazing when they take out those CIA fundamentalists.
This may also be a good time to give the redneck Bubbas a pat on the back for their American sense of fair play. I mean, have you noticed that they are treating American Muslims the same as they treated right-wing conservative Christians after the Oklahoma bombing? Oops, my mistake.
A Tribute to Raul's
Just for grins, I put up a Web site the other day about Raul's (www.austintex.com/backintheday/). Isn't one of the guys in the picture of the dance floor one of your editors?
Anyway, everyone who's seen it got a real kick out of it. I thought it fit right in with your recent 20th anniversary issue [Sept. 7].
Waiting to Inhale
A few weeks ago, I wrote a letter to Todd McCormick, telling him how disgusted I was with my government, and offered him an apology on behalf of my country. That was before the terrorist incident. I just thought I was pissed before. This was act of defecation on freedom, and as a concerned American, I will not tolerate it. Whatever part my government may have played in all of this (CIA-trained bin Laden sure knows his way around scare tactics), is for now uncertain. See if you can catch the smile on FEMA's face as they fuck us and take our money.
This is another bullshit religious war, staged by fanatics with machine guns and nuclear bombs. I'm not even willing to die for my own God, let alone someone else's. Not that I profess any religious affiliation. God is a superstition. The Bible is a manual for politicians and other professional bullshitters to exonerate themselves while we suffer to deliver ourselves from evil. Just keep your mouth shut and pass the hat, brother. It seems the ultimate brainwashing to me; millions of people who pledge their souls and hard-earned money to an invisible man in the sky. Wake up and smell the calitas. Hell, I'm just waiting to inhale.
Freedom is a concept, not a reality, still I believe in America. Not the Corporate American matrix that we're all drowning in, but the potential that has yet to be unleashed. They say the terrorists are afraid of our democracy, our opulence, our sexually permissive nature. Well so am I. What they're all really afraid of is our voice, and no one speaks louder than Americans. Careful though, we don't want to end up like Adam and Eve.
So for all you weak-minded, pansy candy-ass sheep, please accept this raised middle finger as a salute from us flawed sinners. We heathens just don't know no better. But jump back, Jesus, there's hope for us yet -- I hear God works in mysterious ways.
Justice, Not Revenge
I would like to write concerning the recent tragedy in New York and Washington, D.C. In the war against terrorism, we should be careful to act with careful thought and wisdom. One thing we should not do is act on our emotions. It is perfectly natural to be sorrowful, bitter, and even angry at the terrorists, but actions rooted in these emotions will only lead to regret. We can do justice and show the world that we will not tolerate terrorist acts, but we should do it in a civilized way. That is why I believe we should arrest charged terrorists and put them on trial in the appropriate court, perhaps a world court if there is one. If, and only if, we have enough evidence to convict an individual we should execute him. This is a much better way to handle the situation than to just storm into foreign countries and get rid of the terrorists. Just marching in and killing these terrorists, even if they do deserve it, will only make us look like the bad guys to the citizens in those countries. That will cause them to be bitter toward us, especially in countries where they already hate us. And it is this kind of bitterness, anger, and hatred that causes people to commit terrorist acts in the first place. Let us not be partakers of this vicious cycle, but instead serve justice in the correct way.