Our readers talk back.
Tragedy Brings Out the Worst in 'Chron'
I have begun to see the Chronicle in a new light since the events of September 11. While most of the country has been shocked back into some semblance of a community by the attack, it seems that most of your staff has been immune to any such reaction. Many people who have much to criticize about daily life and its shortcomings in America, such as myself, have taken at least a moment to reflect on the positive aspects of life here. You, however, spend your time and newsprint belittling our fellow citizens who would dare to purchase and display flags. You make jokes about Aggies and their technically flawed symbolism at a football game without a hint of respect of the sentiment or effort behind the act, much less of an appreciation of how difficult it would be to coordinate the reproduction of an actual U.S. flag on such a large scale ["Naked City," Sept. 28]. Terms like "knee jerk nationalism" seem to be in no shortage in this last issue either, as if feeling some pride or gratitude for this country are somehow despicable. You are so ready to jump on the back of our administration at the moment that you can't even appreciate the fact that they have acted with restraint in their reactions and appear to be using their heads in a very difficult situation, for the most part, regardless of the posturing of Bush and the daily headlines to appease the masses. It is sad that this tragedy doesn't bring out anything better in you than typical post-Vietnam adolescent America-bashing in which you view us as forever the bad guy and the rest of the world as the victim. I used to view your paper as one of the better things about life here in Austin, but that is changing now. You just had a noteworthy anniversary, and I congratulate you on that. I just wish that some wisdom and depth of vision had come with those years.
Many Chases, Many Papers
I found Lucius Lomax's article, "W.'s Paper Chase" [Sept. 28], quite interesting and informative. I was slightly surprised, however, that it contained no mention of the White House's other archival battle. The other battle involves the release of Ronald Reagan's presidential archives.
Federal law (the Presidential Records Act) requires that these archives be released within 12 years of a president's tenure (i.e. by January 20, 2001, in Reagan's case). Prior to leaving office, President Reagan issued an executive order that both the former and current president be given 30 days' notice so that they can check for papers that fall under executive privilege. The former and current presidents may also demand an extension for the same purpose.
So far, the Bush administration has demanded three extensions (June 21, August 31, and it is my understanding that the most recent demand was made without a specific date in the future). However, the White House has yet to use the magic words "executive privilege."
Of course, the main speculation is that Bush is trying to protect members of his administration (specifically those who were also members of the Reagan administration) and/or his father (either his father's actions as VP, or by setting a precedent or overturning the law prior to the January 20, 2005, release date for his father's papers).
So much for freedom of information.
P.S. For more information on the Reagan Papers delay, see The New Republic ("Cover Letter," August 17) and Newsday ("Reagan's Records Delayed Again," September 2).
LBJ: 'Great Political Leadership'
It saddens me to learn that Mike Clark-Madison cannot imagine "any president not taking the same steps as Bush" ["Austin @ Large," Sept. 21]. Since September 11, I have been remembering Lyndon Johnson after the assassination and, for the first time, appreciating the strength of character that allowed him to resist the political reflex to rally the country around him in a patriotic orgy of anticommunism (or some other suitably remote enemy). Instead, he insisted that our government was intact and that we were not being threatened by any foreign government, and he allowed us to mourn our loss secure in the knowledge that the nation was safe. Looking back, I can trace a direct path from Johnson's first sure steps in that crisis to the civil rights legislation and other domestic policies that focused on the generosity of the American spirit. For your readers (and writers) who are too young to remember great political leadership, it's time for a visit to the LBJ Library.
Faulkner Will Be Forgotten
Regarding UT president what's-his-name calling Robert Jensen a fool ["War of Words," Sept. 28], I submit this (slightly modified) letter sociologist Paul Bryant sent to Physics Today when they fired Jeff Schmidt for writing the book Disciplined Minds:
Despite the university's successful manipulation of contemporary minds regarding the purpose and integrity of academia, repressive actions such as yours have historically assured that the greatest minds among us receive the legacy of praise they deserve, while those who devote their limited time on earth to hindering progressive thinking receive the scornful obscurity they have so rightfully earned. No one remembers the names of those who sentenced Socrates to death, Galileo to excommunication or Thoreau to jail. But everyone remembers the names Socrates, Galileo, and Thoreau.
A Fool's Beliefs?
Dr. Jensen wonders why the UT president called him a fool. I have a few ideas.
Mr. Jensen published an article in the Houston Chronicle the week of the bombings stating that American foreign policy inspired this act of mass murder. Whatever the merits of his argument, this was extraordinarily poor timing. He should have waited at least until we had an accurate death toll. Insulting the victims and the injured nation does not, however, make Dr. Jensen a fool, it makes him callous.
Mr. Jensen's published works imply that since the U.S. has been guilty of war atrocities in the past, that somehow we shouldn't condemn or punish those who now do so. He mentioned several instances in which U.S. policies injured civilians, without mentioning or discussing the context in which those events occurred. He also failed to balance our baleful influence against those cases where we've been a force for good. Still, simply ignoring the context of American activities to make a propaganda point does not make Dr. Jensen a fool. It makes him dishonest.
Dr. Jensen is a vocal supporter of a number of progressive causes, including labor rights and the vaguely named "anti-globalization." Progressives have a historic opportunity to portray their pet causes from women's rights to mass transit as necessary to fight terrorism. The only requirement is that no taint of anti-Americanism attach to the supporters. Any suggestion of sympathy for the hijackers will doom any cause so associated for 50 years. Dr. Jensen allowed hatred for his own nation to overpower practical concerns about how his actions would reflect on causes he holds dear. His emotions overwhelmed his brain. That makes him a fool.
20th Anniversary ... Sort Of
Back to your 20th anniversary issue [Sept. 7]. One thing that sticks in my mind the most is about four or five years ago the guy who bought a full-page ad because he met an Austin flight attendant down in Mexico and didn't get her number. Does anyone remember that? Anyone know how it turned out?
Don't Forget John Hartford
Y'all described us as a "motley crew" gathering to celebrate John Hartford's musical legacy ["Music Recommended," Sept. 28]. I'm afraid I can't dispute that description, but my question is this: Why didn't the sophisticated or monochromatic (if that is the opposite of motley) musicians in Austin organize such a tribute?
John Hartford is a four-time Grammy winner and a master fiddle and banjo player who played hundreds of live shows a year right up until his death. He was an major influence on performers of many genres and a vital link in the chain of American music.
I sincerely hope you will consider doing a feature on Hartford, whether you include a mention of the motley crew or not. His death leaves a gap in many peoples' lives.
If nothing else, sharing the music and life of this amazing man was educational as well as entertaining.
P.S. Thanks for the recommended!
The More Things Change --
Congratulations on your new format. The Statesman is changing, too. My message still being that of support for the Austin people and everyone in my barrio for the sad events of Sept. 11. But my fear is that of a new focus on police tactics here in Austin, as a result of the two-week-long psychological campaign against everybody for the acts of revenge on the few in New York. R.I.P. all the thousands who died there in little pedacitos, not just the public servants.
'The Evil Is Ours'
In light of the recent attacks, I thumbed through the many "Letters at 3AM" columns I have carefully put away. One in particular titled "Collateral Damage" [March 6, 1998] brought home the point that so many, especially our national mainstream media, have missed.
"The evil is ours."
In that column Michael Ventura forcefully makes an argument for the fact that our beloved nation has, either directly or through our support of various regimes, "... spread devastation among often defenseless civilian populations, and all were illegal by our own laws." In addition, he reminds of our national media's acquiescence to "... unprecedented censorship and control of what Americans were allowed to learn about our wars."
The most telling point Michael makes is that the U.S. facilitated Iraq's capacity to manufacture biological weapons, tracing it to a policy decision made during the Reagan administration. "Sit with that awhile. Take it in. Contemplate the nature of your government, first to produce abomination; then to sell it to Iraq; then threatening to bomb Iraq for keeping what it purchased from us. The evil is ours."
Those who have suffered as a result of our nation's shortsighted and morally bankrupt foreign policy, and they are legion (for a list, read Michael's column), have applied our own professed standards of justice against our government's actions and come up with the empty lie of hopelessness and despair. Our nation's evil begat the conditions which allowed yet another evil named bin Laden to fester and grow unchecked. That the streets of New York have run with the blood of our families is unbearably cruel, but it is a sanguine testament to what a people without hope and liberty are capable of. We must impel our government to offer the promise of justice and liberty -- and back it up.
Leaving Austin, under the best of circumstances, would be ideal and would give one the sense of great glory and promise of this town (Oh! the Capitol! Barton Springs! The fun we had at Eeyore's!) Leaving Austin for very sad and personal reasons elicits a different, but no less important response, for it is about leaving the very people that make Austin livable. My sense of my own, personal loss fades when I think of the fine people who have made life truly livable in this city, the ones who have been kind year after year -- they are the ones who matter in our lives, after all. To name a few: the wonderful staff of Pronto Mart, and the equally buoyant folks at Wheatsville (how is it that Morrissey is always playing just when you need him as a soundtrack for grocery shopping during a breakup?). Who could do without the fine writers in our town -- Chris Gray, Ken Lieck, Patrick Beach -- to name but a few. Our hard-working City Council, and the incredible men behind the scene like David Butts and Dean Rindy? The owners and staff and regulars at the best watering hole and rock venue in town, the Hole in the Wall, who are like a big family -- and the good people like Kerry and Kevin at the terrific Dog and Duck? And the bands here -- maybe musicians are getting pushed out, but it's not too evident when you see the wealth of talent around -- one evening at Larry Seaman's acoustic night at the Hole should assure anyone of the talent that abounds here (and that's just acoustic). I leave Austin wondering where else in the world I'll be able to drive around with Daniel Johnston singing the Beatles, and at another, earlier time, having been able to drive around with mayor-elect Kirk Watson singing Willie Nelson. Stuff such as that is hard to come by, and all these people have made Austin a beautiful place to live, and a painful one to leave.
Muslim Musicians an Inspiraton
I've finished reading this week's letters praising and condemning the Chronicle for the coverage (or lack thereof) of the events of September 11, 2001 ["Postmarks," Sept. 21]. We had a rare opportunity in Austin on the night of September 18. The Master Musicians of Jajouka (www.jajouka.com) came through our town and played with Critters Buggin' at the Mercury to a crowd of 300. Despite anti-Arab sentiment, a growing sense of fear among American Muslims, and cancellations in three cities (including NYC) due to the attack, these Moroccan Muslims continued their tour through the United States. The music played by Bachir and Mustapha Attar has been passed down through their family for 4,000 years. According to tradition in Morocco, they possess baraka, or the blessing of Allah, which gives them the power to heal and the endurance required to play some of the most intense and complex music around. Those of us who attended were treated to a rare and magical blend of East and West. While the Chronicle recommended the show [Sept. 14], the tour was not put into context. As far as I know, they are the only touring Muslims in our country at the moment. They deserve our thanks for bringing us a musical message of peace during a time of violence and fear. I wish them peace and safety on their journey home.
Take the Good, Leave the Bad
First of all I would like to compliment Louis Black on an extremely well-written "Page Two" [Sept. 21]. I found it to be very insightful and well-thought-out. I hope that article is able to subdue some of the bloodlust that is going around town.
The reason I am writing is because of a short blurb I read in the "Naked City" section. "Jerry Falwell blamed last week's terrorism on liberals ..." Wow! That was really news to me. For some reason I thought it was a terrorist group headed up by Osama bin Laden. What was I thinking? He goes on to talk about pagans, abortionists, feminists, and the gay community. Frankly I was shocked that he left out the name of the head of this seemingly motley crew, Tinky-Winky the purple (gay) Teletubby. All joking aside, I am concerned about the people who take this guy seriously, and judging by the Web sites I looked at regarding him, there are a lot of people who do.
Is that the "Christian way," to blame this reprehensible act on people who obviously have no part in this tragic event? It is true that they (the Taliban and I'd say most terrorist groups) hate our progressive society as well as our freedom. Perhaps the real reason they hate us so much is because of our wishy-washy foreign policy.
Is this a time to be pointing fingers and promoting hate? I hardly think so, and although Falwell has said he apologizes, I don't believe that he means it. I hope everyone, Christians, pagans, Republicans, Democrats, dogs, and cats, etc., can forget all the pettiness for the time being and try to remember the good in people. Right now, that is all we have.
God Bless Us, Every One!
I've allowed a few days to digest the injustice that has occurred in America. We're living in difficult times as foreseen; and as written; in the Bible.
I ask myself; What kind of person could intentionally harm an innocent Being? My prayers aren't for the dead. It's already too late; if they failed to accept Jesus Christ; their journey; I never want to conquer!
My prayers are for the offenders and those offended. I used to believe humans were the most intelligent on this earth?!
God bless America and all the inhabitants of this world!
Robert Eugene Blake
Blinded by Arrogance
Tuesday, September 11, we Americans were shocked to realize that we are as vulnerable to terrorist attack as anyone on the globe. Our own presumptuousness and arrogance have blinded us from a world of violence, hate, racism, and lack of respect for humanity. I am not justifying the tragic events in New York and Washington and not blaming anyone for the tragic outcome, but we as a nation must start looking inwardly to understand the reasons why certain people direct such hatred toward our country and toward Americans. Western governments and international corporations for many years have refused to recognize the impending dangers that their actions around the world would eventually produce. Western government's reaction to international maladies has been measured by the amount of tangible profits that the outcome will create, with no consideration to humanity. The situation in the war-stricken Middle East, where no policy has been enacted since Clinton left office, the disallowing of the production of AZT in Africa because the drug companies could not foresee a large profit, the walking out of International Racism Conference in South Africa because the western world was not comfortable with wording of the charter, and this prosperous country, the inability of our government to create a medical plan for seniors and the poor because the HMOs foresee the dwindling of their large profit margin. Where is humanity? Where are the good people of America? Where is the outcry?
"Render on to Caesar what is Caesar's and God what is God's."
Don't Forget About the Animals
The tragic loss of life and wanton destruction caused by the terrorist attacks of September 11 has raised my consciousness of other global tragedies.
Every day, 24,000 people worldwide die of hunger for lack of grains and legumes fed to animals raised for food. Another 18,000 die of chronic diseases linked conclusively with the consumption of these animals.
Every day, 125 million innocent, sentient animals are butchered, frequently still conscious, after a lifetime of caging, crowding, and deprivation in the world's factory farms. For every human being who dies of warfare, crime, or terrorism, 10,000 sentient animals die a violent death.
This is why, on October 2 (Ghandi's birthday), I will be observing World Farm Animals Day, launched 18 years ago to expose and memorialize the daily human and animal suffering wrought by the relentless international network of animal agriculture. I will be asking my friends and neighbors to help alleviate this suffering by reducing their consumption of animal products.