Our own little Gaza Strip, and the Halloween (Gas) Mask is taken to task.
Hamzeh: A One-Sided Account
You have published an inflammatory, biased, manipulative article. "From Bethlehem to Austin" [Oct. 19] is writing stockpiled with emotional twists designed to pull on heart strings and sympathies. I'm shocked you wouldn't have the foresight, intelligence, or simple sense of fair play to run it with an immediate, levelheaded counterpoint. Questions posed, not for Hamzeh, who has shown her colors, but for the Chronicle include:
1. Why does Israel need military checkpoints, identification papers, and barricades?
2. What incendiary point is Hamzeh attempting, reminding repeatedly violence is occurring in the birthplace of Jesus? Will the Chronicle ask why Palestinians explode bombs in a holy state supposedly given to the Jews by their God?
3. What happens in Israel when there is freedom of movement for Palestinians?
4. Hamzeh asks her audience to imagine needing a military permit to drink coffee at Little City. Will the Chronicle invoke its readers to imagine themselves in Mangia's as a suicide bomber walks in and blows it, and over a dozen of their fellow pizza eaters, to bits?
5. Hamzeh was afraid of armed soldiers while in Bethlehem. How many in Israel are afraid of the supposedly unarmed shopper in the mall? The taxi driver? Or the guy standing next to them in line to get into a Tel Aviv disco?
6. Hamzeh wants to scream, Americans supply Israel with weapons. Will the Chronicle shout about who provides the Palestinians with ammunition and recipes for bomb making and directions how to carry out suicide bombings that look sickeningly familiar? Will the Chronicle print the truth about terrorist training camps and where they are held and who sponsors and attends them?
Do refugee camps, barricades, security measures, ethnic screenings, gas mask wearing, military buildups, violence, retaliation and deaths come out of thin air? Palestinians didn't end up in refugee camps because the Israelis are monsters anymore than Osama bin Laden is being hunted because Americans are looking to persecute Arabs. As Americans we don't fully understand the conflicts in the Middle East or who did what to whom, why, and first. Let's admit it and stop being tools of ancient hatreds and dupes of commonplace propaganda. Until all the facts are reported there can be no true reconciliation. Do your job. Report all the news.
Israelis, Palestinians Both to Blame
In frustration with the story "From Bethlehem to Austin" [Oct. 19]. Shame on this newspaper for printing such a one-sided story. Muna failed to mention that the poor innocent Palestinians were weekly, if not daily setting off bombs in public buses, restaurants, and beaches. I've never been to Israel, so I don't know firsthand, but then again, I don't remember hearing about Palestinians protesting Israeli oppression in a nonviolent way (something you didn't mention in your article). If there are such protests, I would love to hear about them (news sources would be appreciated, too). As of now, your article comes across as, it's okay for Palestinians to bomb a bus, but it's not okay for Israelis to have security to stop it. Please try to understand that I am trying to understand both sides. I suspect that there are some racial problems coming from both sides. But from my point of view, I don't see Israel trying to wipe out all Palestinians (seems like they are behaving more like old America, and keeping them on a reservation, and I don't think that is a good thing, either), and from the news I get, the Palestinians are not doing anything to prove that they should be treated in a more civilized way.
Hamzeh Distorts Truth
"From Bethlehem to Austin" [Oct. 19] is a disgusting article that horribly twists the truth. Ms. Hamzeh tries to woo the sympathy of Christians by inserting references to Jesus and explaining that the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts happen around his birthplace. If the biblical setting is important to her, why then did she forget to mention that in the same city, Jerusalem, that a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 15 Israelis, Jesus was crucified, or that every Palestinian terrorist acts in a country known as the Holy Land? Ms. Hamzeh also does not explain why houses in her neighborhood were hit by gunfire or the reason for travel permits. The Israeli army fires back at shooting directed at its citizens. If it originates from a house, they return fire there. The reason for roadblocks and travel permits is to restrict the movement of terrorists into Israel. Had there been no terrorist attacks originating from Bethlehem, there would be no need for these actions. As it turns out, whenever Israel lifted blockades on Palestinian cities because of goodwill or cease-fire agreements, shootings at Israeli civilians would usually increase. Ms. Hamzeh states that many of Israel's weapons were made or funded by the U.S. These weapons are used to protect Israeli citizens. On the other hand, guns issued to the Palestinians by the U.S. because of peace agreements are used to shoot and kill Israelis. These guns were given to the P.A. to police their land and prevent terrorism, not to cause it. Ms. Hamzeh's article also does not mention that Israel took control of the Palestinian lands in wars in which the Arabs were the aggressors or that around 90% of this land was offered to the Palestinians for peace. Israel wants peace, but just like America, it cannot sit back while its citizens are killed. If you want your ex-neighbor to be able to run around on green lawns, Ms. Hamzeh, you should ask your other neighbors to stop killing innocent Israelis. The role of the Israeli government is to protect its citizens. It is the role of the Palestinians to give Marianna a place to play. All they have to do is stop killing.
Thank you for your endorsement of the Travis County parks bonds, Proposition 2 [Oct. 26]. These bonds will support the improvement of two existing parks and the development of new parks in eastern and southwestern Travis County.
Your endorsements, however, slighted two other worthy bond propositions: Travis County Proposition 1 and State Proposition 8. Travis County Proposition 1 will provide additional funds for local roads and bridges, and it will also provide funding for trails and for drainage improvements in the Kennedy Ridge colonia. The two trail projects will complete a trail network along Onion Creek providing a continuous trail from Travis County's Southeast Metro Park on Highway 71 through McKinney Falls State Park to William Cannon Drive.
State Proposition 8 will authorize the issuance of approximately $850 million in bonds for 13 state agencies, including the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). One hundred million of that total is earmarked for TPWD. These funds will allow TPWD to address critical repairs to state parks and historic sites, wildlife management areas, and fish hatcheries and will provide funds for youth programs to introduce future users to the outdoors. Travis County Propositions 1 (roads, trails, and drainage) and 2 (parks) and State Proposition 8 (agency bond funds) are all worthy of passage on November 6.
Austin Metro Trails & Greenways
Vote Against Bonds
Those who wonder why the increasing cost of living in Austin is impoverishing local residents with modest or fixed incomes should examine the impact of bond issues. In the good old days of 1980, Travis County's total bond debt was $15 million. Now it is in the hundreds of millions. (AISD and the city of Austin have had similar increases.) Travis residents will be asked to assume another $185 million on Nov 6. The Chron reports that this will add $35 per year to the average homeowner's property tax bill.
While this statement is true, it doesn't convey the real impact. For instance, commercial property owners will be taxed too. These folks don't pay taxes -- they pass them on in the form of reduced wages paid to their employees or as higher prices for goods and services. (Isn't that the heart of the cost of living problem -- reduced wages + higher prices?) By taking the bond total ($185 mil) and dividing that by the number of taxpaying Travis families (200k) and then adding interest costs we see that the average family will pay around $2,000 to retire these bonds. It doesn't end there. If these bonds pass, there will be new bureaucrats hired, new welfare expenditures for those who fall into poverty, and in some cases we will be forced to pass new bonds to complete partially funded projects like SH 130. Libertarians are appalled at the number of families being evicted by tax collectors. More bonds won't help.
Vincent J. May
Mask Instructions Embarrassing
"Don't crash planes!" Yep, it's really the most hysterical mask ever [Oct. 26]. You ought to go to www.theonion.com to see how humor in dark times is done.
When it's done right it's smart, and it helps us look at ourselves and our nature as human beings to reveal us for our weaknesses. To gain balance by going to what is indeed, the flip side of tragedy. But smirking and playing to the absolute lowest common denominator ... That suggests you're not thinking and as journalists, you might as well be picking your noses. I think perhaps you took the current national conversation on humor in this time of great uncertainty a little too far, perhaps as a mandate for "Whooo-hooo, anything goes. 'Don't wear the mask in the post office' -- man, that's a good one!" It's embarrassing. Was this a last-minute cover idea? If not, it sure feels like it was.
Mask Cover: Poor Taste
I just wanted to let you know that even though I found the cover of the October 26 issue of the Chronicle in extremely poor taste and the Halloween Mask Instructions on page four inside the issue incredibly oafish and unsurprisingly vapid (particularly No. 6: "Wear the mask. Have fun! Don't crash any planes! Don't wear the mask in the post office!"), I wanted to write you of my support to express your insipid opinions publicly.
And, to paraphrase Voltaire: I am prepared to defend your right to say it. However, before I defend your right to express your imbecility in public for all to see, I would like to ask a question and also make a suggestion. The question first -- did any of your parents have any other children that lived? If any of you can answer that in the affirmative, I think that it is imperative that the Chronicle embarks on a program to supply condoms and the, strongest spermicide available to all of you on a regular basis. I don't wish to stop any of you from getting off, but wish only to protect the rest of the public from suffering the consequences of the possible continuance, your respective strains.
Garcia's Cheap Shots
I'm writing to take issue with Gus Garcia's comments about Dr. Forgione ["Naked City: Garcia Rates AISD 'Unacceptable,'" Oct. 19]. As a longtime volunteer in AISD schools I have witnessed the work of the school district, both in my children's schools and in the district as a whole. I can tell you without hesitation that this district has made incredible progress under Dr. Forgione. What we need most of all is leadership and stability. He provides both!
The District Advisory Council recently put out a fact sheet showing TAAS improvement across the district. We doubled the number of recognized and exemplary schools in the past year and cut the number of low-performing from nine to five. Of the 38 recognized and exemplary schools, half are campuses in which minority students make up the majority of the students. Fourteen of those schools serve predominantly low-income students. Much of the progress is due to Dr. Forgione's commitment to this district and the fact that he works 14 to 16 hours daily. Rather than complain that the obvious improvements in the district are not occurring fast enough, we should be grateful for his leadership thus far.
Mr. Garcia has chosen demagoguery at the expense of our hardworking teachers, principals and students. When it was pointed out in your last issue that we have two low-performing high schools and not five, as Mr. Garcia had said, his campaign manager decided to go ahead and insult the three schools that were rated acceptable anyway ["Gus Fires Again," Oct. 26]. This is demoralizing for teachers, students, principals and parents.
I wonder if Mr. Garcia even begins to realize how this district has changed since his glory days on the board in the Seventies.
I hope in the future that we can carry on discussions about our schools that are based on the facts and not on personal agendas.
I write this letter in response to the "Coach's Corner" column, October 19. I'd like to thank UT fans for their impassioned, bitter behavior pointed out in Andy Cotton's article, which was absolutely right on. I would encourage UT fans to continue these attitudes so future Texas high school recruits will see the hornet's nest known as the University of Texas football team and will instead go to Oklahoma University, home of the 2000 NCAA national football champions. Boomer Sooner!
Props to Smith's Patton Story
Thanks to Clay Smith for his awesome reportage on the genuine stuff ["Dead Man Blues," Oct. 26]. Dean Blackwood doing a release of Charley Patton recordings is a stroke of genius. I'm looking forward to a flood of radio play from our more adventurous deejays in Austin. Roots from the backbone of American music is so missed in these quarters.
T. Alan Smith
Bold Our Names, Dammit!
In the "Naked City" section of the Chronicle (Oct. 26) on p.17 there is an extremely small mention of the Oct. 28 Texans United Against War march and rally. One problem, however, unlike the majority of the other short notices, there is no highlighted-in-bold reference to the name of the group organizing this event, Austin Against War, and the Web site for the group, www.austinagainstwar.org, is not listed. Since I personally e-mailed Lauri Apple, the "Naked City" editor, with this information, to me it seems to be clearly an act of omission. The question is why. Why are Chronicle editors trivializing opposition to Bush's war?
The Chronicle is ostensibly a community voice, an alternative to the mainstream behemoth of the Austin American-Statesman. If we can't get the word out about anti-war organizing in the Chronicle, then where can we?
Austin Against War
'Raped Twice' or Crying Wolf?
I am writing in response to the article, "Raped Twice?" by Jordan Smith [Oct. 12]. There needs to be a balance of outcry to this notion that if a woman cries wolf we must rush to save her. Let's look at the undertone of this, folks. A woman took a valued '88 T-Bird from her husband, "from whom, she was separated at the time," and crashed it. Ouch! That's a divorce waiting to happen. After "consuming ... at least eight to nine shots of alcohol," she couldn't possibly be too drunk to drive. Fooling around and having too much fun. Whoops! Try to explain those claw marks to an irate husband. Now, let's see how she's going to get out of this one. She showers and goes back to the police, with whom she stayed the night, to cry wolf.
So sorry for her, she has already been marred as a belligerent and hostile drunk who kicked out a cop car window. I wouldn't give her a rape test either. She was clearly redirecting the blame to get sympathy from her estranged husband. Now, it seems, the town is in outrage in the name of rape solely due to the Chronicle publishing one-sided views of this lummox. Too bad our elected official tried to set things straight. He must have screwed it up for the editors. But let's be reasonable. The "political high horse" has nothing to do with true victims' rights. The writer must have forgotten what that meant when she blasted names and pictures on the cover of the Chronicle. Not to mention the "other victim" whose personal information and headshot were smeared into this mess. Let's "protect the victim and the accused." The only "impression" the Chronicle and the article, "Raped Twice?" leaves behind is that some people are smart enough to know the girl cried wolf.
Make Moser Stop
I am writing to express my nausea over Stephen Macmillan Moser's column in the October 26 issue of the Chronicle. Why on earth does the Chronicle print such drivel on its pages? The article about the "local power couple" and their "swank and intimate party" in their "to die for home" was enough to make this Austin Chronicle fan put down the paper and run for the john. Perhaps Mr. MacMillan Moser would find a better audience with Joan and Melissa Rivers. I hear they're just "delightful."
Gas Mask Not Funny
I've read the Chronicle for many years and although I am not always impressed with the caliber of journalism your publication has to offer, I have always believed that your staff is composed of generally thoughtful, kind people. I have to tell you that when I picked up your Halloween edition and saw the cover art of the gas mask, the powder, the caption, I was pretty angry. I think the level of insensitivity and poor taste that this gesture implies is way beyond the parameters of fun. I sincerely hope that you, your associates, and loved ones are never the victims of the level gratuitous violence that was inflicted on innocent people in planes, office buildings, newsrooms, and mailrooms over the past two months. I doubt then that you would find any of these events even remotely "hysterical."
Israel a Scapegoat
With regard to Wilson Wade's letter in the Oct. 19, 2001 issue of The Austin Chronicle, there has been hatred of the West by Muslim extremists long before the existence of the state of Israel. Bin Laden has made Israel (and our support of that democratic state in the Middle East) a handy scapegoat for his fanaticism. It makes a nice propaganda tool -- just as hatred of the Jews was an effective mask for Hitler's grandiose expansion plans in the 1930's.
The Palestinians could have had their state in 1948 when the U.N. created the state of Israel. Many Arab countries urged the Palestinians to reject that U.N. offer.
Moreover, where does Mr. Wade's concern for the Taliban come from? Among other things, those fanatics have subjugated women in a way that should be of great concern to all free-thinking and intelligent people.
Helen C. Spear
A Distorted View
My God! It's amazing to me how the women that got smashed into by Henderson can perceive the incident in such a distorted way. She sees her fellow driver as the victim somehow. I guess it's her "non-cyclist perspective," as she puts it, that makes her choose a side.
Henderson and his jeep, his preferred weapon for assault, got some damage after he ran a dozen cyclists off the road, crashed into two bikes, and then hit a car, deliberately and with malice, I might add, but passions run high when you have just escaped being killed by a rampaging vehicle. Nobody was "making a citizens arrest" as Krissy puts it. We caught up to him at the light and were confronting his murderous behavior when he got out of his jeep, after not being able to hit anyone from his jeep window with his fists, and approached two separate cyclists, and engaged in fist fights because he was road raging, and angry enough to assault multiple people with his jeep. How do you think those bikes got under his jeep, causing him to hit you, Krissy?
Joe Red Cloud
McWorld or Jihad?
Recent letters in the Chronicle show how hard it can be to break with old patterns. Conditioned by the many examples of the U.S.' willingness to fund and fight for right-wing goons from Austria to Zambia, some of us on the left can't seem to parse the September 11 massacre. We regard the Taliban, godly protectors of the Islamic world's new Elvis, with puzzlement. This is curious because there was a time when the left would have instantly understood what bin Laden truly represents: fascists who want to replace American influence with a real honest-to-God tyranny, something like what they have in Saudi Arabia, only not so liberal.
True, a choice between McWorld or Jihad isn't very satisfying, but neither is it a very difficult choice for this leftist to make. With Jihad, you get prayer five times a day, the abolition of public schools (some Shiite Baptists would like that!), and, by the way, the annihilation of nonbelievers. McWorld may be unromantic and exploitative, but at least it responds to change. At least it has some potential to realize the promises of democracy and the Enlightenment: just two things the Jihadists would destroy. Even more importantly, it's in McWorld that we have a chance of building that dearest dream of an egalitarian society. The Jihadists offer a caste system cloaked in the humbug of "Muslim brotherhood." In McWorld, we're free to observe that it's easier for a rich man to enter a camel than to join up and fight. This is the time to keep pressing our moral argument against the immense privileges of wealth; meanwhile, we fight hard and fight well.
Tom Tomorrow's This Modern World strip that appeared in your October 26 issue has got to be worthy of a Pulitzer. One of the more disturbing trends in post-WTC America is the way in which the religious right has exploited the tragedy to promote its own political agenda of compulsory, state-sponsored public religion, most disturbingly reflected in Texas by Gov. Perry's insane pronouncement that he intends to make school prayer a campaign issue. Those who would seek to Talibanize America would do well to simmer down and reflect upon the words of wisdom in this simple cartoon. Thank you.
Atheist Community of Austin
Perry Not Above the Law
Rick Perry, the governor of the great state of Texas, advocates breaking the laws as set forth by the Supreme Court of the United States of America. Not only does he advocate the breaking of these laws, but actually leads the students of Palestine Middle School in doing so ("Perry Praises School Prayer," Austin American-Statesman, Oct. 20). Were I to engage in such reprehensible behavior, I would not only lose my job, but my teaching certificate!
Sadly, this is not the first time since he has been governor that he has flaunted his disregard for the laws of this great state and nation. At least one other time was when he suggested to a duly appointed officer that he be allowed to "get on down the road," instead of getting a ticket.
Perhaps it is actually time to start considering looking into impeachment for both his crimes against our country's laws and his attempts to teach a whole school full of children to follow in his footsteps.
Critical Mass Debate Rages On
I am appalled by the letter "Cars vs. Bikes" by Krissy Morrow that was featured on October 26 in The Austin Chronicle. Her letter contained inaccuracies concerning last month's vehicle accident that occurred during the critical mass bicycle ride. I wasn't there at the incident, but I saw a homemade video of the incident (from a friend who videotaped the ride.) I saw a jeep driver, Mike Henderson, speed angrily amidst about 30 bicyclists, before he stopped at a red light. This action intimidated the cyclists and was returned with shouts of "surround the vehicle!" Ten cyclists promptly surrounded the jeep, preceding signs of struggle on the driver's side. Later, I heard from witnesses that cyclists closed the door so the driver could not attack. (He made physical threats, which is not hard to believe after upcoming events). Morrow stated that Henderson politely asked the cyclists to move. If it were polite, she could not have heard it 50 feet across the intersection in her car. When the light changed, Henderson's jeep did not inch forward "cautiously" as Morrow interpreted. The video shows Henderson rapidly accelerating, pushing bicyclists away, minus the cycle under his jeep. He then accelerated into the back of Morrow's car. Her article deems the cyclists mostly responsible which I believe to be unsubstantiated. I am not professing the cyclists innocence, and they are crucial to this incident. Morrow forgets the difference between Henderson and the cyclists, which is he was driving a car.
I am the proud owner of a bicycle and of a large truck. I enjoy both. The freedom each encompasses has its own costs and benefits. However drivers cannot underestimate the power of their car and the responsibility associated with these risks. Vehicles can speed travel, however one cannot demand this. Bicycle riding is a privilege, too, but a bicycle is often a less dangerous vehicle. Likewise, if it hadn't been bicyclists angering Henderson, what if it was a slow car, or a school bus? Drivers must realize what their vehicle can potentially do, and be alert. Be in control of yourself and "the powerful entity," or get out of the damn thing and ride a bicycle, a bus, or join our pedestrian friends.
Attack of the Bandit Signs
I don't know if it is due to the impending recession, but bandit signs are popping up all over Austin these days. I'm referring to the commercial signs that hype scams like "lose 40 lbs." or "work from home" or "cash for houses." Placing these at street intersections or on utility poles is illegal and subject to fines of $100 per sign per day. If anyone else spots these signs, please take a minute either to pull them down or report them to Austin's zoning complaint line at 974-2875. There is also a grass roots Web site (www.causs.org) devoted to fighting these annoying signs.
The Definition of Terrorism
Since we are at war with it, we should define terrorism. It's simple really. Terrorism is the violent acts toward us or our surrogates committed by those our government designates as its enemies. Hence, the World Trade Center was terrorism, but our bombing of Sudan's principal pharmaceutical factory was not. Car bombings in Tel Aviv are terrorism, but our gift of 20,000 new rifles to the Guatemalan army in the process of it slaughtering 200,000 Mayans was not.
Bombing the USS Cole was terrorism, but our bombs sending millions of starving Afghans fleeing into a barren wilderness on the eve of winter is not. Attacking our army barracks in Saudi Arabia was terrorism, but our destruction of the Iraq infrastructure resulting in a half million civilian deaths was not. Anthrax in our mail system is terrorism, but organizing and directing a mercenary army that kills 75,000 Nicaraguans was not. It may seem to be a slippery concept, but it's not. You only need to remember one thing. We're never wrong. The terrorists are always the other guy.