Our readers talk back.
Exposing the Drug War
Louis Black's excellent article about the harm of the drug war ["Page Two," Nov. 9] exposes it for what it is -- frivolous and dangerous to the American way of life. Of course it's been going on for more than 80 years now, so much of the damage has already been done.
Mr. Black is quite right that now we have a legitimate threat to our society -- the terrorist threat. The artificial threat that the public has bought into for all these years -- use of certain drugs -- is as bogus as can be!
It is way past time for serious and profound change in our drug policy. Thanks for printing Mr. Black's fine perspective.
Fort Pierce, Fla.
Thanks for running Louis Black's piece on the failure of the drug war ["Page Two," Nov. 9]. I recognized the folly of opposing capitalism long ago, and couldn't understand why our Congress would attempt it. Now, more than ever, we cannot afford the luxury of Prohibition.
Santa Cruz, Calif.
Repeal All the Drug Laws!
The only point to be added to Louis Black's excellent arguments for ending drug prohibition ["Page Two," Nov. 9] is the fact that the United States never had anything remotely resembling a "drug problem" until after the drug laws went on the books.
No one was robbing, whoring, and murdering over drugs when addicts could buy all of the heroin, cocaine, morphine, opium, and anything else they wanted cheaply and legally at the corner pharmacy. When drugs were legal, addicts held regular employment, raised decent families, and were indistinguishable from their teetotaling neighbors. Overdoses were virtually unheard of when addicts used cheap, pure Bayer Heroin instead of the toxic potions prohibition puts on the streets (see The Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs, www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/Library/studies/cu/cumenu.htm)
Where drug crime was unheard-of we now have prisons overflowing with drug users. Where addicts lived normal lives, we have hundreds of thousands of shattered families. Where overdoses were extremely rare we have tens of thousands of drug deaths every year. The addiction rate is now five times greater than when we had no laws at all.
These are the consequences of a lunatic drug crusade that ominously declared that "[Smoking] one [marijuana] cigarette might develop a homicidal mania, probably to kill his brother," and seriously maintained "Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind," so they could persecute Mexican immigrants.
It's worth remembering that Eliot Ness and the revenuers never put the booze barons out of business. Repeal and a regulated market for adult alcohol use did that. Regulation works for alcohol and regulation will work for drugs. Prohibition, on the other hand, has never worked for anything, anywhere, anytime.
More Than Temporary Backups
Along with all of Austin and beyond, I am grieving over the passing of the extraordinary Champ Hood. However, Ken Lieck's statement in "Dancing About Architecture" [Nov. 9] that Toni Price is performing with a "temporary backup band" is simply wrong. Has he forgotten that Casper Rawls has been with Toni since 1995 and is most definitely considered a permanent member of her band? Also, Matt Giles joined the band several months ago, while Champ was still playing, and as far as I know, is on board to stay. Please check your facts before you make statements in print which insult these hard-working musicians.
Stimulus Bill: The Rich Get Richer
The "stimulus" bill passed by the House of Representatives is an outrage, and Americans need to know about it. The story should be on the front page news with specifics in the business sections.
This bill gives billions to the richest Americans and the most profitable corporations and almost nothing to those who need it most. It's Robin Hood in reverse -- steal from the poor to give to the wealthy.
More than 40% of the tax stimulus goes to the richest 1% of taxpayers while only 7% of it goes to the bottom 60%. Calculations by Citizens for Tax Justice give the details. The American public needs to know about this so they can raise their voices to stop it.
This tax bill gives huge benefits to energy and mining companies based in or near Texas. This is a story your readers would want to know about.
I can't believe Congress would take advantage of this time of crisis to pass a law that so clearly benefits only their corporate backers, just when we need to pull together as a country. This bill needs some good investigative reporting and coverage.
"Those who celebrate the murder of innocent men, women, and children have no religion," was Bush's slander against irreligious Americans in his November 8 nationally televised speech.
Irreligious Americans more than doubled to 29.4 million in the 1990s. Fourteen percent of us now have no religion. Christianity shrank from 86.2% to 76.5% as we fled churches by the millions (Kosmin & Mayer's American Religious Identification Survey, 2001).
Bush's advisors must think 29.4 million irreligious Americans celebrated the religious terrorism of September 11. How can Republicans unite the nation by spewing hatred for the nation's fastest-growing belief?
Bring Back Auditions Listings
I was saddened by your decision to eliminate theatre audition notices from the paper version of your publication [Arts listings, Nov. 9], and make them available only on your Web site. Also, as of this writing (Monday morning) they don't seem to be available on your Web site, or at least, I can't find them. I guess anybody out there who had auditions scheduled for last weekend was SOL.
For many years now, the Chronicle has been one of the very few widely available places to see audition notices. Throughout our 20-year history, our little theatre company has been committed to making our own audition processes as open as possible. We are very proud of our record of introducing many new faces to the Austin scene, some of whom were included in your "Top 40 actors" piece in September.
I would hate to think that someone missed out on one of our processes because they don't have Internet access. Not everyone does, it should be remembered, and a large number of income-challenged people out there are potential rookie performers. If this is a permanent policy change, please reconsider it.
Thanking you in advance, I remain
Henry V. Fitzgerald, Jr.
Board chair emeritus
Different Stages Inc.
Ed. note: Last week's auditions listings were cut due to space constraints; this is not a permanent policy change. However, please note the disclaimer in our listings section: "All listings are free and printed on a space-available basis. ... we cannot guarantee publication of any submission." We apologize for being late in getting those listings posted on the Web.
Babich Offers 'Comic Relief'
Are Aimless Babble's [Amy Babich's] letters to Chronicle scribbled in Crayola on paper bags? I have to wonder.
Her latest idiotic suggestion, to "reserve one lane in each direction on each road for non-motor traffic" ["Postmarks: Save One for Bikes," Nov. 9] tops her previous most idiotic suggestion, portable parking garages. She goes on to say that reserving lanes would "reduce air pollution," among other things.
Ms. Babble's example, halving the number of lanes on Lamar bridge over Town Lake, would displace half or more of 50,000 vehicles currently using this stretch of road. Does she think those 25,000 vehicles would disappear? A few might, but most would still be crossing river, either caught up in massive traffic jams (imagine Southbound Lamar traffic backed up to MLK), or by taking different, longer routes. How Ms. Babble thinks this will reduce air pollution is beyond me.
I infer that Ms. Babble believes that only thing preventing an explosion of "non-motor traffic" is availability of dedicated travelways. She is mistaken. I can safely predict that automobile is here to stay and that bicycles will never have a significant impact on traffic.
I was going to complain about Chronicle continuing to publish Ms. Babble's letters, but I've changed my mind. Besides comic relief they offer in these troubled times, her letters must make it difficult for those who share similar views to have their ideas taken seriously.
No Vote, No Patriot
Wearing a flag pin on your shirt or flying a flag from your car or house does not make you a patriot. If you want to show your love for our country, participate in the democratic process. It looks like a measly 13% of you voted on Nov. 6. I know quite a bit more than 13% of you have donned a flag in the last few months. Wearing a flag is easy.
Use your brain, read up on the issues, and take some time out of your day once or twice a year and go to the polls. Participate in what truly makes this country beautiful. And beautiful as they are, I'm not talking about the stars and stripes. Thankfully, our country stands for more than just a few pieces of thread sewn together. In each election, you have the power to shape our nation. If you're not taking advantage of that privilege, you are no patriot. No matter how many flags you have.
Hamzeh Speaks Truth
Thank you for the article, "From Bethlehem to Austin" [Oct. 19]. As a Palestinian-American who has been to the Holy Land on numerous occasions, I can testify Ms. Hamzeh's testimony is pure (unfortunately) reality of Palestinian life under brutal Israeli occupation. Actually, she tells about only a small part of the Israeli occupation hell. Every Palestinian alive, whether inside the West Bank or Gaza, pre-1948 "Green Line," or of the millions of refugees, have similar pains to live and tell about the Israeli occupation.
I am surprised at the letters of people who are against exposing the truth. I see most of the writers, who claim to be "impartial," parrot the official Israeli government line. Why is that? You would think an "impartial" person would use common sense, and question why the Israeli tanks and helicopters are still killing Palestinian women and children inside their homes in the West Bank and Gaza, and simply ignore the root cause. For the answer to all the questions your readers posted on why there are attacks on Israelis, it's the occupation, stupid! Stop the occupation, stop the violence, it's really just that simple. Why are "impartial" Americans so ignorant to that?
Endless Debate Continues
The various musings by Muna Hamzeh ["From Bethlehem to Austin," Oct. 19] are notable for both their virulent anti-Semitism and factual inaccuracy. Nowhere, in any complaint about the quality of life of the Palestinian Arabs, is any mention made of the fact that this is all a direct result of their refusal to live in peace alongside Israel for the past 55 years. In 1948, when (pursuant to a UN decision) a Palestinian Arab state was supposed to have been created alongside the Jewish state, the Arabs rejected the idea, instead demanding the entire region for themselves and attempting to "throw the Jews into the sea" (their words). Of course, that didn't work out, but from 1948-1967, Jordan and Egypt kept the Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza living in deplorable conditions. When Israel came to control these areas, they inherited a situation of the Arabs' own making, and their attempts to improve things were rebuffed by the Arabs who did not want to be robbed of the propaganda value. Now, the control of the bulk of Palestinian Arab areas is in the hands of the Palestinian Authority. Before blaming Jews for the plight of the Arabs, attention should instead be turned to the Arabs themselves.
'Why Should Israel Be Blamed?'
A nasty series of articles appeared in The Austin (Texas) Chronicle, where Arab American Muna Hamzeh describes her experience living in the Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem ["From Bethlehem to Austin," Oct. 19]. Hamzeh says she felt like a "caged like an animal in a zoo," and describes a 3-year-old Palestinian neighbor who "has never seen a green patch of grass in her life and has never seen a squirrel. She lives confined to Bethlehem, condemned to remain a prisoner behind the checkpoints and the military barricades."
Hamzeh also describes her feelings after September 11 -- which she calls "black September": "Suddenly I feel defensive about being an Arab American ... The possibility that our civil liberties can be jeopardized because of our religious beliefs or ethnic background is so distressing ... For days now, I have been feeling as if I were back in the Palestinian Territories."
In another essay, "This Is Palestine Calling," Hamzeh paints a portrait of mass genocide in the territories: "This is just the beginning. They have not killed enough of us already. The blood of the dead and the wounded doesn't even fill someone's swimming pool yet. Not yet!"
Hamzeh hijacked the term "Black September" which was the name of the Arafat-led terrorist organization that committed some of the most heinous terrorist crimes of the 1970s, such as the Munich Olympic massacre. Hamzeh also hijacked the truth when she blames Israel for the condition of Palestinian refugee camps -- which are all under full PA control. Nowhere does Hamzeh admit to the terrorism, bombings, and shootings perpetrated by her fellow Palestinians against Israelis.
Moreover, until Yasser Arafat rejected Prime Minister Ehud Barak's peace offers at Camp David, Palestinians were the beneficiaries of Israeli "safe passage" agreements, allowing Palestinians to freely travel throughout the West Bank and Gaza. But Palestinian violence forced Israel to limit Palestinian movement.
Why should Israel be blamed? It is the Palestinians who are perpetrating suffering on both sides of the fence.
Ed. note: Evidently a listserv posted info about Muna Hamzeh's "From Bethlehem to Austin" (Oct. 19). This letter is indicative of a couple of dozen we received. Some are just form letters, some individually authored.
No Excuses for Israel
In response to Neena Husid, Sheldon Reynolds, Liron Brish ["Postmarks," Nov. 2]:
Those who complained about Muna's feature article ["From Bethlehem to Austin," Oct. 19] would rather that Muna, and all Palestinians, be mute or illiterate, unable to rise up or complain. They cannot understand the resistance that Israel faces, as if constant bombing and shelling of one's home should be taken as a de facto everyday dosage of good health and happiness.
I am a Christian Palestinian from Bethlehem, afraid to go home because I lost my skill for survival. To survive, to not be killed by Israeli tanks and American-sponsored Israeli military, I am told I have to become the "good Palestinian."
I am every black/Latina/gay/poor American you wanted silent! Who you want me to be is not different from your "good black," you wanted silent, accepting slavery abuse and the superiority of the white man, or your "good woman" you wanted silent, accepting domestic violence, unfair wages, and the dominance of man, or your "good daughter" you wanted silent, accepting your rage, rape, and misery just to make you happy, Daddy. I am your "good Palestinian" as long as I don't believe in my own freedom and equality.
True, I can't survive in Bethlehem, I no longer know how to stay silent when treated like an animal. I no longer understand the silence of the Palestinian masses receiving daily communion -- Israeli tanks shelling safe places, a church, a home, a kindergarten, your Apache, their Uzis, their macho boys, killing machines destroying the first glimmer of hope -- a renovated town square, destroyed, my livelihood, the dreams of the young, destroyed, the innocence of the Palestinian child. Destroyed. I don't know how to stay silent. Nor do you!
A reality check please: Israel is an occupier, brutal, foreign, unwanted, and illegal. Stop making excuses for a Goliath dressed as David. Israel is not innocent, to some it's rogue, to others it's an apartheid, to me, Israel is my occupier and I her nightmare refusing to be silent. It's time, Israel: Get out of my home!
San Francisco, Calif.
Not So Innocent
I am writing regarding two stories that your publication ran on October 19, 2001. With all due respect, after reading through these pieces, it seems to me that instead of running them in the days leading up to Halloween, you should have run them in the final days of March leading up to April Fool's Day.
After implying that all of the inhabitants of Palestinian refugee camps are innocent civilians no different from Americans ["From Bethlehem to Austin"], Ms. Hamzeh describes Marianna Farrarjeh, the 3-year old living in the refugee camp who will not likely see Jerusalem anytime soon.
The story omits the indoctrination that precious Marianna, along with all other Palestinian students, will undergo: that blowing herself up as a martyr and murdering Israeli civilians is the highest of life's aspirations. The PA (i.e. state-sponsored) media reinforces this message.
If you rebut and legitimize such actions as those of "freedom fighters," then I refer you to the definition of terrorism per Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f(d). Terrorism is "pre meditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents." Why did you not temper Ms. Hamzeh's claims with these facts, giving her a pulpit from which to speak uncontested?
In addition, Ms. Hamzeh refers to September 11 as "Black September." Ms. Hamzeh co-opted this epithet from the Black September crisis of 1970 when the Middle East was brought to the brink of war as Palestinian guerrillas threatened the stability of King Hussein's government in Jordan. Of course this occurred at a time when international hijacking and hostage taking was at its height. And who was leading the Palestinian guerrillas during this crisis, unleashing terror on airline passengers? Monsieur Yasser Arafat!
I trust you will apply greater scrutiny to future articles.
Hatred Begets Hatred
Dear Editor and Readers:
I really feel that we are charging down the wrong path in our new war against terrorism. We are, obviously, in a mess. The whole world is.
It's frightening and unsettling, and we as a nation seem to be following our gut instinct to kill, kill, kill the enemy before they do anything else to us. I don't think that we can accomplish what we've set out to do, in the way that we're doing it. "The enemy" is not a certain group of people here; it's fear and hatred, and the conditions in which people live that engender these emotions.
The problem is not the situation in the Middle East or the Taliban or Al Qaeda -- these are simply manifestations of the problem. The real problem is that we, humans, act violently toward one another. We act without care or consideration for other people. Sometimes we do it on a small scale, like cutting people off in traffic, and sometimes we do it on a large scale, like destroying large buildings. And we won't have peace until we, individually and as a world, decide to cut it out.
We can't expect anyone else to stop the violence until we do ourselves. We can't wait till we "get them back," or until we capture all of Al Qaeda, or whatever our eventual objective is. Violence produces an endless cycle of violence. We kill these terrorists today; there will be more tomorrow. We must begin to think about long-term peace on the planet, because we are at a unique time in our history -- we can either escalate this battle into goodness knows what, or we can begin to decompress.
This sounds radical even to me, but I believe that we should stop bombing Afghanistan. We are digging ourselves deeper and deeper into a hole. Civilian casualties are piling up. I honestly don't know what we should do instead. For the greater good, though, we -- as individuals and as nations -- have to scrutinize our actions and avoid those that oppress, harm, or belittle others, even if we stand to profit from those actions. We can no longer strike out blindly for our own personal gain if we ever want to have a truly peaceful society. As the Buddha taught, "Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed. This is an ancient and eternal law."
'I Feel You Are an Asshole, Sir'
I recently sent you an e-mail regarding sending clips of my writing to you and got no reply. I sent clips last year to Raoul Hernandez. I did not expect a response from him because his writing is so unreadable and rambling, why would he want to have someone write for the Chron that can actually follow a thought all the way through. I wrote better when I was in junior high than he writes now. Your publication sucks, SXSW is a fucking overrated, overpriced, incestual joke. You have so many writers that are examples of how not to write properly. Self-centered bullshit as opposed to insightful prose is the typical fare for the shit-rag AusChron. Why my honesty now? I'll tell you. Saturday night I was jumped in front of Antone's and beaten for no apparent reason. My friend, brother, cousin, and myself beat the guy badly but I'm still all fucked up. He insisted that he had hit the wrong guy and that he was sorry. This is not the first time I've been attacked in downtown Austin, just the first time someone was successful in doing so. I filed a police report but those bastards could not care any less, and they all but told me this. So I'm done with downtown and all the wannabe rock stars in this town, the whole fucking half-ass, loser music scene here has little value anyhow, except to opportunistic assholes like you at the Chron that successfully water down the entire music community for your own gain. Maybe you guys over there could collectively pull your heads out of each other's asses and open your minds, but I doubt this. I just wanted to convey to you that I feel you are an asshole, sir, and that your music coverage is far too motivated by personal grudges and friendships, and does not even closely approach true journalism. Please express to your staff that I feel they are all half-ass losers, drunks, and hacks. I bet you will reply to this one though, won't you, dickhead?