Our readers talk back.
Bryce's Dot-Com Insights Recycled
Sorry to hear that Robert Bryce lost his job, but I have to say that his insights into the dot-com phenomenon are little more than recycled new economy hubris ["What I Learned at the Dot-Bomb Revolution," Nov. 30].
His statement that business people are more honest than politicians is contradicted by his own words. How honest was his former boss, Avy Stein, whom I assume is a business person, when prior to firing the Interactive Week staff "promised all employees that there would be no closings and no layoffs" and went on to say, "we are in a growth mode"?
While I'm at it, how honest are Enron's executives, who conned investors and their own workers by inflating their profits with hot air and creative accounting? How about the accountants at Andersen who signed off on Enron's ledgers?
On another item, pervasive computing may be coming, but how pervasive will it be? I can't see people struggling to feed, clothe, and house themselves and their families investing in the gizmos and gadgets it will take to wire their homes so that they can turn on the stove by remote control.
The e-world has the potential to improve our quality of life and make it more interesting. Whether it will or not may be determined by how well we understand it. Its coverage deserves better than rehashed buzz from dot-com press releases and New Economy spin doctors.
Will H. Rogers
Tax Dollars Wasted on Smog
Dan Oko's article "Subsidizing Smog" [Nov. 30] does a good job of informing Austinites that we are paying for more pollution through the seemingly endless amount of money allocated for car travel while allocating a pittance for alternative mobility. However, Mr. Oko makes one fatal assumption that has guided America's "pave-at-all-costs" transportation philosophy: that "new roads may get traffic moving."
A considerable body of evidence has shown the opposite to be true: New roads do nothing to relieve traffic and congestion. Analysis of the Texas Transportation Institute's 15-year study of the effectiveness of road building in relieving congestion found that "areas that exhibited greater growth in lane capacity spent roughly $22 billion more on road construction than those that didn't, yet ended up with slightly higher congestion costs per person, wasted fuel, and travel delay." Despite the public perception that Austin has lagged behind in road building, the TTI's study found Austin ranked second in the nation in highest road building cost per capita, and also second in percentage growth in lane miles from 1982 to 1996.
If we are spending more money on more roads, why isn't traffic moving? Because new roads further and further outside of the central city encourage people to drive more miles. Until Austinites demand drastic changes in land use and transportation planning, our tax dollars will continue to subsidize sprawl, air and water pollution, and continued traffic delays.
Save Our Springs Alliance
Keep Austin Weird
Regarding the article I read about Kirk Watson, "Cast a Giant Shadow" [Nov. 23], I wanted to commend you on your praise of his office and his character. I know that he will make a great attorney general in the years to come, and his legacy will be hard to follow. He has done a lot for this city to help it grow smart as well as big, and I know his successors will be quickly scrutinized. I wanted to tell you that even with the growth of the dot-coms in Austin, I hope Central Austin will stay the way it is. I want to keep development of downtown to a minimum and make sure that when there is development it is done quickly and keep out of the way of traffic. Let's not turn Austin into another Houston or Dallas, and as that quirky little bumper sticker says, "Keep Austin Weird."
How Cool Is Spoon?
Wow, ravers doing ecstacy ["The Agony of the Ecstasy," Nov. 16]? The dot-com economy collapsing ["What I Learned at the Dot-Bomb Revolution," Nov. 30]? The Chronicle is cutting-edge! Keep giving us these good stories we can't read anywhere else.
P.S. I haven't been reminded how cool Spoon or Trail of Dead are in several weeks. Do you think you can help me out?
Did We See the Same Play?
After reading Barry Pineo's theatre review of November 30, regarding The London Cuckolds, I think I may turn to another publication for a credible opinion regarding local productions ["Exhibitionism"].
I attended this play two weekends ago, and like everyone I spoke to during and after the show, I found this production to be well-crafted, funny, and very entertaining.
That Mr. Pineo did not personally enjoy the show is perfectly fine. But he does a lackluster job of defining exactly what his criteria are for warning prospective audiences away. Certain concrete points do stand out amid his self-righteous rhetoric: The playwright's name is not in the program; the company is guilty of working without a director; and he asserts vehemently that the actors had to beg for laughs that never came.
First, in the opening speech, the young man playing the lead informed us "inquiring minds" exactly who wrote the play (and when). Second, this company's choice to work without a director should be commended, not flatly criticized. Third, I don't recall anyone having to beg for my laughter, as I gave it up freely, just like everyone else.
I do not write this in defense of the Bedlam Faction, as I am sure such a talented group of actors can stand on their own two feet. Rather, I am compelled to point out what I feel is a poorly contrived review authored by an irresponsible writer. A play is not bad simply because one person would rather watch something else. I became a theatre teacher some years ago, because after a brief stay in New York, I decided I was not quite up to the challenge of working as an actor. I can't help but wonder why Mr. Pineo decided to become a reviewer.
Light Rail's a Bust
Louis Black has his facts wrong on light rail ["Page Two," Nov. 30].
The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act encourages cities to adopt a "New Urban" planning philosophy that promotes a 19th-century technology (rail transit), which is slow, inconvenient, and expensive. Many cities pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into light rail lines that will replace a few bus routes could simply double bus service on every route for far less money and carry more people than light rail.
Despite spending hundreds of millions on light rail, the share of Dallas area residents using mass transit has declined in the last decade. Portland, Ore., is often touted as a model for urban planning and transportation -- yet light rail there is a failure, carrying fewer than half the people originally projected by planners. Since the line went into operation, transit's share of weekday Portland traffic has declined. Portland voters saw through the empty promises and voted against a third line.
A U.S. Department of Transportation study showed that light rail attracts 65% fewer riders than initially projected, and subsequent studies show that very few drivers abandon their cars to take light rail. Most light rail riders are former bus riders who were forced to take the train because their bus was eliminated.
Light rail discriminates against the inner-city poor and benefits suburbanites. That fact was obvious to a federal judge who ruled in 1996 that the Los Angeles transit agency was doing just that by diverting money away from buses serving the inner city and toward suburban light rail. It is quite telling that when Austinites voted on light rail, it was the suburbanites -- the supposed beneficiaries -- who voted against the measure.
We may be Libertarians, malcontents, or cranks, but we have it right. Despite nearly $200 billion in government funds in the last decade or so, light rail has failed to relieve congestion, aid the poor, or maintain basic fiscal responsibility.
Louis Black wanted someone to provide alternatives. A Reason Public Policy Institute study urged policymakers to consider innovative solutions such as congestion pricing, competitive contracting of bus routes, and legalized jitney service. Using such means, we could ensure quality transportation choices for everyone.
Light Rail Alternatives
"Page Two" (Nov. 30), concludes by asking for "reasonable, politically achievable alternatives" to light rail.
Experts on several television programs about light rail last year offered a series of proven and cost-effective methods for reducing traffic congestion and air pollution. A few of them were:
1. Dedicate a lane to recently developed high efficiency electric buses, offering far more flexibility for future routes instead of dedicating a lane to fixed light rail at a much higher cost.
2. Establish shuttle bus service to major employers.
3. Increase Cap Metro van pools, for which demand apparently exceeds supply.
4. Eliminate bus fares, as was done in 1990, when Cap Metro achieved a ridership of 53 trips per year per capita. (Austin proponents of light rail project a total ridership for all public transit of only 40 trips per year per capita by 2025, and at a far greater cost than if bus fares were eliminated.)
5. Extend bus service to newer residential and commercial developments, which are now ignored.
These and other suggestions would not consume 40% of Austin's transportation funds to serve only 6% of its commuters, as is advocated by light rail proponents. They seem to be "reasonable, politically achievable alternatives."
Werner J. Severin
Leave Austin Alone, Part 2
I need to realize that your opinion is heavier than mine, but by pushing for light rail again, you just shake a wave of pendejos your way, and my words won't count a leak. But why is it that you guys arrive one day in Austin, (like Karen and her aides), start looking everywhere and just know exactly what we need to do in matters of transportation ["Page Two," Nov. 30]? Planning, budgets, commerce, education, security, information, etc. are also decided by people from New England, mostly, with clappy support from all of you in the media. You know, if progress was started from the communities up, this city wouldn't be on the verge of environmental collapse, as it is now. In the lifetime of the Chronicle, you have heard of people in other cities just getting tired of people like you, advising on how to take their adopted cities into the "new century," with bad results. Go change Houston, West Palm Beach, or New York. Leave Austin alone.
Scary Population Growth
Louis Black's articles about Austin in 2100 always make me laugh sadly, because they gloss over the biggest problem facing Austin in and before 2100. This problem is an exponentially growing population. The Chronicle quotes Dick Kallerman of the Sierra Club to the effect that Austin's population has grown by 60% in the last 20 years, while paved road area has doubled. If this growth pattern continues, Austin will have about 5.25 million people in 2100 (assuming 500,000 in 2000), with 32 times as much paved road area as we have now.
On the other hand, suppose that population growth slows down dramatically. Then business (especially real estate) slows down, people lose their jobs, and there is a lot of complaining.
Our big problem is that short-term economic growth depends on rapid population growth. Too large a population inevitably degrades the environment. How large is too large depends in part on how the population lives.
In Austin, most people drive big cars everywhere, air-condition all summer to arctic levels, water ornamental lawns during droughts, and use gasoline-powered lawn mowers and leaf blowers. For recreation, people drive their motor boats from lake to lake and spread hydrilla.
If present trends continued until 2002, Austin would have a population of 55 million. Austin can't afford a population of 5 million, let alone 55 million.
Population growth is the biggest problem facing Austin. Rail's a good idea, but it won't solve the population problem. If we don't solve this one by 2100, we lose. So let's at least start talking and thinking about it.
There is no need to weep for George Harrison. He wept for us.
Right On, Vaughan
It is wonderful to hear of how Jimmie Vaughan's life has settled ["All-American," Nov. 23]. In today's music culture we hear all too often about our music legends and the negative things that have happened to them. So many of them have ended up in jail, overdosed on illegal drugs, or have simply disappeared from the public eye. To hear that Vaughan has settled down, and now is a family man, is the type of positive feedback that the music audience needs to hear. We do not live in a perfect world, but music brings happiness to millions of people all over the world. Musicians like Jimmie Vaughan can set new standards and ideals for what the American public seeks to find within the personalities of our musical artists. We can look at Jimmie Vaughan and say that there is a platinum artist who is the living the "American Way" the right way.
Daryl 'Boondoggle' Slusher
I saw your old buddy Daryl "Boondoggle" Slusher at the Mazda dealer on Burnet Road the other day. He was all suited up, umbrella in hand, and looking quite spiffy. An employee walked up to him and told him his ride was ready. Personally, I think Daryl should have taken the bus, and I assumed that the ride they were talking about was the ride service provided by Mr. Beasley. No, Mr. Slusher was instead picked up by a city van and driver. We wouldn't want Daryl to muss his suit riding with commoners.
Hey Daryl, you're a developer's dream and a cheap whore. Before you drive the Lite "boondoggle" Rail up our ass why don't you make the buses run on time? Hell, I'd be happy if it came within five miles of my house since I pay taxes for the lack of service and all. Tell ya what, councilperson, I'll buy you a toy train for Christmas, and you can place yourself in the middle of your track design and jerk off and try to hit the caboose when it goes by.
Yours in coach class,
Stop Yer Cryin'!
Poor DC Hudson ["Postmarks: 'I Feel You Are an Asshole, Sir,'" Nov. 30]. A lot of us have it ... but it seems that now he/she, let's just call it a he, has caught the disease and become the classic "how come nobody realizes my artistic potential and gives me a job for it" whiny-bitchy-bullshit example of why some just may need to get the fuck out of Austin if they don't like it. In last week's Chron, Hudson calls the editor an "asshole" and mentions that a Raoul Hernandez provides "unreadable and rambling" writing. Then he begins to ramble like nobody's business, calling the Chron a "shit-rag" and SXSW an "incestual joke." Ya see, Hudson sent some clips of his writing to the Chron and they didn't seem very interested since they never replied. Oh ... and somebody jumped him at Antone's and the cops didn't care. Now he hates Austin's only real entertainment paper, the entire music scene including SXSW, and ... that's pretty much all that's left of Austin, so I guess he just hates Austin. What he fails to accept is the fact that in a city rich in history within its musical community, there will be "personal grudges" and "friendships" which he seems to despise, and those two things may get someone to a higher economic level in the music business than, say, someone with a more original or interesting musical idea. To the true artist it's not about being noticed, Mr. Hudson, it's about your own expression. So keep writing your clips and someday somebody'll discover your potential. Embrace it and roll with it or pack up. I play my ass off in this town and many love what I do. Others couldn't care less. But I'm true to the scene that I represent, and I don't cry because Bob Schneider makes more money than me on a Tuesday night. By the way, he must have been playing that night you were jumped at Antone's, because I'd probably want to kick somebody's ass, too, after being subjected to that scene.
Help ACC Horticulture Dept.
Well, now that the boom has gone bust, how about some of you unemployed Higher Educated folks look to ACC's Continuing Education Programs for jobs?! I know for a fact that they're looking for someone to teach a Landscape Business Operations class. Please, the administrators of this program (D. Simmons-Granville and J. Haba), haven't been able to find anyone for two semesters now. When I called Mr. Haba to find out how I was supposed to get the certification they offered if they couldn't staff the class he told me to find an instructor. So, even though it's not my job, I'm trying. Is there anyone at the Dept. of Agriculture who can suggest someone? Or do any of the local Garden Centers or Nurseries have any suggestions?
While I'm asking, would anyone like to sponsor or assist the ACC Continuing Education Horticulture Dept. in getting its greenhouse supplied and functioning? It has a good start and some fine teachers, but without any support, it's not doing so well. They need everything from getting someone to install covers and labels on the fuse box to hand tools. If anyone knows any funding sources or people who can help please contact the administrators, thank you.
Support Medical Marijuana
Take two minutes to support the medical use of marijuana!
Outrageous! In states that have passed bills recognizing the known therapeutic uses of marijuana, the federal government is arresting and imprisoning patients using it. The therapeutic benefits of marijuana include pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation.
Our country should adopt compassionate access to marijuana laws, similar to those passed in Canada earlier this year.
HR 2592 (the states rights medical marijuana bill) currently pending in the U.S. House of Representatives, would change federal law so that the DEA would no longer be able to prosecute patients in states that authorize medical marijuana.
I urge citizens to visit the Marijuana Policy Project's Web site at www.mpp.org to fight back by sending a pre-written letter to support HR 2592.
You may also contact your representative by visiting www.house.gov/ or call 202/224-3121 to find the name and phone number of your representative.
Unfriendly Fire in Georgia
Last weekend, November 16-18, I answered the president's summons to join the war on terrorism.
I traveled to the gates of Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga., and along with 10,000 other Americans, called for the U.S. Army to close the terrorist training camp known as the School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, or WHISC).
The U.S. Army has been training Latin American militaries since 1946. Since its founding, the U.S. Army's School of the Americas (SOA) has trained more than 60,000 Latin American soldiers and police. Among its graduates are many of the continent's most notorious torturers, mass murderers, dictators, and state terrorists, such as dictators Manuel Noriega and Omar Torrijos of Panama, Leopoldo Galtieri and Roberto Viola of Argentina, Juan Velasco Alvarado of Peru, Guillermo Rodriguez of Ecuador, and Hugo Banzer Suarez of Bolivia.
In Guatemala, SOA graduate Rios Monitt ruled the country at the height of a counterinsurgency campaign in which hundreds of thousands of indigenous people were murdered, tortured, disappeared, and forced into refuge.
In Colombia, the largest customer of the SOA, 2,000,000 people have been killed or displaced by civilian-targeted warfare carried out under the direction of SOA graduates.
These terrorist atrocities committed by SOA graduates have been repeated throughout Central and South America. The list of countries also includes Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador.
The U.S. Army doesn't want us to know about this domestic, taxpayer-supported terrorist training camp at Fort Benning. They want to keep quiet the fact that for the last 12 years, thousands of Americans have been gathering annually at the gates of Fort Benning to call for the U.S. Army to close this school of assassins.
We must lobby our representatives in Washington to do the right thing, to end America's shameful involvement with training terrorists, to close the School of the Americas (WHISC).
Anyone wanting more information should see www.soaw.org.
Overthrow Drug Laws, Now!
Well, I guess the good people at the Chronicle think that important issues and new ideas should be presented in under 350 words, I guess they are considering their audience's attention span, or that they need the space to let Mikey Ventura carp about Bush picking his nose for a page, but here goes.
Since the government is dead set on prosecuting otherwise law-abiding citizens for smoking pot instead of swilling Jack Daniels, and since neither Democrats or Republicans are going to gore the cash cow of taxes from alcohol and tobacco sales, we need to end the War on Drugs ourselves. How? Easy. All defendants in drug cases should demand a jury trial instead of pleading out. We simply need one person on each jury to vote "Not Guilty, No Matter What." Jury nullification. Let the pigs and the DEA waste a few years without a guilty verdict and they will just wander off to wherever pigs and federal drug dealers wander off to. We can end the War on Drugs ourselves, we can tell our elected officials that we are no longer going to allow people's lives to be destroyed because we choose not to drink addictive narcotics to achieve a mellow level of recreational intoxication. Fuck the U.S. attorney, fuck the pigs in the DEA who are nothing more than a federally funded drug gang. One person on each jury in every drug trial who votes "Not Guilty, No Matter What" and we can end the War on Drugs, we can prevent people like Clifford and Mambo and myself from going to prison so that some asshole can protect tax revenues generated by federally sanctioned narcotics sales. We can do this ... in fact, we have an obligation to overthrow unjust laws, and there cannot be any more glaring example of unjust laws than the War on Drugs. One person, on every jury in a drug trial ... "Not Guilty, No Matter What."
Wrongheaded Review of 'Cuckolds'
I am writing because I was disappointed and saddened by Barry Pineo's review of The London Cuckolds, which appeared in the November 30 issue of The Austin Chronicle ["Exhibitionism"]. I attended the November 24 performance of The London Cuckolds and found the play entertaining and insightful. How thrilling that a play written and first performed in 1681 in London could live again so vibrantly in 2001 in Austin. I am grateful to the talented actors and actresses of the Bedlam Faction for giving me the opportunity to experience a part of my cultural and literary heritage of which I was not even aware.
In fact, it seems that it is this very heritage that Mr. Pineo condemns so strongly in his review of the Bedlam Faction's performance of The London Cuckolds. At times, Mr. Pineo seems to blur his critique of the play's performance with his more general criticisms of our culture and society. In reading his review, I was not sure whether Mr. Pineo was critiquing a specific drama, or expressing his negative opinions of our cultural and psycho-social milieu. This confusion is a great failing of the review. But beyond the confusion as to the object of Mr. Pineo's heavy-handed criticisms, Mr. Pineo should realize that he is and heir to, and participant in, the very culture he laments and bewails. Mr. Pineo should also know that in order to improve ourselves and our society, we must first become aware of our cultural heritage with all its flaws, faults, and foibles. This is especially important for those parts of ourselves and our culture which can not ever be wholly articulate such as how we relate to our bodies and how we express ourselves sexually, which the Bedlam Faction's production of The London Cuckolds addresses with such joy and vitality.
Moreover, this acting troupe, as Mr. Pineo points out, is a cooperative enterprise. Given The Austin Chronicle's own background, the Chronicle should champion and support any cooperative efforts within the community. Mr. Pineo only finds fault with the Bedlam Faction's collaboration.
I would encourage your readers to see The London Cuckolds and judge it for themselves. There are three more performances of The London Cuckolds, December 6, 7, and 8, at 8pm at the Off Center, 2211-A Hidalgo. Go see it.
Sylvia A. Perry
Did the Taliban Write Drug Laws?
There sure has been a lot of talk in the last couple of months about American "freedom" and "tolerance" and "diversity" and "unity."
Those four meaningful words are rendered just so much phony USA propaganda drivel as long as there are hundreds of thousands of American citizens incarcerated for cannabis "crimes."
Re-legalizing marijuana and other drugs would not only free up many billions of wasted drug war dollars for use in more productive endeavors (like preventing terrorist acts, for example), but would also eliminate a major source of terrorists' income.
And if we did away with a drug policy, which is like something written by the Taliban, those four words would actually have some meaning and reality when applied to the United States.