Our readers talk back.
Show Some Respect
I was deeply offended upon viewing this week's cover[Dec. 7]. I hope I will not be this disappointed when I view your cover for Sept. 11, 2061. Show some respect.
Benjamin C. Abzug
Not Funny in Any Way
Could you or someone in your department please explain the humor or motivation behind the rising sun cover art on the December 7 issue? I don't understand the connection between the historical symbols of Japanese imperialism in WWII (i.e.: the Japanese Zeros with a rising sun background) and dropping gifts (bombs) over an Austin skyline. I doubt many WWII veterans get the joke either.
Unhip, Unfunny, Uncool
What the hell were you thinking?
With the fires of September 11 still burning, the Chronicle decides to acknowledge the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor with some sort of smirking commentary on Christmas commercialization?
There are people putting their lives on the line today to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan and to defend the besieged Bill of Rights here at home. December 7 for some will be a chance to pause and reflect on the current struggles and those 60 years ago.
When you are finished striking dramatic hipper-than-thou poses in front of your communal mirror you might discover that no one else is watching. There are more interesting and important issues demanding our attention.
Not Clever, Just Stupid
I am writing to let you know how disappointed I was in your choice of cover for the Dec. 7 issue. What ever compelled you to be so distasteful and disrespectful? For shame. If I can find another source for "News of the Weird" then I won't be picking up another Chronicle again. Satirical media is always shooting itself in the foot. I should know, as I worked on a doomed and now-defunct satirical rag in Lawrence, Kan. The editor who killed it was a misogynist with a split personality and a penchant for stream of consciousness writing. I suspect that none of you are close to anyone who experienced Pearl Harbor or felt the loss of a loved one in it, and that's why it didn't offend you. What if Rory Skagen had presented a cover showing Osama bin Laden as Santa, flying an American Airlines plane and dropping presents over the World Trade Towers? Would that have given you pause? Satirical media doesn't have to be insensitive. You should all rewatch Spinal Tap, and pay close attention to the line, "There's a fine line between clever and stupid."
Better luck next time,
I was impressed by the cover of today's Chronicle [Dec. 7], the red sun and airplanes led naturally to the imagination of Japanese Army and the Pearl Harbor, especially as today is the 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. I called the Austin-based designer of the cover, BlueGenieArt.com, to find out how they thought when designing it. Surprisingly, they told me that it's exactly the Chronicle's idea to have the cover designed in association with that historical event.
Personally I don't feel such an idea is appropriate. Recently, a top Chinese movie star took a cover picture for a fashion magazine then got a lot of criticism from Chinese historians and common folks, because her dress in the picture was basically a Japanese Army flag. The Chinese suffered too much from the Japanese invasion and occupation. Didn't Americans already suffer enough from World War II? And what will happen if we draw a big gift hitting the twin towers as the cover picture of the next Chronicle?
Holes in Johnston High Story
Several mistakes were committed on your work on Johnston High ["Ten Down ... 90% to Go," Dec. 7]:
You let Mr. Cavazos put his jacket on, for the picture. Dr. Tyler talked without interruption. No neighborhood parents were interviewed on the subject. (The majority of parents don't even know at this minute that Liberal Arts is gone to LBJ.) No other teachers' opinions were gathered, and you failed to dig deep into the Alliance program, led by a group of good-intentioned teachers and volunteers, but nicely brainwashed by Interfaith. There is a flair of despotism among teachers and some coaches regarding this barrio and its inhabitants -- reason enough for the parents to avoid participation -- to the point of calling Johnston "Ghetto school." Racism and displacement are prevalent in the area, since the only jobs available for the residents are cooks and janitors. Finally, you failed to see that Johnston has left behind 40 years worth of ignorance and frustration, because of manipulation of educational programs. The good news is that the old guard there still works hard regardless of remote political decisions, and volunteers are making history around the school, without a fuss.
Michael May's article ["Ten Down ... 90% to Go," Dec. 7] includes an unfair characterization of Paula Tyler. I graduated from Johnston as part of the liberal arts academy a few years ago, and I spent a fair amount of time with Dr. Tyler.
May says Tyler doesn't think neighborhood kids want to be in the academy and quotes her as saying "not every eighth-grader wants to go read Tolstoy and Chekhov ... the magnet students are a small minority in the entire district." May infers from this that she thinks "that neighborhood students at Johnston are just not interested in academic rigor." Since most of those students are black and Hispanic, she is apparently but a few feet downwind of racism.
The academy appeals to a tiny number of students (there were around 100 in my graduating class). It follows that the academy appeals to an even tinier number of neighborhood Johnston students. That is all Tyler says. She in no way describes neighborhood Johnston students' interest in academic rigor. As an administrator, I only saw her exhibit logic, realism, and candor and that is all I see here.
While I am no great fan of Tyler's (her talent is working for young people, not working with them), I am a fan of fairness and accuracy, and May's article was unfair to her.
I've been working hard at adapting to the new Chron layout/style. With every recent issue I have the same issue: finding detailed info about the events highlighted in the calendars. For example, I repeatedly can't seem to find the Theater section (maybe because I need to look in the Theatre section, here in London. In San Marcos, we have Centre Street, and the residents paint Center on their mailboxes and shake their heads).
While Theatre is where I am to look for info on La Pastorela listed on page 70, I scan the titles in the top corner of several pages, then all of them, front to back, back to front, and see nothing marked Theatre. I then check the table of contents. No dice there either. I find News, Arts, Books within Arts, Food, Screens, Music, and Features, but no Theatre.
After an exhaustive search, re-reading the contents and making some semantic leaps, I find what I am looking for in the "Exhibitionism" section, which isn't listed in the contents as its own section, such as Screens ... No wait, the piece on p. 32 is called "Mexico: Bailes y Tradiciones." That isn't La Pastorela. Finally I rescan every single page, going beyond the mere section title for each page. It's within Arts that I find Theatre, though it doesn't show that in the Contents.
Opening myself up to criticism, I will state this: I graduated from a liberal arts university, earned various teaching licenses, and have taught English and Social Studies for 10 years here, in Wisconsin and Korea, and believe myself to be intelligent and possess common sense. And yet it was honest-to-God work to find Theatre. It was like trying to find a home in Mexico using only its address.
I've given up trying to navigate "Naked City," and was equally befuddled by "Dancing About Architecture." A workshop? A tour? A competition? A benefit for the old power plant? Perhaps the Chron staff and circle of friends know the meaning of these titles from days past.
Help us poor latecomers. I've lived in the area since 1997, and to your credit, I couldn't live in this area without the Chron. The info/calendars/views/resources you bring together are invaluable.
In closing, please clarify the location of Theatre (and any other amorphous references) in future issues for us, the uninitiated.
Nothing Fashionable Here
I have to admit that Eric McKinney's letter in the December 7 issue ["Postmarks: How Cool Is Spoon?"] was right on the money. Whereas the Chronicle used to be an enjoyable read, more and more it's becoming a throwaway rag on par with the Statesman's piss-poor XLent. While your cover stories and features are sometimes still informative or entertaining, your columns, namely movies and music, just get progressively worse. If new blood is what's needed, then the Chronicle needs a full-blown Keith Richards-style transfusion. And quite possibly the worst new addition to the Chron is Stephen MacMillan Moser's unrelentingly awful "After a Fashion" segment. Do us all a favor and 86 it. You guys are and have been an Austin institution. It's just a shame to see that you're losing your appeal just as this town is. After having a 20-year relationship with your paper and this town, it's disappointing to see it happen. But, hopefully it's not too late for either to experience a turnaround.
P.S. Just to set the record straight, Spoon is not cool.
Bad Reasons for Bad Review
I am writing in response to Kate X Messer's review of the Velvet Underground box set (Bootleg Series Vol. 1: The Quine Tapes). Who pissed in her anti-corporate corn flakes the morning she wrote the review? She gives it two stars because of bad packaging and "lame-ass" liner notes. It's certainly better than the laser-printed, Kinko-copied crap we get with real (i.e., unofficial) bootlegs. Does anyone really need yet another biography of the Velvet Underground? Anyone who buys this already knows who they are and just wants to hear the music. As for the suggestion that we "bootleg the fuck out of it" -- thanks, I'm sure the thought would have never occurred to us.
Math for Gluttons
I don't often read Amy Babich's letters, but I have to tell you her recent missive extrapolating an Austin population of 5.25 million by the year 2100 really opened my eyes ["Postmarks: Scary Population Growth," Dec. 7]. I had no idea that people would ignore the crashing economy and continue cramming themselves into our fair city at record rates until wedged in shoulder to shoulder eight body-lengths high. I must admit, the prospect is shocking.
Taking Ms. Babich's math as my model, I made more alarming discoveries. My third-grade daughter has grown an average of four inches per year over the past eight years. If this trend persists, by the time she is 45 years old she will be 15 feet tall. Her quality of life is sure to suffer, to say nothing of her search for decent footwear.
It gets worse. I also notice that since the holiday season began six weeks ago, I have gained three pounds. At this rate, in 20 years I will weigh close to 700 pounds and will be unable to leave my house. Even if I could make it through the door, the glut of citizenry covering every available surface would make navigating the city difficult if not impossible.
We had best begin dismantling the freeways right away. Amy, meet me on I-35 and bring your chisel.
Bob Schneider Kicks Ass!
K.I. Cook's ranting of ass-kickery at the end of a potentially respectable reply to D.C. Hudson ["Postmarks: Stop Yer Cryin'!" Dec. 7] implies that K.I. has a few demons of his own to exorcise. K.I., it's okay to be jealous of Bob. Hell, we all are. But why don't you trade in that petty anger-jealousy for some new and improved admiration-jealousy. Remember, there can be only one Bob Schneider -- and man ... does he kick some ass.
Up-and-Coming Ass-Kicking Candidate
Follow the Congestion
Re: "Page Two" [Nov. 30]. Sensible people agree with Louis Black that simply building new roads won't solve our traffic congestion. Neither will light rail.
England has 10 times the population density of Texas. Its cities have extensive rail and bus systems while cars and gas are taxed at exorbitant rates. Yet, for 30 years ridership on mass transit has steadily declined while car usage has increased 500%. Traffic is a nightmare.
Louis asks "Show me a way out that doesn't involve mass transit." Try congestion management. The private sector does this. Theatres charge more for evening showings than for matinees. It costs more to place an ad on the Super Bowl than on Oprah.
Oslo, Vienna, Singapore, and San Diego have begun using variable tolls and now have less pollution and smoother-flowing traffic with reduced accidents. It works. And the users pay instead of shifting the cost to some poor family that can't even afford a car like CapMetro's sales tax does.
More new concepts from the libertarians at Reason: www.rppi.org/surtrans.html.
Vincent J. May
Don't Forget Whole Earth
I missed seeing Whole Earth Provision Company's name in your feature. We are locally based with now more than 30 years of business in Austin. From our earliest days we have provided our friends a wide range of gift-giving options. We have fun & useful gift ideas for all ages.
Come by and take a look.
Re: Your article, "Texas' Own Roe v. Wade" [Dec. 7]
Texas already has its own Roe v. Wade case, which is called ... Roe v. Wade! If you knew your history, you'd know that the "Wade" from that case was the former Dallas County DA, Henry Wade. Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it ...
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 nor 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."
Ed. note: Actually, we prefer that "Postmarks" letters be 300 words or less, although we sometimes give a little slack.
Don't Forget SOA Protests
"Dewhurst's Terrorists" [Nov. 16] was a nice look at one person's shady past relating to U.S.-backed terrorism and the U.S. Army School of the Americas.
However, the Chronicle deprived its readers of a first-hand account of the 50 Austin activists who joined 8,000 others at Fort Benning to call for the school's closure. We are used to the daily paper marginalizing dissent, but it is disappointing the weekly declined to cover protest. (Remember that all politics is local.) This experience was especially important for two group members who lost relatives to U.S.-backed violence during Pinochet's reign of terror in Chile. For demonstration images and reports see www.atlanta.indymedia.org and www.ledgerenquirer.com/content/columbus/2001/12/01/soa/ .
The SOA was "closed" but immediately reopened as the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security and Cooperation by the Defense Department. The Pentagon has hoodwinked Congress, the public, and the media with this public-relations ploy. Late Senator Coverdell called the changes "basically cosmetic." SOA graduates still oppress and murder Latin American peasants, especially in Colombia and Mexico, where they hide behind the political cover of the drug war. An in-depth critique is available at www.soaw.org/Articles/legislative/newbill.htm.
Gen. Hugo Banzer Suarez of Bolivia is a good example of a bad apple. When his government sold the public water system of Cochabamba to a private corporation, water prices skyrocketed and thousands protested. Banzer declared a state of siege and ordered the troops into the streets. A 17-year-old boy was shot and killed by a Bolivian army officer. As dictator, Banzer was responsible for ousting SOA Watch founder Father Roy Bourgeois.
Concerned taxpayers interested in opposing U.S. terrorist training may get involved by reviewing www.soaw.org, by asking Representative Lloyd Doggett to co-sponsor legislation to shut down the SOA/WHISC, HR 1810, and by contacting SOA Watch-Austin at 474-2399.
For the revolution to be publicized,
Another Ride Planned
I just wanted to thank Chronicle readers for showing up to our first Courteous Mass ride last month -- the nonconfrontational alternative to Critical Mass. When I polled the riders, I found that more of them had found out about it from the Chron than from our other efforts (including fliering at bike shops).
I also wanted to let readers know about some changes to the ride: (1) It's now known as the Courteous Mass Bicycle Parade. It's not a real parade, but costumes and funky bikes are encouraged. Waterloo Cycles is offering a $25 gift certificate to the rider with the best costume or funky/decorated bike. (2) The ride leaves from the Pfluger Bridge at Lamar at Riverside at 5pm the second Friday of each month, with rendezvous at Waterloo Cycles (2815 Fruth) at 6pm and 6:30pm for riders who can't make it until later. It gets dark early these days, so bring lights. More info is available at BicycleAustin.com.
The next ride is this Friday, Dec. 14. Thanks again to the Chronicle and Chronicle readers for supporting this new ride.
Bush vs. the Constitution
Attacks on America's Constitution by George Bush and his Republican Guard are taking place under cover of the nation's gloom. Simple money mongering was the usual centerpiece in their strategy of punishing the poor and rewarding the rich by tax cuts for big business. Their new but not unexpected subversion of civil rights is excused by saying that war (not yet lawfully declared) with unknown enemies requires special actions. The Bush justice executor neglects to explain how incarcerating hundreds without evidence or due process defends the Constitution. Do they think hauling folks off to secret military tribunals will preserve our liberty? Denying any public access to Reagan's presidential papers is another draconian tactic that limits rather than protects freedom. Hopefully, some true patriots will arise from the mists infesting D.C.'s foggy bottom and summon our courage to defend the Constitution from its real enemies.
When Louis Black criticized the U.S. incursion into Afghanistan and voiced his pro-peace opinion ["Page Two," Nov. 2], he unnecessarily defended it with the comment, "I'm not saying this in an unpatriotic way, but as a citizen worried about my government." More critiques are needed, not less. Criticism of the government has a long history in the USA, from the Declaration of Independence and Common Sense, to Thoreau going to jail, to labor movements, and the more recent "Movement" of the Sixties and Seventies, et al. The U.S. Federal Code received its first sedition laws in the 1820s. Now is not the time for criticism of the government to be called as anything less than patriotic. Those in the government should be telling us clearly what our objectives are and what is our exit strategy. Those in the government should be constantly reminded that incompetence is rewarded at the ballot box. The media are the only ones left to remind citizens about these simple facts because our "leaders" in Washington are bent on gutting the Bill of Rights. Freedom isn't defended by narrowing attorney-client privilege or setting up kangaroo courts. Freedom is defended best when the most participate, in the open, in the daylight of public opinion.
Diplomacy, Where've You Gone?
When President Bush refused Afghanistan's proposal to turn Osama bin Laden over to a neutral country for trial, he missed an opportunity for an honorable, nonviolent resolution to the conflict. A better, more patriotic way to confront world disputes than war is diplomacy, which has played an important, but unheralded, role in recent American history.
When Israel, Britain, and France invaded Egypt, President Eisenhower stopped the war by threatening to cut off U.S. aid to Israel. The armada turned around, and the war ceased before it started. During the Cuban Missile crisis, President Kennedy prevented war, not by war, but by negotiating with Kruschev the withdrawal of U.S. missiles from Turkey and Russian missiles from Cuba. President Carter made peace in the Middle East, not by war, but by a diplomatic maneuver to convince Israel to withdraw from the Sinai settlements which Carter called, "illegal, period."
A greater crisis was handled by President Reagan when Israel and the U.S. invaded Lebanon allegedly as a war against terrorism. Israeli troops attacked two refugee camps in a massacre that killed 600 Palestinian men, women, and children. At about the same time 500 U.S. marines were killed when terrorists bombed a barracks in Lebanon and in another incident, a troop plane explosion. President Reagan then called Prime Minister Begin on the phone and angrily yelled at him to stop the killing and get General Sharon and Israeli troops out of Lebanon. Which he did. Later Reagan spoke at a memorial service for the dead veterans, with tears in his eyes, saying that the war in Lebanon was the saddest regret of his presidency.
These nonviolent acts of statesmanship made wars to cease, which is really what God wants according to the Jewish, Islamic, and Christian holy scriptures, Psalm 46:9: "Behold the work of the Lord! He makes wars to cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in sunder, and burns the chariot in the fire. Stop fighting! He says, and know that I am God, supreme among the nations, supreme over the world."
It was a time like this, during the Vietnam war that Pope Paul VI preached a sermon at the General Assembly of the United Nations. He concluded by saying, "No More War! War No More! War Never Again!" And to that, at such a time as this, I say, Amen!
Jewel R. Johnson