The Austin Chronicle


July 12, 2002, Columns

Much Needed Wackenhut Story


Why does it always take some white guy with a little clout to point out what goes on in Texas state prisons and jails on a daily basis ["Beaten by Wackenhut," July 5]? Beatings are not an occasional occurrence, they are a daily occurrence on multiple levels and coming from guards more often than other inmates. Ask anyone who has been inside and they will tell you the same. State prisons do not rehabilitate, they infuriate. They do not correct problems but create bigger ones. Inmates do not leave with a sense of direction other than to pay back the system that has beaten them down. This, coupled with an education in crime and a contempt for authority bred by the types of abuses Mr. Prater details creates more criminals than it intends to stop. This is due to an imperialistic, prejudiced attitude carried by some (not all) prison guards, wardens, police officers, politicians, and many of this state's ill-informed citizens. Once in a while someone like Mr. Prater raises a fuss and everyone gets worried but the reality is that this kind of situation exists on a daily basis and the authorities have absolutely no plans to change. Why should they? In their minds, all of us "criminals" deserve it. I heard a quote from a citizen visiting the Harris County Jail, "This place is too nice for prisoners." I guess sleeping on a rotting mattress with an overflowing toilet is what we all deserve for getting caught with that joint or vial of cocaine. This is not just a problem relating to private prisons like Wackenhut. It's pretty universal and definitely statewide.

Kevin Kinkade

Thanks for the Wackenhut Story


Many, many thanks for your fine pieces about that rotten outfit Wackenhut ["Beaten by Wackenhut," July 5]. As a longtime human rights activist, I am in an especially fortunate position to recognize the significance of your feature and sidebar ["A Record of Dishonesty"]. I've researched Wackenhut and their fellow dark force, Corrections Corporation of America, for a number of years, and am delighted to see how accurately you've shone what's doubtless a most unwelcome spotlight on them. If you didn't come across these facts in your research, Wackenhut was founded by ex-CIA spooks and has had its hand in all manner of dubious enterprises for many years. The company operates some of our U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Service "detention" centers which have affronted human rights activists all over the world by their harsh treatment of detainees charged with no crime except being in the wrong place without the right papers. And they also operate similar centers in Australia, where the conditions of detention of refugees from Pacific Rim countries have prompted remarkably vehement protests from the ordinarily conservative, redneck Aussie populace. If you have occasion to visit this subject again and could use additional background information, please let me know.

Again, my thanks!

[low bow, hat in hands]

Sam Braudt

Lubbock County ACLU

State Executive Committee, Green Party of Texas

Leaving a Hole in Austin's Soul


I just received the news that the Hole in the Wall is closing. I can't help but think that the world will be a lesser place. I'm over here in the woods of Mississippi but sleeping peacefully thinking that the Hole is still rocking. Now what am I gonna do?

I remember our first gig there in 1983 opening for Omar and the Howlers, which opened the doors for the Commandos' four-year stint. Y'all would book us when no one else would. Steve, Debbie, Randy, Doug, and all the regulars made us feel welcome night after night playing whatever we might have worked up for y'all -- original music -- original music! How many places would welcome the astroidinal sounds of "Solo Commando?" -- not to mention all the great bands I got to hear and the Reality Sandwich! The stars in the sky won't shine as brightly now.

I spent some of the best nights of my life there. You will be missed.

The Hole in the Wall


Suzy Elkins (a Commando and a Hole in the Wall Hall of Famer and very proud)

Purvis, Miss.

The Art of Compromise

Dear Austin Chronicle Editors:

I support the concept of executing a settlement agreement between the city of Austin and Stratus Properties. Twelve years of environmental activism have taught me a hard-learned lesson; that is, "just say no" has not conserved any land, and has not protected Barton Springs.

The environmental community has been "saying no" loudly and clearly since June 7 of 1990. The city and SOS Alliance have won almost every lawsuit, and yet huge buildings keep springing forth from the ground along MoPac South, Southwest Parkway, and throughout the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Region. Our "victories" have not stopped any growth.

Now it's time to come to the negotiating table with thoughtful solutions and air/water/land conservation strategies. One such strategy is the city's resolve to identify and retrofit the major sources of pollution of Barton Springs. Another is settling with Stratus on terms that offer better protection for Barton Springs than the SOS Ordinance alone can provide, and terms that provide many, many benefits that the ordinance and city code do not even address (open space, greenbuilding, bonded water-quality controls, architectural standards, increased neighborhood setbacks, traffic solutions -- just to name a few).

Regarding whether or not adequate notice and opportunity for input has been provided to all stakeholders, the public stakeholder process began last fall. SOS Alliance representatives have been meeting with Stratus representatives for more than a year. No less than 10 articles in three or more papers have been published on these negotiations. And yet, there is still ample opportunity to provide thoughtful comment and solution-oriented input to the city.

It's past time to work smarter to protect the Springs and the natural environment of the aquifer region and Texas Hill Country. I urge the City Council and city staff and stakeholders to continue working with Stratus to refine and improve the proposed settlement agreement and corollary documents, and to approve the agreement in a timely manner.

George Cofer

Stratus Needs to Build Responsibly


The Stratus agreement is not a good agreement. Corporations such as Motorola, AMD, Time Warner, Temple-Inland, and Vignette take corporate responsibility seriously. They understand our values and recognize the importance of quality of life issues. They want to continue to grow, employ the best people, and take care of the community because a quality, growing community is what enables them to continue to attract strong employees and grow effectively. The relationship is very mutual between the city, these corporations, and Austin's citizens.

On the other hand, we have Stratus. They do not share long-term interests with us. Stratus threatens the city with higher densities and a ruined aquifer if they don't get the agreement. Our city offers to waive $15 million in fees so Stratus will build "responsibly." Instead of following the lead of other corporations who want to build to SOS standards, they want money in return for not overbuilding the aquifer. They work with the local government to build something the citizens of Austin have said they do not want. It reminds me of the way business is done in "corrupt" countries. Influential corporations work with governments to give the people something they don't want or need. They circumvent the people of the community and work a deal with the government. The people get nothing. The company adds to the bottom line. Those elected get something (money?). Maybe it is a sweet deal -- for those of you that get something.

They own the land. They can build. Just build to SOS standards and be a good corporate citizen rather than a bully.

Bill Akin

Stratus Least of All Evils


Events at the latest City Council siege reveal an ethical bankruptcy among alleged progressive environmental leadership. What the SOS Axis has failed to reveal is they have no alternative to offer. If nothing is done, the aquifer dies. If Stratus develops at SOS standards it builds 2,410,000 sq. ft. of office and retail development; 1,200 multifamily units and 1,100 single family units. The city "cave-in" allows 1 million sq. ft. of office and retail development space; 900 MF units and 830 SF units. For those having trouble with the math, that is 1,410,000 sq. ft. less office and retail development: 300 fewer MF units and 270 fewer SF units than SOS standards.

Generally, the development clusters construction in several tracts to minimize environmental impacts on the aquifer, while allowing no building in the more environmentally critical areas. If the SOS ordinance was literally followed, as the Axis prefers, Austin would sanction development in Stratus tracts where there should be none. Since the city cannot afford to buy out Stratus, it has offered Stratus incentives to insure its profitability and to "buy down" impervious cover and pollutant runoff on the aquifer. Given the constraints of large deficits, and hard budget cuts to follow -- $15 million in credits stretched over 30 years isn't too much to pay for a priceless ecosystem. For its part Stratus has agreed to relinquish 83% of combined commercial density, and 42% of residential density from its original plan -- hardly a minor sacrifice. Austin exists in a property rights-friendly state that often can't even spell ecology, much less protect it. Stratus is empowered by state law and city permit to develop; nothing can stop them. Whatever our sentiments, this is the best deal to be made, and to those who feel otherwise, what part of the math don't you understand?

Ricky Bird

No True Minority Voice

Dear Chronicle,

As one long-term minority member of the Austin community, I support Jim Harrington's observation that The Austin Chronicle has limited resonance for Austin's minority communities ["Postmarks: Exploiting Sophia King," June 28].

It's one thing to pick up a paper. It's another thing to see your community reflected in it. Most of the Chronicle's advertisements are targeted toward the white middle class, and much of your reporting on the Eastside falls into a kind of "whodunit" template that makes for an absorbing 15-minute mystery read in West Lake.

A longstanding report from the community is also different -- not better, different -- from dipping across the color line to report on the latest good taco. The Chronicle does little but sustain the idea that bad things, or novel new funky things, come from the east side of town.

The Chronicle is run by people who came to Austin in the Seventies and Eighties, and worked hard to establish a counter-cultural voice. Most of these good people happen to be liberal-leaning and white. A significant amount of the culture the Chronicle samples is minority culture. This cannot replace sustained contact in workplace and community with people of different racial backgrounds. It's a case of keeping the taco, but erasing the cook.

I wouldn't be writing this letter if I didn't read the Chronicle regularly. I'm college-educated, assimilated -- hardly the kind of person to storm the barricades. But the Chronicle is in denial as long as it thinks that all its minority readers find it resonant.

International Demographics may have told the Chronicle that over a third of your readers are minority. What they didn't tell you was how many of us find ourselves chuckling and rolling our eyes.


Vicente Lozano

Keepin' Watch Over the Springs

Dear Editor:

With Barton Springs visibly impaired and a mountain of scientific studies showing they are imperiled, I'm baffled at Mike Clark-Madison's column ["Austin@Large," July 5]. The issue here is not whether Bill Bunch or Daryl Slusher is the bigger "asshole." I'm disturbed at Clark-Madison's incessant focus on personalities instead of the real issues.

For those that care about the Springs, but don't care about the politics, please come to City Council this Thursday and next (6pm, 3700 Lake Austin Blvd.). Let's Show Our Strength!

Steve Beers

P.S. What's the deal? Stratus Corp. wants council permission to build 1 million square feet of office/retail, along with 1,930 residences. And to top it off, they want $15 million in subsidies -- your tax/utility money -- to promote their polluting developments on the aquifer.

Note to Al: Keep It On


Can we please ask Alejandro to keep his shirt and his pants zipped [June 28 cover]?

Trying to keep my lunch down,

Emma Lee

Stratus Deal Too Costly

Dear Editor:

Thanks for Amy Smith's coverage of the citizen uprising against the proposed Stratus/Austin development deal. Readers who missed the first round can attend the public hearing today at the LCRA building, 3700 Lake Austin Boulevard, across from the Hula Hut.

Ms. Smith mentioned that the deal includes land immediately adjacent to the Longhorn Pipeline, which the city is opposing in federal court as a threat to neighbors and the Barton Springs Aquifer. We don't understand how the city can argue in one forum that the conversion of the pipeline to gasoline delivery is dangerous and, at the same time, sponsor zoning changes, subsidize with taxpayer funds, and approve development of hundreds of apartments immediately adjacent to the line. If there is an explosion or fire, will the city be held responsible for knowingly placing residents in harm's way?

The city is aware that a second pipeline near the Longhorn line and also crossing Stratus land, is looking to convert from delivery of crude oil to gasoline. Yet the proposed deal has no provisions for additional setbacks from this line either. While the federal courts have told the city it cannot regulate the Longhorn line, the city has full authority to limit new development next to the line. How many other development proposals are now pending that would place more Austin residents adjacent to these lines?

These are just a few of the many questions about the proposed Stratus deal that don't have very good answers.

Given these questions, the slow economy, too much pollution in Barton Springs, the tight city budget, and 28 neighborhood and environmental groups requesting planning first before any zoning changes that increase traffic, it's hard to understand why the city insists on a deal that costs so much.


Bill Bunch

Save Our Springs Alliance

Don't Slush the Messenger


It was a sad Thursday last week that saw a City Council and staff that care deeply about environmental preservation pitted in heated battle against local environmental activists, while the soulless scum who have already colonized the sacred lands above the aquifer and greedy sprawl developers sat on the sidelines and chortled gleefully. I don't really care what groundwater polluter Kevin O'Duire of the Village of Western Oaks neighborhood has to say about the Stratus deal (since he and his neighbors are precisely the problem), and I was shocked when other environmentalists actually booed Daryl Slusher for letting O'Duire have it with both barrels in pointing out that the residents of the Village of Western Oaks could be doing a lot more to prevent the contamination of Barton Springs themselves, and, in particular, are directly responsible for many of the contaminants found in the springs today. Folks, booing Slusher -- especially under these circumstances -- is like shooting your best friend in the back because you're depressed about not having enough friends. Let us not forget the words of a Greek writer of 2,600 years ago: "My sons, if you are of one mind, and unite to assist each other, you will be as this faggot, uninjured by all the attempts of your enemies; but if you are divided among yourselves, you will be broken as easily as these sticks."

Patrick Goetz

One Goal, Different Methods

Dear Editor:

According to self-declared "lesbian-vampire-misfit-what-have-you" my letter ("Self-Control and Maturity," "Postmarks," June 21) is nothing more than homophobic rhetoric. This assertion might stick if she could thoughtfully contradict at least some of my points rather than resort to name-calling (count them all in "Gay Prude," "Postmarks," July 5).

How is policing lewdness at public events marginalizing people like her? This is about problem behaviors, not people. Dykes, queens, and everybody else come with their clothing on and dildos left at home. Apparently she accepts no responsibility if her actions embarrass others or hurt our cause. This inability (or refusal?) to distinguish between actions and identity must be nice. Gee, officer, this is just who I am!

Or maybe "heteronormative" folks like me just don't get it. Actually I have spent enough time in progressive countries to understand how gay people elsewhere achieved full equality by responsible behavior. Extremism here only exists because a history of oppression has created it. Nudity and lewdness as a public statement only fuels discrimination which in turn fuels the same old in-your-face responses. This self-feeding loop, active in every cultural conflict, can only be broken when those responsible for counterproductive behaviors are taken to task. Of course they howl in protest.

One woman's capitulation is another man's step toward equality. Oddly enough we both seem to need each other. I too need to be taken to task and called "self-hating fag" if it keeps me from advocating the total rejection of our wonderfully diverse gay subculture in the name of equal rights. But until I actually say that (and I don't believe I did), reread my letters Ms. "lesbian-vampire-misfit-what-have-you." It is about progress and the sacrifices we sometimes have to make.


Eric Chiles

Austin, the Dream is Over


After reading Patricia Bittinger's letter in the June 28 edition ["Postmarks," "We're Outta Here] I felt that I had to write and say she's right, things here just aren't the same as they once were.

I moved here in the Seventies chasing the call of great music and wild times, and the town is certainly not what it was back then. I miss what it was and I wish it would come back. But it's not.

I also spent some time then living in Temple, Texas, and when I go back there it's not the same either, and I wish that would come back, too.

I would imagine there are people in Hawaii who can remember when their islands were much better, cleaner places before people started escaping to there instead of working to make their own homes better, but I'll probably never know.

Adios and good luck to you. Drop us a line from paradise when you get a chance. I imagine we'll still be here doing what we can for the town we love, warts and all.

The earth rolls on,

Jim Vest

Hyde Park

Pedestrian Rights

Dear Editor:

If Austin wants to promote clean energy, a good first step would be to stop waging war against pedestrians.

In Austin's residential neighborhoods, including Hyde Park, homeowners landscape their yards all the way to the street, blocking the pedestrian right-of-way with bushes, fences, and cacti. Then they park cars right at the curb. A person moving around on foot, using the cleanest energy in town, is forced into the middle of the street, easy prey for any car that may come zooming around a corner. This is probably one reason parents don't let their children walk to school anymore.

I believe that there is actually a city ordinance requiring that a place for people to walk be kept open in the pedestrian right-of-way (which extends 10 feet from the curb on most streets). If so, this ordinance needs to be better known and enforced.

Most people are much too nice to do this sort of thing intentionally. They just don't notice. The pervasive car culture skews people's perceptions.

We humans are built so that we can walk or bicycle all day long. Self-propulsion under one's own steam (clean energy) is extremely enjoyable. It's how we were designed to move, and it doesn't poison the air or require that more and more land be turned into highways and parking lots.

People used to walk 20 to 40 miles in a day, if they were going somewhere. They enjoyed it, too. It's not so easy now, not because of distance but because of human-built barriers such as highways.

Please, in the name of humanity or of clean energy, let's stop waging war against pedestrians.

Yours truly,

Amy Babich

Clean Energy Does Exist


This is a rebuttal to the July 5 letter titled "Clean Energy Doesn't Exist" by Carl T. Swanson. My Toyota Prius averages about 50 miles per gallon between fill-ups at 500-mile intervals of in-city driving. This hybrid electric car seats five people and is presently available at several Toyota dealerships here in Austin. Its top speed is over 100 miles per hour and its range is about 600 miles per tank of gas. Extremely long-life white LED bulbs of 100,000 hours or more are currently available in flashlights. The LED bulbs are very efficient. Also, look for them here in Austin on stoplights, gas pumps, and bus taillights. I use a solar panel 4 feet by 1.5 feet and a solar voltage regulator to keep two large deep cycle gel cells on my 33-foot sailboat fully charged. This system runs all the electronics plus an electric winch that lifts an 1,800-lb. retractable keel. No other sources of electric power are used. It has been a completely maintenance-free electrical system for several years.

Dr Eugene G. Preston

Film Is Dead

Dear Editor,

Video will not kill the celluloid star any more than CDs have killed the rock star ["Will Video Kill the Celluloid Star?" June 21]. These digital mediums can lack the "warmth" of their analog predecessors because our eyes and ears are accustomed to the "grit" of film and analog tape. As with a CD, the "grit" doesn't have to go, if that's what you want. Some CDs are still sourced using analog tape and then mastered digitally or simply "warmed-up" in various ways such as using old-fashioned tube microphones and other tricks. The bottom line is that with the technological advances of our age, the right production and gear, we can and will have both warmth and crystalline clarity be it "film" or "records." Video is evolving, film is not.

I haven't rented a VHS tape in months, and the last time I spun some vinyl, Sting was still with the Police.

Mr. Edwards' comments on HD echo back to the first days of the CD when he espouses on HD's virtues as being "simply, incredible images with crystal clarity" to say nothing of its ease of use.

True, video never really killed the radio star. But let's not fool ourselves. Video is not radio, and movies are not records. A more analogous equation is in order: Do you want to hear your favorite song on AM radio, or FM? HD will, without a doubt, replace film as surely as the CD has ousted vinyl. Oh, film will survive a while, I suspect, and in some not-too-distant future, certain directors may choose to endure the labor-intensive and expensive, comparative nightmare that is the film shot on film (transferring it to video of course as to be viewed in a theatre). Most will not notice or even care, invoking the same reaction you and I have now, when a rock star of today gushes, "Dude, we're going to release this one on vinyl!"


Mark O'Brien

Ballet East Dance Theatre Deserves Funding


As a longtime resident of Austin and a person that enjoys the diverse arts in this bubbling progressive city, I was totally baffled and angried by the ranking and the final recommendation of the Austin Arts Commission concerning Ballet East Dance Theatre 2002-03 funding. My understanding is that the chairperson of the dance panel has not appreciated the tireless work Mr. Mendez and his company does, for many years, in the Eastside Community and the community at-large. The dance panel chairperson attitude, that Hispanics do not belong in the modern dance field, needs a reality check. Hispanics in the modern dance arena have accomplished incredible success, nationally and internationally: Max Luna, Elizabeth Rojas, Jorge de la Pena, Julio Bocca, Jose Limon, Raul Torres, Rudy Perez, Chika Rivera, Rita Moreno, Evelyn Cisneros, Gustavo Veiga, Alicia Alonzo, Fernando Bujones, Paloma Herrera, Luis Falco, Juan Flores, Jose Manuel Carrerno, Rodolfo Mendez, Toni Bravo, and many others. The dance panel chairperson needs, "a time check" this is the new millennium, come join the Party.

Jesse Ramirez

Learn How to Drive, Austin

Dear Editor,

Last month, two bicyclists I know got hit by cars, and during last weekend's downpour. I myself was almost hit twice by negligent drivers.

Besides polluting our air and water, depleting our natural resources, supporting terrorism, and knocking people off their bikes, cars are out there running into each other and killing folks everyday. And what's behind all this genocidal terror? Lack of common concern. People get behind the wheel of a car knowing full well that they're contributing to making our world a dirtier, louder, more stressful place, and yet, despite the obvious gravity of their actions, most drivers don't bother to take their lives, or anyone else's life, serious enough to at least follow the goddamn rules of driving.

The Chronicle prints a weekly column on how to fix one's car -- how about some articles on how to drive it? Or maybe instead of printing The Austin Chronicle and the date at the bottom of every single page, y'all could replace half of them with driving tips like: stopping at stop signs, not drinking and driving, using turn signals, etc., you know, the really obscure ones that people are always forgetting.

Drivers: Driving is a lifestyle addiction, it may seem normal or cool now, just like cigarettes 50 years ago, but it is harmful; please at least be cautious and aware as you abuse yourself, your environment, and your neighbors.

And please stop driving/parking in the goddamn bike lanes.


Jeremy Ellis

Whither Accountability?


I applaud Michael Ventura's column "Squeaks in the Din" ["Letters at 3AM," June 28], and wonder what has become of the Americans who have always insisted on accountability from their representatives, especially from the president. George W. Bush took a solemn oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, yet those liberties and freedoms have slowly but surely eroded since he took office and no one dares protest. What will we allow this administration to take from us next, and who will have the courage to protest its loss? What newspaper will have the courage to report it before page 20? I for one say that the actions of the president must be answerable to the people, and the Constitution must be protected at all costs.

Squeaking away,

David DuBose

Bill Hicks Statue

Dear Editor,

I enthusiastically second Shelly Tumbleson's idea of a Bill Hicks statue on Town Lake as a reminder of what Austin stands for ["Austin at a Crossroads," "Postmarks," June 28]. I can't think of a better role model for the no-BS attitude of our weird and creative town, with his well-worded oratories on non-subservience to corporate schlock and flambéing of any and all inane attempts to criminalize harmless individuality.

Most Sincerely,

Andy Mitchell

More Arthouse Please


I was both encouraged and depressed to read an article in The New York Times the other day (Arts section, July 4) about an apparent resurgence in arthouse film theatres in the U.S. According to the article, cities like Denver, Albuquerque, San Diego, Dallas, and Boulder are opening numerous new screens that will show independent and foreign films and documentaries. Landmark Theatres, which operates the Dobie here in Austin, is a big player in this trend.

How depressing then that Austin, a city that misses no opportunity to call itself a film mecca, seems to be heading in the opposite direction. Regal Cinemas has apparently abandoned efforts to replace the late, lamented Arbor theatre and now is farming out our meager diet of non-blockbuster showings to the poorly located Westgate. The Dobie, while filling its four screens with interesting alternatives, is too small to carry the load alone.

What about the long-shuttered Great Hills Cinema in North Austin, just a block away from the Arboretum, where a new Cheesecake Factory is soon going to be packing them in (in more ways than one) where the Arbor used to be? Eight screens and a great location, surrounded by retail and restaurants, just waiting for an exhibitor to step in and restore some of Austin's sense of film self-importance. Last spring the Chronicle reported rumors of exhibitors like Landmark, Magnolia, and Madstone duking it out for the rights to this primo site, but so far the place is still dark.

Another summer of digital aliens, slow-motion fireballs, and brain-dead cartoons of both the animated and live action varieties is upon us. There's a lot more to movies than this pap. Re-animate the Great Hills!

David Flaxbart

Practice What You Preach

Dear Editor:

I greatly appreciated the Doug Potter drawing and the comments about the fanatical religious and patriotic reactions to the ruling about omitting "God" from the Pledge [July 5]. The politicians who rushed to the Capitol steps should be ashamed of themselves for preaching separation of church and state but not practicing it. Even those who have been questioning the whole idea of requiring schoolchildren to daily recite the pledge succumbed to peer pressure and the opportunity for political posturing. They want to keep us stuck in the Cold War when Americans were told that our Christian God made us more godlike than other countries. I don't believe these politicians are capable of showing a sincere commitment to compassion and secularism; it seems that the more money and power one has, the less humane and rational he becomes. This hierarchical society not only continues to perpetuate tremendous amounts of inequalities and injustices, but also discourages us from looking at life more philosophically or from giving dissenting opinions. Saying this pledge to the U.S. flag (symbol of supernationalism and imperialism) continues to be used as a tool of social control. We need to stop mindlessly performing such daily rituals and following our "leaders" like a flock of sheep.

Anita Quintanilla

'Under God' is Exclusive

Dear Editor:

The original Pledge of Allegiance was meant to unify the people of this country around the idea of an indivisible republic where there is "liberty and justice for all." The current pledge, with its 1954 "under God" amendment, does just the opposite. It separates the people according to the number of gods they believe in. Atheist and polytheist are not able, in good conscience, to pledge allegiance to the flag, the republic for which it stands, or the ideas that it represents.

Even if the overwhelming majority believe in God that is no reason to make that belief a requirement for being a true American. There are many good citizens who fully support the ideas represented by our flag and country and not all of them are monotheist. Some are Buddist or Hindu. Others are Jewish or Moslem. A few are Atheist and Pagan. Many are Christian. Religious belief is not a prerequisite for citizenship and it shouldn't be for patriotism.

Why would we want to exclude anyone from the good ideas represented by this country? This can be a place were all of us are not only guaranteed the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" but also a place where we can voice our support of those rights in the public ritual of the Pledge of Allegiance. Let this be a country of inclusion rather than exclusion.

Bill Foster

In Search of L.S. Penny


Hi, I am Karl Edmondson and live in the northeast of England. I am writing this e-mail in hope you might be able to help me. At present I am restoring a d/h Vampire T11xd602 which was the Royal Air Force's first two-seat jet trainer. In September 1961 a student pilot, L.S. Penny, aged 21, took off from R.A.F. Cranwell in Lincolnshire on a training flight. During this flight he overstressed the aircraft (he bent the wings), and on landing the aircraft was written off, which is how 30 years later I got to own it. He later went on to retire as a wing commander in the R.A.F. Records indicate his last address was in Austin. All my efforts to trace him from this side of the pond have failed. Can you help? I would like to talk to him to fill in a bit more of the history of xd602.

Many thanks,

Karl Edmondson

Texas vs. the Colorado


Why is it OK for an agency of the state of Texas to permit the uncontrolled dumping of toxins and carcinogens into the Colorado River? What makes it impolite to talk about the poisoning of Texans, but somehow not impolite to do it?

Lee Dustman

Church & State Need Divorce


In 1954, "under God" included Protestants, Catholics, and Jews, when those three choices pretty much exhausted the religious possibilities in America.

Also, the U.S. was in the beginning of the Cold War, and the phrase was meant to distinguish our country from those "godless Communists."

Today, the national and international pictures have changed dramatically. Back then our menu included only two of the Western religions (Muslims were almost unknown here then). Today it includes all Eastern religions too, as well as many secular options more ethical than, say, abusive priests.

Some Eastern religions, like Hinduism, have lots of gods. Others, like Buddhism and Taoism, have no gods at all. To pretend that all these American religions can be seen as "under God" is now both ignorant and uncivil, excluding the faith of millions of non-theistic Americans who are as religious as anyone else.

But the most important revelation of September 2001 was seeing that the social and political agenda of all fundamentalists is nearly identical, and equally threatening to the American way of life. Remember, Falwell and Robertson echoed the same hate list as the Taliban, and wanted the same freedoms canceled.

The marriage of nationalism and religion brings out the worst in both. But we must also cringe at letting our government get its hands on powerful religious symbols. When they do, politicians write the script and assign God his obedient part. A deity that's only allowed to "bless America" isn't a real God, but a political hand puppet.

Sept. 11 taught us that linking religion to the power of the state leads to terror and evil, not good. Honest faith can stand on its own. The other kind shouldn't be subsidized anyway.

Rev. Davidson Loehr, Ph.D.

First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin

The Pledge of Allegiance Dispute


Why is absolutely no one talking about the fact that the words "under God" were a McCarthy-era addition to the Pledge of Allegiance, made after lobbying efforts by a right-wing religious group? Doesn't the fact that this was enacted by a Congress scared out of its wits that someone, somewhere might point a finger and say the word "communist" tell anyone anything about it? The Statesman's editorial board ignored this, treating the pledge as though it were a pristine, untouched original.

When the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, the sticking point it addressed was only this two-word add-on to the original pledge. So rather than political chest thumping and threats to alter the Constitution, for the sake of our Constitutionally guaranteed separation of church and state, why not simply remove those two words?

It was good enough for our grandparents.

Jonathan Lyons

Welcome to the Drag

To Whom:

When a business opens its doors at the former Hole in the Wall location, I'm gonna get up early, grab the paper, stroll on in, drop my drawers and take a mighty, steaming shit on their floor. Welcome to the Drag, fuckhead. Enjoy your karma.

Turd-A-Brewinly Yours,

Justin B. Andrews

'Chron' Listing has Dramatic Result


In the last two issues you listed our performances of Book of Murder/Just Desserts at the Gaslight Theater. As I am sure you know, this listing, just a few lines, had a dramatic, positive effect on our attendance. About one-third of our audience volunteered seeing the listing in the Chronicle. Most likely others attended because they saw the listing as well. As a struggling theatre located well outside of Austin, we depend on you. Thank you most sincerely.

Tim Bjerke

Advertising Director

Gaslight Theater


Cops for Rose


Patrick Rose has integrity, common sense, and is dedicated to public safety. Because of these qualities, the San Marcos Police Officers' Association is proud to endorse the candidacy of Patrick Rose for state representative, District 45. As law enforcement professionals, we know that character counts and we feel that Patrick Rose's principles will best represent the interests and values of the citizens of our district.


Wade Parham


San Marcos Police Officers' Association

A Libertarian Education


Independence Day is meant to remind us of what made our country unique; a nation founded on liberty. Although we remain a symbol of liberty to the world, our freedom has eroded in many ways.

For example, consider the role of parents and teachers in education. Are they the ones in control? Does a teacher have the ability to use their talent and training to their best? Is a teacher fairly compensated for this talent and training? Do parents have control over what their child is taught? Does a parent have a fair choice regarding who will teach their child?

The evidence says no to all the above. Politicians in state and federal government take more control away from parents and teachers every day. Teachers are regulated to death, and are forced to yield class time to mandated tests imposed by politicians. Schools cannot attract enough teachers because of poor compensation. Every day, decisions are being made in courtrooms regarding whether God, butter knives, uniforms, and sex-ed are allowed in schools. When these court decisions conflict with a parents' wishes, the only recourse is to spend additional money and effort to move to a different school district, pay a tuition to a private school, or home school; hardly a fair choice.

Despite the Supreme Court ruling on vouchers, this decision alone does not unchain parents and teachers. We are still controlled by a bureaucracy that will continue to operate as-is until we change legislation. It takes the right people in office to push through the changes necessary to make choice a reality. This November, take an act of political courage, and put people in office who will restore liberty; vote Libertarian!

Yours in Liberty,

Patrick J. Dixon


Travis County Libertarian Party

Constitution Crisis

Dear Editor:

It is good that our federal and local governments are taking steps to prevent another terrorist attack. However, our civil liberties are slowly being taken away in the name of security. Our government should not have the power to hold military tribunals where defendants who are U.S. citizens cannot appeal decisions to a civilian court. Our government should not have the power to hold military tribunals that can be held in secret. Our government should not be holding the alleged "dirty bomb" suspect in custody for an indefinite amount of time, with the possibility of no trial in court. Especially as a U.S. citizen, as it is unconstitutional. And he shouldn't even be considered for prosecution under the military tribunal, the military tribunal that supposedly will not try U.S. citizens. The federal government has given an enormous amount of power to itself, the military, the FBI, the CIA, etc., since September 11. Yes, we need to try our best to prevent another attack. But this does not mean we should lose our heads and throw the Constitution out the window. And we should not throw out our system of checks and balances either. But I see this happening as the government wants more accountability. If ever there was a time to uphold the Constitution, it is now. Our government already doesn't seem to be too concerned about staying within the limits of the Constitution. That is a very dangerous situation. I hate to think right now about where our country will be in five, 10, 20 years. I urge those of you readers who agree with me to be courageous and be the dissenting voice that we need right now and stand up for our rights, for what is right.


Chelsea Rivera

Another Cover-Up


Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) has introduced a bill for a congressional probe of the Israeli attack on a U.S. surveillance ship in international waters on June 8, 1967. Israel claimed it was an accident, but survivors describe it as a deliberate attempt to sink the ship and kill all aboard.

McKinney said that "for over 75 minutes the Israeli forces attacked ... killing 34 Americans and wounding 172 ... with over 55% of the crew dead or wounded, they somehow managed to keep the ship afloat after being hit by over 1,000 rounds of rocket, cannon, machine gun, napalm, and torpedo hits."

For over 35 years Israel, the U.S. government, and the media have covered-up the story and Americans have not been informed. But now a documentary video, Loss of Liberty, tells the story and is available to veterans groups and individuals for $25 on the Internet.

Jewel R. Johnson

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