Our readers talk back.
'Second Shot' Unprofessional
Dear Michael [King]:
Back in the days when I was a columnist, there was a rule that everyone got one shot. I wrote a column, and the responses came in. I didn't get a second shot. That, from asking around on Friday, seems to be the general rule still, though not with the Chronicle. You all have the power of the print, and can reach any number of people. So, making sure you always get the last word seems to show a lack of basic fairness about the process, which is where professionalism comes in. As much as I have dealt with the Statesman, they honor that principle.
Apart from the personal attack you launched in your response["Postmarks," Aug. 9], it has one grievous factual inaccuracy and other factual inaccuracies that I call upon you to correct, and apologize for, immediately.
The most grievous fact error is this: "Unlike Lomax or our readers, Harrington announced the next day he already knew what happened -- he did not need to talk to people who were actually there."
This is totally false. Within hours of Sophia King's death, the family came to see me, and I went to the scene, along with six other persons (another lawyer and the rest law clerks) and personally interviewed every witness there whom we could find (one of whom turned out to be someone I know from my church). I was there from 2pm to after 6pm. I interviewed two eyewitnesses in Spanish, as well. Altogether, I estimate (I don't have my notes here at home) we interviewed close to 20 people. I can recall talking to 11 myself. To a person, each one said Sophia had no knife in her hand when she was shot. So, your statement is false, and must be retracted, with the appropriate apology.
Even more bizarre is that the Chronicle published an article last month June 21 ("Blame Abounds in King Shooting") that makes it pretty clear I had talked with witnesses before filing suit. Did you not read it? And, of course, you can always verify facts by calling before representing something as true, which you did not do.
More errors: "And he was in such a hurry to sue that he filed a ready-made brief that includes as named parties Austin police officers who weren't even at the scene."
We did incorrectly refer to other officers in the body of the petition (not a "ready-made brief," as you say). And we were in a hurry ... not to file suit for the sake of filing the suit, but we had to get an emergency order from the judge by 5pm on Friday to prevent the destruction of evidence. It is true that I made errors in drafting the pleading ... probably no more than the Chronicle has made from time to time, working under a tight deadline. And we have moved to correct those errors.
We learned information that Friday afternoon that led us to think that some evidence would disappear (or had disappeared), and we rushed to get to the courthouse. But you make it sound like incompetence, rather than just the opposite ("We hope that Jim Harrington is a better lawyer than he is a reader."). After all, we did get the emergency order and served it on everyone, including the named defendants, within hours. I think any jury would go with me on this point, and against you.
Nor was there any "ready-made brief" filed either. No brief was filed. But you're wrong even as to the petition. This is the first time in my 29 years as a lawyer that we filed a case like we did. Totally different from anything else. And I'll wager $100 you cannot find anything like it that has ever filed in Travis County against the city. It was creative (and successful) lawyering ... to get the order and try to avert removal to federal court where our chances are slim to nonexistent.
Another example of ill will on your part: "After attacking reporter Lucius Lomax for supposed inaccuracies, he identifies none, and then spends most of his letter agreeing with the substance and thrust of the article, including the fact that there are disputed accounts of what happened the morning of Sophia King's death."
My letter was rather clear that I agreed with the underlying thrust of the article about the police, sheriff's department, and mental health treatment. I disagreed with the lack of balance and failure to say anything good about Sophia's life, and how what was bad submerged the important part of Lomax's article.
More to the point of your personal animosity is that I did not complain about (let alone "attack") at all any "inaccuracies," as you put it ... not once, but about the lack of balance. In fact, that is how the letter was headlined ... "No Attempt at Balance." Where did you come up with the attack for inaccuracies?
Another factual error is that I "accuse anyone who disagrees with [me] of evil motives or unprofessionalism." That's just nonsense. I didn't accuse Lomax of unprofessionalism at all, let alone evil motives. Get serious. Nor have I ever accused anyone who disagrees with me of having evil motives. Not once. If I did so, I would be condemning my own parents. Plenty of people disagree with me, and vice versa, but I have yet to ascribe to anyone to be motivated by evil. Disagreement is part and parcel of democracy. I challenge you to name one instance where that has happened. And, if your comment is factually accurate, you will already have that information in hand.
It's clear what has got in the way here are your own personal animosities, which cause factual misstatements and lack of good judgment. Professionalism requires writing accurately without personal animosities and bias in the way, or coloring what is written.
I trust the Chronicle will make the proper corrections, and apologies. If it doesn't, I'll have to consider the next step, which I have done once before in my life, and successfully. I have enormous respect for the First Amendment, but if it comes down to the personal attack you launched and the lack of accurate factual data, then I will seriously consider the courts as an alternative. Your reply was insulting and flat wrong. I cannot leave unchallenged the kind of attack you foisted on my integrity. You can attack my views all you want and call me names, but not attack my integrity.
Any jury, I expect, would find you did not exercise proper judgment in laying out the facts as wrongly as you did. And your response itself clearly exhibits on its face the kind of malice and careless disregard of the truth that removes your First Amendment protection.
I trust that you will take this demand for retraction and apology with the sense of seriousness that I lay it on the table, as well as my seriousness in taking the next step should that not be forthcoming.
Let's set the next issue of the Chronicle, the one this week for the retraction and apology. I regret we are at this point, but your response went well over any legitimate bounds.
James C. Harrington
P.S. And doing the physician comment at the end of your response was rather trite, but, in this context, maybe the proper rejoinder is "if the physician shoe fits, you wear it." Your personal venom got the better of you.
Michael King replies:
I apologize for writing that Jim Harrington "did not need to talk to people who were actually there." I incorrectly came to that conclusion from Harrington's statement to Jordan Smith ("Blame Abounds in King Shooting," June 21): "There is not one person in that whole complex that will say anything other than '[King] didn't have a knife'" -- when in fact, the only direct eyewitness Lucius Lomax found said she did have a knife. I should have called Harrington and asked him directly.
I don't know Jim Harrington well, but we have had friendly conversations over the years, and I bear him no ill will.
Where Have All the Fish and Magic Gone?
I spent my high school days (1979-83) in the pristine waters of Barton Springs and Barton Creek. We skinny-dipped, camped, lost our virginity, danced in and around the fire, cried our adolescent pity parties, "experimented" with drugs, and found ourselves in the healing waters. We had several annual reunions at Sculpture Falls after graduation, and each year the degradation of our nature became more depressing after the development of the Barton Creek subdivision and golf course. All the fish and magic were gone. The stones carved by the creek's ancient history were covered in slime and algae. Walking in the water became treacherous.
Our 20th reunion was scheduled for June '03 at Barton Springs. I had not been to the Barton Springs in 17 years until I took my 5-year-old son in June to map our party. We walked to the edge and he saw the algae plumes and said, "Dad, there are turds floating in there with green hairs. I'm not going in there."
How do we tell our kids what happened?
Robert E. Donohue Jr.
Council Can't 'Get' It
We saw last night [Thursday, Aug. 1] that our City Council, save one, still doesn't "get" the Stratus Deal problem.
Environment isn't the key point in this deal; it's who has a voice in local government. Evidently, those with money do. Our leaders voted in fear of those who have money. The reason why my neighborhood, though we abut the highest-density tract atop dangerous pipelines, never got in on the deal is because we simply don't have the dollar clout. We have been ignored, threatened, and mocked by both the council and Stratus for wanting nothing more than an equal place at the bargaining table.
Slusher's diatribe last night exposed the true motive as he urged citizens to privately buy out Tract 110. That completes a perfect circle of green space around the perfect, rich neighborhood of Circle C. Meanwhile, we'll pack 'em in over the next disaster area.
P.S. I will, however, miss counselor Drenner's harem.
Nickel & Dimed to Death
To the Editor
Sorry, Louis Black ["Page Two," July 26], you endorsed them, they're your City Council. Your paper routinely attacks and excoriates any but the most liberal politicians, and now the truth has come home to roost with the chickens and you're back-pedaling. Any liberal city council, or government for that matter, will always do anything and everything it can to generate tax revenues, plain and simple. Why did they endorse Stratus? Because it is going to generate tax revenues for the city to spend at some later date. Money, nothing more, nothing less. They endorsed the deal because it is going to put money in their pockets to dole out to the citizens. No other reason at all. Look at the city right now, constantly doing everything it possibly can to squeeze every last dime they can. You don't have to pay to park at Zilker unless there is a free concert because the city wants to get the $2 from as many people as they can. Economic hard times? Slow economy? Job cuts, layoffs? Unemployment up? Your hand-picked city leaders' solution? Raise taxes. $2.4 billion annual budget and they still have to raise taxes? School Superintendent Forgione just today told Austin that, guess what? They want to raise property taxes. So don't go running and hiding behind your McNamara-esque mea culpas, mis amigos. You trash anyone who challenges liberals, you endorsed them even after the Intel deal, and now you want to pretend "We had no idea they would sell out." Baloney. Your myopic political views and solutions and candidates lead to this point. If you could make money shooting salamanders at Barton Springs, you can bet your ass the City Council would approve it, if they could tax it.
Carl T. Swanson
Sophia's Story a Familiar One
On your criticism on the Statesman's implied support in favor of a Stratus deal ["Page Two," Aug. 2] -- we all know who they please, and who they hire to please, but you're not different; you're just hanging from another teat of this ailing bitch that Austin is. On Sophia King ["The Short Unhappy Life of Sophia King," Aug. 2], you clearly exposed how stupidly APD handles work they are expected to do (they just do tickets), then missed a chance to expose how foreign the inner circle in APD is, barely mentioning that Sophia's killer is from New York. As far as NAACP, I don't think they have what it takes to confront the outsider-Caucasian machine in the department, to clarify her death. Sophia herself was a better mother than her own, but she grew frustrated at the glossy picture of the American world she saw on TV, and the chances she wanted but never had, even ignoring painful abuses on herself for the love of her children. Where are those successful blacks? Where are them preachers? And her father?
South of the Borders
Here's an idea that could revitalize Downtown: Waterloo Records and BookPeople should merge into a single company and call themselves South of the Borders Books and Music! Then they could announce a move of their corporate headquarters to "6th+Lamar," and the City Council would give them $2.2 million in fee waivers for their trouble!
Doesn't seem very likely, huh? As the Liberty Lunch Memorial Vacant Lot can attest, this council won't lift a penny to save local landmarks. No, they only shell out Austin's millions on things like the Intel carcass, or paving over the aquifer. Sure, it might have been paved over anyway, but it didn't have to be financed with our money. Austin may not be able to stop development, but it freakin' well doesn't have to help gas up the bulldozers, either.
Austin business owners, are you tired of being forced to put yourselves out of business, when the City Council hands out your tax dollars as "incentive" for corporate competitors to move in across the street from you? Why not announce your displeasure by posting banners in your stores encouraging your customers not to vote for the council members who are trying to rob you of your livelihood? If you convinced even a third of your voting customers not to re-elect people who claim to represent Austin while doling out corporate welfare to out-of-state companies, Austin might actually get a City Council that gives a damn about the city.
P.S. Y'know, it only takes two "Waterloo Records" bumper stickers to rearrange into "Screw Borders."
I want to respond to Mr. Scott Johnson ["Postmarks: Consult the Green Force, Aug. 2] who was concerned because I missed his phone call that the important issues he addressed were not considered in the building of the Nokonah. Since he commented publicly that his job is to encourage buildings that reduce waste, maintenance costs, and energy consumption and improve indoor air quality, I want to respond because we certainly did consult the very best experts on these matters. He mentions indoor air; our air system operates similarly to the type used in the "clean rooms" of the computer industry. No other residential building in the area has such a feature that I am aware of. It is a joy to breathe the air in the building. As to efficiency, the individual air conditioning heat pumps are water-based. This system allows us to actually transfer heat gained from parts of the building that do not want it to the parts that do need heat, in effect making a solar collector out of the mass of the building. Our trash chute system automatically sorts waste for recycling. I could go on, but rest assured Mr. Johnson that we worked with many experts about all these matters, knowing the people of Austin want very much to live with minimal environmental impact and with efficiency in their lives. But it is not just the Nokonah's indoor air quality that we are proud of but to the Nokonah's role in reducing air emissions because of our location. Sooner or later it will occur to us that it is madness to move 4,000 lbs. of steel every time we need to move 10 lbs. of groceries. The Chronicle has championed the idea of a compact city for good reason -- sprawl is ugly and wasteful. I hope it continues to do so. And the city staff has been nothing but cooperative. There is a growing realization that we must abandon the sprawl model of development. If you have any doubts about that, drive down Bee Caves Road around rush hour and look at the expressions on people's faces as they sit in traffic.
Traffic Tunnel Solution
Why isn't there a traffic tunnel under Lamar from Fifth to Ninth streets? Three-quarters of the traffic on Lamar isn't going to turn or access an area business, so sending one lane of traffic each way under the bottleneck (which is otherwise only going to get much worse) would double the carrying capacity of Lamar. An uninterrupted lane carries more than twice the traffic of one that has to stop half the time. If that lane doesn't have to stop at three lights (Fifth, Sixth, and Ninth) then efficiency might be tripled even with synchronized signals. Add that to the one lane which would remain above ground and we'd have about four surface lanes worth of carrying capacity each way instead of two.
If we want to get really fancy, we could even have left-turn lanes underground: southbound drivers in the 900 block of Lamar could get to eastbound Fifth without ever stopping by passing above the deeper northbound lane. Likewise, there could be a nonstop left turn from the northbound 400 block of Lamar to westbound Sixth under the southbound lane. After we re-time the lights at Fifth and Sixth to rebalance the load, the enormous East-West backups at Lamar would greatly diminish, as would exhaust emissions for the entire area.
Too expensive? The city wants to build a storm sewer tunnel of similar girth and four times as long under Waller Creek that would only be needed for a few hours each year. The Lamar traffic tunnel would be in continuous use, enhancing mobility while allowing denser downtown development.
Wouldn't the tunnel be flooded if Shoal Creek rises to the north opening? Of course, but there wouldn't be any traffic getting through on Lamar then anyway, so that question is moot. Even better, the traffic tunnel could be designed to help drain floodwater off the boulevard, which might even keep above-ground Lamar partially open when it would otherwise be completely closed due to high water. And we could get double Federal matching funds to help pay for it as both a traffic project and a drainage project.
It's Cool to Be Cool at School
Dear Mr. Black:
Thanks to Kate X Messer for her work with Griffin School students to create the back-to-school fashion spread ["Back 2 Cool," Aug. 2]. One of the included articles is titled "How to Survive This School Year in 10 Simple (Yet Fashionable!) Steps." The truth is that many young people are traumatized in their schools for doing just what this article promotes: being unique, being honest, and having fun with fashion. There is great pressure on young people to conform to the narrow social standards that exist in schools.
At the Griffin School, we are blessed with students who are creative and not afraid to assert their independence from the societal structures that seek to restrict them. As is evidenced in the pictures, many students chose to express their identity through their nontraditional appearance. In spite of the disapproving looks they get for their purple hair, dreadlocks, or dog-collar necklaces, they are confident in their values and their identity. They relate to each other and the world with intelligence and compassion. Those who are able to see beyond their tough façade are enriched by their creativity and passion. Congratulations to Iana and Brynn for being brave enough to be themselves and express their unique identities with flair (and to their parents for their support and understanding). I particularly appreciate Kate Messer for celebrating the beauty of young people's expression of themselves.
The Griffin School
Maxine Didn't Move Far Enough
"Maxine" has moved? Moved to the back of the Chronicle? Why stop there? Might as well move it out of the paper altogether. Would anyone miss it? It has been recycling the same one-note joke ever since it began. The only Chronicle comic more tiresome and stale (maybe) are the Xeroxes of Akbar and Jeff being foisted on a gullible world by Matt Groening's "Life in Hell," which once upon a time (pre-Simpsons success) was a dense and vital strip.
One of the highlights of living in Austin is the "Postmarks" section of The Austin Chronicle. I especially enjoy the attacks on one another by the environmental faithful. I say "faithful" because the fervor, basic disregard for personal rights, and the "my way is the true road" attitude taken smacks of inquisition-age Spanish Catholicism, some modern sects of Islam, and the less-tolerant branches of Protestantism. Leaps of faith abound when "Postmarks" participants determine causality of environmental degradation, exhibiting total disregard for the scientific method, yet another link to their fundamentalist brethren. The solutions proposed, if they can be called that, are the most laughable ... set no rules for development so that no development can occur. "The People" and "Democracy" are invoked in their diatribes constantly, but never seem to be the actual tool of choice for getting things done for the faithful ... judicial lawmaking is much preferred because it is easier to get a jury to vote your way than the collective wisdom of the whole of society. Fear is the basis for most fundamentalist behavior, and faith in man is considered heretical. If you take an objective look at the track record of man and technology in solving environmental problems over the last 40 years, the inescapable conclusion is that we have a lot to be proud of, not in stopping ingenuity, but by channeling it to solve by-products of population, consumption, and life expectancy growth. Calling any of these three things wrong implies a value judgment that is fiercely debatable and unenforceable. Fear of change is just fear, although it is often confused with a holy faith in a higher force, be it god or nature.
Just a Citizen
What in the hell is going on in this city? The past few Chrons have been filled with letters from losers complaining about how offended they are. "You made a reference to an Asian guy's name." "You talked about someone's sexual orientation." "Boo-fucking-hoo, I'm all upset now." Is the price of living in an enlightened town that you have to deal with these politically correct, oversensitive, whining retards? People, life is too short for this. What did you think you were reading anyway? Dr. Seuss? This is a paper for adults written in America where writers should feel free to say whatever they want even if it's going to send some Nazi into a crying fit. Grow up.
Racism & White People
Marjorie Baumgarten writes "... this paper (the Chronicle) does not endorse racist attitudes or expressions." [Chronicle, Vol.21, No.47].
Anna Hanks wrote the "A2K" party needed "Fewer ... err white people." [Chronicle, 2 Jan '00]
Those who suffer from liberal psychosis seem to feel that racist statements against white people aren't really racist baneful hypocrisy is in direct proportion to your woeful lack of credibility, "sophomoric sensibilities" not withstanding.
Weed Not 'Weird'
For Chuck Shepherd,
Have you been so hurting for "News of the Weird" that you've begun to put News of the NORML items amongst the truly sick ones as a weird contrast? I refer you to your Aug. 2 column in which you placed an item about a family in which both parents and teen children share the enjoyment of cannabis "at home rather than on the street" under your category of weirdness entitled Family Values, along with a mom who offered to have her 19-year-old daughter "do you first," and parents who chained and duct-taped their children to the furniture, and parents who charged for sex shows with their adolescent kids. Has Shepherd fallen in with the majority of the media shilling for establishment propaganda to the point of holding up for ridicule smokers of a naturally occurring plant that has never been found to be the direct cause of death, while the establishment ends the natural life of millions with imprisonment and crippling debt due to laws up held by just such attitudes as he mirrors? If the item should be anywhere in the column, it should have been under the category entitled Latest (Least) Astonishing Research. I enjoy your column in the main and point this weirdness out for your own reality check.
Live Music Capital, Not Hippie Blues Mecca
What is the deal with Austin City Limits anyway? I have lived in Austin for 22 years. In that time ACL has hosted some awesome concerts. I just have a question for Terry Lickona, et al: When was the last time you people visited and experienced the Austin music scene? In the 1970s and 80s the program showcased acts that, more or less, captured the essence of the Austin experience. In those days it featured Commander Cody, B.B. King, Roy Orbison, Little Feat, and other lesser-known acts that appeared regularly at the Armadillo WHQ and the like.
What happened? Well, the program never grew out of the hippy-dippy mentality that defined Austin in those days. Wake up Terry, it's now 2002! Austin City Limits' choice of featured acts still portray Austin as some one-track cosmic cowboy-rootsy-bluesy-Dead-Phish-Stevie Ray-wannabe town, and that characterization does an injustice to the vibrant rock music scene here. I understand that Fastball was once featured -- I have never seen this show, so maybe it only ran once. But you get the idea that those old ACL farts haven't heard anything new since Chris Isaak's debut. The upcoming outdoor festival only perpetuates the myth of Austin the Hippie Blues Mecca that shivers in the shadows of SRV. Too bad. It's clear that the program is not about Austin, but I would suggest to the geriatric ACL staffers that they visit some other Austin venues besides the Cactus, Saxon Pub, or Antone's and see what's happening out here. Either that or change the name of their little show to "Anywhere, USA City Limits," because they've done little to boost the Austin that I, and many others, love.
Don't Vote Owen
Texas voters did not listen to the Chronicle's first warning that Priscilla Owen would wreak havoc on the Texas Supreme Court. To redeem ourselves, we must help keep the conservative activist from getting the promotion Bush and Karl Rove have plotted. After all, Owen used her seven years in Texas to rule against clean-water standards, victims of discrimination, reproductive rights, and injured plaintiffs.
Owen tried to allow a developer -- and campaign donor -- to bypass Austin's water-quality laws. Even a majority of the Texas Court thought this was crazy, referring to her dissent as "nothing more than inflammatory rhetoric."
Owen tried to rewrite a key Texas civil rights law to make it much more difficult for employees to prove any kind of discrimination.
Owen continually tried at every given opportunity to rewrite Texas abortion laws to restrict a woman's right to choose. Owen's former colleague, Alberto Gonzales, was right on when he labeled this "an unconscionable act of judicial activism."
And, the best for last, Owen tried to take away money awarded to a paralyzed woman's family after the woman was ejected through a car's sun roof.
Who has Owen ruled for? Political contributors mainly, and they are lining up with their right-wing friends to ensure her confirmation. They could win. Some Democrats recently voted to confirm another reactionary judge because his home state seemed supportive. Let's make sure that the Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee know that Austinites don't want Owen on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Bush's Dirty Laundry
Michael King's useful reminder of George W. Bush's personal responsibility for the University of Texas Investment Management Co. (UTIMCO) scandal ["Capitol Chronicle," Aug. 2] omitted a fundamental Bush link to the scandal (in which lucrative contracts to invest more than $450 million of UT's endowment went to cronies of Bush and ex-Regent Tom Hicks).
Big campaign donors whom then-Gov. Bush appointed as UT or A&M Regents have dominated UTIMCO's nine-member board. Bush-appointed regents who have
sat on UTIMCO's board include:
Following this $343,106 money trail, the UTIMCO scandal is inseparable from Bush's top donor-appointees. There's just no passing the buck on this one.
Texans for Public Justice
Make Friends With the Unbearable Silence
Re: Letters @ 3AM (Ghosts of the Living) (Aug. 9)
Unbelief by anyone regarding an idea(l), a truth, or a system/set of beliefs in no way renders them untrue. There are no secrets or mysteries to the universe, only knowledge which has yet to be remembered.
It has become increasingly difficult to ascertain the true(?) meaning behind Mr. Ventura's mellifluous prose; arguably more difficult when crashing headlong into ubiquitous passages cobbled together with multivalent royal plurals. Context-wise, this essay is timely and nicely juxtaposed between peripatetic cacophony of a city torn asunder and the din of the summer concert tour explosion, neither of which are worth much anymore save in the form of cash money.
Mr. Ventura has yet to transmute "unbearable silence" into higher form. A form which enables someone to quiet the psyche in any given situation. Lamentably, it does nothing to alleviate loneliness resulting from our collective decision to assume human form. You have to make friends with it, somehow. The essential silence, however, is what connects me to the source of my core being. Without it I would surely slip over the edge into a realm I would rather not exist in.
The "unanswered longing" emerges resultant of leaving our true home, a place of such ecstasy that the unbearable longing to return should not be disconcerting to anyone. Alas, we fill our days and our bodies with woefully lacking substitutes (conspicuously absent from Michael's list were sex and food), in a thinly veiled attempt to "take the edge off" the longing.
Sensual creatures we designed ourselves to be, many cross the line of sufficiency into the world of excess, refusing to entertain the slightest notion of discipline to return to a steady state. It is extremely difficult to achieve a modicum of spiritual evolution while firmly ensconced in this milieu. Without spiritual evolution we are certain to live our days sleepwalking in a tortured "waking dream," accomplishing little, all the while remaining a ghost haunting our own lives.
High atop the misty mountain,
J D Richardson
Pessimistic truisms/prophecies paraphrased from the National Review:
Most people will live and die in poverty. Quality health care for everyone is impossible. Pop culture will continue its downward spiral. The ecosystem is collapsing. Applied science is stagnating. No ethnic group can be superior at all things; therefore affirmative action is essential. Socialism is popular and conservatism is dead. Illegal aliens will continue to stream into the U.S. unimpeded. China will prosper without human rights and Taiwan will be reunited with the Motherland. Something unspeakable is about to happen in the Middle East. The U.S. Constitution will be disposed of in the war on terrorism. Justice is passe.
Transcribed by Kenney C. Kennedy
I Pledge Allegiance to the Pledge
Dear Austin Chronicle:
Hello, I am a 37-year-old mother of two daughters and two stepdaughters. Their ages are 10, 11, and two 13-year-olds. My children have been extremely upset with the recent ruling on the Pledge of Allegiance. This is not just something that they learn to repeat, it is part of their core beliefs.
To put into words the stream of emotions and fear that this ruling has evoked in my family would be hard. Please, please take time to pass on to the powers that be that Americans need to be proud to be Americans and our pledge is a key part in that pride. Please don't allow my children, myself, or future generations to lose the wonderful feeling of saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
God Bless America,
Roxy Farrell -- 11
Austin Sanders -- 13
Dani Mendeke -- 13
Shelby Mendeke -- 10
'USS Liberty': Investigating Israel
Israel's claim that the killing of the women and children in the rocket attack on the Palestinian home was an accident is a replay of another Israeli story more than 30 years ago, which a member of Congress is resurrecting.
Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) has introduced a bill calling for a congressional probe of the Israeli attack on a U.S. surveillance ship, USS Liberty, in international waters on June 8, 1967. Israel claimed that 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 percent 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 more than 35 years Israel, the U.S. government, and the media have covered up the story. But recently, the ship's survivors and peace activists have produced a documentary video, Loss of Liberty. It tells the story and is available on the Internet.
Jewel R. Johnson