Our readers talk back.
While I found the August 30 article "Read the Fine Print" by Emily Pyle to be of interest, I am quite confused why the last paragraph would be included by the author and the editor.
In that single paragraph, Ms. Pyle reports that HB 1862 was "an arbitration reform bill authored ... by state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte." The bill sought, the paragraph continues, to ban biased arbitrators, to give judges discretion to void arbitration decisions in certain cases, and to allow class arbitrations. Further, the paragraph states, the bill would have prohibited HMOs from requiring binding arbitration prior to a dispute arising, and that the final disposition of the bill was a veto from the governor.
The article is correct on only those final two points: The bill would have stopped HMOs from requiring binding arbitration in contracts or otherwise prior to a dispute, and the bill was vetoed by the governor.
As for the rest of the paragraph, there are serious errors. First, the bill was not an arbitration reform bill, but rather a managed care prompt-pay reform bill. Second, Sen. Van de Putte was not the author of the bill, but rather the Senate sponsor; to be sure, she has not authored a house bill since she was elected to the Senate. Rep. Craig Eiland of Galveston authored the bill. And third, fourth, and fifth, the bill would not have banned certain arbitrators, granted judicial discretion, or opened arbitration up to class actions. No version of the bill -- nor any officially filed amendments -- contained such provisions.
I would hope that the Chronicle, or any media outlet for that matter, would be more circumspect when reporting on issues so important to the public. Such errors can only serve to discredit the remainder of a report, whether it is accurate or not.
Michael S. Duncan,
Texas Ophthalmological Association
Stratus Speaks, Again
Dear Mr. Black:
Amy Smith's response to my letter to you indicates that she called me the week before the council's third reading vote Aug. 1 on our Circle C development ["Postmarks," Aug. 30]. While it is correct that she called me that week, the message that she left asked for comment regarding the pipelines that cross our property, rather than on the piece she later authored, "A S-O-S for SOS" [Aug. 9], which was the topic of my letter to you. As we were still in negotiations with the city regarding the pipeline issue and how it would be addressed in the settlement, I did not think it was appropriate to comment on that matter at that particular time.
Stratus Properties Inc.
To Whom It May Concern:
Q: How many Austin residents does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Ten. One to screw it in and nine to talk about how cool the old light bulb was.
Oh So Sincerely,
Justin B. Andrews
It's Too Late
It's too late, really. The springs and the river have been ruined for years; the gulf is next. We're only now seeing the effects of the damage our founding fathers and mommies created. The only solution is to tear up all of the asphalt and most of the concrete, and then use balloons for transportation. What? You don't believe me but you believe our last couple of governors! What a bunch of wimps. Pitch a teepee, office boy. The pork barrel is diseased.
Todd Alan Smith
Don't Can Coach
Though I realize the decision has been made, I urge you to reconsider the discontinuation of Andy Cotton's column ["Coach's Corner"]. I have been a loyal reader of his column, and of the Chronicle, for the past decade, even though I moved away from Austin several years ago. Reading his column on the Chronicle Web site first thing Friday morning has always provided a laugh and some food for thought. As you are aware, he is perhaps the only member of the Austin media willing to speak critically of the University of Texas athletic department. I have always respected that about Coach, and I am a UT alumnus and a Longhorn fan. For this reason alone, I find it surprising that The Austin Chronicle, which has always seemed to pride itself on its iconoclastic nature, would discontinue this fine, well-written column.
In your "Page Two" column [Aug. 30], you write of a "series of changes" and a "slight shift of our priorities." That is certainly the Chronicle's prerogative. However, in this reader's opinion, this change will diminish the quality of the publication. I will continue to read the Chronicle online, pick up an issue when I am in Austin, and patronize its advertisers. But, next Friday morning, when I click the "Columns" bar on the table of contents, and realize that Coach is really gone, the Chronicle will have lost a little bit of what makes it so special.
One Less Reason To Read the Chronicle
Words cannot convey the full sense of sadness and outrage I feel at the cancellation of Coach's column. So I won't belabor you at length; I'm sure many others will do so, and as a longtime Coach reader I would agree with them. But I'm too dismayed to write further. You've certainly given me one less reason to bother to pick up your paper each week.
Coach's Column Will Be Missed
Dear Mr. Black,
I appreciate your efforts to continually evolve the Chronicle into a better product, but it's hard to see how getting rid of Coach, one your best and most insightful writers, will advance that goal. His column over the years has explored many sides of sports and its relationship to the wider world not found in other publications. Your vague ramblings on "Page Two," [Aug. 30], "cautious reimagining of the paper" and "shift in priorities," do little to enlighten us as to the purpose of this change. As a recovered former sports fan who got close to 100% of my weekly sports coverage from his column, I will miss it very much.
Don't Drop the 'Dope'
Dropping "The Straight Dope" ["Page Two," Aug. 30]? Don't! It's one of the reasons I pick up the Chronicle every week!
Stratus Deal Unavoidable
Thanks for your words the past couple weeks on the Stratus deal ["Page Two"]. I, too, wish we could just say no, but I agree that we can't. To me Bill Bunch is waving a really foolish rally flag. Frankly, that he doesn't realize it worries me about the future effectiveness of the SOS Alliance as an important political force in the region. Perhaps he does realize it, but feels compelled by his own momentum ... either way, it's not good for the future.
In the Name of the Father
Champ Hood was an extraordinary talent, and anyone who saw him knew that at once. He was not a "great musician," he was far above and beyond that. It almost seems that musical talent of the magnitude that blessed us all through Champ is an entity in and of itself. It seems almost to be a symbiotic relationship between musician and the music. Last night, I was sitting at Threadgill's listening to his son, Warren, play with the South Austin Jug Band and it struck me that here in front of us all was someone as wonderfully talented and as gracious about his ability as his father was. It made me wonder if Champ, knowing that his time here with us was coming to a close, passed his ability and talent on, with a conscious effort of will, to his son. Perhaps he took the gift of music that had lived inside him his entire life and quietly let it go to live on in his son. Warren is a wonderful musician on his own, he is far more than "Champ Hood's son," but sitting there with my sweet, wonderful girlfriend, listening to him play, it made me wonder. People say music is alive, and perhaps in more than one way it is. I look forward to many more years enjoying and being blessed with being able to hear Warren caress such sweet heart and soul from a small piece of wood and some string.
Carl T. Swanson
New Idea for Intel Building
I had an idea: Since martial law is slowly being declared, and the war on drugs is still going strong, let's turn the Intel building into a giant, multi-level gallows! It would be cool! Of course you'd want to leave the bodies hanging up there, like in the Middle Ages.
Might stink a little downwind. But think of the tourism potential! As an added bonus, all those birds wouldn't be sitting in trees down by the river, crapping on joggers, cuz they'd be over at the Intel Gallows, gorging themselves on the soft, rotten flesh of the enemy dead.
Blair N. Bovbjerg
News Radio Not Rocket Science
As someone who spent 20 years in print and radio news, I'm appalled at the new KUT "news department." Am I the only one who is finding their enjoyment of Morning Editon ruined by this badly botched, overhyped "experiment"?
I had high expectations for a high-quality, post-crime blotter news operation. Instead, what I hear is forced, stiff, low-grade college radio. The stories are dull and obvious pieces with no thought or journalistic insight. The on-air talent is clearly inexperienced and gratingly unschooled in copy editing and news presentation. There is experienced, highly regarded on-air talent in Austin that was ignored by KUT management in their hiring process. I know these people. KLBJ has no competition and won't pay them enough to forego a Taco Bell job, so I know they're looking for work.
Over two years ago, KUT brought its first real program director on board. This ballyhooed move was followed by an unnecessarily time-consuming search for a news director. So, the hackneyed audio drivel that is souring my morning radio listening is the result??? This is KUT's granted and endowed response to KLBJ's right-wing headline service ... and taxpayers are footing part of the bill for it?!
Should anyone say "Well, they just got started. Give the thing a break," I say this: Journalistic and radio talent are self-evident. Good news judgement needs no exhibition season. All KUT had to do was hire experience and make people produce a decent air check. This ain't rocket science.
Dear Austin Chronicle:
I am writing in regard to the recent passing of a good friend, John H. Galvan Jr. Popularly known as "Johnny B.," John was a lifelong resident of Austin and an enthusiastic purveyor of the rock & roll spirit. He possessed an outgoing and generous personality which he shared with his many friends. John brought smiles, laughter, and occasionally widespread panic to the community. He passed away on Wednesday, Aug. 21, at the age of 48. We'll miss you, Johnny. Take Care -- Rock Steady.
"He was Living in Oblivion, inhabiting a Ghost World where everything ran on the fuel of Novocaine smiles, secrets and lies. Now he's taken a trip on the Mystery Train and who knows: Maybe this Ghost Dog will find himself in a place that's Stranger Than Paradise, enjoying a fine Box Of Moonlight. Watch for this Easy Rider, appearing soon in The Sweet Hereafter."
SRV Dies and Nothing's Changed
Today, Aug. 27, 2002, marks the 12th anniversary of the shockingly untimely death of Stevie Ray Vaughan. Like many people, I believed back then that Austin would never be the same after suffering such a terrible loss. Were we right, though?
Then as is true today, we were: stuck with a wounding recession, crippling budget deficits, and a politically-savvy-but-economically-witless, saber-rattling president named George Bush; anticipating a costly, misguided war with Iraq; witnessing the gutting of one of our nation's most trusted institutions (then it was the savings-and-loan industry, now it's the accounting firms); fighting a seemingly endless battle to keep some greedy corporate interests from turning Barton Springs into nothing more than sewage drain for rich condo dwellers; and struggling to keep a number of factors (rentals, jobs, competition, audience apathy, et cetera) from killing the local music scene.
Are we better or worse off now than we were in 1990, or are we exactly the same as we were? History tends to be cyclic, I know, but this is ridiculous. To paraphrase Yogi Berra: It's déjô frickin' vu all damn over again. The only silver lining in all of this that I can see is that it means that this Bush presidency, too, will have a four-year shelf life.
Keep 'The Straight Dope'!
I read in the Aug. 30 issue ["Page Two"] that you're considering eliminating "The Straight Dope." Please allow me to register my vote to keep it.
A lot about the Chronicle is outside my grasp (I honestly don't always get the "issues") but I really like "The Straight Dope." I enjoy the wit and (some) facts that it presents.
Don't Shoot the 'Dope'
I enjoy reading "The Straight Dope" and encourage you to keep it ["Page Two," Aug. 30].
I most definitely read Michael Ventura every time he is in the Chronicle. Please do not get rid of his column, "Letters at 3 AM"!!
Churches Shouldn't Be Lobbies
I was shocked to learn that the majority leadership in the U.S. House has pledged to bypass standard procedures to force a vote on the so-called "Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act" (H.R. 2357) introduced by Rep. Walter Jones (NC), after the August recess. I am also disappointed in the lack of coverage of this maneuver in the Chronicle. This bill has incredibly precarious implications for houses of worship and the separation of state and church. It would lift the current prohibition on politicking from the pulpit by allowing houses of worship to spend their revenues on influencing legislation and lobbying, thus turning religious offerings into political contributions to support partisan politics. This situation should be equally offensive to pious Christians and civil libertarians.
I hope that Rep. Doggett works to ensure that this legislation receives the discussion it deserves instead of being rushed to the House floor. Given the current reawakening of civics education, how can we teach our children how a bill becomes a law if our members of Congress change the rules when they cannot prevail by fair and open procedures?
Dr. Eric Arn
No Representation For East Austin
For us in East Austin, and for those who speak Spanish, it's relevant to see almost a full page in the Statesman dedicated to the presence of John Sharp, Kirk Watson, Marty Akins, Ron Kirk, and Tony Sanchez in particular, pledging allegiance to the Texas Jews. It didn't mean a thing to you, since only 91 words were used to barely describe the event ["Austin Stories," Aug. 30]. Why was a Jewish group able to gather five high-profiled candidates in a snap, and I have to plead for 15 years to bring a lousy cop to look into my crime plagued-neighborhood, never to come back? Has Tony Sanchez became another Charro leader now? Has Ron Kirk forgotten the blacks displaced from West Austin, or the ones barred from Fredricksburg, merely 35 years ago?