Our readers talk back.
Ex-Mayor Cooksey Responds
In your Aug. 9 issue, within the article entitled "Did SOS Matter?," appeared this phrase ... "the Comprehensive Watershed Ordinance, just about the only piece of evidence that the City Council under Mayor Frank Cooksey deserved its pro-environment reputation." This snide, damning-with-faint-praise comment was either due to poorly researched journalism or the result of a bad guess at the truth. It deserves rebuttal.
The writer evidently did not know that the City Council during 1985-88 had many other environmental protection accomplishments. When I took office, the city of Austin had sewage treatment plants that were dumping raw sewage into Onion Creek and hence into the Colorado River. We passed the bonds and through accelerated construction built new plants and increased the quality of treatment of others, enabling Austin to return effluent to the Colorado that had been treated by tertiary treatment processes. The EPA gives Austin awards now for its treatment plants, instead of threatening to sue. If the city does half as well in correcting its current sewage pipeline problems, it can be proud.
That City Council and the city staff also drafted the first smoking ordinance, which was one of the first of its kind in the nation. The council passed the Hazardous Materials Ordinance and the Hill Country Roadway Ordinance. It also led, with Senator Barrientos, in obtaining passage of the Edwards Aquifer Underground Water District. In numerous zoning cases, including zoning of the entire Oak Hill area, it imposed tougher standards than would have been utilized by any other previous council.
Unfortunately, some things that we tried to do did not last. Austin Plan, which would have been a fine master plan with clear land use planning tools favoring the environment, was ditched by the next council. The Parkland Dedication Ordinance that we passed has been ignored in some cases, and the Environmental Research Center at Hornsby Bend has not ever achieved its full potential. The abandoned railway rights of way that we obtained for environmentally sensitive public transportation are almost totally unused by Capital Metro.
Back to your writer's question: Did SOS Matter? Silly question. Of course, it mattered. It improved the protection of the Edwards Aquifer and required developers to use less impervious cover. Did it solve the problem of environmental degradation and end the threat to Barton Springs? Not really. The Legislature and a few irresponsible developers will continue to try to weaken the protections that the citizens want in place. The tensions will continue until Barton Springs becomes a pool with water that is not safe for human recreation. Then SOS will truly not matter. I hope that this never happens, but it could.
Ours was not a perfect council, even in the area of environmental protection. But we fought hard against entrenched interests to protect the environment, and as the first council to be identified as having a clear majority favorable to environmental protection, we left the city of Austin in far better shape than we found it. The Chronicle would do well to apologize to that council, the city staff who served it, and the citizens boards and commissions who assisted it for the inaccurate characterization of our environmental record contained in the SOS article. We did a good job, and we are proud of our record.
Frank C. Cooksey
Mayor of Austin (1985-88)
Mike Clark-Madison's article on neighborhood planning is right on in its recommendation that neighborhoods be given some region-wide, or at least city-wide, goals for housing, jobs, parks, etc. to plan to accommodate ["Austin @ Large," Sept. 6]. I've seen a similar effort in Portland, Ore. (where I was economic development policy manager and involved in similar neighborhood planning efforts) fall prey to neighborhood self-interest in wanting cool retail shops and upscale housing but not space for quality jobs or poor folks. Just as each city/town in a region needs to handle its fair share of regional necessities, good or bad, so must neighborhoods understand and play their role in a sustainable economic development system that simultaneously improves livability, business competitiveness, and progress toward environmental and social sustainability.
Dear Mr. Black:
Regarding the paragraph on Richard Fonté on page 13 of the 8/30 issue, the phrase between dashes is inappropriate. If you're trying to imply a cause/effect relationship between his departure and his lack of popularity, then such a topic deserves a paragraph, or article, unto itself. Otherwise, it clutters up the sentence. Thank you.
Mahajan's Platform Simplistic
Dear Austin Chronicle:
Why does The Austin Chronicle continue to write up such misleading reviews of the Green Party's gubernatorial candidate, Rahul Mahajan ["Capitol Chronicle," Aug. 30]?
Say the truth: The Green Party's nomination of the intemperate, America-hating Rahul Mahajan did the Green Party of Texas a severe disservice. Rahul's extraordinary stilted and simplistic political platform merely distills down to a categorical animus against all things American. In Mahajan's blinkered, Manichean world-view, America can do no right.
He also seems to show no patience with local issues -- interesting, considering he is running for a state-level office ...
While the Green Party's goal was to inject neglected issues into the larger political discourse, it is now fielding a gubernatorial candidate who will succeed only in turning people off to politics. Ask the "war criminal" himself -- Henry Kissinger.
In fact, Mahajan's outspoken disrespect for democratic tolerance makes him an odd choice to run for a democratically elected office. He reminds me of Pol Pot, another manic dreamer infused with that Hitlerian mix of supreme righteousness and disregard for democratic diversity and dissent.
As responsible leftists, you should be alert to the totalitarian impulse among your ideological kinsfolk. You should remember the totalitarian impulse comes not from good folks reacting to the evil of this world, but from neurotic people reacting to the disturbances in their own minds.
Good leftists must always be vigilant for those radicals who see the political arena as a place to work out their personal demons.
But much worse than those using "politics as psychotherapy" are those who are inherently hateful, and who delight in the destruction of good, strong, and noble things. People like Mahajan.
I strongly urge The Austin Chronicle to review Mahajan's public declarations with the same degree of critical rigor as is applied to real estate developers and Republicans.
John A. Wielmaker
Where Is the Czech Voice?
I thought Mr. Lomax's article ["Who's Texas?" Sept. 6] was for the most part well done and provocative. (Almost as provocative as the pornography and 1-900 numbers you advertise in the back of your magazine. How do the women staffers feel about that?) Sorry I digressed, a little like Mr. Lomax did at the end of his article.
What Mr. Lomax had in enthusiasm he lacked in full investigative prowess. Nowhere is there any mention of Czech, Polish, German, French (who had a consulate here in Austin), or Irish Catholic minorities in the article. What constitutes an Anglo? As a proud Czech that is a Texan to the core, it hurt that Mr. Lomax made no mention in his article about the Czech contribution to our great state. No towns, no names, nothing with a hint of Czech. Jim Bowie is not a Czech name.
How come Mr. Lomax did not speak of the culture of a group that speaks the number one foreign language still spoken in the state (bearing in mind Spanish is not a foreign language in Texas)?
Also over the years music styles such as conjunto and Tejano have borrowed different parts of our musical heritage. If not, then who taught the mexicanos to play the accordion? The Spaniards or the Aztecs? Huh?
Why is there never any mention of the flag bearer of the Alamo, Tomas Hloupy, a Czech, one of the first to die at the siege?
I just hope to see a little Czech (Moravian especially) representation on this museum board and most definitely in future Chronicle articles. Does anyone on that board or at the Chronicle speak a word of Czech or polka worth a darn? Where is the Czech voice? Will it continue to be drowned out by the more vocal minorities?
Thank you for covering the good economic news on renewable energy in the Sept. 6 issue ("Enviros for Energy"). Unfortunately, the article reported an erroneous number found in the first version of our job study. Our original numbers found 64,000 new jobs in renewables by 2020. As it turns out, that was the total number of people employed for each year added together, not the number of jobs in just that year. The correct number is 8,500 jobs in 2020 with an annual payroll of $255 million. What remains the same is the fact that renewable energy is solving pollution problems and creating new economic opportunities for Texas.
Tom "Smitty" Smith,
Public Citizen's Texas office
NOOOOO! Not the Coach! Someone asked me recently if the Chronicle had a humor column by a local writer, and I said "Yeah, they do, but it's buried in the Calendar section, disguised as a sports column." Now it's just going to be buried.
Andy Cotton's column was sometimes a little hard on Dallas fans, back when Dallas had a football team, but was always one of the few non-news features at the Chronicle obviously written by an adult for adults that still managed to keep a sense of humor and not take itself way too seriously. Others would be "Free Will Astrology" and "Car Talk," both syndicated and both stashed away in tiny print in the classifieds, and "The Straight Dope," which is also apparently on the list for downsizing. (Jim Hightower is in a class by himself, since all he really has to do is report on the antics of the morons that run our world and let satire take care of itself.)
What will the Chronicle do with the extra space -- give it to Stephen Moser to report on his latest night on the town with a hairdresser ... to Michael Ventura, for more self-indulgent pseudo-intellectual ramblings under an admittedly plagiarized title ... to more full-column film reviews that don't really tell you anything about the movie but that give an automatic three stars to anything that's foreign, involves homosexuality, or is playing at the Dobie ... to the latest contribution to the Austin music scene, performed and reviewed by people who were born shortly after its peak ... to the truly fascinating Page Two "Soccer Watch" by Nick Barbaro, which is sometimes about baseball ... or perhaps to Louis Black, for more explanations of how change is inevitable, the same mealy-mouthed excuse he gave for contradicting his own political writers and the people of Austin by endorsing a real world deal with Stratus, a company named after a low-lying layer of clouds that blankets the land?
Bring back Coach. Keep "Straight Dope." Eat some award-winning hot sauce from your festival to get some editorial fire in your belly and quit being an apologist for the Beaus and the Barnstones and the rest of them that are bellying up to the trough to get rich cluttering up what's left of everything from downtown to the aquifer.
Keep Cotton, Can Ventura, Hightower, and Moser
It was rather unpleasant for me to come back from a vacation and see that you had taken away one of the few reasons I still read the Chronicle, "Coach's Corner." It was even more unpleasant to see that you're considering doing away with another of those few reasons, "The Straight Dope." "The Straight Dope" is a beacon of reason and rationality, especially compared to the hippy-dippy New Age bullshit that fills many of the other pages of the Chronicle.
If you want to engage in a "slow and cautious reimagining" of the paper ["Page Two," Aug. 30], here are some things you should dump instead of "Straight Dope":
Keep 'Dope,' 'Weird,' & 'Fashion'
I won't miss "Coach's Corner" (I haven't read a thing Andy Cotton has written since he came out as a rape apologist during the Marv Albert scandal), but please don't drop "Straight Dope" or "News of the Weird." Or "After a Fashion," for that matter; I don't read it much, but if it pisses off Kurt Standiford it's probably good for the economy.
How Safe Are We?
In light of all the 9/11 heightened awareness, I thought my recent encounter at ABIA would be worth a letter. The other day, my job called me to visit ABIA on a routine sales call. It is customary for vendors with product sold at the airport to enter through the vendor dock. After the security guard verified my ID, I proceeded to roam freely through the terminal from kiosk to kiosk. It dawned on me that I had no escort, did not go through any security checkpoints other than the one when I arrived, and hadn't needed to go through a metal detector. With the number of vendors who constantly go through this day after day, what is to prevent anyone from pretending to be a vendor, meeting someone who had already passed through a metal detector, and handing them a gun? A knife? A bomb? And if no method is in place to check the product coming in, who's to say there is actual product in the box delivered? What's the point of going through all the checkpoints up front, if it's so easy to get in through the back? It makes one wonder how safe we think we are.
***Due to the nature of my job, please do not print this name or address, but you may reply here for further information.***
Lies in 'Liars in Public Places'
I read with great interest the "Liars in Public Places" treatise authored by Michael King ["Capitol Chronicle," Sept. 6], and have found more than a few factual errors in same. The title seems ironic, given the very public presence of your newspaper here in Austin.
The primary misrepresentation is delivered in the second paragraph and describes the lukewarm public opinion for a pre-emptive strike in Iraq. I have managed some research of my own on this subject and offer you the recent study done by the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations:
"A large majority (75%) of Americans questioned in the survey favor using U.S. troops to overthrow Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq."
"65 percent of the Americans and 60 percent of the Europeans questioned say the U.S. should invade Iraq," given U.N. approval and "the support of its allies."
Given this very large cross-Atlantic majority, it requires quite a feat of mental gymnastics to conclude that "nobody much is buying."
The secondary series of unsupportable facts comes in Mr. King's fourth paragraph, where he offers the shocking revelation that there have been "U.N. inspections that took place in Iraq over the last 10 years" which "did indeed document the destruction of effectively all of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and, more importantly, the ability to produce the same." I wonder if Mr. King knows that all arms inspectors got kicked out if Iraq in December of 1998. This fact did not reconcile with Mr. King's "the last 10 years" description. I can only believe that Mr. King was using that over-all-reliable source for his information: The Magic Eight Ball.
After reading this fatuousness, it requires very little imagination to understand why Mr. King was cashiered from his previous position at The Texas Observer.
Michael J. Pekowski
Textbooks From the Source
Michael May's piece on the state textbook adoption ["Making Everyone Happy," Sept. 13] is quite insightful, but he left some erroneous impressions. Just last Friday, I addressed these same misconceptions in a speech before the Texas Environmental Education Partnership, an organization I helped found in 1997.
First, while John Christensen's Global Science: Energy, Resources, Environment was indeed funded in part by the Mineral Information Institute, the text also supported by the United Engineering Foundation Inc. and the National Science Teachers Association.
Second, the sole TEKS guideline for the Advanced Placement Environmental Science textbook adoption was conformance to standards set by the College Board, which administers the AP exams. According to their guidelines, a proper AP textbook would be a "rigorous science course that stresses scientific principles and analysis," not one that "emphasizes the study of environmental issues from a sociological or political perspective ..."
The College Board intentionally excluded Jones and Bartlett's Environmental Science: Creating a Sustainable Future, by Daniel Chiras, from its list of textbooks that met its criteria. Jones and Bartlett actually admitted Chiras' text did not meet the College Board guidelines by submitting it as "nonconforming" to the TEKS standards. The State Board of Education realized that adopting a nonconforming text for the AP course was far worse than adopting no text at all. Instead, they knowingly opened the door for purchasing acceptable texts -- those that meet the College Board's criteria -- via the waiver process.
NOTE: My 1996 report, "Sound Science or Pseudo Science: The Future of Environmental Education in Texas," paved the way for the state's first environmental education conference in April 1997, which I both created and co-hosted. My track record as a consensus builder led Texas Public Policy Foundation to hire me to coordinate their environmental textbook review for the 2001 adoption.
Death Penalty = No International Games
I would like to make the following comments regarding your Aug. 30 article ["No Sports, Lots of Spin"]. When voters choose cities or countries in highly competitive bidding processes for international sporting events, they rarely reveal all the reasons why they choose one city or country over another. Instead, they often prefer to give polite, diplomatic answers. Of course a Nexis database search on why voters chose Rio de Janeiro over San Antonio for the 2007 Pan American Games will likely retrieve secondhand information. One might get firsthand information by calling delegates directly.
It is sound reasoning by Mr. Cobb that Gov. Perry did not help San Antonio with his refusal to act on international criticism of this state's use of the death penalty. The timing of the San Antonio rejection as a Pan Am game choice, on the heels of Mexican President Fox's boycott of Texas to protest the execution of Mexican citizen Javier Suarez Medina, is hard to ignore. Cobb draws a reasonable conclusion here, and it is likely Houston was eliminated as a possible Olympic site for the same reason. In the current international climate, Texas cities will face continued international criticism because most of the rest of the world considers the Texas death penalty bizarre, unjust, racist, and barbaric.
The death penalty is a fiery topic, and it is reasonable to assume that voters would most likely avoid public acknowledgments of any controversial reasons for their choices but private discussions will eventually surface. Mr. Cobb provided a sound perspective on the events of the day. The state's blatant disregard of international law will continue to cost this state millions for such a barbaric practice.
Without Coach, 'Chron' a Waste of Time
I have been reading the Chronicle for years, since before you went weekly. I've gone out of my way to get each new issue when it first comes out on Thursday evening. I have often stayed up later than I should reading it, even when I had more important things to do. Although I enjoy many of the features, my favorite has always been "Coach's Corner," and I'm not even a rabid sports fan. Andy Cotton is an excellent writer, and it didn't matter to me that he sometimes preferred to talk about his love life or his son or his dog, etc. As a sports journalist, I'm sure he was a maverick, of sorts, but that's what made his column special. I feel like part of his family, having read about his remarriage, his son's transformation and graduation from college, his trips, etc. Speaking of his son, he did a fine job of filling in for him in writing the column on a couple of occasions, as I recall.
So, what's with the termination of the Coach? If you feel the need to make changes, I can think of many other things in the paper, such as the personal ads for example, that I'd rather see eliminated. I know that the advertising is what allows you to have a free newspaper, but don't forget that without popular regulars like the Coach, not nearly as many people would see the advertising because they wouldn't bother to pick the paper up. I would like to see Andy return to the pages of the Chronicle, but I'll never know if he does because I've just lost interest in reading it and have decided that I can use my time more wisely doing other things.
Arbitration the Answer to Mold Problem
Let me get this straight: Dawn Richardson can afford a $300,000 home but she can't afford the nominal filing fee to arbitrate her dispute ["Read the Fine Print," Aug. 30]?
If Ms. Richardson prevails in arbitration, as she obviously believes she will, she can obtain a suitable award plus probably recoup her filing fee and attorney fees, as well. Just like in court, Ms. Richardson can hire outside counsel to represent her on a fee or contingency basis.
Parties are entitled to the same substantive rights and remedies through arbitration as they are in court. And unlike money-eating, emotionally draining litigation, arbitration cuts to the chase without all the legalese, endless discovery, delays, and procedural maneuverings that go on in court.
Critics sometimes claim that arbitrators favor defendants in their rulings. Yet the only study comparing arbitration and jury awards found that arbitrators tend to rule in favor of the plaintiff more than juries, and arbitrators and juries award similar amounts of damages in comparable cases.
Ms. Richardson has made her case in the press repeatedly. Now she should allow a trained, neutral professional to rule on the evidence.
Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse
Texas Insurance Commissioner's Mold Task Force
Vote Green for No War
Claude M. Gruener advises Chronicle readers to vote against the impending Iraq war by voting for Democrats ["Postmarks," Sept. 13]. I agree with his goals, but his means are highly suspect. Although Reps. Lloyd Doggett, Dennis Kucinich and a few other House Democrats have taken stands against this war, Ron Kirk and Tony Sanchez certainly have not and neither has any leader of the Democrats in Congress. If you rely on the Democrats to stop Bush's aggression, you will be sorely disappointed.
The only way this war might be stopped is if Russia, China and/or France holds firm against it in the U.N. Security Council, many other countries also oppose it and massive popular demonstrations occur all over the world. But that's not likely to work since the U.S. government is a rogue state that demands imperial prerogatives and has clearly stated that it will act unilaterally if necessary. Saddam has been given no incentive to cooperate with weapons inspectors, but if he does, that won't matter either. Our government will find or more likely, create some pretext to attack because Iraq has the second largest oil reserves in the Middle East.
The only candidate on the ballot who really deserves your vote because of his principled opposition to the war is Rahul Mahajan, author of The New Crusade: American's War on Terrorism and Green Party candidate for governor of Texas. He's consistently been on the front lines of this struggle while the great majority of Democrat politicians have cowered, equivocated, and looked for guidance from their corporate masters.
No War on Iraq
It is apparent that the self-professed elite warlords who control the predominate media and the leadership of both the Republican and Democratic parties are preparing to attack Iraq. The persistent claims of Cheney and his cabal of arms dealers that Iraq is planning on attacking us with "secret weapons" needs to be examined. Ten years ago we invaded their country and destroyed their weapons and military; since then we have had a full-time military and economic blockade on their nation. This blockade has resulted in the deaths of over 540,000 children due to malnutrition and lack of medical supplies. Further, the United Nations inspectors that have been inspecting Iraq say that Cheney's claims are totally false. Ask yourself, who is going to benefit from another war in the Middle East? 1. The arms dealers will make tens of billions; 2. World Bank and International Monetary Fund will make huge new loans and gain further control; 3. Military budgets will be increased; and, 4. The international oil corporations will gain control of the Iraqi oil fields. How is this war going to affect the people of our nation? Not only will it mean more debt and higher taxes, more importantly, it will set the stage and fuel the paranoia for the police state that is being foisted upon this nation. Do we really want America to be an aggressive imperialistic rogue nation and do we want to see our Bill of Rights and Constitution torn to shreds? This is our nation -- we are being lied to, and I pray that people still have enough courage left in their souls to stand up for the ideals of our Republic and peace!
Tony Sanchez Can Help
Although I consider myself independent, I went to go see Tony Sanchez speak the other day. I was very impressed with his plans for education, which are refreshing and perceptive. The failing plan Rick Perry is following is that of his predecessor, not his own.
Mr. Sanchez understands that our children are the states most important resource and that the only way to improve our mediocre schools is to allow teachers greater freedom in the classroom and better pay. I want my children to have an excellent education, not an average one, and I believe Tony Sanchez can help.
Register to Vote
Voter registration activities are popular events in Travis County. Today there are 542,341 citizens, representing 87% of the eligible population, who are registered voters. Now through the upcoming voter registration deadline -- Monday, Oct. 7 -- many more service groups and deputy voter registrars will make registering to vote more convenient.
Most of the places to find a voter registration application have remained the same for several years. Voters may find an application at many grocery stores, local libraries, post offices, and government agencies. Additionally, the Department of Public Safety has offered voter registration applications to those getting or updating their Texas driver's license or identification card. Voters may order an application any time by phone at 854-9473. The new front-runner for popular ways to register is, of course, online registration. Travis County voters can register online at www.traviscountytax.org.
Keeping up with a citizenry so passionate about voter registration is no easy task. There are three typical errors people make when they register to vote. First, they forget to check the box that states they are a U.S. citizen. Second, they mistakenly put the current year instead of their birth year, and the third common error is forgetting to sign the application. When an application is submitted correctly, a certificate is mailed within 30 days.
When you move you must register to vote at your new precinct. Students may register to vote here in Travis County or may contact the voter registrar in their home county for mailed ballot information.
If you have a gold colored voter certificate showing your correct residence address, you are registered to vote. If you need a replacement certificate, call 854-9473 for assistance. Voter certificates are preferred but not required for voting.
Don't forget to register by the deadline -- Monday, Oct. 7 -- for voting in the November election. Call 854-9473 anytime to order a voter registration application and during office hours (7:30am-5:30pm, Monday-Friday) for any questions or concerns about voter eligibility.
Nelda Well Spears,
Travis County Voter Registrar
War with Iraq would hurt the poorest the most. The people of Basra and southern Iraq have suffered horrifically from recent wars. If we built water treatment plants there, we would immeasurably improve the lives of brutalized people and the effort would cost less than a war. We would also reap long-term peace benefits. War with Iraq will certainly encourage the recruits of anti-American terrorist factions. Indignant war victims and observers will complicate our lives at home and our commerce abroad. If we give clean water to Saddam's victims we will win their respect. Engineering and construction firms -- like Brown and Root, Fluor, Bechtel -- could benefit from building public infrastructure in Iraq as easily as from building warfare structures. As long as the engineers build solar and wind-powered water treatment plants, their public works will never threaten Iraq's neighbors. We should hire our best engineering firms to build water treatment plants in the beleaguered communities of Iraq -- far from Baghdad. We must teach the world what it means to wage peace.
John W. Touchet
George W. Thinks He's Off the Hook
George W. Shrub said in October of last year "Lucky me: I hit the trifecta." He claims that the recession, national emergency, and the war have let him off the hook on his budget promises. He claims to have made this exception to his budget pledges during the 2000 campaign, but there is no record of his having done so. He is just trying to cover up his big mistake by giving big business and his rich friends' big tax breaks. His economic policy stinks. Now he wants to start another war, he hasn't even won the first one yet, with Iraq so he can justify his deficit spending. Shrub says the budget will be on track by 2004, but analysts predict that the deficit will be $100 billion each year for the rest of the decade. Face it people, George W. doesn't know anything about economics and neither do the Republicans running for office in this great state of Texas! Vote Democratic in November and let's get this great country of ours moving in the right direction.
A New Party
Just imagine if all of Austin Metro residents used Barton Springs on a regular basis. It would be like the Ganges River in India, complete with dead bodies and endless floating turds. But our real concern this week is not with the local water supply which I've already condemned, no, I'm still thinking about the last presidential election, flawed voting machinery, soft money, hard money, those queer little oil field office boys waging war for the oval office. Yes, I'm thinking about the indoctrination we call education, the marketing strategies we call religion, the thievery we call commerce. I'm thinking about a million little wimps at a million little computers writing a million little video games and then growing up to become lawyers. That's right, I'm thinking about the future, if there is one, and it will have to be without Democrats or Republicans. We've already seen corporate America sink its teeth into the soft underbelly of two-party politics, rendering both parties incompetent to deal with international affairs, and now using their financial leverage to dictate policy on a global scale. If the "Green Party" is unable to stand up to the public whipping of red-blood bureaucrats then I propose another party, that would be not a party at all. This new political force would be grounded in the dreams of Thomas Jefferson and the pragmatism of environmental conservatism, the equity of labor union policy and the honesty of fiscal conservatism. This "force" would not spend its energy at throwing parades and lunches and champagne jams in order to win its converts. No, the only way to win its converts would be to pronounce its faith in the union of America and the re-education of all who have been brainwashed into believing that the American dollar can be backed by American firepower. Let's call this new "party" the Union Force. Now, the task of finding those with the balls to join.
Todd Alan Smith
Give Third Parties a Chance
Third Parties are great for the democratic process, offering options to the system. The two-party system has become overrated. Voting for the lesser evil is not good enough. With only two parties to choose from, after they win they give themselves a pay raise. How often have politicians made promises not kept? When a third party gets 10% of the vote politicians get serious. It shakes up politics when there is a threat. Remember when Perot ran? After Clinton won he listened to people, made a health care plan and tried to come through on what he promised.
Third parties are a friendly answer to pork barrel politics. People like you and I, they are fed up with the system. They can offer solutions to taxation, education, and legislation. They represent the people and have thought about making life better.
On the radio and TV people have said, "Voting for a third party is throwing away your vote." Of course they say that. It eliminates competition. Are you voting to let the other guy win or are you voting for who you believe in? Most of the time, is there a difference between the candidates? Both say anything to win and put down the competition. Voting for someone who is sincere about their views is twice as valuable, to me.
There is a lot of propaganda about third parties. It is easy to find out who is running in the upcoming elections at the state legislation building. If you know their name, an Internet [site] can be found. Often third parties advertise speeches and meetings. Find out for yourself who is on your side. An informed vote is what this country is about, democracy.
It is time to show what your vote means. We the people have a voice!
No Bombs Over Baghdad
Just recently, U.S. Special Forces soldiers providing security for Afghanistan's President Karzai killed a gunman instantly who shot at Karzai first. Why can't Karzai find Afghans to protect him? The professional soldiers that stayed in the Army after the Vietnam War said they did because they didn't want the same mistakes made again elsewhere that were committed in Southeast Asia. Powell hasn't resigned in protest yet. Maybe Iraq war talk is only saber rattling. Nowadays there is all this talk about sacrifice. What sacrifice did Bush and Cheney do? The media has documented George W. Bush's less-than-exemplary civic and military service. Read the White House's official Web site and you can read about Cheney's career as a Washington apparatchik. I can't believe that any of the new enlistees that helped the U.S. Army meet its recruitment goal early this year chose the infantry rather than the Ivy League ("I was gonna do Harvard or Dartmouth but decided that my country needed me carrying an M-16.") Just say no to bombing Baghdad. Let's try to set the pot right. The U.S. wasn't successful arming Iraq and Iran to fight each other in the 1980s. Let's do some forward thinking and track down the terrorists for the criminals that they are, e.g., getting the FBI to follow up on their own leads and the CIA to give the FBI a heads-up, the kind that doesn't result in young American lives being lost or causing more fires to burn. Enough lives were lost last year on Sept. 11, 2001. Those men that died at Omaha Beach, Antietam, Manassas, Shiloh, Gettysburg, and Iwo Jima were in the prime of their lives, Americans, and [something like a] 16-fold body count of 9/11. This is past. It shouldn't be the future.
A Massive Lie
A year after the 9/11 tragedy, a massive lie is still being foisted on the American public by politicians and journalists proclaiming that the reason other nations resent us and might want to attack us is that they're jealous of our freedom.
Let's look again. The U.S. props up oppressive regimes and dictators, manipulates governments through trade agreements, and attacks other nations at will rather than using negotiation as a basis of foreign policy. U.S. corporations too often destroy cultures and gobble up natural resources abroad, while workers are underpaid and the environment is decimated. We undermine international attempts to address global warming, and even efforts to remove deadly land mines.
The "jealous of our freedom" mantra is completely ironic in a time when our precious civil and human rights are rapidly eroding, thanks to John Ashcroft and others who seek to keep us constantly afraid and willing to surrender our rights in the name of so-called "security." America has long been critical of other nations holding prisoners without due process, yet we are doing exactly that in Guantanamo Bay right now. The only real security we have is based on our constitutional rights, which must be restored.
Those who died in 9/11 attacks are dishonored when their deaths are exploited to beat the drum for a war with Iraq -- a senseless, baseless war that would serve no purpose other than to further line the pockets of rich oil barons, while thousands of innocent people die. We should honor those who died in last year's attacks by insisting that our nation become more responsible and cooperative globally, and by demanding truth and integrity from our government, both at home and abroad. Our own lives and future depend on it.
Peace Action Texas
Welcome to 'Anytown,' U.S.A.
I am strongly opposed to granting "Smart Growth" incentives (2.2 million of our tax dollars in fee waivers) to Schlosser Development's proposed Sixth and Lamar project. There are several reasons why.
There is a strong likelihood that this project, which includes the national chain Borders Books and Music, would put locally owned BookPeople and Waterloo Records out of business. National chain stores have the capital resources to offer discounts locally owned stores cannot, and it has been shown time and again that they drive out local businesses.
The vision of an Austin that allows any and all "big box" chain stores into all areas of the city is disturbing.
Clone businesses will make Austin look like "Anytown," U.S.A. Does that improve our quality of life? And because Austin attracts visitors especially because of its uniqueness, think of how many tourist dollars will be lost if that happens.
More of Austin's money will leave the community. On average, 80% of a chain store's intake goes out of town to distant corporate headquarters. Compare that to 84% which would stay in the community of a locally owned business.
Buying options -- determined only by potential profit -- will be drastically reduced. Unique local goods will no longer be available. Local artists, suppliers, and service businesses will be denied outlets for their goods and services because chain stores deal only with large pre-ordained suppliers.
Lastly, the personalized service of a locally owned business will be sorely missed. Think of the help that you get when entering a local hardware store versus a chain superstore.
An episode of The Simpsons illustrates with humorous irony the position many growing towns are in. In it several of the stalwart old ex-business owners of the town are in the predicament of being job "trainees" in a large chain store that has come to put them all out of business.
Nationally owned chain stores are a reality and part of the way we now do business. We must leave room for locally owned businesses to flourish however, and we can assure this through the choices we make through the legislative process and our buying power. Choose wisely.
S. Marie D'Orazio
Sleeping With the Enemy
The point that some seem to be unable to grasp in most of my letters is that the city of Austin Inc. is too big and powerful, it spends too much money on bullshit, and apparently the "solution to all our problems" lies in higher income for the city through fees and taxes. Austin has been run by liberals for decades, and excuse me for pointing out the obvious, but Austin is far from a "Liberal Success Story." East Austin is neglected while the city spends hundreds of millions on, well, nice things for the city, like the new City Hall. There are real problems with income disparity between the haves and have-nots, so to show solidarity with workers, the city pays its manager almost 10 times the average wage in Austin. Hard to imagine that someone who works for citizens who struggle to live in Austin on $24K a year should be paid almost $200K a year, but hey, that's apparently the Liberal Approach. Pay the bureaucrats out the ass and tax the workers to cover it. How come there are homeless in Austin, I thought the liberals were champions of the homeless? Here we have laws to keep the homeless from sitting down in public places. How come the schools are in such a mess, I thought liberals had all the answers to education? Point being, perhaps it's time for the people of Austin to rethink the One Party System that has had control of Austin for decades. Maybe liberals don't really have any solutions other than to "tax more to provide more." Golly, I wonder when Wee Jimmy Hightower is going to go off on the city for the Intel deal ... oh, wait ... hehehe, what was I thinking? Hightower criticize his buddies?
Carl T. Swanson
9/11 and East Austin
I think the attacks on WTC struck our brains hard here in the barrio, but it affected us in a negative way. ["Page Two," Sept. 13] Police are taking full advantage of the psychosis, and taking it out on us any way they can. There's this ticketing campaign for the slightest violation, and they target contractors, workers in general, and immigrants in particular. I've seen cops training their traffic guns on incoming crew trucks in rich neighborhoods, abusing outdated traffic laws to the last drop for the pure purpose of coercing money. Internal Affairs is a sham. Curiously, the Statesman ran a piece, pitting police against immigrants, previous to this campaign. A lot of extra charges have appeared on phone and TV bills. Every time UT's Brown or Yudof get a million, groceries go up in East Austin. Radio stations and TV are broadcasting lewd and obscene material, as a way of distraction. Elementary education is a shame, but top players got $20,000 each, in times of shortage; I was told that some ninth graders can't read at Johnston, and good teachers come from New York. Shacks are apprised to displace traditional dwellers. Pawn shops, convenience stores, and fast food joints are bringing misery and trash to our community, and every piece of commercial property here is owned by someone in the Middle East or Europe. Tony Sanchez couldn't buy a little dignity with his millions and had to pay allegiance (Statesman's quote) to a Jewish group ... and Austin and one million pendejos are going to pay the consequences, by falling behind the humblest village in the world. Nigeria just adopted its own space program, and they make $300 a year. MirCorp is building a space hotel in two years, and are sending people to Mars in five. Thanks for not letting the Chronicle fall into the cable TV stupidity game. Still, the images of people waving white clothes out the windows of WTC, or plunging to their deaths on that day, don't match Howard Stern showing his bare ass, or the Rolling Stones singing "I miss you."