Our readers talk back.
The Austin Chronicle's endorsements for the Commissioners Court should leave its readers wondering if Michael King, the News editor, actually investigates the candidates before giving them the nod, or are Tarot cards and Miss Cleo the order of the day?
Mr. King admitted during a telephone conversation to Mike Hanson, candidate for Travis County Commissioner, that he didn't need to contact him or his staff about the race and that he already knew what Mr. Hanson thought and felt.
I was so intrigued with Mr. King's psychic abilities, I contacted the other candidates for the Commissioners Court, Republican and Libertarian, and found that Mr. King hadn't talked to them either.
Is it Mr. King's contention these races are of so little importance to the Chronicle readers that his slipshod style of investigative opinionism should be passed off as fact? If Mr. King doesn't have the time or the resources to talk to the candidates, maybe he should remain mute.
While the endorsements published by the Chronicle are opinions only and aren't required to be factual, I begin to wonder whether the food, movie, or music critics actually taste the food, watch the movie, or listen to the bands they write about given what the editor allows the news department to get away with.
Some of the facts that Mr. King wouldn't pass onto its readers are:
1) The Thurman-Blackwell Justice Center is now estimated to have a final cost of $110 million dollars, $87 million over budget.
2) The people of Travis County have the highest tax burden of any major county in the state.
3) The commissioners this year increased the tax rate in Travis County.
4) The commissioners established Truancy Courts, where the parents of children who miss too many days from school will be forced to pay $565 in fines, thus making a true hardship on poor to low-income parents.
If Mr. King believes that this Commissioners Court has somehow moved away from "pork barrel and pandering," maybe he should start to use words like "waste," "mis-managementí" and "tax hikes" to describe the current actions of this Commissioners Court.
Committee to Elect Mike Hanson
[Editor's note: All Chronicle endorsements are authored by the entire editorial board, which comprises Louis Black, Nick Barbaro, Michael King, Mike Clark-Madison, Lee Nichols, Amy Smith, Jordan Smith, and Lauri Apple.]
Smith Campaign Response
Evidently, Michael King doesn't like Steve Smith's opposition to racial preferences ["Capitol Chronicle," Oct. 11].
But did The Austin Chronicle's readers get an accurate description of Mr. Smith's views on the issue that Mr. King found so objectionable?
No, they didn't.
Instead, they got a "hit" piece from Mr. King quoting a Houston Chronicle article that itself took Mr. Smith's comments completely out of context. In fact, the Houston Chronicle article resulted in the reporter removing one inaccurate "quote" from the article before its initial publication and a retraction by the paper for another imaginary "quote" appearing in the finished article. The reporter called the campaign to apologize -- twice -- for the inaccuracies contained in the article, which was the result of a two-hour interview.
Might this be important information to impart?
Did Mr. King call Mr. Smith to ask: "Are you kidding? Did you really say this as it appeared in the article?"
No, Mr. King never called the Smith campaign.
Why bother? Mr. King, you see, read the Houston Chronicle. I wonder: Did Mr. King know about the saga surrounding the creation of the original article before writing a column that leaned so heavily on information from that very article?
I guess not.
But, in a sad commentary on "journalism" today, he's not alone. The "coverage" of this race has been quite interesting.
In one case, the San Antonio Express-News actually attributed an ugly misquote of Mr. Smith in their paper to the original Houston Chronicle article -- even though that article never contained the inaccurate quote.
In another, The Amarillo Globe-News referred to Mr. Smith -- who, according to Mr. King, only won the primary because of his ballot-friendly Anglo name -- as "Steven Wayne Tyler."
The Smith campaign knows that Mr. Smith has been shafted by some bad reporting, but what have Austin Chronicle readers received?
What they got was another rhetorically preening, self-important, Texas "journalist" smearing a person with the temerity to dissent from an idea emanating from the left. (Gasp! The nerve! The horror!)
According to Mr. King, such a "horrible person" must be possessed of some terrible character flaw.
Mr. King himself read it in the Houston Chronicle, don't you know.
Two questions: Are there any journalists covering this Texas Supreme Court race that actually do their own reporting? Or do they just sit in their offices and "report" what they read somewhere else?
One columnist at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has done a little reporting of his own: (www.dfw.com/mld/startelegram/news/columnists/bud_kennedy/4304130.htm ).
Mr. Smith, who Mr. King labeled a "segregationist," filed a lawsuit that resulted in greater black representation on his hometown school board. The Star-Telegram column states that in 1991 Mr. Smith had "filed a lawsuit on behalf of four African-American residents in the Everman district and forced a change to single-member school board elections."
The article quoted the only African-American trustee at the time, Everman school trustee Marilyn Hodge: "He is very fair. He helped us get a school board that is more representative."
Incidentally, Ms. Hodge, a Democrat, endorses Mr. Smith's candidacy.
Could it be that Mr. King leapt to a conclusion without bothering to do any research or consulting any facts? I mean, besides reading the (deeply flawed) Houston Chronicle?
Ironically, in 1994 The Austin Chronicle endorsed Mr. Smith for Travis County Treasurer in the general election, the only Republican The Austin Chronicle endorsed that year.
Which begs the question -- was The Austin Chronicle's editorial board high then or is it, and Mr. King, high now?
No matter. To paraphrase the late Mike Royko: No self-respecting fish would consent to have itself wrapped in Mr. King's column.
Steven Wayne Smith for Texas Supreme Court
[Ed. note: As Mr. Elia's letter confirms, we did not misquote Steven Wayne Smith.]
Third Party Needs Support
It's nice to see some coverage of the Democrat candidates in the Chronicle. After all, what is the alternative press for if not to play up the campaigns of entrenched incumbents, big-money party favorites, and special interest lap-dogs?
In the recent issues the dismissive attitude toward third party candidates is offensive and a real disservice to the voters. You treat candidates running with only Libertarian or Green opponents as if they are essentially unopposed. You don't even bother to mention the names of these challengers in a lot of cases. These are still two-person races, and you ought to cover them the same way you would if they had a Democrat versus a Republican. In many of these races the challenger you're ignoring is out-campaigning and out-spending the lackluster incumbent, but that seems to mean nothing to you.
For example, you're really missing the boat in dismissing Michele Messina. He's running one of the most active and creative campaigns I've seen in years and substantially out-spending Lloyd Doggett -- who seems to assume that incumbency is all it takes to get re-elected. Messina may be fighting the uphill battle of the year, but he's campaigning seriously and ought to be given some respect.
How much are the Chronicle's endorsements worth when it's clear that you picked your candidates without even considering the alternatives or looking into their positions? Why bother with the charade of endorsements if you're just going to rubber-stamp the same hacks who couldn't solve our problems last term and aren't likely to do any better in the future?
Oh, and thanks for printing the sample ballot. At least that way the names of all the candidates got mentioned, even if two-thirds of them were ignored as meaningless also-rans.
Candidate for Texas State Representative, District 46
Problems in Orchestral Film Scoring
It was with dismay that I saw that the burbling musician's union brouhaha had culminated in Ms. Avellán and Mr. Rodriguez deciding not to score their films here anymore ["Sour Notes for Robert Rodriguez," Oct. 18]. Their presence and commitment to local talent has been one of the few bright spots in a dying professional music scene here in town.
Their exit will cost this city's musicians, engineers, and countless others millions of dollars in income, as well as cripple the hopes of many who would like to see Austin take its place alongside the main other "runaway production" destinations such as Vancouver, Prague, Marin County, or Salt Lake City.
Those destinations are enticing to filmmakers because the residents of those communities recognize that they cannot possibly compete with Los Angeles' film music community without making adjustments and compromises, and they make it easy for lower-budget films to do high-quality, competitive work.
For Austin, a large part of the problem is a dearth of facilities for film scoring sessions. Nowhere in Austin, for instance, is there anything remotely resembling the Newman Scoring Stage on the Fox lot in L.A., or the vast matrix of interlocking music supervisors, contractors, engineers, copyists, rental companies, etc., that make working there such a pleasure, albeit an expensive one.
As talented and as exciting as Austin's classical, jazz, and roots music communities are, there's no way that they could hope to compete with Los Angeles' or New York's musicians' wealth of scoring experience without making concessions in price.
Austin's city leaders need to encourage first a workable facility for the recording and production of professional film music, and second, create a series of incentives to draw filmmakers, music supervisors, and composers to this community.
The union needs to recognize what exactly Austin has to offer filmmakers (which is a lot), but also what Austin does not offer. Until the issues of a facility and a working network of musician's contractors, musicians, orchestrators, conductors, arrangers, and composers are resolved, professional music work will continue to flee this region, which will be a major sorrow for the musical community and the local economy in years to come.
Nobody's implying that Austin's musicians aren't first-class; they are first-class. But the infrastructure that makes orchestral film scoring possible just does not exist here as of yet.
This has to be addressed, if Austin's musicians are not to wither on the vine.
King Is an Excellent Editor
Thanks to all the people who voted me "Best Photographer [Best of Austin issue, Sept. 27]." Most of the people and causes I work for can pay little or nothing, so the recognition of the community means a lot to me. I was the Rag photographer for seven years, until it decided to close. I worked with the Austin Sun and then the Chronicle. My first photograph appeared in The Texas Observer in 1972. I have been working with The Texas Observer ever since. Which leads me to say that anyone who claims that Michael King was "cashiered" from the Observer ["Postmarks," Sept. 20] either is not very well informed or is simply searching for an insult. Michael King is one of the best editors The Texas Observer ever had. Everyone who has anything to do with The Texas Observer thinks very highly of him for his hard work and his political analysis. The Chronicle is blessed with his presence.
Also, a correction: My Web site is www.documentaryphotographs.com (not www.documentaryphotography.com, which is a real site but not mine).
Texas Center for Documentary Photography
Dear Mr. Black:
The latest legal gyrations by Mr. Gary Bradley, as outlined in your paper ["Can Lazarus Rise Again?," Oct. 11] would be amusing were they not so disgusting. So many questions arise. The ones implied by your reporter, such as how a "bankrupt" man affords $19,000 earrings, a $60,000 ring, and a fur coat for a female companion, are pretty good ones. Here's a few that came to my mind:
If Bradley's sister is as close to him as he says, and is wealthy enough to establish this trust for him, why doesn't she just pay all the money he owes, including the $70-plus million he owes me, you, and all the other U.S. taxpayers? Then he can continue on his merry path of paving the world one acre at a time, debt-free. It's probably just pocket change for her. Problem solved.
I loved Bradley's quote about Tony Sanchez, asking how the gubernatorial candidate's history of S&L defaults and current lavish spending is any different from his. It isn't! Was this a trick question? I have to admit that Mr. B's friend Rick Perry had it dead right when he suggested that Mr. Sanchez use the $50-plus million he is spending on his campaign to pay back what he owes me, you, and all other U.S. taxpayers.
You had a letter a week or so back from some clever fellow asking Green Party supporters if they knew the difference between Democrats and Republicans yet ["Postmarks," Oct. 4]. Well, pal, it's getting harder every day to tell the difference, ain't it?
To sum up all of the above: Make Bradley and Sanchez pay us back, and vote third party!
Tax Holiday No Vacation
Texans are thought to have saved about $150 million during the now-annual Texas tax holiday. But what is the long-term cost of this "holiday"? The long-term cost that we are going to feel painfully is a huge $5 billion to $10 billion budget shortfall that will result in cuts or termination of public services. Where is the advantage in that? Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander said, "I strongly recommend everyone take advantage of the tax holiday because it's such a better bargain because many stores are also putting on sales. I think that taxpayers should be rewarded for their efforts, and this is a great opportunity."
What exactly are the taxpayers being rewarded for in her statement? Paying sales taxes that they have absolutely no way of getting out of, taxes that pay for services they need and use? Reward taxpayers for paying taxes? Sorry, but I don't see how paying your taxes merits a reward.
Sure, it sounds good when you tell people that they're getting a "tax holiday," but who really benefits? The retailers do. The "tax holiday" does not adversely affect their bottom line because they don't have to pay the tax, there's no out of pocket expense for them. It's quite the opposite. The retailers love the "tax holiday." They get the entire state whipped up into a frenzy about all the money they're going to save; they also get free advertising and more customers than they see at Christmas. People think it's such a great deal that they buy more than they would normally. All for less than a 10% savings. Where is reality hiding in the state of Texas?
The program to provide health insurance to all Texas children in need has been canceled. The program was half funded by a federal grant, a grant that was contingent upon Texas matching the grant. Texas lawmakers have said that they don't have the money. Therefore the program has been shut down. This program was of no consequence to those in high income tax brackets -- they can readily afford health insurance for their own families. The low- to middle-income people are the ones who will suffer. Thanks "One Tough Grandma."
Snide Remarks Unnecessary
Dear Mr. Black:
Congratulations to Melissa Sattley for providing some long overdue exposure on the ever-fertile music scene in Monterrey ["Cumbia Sobre el Rio," Oct. 18]. But tell Sattley to cut her crappy, snide, offhand remarks about Greyhound bus staff and Mexican immigration officials.
I've done the bus trip to Monterrey and on to Mexico City a half-dozen times from Austin. The Greyhound staff in Austin has always been courteous and the Mexican immigration officials have never charged me more than the legally mandated visa fee. There's no point in The Austin Chronicle perpetuating naff stereotypes about Mexican officials and Greyhound bus staff, particularly if part of the article's laudable purpose was to convince ever-squeamish gringos to cross the border.
Perhaps Sattley's time would be better spent criticizing the overwhelming (and growing) presence of the U.S. border patrol -- who always make life hell and sometimes life-threatening (how many migrants have died in the desert this year?) for all those who head north from Mexico.
Don't Follow the Leader
The Noam Chomsky interview ["'It's Extremely Easy to Frighten People,'" Oct. 18] was both heartening and disturbing. Heartening because he voiced what I have been thinking about this situation -- our "leaders" are attempting to keep us terrorized so that they can more easily carry out their class warfare agenda. It is heartening to know that others are seeing it too, and kudos to Chomsky for giving these views such a high-profile airing. But it is very deeply disturbing, too. It gives one cause to wonder: Who is the greater threat to our future quality of life -- maybe even our survival as a civilized society -- George Bush or Saddam Hussein? Saddam may be a pain in the ass, and he may be able to inflict some isolated damage -- but he won't do so against us because we are his biggest customer, and he knows there would be massive retaliation. But he is not a real threat, not like unfettered use of fossil fuels and the global warming it is driving, not like deforestation and the desertification it is driving, not like bankrupt agricultural policies and practices that threaten world food supplies, not like accelerating loss of biodiversity which robs the world ecosystem of vitality and humanity of benefits we cannot even calculate, not like the poorly run water resources system that threatens water supplies and fosters chronic ill health -- and behind it all -- not like rampant population growth just where ability to support more people is most stressed. And Bush, backed by those who would serve their short-term interests at the expense of their children and grandchildren, is "leading" efforts to thwart addressing all these threats. One wonders what these people could be thinking. What, do you suppose, Bush's daughters will think of him if they have to watch their children grow up in a degraded world rife with conflicts over food and water because Bush thought corporate profits today were more important than the future of all of us? So who really is the greater threat to us -- George or Saddam?
Chomsky Lacks Substance
Why do certain people like Noam Chomsky ["'It's Extremely Easy to Frighten People,'" Oct. 18]? Why do they listen to him? Has he traveled around the world talking to various world leaders, discussing international issues? No. Has he worked in government, creating foreign policy, observing how our country interacts with others? No. Does he have doctorates in political science or diplomacy? No, he's a linguistics expert, which is the study of language -- words, words, words.
No, the reason certain people like Noam Chomsky is because he provides the feeling, the illusion, of respectability to their views. Noam Chomsky is the pied piper of liberals. He's the Rush Limbaugh of the left. He's Ann Coulter with leftist views and a dick. And he has as much substance as any of them -- which is to say ... none whatsoever. Shit, at least Gee Dubya has a father who was president and head of the CIA! Has Chomsky ever been to the Middle East?
So The New York Times calls Chomsky, "arguably the most important intellectual alive." Wow, well that and 25 cents might get him coffee in the real world.
A Mencken Mistake
Mr. Oppel's pissing match with writer Michael King is amusing ["Postmarks," Oct. 18]. I find a certain joy therefore in exposing the holier-than-thou approach by Oppel as borderline hypocrisy. Oppel harangues King for not checking his facts. Yet Oppel himself can't seem to do the same. Oppel conjures up the Great Sage of Baltimore, H.L. Mencken, and relates a story about Mencken and Theodore Dreisser taking place in 1936, with Mencken playing the part of struggling editor of Smart Set magazine.
It is all bosh! Oppel is so far off here that his "story" begs to be kicked in the chops. As one of the leading collectors of Menckeniana in the Southwest, allow me to do so.
H.L. Mencken "struggled" from 1904 until 1910, if, indeed, he struggled at all. Mencken made his debut in The Smart Set in 1908, and he and George Jean Nathan eventually took it over until they tired of it in 1923. They both went on to start up The American Mercury, until Nathan eventually parted. Mencken then rode herd until the early 1930s. Dreisser and Mencken's stormy friendship of four decades had its ups and downs (with Mencken in zenith during the 1920s, he championed Sinclair Lewis, not Dreisser, causing a rift that would keep these two apart socially for almost a decade). So, Rich Oppel, in 1936, your fractured tale of Mencken-Dreisser couldn't have taken place. Research your material better, like you urge King to do.
An on-off member of the Mencken Society
[Ed. Note: Richard Oppel reports that the Dreiser letter to Mencken is in fact dated April 20, 1915, as quoted in a proof copy of The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken by Terry Teachout (HarperCollins,forthcoming).]
Eradicate Litter on a Stick
The Republican Party and Chairman Alan Sager stepped in fresh cow chips last Friday when they obtained a temporary restraining order prohibiting picking up signs in public rights of way that are illegal by city, county, and state law.
Had they attended a public training class last week, they would have learned that no participant was to set foot on private property. Main participants were to be Boy and Girl Scouts and retired senior volunteers, accompanied by a code inspector. All signs were to be saved. Owners could reclaim them. This was primarily an educational event for the media and citizens. Claiming First Amendment violations is just sour grapes by a party, the leader of which wants to be elected while breaking our laws. Voters should elect law-abiders that will support the citizen-initiated effort underway in our community to rid our scenic landscape of litter on a stick.
Bull Creek Foundation
Fear Light Rail
Re: "Commuter Games" ["Austin @ Large," Oct. 18]
As a recent émigré (refugee) from a city that has bitten of the apple of light rail, I say: caveat emptor. The unholy alliance of railcar manufacturers, electrical infrastructure builders, track makers, the Republic of Bechtel, et. al. -- allied with an armada of community consensus builders, transportation theoreticians, lobbyists, and hangers-on -- is in the process of writing itself into the script of our civic life, with dubious outcomes. Empirical studies at Harvard University and others have questioned the cost/benefit of these boondoggles and their long-term viability. Don't be misled by buzzwords like livability and sprawl. They are part of a lexicon that has been tested and refined all over the U.S. in focus groups. These light rail proponents will become a part of yet another layer of government with concurrent taxing authority attendant with the absolute certainty of cost overruns. Beware of the Music Man, he will fill the air with pipe dreams, and leave in the middle of the night, his pockets bulging with the fruits of his nefarious schemes.
Howard R. Slobodin
See Ya, Austin
After having sacrificed the better part of two years on the boat anchor which is the Austin "high tech" mecca, I'd like to salute the outright fraudulent efforts of the flimflam I.T. recruiters, conniving advertisers, and sleazy PR people who schemed up this entire lie and suckered talented people from all over the U.S. to move to Austin. The only thing waiting for new arrivals is a cold shoulder from the under-qualified and brazenly arrogant UT Mafia (who between them have about as much I.T. talent as a busload of 14-year-old cheerleaders), a thin veneer of a high tech industry with no real technology to speak of, wishy-washy indecision from the wannabe high tech executives of local businesses, and flagrant greed from the locals.
Talented workers demand value for their dollars spent, apart from the "local" talented workers who wouldn't survive a week in Silicon Valley's shark tank, and Austin hasn't provided this by any stretch of the imagination. Apartment management companies, which strutted around like drug lords last year, are now begging people to move in at any cost. Why? Because all the California invaders, hated for their mere presence, are turning right around and moving back to where they came from for one reason: lack of a value proposition to stay and lack of rationale to justify putting up with the BS here. We'd rather spend our money in a market which understands that economic survival means preventing the brain drain, not accommodating a bunch of flash in the pan start-ups and their dim-witted executives.
So, on behalf of all of my friends who got screwed by Austin's fabricated high tech fantasy and quickly got right back out of it, let me just say good luck, Austin. We'll see you on the flip side, after you've eaten crow for a few years and lived on welfare long enough to straighten up your attitudes.
The Sign Off Blow Off
The Travis County Republican Party claims that it had to move to force cancellation of the Great City Sign Off because of fears that candidates' signs would be removed from private property.
However, if TCRP was genuinely concerned about this, they could have attended the city's well publicized organizational meeting on the Wednesday before the event.
At that meeting, city staffers made it absolutely clear that no participant was to set foot on private property under any circumstances. Furthermore, no signs would be removed if they would be damaged in the process because the city was granting amnesty after the event and sign owners could pick up their signs.
Of course, had TCRP attended the meeting and found this out, then they would have had no basis on which to claim perceived damage from the Sign Off. They would have known that only signs on public property were going to be removed, which would have put them in the unenviable position of asking the court to enjoin an event solely to protect signs on public property, which are indisputably illegal.
The only way that TCRP was able to receive its temporary restraining order was through willful ignorance. It's a shame that such low tactics succeeded in canceling an event that would have benefited the entire city.
War for Oil
Alaskan oil, George W. Bush, and Saddam Hussein. The oil triangle. Last year, Bush, and Cheney's energy task farce, tried to get legislation through Congress opening up the protected Alaskan wilderness areas to oil exploration and exploitation. It failed. So on to plan B by Bush. Create an energy crisis that will drive up the price of oil in the U.S. Wars tend to cause energy crises. Oil companies will realize massive petro-profits, while the public demands that domestic production increase so we don't have to rely so much on foreign oil, which will lead to even more massive petro-profits for oil companies. Ergo, an oil crisis used as a policy catalyst. Legislation to open up the off-limits Alaskan oil deposits will breeze through Congress on the way to Bush's desk.
Now, what foreign country will be the patsy in this oil scheme? North Korea? Nope, no oil. Iran? Nope, not enough oil. Ah, Iraq and Saddam Hussein fit the bill perfectly. So before last winter (winter being the best time for war in Iraq), Bush tried to blame the horrific 9/11 and lethal anthrax letter attacks on Saddam Hussein. Nope, didn't work. Al Qaeda religious fundamentalist terrorists did the former while some homegrown wacko did the latter. The winter war window passed. Bush designates Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as an "axis of evil" in his 2002 State of the Union Address, but only beats the war drums for war with Iraq. October 2002, a war resolution to attack Iraq passes through Congress while Bush withholds vital information about North Korea from Democrats. Bush isn't about to let another winter slip by. Too many petro-dollars at stake. So, as soon as war is waged with Iraq, Bush will re-introduce his Alaskan oil legislation, but only because it is a national security issue. Oil, national security, patriotism. Another oil triangle. American citizens are being played for suckers.
U.S. Divided on War With Iraq
Bush got the vote he wanted from Congress. After the vote was in, he boasted that America now speaks with one voice. Not so. The vote was divided, as is the nation -- deeply divided. Some of us believe we have more to fear from George Bush than from Saddam Hussein. Saddam has never attacked us and does not seem inclined to do so now. Bush threatens to plunge us into an unprovoked and fruitless war.
How appropriate that the Nobel Committee should award the Peace Prize to Jimmy Carter -- and that its chair should, in passing, call attention to the contrast with Bush.
Louis H. Mackey
Griffin's Dream Alive & Kicking
Dear Mr. Editor-Type Man,
This is in response to a letter from last week ["Postmarks," Oct. 11] which criticized the Griffin School. I would just like to state, for the record, that the letter was written by a former student with whom I attended classes and that, personally, I was insulted -- as a student, as well as a writer. She said that the articles (about the Griffin School) were written or strongly influenced by Adam Wilson and that's just not true. Specifically, I can account for all three people who wrote the article she was responding to ["Back 2 Cool," Aug. 2]; two of them were students (me being one of them) and the other was an employee of the Chronicle. That had nothing to do with Adam.
As for the ones that did have something to do with Adam, he is the spokesperson for the school and an obvious choice to interview if one were doing an article about our lovely school.
But about the school, any utopian society has its faults, even alternative utopias. Things do change. But that doesn't mean that this school could not save a student whose creative kindred spirit is at risk of a messy but metaphorical death. I know that's what it has done for me. This school is like my home. It is for people who want to have school spirit but hated the high school they were attending. I don't think the changes to which Ms. Beal refers are as intense as she makes them out to be. The school is rich and alive this year. The dream isn't dead, it just dozed off for a second.
Love for my fellow students and the spirit of the Griffin School,
Griffin School Supporter
"What the caterpillar saw as the end of the world, the master saw as a butterfly" -- Richard Bach, author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull
I read the letter from Rebecca Beall that appeared in the Oct. 11 issue of The Austin Chronicle, and feel moved to respond. My son is a junior at the Griffin School. I feel fortunate to have found a place that is comfortable for him and for me. Rebecca claims the school "has changed." I wonder Rebecca, have you changed? Isn't that what this life is all about? Transformation? Isn't that what education is for? To elicit change?
The Griffin School is a very special place. These are renaissance teachers, extraordinary educators! I see young adults at the school being accepted as they are: individuals. I see teachers who love these students, and encourage them in their endeavors. Creativity abounds! It's a colorful world.
Spread your wings, Rebecca, just fly!
(mother of Danaan, Ayn, Sanje, Sean, and Shawna)
Re: Kira Koonce's letter, "Postmarks," Oct. 4:
Give me a break! I doubt (very seriously) that a 7-year-old wrote this without help from a mother suffering from low self-esteem. The sentence structure even changes from short sentences to a long run-on sentence. Objectify? At 7 years old, I doubt she actually knows, understands, and knows the noneffect so-called "objectifying" women has on our beloved citizens. At 7, and being female, she wouldn't even be allowed in the establishment, nor does signage always reflect the actual business. I know a pet store that has a fish painted on top of the building -- but sells dog and cat food, too. I think someone has been suckered in!
Protect Our Right to Choose
I can't understand how anyone could argue that a woman's right to choose isn't a significant issue in this year's Senate campaign.
The Supreme Court is just one vote away from eliminating the freedom to choose. The Senate is just one vote shy of an anti-choice majority. If a single justice retires -- and that's almost certain to happen soon -- an anti-choice Senate would easily confirm an anti-choice nominee from President Bush.
Ignoring this simple fact is all it would take to roll back the clock, put politicians in charge of the most personal decision a woman should make with her doctor alone, and send thousands of American woman to the shameful dangers of back alleys.
For all of these reasons, I am supporting Ron Kirk in the U.S. Senate race.
Air and Water
Thank you for the recent green building article by Dan Oko ["Naked City: When Green Is Gold," Oct. 4]. With the leadership role that Austin had in creating the first green building program in the country and its importance at reducing the degradation of our natural world, I believe a feature article is long overdue.
If new residents rely on the Chronicle as much as I do for regional environmental news, then many would be much more knowledgeable about water quality in the southwest part of Travis County than about air quality. Even though the two topics are very interrelated with regard to growth management, many folks do not know, for example, that fertilizers, pesticides, and other lawn chemicals are a substantial source of air pollution as well as a major water pollution source.
Regional and national air quality issues are well covered in the October edition of the local Good Life magazine.
The Revitalization of Patterson Park
I was delighted to see that Patterson Park was picked ['Best of Austin," Sept. 27] as Best Park for the Family That Does Everything. Patterson is indeed a remarkable neighborhood and city resource. Despite deterioration of many of its facilities over time, it continues to be a vibrant and lovely space in our community. Currently, Patterson is undergoing revitalization: We have a new shade over the baby pool, the City Council has allocated money for the playground to be renovated, and we are working on designing a system of trails and erosion control. This process has been truly inspiring and is a testament to the generosity of corporate donors such as HEB, the strong support of the good people at the Austin Parks Foundation, and the responsiveness of city of Austin Parks and Recreation Department staff to the community in advocating for the park. Most of all, it is a testament to the spirited and dedicated people of Wilshire Woods, Schieffer, and Cherrywood -- they are a pleasure to work with and plain-old fun to be around.
Don't Wait for War
Thirty years ago, demonized by the government and media, the persistent voice of Americans shouting "Make love, not war!" was decisive in stopping the organized killing in Vietnam. Would that an American anti-war movement arise again, this time to prevent the slaughter before it starts.
Bikes Aren't Practical
I hate to break it to Ms. Babich ["Postmarks," Oct. 11], but individually owned, fuel-burning vehicles (i.e. cars) will always be the primary method of choice for moving the populace about. Cars and our car culture are here to stay. I think our only hope lies in the use of so-called "hybrid" vehicles (gasoline/electric engine) or fuel cells (hydrogen-powered). I personally prefer the move toward hydrogen power because its only emission is water. As for hydrogen's extremely combustible nature (think: the Hindenburg), it seems that designers have worked around that. Honda has contracted with the city of Los Angeles to deliver five of these vehicles by year's end. Also, DaimlerChrysler is working on building a fleet of 60 fuel cell cars. Once these vehicles become mainstream, it will benefit everyone concerned. Bicycles are nice, but are impractical when it comes to traversing long distances (Austin to El Paso, for example). Amy's pie-in-the-sky idea of slowing down human activity (definition 2 of "Velorution") is laughable at best. The solution has to be changing what a car is to what a car will become.
Thanks From Deep Eddy
As president of Friends of Deep Eddy, I want to express our thanks for the "Best of Austin" award and recognition in the paper.
Leon J. Barish
Rootin' for Richey
I think that your piece on Kim Richey ["Immigrant Song," Oct. 4] was interesting, but understated. In my humble opinion she is one of the best songwriters to come along since John Hiatt.
Like the day JFK was shot, I recall where I was the first time that I heard her sing. KGSR was on the car radio when the intro to "Every River" made me think "Wow! Tight band! Who is this?" When the vocals started I was so impressed that I had to pull over and park to listen without the distraction of traffic. When the deejay announced it was Kim Richey from the Bitter Sweet CD, I went directly to Waterloo to get it.
While waiting for Emmylou Harris, I was talking with a guy from California that apparently had the disposable income and spare time to come to Austin just for the ACL Music Festival. Emmylou's ability to give us both goose bumps with her singing came up in conversation. When I asked, he said that he was not familiar with Kim Richey. (Shame on her record company's marketing department.) I told him if he liked music so much that it gave him goose bumps, he'd love Kim Richey.
Letter at 5am
Catching up online with several of Michael Ventura's columns, I was compelled to condense his piece of Sept. 20 and add some points in conclusion.
Mr. Ventura notes:
"The contract [that Halliburton] recently won from the Army is for 10 years and has no lid on costs, the only logistical arrangement by the Army without an estimated cost."
"On July 13 (2002) John Ashcroft's Justice Department resisted any oversight by both House and Senate judiciary committees regarding new powers given Ashcroft by last October's passage of the USA PATRIOT Act. (Many Congressmen who voted for it now admit they never read it!)"
"Bush ... insisted that Homeland Security have broad powers to 'redirect' millions of dollars to projects 'without Congressional approval' -- a proposal that flatly contradicts the intent and letter of the Constitution, which gives Congress sole control of the government's purse-strings."
"... a few courageous federal judges questioned the White House's unconstitutional arrests and detentions since the September 11 attacks. Judge Gladys Kessler bravely stated what should be obvious to all: 'Secret arrests are a concept odious to a democratic society.' In an astonishing defiance of law, the Justice Department (which is supposed to enforce our laws) refused to abide by the judge's orders."
Mr Ventura concludes: "The public has nothing but nonsense to go on."
When developing suspects for a crime, the first thing investigators look for is who stands to benefit from the crime.
It is clear that the terrorist attack on 9/11 has abetted an illegitimately elected administration to enact laws which have eliminated key rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, which rights our president swore to protect in his inauguration.
It is time to acknowledge that we have a government which is following in Hitler's footsteps to create a totalitarian state, and this "shadow government" should be the prime suspect in the 9/11 terrorist attack.
Kenney C. Kennedy
'Morning Edition' Hijacked
The Chronicle has been silent on what's happened at KUT radio in the last 18 months, but many Chron readers are also KUT listeners and must have noticed that Morning Edition, KUT's morning news program, has been hijacked by new management.
Coverage on Sept. 13 provides a perfect example. On a morning when there was a lot of national news to cover, relevant coverage was sharply curtailed. KUT has decided it's good for us to know what the editor of Texas Monthly thinks about state elections, what plans the Texas Education Agency has for the forthcoming year, and what those Longhorns are up to. Of course, we know that the changes at KUT are not good for us particularly, but they're darn good for local careerists in the journalism field (is that why the Chron has been so silent?).
Once upon a time, KUT appealed to contributors by acknowledging them as "members." That language was tellingly dropped for the last fund drive, when we were all demoted to being "listeners." Those listeners who once felt connected to a global and national dialogue and who now feel like they have been hauled back to the backwater, can send a message to the current management in the next KUT fund drive. Give directly to NPR or give a nominal, protest contribution to KUT.
At War With the Sea
In the year 40AD, the Roman Emperor Caligula declared war on the sea, because he was angry with Poseidon. According to legend, he ordered his soldiers to wade into the surf and flay the water with whips.
Now a different emperor has declared a much deadlier war on the sea. Bush has given the Navy the go-ahead to use a type of sonar that blasts the ocean with a noise level of over 230 decibels. This device has killed whales, dolphins, and other species in previous tests. Even much lower decibel levels can cause ruptured lungs, deafness, and death. Naturally, when it was discovered that the sonar was at fault, there was an immediate outcry calling for it to be banned from the world's oceans. But Bush ignored this and granted the Navy an exemption from the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
If this sonar is deployed, as early as Nov. 1 it will begin killing thousands of whales, dolphins, and other innocent ocean dwellers who are utterly defenseless to its power. Already there have been dead whales from at least three different species found near previous tests of this sonar. They were bleeding from their inner ears.
Gandhi said you can judge a nation by the way it treats its animals. If we continue with this pointless butchery, we will show ourselves to be nothing more than high-tech barbarians.
Kirk for Senator
In a nation that's re-dedicated itself to protect its freedoms, voters, and our elected leaders must also protect the freedom of a woman to make her own choice about reproductive issues.
If women don't stand up and speak up for their right to choose, and elect someone who'll defend that right in the Senate, then they will just let the anti-choice extremists eliminate their most fundamental freedom. Remember: The Senate approves Supreme Court justices, and the right to choose is protected today by a mere 5-4 majority.
For all of theses reasons, I am supporting Ron Kirk in the U.S. Senate race.
Overwhelmed by Society
The price of crude. The cost of a vote cast. Millions of obese or physically dysfunctional professionals racing to get to work on time. Poison in the air, the earth, the water ... it wants fire! I wonder if the voting machines are still functional? What about that phone line that gives us so much trouble? Just the hassle of translating from English to Hebrew is enough to make me want to cry. Maybe King George is right. Maybe a democracy gets what it deserves.
Todd Alan Smith
Keep Religion Out of It
I recently saw a letter to the editor which read, "Bush is a good Christian and if he says we should fight Iraq, then I support him ..." How do we know he is a Christian? Because he said so? Does that justify sending our men and women to war? H. L. Mencken said, "The trouble with Communism is the Communists, just as the trouble with Christianity is the Christians." We should never let religion dominate political policy. The Iraqi threat seems too contrived, fed to the public via manufactured leaks and unverified suspicions. Our own intelligence and former UN inspectors disagree with the administration's claims.
Recently, a colleague, a Republican, said he was glad Clinton was not in the White House during these "troubling times." When you ask a Republican about Clinton, it is always "Monica," and nothing else. Yet, under Clinton, the economy was good, the stock market set records, people had jobs they liked, there were more police on the streets, the environment was protected, our allies liked us, peace came to Bosnia, trade flourished with Mexico, etc. Since Dubya took office, unemployment is up, the stock market is tanking, the environment is getting the shaft (or drill bit), health care is ignored (remember the elderly prescription plan?), our allies are suspicious of our intentions, and people are not happy. Dubya is hoping Iraq will help keep his ineptness beneath the public's radar.
Former President (and peanut farmer) Jimmy Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this weekend. I guarantee Dubya will never be considered for such an honor. While Republicans join corporate boards when they leave the White House, Carter has vested his time promoting peace, democracy, and humanity. I doubt that Dubya can even pronounce those words. I think Dubya will go down in history as one of our worst presidents. Another pearl from Mencken: "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for. As for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican."
Frank E. Mott
Seat Belt Law Must Go
Here's an idea ...
The country's largest health insurance companies ban together and lobby the Texas Legislature to pass laws making it illegal to consume foods high in fat, cholesterol, or sodium. Then the police patrol all neighborhoods and restaurants and write tickets for every person who violates the "deadly digestion laws." The income from ticket fines could then be used to buy the police new cell phones, laptops, radar-guns, mountain bikes, and other such gadgets that they desire.
That sounds a bit absurd and paternalistic, doesn't it? But, how is this scenario any different from the current taxpayer-funded seat-belt campaign that our legislature and police waste untold resources and time promoting? Insurance companies provide all of the push, and receive all of the benefit, from seat belt laws. Our legislators simply do as they are told in exchange for campaign contributions. Our police also do as they are told in exchange for discretionary fine income, and the rest of us commute around town in daily fear that there is a police car in our rear-view mirror or around the next corner.
A recent KVUE news broadcast showed a local sheriff insisting that seat belt laws were not about money. Wrong! Seat belt laws are all about money and only about money. If our legislators were as concerned about our safety and welfare as they are about our driving habits, then perhaps more enforcement resources would be deployed toward preventing violent crimes instead of sitting idly beside our roadways like snakes waiting to strike. Unfortunately, there is just no income in preventing violent crime, but there is certainly a boatload of cash to be made with ticket quotas.
I have nothing against those who work to make our world a safer and better place to live. But, am I the only who has had enough of Big Brother's "Click-it or Ticket?" Am I the only one who is sick and tired of being squeezed in the middle? Am I the only one who is fed up with our Legislature doing more to protect private corporate interests than public good? Am I the only one angry at paying too many taxes to live in as much fear of the police as I do of the criminals? Can't our Legislature and police turn their attention to doing some real good for all us and not just for themselves?
Remember Free Concerts?
Call me a dreamer, but would it kill anyone at City Hall to actually give something back to the people of Austin without charging the shit out of them? Why not make the Austin City Limits Music Festival a free event? I mean absolutely free. No $2 parking, no $2,800 charge for food vendors licensed to do business in the city of Austin. No anal-retentive "two-bottle limit" on water in a venue without shade in a lot of places, in 90 degree heat. What moron came up with that crap anyway? People are supposed to drink six pints of water a day minimum, why limit the amount of water people can bring into a city park anyway?
Cool, so it went well, which is important. Cool, it's going to be an annual event. It would be cooler still if 50,000 people who just wanted to hear excellent music could come to Austin, the Live Music Capital of the World, for a two-day free concert. Free as in being able to leave the park and come back in whenever you wanted to. Free as in being allowed to bring in as much drinking water as you feel like. Free concert ... remember them, my fellow old hippies? So what if it costs the city a million or two? They spend that much in six months on "consultants." Golly, can you imagine, the Austin City Council holding a free event, something for the citizens of Austin and music fans from all over the world to attend and enjoy? Me either. Wonder why that is?
Carl T. Swanson
Golly, Noam Chomsky featured in the Chronicle ["'It's Extremely Easy to Frighten People,'" Oct. 18]! What a surprise! Michael King interviewed him! Wow, what a shock to see the two remaining members of the Three Stooges engaging in a jerk-fest! I know Michael King must love Chumpsky, because Chumpsky's big following is comprised of two main groups: college kids with no real-world experience and really pathetically stupid people. I would bet King is out of school. Few points. Chumpsky and his idiotic followers blame Saddam on "Daddy Bush." Well, campers, unbeknownst to the real assholes in the world, there is a Congress, comprised of the Senate and House of Representatives, and they are tasked with providing checks and balances on the executive branch. While "Daddy Bush" was president, the Senate and House were Democrat. What these two hate-filled little people fail to mention in their rant is that Congress, a Democratic Congress, was "watching" while virtually every single "Evil American" episode developed, from the installation and support of the Shah, of Pinochet, of the Sandinistas. ... Dipshit, I mean Noam, says Saddam is no more dangerous than he was four years ago." That would have been when the Democrats and Clinton were calling for immediate military action, but not a single word about that in the rant. "The Bush administration is carrying out a significant assault against the American population." More idiotic rhetoric, targeted at people like Mikey King. Did anyone ever hear about the war on drugs? Where's Noam when Joseph Biden's Senate Judiciary Committee was passing "Asset Back" laws, where was Noam when the liberal Supreme Court said it was OK to arrest someone's house?
Paying any attention to partisan, myopic liars who build their lives around their hatred of anyone who does not agree politically with their own opinion is a sure-fire recipe for protecting the status quo, which is what people like King and Chumpsky are all about. They offer no solutions, they put the worse possible spin on everything and never present the facts, only their interpretation of the facts. The only thing worth noting on the entire page was Noam's comment that it's "easy to frighten people." He knows this to be true because that is what he does. He goes out spewing complete bullshit to scare the stupid people. Need a hug Michael?
Carl T. Swanson
History Repeating Itself
Three branches of government made a sorry record in their mad pursuit of war. During Vietnam, when Laura Bush and I were among the dissenters, Congress trashed the constitution with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, making the president a dictator. Only two (Morse and Greuning) of 535 congresspersons voted no.
In 1970 the state of Massachusetts appealed to the Supreme Court, which also trashed the constitution failing to declare the war unconstitutional -- which it was. Later Congress stopped the war by repealing the Tonkin Resolution and unfunding the war.
After 9/11, Congress trashed the constitution permitting the dictator to make war on Afghanistan. Only one congressperson voted no.
In the recent vote to escalate the illegal 10-year reign of terror on Iraq, the number of congresspersons voting no was a whopping 133 in Congress and 23 in the Senate. It may not prevent the holocaust, but it is a famous victory for the people of the U.S. and the peace movement. So Congress should take courage to do the right thing: Again repeal the resolution and unfund the war.
Jewel R. Johnson,
Delegate to the Non-Governmental Organization Conference of the UN, representing the United Church of Christ