Our readers talk back.
Defend Your Rights
If there is a fight with Falwell/Robertson and the religious right over the First Amendment, I want to be part of that fight. I would prefer to be the water boy but I will take the lead if I must. I did not stumble in; I jumped in, with both feet, gleefully. Nor did I discover along the way there were significant obstacles to a person in my position. These I foresaw from the outset and simply believed, one by one, I could overcome them. So far, so good.
Our constitution established no agency to watch government and blow the whistle when government encroaches on the people's Bill of Rights. Congress has created no such agency. That task falls to us, you and me, the people of this country. Bobby Kennedy said one man can make a difference and every man should try. He was talking about you and me.
I appreciate Dave Mann's handling of the homeless bit with humor ["Thou Shalt Not Sue?," Dec. 6] -- that's how I get through it too. But, I suspect somewhere there's a Sears appliance salesman who is not at all happy with Mr. Mann.
Thomas Van Orden
Malpractice Suits Harm System
Michael King's attack ["Capitol Chronicle," Nov. 22] against state Sen. Jane Nelson's legislation to bring medical malpractice lawsuits under control is interesting.
Perhaps Mr. King would prefer to drive out of Texas the last four companies that are even writing medical liability insurance in this state. It was not so long ago that 17 companies offered this indispensable coverage to physicians.
Or, maybe Mr. King believes OB-GYN services should be available in only a few Texas counties. After all, almost half of Texas' 254 counties lack birthing services. In the 101 counties where no such care is available, the Austin-American Statesman reported that, "Pregnant women in some parts of the state must drive hours for routine pre-natal care, or delivery, and often have trouble finding specialists to tend to them during their pregnancies."
It would be easy to speculate that Mr. King is so ill-informed that he doesn't recognize the connection between meritless medical malpractice lawsuits, huge jury awards, and the current state of medical care in Texas. But Mr. King's defense of plaintiff trial lawyers reveals he is all too aware of the damage they have caused our civil justice system. He just doesn't care.
[Ed. note: Hoagland is a spokesperson for Texans for Lawsuit Reform, and his letter was sent from an e-mail address at McDonald & Associates, which does TLR's public relations work.]
A Voice Unheard
My name is Kenneth Snyder and I live in the colonia neighborhood of Northridge Acres. I appreciate the article you ran on Nov. 15 entitled "Between Round Rock and a Hard Place" about my neighborhood. I have spoken out against the hatred and discrimination against Northridge Acres residents. I have spoken to Travis and Williamson counties Commissioners Courts to make them aware of the health hazards of drinking contaminated water off a fire hydrant and the need for their assistance. They do not care!! On Nov. 21 and 26 at the Round Rock City Council meeting Mayor Nyle Maxwell became a dictator. He singled me out before citizen's communication and used underhanded tactics to keep me from speaking. He turned off all the cameras and all the audio equipment when I went up for citizen's communication, my testimony was not put on the audio or video record both times I went to speak. He does not want anyone to know that he will not help the residents of Northridge Acres. Mayor Maxwell violated my right as a taxpayer to an open and honest government and this is a perfect example of his hatred of low-income people and colonia residents. It is disturbing to think that an elected official can show so much discrimination and hatred and still be in office.
Taxation Is the problem
Every now and then we all make goofy statements that, in hindsight, we wish we hadn't made. Michael King surely made one when he opined, in response to a proposed 80% property tax increase for ACC, "That's not a huge jump" ["Your Neighbors, Your Money: ACC Looks for Support," Dec. 6].
Perhaps King is math-challenged. He says "potentially a total increase of about $30-$40 for the average Austin homeowner." If the average Austin home is assessed at $150k (I think it's more), then a four-cent tax increase would cost that hypothetical homeowner $60 on his or her tax bill. But that's not all he'll pay for this tax increase. Commercial property is taxed too, and businesses pass on tax increases in the form of reduced wages for employees and/or higher prices for customers. (Or the business could fold and layoff its employees.)
Libertarian mathematicians propose that the average homeowner will pay closer to $150 for this "not so huge jump." That's the total of higher property taxes, lower wages, and increased prices at local stores. That amount is also sufficient to cause significant numbers of homeowners to lose their homes to tax collectors or cut some family budget item like health insurance.
Will Michael then support "not a huge jump" in the county tax rate to provide welfare for the new poor? Taxation is the No. 1 cause of poverty in America.
Vincent J. May
Nonprofits' Growing Pains
Andy Langer's Nov. 29 article on the SIMS Foundation ["Managed Health Care"] illustrates some of the challenges that many nonprofits encounter as they grow. The SIMS Foundation is doing a great job of working to continue to serve its clients. SIMS is a valuable asset that provides important services and does so with limited resources. As the needs of our community change, the nonprofits that meet those needs also must change. However, they often require help through these transitions.
I'd like to let your readers involved with nonprofits as volunteers, staff members, or board members know about Greenlights for NonProfit Success. We work with many local nonprofits much like the SIMS Foundation to help them address some of the pains that accompany growth. Many nonprofits begin on the shoulders of a small, dedicated group of individuals who need resources and tools to take their organization to the next level of success. Greenlights helps these organizations to become more effective by addressing management and governance issues and making the changes necessary to continue to provide excellent service.
In the era of Enron and WorldCom, nonprofits are increasingly in the spotlight and funders like KGSR want to make sure that their money is being spent wisely ... as well they should. We are encouraged by this trend and hope that funders will act as partners and continue to support nonprofits facing difficult circumstances. I encourage your readers involved with emerging nonprofits to continue to help them work through growing pains by recognizing challenges and taking advantage of supportive resources.
Director of Programs
Greenlights for NonProfit Success
SIMS Saves Lives
Thank you for your feature on the SIMS Foundation ["Managed Health Care," Nov. 29] and to all the people and businesses in the Austin community who support the great work being done by that wonderful organization in their continued dedication to saving precious lives of talented members of the Austin music community and their family members. At SIMS, "crisis" is the daily agenda and it takes a unique human being with a strong vision and spirit to find strength to take those calls day after day and say "yes" knowing you haven't the resources but believing you will find a way, because you have to, because someone's life depends on it. And thank you to Peyton and his sweet family for the sacrifices they have made and the love they have given. Controversy or not, change is good, God is in heaven, great things have and will be accomplished, and hope will continue.
Ode to City Council
council bends us over
music scene is dead
Government Is Not the Answer
I would like to disagree with your perspective on the "need" for a government-provided health care district ["Page Two," Dec. 6]. I also disagree with your underlying belief that it will be a tragedy if a new health care tax district never comes into fruition. Fortunately, as you note, voters are on my side and do favor less government. I find it refreshing that people vote against others taking their money from them, even if they do so for potentially good causes.
Please don't misunderstand me. I am not opposed to community health care or community solutions to our problems. The difference is that when you speak of community and responsibility, you can only see government solutions whereas I see private solutions. You fail to recognize that greater community comes when people voluntarily spend their time, energy, and talents in pursuit of community because they care. Your sense of community is government taking money from people, deciding where to spend it, and paying bureaucrats (who do not necessarily care about anything other than their paycheck) to try to cure our societal ills. Where is the honor in this? Where is the virtue in this? Do those taxpaying contributors actually feel any sense of pride in this?
In my sense of community, there is reward, honor, and dignity. When I volunteer my time to deliver groceries to homebound folks, I am contributing to the community because I care. When I donate my money to a ranch in Elgin that helps people with mental handicaps, I am giving to my community and feel a sense of pride in doing so. When I dump five bucks into the Salvation Army guy's red pot, it is because I have compassion.
Perhaps libertarians like myself would take you more seriously if you didn't always run to government for solutions. I gladly give to the community around me because I believe that is the right thing to do. I simply ask for you not to steal my time and money through government in the name of doing good deeds or supporting noble undertakings.
Fact Checking 101: Sign Savlov Up
Will someone please, please, offer Marc Savlov some editorial advice, or at the very least access to an online search engine? Run Lola Run, referenced in Savlov's review of Das Experiment [Dec. 6] was directed by Tom Tykwer, not Tom Twyker. Ringu, the Japanese movie which has caused such a recent stir on this side of the pond, was directed by Hideo Nakata, not Hideo Akata. This information is easily accessible on the Internet. Even if he's not technologically inclined, Savlov could take the time to look at the box of the video or DVD, which would also provide the pertinent info.
On top of these errors, he also used the phrase "hella-cool" in his fluff piece about the Jen Saves Ben video game (what hath Kevin Smith wrought?) ["Another Blow to Damsels-in-Distress"]. I'm not gonna touch that one, but merely offer a suggestion. Perhaps Mr. Savlov would be better suited to a job at Hot Topic. I hear that place is "hella-cool."
Thanks for lettin' me rant,
In the 'Right' Direction
Dear Louis Black:
Our nation is already moving in the right direction thanks to the historic majorities achieved by President Bush and Republicans at the polls on Nov. 5. At President Bush's urging, Congress took meaningful action by passing a homeland security bill, providing terrorism insurance, and confirming President Bush's qualified judicial nominees. All of these initiatives had been stalled in the Democrat-controlled Senate before the election, but are now moving forward because a majority of Americans supported Republicans on Election Day. Thanks to the voters' sound judgment, President Bush and Republicans have been making a real difference for the American people and I look forward to the many accomplishments to come in the next two years.
Hey Buddy, Chomsky IS Right
Aaron Kapner fails in his attempt to discredit Noam Chomsky's criticism of U.S. complicity in Israeli Zionist oppression of Palestinians ["Postmarks," Dec. 6]. The facts don't support Kapner's half-truths, which are typical Israeli propaganda.
The U.S. does not just "sell" military weaponry to Israel, for one thing. We grant billions in aid to Israel ($14 billion sought for next year alone; up to $80 billion to Israel since l948). Israel uses most of the money to buy U.S. equipment. Then the loans are forgiven. Further, no other country in the world receives U.S. aid on this scale -- more than one-third of our entire foreign aid goes to Israel, granted by an Israeli-intimidated U.S. Congress.
Regarding Kapner's glorification of the Israeli political system, how about asking the Palestinians who are Israeli citizens what they think about how equally they are treated in the truly Jewish theocratic state we have over there?
Kapner's mistaken praise of Barak's offer of a "state" to Palestinians is ludicrous. Arafat could never accept a system of South Africa apartheid-type Bantustans ringed by a road system for the exclusive use of Israelis, guarded by the IDF, with no control of their own water or electrical system, with no right to an independent military, etc.; there are too many deficiencies to list here. Kapner probably believes the land was deeded to Jews by God and therefore they are gracious to allow anyone else to live there, even in a condition of near-slavery. Other people in the world do not believe that; no international court of law would accept such a claim.
Jews have suffered terrible persecutions in the past and hopefully never again. Today's Palestinians should not be required to pay the price.
The Welfare State
I was surprised that Sharon-apologist Aaron Kapner ["Postmarks," Dec. 6] could be so utterly clueless when it came to Israel's laughable "freedom of speech" as well as U.S. foreign policy toward our favorite welfare client state and co-sponsor of state terrorism.
My left-wing, devoutly Jewish Israeli friends in New York have a special contempt for shrilly posturing Jewish-Americans who talk their hate talk and "keep our shit-pot stirred up" while comfortably ensconced in suburban America, far, far away from the (suicide-bombed five times) Tel Aviv No. 3 bus and the many other lovely results of the Israeli genocide they so bravely champion from the trenches of Tarrytown.
It is an established fact that every printed word published and every TV story filed in the foreign press about Israel is vetted through Israeli military censors.
We give Israel more than $12 billion a year in foreign aid (12 times more than all other countries combined). The fact that we pick up their defense tab enables them to have the highest standard of living in the Middle East -- higher than most Americans, in fact. Their per-capita cell phone ownership is something like 87%!
If this is not a welfare client state, I don't know what is. What I do know is for that kinda money, they shouldn't be writing Israeli domestic policy -- we should.
A More Familiar Metaphor
My old friend Louis,
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your "Page Two" [Dec. 6] article regarding Seton, the lack of civic planning, and the dismantling of our social net. Sadly, a lot of people probably didn't get past Kant. Maybe the movie It's a Wonderful Life would be a better introduction. We changed the name of this city, nay this entire country, to Pottersville some time ago. And the Bailey family? Well, Zuzu died of pneumonia because they couldn't afford health care with George in prison. Just a nice thought for the holidays.