Our readers talk back.
When I was interviewed about ethical violations at UT's Texas Memorial Museum ["Only Natural," Feb. 21], Walt Howerton and I had a long conversation about museums, the public trust, professional ethics, and so on. I was dismayed, therefore, when his article failed to explain the ethical issues almost entirely.
A museum's collections represent the lives, knowledge, and legacy of a community. These artifacts, heirlooms, and scientific resources may be cared for by a museum, but they ultimately belong to the public. In the museum business, most of us take that public trust very seriously; after all, without their missions of public service, museums would not exist.
So when a museum's director decides to dump 65 years' worth of collections, shouldn't somebody cry foul? Indeed, the International Council of Museums' Code of Ethics states that such decisions should have the input of 1) someone with curatorial expertise in that content area and 2) the public, or at least of a board that represents the public's interests. Your article might have raised these points. It also might have questioned UT's reluctance to intervene -- after all, here's a director with little formal management training and a flawed understanding of museum ethics, charged by the university with overseeing important collections but provided with little support or oversight. Instead, Howerton's article praised Ed Theriot as "a man with a vision," and reinforced the dangerous misconception that he has every right to do this.
Soon, 65 years worth of cultural treasures will be dispersed to who knows where. Years from now, someone will wonder about their great-great-grandfather's pistol that was donated to UT, and some poor TMM staffer will have the unfortunate task of telling the story once again: "Well see, a few years ago, back before our ethics policies were in place ..."
R. Brent Lyles
Damn Alcohol and Dope Music
Your self-righteous tone in discussing the imminent Iraq war is not palatable in a publication that profits by and promotes the sale of alcohol (not to mention dope music) as assiduously as does the Chronicle.
Did you ever research alcohol's social, health, and traffic mortality toll? A reference librarian can help you do this. Here's a starter: U.S. drunk drivers kill someone every half-hour.
Stick With Science, Parmesan
Camille Parmesan ["We've Got Climate Change," March 7] severely undermined her credibility when she stepped out of her role as a scientist to become an environmental polemicist. Most egregious were her comments on Bjorn Lomborg, that included insults, unsubstantiated criticisms, and out-right errors, e.g. calling him a con man, asserting he miscites sources, and claiming the Danish Academy of Science found his work dishonest when it was the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty, a committee of nonscientists who only cited articles written by Lomborg's critics as evidence, hardly authoritative.
I would have rather heard more on how this study demonstrated that recent biological trends match climate change predictions. Particularly, which of the many contradictory climate change models they choose to use as the one their study matched.
Austin Music Awards Are BS
What is the point in printing those awards when they are total BS ["Austin Music Awards," March 14]? As a musician I am surprised that you would print Mingo Fishcrap as the best funk band. Although it is a popularity contest without any sort of intellectual musical background involved, I guess it's best to show the public visiting SXSW the most popular acts instead of the best music. After all, SXSW is about money, not about music, right? Why can't you put local Austin musicians or even the editor's favorite bands around here? Just to be curious, how many people on the Music staff are more than just journalists? Can any of them play great blues, jazz, folk, and country music on real instruments? Or do all they know how to do is write and put popular garbage up there? I've played music for half my life, and I know plenty of those award winners are garbage. Please make next year's issue a little less atrocious.
Freedom of Speech Forbids Free Speech
The discovery of wealth creates superhuman brains and world leaders!
Funny, the only ones who really believe that are Natalie Maines and the looney, liberal, illiterate, arrogant, Hollywood trash who are committing treason against our president, our country, and the troops who are protecting us! This will no longer be tolerated! It is a matter of respect ... an item of scarcity, it seems. These, and others, need to learn what it is to respect their country, freedom, liberty, themselves, and the fact that, whether you are dirt-ignorant, talented, poor, wealthy, or smart, in America, one does have a chance to excel. And that freedom insists on loyalty and respect.
There is a perfectly drawn line, telling those, with just a minimal amount of intelligence, where freedom of speech ends and treason begins. Those who do not know, or care, where that line is, and take sides against us, need to leave this country, or suffer the consequences of their big mouths!
Roy Max Perrin
A Good Word for Wendy
I read with great interest Mike Clark-Madison's story on "The Entertainment Economy" here in Austin [March 14]. Good piece; thanks for including me in it; just a few things to add: Austin music has Jim Butler working to make things better on the inside at City Hall as well as another indispensable champion at the ACVB, Wendy Morgan. Her job title is music liaison. Jim's is much longer. One of Wendy's many duties is to help us on the Music Commission, and you can thank her for the widely referenced economic study conducted by Jon Hockenyos. It was Wendy who recommended that we devote some of the limited funds we had available at the time to the study, and I'm so glad we did. Wendy also provides information about Austin music to publications from around the world. She could have told you that the tourism industry is now pulling in over $3 billion dollars a year, almost double from the year in which the study was completed. Just wanted to put in a good word for a person who does great work. And congrats to all the folks over at your shop and next door who put on another insanely great SXSW.
Austin Music Commission
Thanks for your latest coverage on the ongoing devouring of our neighborhood by suburban Baptists ["Baptists Win a Round in Hyde Park," Feb. 21].
I first moved to Hyde Park in the mid-Eighties and have seen most of the destruction firsthand. I can still bring to mind the structures bulldozed where parking lots and offices now sit. At first I was amazed at the arrogant attitude by the church toward the wishes of the people in the surrounding neighborhood. That has now been replaced by amazement at the amount of money being spent. Is this really what parishioners had in mind when the collection plate went by, alienation and court battles?
It would be understandable if they were expanding to serve the neighborhood, but these people drive in from the 'burbs so they can preen and be seen at a high status "Mega Church" without leaving big, ugly scars in their own area.
So I have a question for the pastor of HPB:
Instead of creating all this turmoil and expense, why don't you speak from the pulpit every Sunday on how the church has outgrown the neighborhood, and ask that people attend the church closest to their home?
We could have our neighborhood back. The churches that are driven past now would gain new blood, and the money to grow. Members could become acquainted with their own neighbors and neighborhood needs. And HBC could spend their money on other things. (Seen any homeless people in the area, hint, hint?)
I don't really expect an answer. I'm afraid we already know. I'm not a religious person myself, but I've heard through the grapevine that pride and greed rank pretty high on the list of sins.
Thanks for your time,
No More Whining!
[Re: "The Hightower Lowdown"]
I lived in Connecticut, the tax-and-spend state. I was living in the poor section of town. I left there and made my own. I don't want whining on how we should always take their money. Some of the folks never tried to better themselves or move to other places to seek out the American dream. According to you the American dream is always taking from the rich. I think even people who shovel snow for five years get a state pension.
The anti-war movement has been an abysmal failure. We have focused on the motives of President Bush (oil, revenge, etc.) instead of presenting a coherent argument against war based on reason, wisdom, morality, and national security. And where has the Democratic Party been? Diverting attention to traditional domestic issues rather than addressing foreign policy directly. We should all be ashamed of our lack of focus and organization.
A Reminder of What We Had
"The Hole in the Wall Gang" performance at the Chronicle Music Awards served as an excellent reminder of what "smart growth" has taken away from community real estate values. I seem to remember a time when there was a rock and roll free-for-all. Great job, Mr. Minor, lovely show.
Todd Alan Smith
No Lawn Chairs or Pets?
Last night I went to Auditorium Shores looking forward to the free concert. I was so happy to finally go back to Auditorium Shores for a free concert as opposed to the claustrophobic Waterloo Park where the free concerts have been held over the last few years. I was dismayed to find not only was there a fence up around the lake with only one entrance, but a gatekeeper there who told me that I could not bring in my lawn chairs. I also was told coolers and pets were now banned from the free show. When I asked him why, he said, "Well, it's a free concert, we have to make money somehow." That explains the no coolers rule, but no lawn chairs or pets???
Lawn chairs and pets were a way people would set up camp, so to speak. Many people always parked themselves in the same areas so friends would know where to find them; it gave everyone more than a concert, but a community to socialize with friends and neighbors. By taking this away you have, in effect, left everyone homeless. Here we were at the "free" concert having to look around in hopes of bumping into someone we know. I can tell you it made for a much shorter time that my party stuck around. By the looks of people exiting quickly I wasn't the only one leaving the show early.
One more note on the no cooler rule: Yes, there are people [who], if able to have coolers, wouldn't be buying the available beer and drinks there, but by making a hostile atmosphere the way you did last night with no lawn chairs, or dogs, there wasn't even half the people normally there for the free concerts to buy drinks. What's next ... no baby strollers?
[Ed. note: The fence was erected to comply with alcohol sales law; chairs and dogs were banned out of safety concerns. These three decisions were not made for monetary reasons.]
Come Out and Defend Freedom
While I am opposed to the impending invasion of Iraq by the U.S. and appreciate the French government telling Bush to take his self-enriching war and shove it, I want to take the opportunity to address the policy of our five military branches which bars enlistment and service by our country's gay men and women.
Simply put, gay persons have fought and died in every war in which our nation has been involved, regardless of the official line that asserts that they do not exist. When the body count of our servicemen starts accumulating (God forbid) in the Mid-East, there will be gay men and lesbians being shipped home in the body bags alongside their straight counterparts.
How long will the U.S. gay community be kept in the status of second-class citizenry? The inability to serve its country in the open is the primary obstacle facing this diverse and talented group in its quest for equality under the law.
How long will America demonstrate her utter lack of tolerance, graciousness, and appreciation for the service gay men and women have performed defending her freedom?
Kenney C. Kennedy
Where Leslie Lives
Nice article on Leslie ["Austin@Large," March 14]. He's very articulate. Has a nice vision for Austin. Unfortunately, he doesn't live in Austin anymore. He hangs his boa in West Lake and has for about a year now. Not camping out. Living in. Someone gave him her house to live in some time ago. Maybe he can run for West Lake mayor instead, but he's no longer an Austin resident.
[Ed. note: The city of Austin's Web site (www.cityofaustin.org) lists Leslie's address as 717 W. Sixth.]
Don't Insult Texas
The original members of the Maines Brothers Band were all three good friends of mine. They exemplified the fine West Texas men that they were. Then the next generation of Maines Brothers was about as perfect a group of American boys as you could hope to know. They were very popular and pretty much blew off a successful music career at its high point, I believe, because of the sometime sleaziness of the music biz and the need to leave Texas to go any higher than they were.
I don't know Natalie Maines nor the Bush family, but after knowing all the men in Natalie's family, I feel like anyone badmouthing her is insulting the true greatness of Texas, the South, and America. God bless Natalie Maines.
Tommy X Hancock
Nuclear terrorists don't wear uniforms, and terrorist nations don't have formal terror pacts or publicized objectives. Together they constitute a stealth coalition, which, as you read this, is in the process of planning and carrying out attacks against America. Their attacks won't take the form of dropped bombs or cruise missiles, but rather foot soldiers with suitcases and weapons that can destroy entire cities. Countries that harbor terrorists are transformed into terrorist nations. We have been attacked by a member of this terrorist coalition, and we are moving against the whole, one member at a time. The leaders of these countries made a conscious choice to join this coalition.
There are only two choices for our future. Not three options, not four. We can have a world with nuclear terrorist nations or one without. And make no mistake, we are under attack. We need no further justification for our actions nor permission from anyone.
Do Your Part
I want to thank the Chronicle and its staff for continuing to be a voice for the many of us who do not blindly accept whatever corporate America and our "leaders" attempt to force-feed us.
As a nation we should wean ourselves as much as possible from this horrible fossil-fuel addiction with which we cannot keep up efficiently or produce enough domestically to be affordable and reliable without ruining the environment. Our nation should not use coercion and politics to keep the supply we demand.
Alternatives have been developed and have been vastly improved, but our progress toward utilizing them is underfunded and woefully too slow. It's sad to think, but it really doesn't take that much effort to change the world. People acting individually do make a difference; every little bit does count. That's the dirty little secret that Madison Avenue and George W. don't seem to advertise. Ride a bike, ride public transportation, or walk once a week if you are able. Drive fuel-efficient cars, recycle. Volunteer once and a while. Take a risk. Be a true patriot and part of our democracy. It's that simple.
The Real Leaders
I want to apologize to all the folks who've been claiming that Democrats didn't protest Clinton's war endeavors, as we are now doing against this latest military adventure toward Iraq. You all are absolutely correct, and thanks for pointing it out. I have finally seen the light -- both parties are rotten to the core; Ralph Nader might even require closer examination as to his motives, and who is really behind his effort. Either side -- be it Democrat/Republican, left/right, conservative/liberal, religious/secular -- is strapped with a distracting label, which seemingly must be constantly defined and defended, so we can never seem to come together as patriotic Americans to demand our elected officials be accountable to us. Meanwhile, a military-industrial complex run by global cartels and represented by the Council on Foreign Relations has hijacked the U.S. government. The CFR agenda is anti-American, calling for obliteration of national boundaries, establishment of a one-world totalitarian regime, and they promote war at every opportunity -- funding both sides of the trumped-up conflict to control the whole deal. And, the CIA, which has never been an American agency from the start, always seeks to promote and protect this scenario. If approval ratings decline when public scrutiny detects some "evildoing," the CIA or FBI blows up buildings or aircraft, and blames the terrorism on the latest bogeyman. You know the rest. Every "state of emergency" proclamation, which never gets unproclaimed, requires trusting Americans to sacrifice more civil liberties, which we can never easily reclaim; this routine has done nothing to actually make us more secure. The evildoing escalates, but our borders are still wide open! American troops patrol borders in over 100 foreign locations, but can't be bothered to protect the so-called Homeland. A few current U.S. Congress members, who are actually members of the Council on Foreign Relations, are John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Dick Gephardt. Wake up friends; it's getting late, and we are losing this country! Listen to how the spinmeisters weave the lies -- how stupid can we be?
I just watched the hundredth repetition of the ad about drug users supporting terrorism. You know the one. Dimwitted guy rationalizes buying a joint. Insufferably smug guy convinces him that buying the joint contributes to 10-year-old girl getting gunned down by terrorist drug cartel. And if you buy a joint, you too are responsible for her death.
Next, some guy in California is sentenced to federal prison for growing marijuana for medical use. Of course, the jury was not allowed to hear about the medical use or that this is legal under California law. No, John Ashcroft, our neo-fascist attorney general, must think terror and crime problems are so well resolved that he can now concentrate on prohibiting relief for cancer and glaucoma sufferers.
At least Herr Ashcroft hasn't accused the guy of gunning down 10-year-old girls. Yet. But the reason the Colombian, Mexican, and Middle Eastern drug dealers have gun battles is they're making so much money that they shoot whoever tries to move in. The poor 10-year-old girl manages to catch a stray bullet whenever this happens.
Like most people, I'm against terrorism (and gunning down little girls). But I doubt this ad cuts profits for the terrorists or improves their aim when the shooting starts.
Let's stop the terrorists and save the girl. Decriminalize drugs. The minute we do that, every drug dealer in the world is out of business. No more gunned down 10-year-olds. No more drug money for terrorists. No more prison for the California guy. No more self-righteous ads.
Some will say this is a bad idea because we'd all become heroin addicts. But, hey, we could answer with ads where the dimwitted guy wants to outlaw drugs and the smug guy convinces him that outlawing drugs helps terrorists. We'll leave out the 10-year-old girl, though. She's suffered enough.
Support the War, Drink Wine
This morning while listening to the radio I heard about Rudy's BBQ's idea to have everyone bring a bottle of French wine to the restaurant then dump it in the sewer "where it belongs." Somehow this is supposed to support U.S. efforts. While coming up with this idea they failed to remember that by everyone buying a bottle of French wine they are supporting France and their wine industry. France thanks them for that, I'm sure.
Second, I'm sure that people who actually participate in this event will buy a cheap bottle. Those cheap bottles are made by people who don't exactly guide French foreign policy or necessarily agree with it. Most are simple farmers who are not rich nor powerful. My final point: Drink the wine! It ends up in the sewer anyway!
I applaud Rudy's for wanting to support our country, but there are much more proactive ways to do it.
Swede Bands Great!
I proudly volunteered to work one of the venues another year for SXSW. I love music and am damn proud to be a part of this city.
I guided the hordes of visitors and international guests to the piles of American-Statesman XLXtra for guidance.
Today, after much-needed rest, I was going through all the past week's issues to reflect on SXSW 03 and was blown away by the Statesman XLent's poor choice of jaded hack critics who did nothing but make bad picks, show their lack of respect for music, and bash our musical guests.
One in particular, Jeff Salamon, so completely trashed the visiting Swedes in his Austin vs. Swede bashing article, that I will not allow the XLXtra in my venue next year. I will instruct everyone to find them and chuck every freshly delivered XLXtra in the dumpster.
By the way, the Swedish showcase was great and they shined as people, artists, and musicians.
I respect the music craft and the monumental effort it takes to pull people in from all over the planet to converge on Austin and transform this town into a musical mecca while pumping millions of dollars into our "tech-no" economy.
XLent as a media source does not deserve to be a part of the Austin music scene. The music will always speak for itself, XLent's words will not only be forgotten, but will end up unread in a trash bin next to their last issue.
Go Chronicle, you are the choice!!!
Good Paper, Bad Writer
Avid reader of the Chronicle since 1988! Really enjoy many features and much of the writing is pretty good!
Thought you might gain from perusing some facts about the man Ms. Parmesan belittled ad hominem ["We've Got Climate Change," March 7] rather than cite the "mis-cites" to which she refers in her broadside. By the way, just what is "training in environmentalism"? Is it scientific, or more a political endeavor; or perhaps a spiritual discipline? Also, do you plan to set straight your record regarding the numerous misstatements, "mis-cites," and outright lies of Ms. Parmesan in your interview? Or, is your writing more political/spiritual than informational?
Here's the link to the story exposing not only her factual "errors," but also the fallacies in the philosophical underpinnings of the argument she made in your interview: www.techcentralstation.com/1051/envirowrapper.jsp?PID=1051-450&CID=1051-031403E.
Keep up the good work, folks!
Dear Greg Beets,
Thank you for your beautiful piece regarding Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players ["Live Shots," SXSW Daily Issue, March 15]. As grandfather to Rachel and father to Jason, I have had the good fortune to watch them grow as performers and win over the hearts of normally cynical NYC audiences, reporters, and club managers. Some bands are all rep and no deliver. I'm pleased that you got to see them at SXSW, to see one band that is perhaps better than their press! I hope you get to see additional shows when they tour the Southwest later in the year. Ain't Rachel something else?
Lollipops and unicorns,
(the secret Trachtenburg -- the objective one)
Katz's Kase Kicked Out of Kourt
Dear Chronicle staff,
I'm glad to hear that Marc Katz's lawsuit against the $100 campaign contribution limit has been laughed out of court.
I believe a candidate should respect the wishes of the people. How can voters trust someone whose first political message is to circumvent the voters' wishes?
Like his blintzes, Katz's politics leave a bad taste in my mouth.
FBI Surveillance in Austin
It has been reported -- and verified -- that the FBI is running covert spy flights over many U.S. cities. For the last several weeks a small, single-engine plane has cruised central Austin on a north-south axis approximately over the Lamar/Guadalupe corridor almost every single night between 2 and 3am.
From the description of the spy flights in the media, this gives every indication of being an FBI surveillance operation. If it is an FBI operation, then their claim that these flights are only tracking "known terrorist suspects" is absurd.
No terrorist -- or anyone else, for that matter -- takes exactly the same route at exactly the same time every single night for weeks on end. This kind of activity is much more in line with general electronic surveillance of a population rather than any individual or small group of individuals.
Why have we heard nothing about these flights from our local media? They've been widely reported elsewhere and verified by the FBI. They're doing it. That's a fact.
On whom, exactly, are they spying? What kind of electronic surveillance are they using? Cell phone monitoring? FLIR tracking? How wide is their electronic net? Isn't this kind of surveillance supposed to require a court order?
Is this kind of spying on Americans now legal under the umbrella of "Homeland Security"? And now we have HSII on the way? Have we already forgotten the abuses of the red squads, federal and local?
I'm all for security, but in the end, does this type of shotgun domestic spying really make any of us any safer? If the past is anything to go by, all we can expect from such tactics is a road to hell well-paved by True Believers with fear, uncertainty, and doubt.
Rethinking the War on Drugs
Thank you for raising awareness of the knee-jerk Reducing Americans' Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act making its way through Congress ["Weed Watch," March 14]. Studies on the long-term effects of Ecstasy are inconclusive, but we do know that, in rare cases, Ecstasy can be deadly in the short-term if users are unaware of the risks. With more than one in 10 high school seniors trying Ecstasy, it's imperative that teenagers are made aware of these risks.
Many youths don't take "just say no" school-based programs seriously, doubting the validity of their information. What's needed is reality-based drug education that promotes the ideal of abstinence while providing a fallback strategy of honest, science-based education for students who say maybe, sometimes, or yes.
The good news is the short-term risks of Ecstasy are preventable. The bad news is Congress is pushing dangerous legislation that would penalize dance clubs that provide harm-reduction education and water designed to prevent Ecstasy-related heatstroke, a potentially life-threatening concern.
Sacrificing more children at the altar of the failed drug war is not in America's best interest. While European nations have largely abandoned the drug war in favor of harm-reduction alternatives, our so-called leaders are seemingly intent on maximizing the harm associated with illicit drug use.
Robert Sharpe, M.P.A.
Drug Policy Alliance
Hats Off to the Dixie Chicks
I think every person who is offended by [Natalie Maines'] comments should get off their high horse. We as Americans are allowed to speak our minds, even if it is unpopular. Freedom of speech is just one of our rights which make this country the envy of the world. I would think that the media, whether newspapers, radio, or television, would be the first to understand this.
Why is it that this country will go out of its way to support every person from any country or culture yet does not afford its own citizens their basic rights?
Protesting her right to voice her opinion by not playing their records is immature and just plain sensationalism.
Hats off to the Dixie Chicks and rotten tomatoes to KILT!
PA Perfect, TX Not
The state of Texas' record on capital punishment has hurt the foreign policy and national security of the United States. It has alienated America from our friends abroad. They no longer trust us because they have seen that we allow our prosecutors to unlawfully manipulate the outcome of capital cases. Texans strongly support capital punishment despite the fact that states without capital punishment have lower crime rates. Texans are free to have kangaroo courts if that is what they like, however, they need to consider the other 49 states and how they are putting the rest of us at greater risk by turning Mexico, Canada, and the Western European countries against us. One-day trials conducted by lying prosecutors is front-page news all over the world and is turning us into a pariah. So when we try to enlist the rest of the world to eliminate an evil dictator like Saddam, other nations are reluctant to join us. It's time for the Texas Legislature, Gov. Perry, and the citizens of Texas to be big enough to consider how capital punishment in Texas has damaged the U.S. internationally.
Send Back the Statue of Liberty
Congratulations to the U.S. Congress for having the backbone to finally stand up to the French. I hope Chirac and all his lot are truly humbled by the change of the name of "french fries" to "freedom fries" and that of "French toast" to "freedom toast." In these modern times it is unthinkable that a so-called democratic country would side with the wishes and views of the people in their own country rather than follow the lead of the United States, even though George W. wasn't really elected.
However, I feel these changes just aren't enough -- the Frenchians must pay more dearly, as should the peace-mongering Germaniacs. There should no longer be "French dressing," "French kissing," "French horns," nor "German shepherds," "German measles," or "German chocolate cake." The Congress must hire personnel to change these names to better protest our freedoms. Imagine a July 4 parade led by "liberty shepherds," with music played on "independence horns." Imagine fine diners serving "emancipation bread," salads with "liberation dressing," and "enfranchisement chocolate cake." Children should now be able to suffer proudly with "patriot measles."
Patrons ordering by the incorrect, non-liberty-loving names (or those suffering from the treasonous German measles) should be promptly imprisoned. After all, you're either for us or against us.
To further emphasize our contempt for the traitorous countries that dare differ in views, and who thus are terrorist-loving scum (specifically France), I propose we send back that gift that the Frenchians gave us, probably with some ironic tongue-in-cheek French humor, the Statue of Liberty. Let the Frenchians have their so-called liberty! We have our freedoms to protect. Perhaps, after we have bombed the Iraqis sufficiently enough that they decide to be free, we might also do some precision bombing of France with our daisy-cutters.
former Austin resident, from Prague
Awards Show Critique
[Re: The television coverage of the Austin Music Awards]
I was excited about the Awards Show [on March 12]. After watching for a while, I got bored and quit watching. The hosts, Kevin and Marnie, were talking too much and not letting us see the performers accept the awards. They would cut away from the actual award giving to tell us who was on stage at the time receiving the award. Just show the presentations and have less talking. It looks more like a KLRU fundraiser than an awards show.