Our readers talk back.
Get the Facts Straight
In a recent news story involving me [Lawyers, Drugs, and Money: The Latest on Metabolife," March 14], The Austin Chronicle called on Chris Feldman, identified as being with "Texans for Public Justice," to respond to certain of my statements.
Safely ensconced in his role as a sideline observer of life, inexperienced and irresponsible, Feldman cheerfully engaged in slander for sport at my expense.
Secure in the knowledge that one may legally say nearly anything about politicians in this country, whether true or not, without fear of being successfully held accountable in court, he tossed with abandon in my direction the equivalent of verbal hand grenades.
Such inflammatory language clearly does make for "good reading" -- it is sensational, after all, to publicly scold a state senator for supposed lawbreaking -- but I take personal offense at the unfounded sullying of my good name, built over a lifetime of public service.
My guess is that Feldman was not even born when I was first elected to public office in the mid-1970s in an effort to clean up the corruption that was fairly rampant in my one-party-dominated county courthouse.
Feldman needs to get his facts straight, and the Chronicle needs to stop giving him a platform for his careless commentary until he cleans up his act.
You owe it to your readers to quote credible sources, not folks who masquerade behind a name like "Texans for Public Justice" while misrepresenting my record and at the same time keeping the names of their organization's financial supporters secret.
State Senator, District 25
[News Editor Michael King responds: Although Sen. Wentworth does not specify the "slander" he describes, here is the passage he apparently objects to:
Cris Feldman, the attorney for Texans for Public Justice who filed the open-records request that eventually led to the investigation of Wentworth and Green, is unconvinced. "Based on what's been reported, it's certainly ironic that a purported open-government proponent is playing fast and loose with basic financial disclosure requirements," Feldman said. "It appears that he may be violating the letter of the law, and at a minimum is violating the spirit of the law."
As we reported, Texans for Public Justice originated the complaint that led to the investigation of potentially illegal lobbying of state agencies by sitting legislators. Under those circumstances, it hardly seems improper that we asked TPJ for a comment about the issue of financial disclosure.]
All the Facts, Please
I'm certainly no fan of insurance companies that raise premiums, reduce coverage, and fail to properly respond to claims. I applaud Ms. Ballard for her efforts ["The 'Mold Queen' Fights Back," March 21]. However, Jordan Smith's article fails to mention two significant facts regarding the Ballard v. Farmers case. The Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court's decision to dismiss claims for mold-related injuries allegedly suffered by Ballard's husband and son. Both courts also excluded the expert witnesses hired to testify regarding those injuries. We'd like all the facts, please.
Standing Up for Natalie Maines
When I was inducted into the Walk of Fame in Lubbock, I mentioned Frank Sinatra's comment about Dean Martin. "He was not my brother by blood, but my brother by choice." I mentioned this as a parallel to my own feelings regarding the Maines Brothers. They are my brothers, and they are my family.
I have known Natalie Maines and her sister Kim since they were little girls. Their folks, Lloyd and Tina, are two of my oldest and closest friends. More than anyone I know, as a family and as individuals, these four people exemplify the best of what I believe being raised in Lubbock and being an American human is all about.
I've always thought one of the true anchors I have had for my life is my West Texas upbringing. Ultimately, it has been the bedrock of any personal values, faith, sense of fairness, loyalty, and morality that I try to live by ... all with a deep need for personal independence and belief in human freedom. This "best part" of myself, I think, was instilled by the people who raised me, my folks, and by the heart of the place where I was raised, Lubbock, Texas, United States of America.
So, I find it an incredible irony and hypocrisy that Natalie Maines, one of the great American talents and true full-of-life humans to come out of Lubbock, is being targeted for speaking her mind ... attacked by the very forces that inspired her courage of heart and taught her to believe in her God-given rights to do so. It is a disgrace, and it is un-American.
"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." -- Theodore Roosevelt (president of the United States and a conservative Republican)
Protests Hurt War Effort
In the first day as our troops moved across the Iraqi border, they first faced massive surrender. Simultaneously, anti-war protests went on around the world and here in Austin. The protesters, following the lead of your paper and others like them, compared Bush to Hitler and inferred that Bush was worse or as bad as Hussein, and of course, war for oil. The very next day our troops faced much more resistance from the Iraqi forces.
So if you dare, ask yourself a couple of questions:
1) How many Iraqis would have surrendered had they not heard that Bush was as bad as Hitler and was only invading to build an empire and take their oil?
2) How many Iraqis would have surrendered if the world would have stood united against Hussein from the start?
Yes, we have the right to speak out, we have the right to protest. Just remember that bloodshed from this war that you so strongly oppose may have increased on both sides because of your actions.
Congratulations, your voice has been heard.
One last question, what would you want America to do if you were an Iraqi prisoner getting beaten everyday for your beliefs? I guess we could protest, that's easier than being labeled as Hitler isn't it?
Frustrated but proud American,
Jason K. White
'Day Trips' Not the Whole Story
I would like to set the record straight on the article written by Gerald McLeod about the Sanderson Railroad Depot project ["Day Trips," March 21]. The information supplied to your paper was from a private citizen in Sanderson who was not even at the court meeting when the vote was taken and has absolutely no affiliation with county government at all. The entire court wanted to restore the depot but not at the cost to the local taxpayers.
The Terrell County Commissioners voted unanimously 5-0 to abandon the depot project, not a tie vote like Cliff McSparran stated. Also, the reason for abandoning the project was because the way the grant was worded caused Terrell County to be responsible for all cost overruns on the project and to keep the depot open for a minimum of 10 years as strictly a transportation museum.
After three months of asking Cliff McSparran and his group for figures on how we would pay for this project, they never produced for the court any cost figures or analysis. When asked what the benefits would bring to the county, again there was never any evidence presented to the court to show what the advantage would be for the cash outlay on the project. All that was said was "we should do this."
The county did budget in $80,000 for this project and was prepared to use this money. This was what we were led to believe was the total cost on the project. However, the 10-year cost projection is in excess of $1,400,000, leaving the county to foot a bill of $1,000,000. In a community of 800 people, this is too high of a tax burden. One commissioner polled his precinct to find that only nine of 140 people called were in favor of spending this money on the project.
Terrell County has officially notified TxDOT that they will not accept this grant due to the fact that the cost overruns are too high. Just one example of unknown cost was the removal of asbestos tile, roof, and the 90-plus years of lead paint. It was a good idea, it's just a shame the people who wrote the grant did not really know what they were doing and left all these issues to sneak up on us at the last minute. If you need more information, call my office at 915/345-2421.
Terrell County Judge
Re: Global Warming
In response to Dr. Miguel Verde's letter concerning the "myth" of global warming ["Postmarks," March 28], I would like to express my shock that even people as intelligent as Dr. Verde surely must be, can fall for corporate propaganda masquerading as fact. Just a few minutes of research on my part turned up the facts that the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change (which owns and operates the www.co2science.org Web site), is funded through grants from Exxon/Mobil (source: www.tompaine.com/feature.cfm/ID/4211), and the Sarah Mellon Scaife Foundation (one of the top four conservative foundations, whose largest single holding at one time was Gulf Oil Corp and whose chairman is New Right financier Richard Mellon (source: www.mediatransparency.com/funders/scaife_foundations.htm). These are hardly unbiased sources for funds and, after visiting the Web site, it looks to me like they got their money's worth. Yes Dr. Verde, the Internet allows one to respond quickly (and sometimes without due reflection), but the old maxim of "garbage in, garbage out" still applies.
Fun Facts, Old Rocks
Dear Mr. Smarty Pants,
The world's oldest rock ["Mr. Smarty Pants Knows," March 28] is in fact found in western Australia, and is about 4.4 billion, or 4,400 million, years old. The age of Earth is about 4.57 billion years, so any terrestrial rock must be younger. A meteorite from outside the solar system of 20 billion years could exist -- I haven't searched thoroughly enough to know if such a rock has been found -- but such a rock would not be termed an "Archaean gneiss."
I am including links that I found during a quick search -- there are more scientific articles to be found, but these convey the point: www.dhamurian.egympie.com.au/environment/ozrock1.html ; www.scottishgeology.com/sgw/highland.html.
I would like to say that your column is one of the first things I seek out in each week's Chronicle. I hope that this error is simply a typo. Keep the fun facts coming.
UT Austin Department of Geological Sciences
[We received two other similar letters. Mr. Smarty Pants replies: 1) I didn't mean to imply the rock was the oldest rock on the whole planet, simply that the oldest specimen of this sort of rock is found there. 2) The fact I ran implies the rock is older than the planet Earth. Unfortunately, that is how the original author of the fact wrote it, and I was just quoting him. In this case I defer to my disclaimer.]
Austin Has Let Troops Down
I would like to personally congratulate the city of Austin for coming up with new and inventive ways to lower morale among our troops. Good job, City Council, for spending time voting on a measure to let the country know that (since you apparently represent the majority) Austin is against war. Let's not go to war, then someday our children or grandchildren can experience what it's like (just like the ethnic Kurds did) to die trying to escape nerve or blister agents. With all of the protests throughout the country, I knew Austin wouldn't let me down when they jumped on the wagon to show the rest of the world how anti-military you are. We are at war. That's obvious. Our troops need our support. I would think that obvious as well, but I guess not. Whether or not we should be in Iraq is neither here nor there at this point. We are there, and like it or not, probably going to be for a while. So, instead of plastering pictures on local TV (thanks for that fair coverage of protests vs. pro-troop rallies on the local news) of "die ins," let's let the men and women fighting to preserve freedom and liberate an entire race know that regardless of political views on our presence there, we support and respect them for carrying out the orders of my commander in chief. I loved Austin in the 18 years that I lived there, but I also now know where I will not be moving back to after I have completed my commitment to serve my country.
Cpl. Robert Stephenson,
Moser Not the Life of aGliff's Party
First, I speak not for aGLIFF, but for myself. Their fine festival and special events speak for themselves. It sounds like the reviewer ["After a Fashion," March 28] didn't have fun at the Oscar party? I was standing in the lobby when he (sauntered) and the Chronicle group walked into the lobby, arriving after the show had started. I can't help but wonder if the bland review could be because their table wasn't ready, and he became slightly "tude-ish"? No drama, but then again I understand they never RSVP'd on their invite either? Even so, the volunteers from aGLIFF busted their butts, graciously accommodating them. Contrary to his review, the food was wonderful and was served for over two hours. After all, it's not an all-you-can-eat all-night buffet! Again, contrary to what the reviewer suggested, this event is already an important event, one of aGLIFF's largest next to the festival. Contrary again, it's a very big room with lots of people milling around; I could hear perfectly anywhere in the room, and I'm hard of hearing! If ya wanna hear everything in a quiet room? Stay home!!! Thanks to the Dell Jewish Community Center and to all the wonderful volunteers that make all aGLIFF events fun. This was truly a fun, important, and extremely well-planned event! I think the Chronicle needs a reviewer with less "pissyness" and more objectivity. Sandra, Scott, Bobette Summer -- thanks -- it was fantastic!!!
Is it just me, but has anyone else noticed that "the emperor has no clothes"?
Super Buses for Austin?
I wonder if Cap Metro has considered the type of "super bus" that is now in use in Brazil. These are much cheaper to build and run than trains, yet are much more appealing to the business traveler. They hold more that 250 passengers and run on separate roads so traffic snarls are no problem. People enter/exit from stations with pre-paid tickets. Just a thought.
'Free Will' for the People
Every Thursday or Friday my wife and I would sneak off to a restaurant and read the Chronicle. We always started with "Free Will Astrology," which was always way in the back near the porn and lawyer schtuff (a coincidence?). We'd read each other our horoscopes before ordering, squinting in the semi-darkness at the incredibly small lettering -- it was quite romantic, but it don't happen no more because there's no horoscopes. What happened? No more "Free Will" in Austin?
[Ed. note: On rare occasions, we have to cut "Free Will Astrology" and other columns in the Classifieds section due to lack of space. We have no plans to drop the "Free Will Astrology" column at this time.]
Stupid is as stupid does. And it seems the city of Austin just can't get much stupider. The city closed the pool two months ago after the local daily, in a breathless page-one story, proclaimed that Barton Springs was actually a toxic-waste pit filled with dangerous levels of contaminants.
Over the past two long months, as the battle over science and Barton Springs has continued, it's become clear that the Statesman's incredibly biased coverage vastly overstated the size of the problem. It's also clear that one important set of people have been completely shut out of the discussion: the swimmers.
Over the past decade, every time there has been increased media attention on the pool's water quality, the salamanders that live in the pool, or the cleaning regimen used to maintain it, the swimmers have been the losers. Stated more simply the axiom is: More attention means less access.
There is no doubt that water-quality issues at Barton Springs are critically important. It is also beyond doubt -- thanks to a panoply of studies -- that urbanization in the Barton Springs Watershed continues to have serious deleterious effects on the quality of the pool's water. And therefore, the effects of urbanization, and urbanization itself, must be vigorously addressed.
Last week, the city quoted its own scientists as saying that hamburgers have more toxics than the sediments at Barton Springs. And our brave council members are certain it is safe. Yet, they keep the pool closed and say they might open it in mid-April. (Shall we refrain from eating hamburgers until then as well?)
Meanwhile, the people who swim in Barton Springs are left -- no pun intended -- high and dry. So I have a not-so-modest suggestion: Stop the stupidity arms race. Open Barton Springs. Now.
[Ed. note: Bryce is former Austin Chronicle staff writer who regularly covered Barton Springs issues.]
Liberation Will Give Iraq Hope
I read with anticipation the article about the "Faces of the Enemy" [Dec. 27]. While I am disheartened when little children are hurt or killed, I am not wary of what many have been through under Hussein's tyranny. Yes, mistakes we have made, and they are many. For these sins we shall pay and continue to pay as a nation because justice will be meted out. I do believe, however, that the cause of liberation as we see now is one where we are risking many young lives to be overly cautious and not harm innocent civilians. It is a slippery slope.
War is hell, but hopefully on the other side of this, we shall at least see a glimpse of heaven and peace for those in Iraq. Nobody wants them to suffer.
Support the Troops, Bring 'Em Home
I write this letter to say how utterly amazed I am that people are not supporting our troops! I would like to call on all patriotic Americans to support our troops by opposing the sacrifice of their lives for greed, pride, and political motives. Let's, too, not forget 9/11. Oppose shedding one more drop of innocent blood!
TOFOG Review Outstanding
Finally, a reviewer who isn't sitting on his brains. Thank you, Mr. Savlov, for an honest, objective review, with the caveat that this offering may be of more interest to Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts fans than to the general public ["Style! Cine! Swashbuckling!," March 28]. Believe me, we TOFOG fans found this video/DVD to be outstanding. Kudos to you for your fine review.
Respect for All
In response to "Freedom of Speech Forbids Free Speech," by Roy Max Perrin ["Postmarks," March 21]:
Like a lot of people, I have a passionate viewpoint about the war in Iraq. I believe there is room for a myriad of opinions in public debate, even the ones that don't correspond to mine. Do we want to live in a country that stifles individual expression and punishes those who don't agree with the majority? Isn't it enough that the world is full of suffering and hatred, do we need to add to that by vilifying someone just because they don't share our views? I think there is tremendous value in working to forward your political causes, and the world needs more of us to do that, but to respect the humanity of those who disagree with you is to maintain your integrity. Every major religion I've studied has one similar tenet: love each other and love god. All of us, conservative or liberal, old or young, rich or poor, have the same heart beating in our chests. We all want to be happy, to be loved, to feel safe, and I think all of us feel pretty afraid right now too. Let's focus on what we have in common as Austinites, as neighbors, and as human beings and try to be good to one another. Remember that, as important as all of this is, we still have to live and work together, and guess what? You could meet a million people and not one of them would think exactly like you do. Celebrate that. As frustrating as it can be, it keeps life interesting.
Can't Win War on Terror
To the editor,
The premise of the current conflicts in the Middle East, espoused with much sanctimony by President Bush, is the defeat of terror and/or terrorists. History, however, tells us that this will be a lost cause. Not one single terrorist group has ever been defeated by military action. The FARC guerillas of Columbia, the Basque separatists in Spain, the Chechen rebels in Russia, Hamas and Hezbollah of Palestine, and the IRA's conflict with England have all been met with purposeful military might, and yet these conflicts still continue with as much bloodshed as ever before. Ironically, the U.S. government, in both the Israel/Palestine conflict and the IRA terror campaign, have urged consistent diplomacy, yet have decided that this tactic is now worthless. Terrorism is based upon the want and need of likeminded individuals, not of single sovereign states or their leaders. So as U.S. and allied forces strive towards Baghdad, the outcome of this battle is without doubt, it is the terror war that will follow that may never be won.
Support Clean Air Ordinance
I commend the efforts of Mayor Gus Garcia to strengthen our current smoking ordinance to make all public places and work sites smoke-free. It is the right thing to do to protect the health of all workers in our community.
I have enjoyed a smoke-free workplace for many years. I want that same right for all people who earn a living in our city. No one should have to choose between a job and their health.
Since almost three-quarters of adults in the city do not smoke, the other one-quarter should not be exposed to the health risks of secondhand smoke. Exposure to smoke from other people's cigarettes can lead to chronic lung problems like bronchitis. It also can cause cancer.
Let's put some teeth into the slogan "Austin, the Clean Air City," and support this new ordinance.
The Doomsday Machine
Our pursuit of forcible disarmament in Iraq is radically misguided. Numerous empirical studies have demonstrated that, domestically, more guns equal less violence. The possibility that a potential victim is packing heat deters a would-be criminal.
The same reasoning applies to international relations. Rather than disarming any one country, we should encourage proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in all countries. Only when all the world's 200 or so nations have nuclear, biological, and chemical arms will we enjoy peace in our time.
Remember, weapons of mass destruction don't kill people. People kill people.
Protest Turns to Confrontation
I am a 13-year-old girl living here in Austin, and I am about as anti-war as kids my age can get. So, the day after the war started, I eagerly seized my chance to attend an anti-war rally, blocking off the Congress bridge downtown. I couldn't manage to get there until about 7:45, but I was full of anticipation as I quickly strode up to where the rally was still going. However, once I got there, the smile on my face quickly slipped away.
I hadn't realized that the police would be quite so intimidating, with their black outfits, helmets, and sticks, marching slowly but steadily toward us. And the man walking around, telling us that just because we were on the sidewalk didn't mean that we wouldn't get arrested. Then the people around us started chanting, "This is what a police state looks like; this is what a police state looks like," and suddenly the protest against war was no longer a cry for peace, but a confrontation between the police and the protesters. That was when I turned to my mom, who'd been a bit nervous the whole time, and said, "We can go now."
On the way back to the car, I started crying. My romantic image of a peaceful protest, an action that made sense and meant something, was shattered. I sobbed to my mom, "That wasn't a protest. You don't protest war by blocking off streets, and trying to get arrested. And those people don't even know what they're talking about when they say, 'This is what a police state looks like.' If this were a police state, they wouldn't even be there now. They would have all been beaten or in jail two hours ago. You don't protest war by trying to get in trouble with the authorities. You protest against war by making peace in your own home first, then trying to teach it everywhere you go, without judgment, or anger, or hate, but with compassion, and a desire to make people's lives better. You don't need to make a big fuss to protest war. By simply being everything war is not, you protest war."
So, no matter where you may go, what you may do, who you may meet, try to bring peace with you, because that is how you make a difference.
Austin's Weirdness Explained
Why is Austin weird? People have seen the bumper sticker that says "Keep Austin Weird" and wonder what it means. It is the people who live here that are "weird." How do they end up weird?
The problem is that in Austin there is a huge network of Austin movers and shakers. The "Austin Elite" and business CEOs are all strung together with undetectable strings that lead to powerful politicians.
And all these power brokers are like one big family, and they fight like most big families do. Sisters join with cousins to win out over other sisters or brothers. And there are unions of family members who network to dictate and promote unpopular political or social programs.
Sometimes Austinites have an accident and/or suddenly find themselves unwillingly thrust into these sticky family spider webs. And the Austin family members are pulling on the strings. And that's when the weird stuff starts happening.
The process manufactures and turns many Austinites weird. This occurs so often that these weird Austinites have caught on. Weird Austinites are now banding together in self-defense, circling the wagons.
If you want to learn how to avoid becoming a victim of these events and spider webs you need to look here: www.io.com/~bumper/weird.htm.
I have to warn you the events you will find there are probably going to make the women want to beat somebody up and the men weep. You may think the weird Austin events found there are untrue, they are not. Most people find the information interesting and definitely weird.
Dear antiwar protesters,
I wish I could say you've made your point, but frankly I'm not sure what that is, based on your wildly divergent messages. I can only conclude that you believe that if Austin motorists get where they're going in a timely fashion, the terrorists win. Or maybe it's that you like the idea of hundreds of cars idling with the AC on while you wave signs and chant. That'll teach 'em.
You may enjoy the party atmosphere, but believe me when I tell you that the rest of us are losing patience. What you're doing lately is penalizing people who have nothing to do with the problem. There are any number of things you can do to improve the world in which you live, and none of them have anything to do with calling people Nazis or keeping police from doing the jobs we (and you, I hope) pay them to do.
Protest all you want. Just don't be a selfish jerk about it.
McLeod Needs to Check Facts
It would have behooved Mr. McLeod to have gotten his facts straight before writing his "Day Trips" column on March 21 about the Sanderson Railroad Depot project. The Terrell County Commissioners Court voted 5-0 to abandon the depot project, not 3-2 as reported. Other misrepresentations are as follows: 1) cost to the taxpayers in the first days of project over $100K, not $79K as reported; 2) Sanderson has two restaurants, not four to six as reported; 3) the only time Amtrak stops in Sanderson, unless prior arrangement is made, is to drop off a Sanderson-based crew member; and 4) only one member, not two, of the Hole in the Wall gang was involved in the train robbery of 1912. Although two men were killed, the "Tall Texan" was not. He was seen several years later in both Mexico and Utah.
Ada Lee Robbins
Don't Silence the Artists
Who in the world are these people who are telling the poets -- the musicians -- to be quiet?! It is atrocious and ludicrous!
Leaders of some nations actually consult or have consulted the artists -- musicians and writers, specifically -- on matters of state re poverty, violence, health care, international relations.
We have all heard songs that bring us to tears. We've all needed to hear a song or see a film or read a book in order to get through something. These things motivate us all to live and it is done with (and only with) the voice of the artists who can connect with us, through us, to us, and for us!
We can't impose silence on these voices. We can't expect our artists to shut up or not have an opinion ... especially about real things that matter. If we do then we also silence a part of ourselves!
With love and respect for the voices of the world,
Rachael K. LeValley
Who Benefits From War?
I believe that we are finally seeing the real reason why the Bush administration decided to go to war in Iraq:
"NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -- The first contracts for rebuilding post-war Iraq have been awarded, and Vice-President Dick Cheney's old employer, Halliburton Co., is one of the early winners."
Not even a week into the conflict, and the spoils of war are going directly to intimate friends of the administration (such as Lawrence S. Eagleburger). It is absolutely no coincidence that the company that rebuilt Kuwait after the last Bush administration (awarding Dick Cheney with millions of dollars for his trouble) will again benefit from the destruction of Iraq. I think the American people should keep an eye on the board of directors and corporate officers of Halliburton for the next decade to see which Bush alumni benefit from this war of liberation.
I encourage the news media to cover and follow this important aspect of the war in Iraq.
Grateful for the existence of The Austin Chronicle. I am a Swedish musician visiting Texas between April 7 and April 21. The AC has really helped a lot in planning the trip.
Independent Texans is holding an event this Sunday as part of the national process under way for independents to choose a presidential candidate in 2004. "Partisan Politics v. the People" is being held in UT's Undergraduate Library (room FAC 21), noon-4pm. Our keynote speakers include Victor Morales, the populist Democrat and government teacher, Austin's own independent political/cultural icon Max Nofziger, and even conservative Republican Texas Supreme Court Justice Steven Wayne Smith. What brings us together is the 35% plurality of voters who are independent (Gallup poll last October) who want to end the partisanship and special-interest influence that is killing democracy.
The Austin chapter of I.T. recently voted to endorse Max for mayor. Many I.T. members believe that if Will wins, Austin loses, and that we need an independent to lead Austin. Since the $100 limits were recently upheld by a federal court judge, and our efforts to correct the problems with them last May (the Clean Campaigns measure) failed, we believe the Chronicle must play a decisive role in this election by providing sincerely fair, equal, and abundant coverage.
It's clear we cannot rely on our daily to provide this. And, with the smaller role of the Internet sources such as Paul Terry Walhus' Web site www.austinmayor.com, maybe even with the $100 limits, Austin voters can win a little more democracy in this election.
Communication Is Vital
It is time for plain talk from the president.
It is time for a sincere attempt by all reasonable governments and persons to communicate, in an unbiased manner, comprehensive truths in full contexts in order for all individuals to have the abilities to genuinely understand the details of this conflict, past conflicts and current situations in their respective entireties.
We (Americans) assert the fact that Saddam has failed to acknowledge our presence and activities in Iraq as denial. I agree. What we have failed to note is our own president's denial of some very serious issues of our own. Bush has yet to address the overwhelming opposition by individuals in this country and individuals in foreign countries (allied and otherwise); most notably, he has failed to sufficiently address opposition by foreign leadership. The repercussions of our actions during these times are very serious, and we must act in extremely responsible, respectful, and intelligent manners. I fear that relations are suffering and that if not recognized as primary concerns, unfavorable consequences will be the results. There is no doubt that our administration is busy with many issues that are primary concerns, but this must be one of them. Our nation is being represented during a crux of history that is shaping our futures. Varying opinions span the globe. Varying degrees of many factors cast the mold for which these opinions are formed. These factors include but are not limited to an information gap, a cultural gap, philosophical misunderstandings, education gaps, communication of information, sovereignty, and trust. Unbiased and accurate information is hard to find and all nations have their own information gap. Each country's peoples have reasons for their beliefs and these reasons must be examined so that we can fully understand the bases on which each are shaped. By doing so, we can identify these gaps and begin to bridge those gaps until, if nothing else, a more complete understanding of the concerns has been reached.
It is time for plain talk. The better the information and communication of that information, the better the decisions that will be made for the present and the future. If nations would strive to communicate in a historically conscious and factual manner, then leaders, citizens, and nations can come closer to universal understanding that is undoubtedly a more peaceful world than the universal misunderstanding that we are living through today.
Like Father Like Son
Honestly! Can't this country even go 20 years without a freakin' war? So the bombs-and-Jesus administration finally pulled the trigger. Now that Dick Cheney has met with the big oil dons, I for one will be in "shock and awe" if the Iraqi people get a 10% cut. I mean, just how rich does someone really need to be, anyway?
So thanks a lot, "Prez." Way to represent the people. Way to be a uniter, not a divider, and above all, humble.
How retarded. I often wonder what the results of an independent, psychological exam of Bush would reveal. How does one go about setting this up?
There's good news, and then there's bad news. The good news is that, like father like son, he's gone after one term. The bad news is he knows this, and decided "let's see just how much I can fuck up in 4 years."
P.S. Did I mention that that I'm unemployed?
Some Bloodshed Is Necessary
Lauri Apple reports that U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee claims that anti-war activists are made to look frivolous ["The Home Front," March 28]. I don't have that overall impression. There a lot of good reasons to oppose an invasion of Iraq. Alienating longstanding allies and setting a bad precedent for unilateral action are two good reasons, and of course the strongest one is the abhorrent loss of life war causes.
But it is absurd to suggest that Saddam Hussein can be brought before some kind of war crimes tribunal without using force to do so. She is reported to have said that when the Berlin Wall fell, "not a single shot was fired." Right, but that's in part because East Germany didn't have billions of dollars worth of oil revenue supporting its tyrannical regime. East Germany -- and the entire Soviet bloc -- collapsed in large part because the economic system was entirely bankrupt, both in concept and in practice. The tyranny could no longer support itself.
But there is no history of tyrants falling without shots fired when they have essentially unlimited amounts of money funding their death squads.
The Muslim world is sadly ruled by tyranny and general political dysfunction: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, Yemen, the UAE and other countries have no legitimacy whatsoever in my view. They are in essence dictatorships one and all. If each one of those regimes collapsed under the weight of their own infamy I could hardly be more pleased.
Many argue it's not our place to intervene in lands so far away, and maybe that's correct. But do we stand around and watch a child beaten nearly to death by an abusive parent and say, "Well, it's none of our business"? No, we don't do that. We send in Child Protective Services. I believe there is a valid analogy here, at least as regards to morality. We know Saddam Hussein is murdering and has murdered Iraqis by the hundred thousand. Why is it that we feel morally obliged to stop a father or mother from brutalizing their children, but feel no moral duty to stop tyranny, torture, and mass murder wherever and whenever we find it?
Child Abuse Awareness Month
April is observed nationally as Child Abuse Awareness Month, which provides us the opportunity to reflect on what we are doing as a community to nurture and protect our most vulnerable members. In 2002 there were over 22,000 reported cases of child abuse and neglect in Austin, and we know there are a great number of cases that go unreported.
Unfortunately, few in our community are aware of a tremendous resource for child abuse education, Austin's Helping Hand Home for Children. As Travis County's oldest continuously operating residential child-care agency, they are experts in the treatment of abused children and recognized leaders in the continuum of child abuse care.
This April, let's make a difference in our community by working together to help our children grow up safe and nurtured. For more information on how you can help with child abuse prevention and treatment, visit www.helpinghandhome.org or call 459-3353.
The Costs of War
I just returned from a business trip to San Diego, Calif., where I heard some disturbing figures being quoted. Supposedly city officials there determined that each peace demonstration cost the city $100,000/day. Then I got back home and heard the same sort of nonsense -- $92,000 for extra police shifts, etc., for the rallies. First, there are pro-war rallies and support-the-president rallies as well. How cheesy to start attacking people of peace and conscience over their cost to taxpayers. How creepy that this is a statistic is being so well-covered by the media. Second, Bush just asked for another $75 billion to support the cost of war with Iraq for another month. That works out to about $300 per every man, woman, and child in the USA. Just for one month. They've worked hard to turn Gulf War II into a killer (but slow-paced) reality show -- and I still say it's not worth the money or the blood.
A Patriot for Peace,
The following quotation from Mark Twain's posthumously published work "The War Prayer" is worth pondering as the U.S. and UK invade Iraq. This excerpt was sent by e-mail from my pastor at Gethsemane Lutheran Church, who noted that Twain "wrote in bitterness during another pre-emptive war, the one in the Philippines during Twain's lifetime":
"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land. ... We ask it in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love."
This is perfect prayer for the Southern Baptist Convention and those superpatriots who gathered in God's name and pledged allegiance at the Capitol the other day to support the whacked-out Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Ashcroft administration's Vietnam-or-Korea-in-the-desert war policy of "a cakewalk to Baghdad" with Iraqis welcoming us as liberators with flowers and hosannahs.
The superpatriots did so despite the revolt by Republican moderates and internationalists who believe Bush has been "badly advised" by Rumsfeld, Cheney, Perle, and Wolfowitz, which of course means that Bush made a poor decision, and he appears determined to continue to make poor decisions as Christian and Islamic blood continues to stain Iraqi desert sand.
Not only does this war violate every tenet of the Christian Just War theory, it also violates Colin Powell's own learned-the-lessons-from-Vietnam doctrine which is to have clear objectives, use overwhelming force, and have the support of the American people for any armed conflict. Rumsfeld has pledged to bury the Powell Doctrine.
The best way to support the troops and to liberate Iraq is for an immediate, unconditional cease-fire followed by withdrawal of American/UK and Australian troops from Iraq and return to the United Nations the role it should have here. We don't need Bush on a giant ship shouting "I'm king of the world" here, although that was essentially what he did prior to launching this war.
Indeed, one must wonder if the Christian Bush prayer really is something like "help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells ..."
Misplaced Use of Force
I was at the rally Thursday where a police sergeant pepper sprayed several people ["The Home Front," March 28]. I did not observe any aggressive actions by demonstrators, nor did I see anyone gathering rocks. Apparently, the Statesman misquoted the police or the police have changed their story about the stone gathering. The Statesman story had people gathering rocks on the bridge where casual observation reveals there are no rocks. The police apparently told your reporter, Lee [Nichols], that the stones were being gathered below the bridge (presumably the ones by the AA-S bat displays, the only source of stones in the area). If this was the case, why didn't the police spray the people with stones? The photographer next to me was sprayed in the eyes. Stephan from Iconmedia was also sprayed while videotaping. It appeared the police were targeting photographers, not stone throwers. The police were being abusive. I was on the line being pushed by police riot batons. While I did not observe them beating people over the head with the batons, they did lunge at us with the batons and succeeded in knocking the young woman standing to the east of me down. They immediately put cuffs on her. I suspect she may have been arrested just to justify their use of force against her. While the level of violence did not equal that of the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, it was clearly unjustified.
Come Out and Play
For the Fans
Oh the games! They've begun,
the games! Children run.
Settling deep into seats
the adults cheer and root
and grip their armrests when one of the team
falls to his knees, hurt.
Oh, the games! Wallets empty
as lines form and recede
at the stands selling feed and drink and flags
and statistics and rosters
and lists of supporters.
Let every angle of the field be projected
for unlimited perspective
for the observers, now protected!
Halftime and the sad and vengeful are paraded
their losses announced with tears and persuasions
to rally, rally and strike back,
Families intermingle as the ground soaks up
all that is spilled when the games erupt.
Ready your voices!
Ready your flags!
The games have begun and all are needed
to be with or to be against,
for none are left out when the games progress.
USA! USA! Everyone, come out and play!
Join in the shouting.
The games start today!
Just Guns Just Closed
To the Editor: (or whoever reads this stuff)
Whatever shall South Congress Avenue do, now that we no longer have a retail machine-gun store. Just Guns has closed its doors. Who will fill our needs? Someone, please, step forward and fill this void. Perhaps a benefit concert could be held. Maybe a street dance, or some kind of raffle. I know, a 10K run or a marathon bicycle thingy. We can pull together as a community and take on this cause -- I've seen you folks do it before, and you can do it again. Come on, Spanky, it's for the machine guns!
Sincerely, (well, sort of)
J. Anthony Mallard
Put It Out, Smokey
Love live music, hate the smoke!
I love to go out and enjoy a drink and listen to live music here in Austin, but I hate the secondhand smoke that I have to put up with when going to a show. Times have changed; people know that secondhand tobacco smoke is not only annoying but also deadly. Does it not seem strange that people's right to breathe safe indoor air is being violated when a smoker lights up? It is only common sense to think that someone's rights to breathe smoke-free air should be more important than someone's desire to smoke indoors. The Austin City Council is working on changing the current smoking ordinance, and they should make it cover 100% of the indoor places in Austin. Protect my right to breathe smoke-free air!
Some Facts About the Protests
I wish to clarify misconceptions some letters from Austin Chronicle readers have expressed about protests in Austin against the war in Iraq. Firstly, these are anti-war protests foremost, not anti-Bush protests. It should be well-known that a number of prominent Republicans have come out against the war. Among them are former Chief of Staff James Baker, former Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Brent Scowcroft, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Pat Buchanan (changed his position), and George Will (ditto). Surely there are more that follow the Bush administration's line blindly, fearing the political implications of speaking out against the war in this thought-stifling, post-9/11 era. I know one self-described Republican who marched on Feb. 15; no doubt there were others.
Secondly, it has been alleged that protest in Austin was somehow absent during the Clinton administration. In fact, a number of Austinites did protest Clinton's deliberate bombing of a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory and the first bombing of Afghanistan as well as the later bombing of Serbia, although admittedly and regrettably in much smaller numbers.
Lastly, Austin protesters are a broad coalition of peace activists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, human rights activists, environmentalists, feminists, families, and other "ordinary people," and yes, a few anarchists and socialists. We cherish freedom of speech and individual protesters or groups of protesters may wave whatever banners and carry whatever signs they choose to. We do not discriminate among groups -- all are welcome to protest the impending death of an estimated 100,000 Iraqis and thousands of American servicemen and women due to a foolhardy, shortsighted, and dangerous invasion of Iraq.
Smoking Ban Will Protect Us
It has come to my attention that the Austin City Council is considering a 100% smoke-free ordinance for all restaurants, bars, and clubs. I am in full support of this ordinance and hope that you are too. As an avid restaurant, bar, and club patron, I am delighted at the possibility that all public places will be smoke-free. A 100% smoke-free ordinance affords everyone the opportunity to eat food, enjoy live music, and enjoy the bar scene without being subjected to the adverse health effects of secondhand smoke. I applaud the Austin City Council for taking this bold step in protecting the health and safety of its constituents.
The Sweet Taste of Mace
So Nichols got a little taste of mace in his quest for war discontent info ["The Home Front," March 28]? Assuming that he's not black or Mexican, tell him to go to the Office of the Police Monitor and file a complaint form. He'll be taken to Internal Affairs. After a couple of weeks, a response will arrive with either: "No violation of policy," "Officer proceeded by the book" or "B." After this, the police monitor officially closes his case. If he thinks that these two offices are as useless as one left shoe, don't let him call Ms. Futrell's office to tell on them, since she doesn't want to upset the APD's annual Raid for the Pockets of the poor and the Mexicans, to keep up the local budget. If he butts and cries, prevent him from going to Mrs. Strayhorn's office, since she needs $50 for each ticket that the poor and Mexicans pay on these raids, to keep up her own budget. Such a sweet town of dumb-ass pendejos!