Our readers talk back.
Chronicle -- Finish the Story -- and Unionize!
Over two years ago, you published an article about National Labor Relations Board allegations that I had committed violations of federal labor law including firing employees for union activities ["Union's Due," April 6, 2001]. What you have failed to report is that in May 2002 the NLRB judge, after hearing months of exhaustive testimony, issued a decision finding that the charges were entirely false and exonerating me completely.
Perhaps you are embarrassed, since the judge's decision completely discredits the complaining parties and thus discredits your newspaper for lending credence to their fictions. You have probably been trying to find a way to salvage some justification for your smear article, which you find to be difficult, since the judge's decision is so detailed, and so thoroughly and meticulously discredits the complaining parties' tales. You are probably planning an article in which you claim to know better than the judge who heard the case and again give publicity to a pack of malicious falsehoods.
I will send a copy of the judge's decision to anyone who is interested in the truth.
As Texas counsel for the Newspaper Guild I can help you contact the guild. I assume that your publisher will voluntarily recognize a union, just as I did when my employees chose union representation. My law firm's employees are represented by Laborers' Union Local 1095. I am glad that their union contract gives my employees 100%-family-covered health insurance and other excellent benefits. I have been for 15 years a member of CWA Local 6186; my wife Rachel was a job steward for 16 years and is active in her union's retirees council; we met at a union convention and have walked many picket lines together with our children (including a Teamsters picket line in August heat when Rachel was 8 1/2 months pregnant). Solidarity forever.
David Van Os
David Van Os & Associates, P.C.
[News Editor Michael King replies: David Van Os is correct that in May 2002, Administrative Law Judge Gerald A. Wacknov ruled in his favor and against several of his former employees who had charged him with various unfair labor practices and retaliation for attempting to form a union (that is, of violations of the National Labor Relations Act). Since the Chronicle was the only paper to report on the original charges, it would have been better editorial practice to have reported the judge's decision at the time it happened, and we regret the omission. The judge's decision is under appeal (by the NLRB office which brought the original complaint) before the National Labor Relations Board, but legal experts say it is rare that the NLRB overrules the judge in such cases.]
'Blender' Bites Back
When Christopher Gray compiled his list of Music Magazines Better Than Blender ["TCB," April 25], I think he was a bit conservative. He failed to include Relix, Tongue, Women Who Rock, Urb, Revolver, Sing Out, and XXL, among others. And as for feeling slighted because of the size of the write-up Austin received (No. 4 Most Rock & Roll Town in the U.S.A.!) in our May issue, I'm sure Chris is intimately aware that "size doesn't matter." Please assure him it's the thought that counts.
We're writing today to dispute the allegations in a Chronicle news article by Jordan Smith ["Keel Does McCarthy," April 18]. As longtime advocates of criminal justice reform working with the ACLU, we take issue with your assault on Chairman Terry Keel, accusing him of McCarthyite redbaiting. He may be a Republican ex-lawman, but don't be fooled ... he is an ally to criminal justice reformers.
Chairman Keel runs his committee with a respectful, evenhanded approach that we have come to honestly admire. What's more, he has a better record on criminal justice reform than almost any member of the House or Senate. He has taken numerous stands that angered police and prosecutors, including support for the "Tulia bill" requiring corroborating evidence in drug stings and abolishing Texas' regional narcotics task forces. He was a co-author of the Racial Profiling Law and other successful reforms of the 77th Legislative Session.
At the end of the day, all Keel did was insist that the UT law professor come clean about his own opinion of the death penalty. Death penalty proponents are justified in making such queries, just like pro-choice activists may reasonably question the motives of anti-choice groups pushing restrictive "technical" changes in procedures for abortion providers. I'm sure your readers are curious about the motives of many who voted in favor of a grotesque tort "deform" Bill. Motives matter in public debate and ours are challenged daily in this Legislature. Sometimes that works in favor of reformers, sometimes against us.
For the record, ACLU opposes Keel's HB 614. But we like Terry Keel -- he's doing a great job as chairman, and Austinites should be proud he's in our delegation.
Ann del Llano
ACLU of Texas
Ghandaia Deserves Attention
I was delighted to see an article on the ever-growing Latin music scene in Austin ["The Latin Flare," April 11]. However, you made one serious omission. Ghandaia, a band that is born and bred in Austin, has been igniting stages and audiences for years. With their new album, UNO, the band is on the verge of something big. They are one of Austin's most eclectic, energetic, creative, and talented bands. Their music has influences from Brazil, Mexico, the U.S., and Jamaica. In my most humble opinion, they are indeed the premier Latin-based band in Austin right now and will knock the doors off any venue in town. Keep up the reporting on local bands (they need it), but try and stay up to date. Thank you.
Greens for Max
In your April 25 article about the mayor's race ["Mayoral Candidates"], you overlooked the Travis Co. Green Party endorsement of Max Nofziger. Austin needs a change in thinking and one responsive to the average citizen rather than just to business interests. We have also endorsed Raul Alvarez and Margot Clarke in the City Council races. I hope you will set the record straight.
Travis Co. Green Party
Citizens for Natalie Maines
To Natalie Maines,
Darlin', the only sin you committed was forgetting what your core audience looked like: rednecks, white bread, and blue skies for brains. Have faith. Remember, John Lennon was also crucified for our freedoms.
LAN's Edge Story All Wrong
This e-mail is regarding an article written about LAN's Edge ["A Different Kind of Player," Nov. 29]; there are a few things that I would like to say. They are as follows:
1) LAN is not geek speak, it is actually the technical term defined by the International Standardization Organization when the OSI Model was designed, which means Local Area Network; not connected to anywhere outside its local network; or the computers directly in the network.
2) LAN Parties are not the best place to meet men, a real geek would tell them to go away, as they would much rather be with their computers than with a female.
3) LAN's Edge wasn't the first gaming cafe in Texas and won't be the last.
4) They had bad placement, the Northcross Mall eliminates repeat customers, and traffic in Austin is almost unbearable.
Support Local Business
A call to all Austinites:
Support an Austin that brings people together. Togetherness encourages interaction, and interaction encourages a more fair democracy. The ingredients to a healthy democratic community include talking to your neighbors, being exposed to diversity, learning each other's successes and hardships, and educating yourself on the issues. By bringing these things together we can better understand, establish and reach our common goals as a community. Support the local businesses that in turn support Austin not only by locally circulating the revenue, but by locally circulating loyalty, uniqueness, and most often kindness. What makes for a more divided community than one that consists of its citizens driving to and from work and to and from home without stopping to live and appreciate the city we live in? We are all guilty of this at some time or another, but we can help each other avoid this divisive behavior by going out and getting involved. By better educating yourself, not only on Austin politics, but Austin life, you will carry on and add to the culturally rich, relaxing environment that makes Austinites proud. If you're looking for a place to start and have some fun in a unique atmosphere, try Alamo Drafthouse Downtown. It is located downtown, which places you right in the hubbub of local activity. It is one of my favorite local spots to kick back, watch a movie, have a beer, and enjoy being in Austin.
It Sucked Then, It Sucks Now
Re: "This Is Electroclash" [April 25]: As a musician and music fan in the early Eighties, I was intoxicated with the sense of creativity that hung in the air. There was an openness to experimentation that went far beyond the labels and the big-name bands.
There were also some who wanted to start recycling music of the Sixties, and while that was kind of cool, we thought to ourselves, "Yikes, pretty soon they'll be recycling the Seventies -- just the kind of crap we hate." Then Seventies was cool again. Now Eighties is cool again, not as an environment for creativity, but as a style category.
Popular music ran out of imagination around 1985. Everything since has been either recycling or improvements in technology. That's really too bad. I wonder what Charlie Parker or Frank Zappa would be doing in the 2000s?
Dylan Fan Worried
Nice review of the Bob Dylan concerts by Shawn Badgley ["Phases and Stages," April 25], but there was one very disturbing part. Badgley seemed to imply that Dylan has liver cancer.
Is this a fact? A rumor?
If it is untrue, please post a retraction right away. Many people will be upset by this news either way. If it is true, it deserves more than a passing mention in a concert review.
[Ed. note: As the review states, any tales of Dylan having liver cancer are merely "online rumors."]
Ignore the Fear and Listen
A recent letter to the editor was titled: "Stop Printing 'Letters @ 3AM'" ["Postmarks," April 25]. It suggested that Michael Ventura's column be nixed because (as the writer stated) "He has never, ever had anything constructive to say about anyone or anything." How wrong!
Since 9/11, I have been living in Seoul, and though I see America through a small peephole called the "media," there is one thing that has become increasingly apparent. Americans have been living in fear. Roosevelt dealt with the fears of his time with his Fireside Chats where he entered people's homes via this newfangled thing called the radio and talked directly with people about the important issues of the day. Bush has done no such thing. Over 70% of Americans believe that there is a link between the 9/11 bombers and Saddam. (!!!!)
On the other hand, Ventura's articles have been especially communicative. An article that comes to mind is a March 21 column about securing America ["Letters @ 3AM," March 21]. Many critical uses have been overlooked (including but not inclusively): securing our nuclear power plants, securing our chemical plants, and securing planes against shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. These issues are so critical because captured terrorist figures (including Johnny Walker) have cited nuclear plants as a target. Unfortunately, Hillyer dismisses Ventura's articles outright, which is pretty much the reaction of most Americans nowadays. Either that or fear.
Needed: South Austin ACC
I want to encourage all of my South Austin neighbors to vote for both Austin Community College propositions on Saturday's ballot -- if they pass, South Austin will finally get its own ACC campus. It will be across the street from Crockett High School replacing the closed Albertsons at the intersection of Stassney Lane and Manchaca Road.
Proposition 1 would allow ACC to hire the teachers and pay for operating a South Austin campus and the rest of the college. Proposition 2 would provide $99 million in bonds to build the new South Austin campus as well as to renovate and repair some of ACC's existing buildings. Both propositions must pass for a South Austin campus to become reality.
I am the chair of the South Austin Campus Advisory Committee. The committee's members have been meeting for over a year with ACC staff to help design the new campus and plan the curriculum to ensure the new facility will meet the community's needs. We need an ACC presence for the kids who attend Crockett, Travis, Bowie, and Akins high schools -- a place they can go to enhance their skills and education. Right now 25% of all of ACC's enrollments come from South Austin, and students deserve a more convenient location to prepare to transfer to UT or get an associate's degree. Many South Austin students must commute to other ACC campuses, for instance to the Northridge campus for music and commercial music classes.
There are many alumni of ACC, or parents whose kids have benefited from ACC, in South Austin. Now is the time to demonstrate your appreciation for what ACC has done for you! I hope I can count on your help! South Austin deserves a campus. Adelante, que juntas venceremos!
President, Southwood Neighborhood Association
Chair, South Austin Campus Advisory Committee
The 'Chronicle' Still Has It
Just had a chance to peruse your fabulous rag and have to admit, you still have it. I moved from Austin in 1992 (I live in the D.C. metro area) and to this day, miss the humor, political musings, music coverage, and everything else that makes Austin the coolest place on earth.
Max for Mayor
If you need someone who has the working experience to make changes at City Hall, then vote for Max Nofziger as mayor. To change the corporate thinking coming from City Hall that threatens your small business or your home and lifestyle, then you need to elect Max. If you would like to see important improvements to the public transportation system in Austin, then vote for Max. If you love Austin, choose Max Nofziger for Mayor.
Support for Anti-Smoking Laws
I live in Austin and enjoy going to a local club mainly for socializing and dancing. Many days after going out I've been sick from the damage of breathing in the secondhand smoke. Our society has already accepted and legislated that smoking is wrong in most every public place. This loophole of letting clubs allow smoke really needs to be closed. It's a public health hazard to contribute to hundreds of Travis County residents dying of secondhand smoke each year. Unless this ban is passed I fear I may be next.
We Are All Terrorists
Now that "Operation Iraqi Freedom" has liberated the Iraqi people from a vicious dictator, why aren't all the pro-war groups celebrating in the streets carrying Iraqi flags? Could this possibly mean that this attack was not about freeing the Iraqi people but control of the area and the oil? Does anyone remember history class? In 1963 a coup aided by the CIA overthrew Abdel Karim Kassem. The Baathist Party was put in power with our help and support. Oh yeah, and our money. We also funded both sides in the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88). Even Osama bin Laden (along with 100,000 Mujahadeen) was funded by all of us pride-striken taxpayers. The problem is not to wage war or not to wage war. It lies in the military interventions paid for by tax-paying terrorists like you and I.
Another Route to Clean Air
There are few ways that are easier and that have a greater impact in reducing air pollution and water contamination than trading in a gas-powered lawn mower for an electric or push model. Purchasers can save up to $140 off the cost of a cordless (battery pack) electric model at a sales event on Saturday, May 3, 8:30am-1:30pm, at the Home Depot in Round Rock.
This is the last sales event day for 2003. We may not even have this program next year. The Central Texas Lawnmower Electric Lawnmower Program is a Clean Air Force program. For more information, please go to www.cleanairforce.org or call 447-4595.
Central Texas Electric Lawnmower Program
Homophobic Rick Santorum
Here we go again. In a time of fear and recession, it's nice to know that mainstream America can still sit back and watch Radical Right Republicans occasionally slip up and let their bigoted and close-minded thoughts actually slip through their mouths.
Yesterday, racist Trent Lott. Today, homophobic Rick Santorum. Grab your popcorn folks -- we've still got another year and a half of this Republican occupation to go.
By viciously trashing the current Texas equal rights case before the Supreme Court, Sen. Rick Santorum -- the third most powerful senator in the aptly named Grand Old Party -- placed millions of red-blooded, law-abiding, taxpaying, terrorist-fighting, and patriotic Americans in the same repulsive moral category as incestuous criminals.
But what's most disturbing about Trent Lott II? Many believe that Vice-President Cheney is the most powerful and trusted vice-president in American history. Yet, the Bush administration has so far refused to defend the vice-president's own daughter by calling for Sen. Rick Santorum's resignation.
You've got to wonder what Father's Day will be like this year at the Cheney household. The straight-talking, equality-supporting, budget-balancing, gun-loving doctor and presidential candidate from Vermont -- Gov. Howard Dean -- said it best:
"The silence with which President Bush and the Republican Party leadership have greeted Senator Santorum's remarks is deafening." Amen.
Not Activism, but Americanism
I am very hopeful that people will reject the type of hate from the likes of Senator Santorum. It is the most insidious kind, the kind not obvious with banners and wild-eyed rednecks with rebel flags. It is that kind that is easy to reject, because we can all look at that and be ashamed and pity the ignorance of the great unwashed. The kind dressed up in the garments of respectability is much harder to ignore, because we consider ourselves respectable and see a commonality.
The disenfranchisement of homosexual men and women is the last acceptable prejudice in our country. We must not tolerate this respectable hate any more than we tolerate more visible and base expressions of hate.
This country, as a whole, has taken a nap on the issue of personal rights. Republicans used to believe in rugged individualism, and now the government wants to burst into bedrooms and judge what type of sexual activity is happening. Immigrants are in jail being held without due process, the government disregards the counsel of our oldest allies, and all the while the government makes commercials telling us now is not the time to criticize our government and the administration.
I am not a conspiracist, I am not a liberal, I am not an activist. I am an American, and I am sick of seeing the administration shove its policies in our throat and then poke us in the eye if we make a peep in opposition. It is not un-American, it is not unpatriotic, it is not un-Christian, and it is not wrong to oppose hate and bullying.
Charlie D. Ray
Allow Linkage to the Past
SB 174 -- filed by Jane Nelson, District 12, Grapevine, makes it impossible to access information on marriage records by the public, including genealogists and family historians. Bills SB 861/HB 1778 seek to keep birth records closed for 75 years. Currently they are closed for 50 years. This makes it increasingly difficult, and for some impossible, to research their lineage and family history. DD 214 legislation is also being passed in a futile attempt to stop identity theft. There is a petition online, but if you would rather develop your own, that is fine, too. The link to it is www.petition-them.com, then click on human rights tab. Please help us to stop the government from taking away access to our heritage. We would appreciate you signing the petition and/or contacting your state representatives and senators regarding this issue or any other help. Thank you for your support.
Rosanna Urban Parra
The Wise Words of Ike
General Eisenhower was extremely qualified to evaluate the danger to our country from a military-industrial complex. The following is quoted directly from an Eisenhower speech given as he was about to leave the presidency.
"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic process. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty can prosper together."
Norman Van Sickle
Silver City, Iowa
Texans Are Cowards
I have come to the conclusion that Texans are cowards. I can hear your angry reaction, but I stand by that statement. Why?
167,000 men, women, and children imprisoned in Texas. More than twice the average of other states by percentage of population. Up to seven times more than some states. More than those imprisoned by Saddam Hussein or any other dictator presently blighting the planet.
Now I can hear the indignant drone of being tough on crime and the patronizing dismissal as a bleeding heart liberal. What rubbish!
Just who is imprisoned in Texas? The worst of the worst?
Well, there have been a number of teenaged girls as young as 14 incarcerated for 20, 30, or more years at hard labor. Why? When you cut through the bullshit, for daring to attempt to defend themselves against rape, molestation, or physical abuse by those placed in authority over them by the state. This is not rumor, it is easily verifiable fact.
This is what passes for upholding family values in Texas. And, there are many others just as frightening as these little girls caught up in the Texas "criminal justice" system.
The purpose in prosecuting such people has nothing to do with justice but, rather, the maintenance of authority by the strong over the weak.
My father was an attorney. The one thing he taught me about the law is that, at its best, it is the last, best refuge of the weak.
As an exercise of authority over the weak, it is a tool of oppression, wielded by bullies. Bullies are cowards who crave to control others in order to mask their own inadequacy. They prey on those least able to defend themselves. That is what the law has become in Texas: The tool of bullies.
And that is why Texans are cowards.
Mark L. Humphrey
Smoking Ban Is a Good Thing
Last summer I took a two-week trip through California. My family drove to San Diego for a wedding, and the first evening there I went down to the Gas Lamp entertainment district. The bars and restaurants were overflowing with crowds. Once inside a bar, it was a pleasure to enjoy a couple of beers with friends and family without having to breathe smoke-filled air all night. I went to several clubs that night, but when I returned to the hotel I did not need to shower off the smell of smoke before sleeping. While in San Francisco I went to sports bars and brewpubs that again were very crowded with people without being smoky. People seemed more than willing to step outside to smoke. Many bar owners here in Austin are correct in saying that the majority of their clientele are smokers. That is because the majority here in Austin does not smoke and do not gather in places that subject them to secondhand smoke. I look forward to the day that the nonsmoking majority of Austinites can enjoy the wonderful bars, clubs, and restaurants here in our community like I did in California.
Support Health, Not Smoke
Austin will be an even more wonderful city in which to live and visit after smoking is prohibited in all public places and workplaces.
No employee or patron of any establishment should have to endure the mother of all chemical weapons: tobacco smoke. Lethal tobacco smoke kills 65,000 innocent Americans each year.
The prime directive of any good government is to protect the health, safety, and welfare of all of the people. Ensuring smoke-free air does just that. Tobacco smoke is a killer that never did and never will have any "rights."
Smoke-free air is good for people and for business. Only the tobacco creeps and their "friends" continue to dispute the facts!