Our readers talk back.
Child Needs a Mother Figure
To whom it may concern,
Your poor judgement and lack of taste that you display in choosing to use this picture on the cover of this magazine amazes me [May 2]. You folks are really out of touch. According to statistics, this couple won't be together to raise this child. There's no mother figure in the family. Do you have a mother? Figure it out.
[Ed. note: According to the Texas Bureau of Vital Statistics, 83,473 heterosexual couples were divorced in 2001 (Travis County accounted for 2,163 of the divorces). That's a 2.1% increase from the 2000 stats. These divorces affected 64,766 children under the age of 18. Studies conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics and other reputable professional organizations all conclude that children raised by one or two gay or lesbian parents fare just as well as children raised by heterosexual parents.]
Big Up Yourself
In response to your recent article on Austin's "Electroclash" scene ["This Is Electroclash," April 25], I would like to clarify certain portions of your story which I feel were inadvertently in error. The credit for making "nu wave," synth pop, and electroclash happen at Le Privilege and on Red River must go to the Transexformers DJs: Tom Blackburn and Glenn Barovich. A year ago we started at Le Privilege playing underground electronic and Eighties music every Sunday as an alternative to the usual tunes at Elysium/Atomic Cafe. We found many fans and supporters and invited a live band and guest DJ to join us every week. Check out the www.howandwhy.org/transexformers.html Web site for a list of all the wonderful drum-machine and synth-friendly artists we supported and enjoyed. I personally worked very hard bringing A.R.E. Weapons and Glass Candy to Austin and we did our best to inspire the scene until the end of Transexformers Sundays, when the torch was passed on to dedicated friends such as Sean O'Neal and James Minor. We love making electro and Eighties music exciting and want to give credit to ourselves and all those who helped shake things up in Austin.
Transexformers Sound System
Shame on You, 'Chronicle'
Why the hell has there not been a cover story about this absurd and completely unfair smoking ordinance that is before the City Council? There has been a minimal of publicity on this. Aside from the bar and business owners, very few of the public are even aware of it. And that is why it is likely to become approved. This ordinance threatens the very livelihood of the live music industry here. It threatens the success of locally owned and independent bar business. Do we want to see Sixth Street become a strip of just corporate chain bars? I thought the Chronicle was a big supporter of the music and bar scene. Who the fuck is paying you off!
Barton Springs Still in Danger
Due to the recent reopening of Barton Springs pool, some may think that the problem of pollution is over. This is far from the truth. Just because the water is safe to swim in does not mean that the springs are [safe]. Barton Springs is going to be at threat until the construction that feeds waste into the watershed of the springs is stopped, because construction makes roads and parking lots that direct debris from cars and construction into the watershed. Since the watershed for the springs is a porous limestone instead of sandstone, almost all the impurities that go into the ground end up in the springs. The people that believe the springs are in good shape because they can swim in it are ignorant to the real problem. If people here in Austin would look and see the great amounts of pollutants in the soil, they would see it as just a precursor to the water becoming more contaminated. So, go to the Save Our Spring Web site (www.sosalliance.org) if you actually care about Barton Springs and it will show you the truth of the situation. Give your time or even your money because any help at all can lead to saving the "Soul of the City" for future generations to enjoy.
Big Brother Is Watching
While students are busy studying for finals, the University of Texas system is supporting a bill that curtails student and the public's right to know public information about what is going on at these public institutions. UT is supporting an amendment to HB 1191, which would allow it to keep information secret regarding security cameras that it has placed all over its campus. The attorney general has twice overturned UT's desire to deny open records requests from the campus newspaper on these cameras. Also, the attorney general stated that using "national security" was not a valid reason for keeping information about cameras that view public space secret and that UT must hand the data over. Now UT wants to change the law so that it doesn't have to fork over the information that should be public. If UT has nothing to hide, then why is it trying to squelch public scrutiny of a public institution?
Show Us Your Tax Bills
The lieutenant governor along with his merry band of senators took a joy ride in a little yellow school bus to Austin's Eastside to tout a tax bill they say will bring relief to the average taxpayer. Unfortunately, those average Texas taxpayers, who are still wondering what happened with the uncertifiable budget senators passed a few days earlier, were left off the bus. All that energy, all that focus -- can we say the same thing for how the Senate intends to treat the budget that they haven't raised money for yet?
Might I mention that according to Article 3, Section 33 of the Texas Constitution "All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives"?
Might I mention the fact that 31 senators got on board as co-authors with the school tax plan before even having read it?
The devil may be in the details, as many of the speakers claimed at Wednesday's event, but taxpayers still deserve to know exactly what to expect. Taxpayers have had no input in writing the plan -- nor have Gov. Perry, Speaker Craddick, or virtually any of our 31 state senators for that matter.
Let's be prudent at a minimum. Just whose ideas are behind or at the heart of this plan that's been so secretly contrived? Didn't we just elect a slate of more conservative leaders who were going to do things differently, in the light of day, and not raise our taxes?
This is a tax bill, and passing a plan in just two weeks time that will replace a complicated school finance system -- a mathematical set of formulas that currently runs 19 pages long -- just doesn't make sense. We've been stuck with a system for 10 years, as it is already, what's it going to hurt to take our time and do it right?
We can appreciate the good intentions in proposing this tax bill, but we need to take some time to review it, and maybe this time let's bring some of the taxpayers to the table.
Maria G. Martinez
Director of Outreach
Addressing Traffic Problems
It is getting tiresome to hear TV newsfolk harp on red-light-running as though there are packs of drivers maliciously breaking the law. This slant is understandable, though; newscasters have two sources to interview. One would be the police, who would call red-running one of our most dangerous traffic problems (and I don't deny it), right up there with driving drunk, driving stoned, and driving phoned. The police, however, mostly patrol town without specific destinations in mind. The other would be the traffic department, which rather clearly doesn't think in terms of trip time and efficiency of flow (and perhaps don't themselves even drive), but rather in terms of how to make the greens long enough to clear out most of the vehicles stopped at the longest reds I've seen in 36 states. The city, as we drive from red light to red light to red light to red light to red light to red light to red light to 90-second red light ("What's a 90-second delay in your commute?" Admittedly not much, once), has hit upon a typically miss-the-point administrative solution -- automated punishment, via intersection cameras and fines-by-mail. The other day as I traveled at the speed limit to an intersection from the previous Stop-Wait-&-Pollute, and slammed on my brakes as the light changed at my arrival, the driver in the other lane went on through. Did he need to be punished? Or is it more that Austin needs competent traffic facilitation? The way things are is not the way things must be. Don't be sheep; make them make it work.
Texas Needs Gambling
If the churchgoing folks of Texas don't want gambling to be legalized in Texas, why don't the churches volunteer to start paying taxes so that the state's economy can be healthy again? They scream separation of church and state, but they want to tell us what laws to pass ... they need to stay out of it!
Vote for gambling in Texas!
A Challenge to the 'Chronicle'
Dear Mr. Louis Black,
As a longtime reader of the Chronicle and "Letters @ 3AM," I challenge you as editor of the most liberal publication in responsible journalism to immediately begin a task force/exposé on this most important of issues as raised by Michael Ventura on at least two occasions -- namely, that our nuclear power plants are not adequately protected from terrorist attack. Use your resources to expose the scoundrels of our current administration for what they are. Please. And don't waste another minute. Thank you.
A Taxing Situation
Leroy H. Haverlah Jr. states that "the wealthiest 20% of Texans pay 5.1% of their annual income in taxes" ["Postmarks," April 25]. Adding federal income taxes, property taxes, drivers license fees, vehicle registration fees, vehicle inspection fees, hunting and fishing license fees, sales taxes, telephone infrastructure and communication taxes, user fees, luxury taxes, cigarette, alcohol, and gasoline taxes, even with deductions, loopholes, etc., even the most creative accountant has to stay close to IRS guidelines and that is much closer to 45% for a wealthy person.
As far as his statement that the average Texan pays $2,456 a year in local and state taxes, I understand that taxes need to be levied to pay for vital services, but perhaps we have gotten to a point where there are too many things we consider to be vital services. When I think of the services that the government provides that it did not provide 50 years ago, I am astonished at the amount of taxes we pay that get squandered.
Being middle class and single with no children and paying much closer to $6,000 per year in local and state taxes, if you consider all of the above taxes and fees, it is often difficult for me to reconcile paying even more taxes. I oppose a state income tax because I know that property taxes would not go down and it would give the government even more money to waste. The government has a nasty history of keeping a tax once it is levied and adding more taxes all of the time to add to its power.
Gen. Bush Gears Up for Election
I was amused by President Bush's almost, sort of, victory announcement from the deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln last week. I was even more amused as I read the Washington punditry's ravings about the political genius behind the Top Gun-style landing on the carrier, anticipating the stirring campaign commercials that would be generated from this most transparent and phony of photo ops, convincing only to those who are already true believers and revolting to many of the rest of us.
But it got me thinking. Throughout American history, many generals and war heroes, from George Washington to Dwight Eisenhower, have succeeded to the presidency, and all have pointedly put their military uniforms in the closet in order to emphasize the civilian nature of their new role. I could not think of a single president, regardless of military background, who had donned the uniform while in office.
Indeed, I tried to think of a single democratically elected leader anywhere in the world who had ever done such a thing, and I couldn't think of one, at least not since Adolf Hitler.
Am I wrong?
Is anybody else lost in the helplessness of the feeling that not only are you far, far from being proud that you're American but even further from being proud that you're human? That's the situation I'm in. In fact, I'm ashamed of being both. I'm ashamed of what "my" country does in my name. I'm ashamed when I look around at the warmongers and the sexmongers, and all the other cultural monsters we have made out of not only our world, but everybody else's. I am sick of waking up to more news about how we are "liberating" Iraq and how we opened up this wilderness for oil drilling and how our president made another screw-up in one of his speeches. What is this Earth coming to? Globalization is reigning like there's no fucking tomorrow and hey, maybe there isn't. All I say is get me out of this country -- not my own, not anybody's but the big business' and one moronic leader. Get me out of here before the trees, the bodies tumble down any louder -- I can't stand to hear it anymore.
Computer Geeks Need Love, Too
How come all the guys and gals in your personal ads profiles (online or in the print edition) all look the same? You know, sexy-cute-cool-artsy-tanned-hipster-twentysomething. Are they for real and living in Austin?
Us balding, portly, pasty-faced, aesthetically challenged, middle-aged, single, computer geek "dudes" need lovin' too, you know.
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.
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
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
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
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.
Take Your Lumps, Maines
I hope the Dixie Chicks have a higher opinion of their audience than Chronicle reader Stanley Gilbert does ("rednecks, white bread, and blue skies for brains" sums it up for him, apparently) ["Postmarks," May 2], but they should know, if they don't already, that what people objected to about Nat's comments was the tastelessness and overt contempt for her country and president implied. There were a million and one ways to indicate her foreign policy preference, and she chose a shitty one, in a shitty context.
Tim Robbins' paranoid rants aside, there is nothing like McCarthyism in the public's reaction to mean-spirited and uninformed abuses of celebrity status. Why do anti-war protesters have the right to do or say anything under the heading of "dissent is patriotic," but anti-Natalie Maines/Tim Robbins protesters don't? Public opinion is a fickle beast, but getting on the wrong side of it is not the product of a right-wing conspiracy, it's a product of not reading the room correctly. Take your lumps when you screw up or keep quiet and don't risk it, but stop whining about what a patriot you are and how that makes you unpopular; being embarrassed to share a home state with your president is hardly incisive political commentary.
Listen, Nat: I'm about as interested in your political views as I am in John Ashcroft's singing career. You're a great performer, but if you started playing pro tennis, I'd laugh at your attempt to challenge Venus or Serena just as much as I laughed at your attempt at political humor. You took a chance and it didn't work out. Don't try to make yourself the victim: you did it to yourself.
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.
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.
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!