Our readers talk back.
True Believers' Science, Start With Belief, Go on From There
Michael King's report on the Sept. 10 public hearing ["In Search of Intelligent Life at the SBOE," Sept. 19] contains more errors and distortions than just the incorrect date (King said the hearing was on Sept. 3). King misleadingly states that the testimony of so-called "practicing scientists and science educators" supported the textbooks. However, the hearing I attended showed more support simply for trashing the Discovery Institute and those testifying to correct the very real errors and misrepresentations in the textbooks. It was the supporters of the textbooks who came decked out in their anti-Christian symbols (Christian fish sprouting legs with the name Darwin in the middle) and T-shirts sporting the latest media sound bite, "Don't mess with textbooks." The only people who came with a true scientific testimony were individuals like myself who had actually read the textbooks and referred to the scientific literature in detail. Typical of the textbook supporters was UT's Stephen Weinberg; Nobel Laureate that he is, he is not a biologist, had not read the textbooks, and displayed incredible arrogance by claiming to know my "ultimate" motivations even though we have never spoken and he knew nothing of my actual testimony. King also only refers to my answer to a question at the July 9 hearing about my credentials and not my testimony, which only referred to specific material in the textbooks. What I read in King's article was just a new verse of all the tired accusations designed simply to discredit Darwinian critics, not answer their criticisms.
[Michael King replies: Mr. Bohlin is correct, the hearing took place Sept. 10, and I regret the error. On the other hand, his pretensions to "true scientific" detachment are amply represented by an excerpt from his Probe Ministries sermon on "The Age of the Earth and the Grand Canyon," in which he declares his "sympathies" for "a Genesis interpretation that is historical, literal, and with 24-hour days in the recent past." As Bohlin puts it, "When someone asks me whether the flood of Noah created the Grand Canyon, I have to say that I don't know. And that's OK! The creation was a real historical event, Adam and Eve were real people, and the flood of Noah was real history as well. But finding the physical signs of these events can be tricky business." Tricky it may be, but science it is not. All of Bohlin's research, as Steven Weinberg argued, is devoted to a single project: "They're trying to protect religious beliefs from contradiction by science."]
Dismayed at Handling of CMAS Books Closure
I was disappointed to read about the dismantling of UT's CMAS Books ["Closing the Books," Sept. 12], but quickly my disappointment turned to anger at the mismanagement of the program, the disregard for the legacy of CMAS Books, and finally the disrespect shown to Mr. Victor Guerra. If the dismantling of CMAS Books was indeed under way in spring 2003, that discussion should absolutely have been public and inclusive of any individual or group with a valid interest or perspective. There are sufficient voices in the Chronicle story that discuss the importance of the CMAS Books legacy to our world; however, I must add my voice to the outcry against the arrogance and high-handedness shown to Mr. Guerra. Granted, we have not heard Mr. Limón's response to the accusations about his management decisions, but enough facts are stated to lead us to believe that Mr. Guerra's termination due to a "reorganization" was actually retaliation. There can be no argument with the inappropriateness of employing a close relative to a permanent part-time position at a public institution, particularly one as highly regarded as the University of Texas at Austin. If nothing else, Mr. Limón can be convicted of a lack of common sense and, perhaps more darkly, unethical behavior at taxpayer expense. At the very least, the management decisions show an appalling lack of consideration for the well being, professional reputation, and financial security of a 15-year employee. I anticipate hearing that UT Provost Sheldon Ekland-Olson will discipline Mr. Limón, offer Mr. Guerra back pay, and request that he return to his position, although not be required to report to Mr. Limón in the future. Include Mr. Guerra's voice in the discussion about the future and direction of CMAS Books. His voice will probably be very valuable since he clearly loves the program. Include Mr. Guerra in strategic planning. He may have some insight.
Lorraine Lazarine de McCarty
Intelligent Design Based on Simplistic Faith
Intelligent Design ["In Search of Intelligent Life at the SBOE," Sept. 19] eliminates the need for scientific inquiry with the simple statement, "God did it!" Galileo, Copernicus, Darwin, Scopes -- roll over. Once again, people trained in theology think they deserve the final word in science.
Trusting Nonscientists Dangerous
Re: ["In Search of Intelligent Life at the SBOE," Sept. 19]
Here is a perfect example of the problems that arise when nonscientists who know nothing about the rigors of scientific research are allowed to get their filthy paws into scientific education standards. This is tantamount to letting somebody who has never read Shakespeare have input as to which of his plays should be taught in a literature class.
We are shortchanging our children if we do not thoroughly teach them a body of science that is essential to those who wish to pursue careers in medicine, science, or even engineering.
What's the deal with you and Wal-Mart ["The Wal-Mart War: Can Austin Fight Back?" Sept. 19]? Is it the fact that they have a dime more than you, therefore are evil and somehow out to ruin such a wonderful neighborhood as I-35 and Slaughter? What goes in there instead of Wal-Mart? More porn and pawn shops? Those certainly are aesthetically pleasing and really add a lot to the overall beauty of the neighborhood. From what I see, Wal-Mart and Home Depot are a step up.
Do I want them to ruin the aquifer? No, not hardly. Hold their feet to the fire on this issue, but as far as being a detriment to the neighborhood, I don't think so. I wish things were like they were years ago (sounds a little reactionary). Hell, I wish South Park Meadows was opening back up, but I'm not holding my breath.
I recently learned that Wal-Mart is planning the construction of a new Wal-Mart Supercenter at the corner of I-35 and Slaughter Lane. I am writing to voice my opposition to the proposed zone change on the property referred to as Park Ridge. Park Ridge is a quiet community, and I believe it's a great place to live. It is a place filled with children, pets, and at night you can look up to the sky and see the stars. I can't imagine the amount of damage the additional light and noise pollution, among other detrimental effects, the proposed Wal-Mart would inflict on our community.
I am concerned about increased traffic, noise, air, and light pollution -- not to mention the increase of crime. It is a documented fact that crime increases in areas surrounding Wal-Mart Supercenters, due to the store's 24-hour operation. Additionally, I am also concerned about my property and its value. Residents in Park Ridge take pride in their homes, and we all work hard for what we have.
The possibility of a Wal-Mart Supercenter or any giant big-box store moving right next door threatens our environment and our quality of life. Will we no longer be able to show our children the Milky Way and meteor showers? Will our children be lulled to sleep by the rumble and toxic fumes of Wal-Mart trucks driving up and down our streets? The quality of life in Austin isn't worth the amount that Wal-Mart has set on it. It is priceless.
Thank you for continuing to cover the story regarding Wal-Mart and its evil plans to take over South Austin.
[Re: "Letters @ 3AM," Sept. 19]
This should be reprinted in every newspaper in Texas. Wonderful! Thank you!
Please Shut Up at Music Events
While I realize Austinites are somewhat jaded when it comes to the incredible range of music we have on a continual basis, I have one plea to my fellow citizens when in a crowd listening to a musician or group -- shut the fuck up!! I had waited several months to see Guy Clark at Shady Grove the other night, only to have the evening all but ruined by chatting people. I swear Guy could barely compete with the crowd's cacophony. This happens all the time, something that usually prompts me to get closer and closer to the stage. But why would anyone bother making the trip to stand in a crowd, just to chat with their friends (and mostly after paying $40 to $50 for a ticket). Plus, there is someone up on the stage working hard to communicate/amuse/please us with their talent/craft/art. Please be quiet and let our hard-working musicians be heard.
Does RAVE Act Affect Zilker?
Just got back from the ACL Festival. Good time. But I was curious about something: Did the Austin police make any drug arrests at the festival? If so, when will the federal government be confiscating the park under the provisions of the RAVE Act?
Like I said, I'm just curious, It's a nice park, and I'd like to put in a bid when it comes up in a DEA auction.
Moser, Listen to Winwood Again
I certainly respect Margaret Moser's right to offer her opinion. That's her obligation as a reviewer. But I think she really missed the boat on the new Steve Winwood CD ["ACL Fest Record Reviews," Sept. 19]. Two stars? It's terrific! Go back and listen to the tracks "Phoenix Rising" and "Horizon." Chops, taste, sharp material, Hammond organ, and a distinctive voice -- what's not to like? And he really delivered live at Stubb's on Thursday night. I always look forward to every issue of the Chronicle.
Smaller 'ACL' Stages Need Better Positioning
I attended the ACL Festival for the first time on Saturday. While there was lots to like, I have to comment on the poor musical experience on the smaller stages -- every band I attempted to listen to on the BMI and Austin Ventures stages was blasted by music from the larger stages. If you or anyone else had the same experience, I would encourage feedback to the ACL folks so this can be addressed next year. Having attended New Orleans Jazzfest for 15 years, there are ways to arrange stages and acts where this sort of overlap is the exception, not the constant rule. ACL Fest has lots of great potential, and I hope to see them continue to improve the acoustical quality.
Support More Adventurous Music
As a member of the local adventurous music community, I want to thank the Chronicle and Michael Chamy for helping to promote last weekend's wonderful Austin Eye + Ear series of the Cinematexas festival ["Music Recommended," Sept. 19]. The festival is a jewel in the local cultural landscape. In addition to their excellent film offerings, Cinematexas gives the "Live Music Capital of the World" the rare opportunity to see some of the most accomplished figures in contemporary music and sound art. This year's concerts by John Butcher, Kaffe Matthews, Andy Moor, and Amsterdam's the Ex were astounding! Kudos to Cinematexas for their commitment to the avant-garde across all artistic disciplines.
I feel it is necessary to point out some minor errors and inaccuracies in last week's plug. Electronic musician Kaffe Matthews is from London, England, and not Australia as stated. Also, Michael Chamy alludes to the Ex's broad and expansive approach to punk rock by mentioning their collaborations with world and experimental musicians. Specifically, Chamy mentions that they have worked with improvising violinists. Chamy is more than likely referring to the Ex's pioneering work with the American cellist and improvisor Tom Cora, a very influential but underacknowledged master who died a few years ago. It may not seem like a big deal, but creative music is so misunderstood that I felt it had to be mentioned.
In the last five years, Austin has seen an upsurge in local independent creative-music activity. Major international figures in experimental and improvised music have performed to large and very appreciative audiences. I implore the Chronicle to publish reviews (good or bad) of some of these concerts. The Chronicle is the paper of record for documenting Austin's cultural vitality, and I am sure that many of your readers would appreciate reading about this activity.
Pedro G. Moreno
Questions for Chong
Dear Ms. Smith,
I have a question for Tommy Chong ["Weed Watch," Sept. 19]:
Does he feel that his own past portrayal of the marijuana consumer as a complete moron with no redeeming qualities may have contributed to his getting nine months in prison for selling bongs?
I would also like to ask, how much of the money he earned by portraying potheads as morons has he contributed to other marijuana prisoners of war?
'ACL' Offers More of the Same
Well, another Austin City Limits Festival has come and gone, and it's time once again to ask: Where's the beef? With all due respect to ACL's producers, many of us out here have grown damn tired of their musical tastes. While their formula has proved successful for themselves, how does Austin benefit from ACL's portrayal of it as a throwback where everyone is still pining for the Armadillo? ACL may not be a showcase of local music per se, but for many this is as close as they'll ever get to Austin, and ACL's version went out with the Lawrence Welk show.
The ACL Festival continues this exclusive tradition. One hand is all it takes to count the number of festival acts who've graced the stage at Emo's. Acts appearing are only those that meet ACL's narrow criteria, which seems to be that you must: 1) have acoustic guitars and/or bongos in play, and any amplifiers must not exceed half-volume, 2) cite some arcane blues or country icon as your act's primary influence, or at least be prepared to fawn over some roots legend like Freddy King, and 3) not under any circumstances perform any music remotely resembling punk, metal, or hard rock.
With public television's support waning, ACL now wants the festival to become a funding source and has asked for a share of the profits. Its principals want to enrich themselves from a creation made possible with tax-free public funding. Don't fault them for their audacity, they've been professional beggars all these years, and old habits die hard. However, let's disabuse ourselves of the notion that Austin owes ACL's musical elitists their patronage. The public has carried their water for more than 20 years. If the formula is truly a success, it'll stand on its own two feet.
[Editor's note: This letter was received the day before the ACL Festival began.]
Twisted Logic on Housing
Austinites find themselves digging a deep financial hole for housing. With no meaningful action from City Hall, many have hit rock bottom. Most city leaders say they would not support another property-tax rate increase unless retail sales-tax revenues keep falling. The message is clear: Keep digging.
How did this happen? City Hall's "managed growth" came straight out of a cartoon. The Popeye cartoon character named Wimpy states: "I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today." Why continue to allow City Hall to speculate (gamble) and pimp the Austin-burger (incentives) to any Tom Corp., Dick Inc., and Harry.com that exist globally?
We should learn from our Texas Legislature. If you do not agree with what somebody is doing, levy fines against them.
To fine Austin's City Hall, to get them to care, you need to SOA (Shop Outside Austin). Planning to buy a high-dollar item or major appliance, don't buy it in Austin. Party outside Austin, too. Same goes for gasoline, clothes, and household necessities -- you should SOA. There are plenty of outlet stores and Wal-Marts, etc. in towns around Austin.
Every time Austinites pay $100 in Austin for taxable goods, you pay the city sales tax of around $8. Don't pay Austin that $8, SOA and you fine City Hall. Why should Austinites pay and continue to supply free Austin-burgers to the Wimpys of the world?
Sixty percent of the American work force is said to be "blue collar" workers. It will only take a small percentage of hard-working Austinites to markedly decrease the city's sales-tax intake.
Live in Austin, support the small weird stores here, but spend the majority of your sales-tax dollars in the other towns in central Texas. SOA and you encourage City Hall to really care and exercise their humanity.