Our readers talk back.
Expose Extreme Political Thought
Thanks for Lee Nichols' column quoting Peggy Venable on behalf of the Texas Citizens Action Network ["We Got Reds in Our Webs!" Sept. 26]. Once again, Ms. Venable and the organizations she represents are shown to be completely out on the fringe of political thought. Unfortunately, as you suggested, Ms. Venable apparently speaks for the majority of our current Republican leadership, making them all the more dangerous. Thanks for exposing them to some light.
Thanks to Venable's PR for Communists
My thanks to Peggy Venable of the Texas Citizens Action Network for bringing to our attention the existence of the Communist Party in the United States ["We Got Reds in Our Webs!" Sept. 26], and also to their Web site. I didn't even know Communists existed in 21st-century America. And to think that I, a member of MoveOn.org, wasn't even aware of the link between the two sites!
I plan to check this important Web site regularly as a source of information to counterbalance the overload of corporate-controlled media outlets. Thanks, Peggy.
Texas C.A.N. Connected to Communist Party
I just wanted to congratulate Lee Nichols for exposing the link between Texas C.A.N. and the Communist Party ["We Got Reds in Our Webs!" Sept. 26]. Who would have thunk it? Kevin Bacon?
Reds Are Everywhere, Probably Even You
In the spirit of Team Franken, I submit the following for your consideration. In the interests of brevity, I removed the URLs, but please check the background! Citizens for a Strong Economy spokesperson Peggy Venable [described] Moveon.org as "an arm of the Communist Party" ["We Got Reds in Our Webs!" Sept. 26]. Their Web site (www.cse.org) now informs "Venable has been targeted by the radical left, those listed on the Communist Party USA Web site, as worthy of an e-mail attack campaign" using "sleezy (sic) name-calling." Ms. Venable claims MoveOn members are "idiots" "subverting democracy and free markets."
I visited the Communist Party Web site, risking the ire of Tom and the Homeland Defenders. The Communists are directing users to MoveOn.org as well as similar organizations. Investigation of the causes supported by these subversive, un-American groups suggests a common agenda. This is only the short list:
AIDS Research Alliance
American Federation of Teachers
League of Women Voters
Veterans Against the War
God Is Love, or Should Be
Re: "Page Two," Sept. 26
Thank God for Louis Black! His views on what God is today -- and what he/she isn't -- comforted me when I realized that I was not the only one in our increasingly religious society thinking that way.
The Christian God I grew up with -- and maybe I was naive -- was one of love, acceptance, and understanding. I fondly remember vacation Bible school where, in addition to learning how to make rather fetching outdoor lawn chair-high ashtrays out of tuna-fish cans and discarded broomsticks, we were taught the catechism. The most basic question was, "Who is God?" The answer we chimed out was, "God is love."
Today, some fundamental, Bible-thumping and evangelical "Christian" denominations worship what appears to be a vastly different God. This one waves an American flag and blesses only America, mistrusts diversity, preaches that certain sexual acts between consenting adults are sinful, condemns followers of other religions to a Christian hell, and thinks it's fine to kill in the name of patriotism and peace.
Claude M. Gruener
Contrary to the recent piece by Mr. Michael King ["In Search of Intelligent Life at the SBOE," Sept. 19], there is no grand plan to push creationism into textbooks or classrooms.
The actual issue before the SBOE is whether or not Darwinian evolution theory will be fully and completely presented in biology textbooks, meaning will it include both the evidence supporting the theory and that which does not. You would never know that's the issue by reading Mr. King's opinion piece.
Testifiers to the SBOE were not seeking inclusion of creationism or intelligent design in textbooks or curriculum. Neither were they advocating for excluding evolution from textbooks.
Instead of focusing on the science, Mr. King wants to divert attention from the issue with attacks on the alleged motives of Darwin's critics. He writes that "the institute's long-term project is (in its own words) 'to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist world-view, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.'"
If Mr. King had taken the Discovery Institute up on its offer to provide him interviews with scientists and researchers, or simply asked us about this, he would know that we want to end the abuse of science by Darwinists like Richard Dawkins and E.O. Wilson who try to use science to debunk religion. Furthermore, we do provide support for some scientists and philosophers who think that real science is actually "consonant with ... theistic convictions." Please note, however: "consonant with" means "in harmony with." It does not mean "same as." We don't think religion and science are the same thing, or that science can somehow "prove" religion. To maintain that science and religion can be at peace with each other does not mean that science will be turned into some kind of religious enterprise.
Another diversionary tactic employed by Mr. King is to point out that a majority of scientists believe in Darwinian evolution. That shouldn't surprise anyone, and doesn't really matter. What happened to following the scientific evidence where it leads? Is scientific truth decided now by a roll-call vote of all scientists? Are we to resort to a sort of mob rule in science, letting whichever gang is bigger determine which theories will be heard and which won't?
The Discovery Institute released a list of 40 scientists from Texas, and 60 biologists from around the world who doubt that natural selection or chemistry alone explain the origins of life. The only scientists that Mr. King singles out for scrutiny are those few who happen to have a public persona that includes a religious affiliation.
However, he ignores prominent biologists who have declared their skepticism of Darwin including evolutionary biologist Stanley Salthe, molecular biologist Richard Sternberg from the Smithsonian Institute, and Giuseppe Sermonti, the editor of Rivista Biologia/Biology Forum. Dr. Salthe authored a mainstream biology textbook in the 1970s and now considers himself an apostate from Darwin. Dr. Sermonti is the editor of one of Europe's leading, peer-reviewed, biological journals. Obviously, in his "search," Mr. King didn't bother to look very hard to find anyone who didn't fit his Inherit the Wind stereotype.
The issue currently before the SBOE is whether the board should apply this standard to how evolution is presented in textbooks. Let's leave religion out of it and stick to the science challenging Darwinian theory.
Director of Public and Media Relations
Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture
[Michael King replies: Robert Crowther's letter is simply another misleading installment in the Discovery Institute's extended national campaign to undermine the teaching of the biological sciences in public schools. Since he can't deny the Institute's declared goal -- of imposing Christian theism upon scientific study -- he tries to define it away. If Crowther believes evolutionary theory is indeed not "consonant with" religion and therefore to be opposed, he should make that case directly, not under the disingenuous guise of defending "full" or "complete" scientific teaching of a subject he in fact objects to in principle. That would not be a winning argument, but at least it would be an honest one. I discussed the first two names (fundamentalist Christian polemicists both) on the Institute's sloppily documented list of Texas "scientists," but -- as I wrote -- found that many others on the list either had similar backgrounds or no relevant scientific credentials to speak of at all. I will believe the Discovery Institute cares one whit about the serious education of public school students in Texas when Mr. Crowther and his employers devote as much time, energy, and money to restoring state textbook funding as they are now doing to weaken the curriculum, confound teachers, confuse students, and muddy the educational and political waters in the service of a fundamentally dishonest bait-and-switch religious crusade.]
All Unsuccessful Candidates for Place 5 Deserve Kudos
Thanks for the recognition as one of the four Best Unsuccessful City Council Candidates ["Best of Austin," Sept. 26]. I want to add some kind words for the two Place 5 candidates that you did not mention, however -- Jason Pate and Steve Swanson. Jason brought integrity, good humor, and some much-needed divergence of opinion to the campaign. And Steve Swanson was the primary reason that the Place 5 race was such an unexpectedly pleasant experience -- Steve's good-hearted nature and honest concern for the well-being of the people of Austin impressed everyone. Maybe that's why you didn't mention them -- when you run for office out of principle, and you bring grace and good spirit to what can be a stressful process, it's hard to characterize you as an unsuccessful candidate, even if you don't get elected.
hey guys. i rilly like yur pubblication. the bestof ishue [Sept. 26] is great, I expeshully like the choice for best ahther/pohet: Louis Sacher.
i used to think it was Louis Sachar, and i could have just cheked on the cover of holes, especially since it was suposedly the citys book uv the month or whatever, but why bother with speling when you're riting about literture?
Nize one, guys.
"Best Of" and Journalistic Ethics?
Alas, it is late September again, time for the annual conceit-a-rama in which dozens of writers whom the Chronicle has designated as critics individually designate some particular concrete stainer, duck vendor, calzone-peddling pizza shop, or sheet-metal fabricator as exemplifying the "Best of Austin" [Sept. 26]. These are always cloaked in the pretext of belonging to a category, one which presumably included at least a few contenders. Any close perusal reveals, of course, that these are actually classes of one, and that the categories are all created after the fact to fit whatever thing the arbiter had already decided, completely on their own, to be uniquely worthy. The Chronicle should at least have the honesty to attach the name of the individual to each of these, and abandon any pretense that they were chosen from something resembling a ballot. The fact that each year you refrain from doing this simply allows anyone in your family of "critics" to anoint anyone, for whatever frivolous purpose, with absolutely no possibility of being held to account.
Two-dozen pages of ego-stroking disguising itself as critical consensus -- a huge waste of space and a flaunting of journalistic ethics.
[Editor's Note: You got us here -- Critics Picks are by writers offering the names of businesses, people, places etc. they find notable with categories created afterward. We thought it fairly obvious that with categories like "Cutest Butts on Sixth Street," "Best Orgasmic Sneeze," and "Best Reunion Since Dean Martin Joined Jerry Lewis at the 1978 MDA Telethon," that we didn't start with a category and then sit around arguing possible candidates.]
Get Address Right
Unless there are either a) two different movie theatres with the name "Gateway" in Austin, and b) one of them is in an underground bunker beneath 183, your "Showtimes" section in the Chronicle lists, and I assume has for a long time listed, a completely fantasized address for the "Gateway Theatre." This caused my wife and I to miss a movie and started a rather nasty fight to boot. It is too late to save our marriage. But for the sake of future moviegoers, and future marriages, please change the address to the apparently correct 9700 Stonelake Blvd.
Darnielle Was at SXSW 2003
When I read Michael Chamy in the Music Recommended section this week [Sept. 26] saying "John Darnielle makes a scarce Austin appearance after pulling out of SXSW at the last minute," I admit that I was deeply confused.
Indeed, Mr. Darnielle does not come to Texas very often but I saw him twice at the 2003 SXSW, once at the Ritz as the Mountain Goats, and once at the Hideout as part of the Extra Glenns. Also, I believe that there was a third performance that week at a badges-only event. What on Earth could Mr. Chamy be thinking of? Ghosts of past SXSW disappointments?
While this may be a small issue, since the rest of the blurb in question is certainly accurate and commendatory, I do think that it's a little unfair to reintroduce Mr. Darnielle to Austin as the kind of guy who pulls out of SXSW rather than as the kind of guy he is: the kind who'll drive all the way here from Iowa for a couple of days of hard work and little remuneration.
If You Replace the Word 'Wal-Mart' With 'Libertarian' Would Anything Change?
I recently attended my South River City Citizens neighborhood association meeting. Wal-Mart hate-speech dominated the meeting, typified by member Mark Nathan's contribution, "I hate Wal-Mart." If everyone had replaced the word "Wal-Mart" with "nigger," perhaps the discourse would have resembled when the first African-American moved into Travis Heights, if any ever have. Though there were a few Wal-Mart lovers like me, the only close debate was whether the group should pretend they were concerned about zoning to resist Wal-Mart, or should they outright admit to simply hating all Wal-Marts.
I visited the I-35 Stassney Wal-Mart last Friday at 10pm. My rough count inside revealed a work force comprising 28 Hispanics, seven blacks, and two whites. I counted 256 shoppers: 193 Hispanic, 27 black, 34 white, and two Oriental. Anti-Wal-Mart fanatics plead for everyone to boycott Wal-Mart. With the dominating Hispanics refusing to cooperate, perhaps the only way to reduce the demand for new Wal-Marts is to deport all the Hispanics to Mexico.
I've got a better idea. Why don't we keep our Hispanics, blacks, whites, and two Oriental Wal-Mart shoppers, and deport all of the hateful anti-Wal-Mart, white boutique bitches to Cuba with a salamander under each arm. In Cuban paradise, they'd have free health care, free education, two salamanders, no free trade, no globalization, no development, no guns, dead political opposition, and no Wal-Mart! Probably every single white woman at that SRCC meeting was pro-choice when it comes to abortion. Why can't they support a woman's right to choose where to freakin' shop -- or work?
I'd be delighted to give any of you some shopper's sensitivity training via an intellectual tour of my favorite Wal-Mart if you'll buy me a McDonald's milkshake afterward.
Snarky Editor's Note Unwelcome
Your snarky editor's note after my letter regarding the ACL Fest ["Postmarks," Sept. 25] implies that because of my preconceptions, my opinion is somehow irrelevant. I wrote in after simply viewing a complete list of all festival acts. Then it was obvious that it would be just like the 2002 yawnfest. Sad that the Chronicle's allegiance to Austin's Granola Mafia is such that it feels compelled to malign anyone who tries to skewer one of their sacred local cows.
[Editor's reply: Pat, if we were to review one of your favorite bands, write the review before they played, open with the lead "such and such have come and gone," then dismiss them because we really knew their music well and knew we weren't going to like it -- wouldn't you have a problem with that? Your point was well taken, but, even if not deliberately, your lead sentence was misleading.]
Guerra Will Be Missed
We were dismayed to hear of the sudden and untimely demise of the Center for Mexican American Studies' publications arm under the direction of the consistently capable, loyal, and dedicated Victor Guerra ["Closing the Books," Sept. 12]. His departure means that CMAS Books will no longer be represented on the national level with national impact: an unfortunate myopic action for the University of Texas' longstanding history in Chicano publications. We are sure many nationally known authors will be disappointed.
Victor's tenure in the publication field presented more credentials than necessary to steer the reins of one of Professor Emeritus Don Americo Paredes' dreams: a place for Chicano authors to be recognized and published. Don Americo is no doubt bowing his head in dismay at this action. We are sorry his dream has been demolished.
Budget considerations are always at the heart of a cold cutback rationale, and the bottom line always constitutes grounds for absorption. We are disheartened that fiscal priorities have overridden long-term vision and prudent investment.
We are disappointed in the CMAS leadership who has demonstrated a non-negotiable confrontational management style, with no opportunity for participatory input. How sad to think that fiefdoms could be built on the dreams of their mentors.
The only consolation to Victor and Chicano readers throughout America is the form of a "dicho" or saying regularly used by a Oaxacan curandera and Zapotecan leader: "Todo cae por su proprio peso." Translation: Everything succumbs to its own weight. Perhaps the wisdom of justice will eventually prevail.
Mary Margaret Navar and Rose Reyes
Was Gray at Same Show I Was?
Um, was your reviewer [Christopher Gray, "TCB," Sept. 26] at the same place I was two Sundays ago? I thought Ween was very combobulated -- one of the best acts of the entire festival. And, for the record, the R.E.M. song dedicated to the Cash family is "(Don't Go Back to) Rockdale."
[Assistant News editor and Rockdale, Texas, native Lee Nichols responds: Nope, Christopher Gray had it right -- it's "(Don't Go Back to) Rockville." Common mistake around these parts.]