Our readers talk back.

Sunset Valley Protests Austin Policies


Last week the city of Austin council looked at the proposed big box development "deal" for a supercenter Lowe's on Brodie Lane. Numerous neighborhood groups, environmental folks, and neighbors to be affected by the ills of the potential pollution to the aquifer and flooding, traffic congestion, and plain old overdevelopment have stepped up to beg the city of Austin council for protection from the onslaught of Astrodome-size megacenters, especially those over the Edwards Aquifer. Some 90 people signed up to speak on the issue, and those citizens that did stay late (after 2am) were told that the "deal," while passing on its first reading (of three), would be sent to boards and commissions to look at. Only council members Slusher, Alvarez, and Thomas stood tough and voted no to the "settlement," which took extreme courage in the face of dealmakers.

The first of the reviews took place last night before the Planning Commission, but city staff informed them that they were only there to be "briefed" on the Lowe's "deal" and that it fell outside the normal review process. In other words, any input they had held no "teeth" and that the Austin City Council would make the ultimate decision. I find this as disturbing as all other aspects of deal-making with corporations like Lowe's. Is it because Lowe's is suing Austin? (Your tax dollars.) Is it because the land developer/owner has successfully sued Austin? When did we start honoring bullies over our neighbors and friends? For now, I am shopping my dollars to take a stand on this important issue against Lowe's and other corporate bullies that see us as so many "shopping cattle."

Cat Quintanilla

Mayor Pro-Tem

Sunset Valley

Kennedy Not What He Is Now Cracked Up to Be


I know the JFK-as-a-man-of-peace narrative holds some essential place in the liberal world-view, but can't hagiography at least occasionally give way to fact? I also know that Robert Faires ["Watchmen on the Walls of Freedom," Nov. 7] is "just" writing about music, but does that exempt his rhapsody from fact checking?

Actually, a fact checker couldn't have commented on the worst parts of Faires' article, the exclusions. The big one, of course, is Vietnam, which Kennedy inherited, yes, but which he dramatically escalated. "But," wail the defenders of Camelot, "he had plans to pull us out." Again, fantasy trumps reality: The actual historical record on this question is ambiguous at best; at worst, it seems to indicate that he was prepared to ratchet up the violence. Faires also excludes Kennedy's other adventures in imperialism: the Bay of Pigs; his support for military coups, El Salvador in 1961 and Guatemala in 1963; a massive increase in military aid to the brutal dictator Somoza in Nicaragua. Those are just a few of the foreign-policy accomplishments of those glorious 1,000 days.

The few concrete examples Faires uses to illustrate Kennedy's "shift toward ... tolerance and hope" are pretty weak. Yes, he proposed the civil rights act, but it was Johnson that risked political capital to get it passed. We also know that he viewed MLK and the activists who were fighting on the streets more with suspicion than admiration. And then there's the Peace Corps. Ah yes, the Peace Corps. Somehow it doesn't seem like sending a few thousand people around the globe to help the miserable patch their mud huts expiates for the 5 million who eventually died in Indochina because of the war he started there.

So what's left? Well, Faires is right, Kennedy did make a commitment to get us to the moon. Perhaps he truly was a Voice of Peace after all.


Eric Beck

People Who Complain Most About Cars Drive Them

Dear Editor,

Reading a recent letter (about cyclists among cars) ["Postmarks," Oct. 31], I am struck again by the fact that the people who complain most about car exhaust, car noise, and traffic jams are the people who produce them. Motorists tell me they don't walk or cycle because they don't want to breathe car exhaust. (They don't mind producing exhaust for me to breathe.) Or they drive a car because it's safer. (Safer for whom?) Car folks tell me they're moving to the country to get away from the traffic noise. (They're going to drive a car to the country. Once settled there, they will drive back to the city a lot. Other motorists will have the same idea. Soon there will be traffic noise at the nice little place in the country. And strip malls will line the road from the city to the country.)

If we don't like the effects of excessive car dependence (and I don't think anyone likes smog, traffic jams, bad-smelling exhaust, traffic noise, road rage, deaths, injuries, terror, and ugly landscapes), we can't escape them by driving cars. If you dislike exhaust, traffic noise, and congestion, then please, in the name of reason, find a way to stop producing them yourself.

Yours truly,

Amy Babich

OK to Limit Personal Freedoms Sometimes


Louis Black raised a few OK points in "Page Two" last week [Nov. 7]. I would agree that we shouldn't limit people's personal freedoms -- in most cases. However, when by allowing some people to exercise their personal freedoms, you're harming others, it's important to reconsider.

Let's say I walk into a nightclub with a can filled with 43 known carcinogens and a ton of other questionable chemicals and started spraying the shit in people's faces. Would this be OK? This spray-can metaphor really isn't all that far off. I'd be subjecting people to something that they didn't ask to be a part of. That, to me, is taking away their personal freedom to lead a healthy lifestyle if they wish.

The Chronicle is a great paper, but I'd like to see it look at the flip side a bit more when covering an issue that even progressives disagree on. Louis Black and supporters, please take a few moments to consider the idea that by advocating for some people's personal freedoms, you're actually taking away others'. (And the death penalty still sucks.)

Rachel Penticuff

Limiting Personal Freedoms Can Be OK


Louis Black is correct when he states, "There is nothing progressive about supporting any ban on legal personal behavior" ["Page Two," Nov. 7]. Where he errs is in his next two words, "including tobacco." Once one chooses to light up a tobacco product in a public place, be it a library, theatre, or nightclub, the behavior becomes far from personal. Proponents of a smoking ban don't care if other people choose to smoke, we really don't. We just want to be able to enjoy relatively clean air in all public places. I'll say it one more time. It's not about smokers' rights, it's about health. This concept should not be so hard for everyone to comprehend.

Respectfully submitted,

David Lundstedt

No Smoking, No Defecating


Louis Black and I agree on a few things. We both don't care what kind of ads run in the Chronicle, and we both dislike cigarette smoke in Austin nightclubs ["Page Two," Nov. 7].

What we don't agree on is the smoking ban ordinance. Black sees it mainly as a personal freedom issue. I see it as a public health issue. The other interested party, the club owners, argued it as an economic issue and won. Let's be clear about that -- if the club owners were certain that an all-out smoking ban wouldn't cut into club revenue, the ban would have passed in short order (does anyone really believe that Austin club-owners want their clubs to smell like cigarette smoke?). People would still be smoking outdoors, in their homes, and anywhere else where it doesn't affect other people, and life would simply be a lot healthier and pleasant for Austin clubgoers.

While I also generally agree with Black that there is "nothing progressive about supporting any ban on legal personal behavior," I don't agree with the implication that all such bans are necessarily regressive or bad. For example, taking a shit is clearly a right, yet Austin passed a 1990 ordinance banning urination and defecation in public places. I think that ban is a good thing because it's designed to make the environment healthier for others. It wasn't intended to impinge upon the rights of people who like to take dumps in the street, although that's clearly a side effect, and could be easily argued as the intent of the ordinance.

Similarly, the smoking-ban ordinance is about public health, not about the right to smoke.

Jason Levitt

[Ed.'s Note: I didn't say banning behavior was necessarily bad. I did say it wasn't "progressive."]

Why Not Just Give Everyone a Gun?


First of all, let me say how pleased I am that my letter of Aug. 1 is still provoking a response nearly three months later (Tam Thompson, "Postmarks," Oct. 31).

But I'm getting tired of the argument, back and forth, over the legal and moral issues regarding gun control. So here's my proposed solution: Let's stop trying to control guns and make it legal for each and every adult U.S. citizen to carry his loaded piece in plain sight. An armed society is, after all, a polite society, right? And if someone threatens me with a knife, baseball bat, medieval weapon, or even a sideways glance, it's my God-given right as an American citizen to blow the motherfucker away. He was, after all, threatening me, officer.

And while we're at it, let's end the failed "war on drugs" by making all currently illicit substances legally available to any adult (of course, we would tax the hell out of 'em and regulate their sales, just as we now do for alcohol and tobacco). An added benefit would be that this would effectively put the drug cartels and gang-bangers out of business (remember the 18th Amendment and its subsequent repeal?). Of course, we'd have to find jobs for all the DEA agents, local narcs, etc. and a wealth of prosecutors -- maybe put them to work in the gun factories.

B.W. Kovacevich

Appalled at Beenie Man Recommended


I am absolutely appalled that the Chronicle chose to recommend the Nov. 9 performance by Beenie Man at the Flamingo Cantina ["Music Recommended," Nov. 7]. This particular artist, although a major star in Jamaica, is a viciously homophobic hatemonger.

His song "Damn" begins, "I'm dreaming of a new Jamaica, come to execute all the gays." In his hit song "Bad Man Chi Chi Man," Beenie Man tells his fans to murder gay DJs if they see one onstage. He was awarded a Grammy for a previous album on which he offered to shoot and kill homosexuals.

There is a fine line between free speech and speech that incites physical danger. In Beenie Man's home country of Jamaica, many people are killed or beaten every year just for being gay. There are no reliable statistics as to exactly how many, because most of the survivors are afraid to report the crimes and out themselves to a hostile government.

Austin is not immune to gay-bashing either, as much as we would like to think so. Just ask Officer Dewayne Friar and his partner Romer Galang, who were attacked by a gang of thugs on Fourth Street, a story that was reported in the same issue ["Naked City: Bashing the Wrong Guy"] as your recommendation of this show. Shame on you for being so two-faced.

Beth Westbrook

Taking the Moral High Ground

Dear Editor:

The one good thing about the nude photo of Lance Armstrong ["Piece of Work," Nov. 7] is that he's not wearing and promoting Nike. As we should all know, this company has terrible sweatshops in developing countries. The workers labor long hours for extremely low wages in hazardous conditions, and are routinely abused and cheated out of their wages. High-profile celebrities should take the moral high ground and make a conscious decision to not represent corporations whose creed is greed. There is absolutely no virtue in prosperity when it is made through the suffering of others. I'm sure to these workers and their families, Armstrong is no hero.

Anita Quintanilla

Explosive Feature, Chamy

Hello Michael [Chamy],

I have been reading your articles for some time now and have enjoyed them immensely. I share the same taste in music as you do, and most of the time agree.

Your article on Explosions in the Sky ["Born on the Fourth of July," Oct. 24] simply blew me away. I have been listening to this amazing band since 2001. I have told as many people as I could about them, spreading the word. Your article put into words everything I feel about this band. It is extremely well written and describes them perfectly.

I would just like to thank you for that wonderful article. Hopefully it will turn many people on to this wonderful band. Thank you again.

Kyle Simmons

British Perspective on DeLay


Running a little behind here, but did anybody catch The Economist's piece on the [redistricting] fiasco? Quite a good look at what happened and the terrible possible repercussions. One of Lexington's great quotes: "He [DeLay] stepped in at the 11th hour, dicing and chopping boundaries with all the aplomb of a French chef." Sad times when a conservative English magazine gives a better take on the situation than most here.

Rich Christensen

Progressives Infringe on Civil Liberties?


Re: "The Chronicle Sells Out, Again" (Not) ["Postmarks," Nov. 7]

As a "progressive" nonsmoker, it amazes me that people who are supposedly progressive are so willing to enact yet another law that infringes on our civil liberties. It amazes me that people feel the need to have the government taking over our daily and personal lives. It amazes me that people can't see the danger therein.

Kealapono Young

Is the Draft Returning?


The defense department's Defend America Web site recently issued a call to fill vacancies on local draft boards.

Americans over the age of 18 and with no criminal record are invited to "serve your community and the nation" by volunteering for the boards, which decide which young men should be drafted.

The online "zine" Salon (Nov. 3), commenting on the call, observed that given Cheney's predicted "long slog" in Iraq and the expected drop in enlistments and reenlistments, reinstituting the draft will probably become a necessity, but not until after the next presidential election.

The British newspaper The Guardian (Nov. 5), in commenting on the call to fill U.S. draft boards, pointed out, "However, recruitment for the boards suggests that in some parts of the Pentagon all options are being explored in response to concerns that the U.S. military has been stretched too thin in its occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq."

Bill Moyer's program NOW (PBS) this week noted the government's call for volunteers to serve on draft boards. However, the Defend America notice appears to have since been removed from the Web site.

Werner J. Severin

Insults Undercut Arguments


I enjoy a good debate of facts and opinions as much as the next guy, but when name-calling enters into the discussion, I tune out. So Carl [Swanson, "Postmarks," Nov. 7], I have no idea what your point is because I stopped reading at the first insult hurled at Mr. Hightower. Same with your online letter [] insulting Mr. Black. I'll bet you continue to write and insult people, and sadly I won't be aware of any of it since I won't read anything but your name at the bottom.

It's sad and ugly when anger overrides intelligence.


Larry Gaston

Swanson Rants, Raves, and Insults, Same as It Always Was


Larry Gaston ["Postmarks," online edition, Nov. 7], I'm not mad at all, and yes, I do deliberately insult Jim Hightower because he is nothing but an extremist and a liar. Period. He has no legitimate reason to be published in anything but a fringe hate newsletter. I take politics seriously -- it's how we govern and maintain this country, and fringe losers who are motivated solely by their hatred of others should be insulted and trivialized. Jim Hightower and Louis Black are the protectors of the Status Quo because they attack anyone who proposes change to even the most messed up programs or policies. The person who proposes the change will then have to defend themselves rather than address the issues. Kinda like what Louis Black has been doing when I asked him to prove me wrong. He first suggested I lied, then can't back up his attack. Yeah. I got nothing good to say about people like Pat Buchanan, Bob Novak, Jim Hightower, or Molly Ivins. So what if I insult them when they deliberately lie in their columns? They insult you every time they look you in the eye and lie. For Hightower, that's just about every week.

Carl T. Swanson

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