Our readers talk back.
Council Member McCracken Responds
Mike Clark-Madison writes that the City Council's effort to protect local businesses and local identity at the city-owned airport is "merely symbolic" and "smacks of downright dishonesty" ["Austin@Large," Nov. 14].
Local businesses know this policy isn't symbolic. They are beating down our doors for the opportunity to do business at the airport. There is a simple reason why: Local companies are making good money inside the airport, even when they simply license their name and products.
Airport concession leases in Austin are held by a mixture of local owners and national operators. The national operators pay a license fee to and share profits with the businesses whose products they sell and names they use. The question, then, is who gets those license dollars and exposure -- national chains or local businesses?
Without a local business policy, the airport's national operators will choose national chains. Why? Because opening a national chain like McDonald's is guaranteed money, while running a local business like Waterloo (which the national operator has probably never heard of in its corporate boardrooms) is a gamble.
Austinites also hold numerous concession leases. One of these leases is the site of the proposed Starbucks.
Under the proposal before council, the Austin residents who hold the current lease will sell this lease to Houston concession broker Charles Bush. Bush's company would not operate the Starbucks -- Starbucks would operate the site and pay Bush a cut. One hundred percent of the money under this arrangement would flow out of Austin to the national operator in Houston and the national chain from Seattle. That would be a significant departure from existing airport policy.
In the last week, a canard has emerged that the local-only policy hurts minority-owned businesses. Austin's airport currently has approximately 40% minority business participation in the concession leases, a significant achievement that exceeds even the airport's ambitious goals. The current policy, therefore, works. It promotes opportunity not only for local businesses, but for minority-owned businesses as well.
Concessions at Austin-Bergstrom Airport are valuable and profitable. Without the local policy, local businesses would never have a chance to get in the airport. The City Council's oft-repeated policy of going local ensures that when lucrative license rights are awarded, these lucrative license rights go to local businesses rather than wealthy national chains. That isn't dishonest or symbolic. It's what makes Austin different (and better) than other cities.
Austin City Council Member
Importance of Midwives
While I appreciate the Chronicle's coverage of the efforts of ordinary citizens to bring midwives back into Austin hospitals ["Will Women Have a Voice at the New Women's Hospital?" Nov. 14], I would like to clarify two points.
1) The majority of the City Council Healthcare Subcommittee has voiced a strong desire to bring nurse midwives into the new Austin Women's Hospital, and has urged city staff to make it a priority in its negotiations with UTMB. Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman and council members Raul Alvarez and Danny Thomas have been outspoken in their commitment to giving women this choice.
2) The city staff claims that "a hospital cannot direct doctor to have a relationship with a midwife." I disagree. UTMB is no ordinary hospital, since it employs physicians. UTMB "could provide faculty to supervise midwives," according to a Sept. 27 Statesman article, quoting UTMB's chairman of obstetrics and gynecology. Furthermore, nurse midwives do not need supervision. The American College of Nurse Midwives and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend collaboration between midwives and OBs -- not supervision.
Nurse midwives attend the majority of births in countries that have better birth outcomes than the U.S., which ranks 27th in infant mortality and 15th in maternal mortality. With such a poor showing, it is hard to believe that the U.S. spends more money on health care (per capita) than any other country in the world -- with maternity care as the fourth-largest expenditure. Midwives are key to affordable and effective maternity care in universal health care systems in England, France, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Spain, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Chile, and Thailand.
The American Public Health Association supports "increased access to midwifery services" and so does Texans for Midwifery-Austin. We want the right to choose the care that we believe is best for us and our babies.
President, Texans for Midwifery-Austin
Planned Parenthood's Mission
Here is a link to Planned Parenthood's mission statement, in case you wonder what kinds of services they provide to the community: www.plannedparenthood.org/about/thisispp/mission.html.
As you can see, the emotionally loaded, vulgar accusation by critics that Planned Parenthood is an "abortion chamber" ["Planned Parenthood Says Its Future Is Set in Stone," Nov. 14] couldn't be further from the truth. They provide knowledge, choice, and many positive services to the community.
Those of us who respect reason and the rule of law rather than blather from religious zealots must respond to this in a clear, unified, unambiguous way. Contractors need to see that the threats of boycotts are coming from a shrill minority, and that most of the community supports them working on the facility.
Please read the following online petition (www.petitiononline.com/ppcentx/petition.html) and consider signing it. It takes no time and is free. Results will be delivered to Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region, and perhaps even some contractor associations, to show that the vast majority of citizens reject religious bigotry and will not bow to intimidation from religious fanatics.
concerned citizen (in no way associated with Planned Parenthood or its affiliates)
Earle Should Look at Danze 'Boycott'
I am hopeful that Ronnie Earle looks at the incredibly illegal activities of the misguided moron Danze ["Planned Parenthood Says Its Future Is Set in Stone," Nov. 14] and immediately prosecutes him under the RICO laws. I do not protest Mr. Danze's right to free speech, I encourage it ... but systematically running roughshod over everyone else's rights is quite wrong and illegal. I am hopeful that Mr. Danze produces a list of his fellow terrorists so that they, too, are prosecuted. I am for free speech, equal rights, and the preservation of life, too. Perhaps Mr. Danze, if he wants to save babies, would be better directed -- by God, of course, and Christ, the Prince of Peace -- to bellow and wail and gnash his teeth over the indiscriminate slaughter of babies in war zones in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and other real-world hot spots ... or do those people not matter to Mr. Danze because they have a different shade of skin and are lesser human beings, as they are infidels? Talk about misplaced priorities ... you, Mr. Danze, are no man of God. You are a terrorist, along the lines of Paul Hill and Eric Rudolf, quite deserving of a jail cell and worse.
I. Waggs Abbott
Regarding Eric Beck's letter about fact checkers and JFK ["Postmarks," Nov. 14]: In his second paragraph he states that JFK inherited Vietnam, and in the third paragraph he refers to the war in Indochina as the "war he started there."
Which is it, Eric?
If Our Critic Wouldn't Know a Good Film, Why Did You Trust Her?
Just went to see Once Upon a Time in Mexico after the generous four-star write up that your "critic" Maritt Ingman blathered all over this ... thing.
Wow, it is rare that I'm moved by a film to ask for my money back, but this is one of them. Actually it is less a film than a kind of a video docudrama about a film, the kind you get as an extra when you buy a DVD. Pesky details like lighting, editing, continuity, script, plot, and storyline can be overlooked if not downright ignored. This has the feel and look of an on-the-spot creation. Kind of a shoot-as-you-go, "Hey, this would be cool," "Now let's do this!" etc., etc. exercise in video-riffing. The ultracheesy fake explosions, silencers on revolvers, complete lack of marksmanship by the bad guys at point-blank range, etc. pale in comparison to the "story" or what passes for it. The first 10 minutes were fun and full of promise, but it soon deteriorated into an incomprehensible jumble of "characters" and "plot twists." The editing and continuity were bewildering, to be kind. It is great to shoot on location in a cool place, but this is little more than a low-budget video jam with some very cool stars (that I'll bet are dismally disappointed with this product). To give this overly contrasty, jumbled piece of eye fluff four stars is utter fraud and does a great disservice to real four-star films. It reeks of local politics, but then, your critic wouldn't know a good film if she sat through one.
Marrit Ingman's review of Intolerable Cruelty is almost as bad as the movie. Both are pitiful.
Savlov's Comparison Interesting
Mr. Savlov's comparison of the battle scenes in Master and Commander to those in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is interesting [Film Reviews, Nov. 14]. I realized when Star Trek II first came out that the director had set up the space battles to resemble those of the sailing era. Whereas logic seems to indicate that space battles when they inevitable occur should be slow, long-distance, and probably remote-controlled, in Star Trek II they involved maneuver, deception, and getting in really close before firing all weapons.
Question About Progressive?
What does it mean to be progressive? From all of the Web sites and other information I have come across, it appears to me that it is nothing more than a loose confederation of anti-Bush folks who are still disgruntled about the 2000 elections. I have no political leanings (at least none that I am aware of), but I would like to be better informed as to what being progressive is. Does the Chronicle follow a progressive agenda? If so, why doesn't it attack Democrats and Libertarians with the same amount of fervor it displays against Republicans? Are progressives just Democrats gone a little more left? Any clarification of what progressive means (and not some lame Sixties mantra) would be appreciated greatly.
[Ed. response: Most political terms from "liberal"/"left" to "conservative"/"right" have lost a lot of their more specific meanings. It's hard to imagine a traditional "conservative" supporting the Bush administration's economic policies, but many do. Progressive usually indicates a commitment to social responsibility including government funding for areas such as the social safety net, health, and education. Progressives are adamant free speech supporters, usually pro-choice, in favor of voting rights and social/political inclusion regardless of race, religion, sex, or sexual preference. Again, the meaning of terms has changed so much that stands on issues aren't the signposts they once were. However, progressives may be anti-Bush, but that is a consequence of their beliefs, not a determiner. The Chronicle is an equal opportunity "attacker" taking on Democrats, Greens, and Libertarians among many others. Why we don't attack some groups with the fervor we attack Republicans currently is because not only are the Republicans in power in the federal and state government, but they've reverted to a vicious partisanship, aggressively pushing their legislative agenda with little compromise or cooperation with the minority party. No one has ever accused us of being soft on Libertarians or Greens, and we've done a consistent job of beating on the Democrats while they were in power. In general, however, we are much more sympathetic to the Democrats' social, cultural, and political goals.]
If the same task force appointed for the big-box retail social and economic effects study ["Another Win for Wal-Mart," Nov. 14] consists of the same members of the smoking ordinance task force, we can soon expect to see a floating Super Wal-Mart on Town Lake, a Lowe's and Home Depot sandwiching the State Capitol building, and a Costco where Barton Springs Pool used to be. But small-business owners need not worry. They will still be allowed to open their doors the first Monday of each month!
Pot Is OK for Me, Not for You
Thank you for noting how odd it was for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards to have acknowledged smoking marijuana while saying it would be "irresponsible" for the federal government not to arrest cancer and AIDS patients who find that marijuana relieves their pain or nausea ["Weed Watch: Dems on Drugs," Nov. 14].
Edwards' "irresponsible" statement, by the way, was made in response to a question from a member of our New Hampshire affiliate, Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana. GSMM has put together a voter guide to the candidates' positions on medical marijuana, which is regularly updated at www.granitestaters.com.
Director of Communications
Marijuana Policy Project
Texans Deserve Better Media
It's so routine to see the government media complex clogging the airwaves with meaningless distractions, or they zero in on one story and harp. A recent example was the California forest fires, where for at least a week all the public got to see on the tube was the fires. Probably just a coincidence of course, was the fact that during this time the Bush regime was being served with subpoenas for information regarding the 9/11 incident. The predominant media complex lapdogs such as Faux News, Communist News Network, etc. are doing their dirty deeds as usual. Then, in the alleged newspaper department, we have the unAmerican-Statesman, staffed with a few subversives and lots of liberals, such as the character who penned the story last week about ranch rescue, how evil they are for actually trying to control private property, uphold the law for a regime that won't, or assist others in that endeavor. It's truly amazing that the public continues to buy off on these propaganda rag newspapers. Can't we get a news channel that's not a corporate whore or a local paper that covers real news and not just party-line propaganda and other agendas? Surely Texans deserve better, or at least those who can see what is shoveled at them.
John W. Ely
Don't Waste Space on Swanson
Carl Swanson ["Postmarks," Nov. 14] has taken up way too much precious real estate in this paper. By now, we all know that he exists and what he thinks. Why not make space for someone with ideas and not just insults?
Smoking Inside Is Rude
I am amazed that this whole issue of smoking in nightclubs is bringing so many fools out of the woodwork. Though I personally dislike the smell of cigarette smoke, I do not poke fingers in the faces of others over it. This whole damn issue should hinge on common sense. If you want to smoke, that's fine, just don't do it in an environment that requires everyone else there to smoke your smoke. That is just plain rude. It seems to me everyone should be a hell of a lot more angry about the government telling citizens what they can or cannot smoke in their own homes!
Por favor: Bring back "Flapjack Canyon"!
J. Anthony Mallard
Doesn't Like Stadium Flyover
There is a serious federal budget deficit, our military is stretched thin, the public is wary about its security; so what does UT ask for and the FAA and Air Force approve -- four F-16 jet fighters flying at extremely low altitude, at night, over a football stadium located in the middle of a densely populated community. I would be grateful if the Chronicle would let us know who came up with and signed off on this witless stunt. The final irony: I read the university claims the flyover was a tribute to Veterans Day. This, from an outfit which changed the name of the stadium from Memorial Stadium to Royal-Memorial Stadium. They don't give a damn about veterans; the whole thing was nothing but a whiz-bang crowd-pleaser at the expense of the government, the pilots' safety, and, of course, lastly -- members of the community outside the stadium, who were scared senseless.