Our readers talk back.
Black Needs R&R
Your thoughts have seemed scattered, alienated, and alienating in the last several installments of "Page Two." Perhaps you need a well-deserved vacation. Take the world off your shoulders for a week or two -- find some peace, get some distance, regain your perspective, and return refreshed and refocused, so you can be effective in your causes. Yes, the world may end if the neocons retake the White House next year. Yes, the essence of Austin may be lost before then, but your writings lately seem fragmentary, defensive, abrasive, and therefore counterproductive and harmful to what you care most about. Your heart seems to be in the right place, and I value your commitment and efforts, but I suspect your efforts would be much more effective after some rest. As much stress as it may cause to rearrange your hectic schedule in order to take some time, please consider this request. We need you, Mr. Black, whole and healthy for the challenges ahead.
Theory of Evolution: Theory or Fact?
Editor, Austin Chronicle,
"Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." -- Theodosius Dobzhansky
"A true scientist would say that nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evidence."
-- Jonathan Wells, Icons of Evolution
On Nov. 7, the Texas State Board of Education voted to adopt a series of biology textbooks for the next seven years. One textbook used in public schools is Inquiry Into Life by Sylvia Mader. On p.529 (eighth edition) are diagrams of giraffes that compare Lamarck's theory and Darwin's theory. According to Darwin, "Early giraffes probably had necks of various lengths. Natural selection due to competition led to survival of the longer-necked giraffes and their offspring. Eventually, only long-necked giraffes survived the competition."
Shouldn't students be taught to distinguish between fact and speculation? No fossil evidence has ever been unearthed showing giraffes with shorter necks. Even evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould had commented on the "entirely speculative" use of the giraffe to show students how Darwin's theory is better than Lamarck's. "No data from giraffes then existed to support one theory of causes over another, and none exist now," said Gould (Natural History, May 1996).
Critical thinkers should ask: "Why are these diagrams included in Mader's book, if the empirical evidence doesn't support a Darwinian or Lamarckian view of giraffes? Is this good science?" The following suggested policy, which appears at (www.icr.org/pubs/imp/imp-282.htm) is a way for boards to achieve a win-win regarding how evolution is taught:
"As no theory in science is immune from critical examination and evaluation, and recognizing that evolutionary theory is the only approved theory of origins that can be taught in the (province/state) science curriculum: Whenever evolutionary theory is taught, students and teachers are encouraged to discuss the scientific information that supports -- and questions -- evolution and its underlying assumptions, in order to promote the development of critical thinking skills. This discussion would include only the scientific evidence/information for and against evolutionary theory, as it seeks to explain the origin of the universe and the diversity of life on our planet."
It would be interesting to take nationwide polls of high school and college students studying evolution, asking two questions:
In this class, is evolution taught as fact or theory?
Do you have the academic freedom to critique evolution?
Conservative Dazzles, Ignores
Current Events, and Laments
To Louis Black:
Please forgive my late response to your editorial ["Page Two"] of Nov. 14.
Frankly, I think you are overreacting. The only way Austin could cease to exist would be if someone put Zoloft in the water supply, and that wouldn't get the people who drink bottled water. You need to review how the court deals with Christian protesters. Leave an open mic, so the kids can pray in public, the Supreme Court slaps them down. Trot out the Ten Commandments, you're thrown off the bench. Protest abortion clinics, face the RICO laws. Planned Parenthood will get their building, and if Danze isn't careful, he'll get it, too. The courts, like any petty dictator, don't put up with people who disobey them. Choice is the law, and it will stay the law. I would be more concerned about your consistently negative outlook. Why be down? Your side is winning! Slowly but surely, each point on the "liberal agenda" is being adopted against the right's will and (sometimes with their) judicial appointments. The truth of the matter is that there aren't "liberals" and "conservatives" in America but early and late adopters. In time, all of the "liberal agenda" will be accepted as law, and everybody will think in their philosophical terms. Many conservatives and many Christians already do. Actually, that may be what's depressing you. Deep down inside you may realize what the results are going to be, but this response is too long as it is.
B.F. Hinderer III
I Want My 'Chronicle'!
Yesterday being Thursday, I drove out of my way, parked illegally at my HEB, and left my car for a moment unlocked just so that I could get a copy of the Chronicle. This morning I'm wondering why I have to do that. Is the Chronicle actually prejudiced?
My HEB is at 2222 and 620. I have asked repeatedly why I cannot get a Chronicle at least through the weekend there. I've been told time and again it's not their job. Last week Alex at the store on the mouth of Canyon Creek said he was told by you that you don't come out this way? What's your problem, Chronicle?
I suggest that though Sixth Street Austin has your paper in every establishment ... for some reason you have decided to totally neglect Northwest. We have needs. While I understand the disdain, isn't it way too stupid to neglect the Yuppie cokeheads with their three spoiled-ass kids? I mean particularly during the holiday season, especially the biggest shopping day of the year ... we all must get along. Do you guys need help?
[Circulation's Dan Hardick responds: Yo! The people at HEB are correct. It is not their job to make sure their store is stocked with Chronicles, it is ours. As far as numbers of papers go, we rely on the independent contractors who deliver our papers to tell us when a location is getting too many or too few papers. It sounds like the HEB at 620 and 2222 isn't getting enough. I will definitely make note of that and see to it that when extra papers become available we put them there. In reference to the store at the mouth of Canyon Creek, I'm not exactly sure where that is. Let me know, and I will see if it makes economic sense for us to deliver there. The Chronicle prints 90,000 papers per week, and they are distributed at roughly 1,550 locations throughout Austin. Currently we have a waiting list of around 50 businesses and organizations who would like to become Chronicle distribution locations. With a limited number of papers and a seemingly unlimited number of potential distribution locations, making sure all of our current drops have enough papers is a difficult and ongoing task, and it helps when people like you let us know when there is a problem.]
Keep Mueller City-Owned
By owning the large Mueller tract that's soon to be developed, our city itself is definitely in the winner's circle -- right along with all those developers it wanted off the aquifer! Some developers make money buying and selling land as land values rise, but a city that sells has to depend on taxes for yearly income. Other developers like to lease land, if not buildings, for the steady income year after year. That could really work for the landowning city. The reason is simple. Yearly income from leasing land at market rates would easily exceed income from land taxes. Otherwise landowners who lease would go broke fast.
So should the city act like a landowner? Maybe, but it has to have a chance at the outset to compare incomes from leasing and from selling Mueller, a chance the City Council won't get unless it authorizes the comparison, ideally a peer-reviewed, professional determination.
The fun has already started. At the last Mueller commission meeting, the pro-sale strategy was to push for a "workshop" to settle the all-lease versus sale issue, and settle independently of city staff and council! No kidding. Earlier, Catellus did agree to provide figures for a lower level of reward and risk it could accept. However, over the next three months it made excuses for not providing them, and then announced in the Statesman that negotiations for sale of Mueller were well under way.
The last thing the anti-lease forces want is an initial comparison between yearly all-lease revenue and land tax revenue. If they prevail in the City Council, watch for more quiet deals selling off chunks of the city's land a little at a time, for prices kept secret like the Seton purchase.
Where Is 'Red Meat'?
To whom it may concern:
Where oh where did Red Meat go? It was the first thing I looked for in the Chronicle. It has the biting sarcasm that Austinites know and love. I pray that it is on a short hiatus and will return soon.
"When life hands you poop -- make poop juice"
Is Terrorist Threat Real?
Are we really at risk of terrorist attacks or is this just an excuse to pillage our civil rights, environmental laws, and make rich oil men even richer? If there really is a threat of evil "bad guys" to destroy our nation, then why aren't the five "fishing" cops ["Knee Won't Let Fishing Cops Off the Hook," Nov. 14] being brought up on charges of treason?
What punishment is a one- to 30-day suspension? After a year's worth of dereliction of duty? Those officers were paid by my tax dollars to protect my friends and family from sinister agents of terror -- for which millions of dollars have been diverted to fighting -- and these guys make a complete farce of it; they're thumbing their noses at the president of the United States! And furthermore, if there is indeed a threat, they placed the life of every person in Austin at jeopardy.
What if some al Qaeda operative had managed to sneak in the power plant while these cops were filleting their flounders? What if an Iraqi truck armed with nuclear explosives drove in while these officers were flogging their fish poles? If half of Austin had died, would they still be suspended for a fortnight and retire with full pensions?
For if our otherwise hawkeyed police force sincerely believes we are at risk by agents of mass destruction, then why is this being played out like a joke? And if there is no threat -- which we must surely question by the APD's response to the egregious acts by their officers -- might the police chief tell us we have nothing to fear? And need we also doubt he would have the integrity to let us divert then the extra money being used to buy high tech toys to spy on us for important things like education and taking care of the poor, homeless, and elderly?
Long Time Unemployed Go Invisible, Skewing Numbers
As usual, I enjoyed (most of) this week's Chronicle reporting, and I thank you and your staff for offering the city of Austin a stark contrast to the daily newspaper.
I felt compelled today to add one comment to an article by Michael King, "Riding Out the Bush Boom" ["Capitol Chronicle," Nov. 21], especially in regards to the self-congratulations of the elites in Washington and Austin over the recent "economic upturn" in the statistical numbers game.
We must remember that as people's unemployment benefits expire, they no longer exist in the unemployment statistics -- whether they've found a job or not. Recently graduated students and folks returning to the work force after an absence are also not included. When reading these numbers bandied about by pundits and statisticians, you might want to consider all the people who are not included, since they are not entitled to, or receive, any benefits at all. This includes those people ineligible for welfare, food stamps, or Medicaid -- no matter what our IRS returns show at the end of the year, our numbers are not counted in any poverty statistics, anywhere, because we do not receive government assistance.
We are "the invisible" -- those who don't show up in any government economic report, but whose families live well below the poverty line, with no access to any assistance whatsoever -- except the kindness of families and friends.
When seeing these numbers in the media, try to remember to add at least half as many people to the number that is cited -- or more.
Thanks again, for all you do.
What About Spanks-a-Lot Records?
I know there are tons of local labels making a huge impact on the world market ["Sheiks of Industry," Nov. 14 and 21], so it's understandable that after careful consideration you chose not to cover Spanks-a-Lot Records. While the music press in other cities attends our artists' shows and listens to their records more than once before reviewing them (crazy, I know). I understand that you local guys are too busy to pick up the phone to inquire about an artist-owned label with worldwide distribution, numerous radio hits, and an extensive back catalog. So I compiled some info for you. No need to thank me, I just want to help out.
Queenpin: Christina Marrs
Notable Releases: Asylum Street Spankers, Spanker Madness; Stanley Smith, In the Land of Dreams; Wammo, Faster Than the Speed of Suck
New and Upcoming: Asylum Street Spankers, Sideshow Fez DVD; Wammo, Lowriders on the Storm; Asylum Street Spankers, Mercurial
Average Print Run: 10,000
Doesn't Like Dentler's Crack Pipes Review
Matt Dentler's review of Snakes in My Veins ["Texas Platters," Nov. 14] is pitiful. He opts for the safe route -- neither a rave nor a slam -- strictly middle of the road. Along with the helpful revelation that the Crack Pipes have a classic album in them -- maybe it's Pet Sounds -- please let it out!
I wish the writer could have mentioned Billy Steve Korpi's stellar playing -- another great guitarist coming out from his brother Mark's long shadow. Or Nick Moulos' bass playing -- he's in a number of talented groups around town.
The album makes me want to be in a band; go experience the chaotic, run-right-at-the-edge attack that is the Crack Pipes. It doesn't always work, but I like it more than risk-free, boring "tight" bands. Hopefully Matt Dentler can move up the food chain, leaving behind the ghetto that is reviewing local bands and review important records, like the OutKast or the Elliott Smith box set which will come out any day now.
Not New Golden Arm CD
In regard to your review of the Golden Arm Trio CD The Cry Pitch Carrolls ["Texas Platters," Nov. 21], I would like to clarify that Salvage Vanguard Theater is a partner in the creation of this CD and that it is not the new Golden Arm Trio CD that so many people are anticipating. It is rather a collaborative, live CD between Salvage Vanguard Theater and Golden Arm Trio akin to the CDR releases that Graham Reynolds has created. I apologize to your readers if we were unclear about this in our release materials.
Very Truly Yours,
Salvage Vanguard Theater
Overreaction?: Love Grady
Spears, or Leave the U.S.
In Ms. Wood's recent column concerning her opinion of Grady Spears ["Food-o-File," Oct. 24], I would just like to call your attention to something. It is Ms. Wood's right and job to give her assessment of cookbooks. However, her parting shot that "as the working Panhandle cowboys in my family would say, when it comes to actual recipes, chef Spears is all hat and no cattle," smacks of vindictiveness by someone who has a personal axe to grind. She makes it a point to praise anyone else who has anything to do with this cookbook. I doubt this woman ever tried any of the recipes in his book, but what I do not doubt is that somewhere along the way, Ms. Wood was not catered to by Grady Spears, and this was the result of that.
By the way, I have used many of these wonderful recipes and Virginia B. Wood is full of Panhandle crap. Noting her immediate praise of the French chefs and their cuisine in this same article, I would further like to say that there is a plane leaving daily for France. To improve your paper, put her on it, and replace her with someone who is more in tune with the taste of Texans.
Bars Are Not Health Clubs
To the editors,
Apparently, many supporters of the smoking ban have confused clubs and bars with health clubs. They are not, and never have been for those who wish a pure, healthy lifestyle. Traditionally, they have been there to provide a space for adults to indulge in perfectly legal adult vices. Drinking and smoking are at the core of what bars and even clubs are about (entertainment was offered to get people to come smoke and drink at your place rather than the competition). Now, the new puritans come along and in the name of "health" want to close these venues to smokers so they can dominate without the nastiness of smoking. They claim that only smokers are selfish because their smoke affects others. Well, I say those who do not believe adults should have anywhere to indulge in legal vices are the new lifestyle fascists. Either support a compromise whereby everyone has places to go (for example, by offering limited amounts of "smoking licenses") or else, if you healthy types can't abide occasional smoke, then if you want music in a healthy environment go put on a show or have a sock-hop at your health club! By the way, have any of you selfish puritans noticed how much car exhaust we have in town? If you want a cleaner, purer, healthier world, do something about that and you'll go a lot further in sanitizing Austin to meet your lifestyle needs.
p.s. And by the way, doesn't it occur to the puritans that the reason club owners oppose a ban is because they know that the hardcore supporters who spend heavily are not the one- or two-drink, nonsmoking yuppies and club tourists, but rather are the nasty party animals who are generally smokers?