Our readers talk back.
'Chronicle' Isn't a Newspaper
Dear Mr. Black,
Thank you for clarifying the Chronicle's mission statement and purpose ["Page Two," Dec. 12]. I (and I'm sure many others) have often thought that the Chronicle was attempting to adhere to journalistic standards (call itself a "newspaper") but was simply inept. I know you speak for the entire staff and I, for one, appreciate it.
This Person Doesn't Like Soifer
Jan Soifer was Rick Perry's lawyer for redistricting in 2001, and now she wants to run as a Democrat for district judge ["A 'Real Personal' Court Race," News, Dec. 5]? I am offended that she thinks she can pull a fast one on Democrats. She works for a Republican law firm. She worked with Republican superlawyer Andy Taylor. She was Rick Perry and John Cornyn's lawyer for redistricting. And now she wants good Democrats to vote for her?
If she had half the common sense as she has gall, maybe she'd be worth voting for.
Last week's Austin Chronicle article, "A 'Real Personal' Court Race" [News, Dec. 5], presented a biased and distorted view of Jan Soifer, a distinguished Democrat who is running for the open seat as judge of the 200th District Court. We are writing to set the record straight.
We represented the Texas Democratic Party, Democratic elected officials, and Democratic interests in the 2001 redistricting litigation. During the pretrial stages of that litigation, Jan Soifer was one of the Locke Liddell & Sapp lawyers representing the state. Throughout the brief time that she worked on pretrial procedural issues, Jan Soifer conducted herself with her customary professionalism, and totally without partisanship.
The suggestion by the Triana campaign that Jan is not a "good" Democrat because she represented the state for a few months in the early stages of the 2001 redistricting litigation is hitting below the belt. Are ACLU lawyers to be condemned because they represent unpopular groups at both ends of the political spectrum? Do we vilify criminal defense lawyers because they represent those on death row? No.
Our good friend Glen Maxey is mistaken in his belief that Jan caused him and other Democrats to lose their legislative positions. The fact is that Texas legislative districts were redrawn by the Republican-dominated LRB. Three federal judges, including both Democratic and Republican appointees, eventually ruled on the legality of the LRB map -- months after Jan's work was completed. She had nothing to do with the outcome.
Jan Soifer is a lifelong, loyal Democrat. She has been an active supporter of the Democratic Party, Democratic candidates, and Democratic causes in Travis County as long as we've known her. We ask our fellow Democrats to join us in supporting Jan Soifer -- the best-qualified Democrat for judge of the 200th District Court.
[We received two other similar letters.]
A Vote for Sexual Freedom
Anne Billion hit the nail on the head when she wrote "[W]e don't believe that a woman should have the 'choice' to maintain the convenience of her lifestyle by destroying the life of another after she already made the choice that led to the creation of that life" ["Postmarks," Dec. 12].
While her analysis ignores some of the more difficult cases, like rape, for the cases most of us are likely to confront, the abortion debate has nothing to do with children, born or unborn. It's about sexual mores. Are we to live in a land where sexual freedom between consenting adults is considered acceptable and respectable, or a land where every act of sexual intercourse must be fraught with at least a slight threat of pregnancy and the decades of perhaps unwanted responsibilities that must inevitably follow, lest we stray from God's alleged intended purpose and engage in it purely for our own selfish pleasure?
Personally, I vote for sexual freedom. I do not believe sexual relations between consenting adults purely for their mutual pleasure are a sin, and I do not believe a fertilized egg is a person. Forty-six chromosomes do not make the man. And I certainly don't believe God uses pregnancy as a threat.
At the very least, I hope we don't bring back the biblically approved punishment of stoning for adulterers.
Black a Hypocrite
Louis Black has a lot of hypocritical gall to accuse anyone of setting up a straw man in his longwinded defense of abortion ["Page Two," Dec. 5]. Then Black plays the "Judgmental Card." Agreeing with the Bible is no more judgmental than disagreeing with it, so spare us your manipulative spin, Black. No Christian is "equating themselves with the Almighty." Neither do they "pass judgment on others rather than examine their own lives," as if "judgment" and "self-examine" is an either/or issue. Black's off-hand dismissal of the pro-life agenda and tactics make it clear he just doesn't get it. Abortion is murder to the pro-lifers, not a "woman's right to choose" issue, and they don't give a damn about what "rights" you think have been or will be violated. Murderers must be stopped at all cost even if it means killing them. I'm not sure I agree, but I'm not sure I disagree either. But the end of Black's "Page Two" screed needs some rational insight. As a man, Mr. Black, you have no rights or options when it comes to abortion. Your rights end when you decide who (or what) you will have sex with. If you knock up some little office tart you'll be paying through the nose for at least the next 18 years for the mother's "right to choose." It might be "her body" for a short nine months, but it's your ass from that time forward. Just a thought.
I was going to write a riposte to Kurt Standiford's latest lunatic rant in "Postmarks" [online, Dec. 11], but he rendered doing so superfluous when he jumped the shark by advocating homicide in the name of being "pro-life." Standiford, right after he insists that Christians don't pass judgment on others, advocates shooting doctors as a far better means of reducing abortions than, say, comprehensive sex education. And he claims this is rational insight. Truly remarkable. I can now say I've heard it all.
Are there no depths of madness to which religious extremists will not stoop? Standiford's pathological hatred of gays and lesbians is a matter of record. In his latest screed he extends that hatred to women ("little office tart" -- but remember, he's not "passing judgment"), revealing a personality so warped by rage, confusion, and hypocrisy that Standiford's very day-to-day existence must be almost inconceivably bleak and nightmarish. Isn't it well past time for the American Psychological Association to declare this kind of religious extremism a mental disorder?
The Demented Echo of Our Fish-Wrap
Thank you Louis Black for making it painfully clear that you and your fish-wrap aren't interested in any sound except your own demented echo ["Page Two," Dec. 12]. You epitomize modern-day liberalism. The problem with progressive psychotics isn't that their message isn't getting out; their problem is their message is getting out. See ya in November '04.
Pro-Child, Not Pro-Fetus
"What is so difficult to understand about that? We are pro-woman, pro-child, and pro-life!" ["Chronicle Subpar," "Postmarks," Dec. 12]
The problem is that a fetus is not a child! What is so difficult to understand about that?
If Only Everyone Would Mind Their Own Business
I hope everyone throwing around opinions understands that sometimes, what's right for you may not be right for everyone else. If my lifestyle doesn't include a baby then I don't expect some stranger to tell me that it has to. People might find themselves a lot happier and more fulfilled if they minded their own business sometimes. I can see offering up information in opposition to someone's lifestyle but it's really not your or anyone's business what I do with my body or my life except my own.
So, until I depend on you for anything, I don't see me needing your advice or help or opinions on what I should or shouldn't do. If you see me walking up to Planned Parenthood or any other place you disapprove of, I dare you to approach me. Don't be surprised when I punch you in the face for invading my space and violating my personal freedoms.
Fayette's Ozone Pollutants Overstated
I think Vincent May has overstated the figures for ozone-forming pollutant emissions from the Fayette power plant in his recent Postmark ["Postmarks," Dec. 12]. It appears that he included lung-damaging particulate emissions and acid-rain producing sulfur dioxide fumes. These are important environmental considerations, but they don't cause ozone.
The Fayette plant emits 55 tons of nitrogen oxides per day. Although the plant is not in Travis County, the ozone formed from its nitrogen oxide emissions blows into our region, elevating our pollution levels. By comparison, all of the vehicles in the five-county Austin region emit 97 tons of nitrogen oxides per day according to the 1999 emissions inventory. The vehicle emissions for 2003 are probably somewhat lower as a result of the introduction of clean fuel and replacement of older cars with newer ones with better emission controls.
The Clean Air Force proposes to reduce vehicle nitrogen oxide emissions by 3 tons per day with a burdensome inspection program. If the money spent on this were applied to reducing nitrogen oxide emissions at the Fayette plant, we could achieve much more toward the end of reducing the ozone levels in Central Texas.
Cities across the country have tried to put off cleaning up dirty coal-fired power plants by trimming other sources, but they have been unable to achieve attainment with EPA air-quality standards. The EPA has ordered Houston to spend billions of dollars to clean up its point sources after six years of vehicle testing that showed zero results. If Austin is to grow and thrive we will have to deal with Fayette. Putting it off is penny-wise and pound-foolish.
Home to Texas!
Man, what a great "Chorus" on all y'all's "The Best Songs About Texas" ["The Top Texas 40," Music, Nov. 28]. A whole bunch of y'all I know and a bunch of y'all I like and respect so I'm asking a favor from a South Austin Texas music guy.
If y'all ever run a Top 16 Texas Towns and Places could you please include "I Don't Care What It Is That You Did When You Lived in Fort Worth" by the Cornell Hurd Band? Also if y'all ever run a Top 26 Texas in the Title could I please ask to have "Home to Texas" by that same Cornell Hurd Band squeezed in there? Thanks in advance and have a happy and feliz holiday and all.
Danny Roy Young
'Journalistic Objectivity' Just Hides Biases
To the Editor,
Those criticizing your "journalistic objectivity" believe in the idea that reality is entirely external and the observer is irrelevant ["Page Two," Dec. 12]. To them, the reporter's job is the robotic recitation of "facts." But the human element is inherently subjective and, hence, perfect objectivity is unattainable.
"Journalistic objectivity" is essentially a cover story that mainstream American media propagate in order to hide their own biases. Nowhere is this more conspicuous than in the "fair and balanced" reporting of Fox News. These ignored biases consistently favor the interests of large-scale corporate capitalism, which is hardly surprising since all the major media are large, privately held corporations devoted foremost to maximizing their profits. It's pretty silly to think that a major television network owned by a major "defense" contractor would not be influenced by the interests of its owner.
The alternative model, practiced throughout most of the world outside the U.S., is for media, particularly newspapers, to acknowledge their political positions and let the reader take that into consideration. It's a lot more honest.
And I commend you on your cover article in support of Planned Parenthood ["Women Dig In," News, Dec. 5].
Why Hasn't the 'Chronicle' Written About Me!
Hi. I have been in Austin for more than 10 years. Many things have changed, but one thing has not. I am still the best bass player in Austin and the Chronicle has yet to even include my name in the music polls. I remember that Yoggie won it for three years straight. Yoggie is good and has played with many people, but that doesn't mean he should have won three years straight. I think it would behoove the Chronicle to do an article on me. I currently play in LARRY and the Goliath Organization. I would love to talk about this more when you can. You talk a lot about supporting the local musicians, and I have gotten zero support from the Chronicle since I have been here. Hopefully, you will decide to change that this year. Last SXSW I made CD-ROM press kits to hand out to people on the street, and I am pretty sure that I was the only independent artist doing that. Also, I am in the middle of writing a 76-part symphony that will be performed with all Texas musicians and will be filmed (both the making of and the performance). I think it would be a mistake to not at least do an article on me and this symphony, even if you don't want to write about me being the best bassist in Austin. Please check my Web site at www.thegoliathorganization.com.
[Editorial Reply: Other than nominating potential Hall of Famers, the Chronicle has nothing to do with who is voted on in the Music Poll. It's solely up to the readers.]
Misses Most Important Point
I'm disappointed Louis; the Chronicle missed the mark entirely concerning the Planned Parenthood vs. Danze debate ["Women Dig In," News, Dec. 5]. This withstanding, some noteworthy points were made on both sides of the discussion, but as discerning denizens, it was largely the Chronicle's responsibility to sift through the quagmire and find the kernel of truth. After all, you have the means, the resources, and the time to do so.
The issue concerns economic liberty, not civil liberty, as the former begets the latter, generally, and the right to contract, explicit in the Constitution, specifically.
In the best-case scenario, business, or thoughts and consequent action within any given market, is based on a series of disclosure(s), i.e., knowledge. If an individual, based on specific disclosure, refuses to engage in business, said individual has every right to do so. Such is the case with Danze. As we know, Danze went so far as to consolidate a group based on specific disclosure in refusing to contract with anyone engaging in specific business. One could unwittingly label this as a boycott, but in reality this is nothing more than refusal to contract, not unlike the early 20th-century unions, though not exactly akin.
The Chronicle's failure to recognize this basic tenet of the American socioeconomic tradition is upsetting as it dissolves the potency of many values the Chronicle foments, daily. Further, the Chronicle ignores the primary element in social compact -- the glue of civil society. Without this glue, brute force is the only alternative. The Danze case, more than any other in recent memory, emphasizes a value-based hierarchy when making life decisions. I would be willing to bet the money I donated to Planned Parenthood that if the context surrounding this issue, if the players and the policy were any different, the Chronicle would have employed the same logic one reads herein. With sophistry, dear Louis, in the art of attempting to prove everything, you indirectly believe in nothing.
Lastly, the blatant hypocrisy contained in the "Page Two" [Dec. 12] reader's note is appalling. If you are an opponent of blacklisting, what exactly do you call your position and portrayal of Danze? You made my point for me, exactly, without even realizing it. Look for a thank you note in the mail.
p.s. Should Danze want to advertise with the Chronicle, would you prohibit it?
[Louis Black responds: I guess I miss how we're blacklisting or boycotting Danze. We disagree with his boycott of the Planned Parenthood construction, though that is certainly within his rights. We neither asked nor suggested that people shouldn't do business with him. We were critical of his stated goal of going out of his way to note who works at the site and actively urge people to boycott their services, which strikes us as a bit more than "refusal to contract," but maybe not. Finally, in honest confusion, given that Lester Maddox was among those who espoused this position when refusing to serve African-Americans and this justifies blacklisting, is your point that because this is a basic socioeconomic tennant, we can't criticize it?]
Thanks for 'Paths' Review
I wanted to actually write a letter of "thanks" to Ms. Heather Barfield. It was a pleasure reading her review of our dance production of Paths ["Exhibitionism," Arts, Dec. 12]. Throughout my 15 years with Ballet East Dance Theatre, I have read many reviews. None of those reviews have ever been so colorful or beautifully written as the one Ms. Barfield did. Thanks again for having one of your best and empathetic reviewers see our show, and express her thoughts artistically.
Melissa A. Villarreal
Assistant Artistic Director
Ballet East Dance Theatre