Our readers talk back.
Mayor Wynn Responds on SOS
You make thought-provoking points in your analysis of the Temple-Inland (not quite yet official) proposal ["Time to Repeal SOS?," News, Jan. 16], but you overlook a major component: potential environmental benefits.
At my first meeting with Temple-Inland, I told them -- and they acknowledged -- that despite local job creation being my clear priority, there would have to be significant environmental reasons for my colleagues and I to want to waive the SOS Ordinance. Accordingly, there is ongoing analysis in two areas. First and foremost is a scientific analysis of how the proposed T-I project can capture the runoff from an adjacent 19 acres. That land is currently developed with homes and apartments with no structural controls, and the corresponding runoff drains into a culvert that passes under MoPac and flows directly into Barton Creek just above the springs. The pollutant load of that water draining into Barton Creek perhaps can be significantly reduced. There needs to be a scientific analysis of how advantageous that capture may be and a decision about whether it mitigates the negative of an SOS variance.
Second, there of course is the opportunity for off-site mitigation in the form of additional land purchases in the recharge zone. We know that there are several tracts of land that are either grandfathered or just outside the jurisdiction of the city of Austin that will soon be developed at intensities that will be detrimental to the environment. There may be an acquisition opportunity associated with the T-I project. If so, it also should be analyzed for its environmental benefit.
I am supportive of analyzing these potential environmental benefits and perhaps coupling them with the economic benefits of local job creation and the social equity benefits of an M/WBE compliant private construction project. Obviously, it would take a significant set of "pros" to balance the single con of an SOS amendment.
Don't Kill Any Human Being
Thank you for posting the picture of the human being at 22 weeks' gestation, an age at which he could be legally killed in Texas, even though he is probably viable ["The Fruit of the Pro-Lifers' Labors," News, Jan. 16].
It's obvious that the embryos and fetuses in question are human life, since the doctors who kill them are only trained in human medicine.
The only question in determining the "rightness" of abortion is whether some humans have the right to decide to declare other humans less than human and then to kill them even when there is no risk to the life or liberty of any other human.
One of my volunteer positions is as a member of the National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women. Abortion is violence with effects that ripple from the child who is killed and his mother, to the surrounding friends and family, and on to the future children in the family, just as family and sexual violence does.
Your reporter evidently did not discuss this issue with anyone who does not earn his or her living by performing or promoting abortion.
If you would like to interview a family physician that disagrees with the practice of killing any human being who is not a threat to the life of another, please contact me.
Beverly B. Nuckols M.D.
New Braunfels, Texas
Greg Wilson writes in regard to the MoveOn.org Bush = Hitler "scandal" that the Chronicle owes it to their readers to rein in their political fantasies from time to time rather than reinforcing them ["Postmarks," Jan. 16]. Unfortunately, the only fantasies put forth in the whole controversy were from Mr. Wilson himself.
As part of the Bush in 30 Seconds ad contest, two entrants (out of hundreds) submitted ads that compared Bush to Hitler. MoveOn, who did not sponsor the ads, rejected the entries and even apologized for them. The story got legs when Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie detailed the ads on the RNC Web site along with the fiction about MoveOn sponsorship. In fact, for a time the only place to see the ads was at this Web site. Subsequent rounds of the talk-show circuit by Mr. Gillespie got the distorted story, and the ads aired. (See John Nichols' report at The Nation's Web site www.thenation.com/ thebeat/index.mhtml?bid=1&pid=1166.)
As a visit to MoveOn.org shows, they do not make such outlandish comparisons regarding Bush, and such an attitude is certainly not "standard fare" as Mr. Wilson would have us believe.
As for MoveOn appearing to be the current mainstream of the Democratic Party, this is of course another distortion. Alas, mainstream Democrats (like most Americans) get their news from radio and television, and do not go the extra step of researching the issues through the alternative media like MoveOn, The Nation, The Texas Observer, The Progressive, or The Austin Chronicle.
Perhaps if Mr. Wilson took the time to research on his own and not take the news as it is fed to him, he may have some better advice to pass along to the Chronicle editors and their readers.
A Nuke Is a Nuke
A nuke by any other name is still a nuke.
William Adler does a good job reminding us of the dangers of bunker busters and mininukes ("Nukes Are Back!," News, Jan. 16).
Last spring, as he says, Congress repealed a ban on nuclear-weapons research, which, I'm afraid, is perceived by other nations as a license to develop nuclear weapons.
There is no difference in the eyes of the world between one nuclear weapon and another, be they called robust earth penetrators or precision weapons.
Edgecombe Community College
Rocky Mount, N.C.
Trust the Bush
Not quite sure where to start, but Adler's ["Nukes Are Back!," News, Jan. 16] tirade against the Bush administration's plans for possible nuclear weapons usage is full of holes. First off, he claims, "Every president since Truman relegated the bomb to a category unto itself, to be locked away unless the nation's very survival were at stake. Not so George W. Bush." Untrue. Every president, from Truman to Kennedy to Clinton, has clearly stated we would use nuclear weapons if absolutely needed, which is the same thing the Bush administration has said.
Adler mentions then dismisses the nuclear threats of nations with admitted nuclear capabilities and weapons programs. He admits that there are terrorists, that they are building deep bunkers impervious to conventional weapons. He then claims, "A low-yield nuke will not burrow deep enough [to destroy deep bunkers], and a high-yield behemoth, say, anywhere from 100 kilotons (almost five times the force of the Hiroshima bomb that immediately killed 140,000 people) ..." The yield of the nuclear weapon has absolutely no bearing on the warhead's ability to penetrate earth, and the death toll at Hiroshima was between 80,000 and 110,000. We did kill 140,000 in the Tokyo firebombings; he must have confused the two.
All administrations have made "contingency plans" covering literally every imaginable scenario; it's nothing new. The world situation has changed, the nuclear threat has intensified and changed, and it is prudent that any administration realize and adjust strategies accordingly. Contrarians will find any excuse to portray anything in the worse possible light, and that is simply what Adler has done. Oddly enough, he offers no alternative solutions of his own. Perhaps he has none.
Carl T. Swanson
[William M. Adler replies: Mr. Swanson may be nuts about nukes, but he fails to consider the fundamental difference between the Bush doctrine and that of Bush's post-World War II predecessors. Bush argues for the possible pre-emptive use of nukes; the others, Bush Sr. included, saw nukes as a weapon of last resort.
As for the physics of bunker busters, I yield to Princeton physicist Robert W. Nelson, who wrote in a Federation of American Scientists report that using nuclear warheads to attack deeply buried facilities "does not appear possible without causing massive radioactive contamination."
As to the death toll at Hiroshima, I stand corrected. I indeed cited the figure of 140,000. But according to the city of Hiroshima's estimate, that figure was for 1945 alone; the latest toll, including those who died from radiation-induced illness and disease, is 227,000.
Incidentally, last Aug. 6, on the 58th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, 150 of the Bush administration's foremost nuclear thinkers converged at StratCom near Omaha, Neb., for a secret meeting. The draft agenda, leaked to the watchdog Los Alamos Study Group, portrayed an administration hell-bent on developing and testing its new nukes -- and determined to sell its radical ideas to Congress and the public.
Congress bought 'em, and so, apparently, has Mr. Swanson.]
Why No Funk?
Why no Funk category in this year's Music Awards? What gives?
[Editor replies: Funk is a category that comes and goes in the poll over the years. Among the aspects considered in keeping a category relevant are the actual number of votes received for the bands and the number of bands nominated. When either of those drop low and the bands also appear regularly in other categories, the category is reconsidered. The Pop category was dropped in 2003 for similar reasons.]
'The Revolution ... Televised' Is Pure Political Manipulation
I honestly think that you're a great movie critic. Sometimes I don't agree with you, but that's what makes a good critic; he/she has to be able to write reviews that generate a response from the reader, and you certainly accomplish that with each one of your reviews.
Now ... regarding your review of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised [Film Listings, Jan. 9]. Well, honestly as a movie, it's a great movie. As a documentary, it definitely was a great stroke of luck for those guys to be able to get all of that great footage.
However, as a Venezuelan, someone who has been deeply affected by the actual political situation, and the Chavez "regime," I would have liked to see in your review some type of warning for the average moviegoer, that this documentary just projects a small piece of a huge problem. Man, I can't even begin to explain my experience when I went to see this movie at the SXSW screening. People clapping, booing the so-called "corporate slime balls" that tried to take a country out of the hands of the people ... man ... pure bullshit. A whole bunch of people dressed with Diesel shoes and what not, with their $500 badges, clapping to something that is as serious as the life of my family itself. It just sucks. It's something I would accept from ignorant rednecks from Arkansas, but not from the ones that pretend to be educated and "open minded" honestly. This whole revolution is as fake as a $35 bill. I grew up in a lower middle class family in Venezuela, and I have experienced the bullshit that this so-called revolution has brought to my country. On the other hand, I don't blame Chavez for the actual situation. I do blame the former presidents who got us to this point, and that made Chavez a hero. But anyways ... I just wanted to let you know that the documentary as a movie is great, but whoever goes to see it needs to know that there's more to it. Why? Because it is just not a movie. It's a slice of a history process that, believe me, is really far from over at this point. It is definitely not just another movie.
Information Is Power
I was lucky enough to attend a screening of a documentary called The Revolution Will Not Be Televised last week at the Alamo, and I have to say that it was a very enlightening film. It's a dramatic account of the coup that took place in Venezuela in April of 2002 that tried to oust President Hugo Chavez. Why is this of any importance? Venezuelan media is almost totally owned by megacorporations that have a monopoly on information. The media actually distorted the facts and was a willing accomplice in trying to depose a democratically elected head of state. This film and its subject matter should be a wake-up call for those who think that it's no big deal that big corporations control the flow of information. It's also of no small consequence that Venezuela is one of the largest suppliers of oil to this country.
The culture of conflict that was inadvertently perpetrated by the media has permeated our society to such an extent that we no longer wish to see the truth. This administration and its die-hard supporters have withdrawn into their "no-spin zones" with a kaleidoscope view of the world, where every facet is a lie. I take little comfort in the fact that they just don't know any better. That's why those of us that do know better need to make sure that our revolution on Election Day will indeed be televised.
Car Alarms Don't Work
There are lots of "sound" reasons for banning car alarms in Austin and across Texas. However, the most important one is that they just don't work. Owners of cars with car alarms think they are relatively safe. If this false sense of security leads them to leave the doors unlocked and the keys in the ignition, or they forget to take that priceless Ming vase inside, or they park their car overnight behind the Dumpster at the mall, they will pay the price ... eventually. A better bet is to install an immobilizer that cuts the ignition except for authorized drivers. It ain't rocket science; it's the law in most other developed countries.
Center for Automotive Security Innovation
New York, N.Y.
Ventura Is a Light Shining in the Darkness
Many times I have thought about writing this letter in praise of Michael Ventura's "Letters @ 3am." The last article, "The Light Changed (The Soul: Part 3)" [Jan. 9], pushed me beyond the limits of complacency.
Michael's articles are always a light shining forth in the darkness. Sometimes it seems as if they are the only sane piece of commentary on our less-than-sane collective experience. He often writes with confidence to affirm with us that the emperor does, in fact, "have no clothes." He speaks to that which is truly important, that which moves as an undercurrent in our daily lives, that which has no name.
Thank you to the Chronicle for offering a venue for his voice. And, thank you, Michael, for your fearless journeying. Know that it is much appreciated.
To those looking for cheap housing:
Last week I was reading the letters section ["Postmarks"] of this here magazine and couldn't help but want to tell people about the wonders of my own, affordable neighborhood that is as ripe as a green banana.
I live at North Loop and Burnet Road, and while the section of North Loop and Duval Street is referred to a lot as an up-and-coming area, there are exactly 1.75 shopping centers to build your neighborhood around -- which is, well, not a lot. To the west you have ample amounts of cheap housing, "funky" antique shops if you want that little bit of SoCo, and a few choice establishments such as the Austin Diner and Ginny's Little Longhorn Saloon. Additionally you have a B-rate HEB and the of course wonderful Central Market and Phoenicia nearby to boot.
And I say the area is as ripe as a green banana because there is so much commercial property for lease it is ludicrous. I imagine it is comparatively cheap, too. If all those places were filled with lively businesses -- well, people -- this would be one damn fine, easily manageable nook of the city. And if you are thinking of starting a business, I urge you to start another restaurant, because I personally feel there is a glut of those in this here town.
Oh, and the Savers nearby is priceless.
Michael Elliot Wachs
The first rule of all writing is to tell the truth, to try to be honest with yourself. I don't think your "lousy writer" line was an honest statement.
I don't have to read your column ["Page Two"] every week, but I do. There are many things I have chosen to stop reading because they are persistently poorly written. Newsprint examples: the Statesman, the Sunday NYT (except the magazine and book reviews -- the rest is usefully absorbent for my paper-trained dog).
Not that I'm the expert, but I'd like to think that you can work on becoming a better writer without beating yourself up about what you've written so far. It's a damaging form of self-hatred.
Two short books on the subject: Art & Fear, The War of Art.
I will take this moment to plug the writing quality of the New York Press, which I think would be appreciated in Austin.
Anyway, Mr. Black, you are a fine writer. Anyone who can keep a weekly column commitment, and keep my interest, has my admiration.