Our readers talk back.
Support Libraries Now!
Thank you for your recent article by Mike Clark-Madison regarding the need for a new central library for the Austin Public Library system ["Reading the Riot Act," News, Feb. 27]. We at the Austin Public Library Foundation could not agree more with his urgency, reasoning, and passion. Founded in 1995, the Austin Public Library Foundation's mission is to support and strengthen Austin's public libraries.
We work to increase awareness about the library and its importance to the community and to raise funds through individual gifts, corporate support, and foundation grants. Our largest effort to date has been the funding of the Michael & Susan Dell Wired for Youth Centers in 10 branches systemwide. These centers expand computer access and offer workshops and special programs for young people. In 2003, Joanna Nigrelli, a "Wired for Youth" librarian, received a New York Times Librarian Award, and was the only librarian selected in Texas.
The Austin Public Library Foundation is determined to help the library succeed during these difficult times. But we cannot do this alone. We need widespread public support and financial backing from the community. Right now we are sponsoring a "Buy One for the Library" campaign to encourage all citizens to help the library expand the collection. Show your support for Austin's libraries. Visit www.austinlibrary.org and click on the "Buy One" link.
Thank you for supporting one of Austin's most important natural resources: our community's love of learning.
Board of Directors
Austin Public Library Foundation
Your recent column by Jim Hightower ["The Hightower Report," News, Feb. 27] contains several mischaracterizations of fact.
First, mountaintop mining, including "mountaintop removal," with the disposal of excess rock or "spoil" in the upper reaches of drainage channels, has been a common method of mining coal in southern Appalachia for at least three decades and has been expressly authorized and regulated by federal law since 1977.
Second, our Jan. 7, 2004, proposal to strengthen our excess spoil rules, if adopted, would provide measurable and enforceable standards that coal-mine operators would have to meet. We expect that the proposal changes would reduce the number and size of future valley fills.
Third, our Jan. 7, 2004, proposal to also clarify our stream buffer zone is, indeed, a clarification. For over 20 years, regulatory authorities have applied our stream buffer zone requirements and worked to limit the downstream impacts from valley fill placement. However, that rule has never been an "outright prohibition" against disturbing land within 100 feet of a stream, and has never been used as such. However, recent federal court rulings, later invalidated, have shown us that the rule is vulnerable to serious misinterpretation and might need clarification.
Finally, I would note that the Clean Water Act has not been revised. Instead, while it is not our rule, a regulatory definition of fill under the Clean Water Act, which was proposed in April 2000 during the previous administration, was finalized in 2002.
Because you have raised concerns about our Jan. 7, 2004, proposal in your editorial, we will include it in the administrative record for the proposed rule and more fully respond to those concerns in any final action on our proposed rule changes.
Sincerely, Brent Wahlquist
Office of Surface Mining United States Department of the Interior
[Jim Hightower replies: If you decipher the gobbledygook, this Department of the Interior guy agrees with me, saying that, yes, mountaintop removal is grotesque, it's been going on for 25 years, and they're going to keep it up. My point is that it should be stopped. For background on this issue and to see pictures for yourself, check out Appalachian Voices, www.appvoices.org.]
Nader Hopes to Re-Create 2000
Dear Editor and Michael King,
In last week's Chronicle, I was quoted as saying 90% of "hardcore activists" (i.e., those participating in resistance on a daily basis) were against Nader's presidential bid as reported from my informal poll two weeks prior to his formal announcement and his coming here ["Nader Does the Texas Two-Step," News, March 5]. However, upon his arrival in Austin and since, I'm finding supporters coming out left and right, literally from the previously silent "hardcore" activists, the "unrepentant Nader voters," those sick of the "Anything but Bush" propaganda designed by Dems who'd rather Nader simply "go away," Republicans sick of the neo-cons, and from many third party and independent camps who see in Texas, more than any other state, the need to band together to commonly achieve their ballot-access goals in the upcoming ultra-short window in which to collect our respective signatures.
Since the un-election of 2000, nothing much surprises me in the political scene anymore, but this election season is sure to see a whirlwind of unexpected twists and turns. From the left's own undercutting of itself (please, lefties, remember that ever-valuable tool of "critical analysis"), to the strange bedfellows Nader is attracting due to the neo-con's overt destruction of our Constitution, to the banding together of Libertarians, Greens, reformers, and Nader supporters, we are sure to see some hot political action. I for one am looking forward to experimenting in this election season with these new parameters and to working with the "never-before voters" who are looking for a candidate that speaks to them while Kerry and gang continue to drag the Democratic party to the right and Bush and gang drag the Republican party toward fascism.
I invite all to keep an eye out on the ballot drives and the third party conventions in June (www.lp.org and www.txgreens.org) to consider which candidate speaks to them. Vote however you want come Election Day, but the election season is the time for participating in the democratic process to move likely candidates to taking on the issues that matter! Without choice there will never be change.
Austin Coordinator, Nader for President
He's Not Confused
My brief hope that our governor's bullying fratboy political behavior could be explained by an unresolved conflict in his sexual identity has been dashed, along with any fragile hope for his recovery to self-acceptance and service to his community ["The Real Sins of Gov. Perry," News, Feb. 27].
He's not confused, he's just another standard Republican asshole. How sad.
Your humble and obedient servant,
The Revolution Will Be Blogged
Will the revolution be blogged? The short answer is, yes, the revolution will be blogged.
The proper question is, however, who will be reading which version of the revolution?
Blog audiences, like most of America, tend to be pretty bipolar. Libs read lib blogs, and 'wingers read 'winger blogs.
I think weblogs function mostly, and perhaps best, as a support group for their intended constituencies. They sure don't seem to affect national media coverage in any meaningful way, and aren't likely to change anyone's mind.
Keep Your Ideas to Yourself
Re: Jim Hightower "report" on mad cow ["The Hightower Report," March 5]. Try the tofu burgers at Mother's or any other eco-freak burger joint. Keep your nanny gate ideas to yourself. Since this is a free country then you get to choose what you eat. Please allow me the same right without your nanny goat butting into my affairs.
Happy to Tell Us How to Live
Yes, I'm one of those folks who has been making the boycott phone calls to Central Texas suppliers, contractors, and vendors imploring them to not have any involvement with Planned Parenthood's new facility in Austin ["Standing Up to 'Terrorism,'" News, March 5].
No, I don't have fangs or live in a swamp. I'm actually highly educated and believe I have a strong aptitude in the area of moral discernment.
First, I assure you all of my phone calls have been perfectly open, honest, and respectful and have in no way harassed or tormented anybody.
The real issue, of course, is when we place an inordinate premium on unbounded and undisciplined personal autonomy and license at the expense of what is good and true and most noble in the human condition, we can become completely incapable of even recognizing human life and the necessary sanctity that attends to it.
This, I fear, is what has happened to our so-called progressive friends in this country, including Austin.
Legal abortion is gravely wrong and therefore will not be able to last. People like Chris Danze will be heralded as heroes. What our citizenry 200 years from now will be wondering is where were the rest of you and what in blazes were you actually thinking?
Same Old Conspiracy Theories
Hey! I just picked up a Chronicle after maybe two years. It's just the same old thing. The cartoons are so shallow you might actually think George W. thought up the whole new world order all by himself. Will there ever be more than bashing and smashing in the dark? Would it be too much for the public to be faced with a little reality? Democrats and Republicans are a part of the same evil. One cannot vote for the other party in hopes of eliminating the international monetary scam, the trilateral commission, United Nations, and the fact that our elected officials represent the international powers of the world and not our own people. The point is, hire someone to explain this to your readers. These people are in the "matrix" so to speak. They have no idea. We are so programmed it's not funny. Find out for yourself if you don't already know. Or take whatever pill and forget it.
I'm a local voting musician, and I have a voice at the polls. I also have a place right now at the Austin Music Network. I'm enraged that my creative forum could be taken away, sold to a private company for profit, and all under the guise of running "illegal" PSAs on registering to vote and the lewd content of a video. Mayor Wynn seems a bit petty, don't you think? And strangely he's condemning AMN publicly about being of no measurable benefit to Austin musicians. I'm living proof AMN supports local talent. I vote and I'm paying attention to who really keeps Austin the Live Music Capital of the World. Do the right thing and keep AMN operating.
The Drudge List Is a Standard?
If this Lib freak [Jim Hightower] can't even make the Drudge list, why does his crap keep showing up here.
How about Nat Hentoff or someone with a brain.
Proud of Our Wardrobe
Although I have to agree that the Chronicle staff's wardrobe does seem to overly rely on never being seen by humans ("After a Fashion," March 5), I was so impressed to see live in person what Stephen often shows us in print. We are truly blessed to have some great, accessible, quality, impressive, local fashion designers, retailers, and artists in our little town. Thanks for bringing even more of our Austin treasures into well-directed light.
And back to your staff's unfortunate fashion misdirection, please let them know that we all get our eyebrows singed off by Stephen's flame every now and then. Hopefully they remember that there is no such thing as bad press.
Sarcasm by a True Believer
Chris Danze's free speech rights have thwarted the killing of unborn babes, the poorest and most needy humans of all ["Standing Up to 'Terrorism,'" News, March 5]. Thank God for his noncensored free speech.
Blame for All
Let me just say first, I was totally opposed to re-redistricting and the GOP agenda in general; however, while I agree with many of Nichols' points, why blame the GOP for the lack of options at the voter box ["Disenfranchised in District 10," News, March 5]? It's the DNC that have once again wimped out and refused to run in any districts that are not a surefire win. In this one limited instance, the DNC should take some lessons from the GOP, which is running a $2 million campaign in District 25 which is 62% Democrat. I believe District 21 is only 55% GOP, and the DNC just throws the district away. At least give the GOP a run for their money against the extreme right candidate Lamar Smith.
I can only hope there will be a Green Party option in districts 21 and 10. But given their record lately, they'll probably run in 25 instead and try to mess up the Democrats' chances.
Austin's Bubo the Owl
Observation: Has anyone else noticed that the Frost Bank Tower resembles Bubo the owl from the movie Clash of the Titans?
TxDOT Shell Game
The Texas Department of Transportation is running a $355 million shell game southeast of Austin. TxDOT claims that the proposed seven-mile State Highway 45 Southeast toll road, which would run parallel to FM 1327, is a connector between I-35 and SH 130 (now U.S. 183). It is nothing of the sort. It is another section of the SH 45 loop around the city. It will force construction, against the city of Austin's wishes, of the final loop segment, SH 45 Southwest, which will cross the aquifer recharge zone and become a funnel for more traffic to already congested MoPac.
The true connector already exists in Texas 21 from San Marcos to U.S. 183. It is five miles shorter than taking SH 45 Southeast, and not tolled. A glance at a road map makes the choice obvious. And don't accept TxDOT claims at face value.
Ultimately, the Community Pays
Winning votes for candidates or destroying others on the backs of targeted groups is not a new tactic and not exclusive to FreePAC. Gov. Perry signed the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Bill, and I do not believe that it is a stretch to connect the governor's current problems (rumors) to extreme members of his own party. All of this reminds me of Luigi Pirandello's writing, "Right you are if you think you are," which shows that a community pays when it is driven by gossips to find out "the truth" about people's private lives.