Our readers talk back.

Remedial Math

Dear Margaret [Moser],

Thank you for writing the "With a Bullet" article [Music, April 2], I really enjoyed it, but you need to make a little correction in the following section.

"Having a mainstream country artist play your song on the radio – that's the operative phrase: played on the radio – means a six-figure income," states Benson. Here's one little math lesson. If they sell a million records and the rate per song is somewhere around 8 or 9 cents, which is about $800,000 split two ways, and the publisher gets a share. That's on a million-seller record. But the performance rights – when it gets played on radio – the BMI/ASCAP dollars are in the six figures for both for the life of the song."

"About $800,000" for mechanical royalties on a million seller is incorrect by almost 10 times. The current statutory royalty rate is 8.5 cents per CD per song, so if a CD sold 1 million copies, there'd be $85,000 in mechanical royalties for the songwriters and publishers to split, assuming the label and publishers didn't negotiate for and agree upon a reduced mechanical royalty rate.

Ande Rasmussen

Past President of the Austin Songwriters Group

Brits Relished SXSW 2004

Dear Editor,

As a fourth-time visitor from the UK to SXSW, again we were overwhelmed by the superb local hospitality. This time for our musical banquet we ventured a little farther afield than Sixth [Street]. Highlight, though, I have to say, standing not 10 feet from the great Kris Kristofferson on Town Lake and for free. Nobody back home believes it. Much the same as no one over there believes that our fuel costs are more than $6 a gallon. One Texan asked in all sincerity if anybody drove in the United Kingdom. Sadly, like yourselves, we too have to get to work and the supermarket. And whilst in Texas another budget pushed the price of "gas" yet up a few pennies more. So, Texans, whilst you feel you are paying the cost of the Bush/Blair Iraq war, spare a thought for us Brits as at a minimum hourly rate of $8 and the highest taxes in Europe, we too have had enough. Thank you for a tremendous visit and God willing we'll be back for 2005.

Sue Whitford Wrexham

North Wales, UK

Don't Need to Go to the Movies to Find God

Dear Chronicle,

Please tell Thomas Tucker I'll pray for him ["Postmarks," April 2]. I happen to go to mass at the University Catholic Center where Father Sabatte preaches. Maybe Mr. Tucker should come sometime and witness an honest, contemporary, and "conversion"-worthy sermon about the life of Jesus. Paulists rock and Father Sabatte is a master of making the Gospel accessible without Hollywood theatrics. As far as the movie which calls itself The Passion being the "best sermon" that Americans will hear and see, what a very sad outlook on the part of Mr. Tucker. Mel Gibson's lousy objectification and prostitution of the death of Christ is both pathetic and uninteresting. It's offensive that one would create a film on the life of Christ with objectives of greed, profit, and furthering one's own already delusional sense of self-importance. Maybe I'm crazy, but how about going out and serving the poor and working in your own neighborhood or abroad (both of which I've done and do) to experience the word and life of Christ? Wait, isn't that what Jesus did and told us to do? There's enough despair and real life injustice around the corner and down the block that I don't need to go to a fucking blockbuster, offensively violence-ridden flick to get off and feel better about myself and somehow closer to my God – who has never left my side in the first place.

Laura Thomas

Example of Certain Christians

Dear Editor,

I have just read Jena Selman's lovely letter to the editor ["Postmarks," April 2] concerning her beliefs on gay marriage, and I for one say, "Thank God for Jena Selman!" She is one of a strong few, the proud, the devout, the concerned.

We should all thank her for exposing the truth about so many Christians such as herself: They are deluded hatemongers, twisting Jesus' message of love into political attacks directed at the people they love to pointlessly oppress, and to encourage people based on such hatred to physically attack them as well.

It is unfortunate that there are not more upright citizens like Jena who provide great examples of the great lie that Christianity has become, and how far it has strayed from the words of its namesake. No longer is Christianity about peace and compassion for those different from you, it's now exposed for the political propaganda corporation it has become.

Thank God for Jena Selman!

Christopher Borgman

If You Care About Nonprofits ...

Dear Editor,

If you care about freedom of speech and nonprofit organizations, please review the rules change that the Federal Election Commission is proposing and comment by April 9. It is another attempt at squashing criticism of elected government officials and could hurt many organizations regardless of their political beliefs.

Details at fec_prop527.pdf.

Lynne Meddaugh

Objecting to a Point We Didn't Make

Dear Editor,

When the issue was a possible policeman's head injury, Chron Editor [Louis] Black was dismissive, saying "If this is the biggest deal [during SXSW], this is great news for us" (as quoted in The Daily Texan, March 22, "Ozomatli Members Fight Arrests Following After-Show Scuffle").

But when the issue was possible police overreaction, the Chron (in its subsequent issue) took a different tack, publishing a full-sized, strongly worded ("mini police riot") article ["Not Quite 'Ya Se Fue!,'" News, March 26] and also, separately, a large, strident political cartoon ["Naked City," News, March 26], showing a passive rocker being sprayed point blank in the face with pepper.

This discrepancy is the more glaring because of the serious injury (e.g., eye damage) to which a person being hit on the head by a drum is liable.

Such lack of objectivity is typical of the Chron, and does, I believe, bear resemblance to the racism which the Chron is always so quick to condemn.

Thank you,

Herbert Ward

[Louis Black replies: I haven't read The Daily Texan piece, so I have no idea as to how I was quoted, but I certainly wasn't referring to a "possible policeman's head injury." I was trying to suggest that if this was the worst incident in the 18 years of SXSW, it said something about general safety at the event and the police's performance over time – even though I wish it hadn't happened at all. Lest this seem callous or dismissive, I was talking in relative terms and am, of course, very concerned.

That said, I must point out that I can say one thing and the politics staff write another. We are not all of one mind; they do not have to adhere to what I think. Suggesting that there was a change in "the Chronicle's attitude" is to miss the regularity with which the politics section and I have different opinions.]

Good Work on Charter Schools

Dear Editor,

Although the article ["Who Can Vouch for the Charters?," News, April 4, 2003] was done in April 2003 and we are now in April 2004, I still wanted to communicate my thoughts with the Chronicle. So many times, we, as customers, take the time to complain, but don't do the same when a business does a good job. Well, I'm taking the time (although one year past the publication of the article) to compliment The Austin Chronicle.

I found several great articles in The Austin Chronicle database comparing charter schools to traditional public schools. I commend you on bringing the facts to the table. The article included percentages and the actual number the percentages represented. Your article, although done in 2003, is helping make the decision on whether or not to send my daughter to a charter school and also is helping me decide which charter schools to consider. Thanks for a job well done. Keep up the good work. I am anxiously waiting for an update in 2004.

Ange Crawford

Appreciates Trachtenberg's Jazz Reviews

Dear Editor,

Hats off to Jay Trachtenberg for his positive criticism of the latest Bad Plus recording, Give ["Phases & Stages," Music, April 2]. I so often appreciate his informed and intelligent sense of perspective.

If the jazz purists had a fraction of the senses of adventure and humor of these three individuals that possess such remarkable musical character and instrumental facility, perhaps the lion's share of the world wouldn't damn near ignore the only truly American art form that has ever existed. And, everyone would tell stuffed-shirt traditionalists like Wynton Marsalis to shut the fuck up (I'm allowed to fantasize, right?) and look forward to the future while possessing a reverie of the past (long live T.S. Monk and the 'Trane, among countless others, for blazing the trails).

Thanks again, Jay, for giving a band with such an original voice some coverage.


Chris Grady

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Dear Michael Ventura,

Thanks for the reminder to get off my butt and put my money where my mouth is ["How to Beat Bush," Letters @ 3am, April 2]! I think you are right that even little donations by lots of people may make a difference in this coming election. I have just made my contribution to MoveOn!


Monica Solomon

Anyone Who Disagrees With Me Is Crazy

Dear Editor,

This is a joke, right? "How is it that in a city flamboyantly dedicated in theory to neighborhood and environmental preservation, so many individual planning decisions come down in favor of asphalt and poured concrete?" ["Betty Baker Rules," News, April 2]. How? How come you can't figure it out? This City Council is not about even giving lip service to neighborhood and environmental protection, all they're concerned with is, and I mean all they care about, is money. "How much money can we generate for ourselves to spend and dole out to those who beg us for the cash?" is more like it. Stratus Corporation the evildoer in the Barton Springs fiasco? Not at all, they bought the land after the city decided not to turn the land into a park. See, turning that land into a city park would have meant the City Council couldn't tax it. They could however tax Stratus Corporation and any subsequent developments or homes or businesses. So, while struggling with "environmental concerns" the council said "screw Barton Springs, we have cash on hand." Same way they do the streets. A complete street closing would allow work to be finished in weeks, but "street closings" are a negative when trying to attract businesses to a city, so once again, money forced the council to say "Fuck the people who live on and the businesses who are on streets we're spending years fucking around with." It's all about money to the council; nothing else matters to them. Nothing. And anyone who says anything else matters is lying.

Carl T. Swanson

On Abortion: Wants You to Think Like Him

Dear Editor,

Let's be honest. Both sides of the abortion debate bombard their opponents with emotive language to be dispensed whenever and wherever necessary in order to "prove their point." We should never forget Justice Kennedy's famous line: "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." Well that sounds warm and freedom-loving and tolerant, but I don't buy it. It assumes a relativistic stance on just about everything and doesn't solve the issue. In fact, it completely ignores the central issue, and here's why:

The argument that abortion is about a woman's rights presupposes the nonpersonhood of the fetus inside the woman. If and only if the fetus inside is proven to not be a human, then you have a case for women's rights. Otherwise, there is no reason to abort the child.

The "oak tree" argument – which purports to "disprove" the personhood of the fetus – is quite a bit more pathetic. It goes something like this: As an acorn is not a real oak, just a "potential one," such is the fetus, in that it is not a real human, just a "potential one." The argument not only does not prove that a fetus is not human; it begins fallaciously with the supposition that an acorn is not an oak. The acorn is an oak, just an immature one. A fetus is a human, just an immature one.

The many other "arguments" that some on the pro-choice side advocate are not arguments at all. They are appeals to exception and a presupposed relativistic moral code. Exceptions do not make rules. We cannot logically infer from a handful of situations that a new code ought to be established protecting a method of abortion simply because it's "happened before."

I like to think for myself, and everyone else should, too – or at least those in charge of the whole abortion thing.

John Wilson

College Station

City Council out to Get Austinites

Howdy y'all,

Re: "Betty Baker Rules" [News, April 2] – "How is it ... so many individual planning decisions come down in favor of asphalt and poured concrete."

City Hall's Smart Growth gentrification-purge of lower-income Austinites has been up and running since 1998. The goal of this development-fueled purge is to remove Austinites from their homes by increasing higher property taxes through "managed" development. The city council is controlling this development-purge.

Overdevelopment is the force (and the smokescreen) that drives City Hall's discriminating, bigoted, and unethical gentrification-purge of lower-income Austinites. How does City Hall push this gentrification-purge?

Three weeks ago, at South Seventh and West Mary, city planning staff members painted a big red rectangle on the end of South Seventh where it dead-ends into West Bouldin Creek.

A man pulls out from his shop-space there; he asks the mob of city planning staff what's going on. A city planning staff-person walks over and volunteers the following (recanted) information:

"There has been so much development above South Seventh and West Mary [uphill toward Ben White], that the sewage in the main sewer pipe [located in West Bouldin Creek], that raw sewage has been backing up and overflowing out from the manhole covers and into the creek bed. The city is digging a new, bigger-capacity sewer tunnel here at the end of South Seventh to stop the sewage from blowing out into the creek [and down to Town Lake]. The new, big-capacity sewage tunnel will allow the city to encourage more development in the neighborhood, and that will promote more gentrification, which will make this neighborhood a nicer place to live."

Whether it's APD leaning on struggling Austinites, or the city planning department leaning on struggling Austinites, they do what the Austin City Council members tell them to do.

Rick Hall

Please Tell the Whole Truth About Jobs

Dear Editor,

Would you all look at the number of people who are self-employed? Seems to me that, though there is not the typical job growth, there are a lot of entrepreneurs who are offsetting the supposed lack of jobs. Many people, myself included, fit the self-employed entrepreneur bill.

It's pretty sad that before the 1930s 90% of the population had their own business, and now that number has dropped to 15%. A scholar, Rhett Claypool, confirmed these figures. Please tell the whole truth instead of trying to instill people with fear about lack of jobs like so many media outlets do.

I was listening to a radio show weeks ago that said people in Europe were doubting our economy because of the bad press regarding lack of jobs. The American rebutting people from the BBC said that our self-employment rates had increased dramatically and that is partly why our economy is good.

Thanks for your time and attention. Hope you have a good day.

Alanda Ledbetter

Imagine Living in Iraq

Dear Editor,

Even with a working judiciary, our police forces make mistakes, sometimes fatal mistakes. Can you imagine what it is like to be a 16-year-old boy living in Iraq today?

What does it feel like to be awoken in the middle of the night and to have a 19-year-old U.S. Marine pointing an M-16 in your face? Or perhaps your mother's or your sister's face?

Two scared teenagers, wondering what's going to happen next. And who sorts out the mistakes from the legitimate need for security? Certainly not the American media.

Matt Trevena

Bravo for Burd's Letter

Dear Editor,

You should reprint this letter ["Postmarks," March 26]. All I have to say is, "Thank You Mr. Burd." Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!

Linda Wiles

Article Long Overdue

Dear Editor,

Your article about medical privacy, while long overdue, is missing a major piece of the puzzle ["Letters @ 3am," March 19]. If you read the complete HIPPA act, you will see that it mentions that the PATRIOT Act grants the president or the attorney general at their discretion the ability to simply demand the release of your personal medical records. They do not need to state a reason, they only have to demand that a medical facility release this information.

Ron Russell

San Francisco

Just Asking

Dear Editor,

As a person living in Maryland I am curious about something that happened there [in Texas] lately; maybe you or your readers could help me.

I have read that a women that killed her children and said Satan told her to do it was found guilty and sent to prison for the rest of her life, yet a women who killed her children and said God told her to do it was found innocent by reason of insanity. Does this mean in Texas that if you believe in God you're crazy? Just asking.


Patricia Drusin

Gaithersburg, Md.

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