Our readers talk back.
Thanks for the great coverage of the LCRA plan to run a water pipeline down Hamilton Pool Road to serve new developments ["LCRA Express Spawns Hamilton Pool Traffic Jam," News, May 14]. Neighbors of the proposed developments who were left out of the planning process are outraged. We are working hard to get the LCRA vote delayed so some sort of regional planning can take place. Otherwise this beloved part of the Hill Country will look like Long Island. Not something we want!
Thoughts on Covers
I enjoyed Darcie Stevens' article about bands doing cover versions of songs ("Under the Covers: Austin Rockers Return to their Roots") [Music, May 14]. I just had a couple of additional thoughts. To me, covers are most interesting when conspicuously not done in the style of the original artist, such as Kronos Quartet's classical cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" or the Gourds' bluegrass cover of Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice." All kinds of interesting special effects are created by such "against the grain" covers, which, by juxtaposing the listener's knowledge of the original tune with a very different, newer rendition of it, create a delicious mental Reese's cup. Just as the tastes of peanut butter and chocolate accentuate one another, so do country and rap when a band like the Unholy Trio belts out a twangy cracker version of Public Enemy's "Bring the Noise." A similar kind of harmonic dissonance happens when the gender of the narrator changes in the cover, as when Evan Dando of the Lemonheads sings Suzanne Vega's "Luka." Lyrics like "I think I'm clumsy; I walked into the door again" delivered in Dando's distinctly masculine baritone make you wonder what exactly is going on: Is this still a song about domestic abuse or is this guy really just clumsy? Finally, when it comes to great "against the grain" covers, two local bands come to mind: the Recliners, who do fun lounge versions of just about everything (Guns n' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" is a favorite) and the Meat Purveyors, who do mean country versions of Ratt's "Round and Round" and ABBA's "S.O.S." among others.
Fight the power,
Don't Mess With Election System
As the struggle to get Ralph Nader on the ballot in Texas unfolds, it is perhaps useful to make one unquestionable observation. If it were as hard to get on the ballot in Florida as it is in Texas, Al Gore would have been declared the winner of the 2000 election. The confusing ballots in several Florida counties only came about because there were so many candidates.
The primary purpose of an election is to determine who will fill an office. On Election Day, voters must choose which of two or more viable candidates to elect. In the 2000 presidential election, voters could pick Bush, Gore, or neither. It is good that we provided those who choose neither, the disenchanted, with a number of ways to express themselves. Yet it was a disaster when these secondary aims reversed the outcome of the election.
Despite the lessons of 2000, the Nader people seem to think our elections are still too simple. They want improved ballot access for alternate candidates, and some even go so far as to advocate preferential voting where voters rank the candidates. If you don't think Bush vs. Kerry is important enough to take a position on, that's fine, but please leave our election system alone.
Raymond C. Heitmann
Four More Years?
Re: Debbie Russell's curiosity about this being the time to stand up for Nader ["Postmarks," May 7]. Well Debbie, how have you enjoyed the last four years so far? Like it or not, Nader is unelectable and would guarantee another four years of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al.
So tell me Debbie, how would you like another four years of the same ... or worse. Please, I really am curious.
Opposed to Taxes
A reply to Philip Russell ["Postmarks," May 14]. The trade imbalance between the U.S. and Europe had more to do with Europe's lack of buying power due to its tax rates than a lack of desire for American goods. Remember that the United States accounts for about 30% of the world's GDP all by itself. Europe needs its American market more than America needs its European market. Europe's "fettered" capitalism has failed to maintain employment, keep French senior citizens alive, or keep its welfare programs in the black. Germany, as an example, has double-digit unemployment and a declining labor pool/tax base. Think about how screwed up your economy has to be to find itself in that situation. France is in not much better shape. Most of Western Europe finds itself, despite high taxes and decreased defense spending, having to cut back on its welfare programs if it wants to keep them solvent. Even socialism's poster child, Sweden, facing the realization that government cannot afford to take care of everybody, is mandating private retirement plans.
I am opposed to the use of taxation as a means of control on people or business. It should be used to finance the legitimate operations of government at the appropriate level. Social welfare programs are best financed and administered at the state and local level where they can best be matched to the needs of those they are intended to help. This was the intent of the framers of our Constitution, i.e., Madison, Federalist 25. This is better than a one-size-fits-all Federal behemoth with all the government controls that come with it.
Carl A. Anderson
Having been born in Austin 52 years ago and having never moved away, I have had the great good fortune of being able to read nearly 100% of every editorial you have ever written for the Chronicle. I do so because I never cease to be amazed (and amused) at the parallel universe in which we live. Your last three editorials have been especially cogent in your global world-view. I must now commend you on perhaps the greatest sentence ever penned by a liberal journalist. You must copyright it. "It's far less a redistribution of the wealth than a reasonable assessment on shared social costs" ["Page Two," May 7]. Pretty brilliant (if misguided) stuff.
I would love the opportunity to write a "Conservative Guy" column for the Chronicle so that your readers could be as amused of my world-view as my friends are of yours.
Pssst ... the emperor (Austin liberal establishment) has no clothes!
Swanson Compares Apples (Service Men) and Oranges (Military Planners and Leaders)
For the rabid people calling for Rumsfeld to step down over the prisoner scandal, I was wondering what their comments are concerning this quote by John Kerry: "There are all kinds of atrocities, and I would have to say that, yes, yes, I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed, in that I took part in shootings in free-fire zones, I conducted harassment and interdiction fire, I used .50-caliber machine guns which we were granted and ordered to use, which were our only weapon against people. I took part in search-and-destroy missions, in the burning of villages." By his own admission, John Kerry is a war criminal who deliberately violated the tenants of the Geneva Convention. Anyone going to call for his indictment or suggest an admitted war criminal is fit to represent the Democratic Party?
Carl T. Swanson
Take a look at Chickenhawk's records (www.awol
bush.com/whoserved.html) of these patriots who are in and/or support the Bush administration: Vice-president Dick Cheney avoided the draft and did not serve in the military. Every one of the following also dodged the draft and did not serve in the military: Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, third ranking Republican in the Senate Rick Santorum, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Attorney General John Ashcroft, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, Phil Gramm, and Rush Limbaugh. These men supported the Iraq war but did not to go to war when it was their turn to fight. What a hypocritical gang of cowards we have leading our nation! George W. Bush served in El Paso and is said to have earned the nickname of the "Texas Soufflé" looks good on the outside but full of hot air.
Colin Powell did serve (and said during the Vietnam War, "I am angry that so many of the sons of the powerful and well placed ... managed to wrangle slots in the Reserve and National Guard units"). Oops! Who might he have had in mind?
Sen. John Kerry did serve valiantly, and look who is pointing the finger trying to smear him for it. Other tactics to discredit Kerry bring to mind an old adage: "Only a fool never changes his mind." And concerning Bush, being resolute is admirable only when you are in the right and calls to mind another adage: "Ignorance in action is a dangerous thing."
I wholeheartedly support our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am a veteran of World War II and have been in the Inactive Reserve. I was recalled to serve in the Korean War as well. I am a true patriot and love my country and am extremely concerned about the damage caused to it by the Bush administration's agenda. I do not believe our nation is safer now, and I resent Bush recklessly getting us into an unprovoked war, putting thousands of our young soldiers in harm's way.
Sick of Advertising Covering Everything
I share your abhorrence of advertising ["The Hightower Report," May 14]. Personally, I'm getting pretty sick of living in a world where every square inch that isn't being driven on is plastered with advertising. I've always felt kind of helpless in the face of the advertising avalanche, but thanks to your article, now I realize I can fight back. I look forward to the day when I begin to see these things in urinals, because it will give me great pleasure to show my feelings about advertising and advertisers by fishing them out and stomping them into sputtering scrap. I'll start carrying tweezers to get ready for that glorious day.
Successes of Aquifer District
Over the last four years, the [Aquifer] District has worked to bring people together on central issues affecting our groundwater supply and Barton Springs. The issues have been complex and often controversial. But with the participation of many individuals, a highly professional staff, and the leadership of the board, the district is achieving its mission. The district's achievements have been numerous:
1) The district vigorously supported scientific investigations on the aquifer with dye-tracing studies, groundwater availability studies, augmenting the water supply and protecting drinking water quality. These research efforts, collaborated by district staff and top scientists in central Texas, have been highly successful.
2) The district worked closely with small cities, permittees, and the public to plan for conjunctive uses of ground and surface waters, conservation and drought contingency, water quality, leak detection, and the elimination of water waste.
3) Community chemical collections were reinstated in Hays County, and tons of household chemicals were collected and properly disposed.
4) The district won praise from the Texas Water Development Board and other state agencies for its work on a Management Plan that has 13 specific planning elements with goals, objectives, performance standards, and tracking methods.
The district has been able to focus on its mission for our current and future citizens because it has reached out on controversial issues and built consensus within the board and in the community at large. We have worked with all parties to ensure that a clean, plentiful water supply supports everyone's best interest.
Working the last four years for the protection of the Edwards Aquifer and Barton Springs has been an enormous responsibility. I am honored to have had the opportunity of serving the people of Hays County and Edwards Aquifer users in Central Texas.
Jim Camp, board president
Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District
We Need the Oil
We'll be out of Iraq before the November election. Will start withdrawal shortly after June 30 "hand over." There were two quotes in news stories this morning one from Rummy and one from some general referring to not making a decision at this time because "it will be up to the Iraqis" on June 30. Bush will simply declare victory, again but leave this time and let the UN try to clean up the mess pretty much an impossible job now. Bush will win re-election and, given his arrogance and stupidity, go back into the Middle East again before the end of his next term, but with more troops and fire power once his corporate cronies convince him that the potential profit is worth the cost (and he can't have more than two terms anyway and the people paying the costs are not the ones making the profits), again justifying the action by the multiple acts of "terrorism" that will no doubt escalate. The next time it won't be just Iraq add in at least Syria and possibly Iran.
We need the oil.
Great South Austin Business Idea
I've got a great business idea up for grabs. For the love of all South Central Austinites, would someone please take over the space next to Jovita's on South First and build a neighborhood grocery store (ô la Fresh Plus on West Lynn)? It's available; it has parking, sufficient space, and kickass neighbors.
Have any of you folks from Travis Heights, Bouldin Creek, or Dawson ever tried to jaunt into HEB on a weekday evening, or even a Saturday morning, in a quest for your coffee's companion? That place is 24/7 madness inside and out. And if you think that I'm going to deal with Lamar traffic to get to Whole Foods or Sun Harvest (so I can pay top dollar for groceries only to have them practically spoil before I'm home), then you're crazy, but right. That's what I do.
What I should be doing is paying big bucks for yummy groceries without having to cross the river, drive past Broken Spoke, or risk my life parking at our beloved HEB at Congress and Oltorf.
I know what you're thinking: What about the Central Market or Randalls on Ben White? Excuse me, have you actually tried going south on South First lately?
Give me a place where I can walk in and purchase a decent Chardonnay, organic tomatoes, and toilet paper in 10 minutes or less, and I will be a happy woman.
Nostalgia for World War II
My dad is a computer nerd, the kind that hoards old computers and rebuilds them. Although I don't have a closet devoted to pasty-yellow plastic boxes, I do have a sensitive spot for computers and a loyalty to their hardcore fans especially strategy gamers.
Strategy computer games have been in my life ever since I was able to play SimCity by holding the shift key down (to increase available RAM) while booting my Macintosh LC II with its über-fantastic System 7 software (I'm a nerd, too).
Recently, I have noticed that many software companies who design strategic computer games are looking back nostalgically to World War II for material. Their products are titled Battlefield 1942, Call of Duty, and Medal of Honor. To add to this phenomenon, strategy patrons buying these games are predominantly from a generation that succeeds this war by two and sometimes three generations.
Nostalgia for World War II is not a unique phenomenon. Ever since the battles held in the South Pacific, the United States and much of Western Europe have sought out meaning in war that has not been duplicated since the days of the Axis and the Allies. Where there was once certainty in the cause and the desired outcome was universal, confusion and blurred meaning have forced many to reconsider what war means and what it is good for, pardon the pun.
Each generation has its nostalgic longing for World War II. Brokaw's Greatest Generation had experienced it firsthand and translated their living history through the spoken word. For boomers, these stories became blockbuster films such as Kelly's Heroes and Where Eagles Dare. For Generation X/Y, this longing for substance in war has not been fulfilled in the Middle East; rather, it has been decoded through the World War II video game.
Thoughts on Iraq
Many of the articles, editorials, and political cartoons I read of late all seem to have one thing in common. They all seem to be asking "Why?" Why are we in Iraq? Why are they (the soldiers and officials) doing these things? Some people are completely opposed to the war and others fully support the war in Iraq.
I never truly believed that our president, President George W. Bush, would be able to carry our nation into the 21st century. Even during our school's mock election in 2000, I voted for the Green Party's candidate, Ralph Nader. I did, however, believe that he (President George W. Bush) would lead us into a war that could not be won. I talk of the war in Iraq. The very war his father led the nation toward just 10 years earlier.
If the United States and coalition forces pull out of Iraq now, the country will, I believe, return to the state that it once was before America intervened. Though at this point it may be the best thing for them, and in a way also the best thing for us. But there are always the advantages and disadvantages of every aspect of life.
My opinion on Iraq is simply this: Our soldiers have endured enough. It is time to relinquish power as soon as possible, without creating and causing too much disarray. And when this is accomplished the government should then begin to focus more on our nation and its forward movement.
Matthew W. Pate
On May 6, 2004, at the Austin City Council meeting, Austin Mayor Will Wynn presented Austin area bikers with a proclamation declaring May as Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month.
"I didn't see them." That tends to be the most popular answer from someone who just hit a motorcyclist. Why is it so hard to see, or even hear for that matter, a motorcyclist? All motorcycles run with the headlight on at all times. Exhaust pipes are often changed out to make them louder. So why are they so hard to see?
The following is an excerpt of an article written by Lenny Cummings concerning motorcycle safety and awareness. It is titled "Look Around."
"Following too close: You have to realize the only thing between that rider and the ground is a 650 pound machine and air. If a rider has to stop in a hurry for any reason the last thing he wants is a 3000-pound-plus car/truck running up his/her back and launching them over the handlebars. Keep a respectable distance. Remember a motorcycle can stop a lot faster than a car/truck.
"Look twice before you turn: Take a good look down the road before you turn. Motorcycles sometimes aren't easy to see. A car or truck can easily block the presence of a motorcycle. Not all motorcycles are equipped to run with their headlights on all the time. Take a second look before you pull out into traffic.
"Make sure you have plenty of room before you turn: I have had drivers pull out in front of me or make a left turn in front of me with less than adequate room. Now whether they thought they had room, were in hurry, or whatever the case may be, I had to come down hard on the brakes or lock them up.
"So give all riders plenty of room."
First Fix Ourselves
The talk radio hosts are right when they say that beheading Nick Berg was far worse than anything in the Abu Ghraib photos. I assume, though, that they also know Jesus' words (from Luke 6): "How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
When we invaded Afghanistan to root out al Qaeda, our eyes were clear. Probably 90% of Americans agreed. What clouded our vision since then? We need to help our Muslim brothers get better, but first let's remove the speck from our own eye the Christian fundamentalists and neocons in our own government. Their radical agenda has now endangered us all.