Our readers talk back.
Be Aware of TxDOT's Plans
Chronicle readers need to be aware that TxDOT and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority's multi-billion dollar toll road plan includes over $700 million for widening existing highway lanes and building new highways over the Barton Springs Watershed. This could be the largest public investment ever in urbanizing and paving the most sensitive watershed in Texas if our elected officials vote for it this Monday night.
The science is clear: more pavement = more pollution. For a fraction of the $700 million proposed to pour concrete and asphalt above Barton Creek, Williamson Creek, Slaughter Creek, and Bear Creek, we could purchase land, easements, and development rights that would ensure permanent protection of Barton Springs and the Edwards Aquifer and erase the new traffic these toll road lanes are meant to serve and profit from.
The toll road plan is up for a vote this Monday, July 12, at the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. Our elected officials need to hear from citizens who want the Barton Springs Watershed saved, not paved. Contact your representatives who sit on the CAMPO board. You can e-mail all of them from www.stopdoubletax.com. Come to the hearing Monday at 6pm at the Thompson Conference Center at 26th and Red River. Let's act now before toll roads gobble up our tax dollars and pave the way for more urban and suburban sprawl.
Save Our Springs Alliance
Bush Is Not Pro-Choice
Alan Moe Monsarrat completely discredited himself by even entertaining the idea that Bush is pro-choice ["Postmarks," July 2]. Obviously he reads, but what does he read? He must've missed the story on the 1.15 million women, men, and youth that showed up in D.C. to oppose Bush's abhorrent anti-choice policies. The March for Women's Lives was the largest public demonstration ever. (Shame on the Chronicle for not covering it more.) Mr. Monsarrat, have you ever heard of the global gag rule? Go Google it, guy.
As for Carl T. ["Postmarks Online," June 25], the man is quite rude, but putting differences aside, I'd like him to write for us one of his very informative letters acknowledging all Mel Gibson has done with his profiteering over Jesus Christ's death. How many chances does the public get to buy a "nail from the cross"? I am sure Jesus is proud. Let's ask W., just to be sure.
I'll Rant No More,
Crystal A. Viagran
Focus on Issues and People
Dear Mr. Swanson,
I don't know about Mr. Moore's voting status ["Postmarks Online," July 5] but I and many Americans have a problem with a president that did not actually win the election. When I try to urge my apathetic friends to get out and vote this year and they reply "why, your vote doesn't count for anything," based on the last election, it's pretty damned hard to argue with them. Also this Richard Clarke that you call a liberal actually served two Reagan terms, one daddy-Bush term, and two Clinton terms. He mostly worked for conservative administrations and was highly respected because he is America's foremost expert on terrorism. Funny, but these previous presidents held weekly, sometimes daily meetings with him to gather the latest information on terrorism, and yet Condoleezza Rice and the president himself would barely give him the time of day. That is until after 9/11. I also saw the press conference myself where Richard Clarke admitted to getting the bin Laden family out of the U.S. because he (as a government servant) was ordered to do this by the White House for their own personal safety. He didn't lie about it. Given his background, the fact that he was respected and utilized by previous presidents, whether Democrat or Republican, hardly constitutes this "liberal" tag that you've put on him. He quit his post in frustration back in January after years of dedicated public service because Bush refused to come clean with the American people about what they knew prior to 9/11, and the fact that they didn't care to know anything prior to that date. I don't blame him. It would be hard to work for people that dumb. In my eyes he's a patriot more than anything else and has the résumé to prove it.
Dear Mr. Black:
I read with interest your editorial on conservative media ["Page Two," July 2]. You have expressed a concern I have long held about right-wing journalism; they espouse their theories and opinions in enough different sources that soon people view them as fact. And it is very difficult to counter their arguments without risking being labeled as a "liberal" or "terrorist-lover."
You say, however, that we should not "venture into [the] quicksand" of their dares to argue their positions. I totally disagree; if we don't try to refute their arguments, then all the public hears is their opinions, which they start to view as fact.
We must refute their arguments, asking them to provide documented proof for their assertions. We must not accept their conspiratorial "lack of evidence is evidence" nonsense. (I wish I had more resources and more gumption to stand up to some of their rhetoric.)
Thank you very much for pointing out the problem and encouraging everyone to view right-wing screed with a jaundiced eye.
Time to Work Together
The targeting of APD federal funds to obtain remedial measures that address police misconduct is yet another tactic that divides the city and does not address root issues ["NAACP Targets APD Funds," News, June 25]. This suit focuses on problems in the community between the police and Austin citizens. It is true that there is a history of police misconduct. It is also true that the current police force is made up overwhelmingly of professionals wanting to serve the community well. Still more truth is that it is the community that creates the situations that police have to respond to, often-dangerous ones. Singling out the police force in this situation is an easy target, since the force is paid to enforce the law. Yet citizens, and groups representing citizens, must take some responsibility, too. Someone in the community knows when a citizen is driving a stolen car; someone and some health agency knows that a woman estranged by her family and not receiving proper medical care can present a danger to herself and others; someone knows when a person is selling stolen goods in the neighborhood as "inventory overages"; and someone knows that having four parents to supervise a party of several dozen teens is not sufficient if they are overflowing outside the home. What did we do as a community before it escalated to dangerous situations? Ignore it? Too afraid to get involved? The community and the police force must come to the table to talk about solutions, not focus on problems. I recently attended a community meeting where there were members of the cloth in attendance. I didn't hear once in that meeting an offer of forgiveness. Blame is usually a facile action. Solutions require more work, energy, and ownership. Lawsuits and protests divide, a community working for solutions unites. The community must help the police. The police must assist the community. Both bodies must be held accountable.
He Should Be Ashamed
Mr. Gregg Phillips should be ashamed of himself ["State Job Cuts Looming," News, July 2]. He continues to make it clear that he is not concerned about the loss of jobs in Texas. He is obviously less concerned about the poor of Texas. This state does not need this type of leadership. Our state legislators should be ashamed of themselves in allowing "Mr. Conflict of Interest" to come into this state raising the same financial havoc he raised in Mississippi. Is the explanation $$$$? I am so ashamed and disappointed in our state leaders.
Ramona S. Price
Calling the Kettle Black
Your column decrying the folks you disagree with and their letters ["Page Two," July 2] smugly dismisses them as "defined by an air of smugness and pomposity, dismissive of the positions they dispute ... offer(ing) a certain world-weary condescension as they deign to point out the ignorance of the writer they attack ... done with the biggest words possible ... about attitude rather than ideas." Look in the mirror, you will see yourself it is you who you are describing. And you reserve for yourself the right to edit these letter writers and post a rebuttal. No pun intended, but you are the pot calling the kettle black.
Methinks thou dost protest too much.
R. Barry Crook
Louis Black really hit the nail on the head with his recent editorial on Rush Limbaugh, his many imitators, and the political discourse they engage in ["Page Two," July 2]. As Black observes, this discourse claims to command the objective high ground, but is actually based entirely on ad hominem attacks with no factual information (or, not infrequently, factually incorrect information) to back up these attacks. The recent slew of anti-Michael Moore Web sites is a perfect example. Christopher Hitchens' hysterical and barely comprehensible screed aside, there is a lot of talk about Michael Moore's "lies" and use of such terms as "crockumentary," but in perusing these sites I was unable to find even one mention of a specific factually incorrect item in Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. This movie is filled with strongly worded accusations and no-nonsense observations; surely there must be at least one thing in the movie which is false. With all this blather directed at Moore, these chumps can't find it?
In any case, to build on Black's observation, I would like to suggest that we need a new noun to describe Rush Limbaugh-like political discourse as described above. To this end, I am sponsoring an impromptu contest for identifying a suitable word for "Limbaughanity." Send proposed nominative candidates to email@example.com. The winner will receive a stylish and sweatshop-free Austin Monorail Project T-shirt in addition to the satisfaction of having made a significant contribution to the meme pool once this word becomes widely known and publicized.
On July 4, 2004, I attended a program on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol building by the Christian coalition Take Up. This group believes it was their patriotic duty to specifically call attention to the danger which gay marriage presents, not only to the hallowed institution of heterosexual matrimony, but to future generations of innocent children.
I'd been advised that a counterdemonstration by a group named Soul Force would take place, silently utilizing the nonviolent method advocated by Gandhi and MLK Jr.
Upon arrival, the rally was under way on the Capitol steps with a sermon being delivered by a young African-American preacher. I didn't detect the presence of Soul Force, and found a shady spot. The preacher made it clear (not only) homosexuals need God's saving grace. A small group acted up, chanting "liar, liar" when any speaker castigated gays. This preacher "concluded" with the Lord's Prayer. However, this wasn't quite sufficient; he continued another 15 minutes with another sermon-prayer.
I'd finally identified a member of Soul Force by her "I Can't [marry]" T-shirt, passing out fliers. The family to which she gave one near me littered the lawn with it, so I retrieved it. The rest of the rally I stood aloof in the sun with my back to speakers and entertainers, not applauding the patriotic platitudes and rolling my eyes during a particularly weepy prayer.
As the rally ended and the Take Up folks began dissipating, Soul Force was evidenced in the very middle, comprising at least half of the total crowd. I felt proud and appreciated the presence of both protest groups, the silent and the confrontational. And I am indignant toward the religious right, which does not recognize the civil nature of matrimony and cannot distinguish its idea of sin from crime.
Kenney C. Kennedy
I find it completely amazing how a brief statement by Dean Dorn commemorating Ray Charles became so misconstrued by some LBJ students into a slight on the name of President Reagan. I am a student at LBJ and read every one of those e-mails. I saw nothing in Dean Dorn's original e-mail that had anything to do with President Reagan. A couple of students went into emotional overdrive because the dean's comments came on the day of President Reagan's funeral. I see no issue here because Ray Charles had died the same week. Dean Dorn is of the African-American community, as was Ray Charles. I found it natural to see an e-mail from the dean giving honor to a great musician from his own background and culture. Dr. Spelman attempted to inject some lightness of mood, but my high-strung classmates misunderstood his intent and made disrespectful remarks. Even if I should disagree with my teachers (and I don't in this case), I want to maintain a productive relationship with them. As policy students, we are encouraged to disagree with our professors, but professionalism must be maintained in all interactions. I can't say that was the case over the Reagan-Charles issue.
Republicans = Democrats
Well, it appears to me that the transformation is complete. The Republican administration has taken as its own all the hallmarks that once belonged solely to the Democratic Party.
The Republicans are now the party of: deficit spending ($477 billion and rising); big government (federal discretionary spending expanded by 12.5% in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2003, capping a two-year bulge that saw the government grow by more than 27%); welfare (corporate welfare in the federal budget, $150 billion; social welfare in the budget, $145 billion); the government can butt into your personal life (gay marriage, USA PATRIOT Act); and now with the If It Feels Good Do It attitude (Cheney's utterance twice of the F-word on the Senate floor and refusal to apologize because, "I felt better afterwards"), the transformation is indeed complete. I also just heard that up is now down and black is now white. Good luck figuring things out this election from this flip-flopping administration.
Look Closely at This Toll Road Project
Looking at the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority's proposed toll road projects is informative ["Toll Road Bingo: Pay to Play!" News, June 18]. State Highway 45 South, for instance. This road will run from the southern terminus of MoPac to 1626, a distance of 3.6 miles. It costs $40 million and will carry 770 people per day (1,540 trips) the first year it opens. This project should be built as a two-lane country road at a fraction of what CTRMA will spend. That's why CTRMA wants to force people of East Austin to pay tolls to subsidize suburban wants, not needs.
Of course, you can be sure, when more folks in East Austin fall below the poverty line, the politicians pushing toll roads and complacent media will call for new welfare programs for poor folks in East Austin and demand that suburbanites pay for it.
Vincent J May