Our readers talk back.
Murder Takes Away Hope
I am very saddened by the "No Mercy" article [News, Aug. 20]. However, I am not sad for Mr. Allridge, which seemed to be the intent of Ms. Smith's story. I am saddened that Ms. Smith only gave the life of 21-year-old Brian Clendennen a single sentence in her multipage article. All Brian was guilty of was working in a Fort Worth-area convenience store and having the misfortune of Mr. Allridge and his brother coming into the store and ending his life. I was completely sickened when I read James' comment "I think that you should never take away someone's hope because it destroys the soul and can create a monster that no one is going to want to deal with. I think that everyone, no matter what they have done, should be given the opportunity to become rehabilitated." If you feel that way, Mr. Allridge, why did you take away the hope that destroyed Brian and robbed him of his soul. Yes, I am saddened that we did not kill James when we killed his brother or preferably a lot sooner. This is Texas, sir, when you kill people that are working in a convenience store in order to try and make a living at minimum wage, this wonderful state of ours will kill you, and it's as simple as that. No amount of rehabilitation will ever change that. I doubt I will see this printed in your paper, but I felt compelled to write it. I have never written to a newspaper before, but I have never been this saddened by any article before.
[News Editor Michael King responds: The "wonderful state" of Texas law expressly includes provision for both rehabilitation and clemency, and the capital punishment statute would not be constitutional without providing the possibility of clemency. The intention is to make a distinction between justice and vengeance in the absence of such a distinction, there is no law.]
Mercy Is Dead in Texas
After reading the excellent story regarding James Allridge (who very well may be dead by the time this is printed) ["No Mercy," News, Aug. 20], I am once again reminded of Karla Faye Tucker and the fact that mercy is dead in Texas. Dr. Martin Luther King once said, "The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars."
Our sky is blacker than Dr. King could possibly imagine, yet we continue to make it darker and darker with each passing day. James Allridge should spend the rest of his life in prison, but ending his life would not restore anyone else's. Instead of being open to the possibility of a person changing their life under the harshest of circumstances we once again affirm to the world that in Texas not only are rehabilitation and repentance unnecessary, but unwanted as well.
We're killing James Allridge just because we can.
God bless Texas.
[Editor's note: James Allridge was indeed executed on Wednesday, Aug. 25.]
Allridge Pay the Price in Full!
I was really disgusted by the story presented on James Allridge ["No Mercy," News, Aug. 20]. Your writer wanted the readers to somehow feel sorry for this man. I do not. Everyone makes choices, and there are consequences for their choices. The fact that his brother was a bad influence on him does not negate the fact that James Allridge made a conscious decision to take another person's life. He is on death row for a reason. Just because someone is an "artist" does not mean that they should be forgiven for the horrible crimes they have committed. He may be a "model" prisoner, but then again isn't he supposed to be?
Throughout this entire story there seem to be two things that are continuously overlooked, the victim and his family, and the fact that people go to prison and are sentenced for what they did on the outside, not how they behave once they are in prison.
There is a mother here who never got to see her son marry, have children, or fulfill any of his dreams. There is a family who will always have a piece missing, who will always look back and wonder why their son was chosen that day, why he was taken from them, why he was a victim of a senseless act by a person who just didn't give a damn.
James Allridge is a man who killed. James Allridge is a man who committed a crime, knowing fully what the consequences of that crime would be. He was willing to pay the price when he made the choice to kill. Let him pay it in full.
It's amazing how much time, effort, and money our various governments spend to keep people in cars from having to stop and get bored. The goal, as one letter writer notes ["Postmarks Online," Aug. 20], is that people driving cars should never have to stop, as long as they drive at or a little over the speed limit.
Most traffic lights now run on sensors, not timers. The sensors often fail to detect bicycles. They do not even attempt to detect pedestrians. Thus, cyclists and pedestrians must often wait at high-speed intersections through several light cycles. These are dangerous places to wait. They are the more dangerous because the cars are encouraged to keep moving at or a little above the speed limit. Speed limits are set for motorist convenience, not for the safety of unarmed people whom the cars may injure.
When cyclists go to public meetings, the trip often takes 45 minutes or longer. On arrival, the cyclist hears the car people complain that it took them 15 whole minutes to drive across town, and that they had to wait at a light for two whole minutes. Poor souls!
Streets on which the cars go fast and never have to stop cannot be crossed safely by pedestrians. The highways built "to increase mobility" box people in. "Increasing mobility" means speeding up the pace of those who are already moving fast. For people who truly lack mobility, nonmotorists boxed in by highways, road-building, and light synchronization just make things harder.
The same letter writer urges the City Council to "think outside the box." I concur. Let's start thinking outside that two-ton four-wheeled box that eats so much time, space, effort, money, and good will. Maybe we can get rid of the boxes we live in, whose sides are the high-speed highways.
Supports Current Rail Plan
Dear Mr. Black,
It appears we are on the verge of another defining moment in our city's history. Although a number of significant civic issues are currently being debated and resolved by our city leaders, the most pivotal issue in terms of how our city will look 20, 30, or even 50 years from now is our decision regarding commuter rail. With Capital Metro's decision last night to put commuter rail (not light rail) on the ballot in November, we all have a chance to shape that future.
If we vote in favor of commuter rail we will unequivocally have a city with transportation choices much more consistent with the progressive nature of our citizens. We will be less reliant on our automobiles. We will be able to support new and livable communities where walking, cycling, and riding mass transit meet a much more significant percentage of people's mobility needs. As a result, we will also have a cleaner environment and less pressure for development over the aquifer.
Not only does the All Systems Go initiative deserve our support, but so do the elected officials that support it. Defining moments don't come around often, but we are approaching one for Austin this November. I hope commuter rail is a part of that future.
Against Current Rail Plan
Mike Clark-Madison is correct to be skeptical of Capital Metro's commuter rail plan for a number of reasons ["Austin@Large," News, Aug. 27]. But you don't even have to get that complicated. One flaw alone will be fatal, given the experience of other urban areas in this country: the requirement for nearly all rail passengers to transfer to shuttle buses to get to their office.
When this transfer is required to get any use out of a rail line, areas like South Florida have seen that the "choice commuter," i.e., the one who can decide whether or not to drive on a given day, will leave and never come back.
Cities like Dallas, Denver, and Portland ran a starter line on a route, which ensured that a lot of people could ride the train and walk to their office. This, unlike Capital Metro's nonstarter, attracts a large number of choice commuters and provides the voter momentum for expansion of the system.
On the other hand, systems like Capital Metro's proposal end up running empty trains, which impels voters to reject future rail expansion.
So if you support rail transit for our area, please don't vote for Capital Metro's line because it's a starter system; please do vote against it because if implemented as proposed, it will, as one of my colleagues aptly coined, be a "finisher" system.
Michael E. Dahmus
Urban Transportation Commission
Local Input on Road Projects
Duane Keith makes an interesting point ["Postmarks," Aug. 27] that relying on gas tax to fund new roads and maintenance has elements of unfairness to other smaller communities in Texas.
Gas tax and tolls are two ways of funding roads and maintenance. The frustration with the recent toll vote was that the state did not give our local leaders the opportunity to participate in a discussion of the best balance of these funding mechanisms. It was a Sophie's Choice of which dreadful decision are you willing to live with no roads or toll roads. Our leaders voted for what they believed was the only available choice for Austin to reduce traffic congestion in the foreseeable future.
I have no doubt that if our local leaders had the option they would have endorsed a blend of gas tax and more selective tolls to best balance the needs and sensibilities of the community.
The state leaders who forced this unpleasantness on Austin are the folks who should be the focus of community opinion that we deserve more balanced solutions.
Linda Curtis: Reformer
I appreciate all the coverage, even the negative letter of Mr. Retherford ["Postmarks," Aug. 27], stating that I am not really an independent and am under the control of Fred Newman. Just for the record, I have worked with Fred for more than 25 years and love the guy. Now if that makes me part of a harem, so be it.
If any of y'all went to the Web site Mr. Retherford and other Newman detractors put up [www.ex-iwp.org], perhaps you read the fine talk Newman gave up in New Hampshire last January to independent activists from around the country about what to do about this presidential election. Again, the independents who are part of the "Choosing an Independent President" process put our support on the table to Democratic primary contenders who were willing to address our concerns for political reform (the myriad of ways to clean up our electoral system). A number of them expressed an interest, not including Mr. Kerry. Newman's point was that "truth" is often used to beat up one's opponents and that what we need in our system is a little more honesty. The major-party candidates have little commitment to honesty in this election, and neither does, in my opinion, Mr. Retherford and a number of "progressives," whose only work, it seems, is to attack Fred Newman and his so-called "cult."
As for me not being an independent, I suppose none of my 25 years of working in the communities across the country with third party and independent candidates of all stripes counts, including my work with Lenora Fulani, Ross Perot, Jesse Ventura, the Libertarians, the Reform Party, Ralph Nader, and yes, even Pat Buchanan, until he reneged on his promise to focus on political reform. None of these include the KKK. Apparently, none of this work counts because I'm part of some "Newman cult."
OK, I confess, I am part of a cult (or tribe, as Mike Clark-Madison describes us). The cult I'm with is working to overturn the two-party monopoly that gives people the green light to bash those, like me and Newman, who won't join the major parties, members of a "cult." If anyone's interested in joining, give me a ring or go to www.indytexans.org and www.letnaderdebate.org and join the growing cult/tribe/movement for reform!
The Good in Danny
I considered Danny Galindo a friend of mine ["High Baptismal Flow, Part 2," Music, Aug. 20]. In fact, he was my roommate for two years.
Many people would not consider our experiences together as positive. He was living his life on the absolute edge, and I was happy to live there with him. We often tempted fate with fast cars and motorcycles, loaded pistols, and way too much partying.
This lifestyle would occasionally attract bad people, but Danny would keep the worst ones from getting too close. I could always count on him to watch out for me.
A note to Danny's brother Robert ["Postmarks," Aug. 27]: Danny always spoke highly of you and respected you and your family.
I saw the good in Danny. He was a good friend and a great musician. When the Sardines' bass player couldn't make a gig, we always enjoyed it when Danny filled in. I miss him to this day.
'Rights' and Privileges
Has Louis Black been possessed by a Republican? I must disagree with Mr. Black's assertions about his shortcomings ("Page Two," Aug. 20); not only is he sporting a pair, they are cast-iron and nickel-plated. For the editor of a left-wing rag like the Chronicle, it takes an industrial-strength set of cojones to spew the following conservative rhetoric:
"The First Amendment, when it comes to free speech, does not guarantee you access to media; it does not insist that your voice has to be heard; it compels no publication or broadcaster to offer you a platform. You have no First Amendment right to publish a letter in the Statesman, the Chronicle, or any other publication, and no right to an uncensored, unrestricted cable access show or your own radio program."
Liberals' most blatant failure is their inability to distinguish "rights" from privileges. Overgrown babies like Tim Robbins, Whoopi Goldberg, and the Dixie Chicks shot off their mouths and were forced to deal with the consequences. Then they squealed like stuck pigs and declared themselves "martyrs." This is the direct antithesis of liberalism: all the rights and none of the responsibilities. News flash: It's not George W. Bush's fault you didn't think things through and got dumped by your corporate sponsors or your audience. Climb down off the cross, people; we need the wood for the fire.
p.s. See you in NYC, Louis; the first round's on me!
Need to Be More Supple
Your "Page Two" articles of late reveal a mystifying urge to reinhabit select moments of the past while simultaneously accounting for nothing of a future that terrorizes us all. A splendid blindness, but I should like to remind you of the present.
The present time, as in "these times," when so many have mobilized for change, when even the apathetic hold an opinion about 9/11, the economy, the candidates. When nothing can be taken for granted because we find that, regardless of political belief, "proof" is never lacking. Needless to say, proof itself is becoming anachronistic.
Will the world survive another century of such democracy? Surely the next wave of political evolution will confront the myth of a free press. Many of us already know that the press is not free and only serves to mask the conditions it aggressively maintains. What we are dealing with here is a system based on exclusion, or to be more precise: middle-class notions of economy, justice, culture need I remind you that the Chronicle has money, law, and force on its side.
But you're not as hapless as I would like to imagine. Judging by your recent remarks on the First Amendment, you seem to be committed to an ideology which is not necessarily the one which you continually proclaim.
It's no longer sufficient to affect the pose of a liberal. You're 50, Mr. Black. How depressing for a person of my age to read your reflections on a career well spent the second half of your career has only begun! I should like to glimpse, for just once in my life, a paper in this town that demands more from its writers. And an editor who is more supple, less thin-skinned, and no so apt to show contempt for his audience. I've made you my pet project, sir.
With patience and confidence,
'Page Two' Too Wordy
There are more things I love about the Chronicle than I have space to enumerate. But here's some constructive criticism: "Page Two" needs a good editor maybe cut it down by one-third. Sorry Louis it's always insightful, but too wordy.
It's About Time
Wow, Louis! I don't think I've ever seen that kind of rant from you about George W. Bush before ["Page Two," Aug. 27]. It's about time. I'd say you pegged Bush perfectly.
I don't think you should credit the pro-Bush forces with so much brilliance over the assault on Kerry's war record, though. All it takes is a willingness to lie and a complacent media.
Hang on to your hat, though. This was just one smear campaign. I'm sure there are more smears coming down the pike.
Hot Sauce Festival Is Fabulous!
I've lived here eight years and had never attended the Hot Sauce Festival; boy did I miss out. What a great city! My family had a fabulous time and sampled some of Texas' best and hottest. This would be a great event to advertise on Festivals.com and get worldwide recognition. Why not let the rest of the world in on our little secret? I can't wait for next year. Thanks!
Get Surfers to Review Films
The woman who wrote the review of Riding Giants is not well informed [Film, Aug. 13] and has little understanding of surf cinematography. The best shooters in the world deliver the finest surfing footage ever collected on screen, and she feels it is "bland footage of daring surf gladiators filmed from the distant shore by girlfriends and assorted AV geeks." I would expect slightly more competence from a film reviewer. Fortunately for [Stacy] Peralta, she is alone in her assessment ... and has been ignored by the public. I would seriously think about finding someone else to review such films, as this person is obviously not interested.
Thanks, Grant Washburn
San Francisco, Calif.
Eyes of World on Texas
To the editor:
I appreciated the well-researched and balanced articles by Jordan Smith on James Allridge III's request for clemency ["No Mercy," News, Aug. 20]. I also feel appalled that not one member of the Board of Pardons and Paroles supported James Allridge III's request for clemency. What more could a human being do to demonstrate that he is rehabilitated and no longer a threat to anyone? In denying mercy to someone like James, they are making it clear that there is no mercy for anyone on death row in Texas. The execution of a rehabilitated person like James is as much a crime as the murder he committed 19 years ago. I wish I knew what to say or do to persuade the powers that be to stop this crime from occurring [Ed.'s note: Allridge was executed Aug. 25]. I have written a second time to urge them to please reconsider their decision and intervene to save the life of a man who has truly repented, is no longer a threat, and who continues to make a strong, positive contribution to those with whom he is in contact.
Thanks to Amnesty International and the many worldwide supporters of Allridge's request for clemency, the eyes of the world are on Texas and its justice system. Now would be a good time to show that this state is capable of mercy as well as justice.
Winona Ryder Charming Customer
In response to the mention in "After a Fashion" [Aug. 20] regarding Winona Ryder's alleged sticky fingers, I just want to say that she also found Flashback a favorite place to shop during her visit in Austin.
We never had a nanosecond of doubt and welcome her back anytime.
When I told friends about her visits to Flashback, they all made the same remark, "Did she take anything?" It's a pretty natural joke to make, but we all need to give her a break. She's paid for her mistake already, and I would venture to say that there are very few of us who haven't made it ourselves.
Doesn't Like BOB
I turned my radio dial to 103.5 this week to find that my beloved oldies station had been, seemingly overnight, replaced by some modern invention called BOB FM ["Naked City," News, Aug. 27]. BOB FM claims to play music from every color and time with slogans like "BOB'll play anything, BOB's crazy!" trying to give me the impression that BOB is the kind of guy that's everyman's man, and this must be, finally, an exception to the relentless homogenization of mainstream radio content. Diverse it is but different it is definitely not.
I have listened to oldies stations my whole life and I never envisioned a time or city that didn't have one. Oldies are some of the most timeless, universal artifacts of 20th-century America. They are the epitome of social conscience in music. Being brought up a middle-class white American without formal religion in the Eighties and Nineties, the classic folk songs of the Sixties made me moral by softly swirling it's corkscrew of love, innocence, and, oh yea, revolution into my memory early on in life. They are like a bible to me, and I don't believe that these songs have ever been timelier than right now. But now the owners of the airwaves act as if no one's listening and say people want something different. If the people demand this then why was the switch so sudden and secretive? For a station that gave myself and my parents years of classic and truly great music I would expect a going-away bash or, at the very least, an announcement. I think this deserves an investigation.
In the eyes of the corporate media it seems to be "the time of the season for anger, artificial change, and getting it on for just one night."
Sincerely terrified of BOB (and aesthetically terrorized),