Our readers talk back.
Cover Copy Missed Boat
It is a catchy cover but I beg to differ ["If You're White, It's All Right," News, Sept. 24].
A little more than six years ago I got to tangle with Williamson County. I lost. I lost big time, as a matter of fact.
As I was told by Ken Anderson and then Judge John Carter, "We have a 98% conviction rate in Williamson County. We don't care about the particulars of your case or what caused what. You are now a part of our conviction rate."
So, when you say, "In Williamson County, if you're white, it's all right ..." I must gently let you know that you are missing most of the boat.
But thanks. Anytime some light can be shed on that opportunistic, self-serving, moneymaking, laughingly referred to as a justice system in that county, I appreciate it. However, dig a bit deeper. There's a lot more there than meets the eye!
Complaining Doesn't Get Rid of Waste
Re: your complaints of cronyism, etc. ["TCEQ: Get the Lead Out," News, Sept. 24]. Your answer to disposing of all the low-level wastes currently stored all over Texas including hospitals is ??? And I expect that you have a similar plan for the high-level wastes generated by the South Texas (nuclear) Project (Austin Energy being an equal opportunity polluter), or is it OK to send them to Yucca Mountain?
Jack Stick Is Just Plain Rude
Well, I guess now I know that Jack Stick is not only rude to his constituency, he's just plain rude to everyone! His little letter-writing campaign to supporters of Mark Strama is just too typical. I'll preface my complaints about Stick by saying that I am the former Travis County Democratic Party chair for precinct 222 and Mr. Stick was aware of my party affiliation when he was less than professional toward me. For one of the few town hall meetings Stick ever scheduled in Pflugerville, he decided to host it on the same night as a TCDP executive committee meeting and the first ever visit by Howard Dean to Austin. When I informed Stick that his meeting seemed unfortunately timed to prevent any of his opposition from being available to attend the town hall meeting, I was informed that he could not "adjust his schedule to meet every soccer game, piano recital, and Tupperware party." He went on to say that when "my party" was in power, maybe I'd have more of a voice in the political arena. It's this partisan attitude that is prevalent in everything that man does! Jack don't know Stick!
Thanks for your time,
Regarding hurricanes and the wrath of the god(s) ["Page Two," Sept. 24]: I remember when I was a kid, getting ready for a basketball or baseball game. The first few shots or throws were always a bit off, until I warmed up. So it must be with the theists' god. He's trying to oust Jeb, but just needs to get warmed up a bit before he hits the mark. A few dozen innocent folks killed in the meantime? No biggie. So it must be with W.'s god: He wanted the U.S. to go in there and pull Saddam out of that spidey hole, but perhaps he needed a few months to warm up before he could guide our hand. A few tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi's killed in the process, prematurely cutting off all their hope of converting and being saved? Who cares?! Send 'em straight to hell, because the theists want to spend a few more years/decades on this rock before going "home" to heaven, and in their world-view, thrashing Iraq gives them a little better chance of making it to a ripe old age. Strange isn't it: Theists will support assuring untold thousands of innocents' eternal torment to keep their earthly skin and delay going to eternal bliss for a few measly years. Even granting beyond all reason that the Iraq foray improved their chances of worldly survival, it makes no sense when put in the theist heaven/hell cosmic context. Just another intellectual knot one can get twisted into when trying to superimpose a god's approval on one's own selfish impulses. It would be funny if it weren't so murderous.
Rep. Stick's Motives
Jack Stick used to work for Ronnie Earle, and knows the Travis County district attorney has prosecuted more Democrats than Republicans over the years. As a former prosecutor himself, Mr. Stick was in a unique position to understand how effective the Public Integrity Unit has been. So when I noticed in the Houston Chronicle ("Public Integrity Unit Might Lose Funding," March 4, 2003) that the former prosecutor was interested in transferring the PI Unit away from the Travis County district attorney to place it under Republican control, I couldn't help but wonder, what does Mr. Stick know that he doesn't want the rest of us to find out? Now we all know! Do we really need a state representative who wants to undermine law enforcement when an investigation gets too close to his big campaign contributors? Mr. Stick has betrayed traditional Republican values. Our families and businesses are not served by people like Jack Stick (and Todd Baxter) who see nothing wrong with lining their campaign pockets with contributions. We would all be better served by Mark Strama and Kelly White, people with clean hands untainted by dirty money. Instead of people who drag the Republican Party through the mud, maybe we could have representatives who actually work for our community. Imagine that!
Bike Lanes Blocked by Neighborhood
My dear Editor,
I'm afraid I'm a little behind in my reading.
In "City Hall's Bumpy Road" [News, May 23, 2003], the Chronicle refers to a "successful mediation process involving motorists, bicyclists, and Shoal Creek neighbors" about getting car-free bike lanes on Shoal Creek Boulevard. Actually, the mediation was anything but successful, at least from the bicyclists' point of view. All we wanted were bike lanes without cars parked in them. But that was "mediated" away. It was a mistake to give the neighborhood de facto veto power on this issue, as they ultimately decided that their convenience was more important than our safety. This sets a pretty lousy precedent that neighbors can demand to be able to park in bike lanes. Why should they get to make those kinds of decisions?
The tragedy is not just that car-free bike lanes were apparently too much to ask for in supposedly bike-friendly Austin, it's the "way" that came about by the city effectively giving the power to block the car-free bike lanes to the neighborhood.
There's more on this debacle at www.bicycleaustin.info/shoalcreek.html.
Weeping Tears of Joy
Each time a pastor has the courage to stand with the gay community, I weep tears of joy. Your article on the Rev. Jim Rigby made it all the way up to Minnesota ["The Rev. Rigby Welcomes Same-Sex Showdown," News, Sept. 24]. As lifelong Lutherans, our spirits were crushed not when our son told us he was gay but when we realized that our faith communities deemed him an outcast. When will the churches realize that a gay person is a child of God, created by him and loved by him? When will they follow Jesus and love them as he loves us all?
Eden Prairie, Minn.
Supports Flood Insurance
I was shocked to read Mr. Hightower's recent lambasting ("Hightower Report," Sept. 17) of the National Flood Insurance Program. Millions/billions of dollars are paid annually in federal disaster relief to communities that have been impacted by flooding; these costs are ultimately borne by you and me, the American taxpayers. The NFIP is a way to shift the financial burden back onto the minority of people who reside in these high risk areas (commonly referred to as the "100-year floodplain," with the misconception that a flood will only happen once every 100 years (false); a more appropriate definition is a 1% probability of a flood occurring during any 12-month period). Flood insurance policies are underwritten by the federal government, not private insurance companies. This program has been active within the federal government for more than 35 years, supported by both Democratic and Republican administrations.
Most people are unaware that basic homeowner's policies rarely (if ever) cover flood-related losses, even if you live on a hillside, far from any water bodies or regulatory floodplains. Education (including the mailers such as Mr. Hightower referred to) is a key component of making the program effective. Everybody is at some flood risk; just to varying degrees. Please visit www.fema.gov/fima/nfip.shtm for more information.
I have spent the majority of my career trying to help people, getting communities and residents to participate in the NFIP (I have never had any ties to the insurance industry, but have worked for local governments, responding to the death and destruction that floods have brought to Central Texas), and seeing this baseless attack on the program was especially discouraging. The bottom line is that flood insurance can be a key part of reducing taxes and improving quality of life. It is not a scam!
[Jim Hightower responds: Apparently, you misread my piece. I'm not against flood insurance, but against 1) a saturation mailing that tries to scare people who do not need the insurance into buying it, and 2) a mailing that favors one or two insurance agents over all the others.]
We Learn From History
Politicians prove themselves most dubious when they manage to transfer certain "hard truths" to the realm of a higher purpose. The 9/11 attacks, for instance, quickly developed into a spectacle, exploited for clearly ulterior motives. Reactionary forces, which are always present in our government, displaced freedom in the name of "freedom," repeating the rhetoric of the most ancient tyrants. Thus, the signs of democracy were substituted for the more difficult conditions of democracy. We stood silent as a national tragedy was transformed through the quick-change artistry of Democrats and Republicans alike into a war on terror as if terror could be conquered. Terror is a duration, or, as the Sufi poet Kabir sang, "no man is terrified forever."
The scope of our basic civil liberties was narrowed with a speed that rendered many of us speechless, and what we failed to put across in our political dialogue was quickly lost. Now, it must be understood that the people are, first and foremost, a language. The media grasps this point, and surrounds its sadistically repetitive messages with a dull and mollifying noise, pushing dissent to the outermost zone where protest is portrayed as an impulse to open the gates of chaos onto the world. Democracy is, after all, a loyalty to something deep and irrational, an acknowledgement of the altruistic impulse in humanity. Democracy finds its greatest potency in some beautiful shared vision, though, of course, what democracy at street level must first address is a behavioral issue order. The concept of order is essential to democracy, and we find that the baser the action of an "enemy," the more jubilant the public reaction, according to the extremity of steps taken to restore order.
What we are left with is a sham, a mere modicum of democracy. Just enough wiggling room remains to keep the workers at their station until the great apparatus of capitalism can afford to readmit fuller liberties. One can only hope that we will learn from history in time that a nation is a finite resource, and tappable just like energy to the point of exhaustion.
Registered to vote,
Praise for Cat Powers
I got the chills watching Cat Power play at ACL Saturday. She said she thought the set sucked. Some people did walk away confused. Something in her set hit me hard. The combination of her ghostly voice and beautifully basic arrangements is so refreshingly honest, especially in this election season.
Americans Are Liberal
The following is a definition of what "liberal" means:
free from prejudice or bigotry;
open-minded, tolerant, fair, generous;
favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, esp. as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties;
favoring or permitting freedom of action, esp. with respect to matters of personal belief or expression;
free of or not bound by traditional or conventional ideas, or values;
advocating measures of progressive political reform.
I believe that most Americans, if they spent just a little time and effort and honestly looked inward at their core values, would come to realize that they are by definition liberals.
Some are just too conservative to admit it.
Unhappy With CAMPO
As the curtain has opened up on CAMPO's toll plan and as Austin citizens become more and more outraged, one has to ask: Who are our representatives representing?
Our representatives are supposed to be better informed about issues so that they can make better decisions than the average citizen. But with the vast majority of Austinites against the toll plan, either 1) Austinites are all a bunch of ignorant dolts, or 2) many of the CAMPO members are being coerced by special-interest groups who will profit by the toll plan. I choose No. 2. And we continue to uncover new information every day to prove it.
What is most disturbing is that so many on the CAMPO board must actually think we are idiots! Tolling most of our existing highways is not "making a tough decision" it is just a sellout.
An Unhappy Taxpayer
To whom this may concern,
As far as toll roads are concerned, not only do they want to make the new thoroughfares toll roads, but the existing roads, such as 290, I-35, parts of 183, and so forth. These roads have been paid for by our taxes already. Now, can anyone define to me the meaning of extortion? Talk about smog. 1) Traffic stalled at tollbooths waiting to go through. 2) Travelers avoiding toll roads will clog up the access roads, making travel time a nightmare. Not to mention smog. 3) Emergency vehicles of all sorts, stuck in traffic not only on the access roads, but at the tollways. Think the traffic won't be backed up? Even if they have access to get by the tollbooths! The so-called governor of Texas, Perry, mentioned that only the new roads were up for tolls. The City Council sort of mentioned he did not understand the total concept of the toll roads, that this would include the already-paid-for roads! Again, can anyone define extortion to me? There will never be enough roads in any city across the U.S. That is reality! Name one city or even one state that cannot complain? And who does the City Council think they are, that this issue was not put up for the taxpayers to decide? It is truly sad that more people do not get out and vote these people out! Too many think that their votes won't make a difference. Sad but true. Now granted, I'm not saying that extortion is being forced on us by anyone, I just want to know the definition of extortion. Thank you very much.
An unhappy taxpayer
Eugene B. Coy
Liberalism About Freedom
As so eloquently expressed by Richard Harvey ["Postmarks Online," Sept. 24], the definition of liberalism is fundamentally about freedom. Somehow, the definition has been hijacked and twisted in recent decades by powerful and influential conservative voices and institutions. So successful has been their propagandizing, that truly liberally minded, if not left-leaning, individuals are now afraid to be labeled something that, by definition, is a beautiful thing to be. So successful, that both Gore and Kerry painstakingly avoided the label for fear of a loss of votes. This is unfortunate since the alternative label, though seemingly popular these days, is not nearly as cool.
Everyone within the sound of my keyboard that believes fundamentally in liberal causes, critical analysis of established authority, dignity versus dogma, and everything else that Bush and company, the religious right, and neoconservatives hate, stand up and be counted! Repeat after me: "I'm a liberal, and I'm proud!"
Jonathan Bert Hoopes
My dictionary doesn't help me much when I look for "epiphany," but I've heretofore limited it to "life-changing," perhaps because Saul became Paul that way. Nevertheless, it certainly could, without too much damage, be extended to mean "life-enhancing," as well.
If so, your beguiling phrase, "Just there, on the boat in the pond, and nowhere else," raptly describes an epiphany ["Page Two," Sept. 3].
I was immediately struck, when I read yours, by its echo of that magic line in Hammerstein's lyrics for "Oklahoma," "We know we belong to the land, and the land we belong to is grand." There is something in us that gives us balance when we are in receptive communication with our setting.
I went on to think of, and remember with great pleasure, two epiphanies, both musical, I've been lucky to have in recent years here a Hobby Lobby sing-along in Wimberley during which an accomplished flutist played, solo, Schubert's "Ave Maria." When he came back to his seat, next to mine, I thanked him and told him I'd been some other place. He replied he had been, too.
The second, some years earlier, was when Stoltzman played Mozart's clarinet concerto with the Austin Symphony. In the celestial second movement, we, the entire hall, sat entranced, hushed, hardly able to breathe. We were somewhere else then, too.
I am so glad we have the Chronicle here. Keep up the good work.
ACL Too Crowded
The ACL Festival is very much a microcosm for the quality of life in Austin. There are just so many great things to love about the ACLF (and Austin) that it makes it a truly awesome place to be. Unfortunately, with that success comes the consequences. In the case of the 2004 ACLF it was the mass of humanity that filled Zilker Park. The crowds on Saturday were especially ridiculous. Your choices were to either 1) sit close enough to see the band and hear the music and get trampled on as people shoved their way to the front or 2) sit so far back as to be comfortable and end up not seeing or hearing the band. Dear Capital Sports and Entertainment, do you need to make that much money that you can't afford to cut the limit back down to say 60 or 65 thousand people and make it a truly enjoyable experience for all? If it is indeed about the almighty dollar, then just charge $15 or $20 more and cut the number of people back.
While the downward spiraling quality of life in Austin (i.e., traffic) may be more difficult to solve, let's at least make this signature event a high-quality offering.
Do Something! Vote!
To the editor,
Most of you say you wouldn't want Bush in office another day, much less four more years. Why then, I constantly have to ask myself, are you not making it to the polls?
I know you are appalled at Bush's decision to start and continue a war based entirely on lies, and I know I've heard you say you wouldn't want any child left behind. Forty-five million of you can't afford proper health care. The money you earn is spent on merely living, and your families can't afford to help you. You complain about the job market, yet most of you have accepted it as a sacrifice we've had to make for the war on terror. You are outraged by the obliteration of our environment, but you've refused to do anything about it.
Aren't you the same people who announced you would stand up and fight for your rights when you thought they were taken away by terrorists? Open your eyes, your rights are diminishing! While more than a thousand people have sacrificed their lives for freedom, you are a prisoner right here at home. Bush has hijacked this country, our rights, our environment, and our children's future, and it's your responsibility to change it. Stop sitting on the sidelines and do something. Vote!