Our readers talk back.
All Citizens Have Rights
I read with interest your reply ["Postmarks," Oct. 15] to Mr. Bradley regarding the article "If You're White, It's All Right" [News, Sept. 24]. It appears to me that you are missing the point. Yes, Williamson County does give harsh sentences to criminals; that is the way it should be. The citizens of Williamson County want it that way, which is why we elected the district attorney. If drug dealers and users do not want to be dealt with harshly they can stay out of the county. I think that you fail to recognize that the folks that live near Robinson Park and the surrounding neighborhood deserve just as much protection as the drug dealers. The district attorney's office cannot be concerned as to race or nationality of drug dealers when prosecuting such cases. When people choose to engage in illegal activities they must be held accountable. I for one applaud the district attorney for prosecuting these cases and not worrying about what people will think or say. The folks in those neighborhoods are better off. Another interesting point is that a number of the folks in those neighborhoods are also minorities. Those people requested that something be done about the drug dealers and users. You see, Mr. King, in America law-abiding citizens have rights as well. I am sure you would agree that the district attorney must help all citizens when called upon, no matter what their race.
Your paper has no integrity, truth, or taste putting an editorial like this as a cover story ["Iraqi Day of the Dead," Oct. 29]! What kind of numbskulls do you think your readers are to believe this crock of BS? Bush is so much more apt to be calm and in control of the crazy situation there Kerry would just run and cry to the United Nations and wimp out.
Fire your staff.
Instead of stating that your "Postmarks" section is updated daily, why not tell the truth and state that it's updated when you freakin' feel like it, or when there's a full moon, or when an Austin road is paved, or something more reality-based like that? Are you guys just lazy? You must be getting zillions of letters that have to be interesting as hell. Print some of them already and quit sitting on your duffs! Remember, "stupid is as stupid does."
[Editor responds: Not sure what you are getting at but online "Postmarks" are updated daily (not on weekends but often several times each weekday). We post almost every letter we receive except for obvious form letters and those that are libelous. (There are other reasons a letter may not be posted but they apply very infrequently.)]
Transit Use Growing
Nationally, transit ridership grew 21% over the last five years, while the number of miles driven grew by 12%. This was the first time since World War II that growth in transit ridership substantially outpaced growth in driving.
California, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, and Texas experienced more than a 20% increase in transit ridership.
Transit appeared in cities that have traditionally not had much transit service. New rail systems opened in San Diego, San Jose, Sacramento, Portland, Salt Lake City, Denver, St. Louis, and Dallas. Forty-seven of the nation's top 50 metropolitan areas are pursuing rail investments, many in new transit markets, and when they open, most are exceeding ridership projections.
The demand for new transit-starts projects is much greater than the funding available. As of 2003, 25 New Start projects had full funding grantee agreements, including projects in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Memphis, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Portland, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, San Juan, and Washington, D.C. These commitments will add 131 new stations to the existing inventory of about 2,400 transit and inter-city rail stations and a wide variety of intercity bus locations.
The public is more aware of and supportive of public transportation than a decade ago.
Four in five Americans believe that increased investment in public transportation strengthens the economy, creates jobs, reduces traffic congestion and air pollution, and saves energy.
Almost three-quarters (72%) support the use of public funds for the expansion and improvement of public transportation.
Are all of these people around the country delusional and only the opponents in Austin see the light?
Planners and Terrorists
In his response to my letter, Mike Clark-Madison dismissed my concerns about the CTRMA toll road plan by opining that I "don't like roads" ["Postmarks," Oct. 15]. This is absolutely correct, although largely irrelevant. Allowing a basically private entity with no accountability to the public like the CTRMA to borrow huge sums of money to build roads willy-nilly with only a vague plan, based on wishful thinking, for paying back this money is bad fiscal and public policy regardless of how one feels about roads. But in point of fact, the current roadway plan is a recipe for economic disaster, never mind environmental or quality-of-life concerns, which is why I "don't like roads." New highways encourage urban sprawl can there be any doubt about this? Austin already ranks fourth in the nation for number of miles driven on average per capita per day (www.rrc.state.tx.us/tepc/092404presentations/billbarker.pdf). At the same time, Houston Republican oilman Matthew Simmons is telling us that we are probably already at or near the peak of world oil production (www.simmonscointl.com/files/SPE%202004%20Annual%20Conference.pdf). If true, this means that the supply of oil will decrease from now on, resulting in dramatically increasing prices. Even the most optimistic Pollyannas agree that oil will start to run out within 30 years, and these folks are a distinct minority, similar to the scientists who claim that global warming is a myth. There is considerable consensus that peak oil will occur before 2010 see the documentary The End of Suburbia (www.endofsuburb ia.com) for a plethora of expert opinion. Meanwhile, if we begin to focus our efforts now, reversing our dependence on oil will still take decades. If this is true, why do we have a transportation plan which can only serve to increase our consumption of oil over the next 25 years? The people promoting this plan are more dangerous to us than terrorists and should be treated accordingly.
Ventura a Blessing
What a blessing of a writer you are [Michael Ventura]. A true asset to the people of Austin if there ever was one in the form of a columnist. Keep fighting the good fight, please.
Handy List for Next Four Years
Clip this handy list and check off events as they occur over the next four years.
[ ] Next major al Qaeda attack on U.S. soil (Date: / / ) (Dead: )
[ ] First suicide bombing (of the "guy with explosive belt walks into shopping mall" sort) on U.S. soil (Date: / / ) (Dead: )
[ ] Iraq elects radical anti-U.S. fundamentalist Islamic government.
[ ] U.S. military dead in Iraq tops 5,000.
[ ] U.S. military dead in Iraq tops 10,000.
[ ] U.S. military dead in Iraq tops 50,000.
[ ] Number of kidnapped and murdered civilian hostages in Iraq tops 100.
[ ] Number of kidnapped and murdered civilian hostages in Iraq tops 200.
[ ] Number of kidnapped and murdered civilian hostages in Iraq tops 500.
[ ] War with Iran
[ ] War with Syria
[ ] War with North Korea
[ ] Military draft
[ ] Your son/daughter/relative/someone you know killed overseas
[ ] World War III
[ ] Economic recession
[ ] Stock market crash/economic depression
[ ] Deficit tops $10 trillion.
[ ] Deficit tops $20 trillion.
[ ] Unemployment reaches 15%.
[ ] Unemployment reaches 25%.
[ ] U.S. becomes fundamentalist Christian theocracy; Bill of Rights suspended.
[ ] Michael Moore wins another Oscar.
[ ] Osama bin Laden (wait till 2008 then circle one) caught/never caught
Nader's Agenda Is Important
To the editor,
It is disingenuous to hear the support of Ralph Nader referred to as "desperate" ["Endorsements," Oct. 29]. Supporting Nader is an attempt to bring to the forefront the issues that are at the bottom of the dismantling of the republic. It is important to encourage support for Kerry for the very reasons that the Chronicle cites. At the same time, I would be very hopeful if the thoughts of Nader were aired. This would influence the Democratic Party and help them to come out in favor of a more progressive agenda.
The Chronicle is a beacon in my view, a light that reminds us of the responsibility of each of us to care and to act. This is not a criticism of this fine publication, but a simple cry for all of us to begin to define the real culprits behind the pain caused by the present administration.
I will vote for Kerry, but I wish to expand the dialogue to one that defines the real fight. Nader is an extremely articulate spokesperson for an agenda that makes, I assume, sense to many voters on the left. Its discussion may even motivate voters to be more involved in the defense of the republic.
I call upon the Chronicle to lead the way, as it does on so many fronts, to begin to awaken the media to its responsibility as a standard bearer. Issues please.
Yours in the good fight,
Doesn't Like Tolls
Austin taxpayers helped finance $15 billion Big Dig roads in Boston; now we have to buy our roads with tolls ... this is nuts.
Unreasonable Case Loads
Mr. King is right caseworkers should not have more than 12 to 23 cases ["Postmarks," Oct. 29]. My error. Even in the mental health field the situation is just as bad. My wife worked for an MHMR facility, and her client list was more than 250 a month.
Clyde L. Harris
The Problem Is Big Government
Michael Ventura's belief that America's best days are behind it may be true but not for the reasons he stated ["Letters @ 3am," Oct. 29]. I believe that expansion of the federal government outside its constitutional box and the creation of a dependency class, both individuals and business, through the federal welfare state is the cause. Our balkanization (diversity) by those who make a career of dividing us up into supposedly victimized groups contributes to our decline.
Alexander Tyler stated that a democracy only lasts until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasury. Then the decline starts.
But our decline is not economic. The U.S. is the engine that pulls the world's economic train. The loss of manufacturing jobs is evidence of a shifting economy much like the massive loss of agricultural jobs was the mark of our transition to an industrial economy. We are now transitioning to a technology-based economy.
From 1995 to 2002 the world lost more than 20 million jobs in the manufacturing sector. These lost jobs were not outsourced to Mars but ceased to exist. Industrial output increased by about 30% during this time period. Increased automation/technology means you need fewer people to run a steel mill or put cars together.
The loss of these jobs was not limited to the U.S. Michael Ventura's alleged economic power China lost 15%, Japan lost 16%, and Brazil 20%. The U.S. lost 11% of its manufacturing jobs during this time frame. Most manufacturing nations lost an average of 7%. It is politically more expedient to blame outsourcing than to confront the need to adapt to changing economics. Unions spend enormous amounts of money on politicians trying to keep buggy whip and slide rule manufacturing jobs instead of training their members and their children for 21st-century jobs.
Carl A. Anderson
He's a Texan!
If the rest of the country still had a lick o' horse sense they would've kicked him out just for being a Texan.
Don't be depressed about the election ... do something! One day of voting isn't what the Democrats need. They need to be involved in the issues they care about on a regular basis. We can't control the outcome of elections, but we can take the principles we voted for and make them an active part of our lives. We can teach people to read. We can help care for sick people. We can organize and criticize. This is America. Relying on the president to make our problems better isn't the way to get things done anyway. I would love to see a Democrat in the White House, but we can't sit here and whine about it; we should get off our butts and try to do some of the things we think need to be done. We don't need to have a certain person in the White House to make our country better, we can do this ourselves.
Yes, the president does things in our name we don't approve of. Yes, he is against things we find very important. We can't change this. By the same token, one can't complain if they only come out of their holes once every four years. In any case, it is always better to do what you can than worry about what you have no control over. To those of you who are out there making a difference every day ... thank you.
Property Taxes Too High
What happens if year after year after year after year you get a property valuation that is extraordinarily high? You go through the same procedure every year! The only way to vote out the people on the appraisal board is to get rid of the people on the various taxing entity boards who appointed them. Since you only have the ability to vote in your local district, this may be totally beyond your control even with the vote!
The only way we can change the way the appraisal board is selected is to convince our congressmen to make the changes or to change the Texas Constitution. In Texas that can only be done by getting our legislators to put it on the ballot. Either way this requires the cooperation of the senators and representatives. Cooperate? That in itself presents a problem!
I just received my property tax bill today. My house is accessed at $143,777, which is $1,777 more than I paid for it five months ago. My tax bill is $3,654 a year, or more than $300 a month. We have no children and consequently do not use the schools, it takes the sheriff's office more than 11é2 hours to respond to a call, and our roads are in horrible shape.
I cannot pay the taxes and must sell my home and leave Texas. I would like to thank my elected officials for nothing.
I, too, appreciate the recognition that you've given KUT and NPR ["Best of Austin," Oct. 1]. They've been my favorite for years. I also like KGSR, but Denberg and Co. do, in my opinion, too frequently have a tendency to take a fairly "lame" tune and wear it out. This is just my opinion, and I still do listen to them occasionally, but KUT is unsurpassed. It's very refreshing to listen to a station that obviously takes the term "public radio" very seriously. Their news coverage is completely without bias, their music programming is excellent, and I do love those "human stories." Stories about ordinary, good people doing extraordinary things for others. It restores my faith in the goodness of people. Sadly, at times this is not always apparent to many of us, and most of these stories are such an inspiration in these dark times.
Allen Cunningham Wimberley
Against Toll Roads
The attempted conversion of our public roads into tax-generating vehicles has to be stopped. The idea that the government and private toll road corporations can continually tax us for using roads already paid for is disgusting and wrong. It will degrade the quality of life in Austin, discourage many from relocating to Austin, and ultimately cost all property owners in slowed or reduced valuations for their property. Toll roads are simply a tool for the government and private toll road corporations to take more of our hard-earned money forever! They will continue to proceed if we "the people" let them. Now's the time to stand up and object!
Lawrence D. Parks
Permission for Intolerance
Reading "Page Two" in the Oct. 29 edition, I was struck at how "obsession" has crept into every aspect of this election. Liberals are gnashing teeth that folks cancel newspaper subscriptions over an endorsement of their candidate's opponent. C'mon! There are times in history and this is one of them where you have to stand up, throw off the shackles of debate-club etiquette, and resist on all fronts.
However, this drive for fair-and-balanced (by only one side, and not the one that advertises it) has swallowed up our common sense and our ability to draw a line in the sand. This is not an election between two equally respectable ideologies. There is deception going on at a massive scale, the outcome drastically affects the course of the world's affairs, and for perhaps the first time in our lives, the results really matter.
It is OK for liberals to totally reject this regime and anyone who stands by it. Give yourself permission. Take a self-hug break. There is too much at stake this time to politely tolerate folks who at some level must know they are in deep denial. By the very definition of the word "deluded" (to lead from truth or into error; to mislead the mind or judgment of; to beguile; to impose on; to dupe; to make a fool of) we must apply it to the supporters of the Bush administration, except for the 2% of the population that they truly do represent. If not in this case, when would you ever apply the word "delusional" to anything? True conservative ideologues are not even standing by this administration. All endorsements of it must be suspect. It is not just a difference of opinion.
As for asking "What if [The Austin-American Statesman] endorsed Kerry, and Republicans had responded in kind?" which of course they would have if you are going to start taking on personal responsibility for the actions of Republicans especially recent actions you can just stay planted on that therapist's couch.
With kind regards (and still thankful for the Chronicle),
Be Advised About eSlate Voting
I would like to comment on an article that appeared in your Oct. 29 issue regarding the eSlate voting machines and how they're "supposedly" programmed to change a vote for Kerry to a vote for Bush ["The Dastardly eSlate," News].
Despite what you say, apparently the story is true, and you mention in the very same article. I quote from your article:
"After selecting their straight Democratic Party vote, some voters are going to the next page on the electronic ballot and pressing 'enter,' perhaps thinking they are pressing 'cast ballot' or 'next page.' Since the Bush/Cheney ticket is the first thing on the page, it is highlighted when the page comes up and thus, pressing 'enter' at that point causes the Kerry/Edwards vote to be changed to Bush/Cheney."
Please alert your readers that these machines default to the Bush/Cheney ticket, and that if they don't select another candidate before clicking the enter button they will have voted for Bush, even if they voted straight Democrat.
Bad software design shouldn't influence our elections. Please be advised.
[Assistant News Editor Lee Nichols responds: My previous descriptions of the problem have been slightly incorrect. I originally reported that, since the Bush/Cheney ticket is the first one listed on the second page of the ballot, it is automatically highlighted when the voter turns to that page. Actually, the line just above that, which says President/Vice President, is highlighted. Voters have apparently been going to the page, turning one more click, and then hitting enter. In any case, the machines are not set to default to the Bush/Cheney ticket. (An Internet demo of how to use the eSlate may be found at
Clarifying Opposition to Capital Metro Plan
In his column in the Oct. 29 issue ["Austin@Large," News], Mike Clark-Madison alleges that voting for this commuter rail plan is a painless way to save Capital Metro's one-fourth cent. If that were so, I wouldn't be wasting my time opposing the plan.
In fact, however, the implementation of this commuter rail starter line will preclude the development of rail transit for the center-city of Austin for the foreseeable future. First, to even get to the point where more rail could even be put before voters, we have to beat all the odds and prove that suburbanites really do enjoy transferring to shuttle-buses as part of their daily commutes. But even if that happens, we'll then have to deal with the fact that light-rail vehicles and tracks down the original 2000 corridor will be incompatible with the existing commuter rail track, and that the long-term plans for this corridor now call for Bus Rapid Transit (Rapid Bus in its own lane).
I can't make this any more clear, folks. If commuter rail passes, the center-city is never getting rail (and no, boosters, Airport Boulevard is not "center-city"). If you're OK with paying the bill to enable a few people from the suburbs to ride a train, while all you get is marginally better versions of the No. 101 Limited, then vote yes. But don't vote based on the lie that this is a start to a rail network that actually serves the residents of Austin. The long-range plan doesn't include any more rail in the center-city; it builds more commuter rail to the suburbs.
Urban Transportation Commission
[Editor responds: I just want to make sure I have this right: If voters defeat the current lightly opposed Capital Metro plan, then CM will come back with a much more expensive proposal that will include extensive construction tearing up and closing already heavily congested downtown roads, which will impact hundreds of commuters and scores of businesses? And this plan will have no trouble winning voter approval?]
'Chronicle' Endorsement Hollow
Advising people to blindly vote for party instead of the person is highly irresponsible ["Endorsements," Oct. 29]. Just because Ms. McTigue is a Democrat doesn't make her the answer for our county. I'm a Democrat who is voting for [Jana] Duty because she's the better-qualified leader. She has concrete plans to get the office that she knows firsthand where it needs to be. All Ms. McTigue has is pie-in-the-sky ideas about an office she has no idea how to run.
I know the Chronicle looks at Williamson County as an inbred cousin, but let's get real we're not all right-wing nuts, and we know that to run an office of prosecutors you need someone who has at least some experience with the criminal justice system outside of law school. Ms. McTigue has none, and if you think that makes no difference in an endorsement, then the Chronicle is as hollow as the right wingers here proclaim it to be.
Wants to Vote on Rail but Couldn't
I voted early yesterday. After I had finished and reached the bottom of the ballot I was surprised that there was nothing about the commuter rail. I asked one of the election workers where I was supposed to cast my vote for or against the commuter rail, and I was told that I did not get a vote because it did not concern me. I happen to live in Leander. The tracks that the commuter line will run on are about four blocks from my house. I commute 30 minutes every morning and afternoon, Monday through Friday, to get to work in Austin. I am one of the people who would ride the commuter rail. If it doesn't concern me, just who the hell does it concern? People in South Austin will get to vote on this, although they will never need to ride it. How come my opinion isn't considered relevant since I will be one of those who will utilize the rail? I have to say that I was extremely ticked off yesterday. I would still like to cast a vote for the referendum, but I guess that people directly involved don't get a say. Way to go in a "democratic country."
On Oct. 27, eclipse of a near full moon, I'm convinced John Kerry will be president-elect as of Nov. 2! On Oct. 26, it was pointed out on Austin Public Access TV (from a July 2004 rerun) that John Edwards was chosen as Kerry's running mate at the summer meeting of the Bilderberg Group. This bodes badly for Bush. Bush being replaced by those who run this dysfunctional world raises the question "why?" Maybe because, although the Bushies enthusiastically carried out BG's evil orders (invaded Iraq, advanced the international police state, etc), they did so incompetently and stupidly. The masters of war are chagrined and mortified by their moronic puppet.
Another terrorist incident, regrettably, may be in our near future. Americans should not, however, relinquish one phrase of one sentence of the Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments to the U.S. Constitution (unless the unethical income tax is repealed!), which is the highest and truest set of standards ever set by a new nation for itself.
Outlaw the PATRIOT Act now! Hold Kerry's feet to the fire!
Kenney C. Kennedy
Human Machine Interface Is the Problem
It's not the machine [eSlate] ... it's not the human ... it's the human machine interface usability that is completely flawed. These guys need help; sadly it is probably too late for anything but some quick fixes for this election.
Make an Informed Decision
I am not a Republican. I am not a Democrat. I am an American. I look around and see political slant on the left and the right. I know the function of the "news" is to inform people of facts, but all too often all I see is rhetoric. I disagree with this president on too many issues to list, but I also disagree with someone running against him saying anything to win the presidency. I agree with someone's right to disagree with me; in fact I encourage it ... all I ask though is research the facts and not argue the rhetoric. If you are just listening to one side of an issue right or left you become one of the millions of thoughtless sheep that perpetuate our society. To vote is a right. To make an informed vote is a responsibility, and the gathering of the truth and facts are not necessarily an easy task. All I ask of your readers is to ignore rhetoric, find the facts, and make an informed decision.