Our readers talk back.
Children Left Behind
As an attorney and the editor of a national journal on No Child Left Behind, I wanted to alert you to an error in the Nov. 26 article by Rachel Proctor May ["Will AISD Crack Down on Special Ed?," News]. Ms. May reports, "Adding an extra layer of concern is the fact that the federal No Child Left Behind Act allows only 1% of a school's students to be tested below grade level, no matter how many special-ed students the school has." Actually, the 1% limitation applies at the district and state levels not at the school level. The U.S. Department of Education specifically recognized that schools often have special programs that would cause them to break through the 1% ceiling. And even at the district and state levels, administrators can apply for a waiver to deal with specific circumstances. (For more, please see Vol. 68, No. 236 of the Federal Register, Dec. 9, 2003, p. 68,699-68,700.)
That's not to say that complying with the 1% limit is easy, especially since the Education Department isn't being generous with waivers. A big concern is the number of so-called "gap kids" kids who aren't so cognitively disabled that they qualify for out-of-level assessments, but who nevertheless don't have much hope of meeting grade-level standards. No one's sure how many of these students are out there. And disabilities organizations are split on what to do. For every advocate who thinks that it's regressive to suggest that "gap kids" can't meet ordinary standards, there's another who argues with equal passion that it's cruel to consign students to repeated failure. Because of this split, I'm not holding out much hope that this issue will get resolved anytime soon.
Overall, an excellent article.
Christian P. Johnson, editor
No Child Left Behind Compliance Insider
New York, N.Y.
Bus Service Needed
Austinites may debate the effectiveness of Capital Metro, but one service is universally popular: fast, convenient service between ABIA and downtown.
I have been working to add a large downtown hotel map for the airport bus stop. This additional improvement would help everyone. Especially those on a limited budget and during events like SXSW.
The map is not installed yet, and there is bad news. The airport wants to move its bus stop to an isolated end of the terminal. This will remove its visibility from baggage claim and diminish its effectiveness. The goal is for more people to drive cars and use the airport parking lots (generating more revenue).
The route can easily take 200 cars off the road daily. More would be added by keeping a prime location and posting a proper map. Moving the bus sends the wrong message from city bureaucrats claiming to encourage mass transportation.
For the second year in a row, Stephen Moser has snubbed one of the most important fashion/DIY shows in Austin the Stitch Fashion Show and Craft Bizarre. This year's show (at Emo's, Nov. 14) featured 20-plus local clothing and accessory designers on the runway and had more than 60 designers and crafters set up with merchandise booths, displaying and selling their diverse goods. Not just a good time, which it very much was, the show and craft fair were meant to showcase local talent. And the proceeds went to charity! It is a shame he would miss the opportunity to witness and write about such an event. If Stephen Moser really is going to cover the local fashion scene, perhaps he could do a little less useless name-dropping and get out and actually see what is going on. Almost 1,000 people attended this event, if that means anything in terms of popularity (which I imagine speaks to Mr. Moser's criteria of cool), and I certainly suggest he get in touch with someone who was there to find out what he missed. While out gallivanting in Houston, he missed a chance to write about a revolution in his own back yard. A shame really.
[Stephen Moser replies: I apologize for not being able to meet Stitch's expectations of what my column should be about.]
Name Left Out
Dear editor of the Chronicle,
I am glad to contact you regarding the article entitled "Food-o-File" published on Nov. 19 in the Food section and written by Virginia B. Wood. I was one of the participants in the annual Outdoor Paella Cook-Off held in Ms. Kelty Christman's back yard. I was basically the master chef cooking the paella with D. Wizelman and A. Aoki which won runner-up in the People's Choice category. I have had no chance to contact Virginia B. Wood from the Chronicle to find out what went wrong. Two days ago I was asked by Ms. Christman for my last name to be included in the article. So, I was kind of surprised and disappointed when I found out that my name was not published in the article. I am sure it was just a mistake, and I hope you can do something about it.
Karina B. Falbo
[Virginia B. Wood replies: Because the party was on a Saturday night after my regular column deadline, the piece got put together in a hurry on Monday morning before the last possible deadline. Many of the names (with multiple different spellings) dribbled in over a period of days, and I didn't get Karina's name until after the piece had gone to press. It was an accident that I certainly regret and will correct in this week's "Food-o-File."]
Reality Check: 'Chronicle' Perfidy
Michael Ventura asks ["Letters @ 3am," Nov. 26]: "Do we just write off nearly 3 million Texans? Do we just forget nearly half a million Mississippians?"
Yes and yes. Just keep on ignoring the elephant in the living room. Rally the weak-kneed, spineless liberal masses with pep talks! Screw the numbers (like fundamentalist evangelicals make up 40% of the electorate) and dig the rhetoric that pre-emptive compromise is "inclusive." Progressive thinkers should believe in a restrictively bipartisan pseudo-democratic process created to appease slaveholding aristocrats under the misleading banner of "states' rights." Progressives should adopt the faith-based "logic" of theocrats who will lead us to the New World Order Rapture!
Giving further weight to my answers to your questions, check the fact-based journalism of this fine publication, wherein my last comment on your rancorous political ramblings clearly showed that "Ventura, I'm Better Educated and Informed Than You, So Why Aren't You Listening to Me!" ["Postmarks Online," Oct. 11]. Evidently, the heading writer doesn't know the correct punctuation with which to end a sentence. Apparently, the important thing is to mock loyal readers who challenge the gospel of Chronicle columnists. And this journalist did it well fallaciously, but well. Given equal access, I'm sure I could rip him a new one, too. Perfidiously, the "Postmarks" editor even denied my request for the print edition!
Well, we certainly don't want to shed light on the processes and voting methods that make a mockery of our so-called democracy, do we? There is no elephant in the living room. Rah! Rah! Nader equals Bush (perfidy!). Not Democrat equals bad (probably evil, but maybe just stupid). Go, Dem team, go! Wave really, really big pom-poms next time!
Anyway, thanks for asking, rhetorically or not. If you ever get around to a reality checkup, you might note that the electoral process itself answers your questions. Republicans know that.
Protest LCRA's New Pipeline
The Lower Colorado River Authority is poised to approve a huge water pipeline that will provide vastly more water for the Hamilton Pool Road region than would be allowed by SOS standards, the working model for regional development of environmentally sensitive land in Central Texas. A regional planning process, funded by LCRA itself along with other stakeholders, has been meeting for more than a year to come to consensus about how this part of Central Texas can be developed without destroying the aquifer that feeds our earth and the communities that are gathered here. This process will have completed its recommendations in six months. To end-run this process is tantamount to giving a huge grant to a few landowners and corporations who want to slip their deals in before regulations are put in place. LCRA doesn't have to make a decision on Dec. 7. They can choose to abide by the counsel of the regional plan, a project they in part initiated.
To make this point I recommend that everyone who reads this show up to protest the LCRA plan to approve a new water pipeline without giving regional planning groups time to get their recommendations finalized! Bring your friends and family: Thursday, Dec. 2, at 5pm on Lake Austin Boulevard in front of LCRA offices (where City Council meets), 3700 Lake Austin Blvd.
You Gotta Have Art
How fortunate we are in Austin to have a writer and illustrator who can capture the essence of a critical situation so clearly as does Robert Faires in "No Art Left Behind" [Arts, Nov. 26]. Thank you for discussing the urgency for everyone to lobby the Lege and contact our colleagues in favor of keeping the arts a vital part of the Texas curriculum in public schools and in supporting the current textbook adoption for music and visual-art textbook materials. Faires points out that by logging onto www.goarts.org we can build a collective voice to affect critical decisions currently on the table at the state level. You gotta have art!
Robyn Montana Turner
It's About Music
Thank you so very much for taking the time to really listen and review Mina Mauldin's debut, Superpsychoticqueen (WGP Records) ["Texas Platters," Music, Nov. 19]. And though I truly believe and adhere to your belief that "music is about substance, not skin," it is unfortunate that the industry thinks otherwise. It's about looks, visibility, and numbers, and I sure wish more people thought like you. If Usher takes off his shirt one more time ...
Lonnie Trevino Jr.
Leaving the Country Is Patriotic
(Re: "Sunshine (Ex)-Patriots No Loss," by Sean Wardwell ["Postmarks," Nov. 26].) Sean Wardwell's outrage over my exercising the option of expatriation grows out of his captivity in the conceptual box called patriotism, a euphemistic term for nationalism. This supposed virtue cost the world 100 million premature deaths in the 20th century, mostly citizens of the Soviet Union. If nationalism prevails, that figure will likely be dwarfed in the 21st. Polls consistently show that most of the world's citizens do not find it very difficult to discern whose nationalistic ambitions are most threatening at this point. Ironic that Sean quotes Tom Paine, who was born and lived to adulthood in Britain and returned there shortly after the Revolution. Paine would never have returned to the U.S. except that his brilliantly seditious writings caused him to be chased from both Britain and France. Bounced from French prison by Monroe, he died in New York, an exile in obscurity, condemned for his alleged excessive radicalism. American history is like that the sanitized version and what really happened. As for cowardice, Sean, I've got a thousand that says my FBI file is bigger than yours.
In comparing the staying power of U2 versus other veteran bands ["Into the Heart," Music, Nov. 26], Christopher Gray widely missed the mark with one band on his MIA list: the Kinks. While he's right that the Sex Pistols, Led Zeppelin, and possibly even the Clash (who disbanded three years after U2 was formed) "were long gone" by the time U2 was on the rise, it should be noted that the Kinks were together continuously from 1964 to 1996. (If my math is correct, that's at least seven years longer than U2 has been around!) Furthermore, when U2 was still teething back in the early 1980s, the Kinks were filling large arenas and had two of their biggest hits in "Come Dancing" and "Destroyer." Don't misunderstand me I agree that U2 is a very vital and important band (just ask Bono!) but they are not the only ones whose music has lasting value. In fact, while they have many fine songs in their repertoire, should U2 ever craft something as intensely and hauntingly beautiful as "Waterloo Sunset" or as genre-defining as "You Really Got Me," then I really will sit up and take proper notice, longevity notwithstanding.
Does 1930s Germany = USA?
Although I sympathize with Sean Wardwell's distaste for the disappointed Kerry voters ruminating about becoming expats ["Postmarks," Nov. 26], I would ask him if Albert Einstein and others who left Germany in the 1930s were lacking courage and patriotic fervor. The big question will be, if the U.S. continues on its present path, will the U.S. be reformable from within or will outside forces compel the U.S to change? The German people embraced a tolerant liberal democracy after it was imposed from outside. Would Germany have developed such a government on its own, through its own political processes, had it won World War II? Whether the U.S. is in a similar position today is the big question that one must ask before deciding to leave this country. No empire has ever lasted forever. The present U.S. empire will be no different. What we don't know is how and when the empire will fall.
I hate to disappoint the gentleman that wrote the recent letter about the Republicans being adult enough to impeach Clinton ["Postmarks Online," Nov. 22]. You had a conservative Congress out on a witch hunt to hang the president instead of doing the jobs that we elected them to do. Who was doing Dick Armey's (and the rest of those guys') work while they were spending day and night pursuing the president? This is not an adult act. It's called a mean agenda perpetrated by the party that happens to be in power in Congress. If the Democrats had the majority right now, believe me, impeachment proceedings would have already begun against Bush for the Iraq debacle and wild-goose chase for WMD he and his guys knew were probably not there. This is also an agenda, especially since three independent weapons-inspection panels have come to the same conclusion. There were none and have not been any since 1991. They could even be facing war-crimes hearings. Clinton was impeached and he lied. Bush lied and people are dying by the thousands. Also another minor fact that this gentleman got wrong is this: In 1992 Clinton received 43% of the vote, Bush 37.7%, and Perot 19%. In 1996 Clinton 50%, Dole 42%, and Perot 8%. In 2000 Gore won the popular vote. His statements are misleading about Clinton's popular percent of the vote because he virtually stomped the Republican candidates and they were the only real competition. Until this year the Republicans have not won the popular vote since 1988. That's 16 years ago. I guess that it was about time for the American voter to go brain-dead again, and we did it this year.
Doing Evil in Our Names
Dear Mr. Black,
OK, I admit that you and Mr. Ventura have the right idea. We have to talk calmly and persuasively with all the Bush voters to try to educate them and wean them away from politics as a "school spirit," my-team-vs.-your-theme type activity. A few of them may even be capable of reasoned enlightenment, maybe even critical analysis in rare cases. But I still can't get over a visceral reaction of rage at the "W 04" bumper stickers. The moment W. signed Gonzales' finding depriving prisoners of their rights under the Geneva Convention, he was confirmed as a war criminal. If he knowingly sent our brave troops to Iraq under false pretenses, he is a murderer. And 94 million votes for Bush constitutes 94 million accessories to his crimes. Four more years is way too long for these people to be doing evil in my and your names.
John M. Williams
Sharing a Sermon
I liked Michael Ventura's Nov. 12 piece ["Letters @ 3am"]; think he/you would like the sermon I delivered on Nov. 7 titled "Living Under Fascism." Can't attach it here, but it's available on our church Web site: www.austinuu.org.
The Rev. Davidson Loehr
First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin
Labels Control Mainstream Music
OK, I'm sure almost everyone knows about the lawsuits with the RIAA and stuff. What people don't know is that the lawsuits destroy the family; most of the people who download are minors, and their parents don't even know. These people that download are known by the major labels as pirates. The record companies tell us that music pirates are stealing songs online, but that version of the story ignores reality and blindly parrots Hollywood spin. The reality: When you pay $16 for a CD, the musician gets about $1 if they're lucky. Many major-label artists get nothing at all. So it's like you working hard for months on end and then you get what? Nothing at all, plus what you do get you share with the other people in the band.
The major labels have been scamming musicians for decades, so their claim that file-sharing hurts artists rings hollow. These companies' real worry is that the Internet makes them unnecessary.
The "Big 5" major labels pay radio stations to play their songs (and only their songs). Payola, once a scandal, is now standard practice, and the Big 5 use their control of radio playlists to force terrible contracts on musicians.
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Beware Low-Water Crossings
Every time it rains a few inches, some misguided moron tries to drive through a low-water crossing. Sometimes they make it. When they don't, the lucky ones are rescued, which risks the lives of EMS and water-rescue personnel. The unlucky ones get swept away and drown.
How long is it going to take the people responsible for all the low-water crossings in this area to realize that roads that were adequate for horses and Model T Fords are not acceptable for motorists in the 21st century?
Visitors are always amused at the sight of high-water "rulers" at low-water crossings. They are also dumbfounded by my lack of a reasonable explanation as to why there aren't bridges. Maybe it is to keep people from moving to areas that are routinely cut off from the rest of the world (kind of like not building roads to discourage development). If that's the reason, it's not working.
This situation is similar to the dangerous intersection that finally gets traffic lights after numerous fatalities. How many more people will be swept away before bridges replace these "quaint" 19th-century low-water crossings?
Abstinence Doesn't Work
This summer I became involved with several groups that formed to combat the Texas Board of Education and their premise of inserting into Texas school textbooks the idea that abstinence is the best form of birth control. My point is that it has never worked in the past and will not succeed in the future. On Sunday, Nov. 28, the Dallas Morning News ran a front-page story about a pregnant teenage mother of four and how mismanaged her life is. If only the DMN were required reading by the State Board of Education! Try to have a good day.
I made an attempt to tackle the behemoth of spin-tainted rhetoric that is Richard Stovall's letter (enough Crossfire, Rich) ["Postmarks," Nov. 19]. Alas, there aren't enough reams of paper in existence to address the contradictions in his little screed. Stovall seems to feel exalted in his labyrinthine hypocrisy! Here's the deal: I want an open letter from Austin Republicans containing a list of all the Democratic politicians (read: not movie makers, comedians, or pundits, etc.) who have made degrading remarks about Christians. If Stovall feels so righteous in his post-election glory (even though his guy lost) then it must be because Kerry made some kind of scathing anti-Christian remark. What's that you're all shouting? Oh he didn't? Then what does Stovall mean? Where are the manifestations of the degradation of Christians anyway? I see a Christian slant in teaching evolution and creation in public schools, gay relationships deemed illegitimate due to religious institutions, Bush cutting off funding to foreign clinics which provide birth control, and Ashcroft covering up works of art that display breasts (gasp!) and might offend the delicate sensibilities of his Bible brethren. So, if I don't weep for the Christians in this country, perhaps you'll do as your god would dictate and forgive me. Don't believe the Republican propaganda machine. Bush and Rove energized their base and we didn't, period. It's time to ante up, friends. Don't think for one moment that you're going to win the next election by metamorphosing into a diluted version of Republicans. Let's pause and remember our roots and see how they can be instrumental in political strategy. Let's be Democrats again! Don't fret, we're in a unique position to take, not only the high road, but also that which will lead us toward the finish line with resolve and integrity.
Open eyes beget open minds beget open hearts,
Teighlor Malina Darr
Bush Is His Own Worst Enemy
Disregard the fact that there seems to have been massive election fraud going on to get George Jr. "re-elected" (that should be a joke to everyone). What's important to note is why people voted for Bush.
I had been traveling just weeks before the election and have been talking with people in three states (Calif., Wash., and Texas). It seems to me that the reason many people were voting for Bush was not because they liked him. I heard reasons such as, "Well, he got us into this mess. He's the only one who can get us out." Or, "Let's wait and see if the economy turns around; otherwise I'll lose faith." The truth is that in my estimation, at least 10% of the public that voted for him are holding his feet to the fire to see if he does anything productive.
He is arguably the most hated man on the planet at this moment in time. The majority of the Muslims despise him for his role in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Democrats (the majority of the registered U.S. voting population) are repulsed by him. The Libertarians hate him as a whole due to his support of the PATRIOT Act, and their numbers are growing rapidly. In fact, many more people are waking up to the fact that this current administration was probably instrumental in allowing 9/11 to take place as a justification to invade Iraq (remember this was planned before 9/11, according to W.'s own staff).
I believe all George Bush has to do is to act as he regularly does to be his own worst enemy. He will bring down the Republican Party by getting caught in his lies, push the moderate Republicans from their comfort zone way to the right. And he will have no one to blame, since both houses of Congress are loaded in his favor. He will either alienate the Christian right or people will wake up to how evil they can be by the administration promoting their draconian agenda.
So don't worry about W. He's going to bring himself and the Republicans down.
Kill or Be Killed
The Marine in Iraq that killed the "wounded insurgent" or enemy a few weeks ago did exactly what he was trained to do. As far as I can find out he did not violate any code of ethics or rules of war. The enemy was not trying to surrender, so the Marine's actions were correct. I can relate to what he did because I spent a year in Korea in 1951 and was wounded two times on the battlefield. My friend would probably be alive today if he had not waited too long to act. He was killed by a North Korean civilian woman when she infiltrated our observation post.
I think what has to be done is to eliminate the video cameras on the battlefield, because they don't tell the complete story. Let our military heroes fight the war the best way they know how. You have got to kill the enemy before they kill you!
Gary A. Schutza