Our readers talk back.

How Dumb Is the 'Chronicle'?

Dear Editor,

How dumb can the Chronicle get? So, the Chronicle is now advocating ongoing tolls throughout Central Texas? Guess you guys are closer to special interests than you let on.

To permit toll roads is to agree to an ongoing quadruple tax for Texas residents. First you pay the tolls, then you're paying a double-tax because some of the roads have already been paid for with other taxes (gasoline), then you pay more school tax so school buses can use toll roads, then you will pay another toll tax at the cash register because goods-and-services businesses will pass along their toll costs to consumers. How dumb can you guys get?

Ronald Rico


[News Editor Michael King responds: The writer's specific reference is unclear, but for the record, the Chronicle has never "advocated" additional toll roads in Central Texas. Several of our writers have simply pointed out that if these roads are to be built – and maintained – they will have to be paid for, and current state funds are not adequate to those tasks. What the toll controversy has done is simply make visible longtime state subsidies to the real estate industry and regional sprawl now financially unsustainable in a political environment of "no new taxes." If there are any "special interests" involved, they are those who wish to continue massive state welfare, in the form of "free" highway and infrastructure, to developers and their residential beneficiaries, while shoving the expense upon the general public.]

Thank You, Michael Ventura

Dear Editor,

One of the main reasons I turn to the Chronicle, either online or in print, each week is to read "Letters @ 3AM" by Michael Ventura. So much of his writing resonates with me, whether I agree with him or not. I don't know whether he would call himself a Christian or not, but he wrote an article on Jesus quite a while ago that I have never forgotten ["Letters @ 3AM," Dec. 25, 1998]. Thank you for your writings – for your voice and your way with words.


Lori Fast

Increasingly Desperate

Dear Editor,

I want to thank you and writer Jordan Smith for another courageous, well-researched, and most enlightening story, this one on medical marijuana ["The Supremes Take a Hit," News, Dec. 10].

I have MS, intractable pain from a life-changing spinal injury, and unfortunately a true allergy to narcotic analgesics. With intense pain radiating down both legs, agonizing muscle spasms, and nerve pain from the MS, I typically sleep a very interrupted two-to-three hours a night, but I still have to work or lose coverage for the $1,800 MS medicine I need monthly. I work hard in physical therapy and have endured 12 epidural cortisone injections (so far) for my spinal problems, but there's no way to fix me, so this is it.

As a (native) Texan I'm a medical marijuana patient "wannabe," who finds, after 54 years, that she's been living in the wrong state. (Maybe the wrong country, especially since the last election.) Doctors agree I'd likely benefit from cannabis, but they'd lose their licenses if they even suggest it in Texas.

Obviously many people have much worse problems than mine; I'm always grateful that I'm not homeless or starving, and nobody's shooting at me. But it really pisses me off that I have more pain and disability because I'm a Texan, and because of an unconstitutional, politically motivated prohibition that helps virtually no one and literally hurts millions of us. Financial limitations and the inevitability of further medical deterioration preclude relocating to a medical-marijuana state, much less to Canada, because I'd be leaving my family, friends, doctors, and insurance coverage behind. Plus, as your article pointed out, the feds could still bust me in a medical marijuana state anyway.

Something needs to change, and I thank you again for your help in that direction.

Appreciatively, and increasingly desperately,

Cathey Thomas

Population Not Served by Radio

Hi, Jordan Smith,

I read your article "My Satellite Radio Jones" [News, Dec. 17] with great interest. Like you, I am convinced that there is a tremendous segment of the population that is not being serviced by today's radio choices.

You may be interested to hear a preview of a format/show I've developed that actually targets three generations. Is that possible in this day and age? Listen for yourself at We are lining up stations for syndication in 2005.

Thanks for your refreshing perspective!


Sonny Melendrez

San Antonio

Place 1 Field


"Naked City" [News, Dec. 17] states that Mr. Lee Leffingwell, candidate for City Council Place 1, "has done a good job clearing the field in Place 1." Had I known this sooner, I would have prepared a concession speech! I'm sure Lee has City Council potential, but his field-clearing leaves much to be desired.

My political machine consists of a clipboard, petition papers, and a pen. Rather than purchase my place on the ballot for $500, I chose the alternative of collecting 294 signatures to get on the ballot.

I'm mainly running for City Council Place 1 to offer voters another option. I have made the choice to initiate active participation in government as opposed to lethargic complaint.

Please allow me to state my case in the months prior to the election, probably at a slower pace than special interests and consultants would suggest.


James M. Paine

Candidate for City Council Place 1

Against Toll Roads

Dear Editor,

I'm adamantly against turning South Austin roads that have already been paid for into toll roads to line the pockets of Rick Perry and his buddies. If South MoPac and Loop 360 are turned into toll roads, I estimate it will cost me $60 a month in tolls to commute to work. This will be a reduction in my monthly income, and it will slow down traffic on the already extremely crowded roads. I will not re-elect anyone who voted for toll roads. It's a stupid idea that does not solve the real issue of traffic congestion.


Diane Pedersen

Also Against Toll Roads

Dear Editor,

It's amazing that anyone in Central Texas would negate the efforts of Sal Costello and the Austin Toll Party ["CAMPO Gets Toll Road Weary," News, Dec. 17]. It's a shame that CAMPO committee members appear bored with those against toll roads; however, the majority of Texans don't want tolls. It's a fact that toll roads are not cost-effective, and there are a myriad of reasons for Central Texans to raise a stink until CAMPO, TxDOT, the governor, and other officials finally hear the clamor and eliminate the plans for toll roads. There has been no study that proves toll roads are the best and only option to raise revenue to build and maintain Texas roads. Instead of negating Sal Costello's efforts against toll roads, the Chronicle should be supporting and praising his efforts. If toll roads do become part of our lives, our children's children will continue to bear the financial brunt of ongoing special-interest politics.

Lance Schroeder

Dripping Springs

Ventura a Treasure

Dear Editor,

Michael Ventura, you are a treasure. Your homage to your brother moved me more than I can say ["Letters @ 3am," Dec. 10]. In three days, my own brother Mike will have been gone for 17 years. I still talk to him and expect I always will. Where would I be without him?

I wish you well.

Cindy Ossias

San Francisco, Calif.

Better Than the Rest of Us

Dear Editor,

Your anti-populist, anti-independent bias is showing again. In Michael King's "The DA Makes a Deal" ["Capitol Chronicle," News, Dec. 17], on the indictments of corporations related to their campaign contributions to DeLay's TRMPAC, he cites that "half of the population," presumably Democrats, were disenfranchised by the Republican's campaign contribution practices. In the same issue, Chronicle writer Kimberly Reeves shakes a finger at the "50 speakers" who neglected to "thank" CAMPO for holding a hearing on the possibility of removing one of the tolls from the seven, eventually 11, toll road plan ["CAMPO Gets Toll Road Weary," News, Dec. 10].

King seems to do his homework, so I figure he's probably heard about the CNN/Gallup Poll (October 2002!), and many others since, showing that a plurality of voters, 35%, do not identify with any party. Nonaligned independent voters could provide the means by which real reform could take place – if elected officials of either party decided to build a sincere reform alliance with us.

The Chronicle continues to express contempt for ordinary people speaking out in their own interests. In the case of the toll roads, actually quite a few speakers thanked CAMPO, but stated that removing just one of the tolls was not enough. If these same folks had thanked CAMPO and not spoken out on behalf of the other communities affected by the tolls, I guarantee Reeves would have charged them with "NIMBYism" and as "typical" suburbanites who don't give a rat's butt for anyone else.

Linda Curtis

Independent Texans

ps I'm leading the recall petition drive for the Austin Toll Party. We have 180 days to file our petitions – sometime in February.

Don't Make Excuses


Gotta tell ya that while your continued postelection sackcloth-and-ashes routine may appeal to the downtown/78704 crowd, to others living farther out it's rather unbecoming in an adult-publications honcho. Plowing through the verbose, convoluted style of your self-questioning epistles is for this curmudgeon as laborious as reading a political science textbook, and that's the point at which I run the BS flag up the pole. In this retired tech writer's opinion your introspectives could use a large dose of editing for conciseness and readability; I'm fairly sure you're not paid by the word. Does the Chronicle staff do peer reviews? Maybe they should!

As far as the useless spinning of liberal axles down at the Chron, you might consider the words of my high school football coach, a Penn State All-American: "Don't make excuses; make good!" I don't think you saw Republicans going through embarrassing histrionics throughout the five decades that the Democratic Party held sway in the U.S. Time to stand up and face reality like a man.

Phil Brandt

Major USAF (retired)

Are They Above the Law?

Dear Editor,

Being a motorcycle rider, I'd like to state what's on my mind.

It is sad that two Austin police officers have lost their lives ["Many Unanswered Questions in Officers' Deaths," News, Dec. 17]. It is always a tragedy when someone meets an untimely death on a motorcycle. However, when one chooses to ride a motorcycle they should know that there are many risks involved. Knowing the risks, to ride a motorcycle under the influence of alcohol is absurd. Even more ridiculous is the fact that a retired policeman, who was well aware of our laws, was operating a motorcycle while inebriated.

To try and suggest that Cedars Bar and Grill is responsible for the deaths is a travesty. Yes, the bartender who was [allegedly] intoxicated while serving drinks deserved to be arrested – she was breaking the law. However, as the final stop on the officers' ride, it is inconceivable to believe that the riders did not drink along the way.

It's possible that the officer who was killed did not drink until he reached Cedars Bar. If that is true, it is also true that he chose to drink, become intoxicated, and ride his motorcycle home. By doing so, he put others in jeopardy that were on the road that day. Remember, this was a police officer, one chosen to uphold the law.

Motorcycle riders deal with disrespect from drivers on a daily basis. Many feel that we don't have equal rights on the road. Unfortunately, bikers have a "bad reputation" to live down. The good news is that most of us ride safely, obeying the law and respecting the right to ride.

I feel compassion for the families and friends of the deceased. However, I also feel anger toward any police officers drinking that day. Are they all above the law?

Marie Sattler

Marijuana Is an Herb

Dear Editor,

Your article stated, "Marijuana is an illegal drug, listed as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning it has ... no 'medically acceptable' use" ["The Supremes Take a Hit," News, Dec. 10]. Marijuana is no more a drug than any other medicinal herb. If the classification were changed, perception and laws might follow.


Caren Floyd

Fearing the Other Guard

Dear Editor,

Isn't it amazing, that after only a single generation, the Old Guard has gone from fearing radical youth to fearing the radical Other Guard?

Stanley Gilbert

Todd Smiley, Gifted

Dear Editor,

I used Todd Smiley as an actor in one of my short stories. Not only is he an amazing gaffer – he is also a very talented actor. My short is called "The Shovel," and he did a great job. You couldn't have done a story on a more appropriate gaffer or actor than Todd Smiley ["The Lighter Side," Screens, Feb. 27].


Kerry Wallum

Sorry, No 'Chronicle'

Dear Editor,

Does The Austin Chronicle have a welcoming package, which includes a "Best of Austin" guide, for new Austinites? I became an official resident Friday, Dec. 17. If you could mail me literature, I would like that.

Thank you kindly,

Virginia Corpus

[Editor's note: For an online archive of "Best of Austin" winners, see .]

America a 'Salad Bowl'

Dear Editor,

Although I remain optimistic that we will one day resemble a melting pot, current conditions reveal the difficulty America has in blending multiple cultures like the metaphor suggests. At present America may be best described as a salad bowl, where each ingredient, or culture, maintains its original shape even as they are mixed together.

One of the newest examples of our salad bowl culture is the megabar. Built like big-box stores in suburbs across the country, megabars boast six or more thematic rooms under one roof. For a single cover charge patrons can venture into the honky-tonk, rave, retro lounge, hip-hop club, karaoke bar, live music venue, or Top 40s dance hall.

For anyone who favors the organic growth of bar districts in urban enclaves, megabars are merely an extension of shopping-mall capitalism, homogenizing and packaging consumption in a conspicuous and digressive fashion. However, critics could also view this phenomenon as a positive cultural transformation.

Demographics that find suburban settings comfortable alternatives to urban areas would likely find megabars viable options for their weekend entertainment. Surrounded by other cultures due to the various venues, megabar patrons would be forced to mix with individuals they would otherwise avoid.

Optimally, megabars could be the cultural melting pot suburban America needs in order to remove the cultural isolation, misunderstanding, and bigotry that prevents us from being a truly multicultural society. Of course, this is the optimal scenario. If nothing else, megabars will act like a nice raspberry and walnut vinaigrette, accentuating our salad bowl culture without completely blending its various ingredients.

You don't like vinaigrettes? Fine. Blue cheese. Megabars are blue cheese.

Rad Tollett

Social Security 'Reform' or 'Scam'?


It's completely transparent, yet you can see it coming from a mile away. The sales job is already starting for President-elect Bush's next big rip-off.

Right now, more than 99% of Social Security's revenues go toward benefits, and less than 1% for overhead.

So when you hear Bush's Social Security "reform" salesmen begin their pitch, listen closely to the "management fees" they're asking for their friends to be paid. If they add up to 1% or less, you'll know the whole world was wrong about Bush being a liar and a thief.

Like that's gonna happen.

Andy Mitchell

Fascists Will Fail

Dear Editor,

I am sure everyone has enjoyed these last beautiful days of fall in Austin. It's as if Mother Nature is comforting us in our grief over her continued rape by the psychotic corporations.

I would like to share 12 simple syllables that I know will make a difference in this world: Fascist will fail. Nazi shall not see victory.

These two phrases are one of my mantras. They are fun to say! Please join me in vocalizing them a few times every day.

Your mind is very powerful. Suffice it to say we understand very little of its capacity. The primary horror of Madison Avenue is that you will realize how beautiful and strong you are, and what little need you have for most of what it has to sell.

Walk or bike when possible. Sing. Laugh. Enjoy! Deny any programs which pop up in your head from time to time or assault you via media that you are not good enough.


Kenney C. Kennedy

The Election Contested

To the editor,

Courageous advocates of democracy are demanding recounts in Ohio and other states; yet the media trivialize them by using anonymous labels such as "coalitions of disgruntled voters" and "third-party candidates." These individuals and groups deserve to be named.

Citizens concerned about the integrity of our elections include 2004 Green and Libertarian presidential candidates David Cobb and Michael Badnarik, who have filed for recounts in Nevada, New Mexico, and Ohio due to massive voting irregularities and outrageous statistical anomalies there. Concerned community members also include the Alliance for Democracy, Citizens Alliance for Secure Elections-Ohio, Common Cause, Ohio Honest Elections Campaign, and the Ohio Democratic Party, who have joined the Ohio fight. They include the Rev. Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, who are filing an election challenge asking that the results in Ohio be overturned because as Jackson asserts, "the fix was in."

Also among these little-known champions of the average American voter is 52-year-old Bev Harris. Her nonpartisan consumer protection group for elections, Black Box Voting, has launched the largest Freedom of Information Act request in history and is busy conducting forensic fraud investigations in five battleground states. And let's not forget the League of Women Voters, who have expressed concern about widespread voter suppression and disenfranchisement in the 2004 election. They are demanding a full investigation through open and public processes. These are the voices fighting to uphold our democracy. Name them.


Jennifer Pyne

San Antonio

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