Our readers talk back.
This whole cultural debate troubles me. I could not disagree more with James McWilliams' letter about alternative styles and irony ["Postmarks," Jan. 7]. I'm about as Democratic as you can get, and I don't appreciate irony very much. I could never watch Seinfeld for more than five minutes the characters were despicably immoral, not because of any individual wrong act but precisely because they had traded hope for irony. When I saw Asleep at the Wheel at the Broken Spoke two weeks ago, the irony in their very skillful renditions of country music was jarring. Embracing irony as a lifestyle is perceived as moral weakness, and correctly so.
Our Republican opponents at the top, not most ordinary people who vote Republican, are accomplished liars and thieves. They present a consistent and believable, but false, image of benevolent, protective power that feels good, especially since the image is candy-wrapped with no sacrifice needed. They succeed because they believe their own lies. They have won the war for American hearts and minds.
Until we Democrats believe in and present a truthful, consistent, and sincere image of benevolent power that appeals to the mainstream of American life, we will continue to lose. We need not expel our colorful alternative types to do it. But do it we must.
Defining and Justifying Values
Finally, a lefty admits what animates them: Christianity. Jim Hightower's attempt to out-Christian Dubya in your Christmas Eve issue is revealing ["The Hightower Report," Dec. 24]. He complains that Dubya and the Dems are not Christian enough.
No doubt he would object to any Christians "imposing" their values on others. But he has no such compunction.
And while Christians, at least, make an attempt to ground their beliefs in some sort of metaphysical justification, lefties just "feel" that compassion, benevolence, brotherly love, etc. are the "right" things to do. The political left has been espousing Christianity in secular clothing forever.
Perhaps a little soul searching by the left is in order. They could start by defining and justifying their nebulous core values we keep hearing about: "economic justice," blah, blah, blah. It would be enlightening for all of us.
Robert J. Mott Jr.
[Jim Hightower responds: Is this guy accusing me of favoring economic justice? Well, gosh guilty! As far as defining the term, that's what American history has been doing from the founders forward through the abolitionists, suffragists, populists, labor movement, civil rights movement, women's movement, et al. The pursuit of economic and social justice is as American as the Boston Tea Party. We can explain it again to Mr. Mott, but we cannot comprehend it for him. For his own enlightenment, he has to do some of the heavy lifting himself.]
CSC Anchors Downtown
To Jim Hightower and the Chronicle,
"The Hightower Report" in the Chronicle's Dec. 17 issue plugged AMIBA's Indie Challenge, which aims to encourage locally owned independent businesses. Mr. Hightower decried the steady erosion of homegrown businesses by impersonal corporate giants, exemplified by CSC Corporation (sic), the "cold, six-story building housing a high tech military contractor that has no roots in Austin, is not in character with our city, and offers nothing to our way of life" that displaced Liberty Lunch. In fact, the downtown buildings house the global headquarters of CSC's Financial Services Group, which provides software and information technology services primarily to banks and insurers. This unit was formed in 1968 as one of Austin's first high tech companies, a spin-off of local firm Tracor. We later became TCC, and then Continuum. CSC bought Continuum in 1996 and has maintained its local operations. I joined TCC in 1969, so after 35 years with the same company, CSC's roots feel pretty local to me. Describing CSC only as a high tech military contractor is misleading. In its most recent fiscal year, which ended April 2, CSC derived just 26% of its revenues from the Department of Defense, none of which had any connection to Austin.
On Dec. 12 CSC announced an agreement to sell its units and contracts that provide Department of Defense aviation maintenance, physical and personal security, drug eradication, shipboard logistics, and training and staffing services. Divesting them returns CSC to its core competencies of providing information technology, engineering, and professional services to its commercial and government clients.
I miss Liberty Lunch, too. But I'm proud that CSC anchors Austin's revitalized downtown rather than building on the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. Please find a more fitting example than CSC of what's wrong with Austin business.
Financial Services Group
Computer Sciences Corporation
[Jim Hightower responds: I'm delighted to hear that CSC is getting out of the Pentagon hustle, if that's what VanErp is claiming. I'd still gladly trade this corporation for all of the local Liberty Lunches that have been shoved out by political deals that give special breaks to giants like CSC, a $14-billion-a-year conglomerate headquartered in El Segundo, Calif. Also, VanErp might want to be little more modest than to assert that "CSC anchors Austin's revitalized downtown." Downtown has been revitalized because local restaurants, clubs, other small businesses, apartment and condo dwellers, independent bankers, city government, and others revitalized it. I've never heard anyone say, "I want to go to downtown Austin because that's where CSC is."]
[Michael] King's invective aside (ranting over a 11/2-year-old, unpublished, off-subject letter) ["Postmarks," Dec. 31], he fails to mention the CAN chart ambiguity. The chart is titled Served People. Chart subheadings make statistic interpretation elusive, but the editorial slant is clear enough. If I'm wrong, I'm sorry, but if the "reform" is wrong, highly vulnerable lives and public funds are wasted.
Sadly, this "editorial" response is proof that the Chron is more party dilettante than community news asset. In free societies, everyone's a "self-appointed authority"; that's why formal authorities seek to convince us. Personalized attacks are illogical fallacies, unworthy of serious editors, and contemptuous of readers' intelligence. Three-hundred-word formats don't foster fully developed writing styles, contrary to what "self-appointed" style police believe.
Is it the Chronicle's position that 3,789 Austin "homeless" generate nonduplicated support services for 14,287? Do you mean that is the total homeless population? Basic reporter follow-up would reveal 3,789 is a daily Austin/Travis County McNumber, which annually expands to about 6,000. Multiply it by four or five and one approximates the most accurate homeless number. "Soft" numbers come from government computers that now only "talk" to one another, and social service agencies short on funding, personnel, and resources.
As to Downtown Austin Alliance motives, don't you read your paper? DAA supports city ordinance change "which effectively criminalizes aspects of homelessness." In class warfare, one outlaws the survival modes of the target. Hence, no sleeping, sitting, standing, selling, begging, or access to restrooms downtown. What's the homeless attitude about an underfinanced, DAA-led 10-year "reform" plan? Isn't this the population most impacted? Shouldn't they have an empowered voice?
At 17 years in Austin politics,
[News Editor Michael King responds: Mr. Bird can call a reporter a drunk for not parroting Bird's position, misrepresent or bungle published statistics, call names at will, and accuse anyone who disagrees with him of bad faith but it's the Chronicle that's the "dilettante." He should be grateful he's confined to 300 words.]
'Chronicle' Ignores Death
Dear Chron music critics,
So none of you thought the suicide of onetime Austinite and Dead Milkmen bassist Dave Blood enough to mention in your best of R.I.P.s '04, huh ["Apeman Hop," Music, Jan. 7]?
Just a boring day, I've got nothing to do.
Russell's Is Good
As a relatively recent Austin arrival, I've been glad to find the Chronicle. It's always a stimulating read and has a more liberal editorial viewpoint (a good thing) than my previous alternative weekly, the Chicago Reader.
Consequently it was a surprise that last week you printed the letter violently attacking the cupcakes, etc., at Russell's Bakery in Northwest Austin ["Postmarks," Jan. 7]. While disgruntled customers are of course free to complain to their friends, if not the manager, it seems unfair for the Chronicle to grant, in effect, a forum to the complainer. We don't know the real details and any opportunity you give to Russell's to respond would be along the lines of "have you stopped beating your wife?"
It's disappointing that the Chronicle would admit this one-sided attack on a locally owned business. I have never had cause to complain about Russell's food or service quite the contrary and it seems odd that the letter writer, or poison pen, should have had bad luck with all four of his items.
Please note that I have no affiliation with Russell's. But since amateur dining commentary appears to be acceptable in your pages, let me put in a plug for my favorite Austin restaurant, Kerbey Lane Central, with its delicious but healthy menu and friendly staff.
Louis Black, with Mike Clark-Madison leaving the Chronicle along with his vast experience covering Austin, you should focus more on local issues. I know hating Bush and Perry are your favorite topics, but a paragraph or two each week is enough to placate your readers. After all, Austin clearly agreed with you last November and plenty of other publications cover those state and national figures.
Meanwhile, Austin faces issues transcending typical partisan classification such as the smoking ban and toll roads. Another hot issue is growth management. Environmental Democrats oppose urban sprawl, yet in my majority Democratic Travis Heights neighborhood, the association fights most density at planning meetings. Meanwhile, Republican property owners, developers, and remodelers are chomping at the bit to build those new urban density liberal utopias. Liberals envision a dense city where citizens can live close to and walk to businesses and restaurants, ultimately with residents living above businesses. Yet, Democrats in my neighborhood consider a home next to a business to be unacceptable for people lucky enough to own a $300,000 home.
You call Republicans radical moralists, yet Democrats in my neighborhood fight new liquor licenses. Don't get me started on shopping opportunities for low-income people. Might I mention more bars within walking distance might reduce the incentive to drink and drive? I could walk to bars in Ann Arbor, Mich. Meanwhile, the Austin City Council voted to prevent more taxi availability here.
I can't offer a perfect libertarian solution in this space, but consider this. If Gov. Perry stopped waving $300 million in big-business incentives and Travis and Austin Democrats stopped matching with tax abatements, Austin would not be faced with so many divisive growth fights. Agree or not, add to these debates and chronicle Austin.
Greetings from Morocco as the year 2626 comes to a close. May the new year bring you inshallah, great blessings.
From what I have read online and am e-mailed here, whoever is currently claiming to be in control of KOOP Radio recently threw themselves a 10th anniversary party. Myself and many others who envisioned and built the station were apparently not invited.
I was surprised and disappointed to learn that while some at KOOP continue to deny my founding the station, others aired a lengthy recording of my signing the station on the air. How ironic that they would choose to air my voice on tape, but not allow me to speak live on the Austin airwaves.
Please note that I do not support the folks who killed my dream of starting the first "co-op" radio station there in the states. I would ask that they not use my voice for their self-serving purposes.
Of course, the idea of a truly cooperatively run radio station died a long time ago. There was even a funeral by pro-democracy co-opers complete with a coffin and New Orleans-style walking wake music!
Since then, I am told, KOOP has been trying to shed itself of any reference to being a true co-op, going so far as to apply for city of Austin funds under the name "KOOP Community Radio" (never mind that KAZI-FM Austin Community Radio Inc. has been serving the Austin community far longer than KOOP).
For more on the death of democracy at KOOP, may I suggest you read: www.texasobserver.org/showArticle.asp?ArticleID=186 [by Chronicle News Editor Michael King] and www.michaelbluejay.com/savekoop. So here's a tip of the fez to all there who continue to boycott KOOP Radio in 2627.
What a ride! "Riding With Sancho Panza" brought smiles and near tears to my eyes as I recalled my Spanish literature course at then Texas Western College (now UT at El Paso) circa 1962 ["Letters @ 3am," Jan. 7]. The course was taught in Spanish, and we read the complete work in one glorious semester; it was taught by Dr. John Sharp, which indeed he was. My life was so lively as there was an off-campus Bar Sevilla owned and hosted by Pepita de Sevilla, who invariably would gallop to the entrance to greet his patrons in a lavishly warm announcement to those indoors of one's arrival. Entering his taberna was like stepping into this authentic scene furnished with rustic wooden tabletops anchored by aged round wine barrels brought to life by our quixotic host any night of the week as he poured wine from his botas and introduced poets and flamenco dancers. Thank you, Michael Ventura, for my deliciously treasured flashback. I can see, hear, and smell it as though it were yesterday.
Wild Horses Plight
Thank you for the well-written article describing the current plight of America's wild horses ["Wild Horses Into French Fries," News, Jan. 7]. However, don't forget, they slaughter them in Illinois as well. In a slaughterhouse owned by an individual from Belgium who imports the meat for Belgians.
[Rachel Proctor May responds: Good catch. I missed the fact that the Illinois slaughterhouse, which had been closed since 2002 because of a fire, was once again open for business. Double yee-haw.]
How's the Garden Coming?
If only this could be a New Year. But we know it's old, as old as the wind that blew us here. It would be nice to think that the Republicans will protect us from the terrorists, the Democrats keep us safe from the Republicans, and the fringe radicals will save us from each other, but it's more likely that we're going to get blindsided by a series of unfortunate incidents.
So ... how's the garden coming along? What? Too early? Why ... it's never too early, dear. It's never too early.
Todd Alan Smith