Our readers talk back.
Antone's Record Store
After reading Christopher Gray's "TCB" in the Jan. 7 issue [Music] (specifically the "2004 on the Floor" listing about music stores), I realized how frustrating it is for me to see Austin's own locally flavored newspaper consistently failing to mention the best local record store, Antone's. Whenever there is an article or mention about the record store business, the point is made that there are few locally owned record shops that are still standing, yet Antone's is continually omitted from your "surviving record store" list.
Antone's has been around for close to 20 years. Not only does Antone's have an excellent variety of music, they have the largest selection of used records in town. It really is a cool place and deserves to be recognized and respected for the local mainstay that it is. I hope to see this oversight corrected.
Hey, just wanted to let you know what has happened since your article ran ["Soldier's Heart," News, Dec. 24]. I can't believe the attention it has drawn and what has spawned from it. My head is spinning. An officer in Ron's battalion approached him and said, "Hey, man, I got the Austin paper, and you're in this article called 'Soldier's Heart.'" Ron [Luker] was like, "Oh really, you read it?" So the officer printed a copy for him. Then he asked him if he was really OK and was like truly concerned about him after reading that. All the way over in Iraq! This has really caused everything to take off. I can't thank you enough. Your article was so well written and moving that everyone I know who has read it was absolutely speechless. This is such an important issue, and you have really gotten some people to wake up and realize what the true costs are for the ones who sacrifice so much. Thanks so much, Dan, really from the bottom of my heart.
No Peace on Bike Plan
In reference to this week's report by Daniel Mottola ("Peace and Progress Come to Shoal Creek," Jan. 14) [News], allow me to suggest that in the future a reporter who picks up a long-running issue for the first time be encouraged to familiarize himself with the history of the issue before writing a wrap-up. For one thing, the city staff proposal originally presented by a long-serving and dedicated employee of the bike/ped program had bike lanes on both sides of the street, with on-street parking allowed only on one side. No proposal with a bike lane on one side of the street only was ever proposed.
More importantly, both Michael Bluejay (www.bicycleaustin.info/road ways/shoalcreek.html) and I (www.io.com/~mdahmus/trans/shoalcreek.html) have long had summaries of the issue with diagrams. I highly encourage people to look at the picture of Charles Gandys original proposal at www.io.com/~mdahmus/trans/consultplan.html (showing a cyclist narrowly avoiding getting disemboweled as he attempts to travel between an SUV and a parked truck) before coming to conclusions that Jackie Goodmans give the neighborhood whatever they want no matter what position was the right one.
The city engineers deserve medals, not ridicule, for standing up for the safety of cyclists and against the bogus 4-foot bike lane next to substandard-parking-lane design supported by Gandy and the neighborhood. The "shared multipurpose lanes" were a reaction to their threat not to sign off on Gandy's plan, another thing your reporter gets wrong.
In short: The Shoal Creek debacle showed that even on the most important route in the city for commuting cyclists, the city doesn't have the guts to put safe travel for cyclists ahead of on-street parking (even when on-street parking is preserved on one side of the street). The multipurpose lanes are essentially what was on the street to begin with a solution that no traffic engineer or bicycle coordinator would today approve bicycle lanes in which cars can park at will.
Urban Transportation Commissioner
and Only "no" vote on Great Shoal Creek Debacle of '00
[Dan Mottola responds: Mike Dahmus is correct in describing the design of the original proposal. I misunderstood the original plan description I was given, and I apologize for the inaccuracy in my report concerning the lanes on both sides of the street. However, the fact remains that many people strongly rejected the initial plan because it eliminated some parking (important to neighborhood residents, like the several elderly folks involved who perhaps don't see things precisely as Dahmus does), and later because it didn't meet the various stakeholders' needs. Nowhere in the story were city employees ridiculed or was their expertise called into question. As the article makes clear, even those who have concurred in the final plan are unhappy with some aspects of it. As his vote and his letter make plain, Dahmus obviously objects more than most.]
CSC Benefits Downtown
Ms. VanErp wrote a pretty eloquent and factual defense of CSC and their downtown location ["Postmarks," Jan. 14]. It's a shame that you allowed Mr. Hightower so much "time" in print to put her down. CSC does have its roots here since they bought a company here that has provided many jobs in Austin for many years. And it was the city government that decided that Liberty Lunch would go and jobs and a new City Hall would take that block. I'm not much for incentives for big companies, either, but as long as they are legal we will have to offer them to compete. (Let's outlaw them at the federal level. Get behind that, Mr. Hightower.)
We need balance downtown. CSC brings jobs downtown. Jobs that can support living in some of the downtown housing. The neighborhood will soon sport the Ballet Austin Dance Education Center. Which, like the Long Center, is not drowning in city incentives. The neighborhood has housing and places to eat and music venues. While I miss Liberty Lunch, too, if I lived down there I'd be asking for a grocery store closer than Whole Foods and other variety retail to make it a real neighborhood.
People might be those condo dwellers Mr. Hightower credits because of the jobs at CSC. Let's get behind some incentives to bring small businesses to downtown to serve the population, but don't put down the jobs people need. Everyone can't work in a locally owned music venue or write for a living.
[Jim Hightower responds: To blame the city government for Liberty Lunch's displacement conveniently ignores the fact that CSC execs and lobbyists were the ones pushing it. City Hall is not on the Liberty Lunch block CSC is. As for "getting behind" a federal law to stop the corporate scam of playing one town against another to get public subsidies, I've been advocating that for a long time. Can we count on CSC to push it?]
Politicize Religion, Not Politics!
Now comes the accusation from the left that America is stingy in the aftermath of the devastation in Southeast Asia. The truth of the matter is that the U.S. has offered and already provided more aid than all the other countries in the world together.
I am sick of the continual politicization of everything that President Bush does. We are lectured by Marxist professors and their left-wing intellectual allies about all the evils of America, but when it comes right down to it, our remnant of a Christian ethic is still so powerful that we are the world's leading benefactor. I emphasize that it is our religious heritage, so mocked by European secularists and an embarrassment to American intellectuals, that motivates us to philanthropy.
I am deeply offended by the countless innuendoes in the liberal-socialist media that Christians, especially those who voted for President Bush, are selfish, ignorant, uncaring. This is the slander from the pro-abortionists, the pro-gay movement, from the anti-religious church and state separationists, and the liberal establishment.
The truth must be proclaimed and repeated: Americans are generous and compassionate because of what they believe, and they believe in core conservative values.
Jarringly Low Standards
You know, I'm funny, and I am in full support of anything-goes humor among friends. But a fine publication such as the Chronicle has a certain level of decency to live up to, and unfortunately in the case of the notoriously offensive Stephen MacMillan Moser's Jan. 7 column ["After a Fashion"], you failed.
I don't think it's too stick-in-the-mud of me to say that it's really not OK to print the charming term "'tards" in any context, much less as a derogatory insult in a worst-of-the-year list. It's unfathomable to me that the Chron would print such an offensive, immature, politically incorrect, and mean-spirited remark at all, and even more so that no one noticed and saw fit to publish an apology in your latest issue. Aside from the jarringly low standard that seems to be applied to Moser at all times, can't someone take him aside and explain why his great insult might make the family, friends, co-workers, and teachers of mentally disabled Austinites want to never pick up a Chronicle again?
[Stephen Moser responds: Dear Ms. Burton, if you have read my column before, as you intimate in your letter, you might have noticed that political correctness is not a priority of mine. And if indeed, as you say, you're aware of the "the jarringly low standard that seems to be applied to [me] at all times," how could you be so "disappointed"?]
Republicans Have Figured It Out
What irony that the right has stolen the secret of Hollywood "but will it play in Peoria?" Republicans dumb down their message to simple images that the masses "understand" ["Page Two," Jan. 14].
I saw a debate on TV between two women journalists (names I can't recall). The Republican spouted that "Kerry would make a great date for the country, but was no one to marry and start a family with" (or something along this line). Point-counterpoint time ran out with the Democrat wailing that the Republicans were using such imagery effectively.
The failure of the left, of my fellow Democrats, is to communicate its ideas effectively. All the while, the Republicans have donned the white hats and convinced America that the bad guys wear "L" on their sweaters like Laverne.
Democracy includes the lowest common denominator. The supreme elitist, Alexander Hamilton, was afraid of the unwashed masses and wanted a republic. Embracing democracy requires an inclusive message.
The Republican elite has learned to talk to the masses through TV in simple sound bites, to prey on prejudice, and to champion the cliché.
The Democrats turn to the issues to differentiate, and the Republican reply is that the liberal elite only complicate the message.
As Bill Clinton said, "KISS" keep it simple (for) stupid. Otherwise, your message is blather, just lather; that's all.
p.s. My favorite Airplane song (after "Crown of Creation," of course) is "Lather."
p.p.s. I failed to make a point. The effectiveness of the great-date analogy is not just poignant imagery but the lie it insidiously floated over the American public: George Bush was the great party-boy date; Kerry was the war-hero solid citizen.
How Generous Texans Are!
Recent advertisements for casino gambling in neighboring states have reminded me just how generous we Texans are ["Pfurious in Pflugerville," News, Jan. 14].
No other state's citizens send hundreds of millions of dollars to subsidize adjacent states' budgets like Texans do.
I am sure the state legislatures of Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, not to mention the taxpayers, school teachers, health care administrators, students, faculty, underprivileged children, the elderly with health insurance, and employees and owners of the casinos are indeed grateful to us Texans.
Oh, the joy of giving,
[News Editor Michael King notes: Nick Kralj is a lobbyist registered with the Texas Ethics Commission, whose clients have included gambling interests, although he told the Chronicle this week he has no current gambling-related clients. According to the May, 2004, "Lobby Watch" report of Texans for Public Justice, "Kralj ... is affiliated with trusts that own 5 percent of Corpus Christi Greyhound Race Track. Kralj reported large contracts with the pro-slots Tigua tribe in previous years."]
Doesn't Like Bike Plan
My dear Editor,
About the plan for pseudo bike lanes on Shoal Creek Boulevard ("Peace and Progress Come to Shoal Creek," News, Jan. 13), you quoted Keri Juarez as saying, "No one loves it, but everyone can agree on it."
Uh, not. I don't agree with it, and I don't know any other cyclists who do, either. Why would we? All we wanted was car-free bike lanes. Is that asking for the moon? Instead the city allowed the neighborhood and consultants to "compromise" away any real improvements. As Mike Dahmus put it:
"What we had before: wide bike lanes with parking. What we get now: wide bike lanes with parking. What we could have gotten, if the city had had the guts to stand up to the neighborhood: bike lanes with no parking and parking for cars on one side of the street."
This whole mess is detailed on www.bicycleaustin.info/shoalcreek.
Look Out, Simplism
Regarding the McCormick Method, I can only say: Look out, simplism ["The McCormick Method, Revealed," Books, Aug. 13, 2004].
Texas Roadhouse's Steaks
You forgot to mention the new Texas Roadhouse off Slaughter Lane ["Austin on the Hoof," Food, Jan. 14]. The steaks are absolutely delicious and reasonably priced.
[Virginia B. Wood responds: Thanks for the tip. We're sorry we missed it.]
Republicans Stable and Sensible
Your criticism of Republicans trying to do away with the filibuster to stop Dems from blocking judge appointments does not tell the full story ["Page Two," Jan. 14]. You forgot to mention that that no one, Democrat or Republican, has ever used the filibuster to stall or block an appointment vote in the history of our government.
As far as the Hollywood elite goes, I think you have missed the point as well. You cannot claim that some actors and celebs such as Sean Penn, George Clooney, Whoopi Goldberg, the Dixie Chicks, and several others did not suffer some, at least short term, consumer backlash after using their celebrity status to state their political disdain with the Bush administration. Surely you must admit that Michael Moore probably did more harm than good to the Democratic Party with his biased documentary? Many polls have shown the film actually earned Bush more votes. The film motivated more conservatives to get out and vote. I think Moore drove away some of the more central members of the Democratic Party who were dismayed by how far left and radical he made the party look.
I see faults in both parties. I happened to see more stability and sense with the Republicans this time out. My family has been Democrats for a very long time, and they think I am crazy for voting Republican.
I just do not see the traditional Democratic Party of yesteryear. Zell Miller is probably one of the last examples of the type of Democrat I am talking about. I dare to say that if LBJ were alive today he would be a Republican.
Streets Shared Public Resource
After reading Dan Mottola's response to Mike Dahmus' criticisms of his report on the effort to redesign Shoal Creek Boulevard ["Postmarks Online," Jan. 14], it occurs to me that Mr. Mottola, like many, ignores the fact that streets are for transportation, and not for personal storage of automobiles. The street is not owned by the residents, it is a shared public resource. The ability to park in the street is not a right, and the notion that residents' ability to park on the street is somehow more important than cyclists' ability to use the corridor safely for transportation its principal purpose establishes cyclists as second-class road users, which they are not. The fact that several elderly folks and other neighborhood residents don't see things this way doesn't give the city a pass on its responsibility to provide infrastructure for its citizens that respects equal access.
The Real Elite
In the Jan. 7 issue of "Postmarks" James McWilliams says that "elitism" is fundamentally a cultural phenomenon. He says, "until the Democrats admit that our cultural tastes ... contribute considerably to our perceived elitism, popular perceptions are unlikely to change." I say, until we (the people) stop letting the Republican right redefine our language we will not be able to carry on a coherent discussion about anything, much less politics or culture. Mr. McWilliams has been duped, and writes a letter that plays right into the hands of those who would distort the language for their own political benefit. These are the guys that manage the public perception for the Republican right. You know, the ones that wanted to hand out little American flags to Iraqis and have them wave them for the cameras so all the people watching the news at home would think it was a spontaneous show of gratitude. Here's one random definition of elite for you: a group or class of persons enjoying superior intellectual or social or economic status. (This is just from the dictionary, not Fox News.)
Historically those who were wealthy and were relatively well-educated in any given society were the ones who had the power and were thus considered the elite. Elitism is fundamentally about those who have and hold power. If you have a group of athletes for instance, what distinguishes the elite athletes from the regular athletes is power. They may have earned the elite status by being (perceived as) better athletes, or they may have been simply better at self-promotion; either way, the currency is power. You can have cultural elite, or intellectual elite, but you must identify them as such. Why would it be important for those in power to make elite mean only cultural elite? Think about it. The word elite is conflated with cultural elite so often on right-wing media shows that now even the average Joe thinks it has something to do with intellectualism or cultural liberalism. There is a strategy here. What is certain from his letter is that Mr. McWilliams has completely bought into the misconception that elite is a pejorative for intellectuals and cultural liberals. It is not, and it's up to all of us to refuse to let it continue.
War on Drugs Gets Even Stupider
Just when you thought the War on Some Drugs couldn't get any stupider, they come up with something new. Now the Dallas ISD is using scanners to find trace elements of drugs in schools. That is, they are looking for traces that are so small that you couldn't see them with the naked eye, and certainly couldn't use them.
It is a classic case of an organized group that can't find its own butt with both hands and an unlimited budget. If these eminent school officials will reach around to their back pockets and grab their own wallets, they will find traces of drugs on their own rear ends. Tests have shown that about 80% of U.S. currency contains detectable amounts of illegal drugs. Every wallet in America is contaminated.
So they find traces of illegal drugs in the schools. Then what? How can they be sure it didn't come from the school board members themselves? Does the school actually have trace concentrations that are greater than those you would find on the school board's collective butts? The citizens should know.
I would say that it couldn't get any dumber than this, but they will probably come up with something new next week. Maybe they will arrest all the members of the school board when they find drug traces on them.
Director, DRCNet Online Library of Drug Policy
Agua Dulce, Calif.
Austin Has Lost Something
Just what the hell is happening to Austin? I've lived here 14 years and seen some major changes: the buildup of the "warehouse" district and downtown, the meteoric rise of loft apartments and property taxes, the proliferation of tech companies, and, consequently, the loss of some of my favorite places, like Les Amis, Sound Exchange, Steamboat, and Liberty Lunch to name a few. Today, I walked into a sandwich shop on Burnet Road and I thought I was in the wrong place. The walls were painted a sterile, bland, peach color and all of the cool posters and paraphernalia that used to exist there were gone. One redeeming factor they did leave the mural of Where the Wild Things Are, but it looks out of place in such a drab environment. I felt sick because I thought I was in a hospital. It seemed that "corporate" thought the place was too "mom & pop." All of the employees were also extremely upset over this change. I had to sit outside to eat. When will Austin learn that it's the "local color" of these places that make Austin cool? Alamo Drafthouse, Amy's Ice Creams, Threadgill's, Waterloo Records, and a list of others seem to understand. They create an atmosphere that doesn't suck the life out of their employees and customers. Austin is trying desperately to become so damn upscale and PC, but for what reason? We are giving up that old local Austin hippie feel of "peace and love" in exchange for the dull, lifeless material growth of the corporate machine. I personally don't want a Starbucks on every corner or have to pay a toll just to drive on major thoroughfares which used to be free but that's where it's headed. Austin has definitely lost something, and everybody knows it. That's why we have the "Keep Austin Weird" slogan, but I guess Austin has failed to grasp that concept.
Re: "A Dog Law With Teeth" in the Jan. 7 issue [News]:
One item not mentioned in your story about two recent dog attacks was the fact that pit bulls and pit bull mixes were the problem dogs. The pack of dogs that attacked the 8-year-old girl consisted of three pit bulls, a dalmatian, and a chow mix. The dog that killed several other dogs and was finally picked up after biting a human on the face was a pit bull mix. A 5-year-old girl got to watch as it killed her family dog, a miniature dachshund.
So, six problem dogs, four of them pit bulls.
This really ought to surprise no one since pit bulls have been bred for centuries specifically for fighting. They are not only more likely to be violent, but will do more damage when they are. I suggest we ignore all the pit bull owners who whine about the unfairness of "breed specific legislation" and pass laws that tighten the restrictions on pit bulls. Or we can wait for a few more savage attacks and then do it.
Iran Is Next!
CNN released today that journalist Seymour Hersh has learned that the Bush administration is preparing for military action against Iran, and has been since this past summer. They are waiting on intelligence, he was told. If they meant this in a literal sense it will be a long, long fruitless wait. I once thought that a draft was an impossibility, but that could change quick. These guys are like the Romans were. Military might and death seem to be their trademarks. For you folks that have kids coming into draft age over the next few years I strongly urge you to vote the Republican-dominated Senate and House out of power. They are just partisan enough and ignorant enough to fall for the same lies twice, and they will probably help the administration with this war, too. The Democrats won't this time. We are mired down in two long-term wars now, but the president doesn't care about a third one either. He'll be retired at the ranch while our kids and innocent civilians will still be dying. People talk about all of the things that he's wrecked, such as the economy, fuel prices, a wrong war, and the future dismantling of social security, but there is one very successful program that has worked great for 32 years that he has utterly destroyed with the stop-loss policy and other rotten tricks. The all-voluntary military. Check out the Army and Marine enlistment and retention rates. This, of all of his blunders, could hurt America more in the long run and force a draft. Aw, but what the hell does he care? Nobody's shooting at him.
Kudos to Sandra Bullock
What a neat lady [Sandra Bullock]! I've always liked her "style," but she certainly has escalated my respect for her even more than before. I believe she lives in/around the Austin area if I've read correctly, and I hope you can pass on to her through your news media how well she is thought of in Louisville, Ky., and I would hope her fellow entertainment colleagues would loosen their heavily endowed pockets for the tsunami victims and I mean in their personal bank accounts not just a stage dance with a cover charge! They can buy those new drapes, new Mercedes, new swimming pools next year.
Sandra Bullock "charged ahead" and apparently didn't hesitate with her generous helping hand.
She earns many gold stars in my book!