Our readers talk back.

Tried to Vote

Dear Editor,

Along with who knows how many others, I went to perform my civic duty and vote in the run-off election.

Upon arriving at the precinct location shown on the Travis County Web site, I was told I was ineligible to vote in the run-off because I "live outside the city limits." It is an Austin address, just not within the city. Never mind, however, that during the May election, I was given a complete ballot to vote. Nobody had a good explanation for why that would have occurred.

I can understand if I am ineligible based upon location, but I cannot understand being permitted to vote the full ballot and then the following month being ineligible to vote a run-off ballot in a race I was previously permitted to cast a ballot.

I was afforded an opportunity to cast a provisional ballot, but cautioned that it would probably not count.

It would seem to prompt the question of what potential problems could arise for other May issues that were close in number, as I am certain I was not the only person residing in Travis County, but not the city of Austin, that was permitted to vote a full ballot.

It also raises the question of whether it is really effective to have combined polling locations, as that may very well have contributed to this issue.

Maybe I should just turn into the large percentage of voters who can't be bothered to even show up at the polls.

Michelle Belanger

Thinks Levy Is a Bully

Dear Editor,

Someone has to say this: Mike Levy is a bully. In the past he has called Kirk Watson the worst mayor Austin has ever had, but Levy has launched all his most vitriolic attacks against women. In just the last couple of years Levy has made ugly, personal attacks against Beverly Griffith, Jackie Goodman, Robin Rather, and now Margot Clarke.

I hope Austinites realize how far this guy is out of the mainstream. Levy opposed preserving land over the aquifer, he opposed parks for East Austin, and he opposed commuter rail, the most sensible and affordable public transit improvement Capital Metro has ever offered, but hasn't uttered a peep about CAMPO's $22 billion tax-and-toll boondoggle.

Thanks for the space,

Mike Blizzard

Get Behind Me Schroeder

Dear Austin Chronicle,

If you are running short on your supply of Q-Tips, I'll be happy to cover the expenses to provide a handful to Audra Schroeder. I'd be more than happy to provide this service, because her review of the White Stripes' Get Behind Me Satan is a joke ["Phases & Stages," Music, June 10]. Only two stars? Give me a break.

Deuce Boone

Now Relying on 'New Yorker'

Dear Editor,

In regard to the review of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants [Film Listings, June 3].

Are you guys out of your minds! Three stars?

It's official. I am too old to relate to your tastes in movies. It was inevitable. I am officially over the hill, out to pasture, and ready for my AARP membership.

I will now rely on The New Yorker.

Robert Galindo

'After a Fashion' Great

Stephen Moser,

I love your column and always look for it when I read the Chronicle, but I have to tell you that you outdid yourself in this last one ["After a Fashion," June 3]. It was hilarious! I couldn't stop laughing. Keep up the good work!

Glenna Scott

p.s. I also enjoyed your other pieces but had to tell you how great I thought the column was.

Austin Loses Sidekicks

Dear Editor,

I am still in disbelief over the sudden shutdown of Austin's only real lesbian bar, Sidekicks, this past Saturday. What a slap in the face after all of the Pride Week festivities, huh? I don't want to chalk it up to the smoking ban, as it hasn't even gone into effect, but had the owners been able to hold on I'm sure it would have put them under. I know that this is just the beginning of the end for many bars in this town that cater to specific subcultures, as visible and active as they may be. My friends and I are now "homeless," in a place that claims to be super liberal and gay-friendly. All we have left is a Ladies Night here and there, and I don't anticipate that those will last long, either. Austin's youngest lesbian club DJ told me the other night, after she found out that Saturday's shift would be her last, "Well, I was a DJ." What else will we have to lose before we realize that keeping Austin "weird" is more than just a slogan?

Natasha Martin-Hinshaw,

born and bred Austinite,

devout lesbian

Cafe Bleu Superb

Dear Editor,

My husband and I just moved here from Houston and were looking for some good places to eat. We drove out to the lake to meet some friends and ended up at a restaurant called Cafe Bleu. The food was amazing! We were pleasantly surprised (since it is considered "lake food"). I had the beef tenderloin with a raspberry glaze. The best I've ever had! The view was great, the people were wonderful, I will definitely be recommending this restaurant to everyone I know! If you haven't been out to do a review, this should be one on your list.

A new loyal customer,

Jennifer Thibaut

Ideal Light Rail Route

To the editor,

If I could build a trolley line downtown, I'd run it through the lower deck of I-35. It would connect to Cap Metro's light rail line near 38th Street on the north end, and on the south at Fourth Street. The trenches are already cut most of the way, and there's ample room for stations and related transit development.

This stretch of road is very dangerous and should be phased out. It also has the largest concentration of high-volume destination points in the city: the convention center; Sixth Street, Brackenridge and St. David's hospitals, the Seventh Street and 11th Street corridors, the Capitol complex, the Erwin Center, Disch-Falk Field, Royal Memorial Stadium, UT, and Concordia University. Opening these destinations to rail service would remove a lot of traffic from downtown.

Ross A. Smith

Doesn't Like Toll Roads

Dear Editor,

Dawnna Dukes and Karen Sonleitner have sold out their posts. As an avid environmentalist and human rights activist, I am outraged at the blatant disregard for public opinion and input regarding toll roads that these two "public servants" have for their own community. The CAMPO meeting on Monday, June 6, revealed to the public much about the forces that are relentlessly shoving tolls down the throats of all of us.

Contrary to what some misinformed environmentalists think, toll roads will not reduce petroleum consumption. Just the opposite (if you don't believe it, drive to Houston sometime and witness the congestion, smog, and empty buses). Toll booths are not intended to produce cleaner air or enhance traffic flow. They are considered tax revenue collection sites, and for the police, surveillance posts, and (illegal) inspection mechanisms. And, oh yeah, a source for fat contracts for those with close ties to certain CAMPO board members.

The last poll of Austinites lists a 94% opposition to toll roads that were amended to the 2030 plan. The Biscoe/McCracken (Rodriguez) amendment allowed a 12-month review process where the public may actually have an input to planning. This shows at least some of the elected officials are willing to pay attention to their constituency (especially when they are furious). But it became apparent who doesn't care about the public. I wouldn't have believed it unless I saw it for myself. Ms. Sonleitner didn't waste any time sabotaging the Biscoe/McCracken amendment by motioning that the 12-month review be taken out of the wording, essentially trying to strip the public of any input to the review. Fortunately, Chairman Sen. Barrientos saw through her contemptible maneuver (as many of us did in the moment) and kept the wording.

Then came Ms. Dukes, who made sure that the amendment would receive no funding for the review, essentially ensuring toll roads for the tri-counties. But then, she would not just put her sister's lucrative toll booth contract in jeopardy.

I have not seen this much disregard for public concern since Lord Bush took office ... and I don't see the difference! Watch out for these two traitors to ignore your concerns in the future.

Giovanni Angello

SOS Alliance member

Texas Democrats

[Editor's note: The Chronicle has received several similar letters.]

What Is the Definition ...

Dear Editor,

We should all be pleased that the Supreme Court set back the push for legal medicinal marijuana, as such laws are nothing more than another angle for a certain type of doctor/lawyer to corner the market on a "new" product. That said, we should now focus on an across-the-board, FDA-, Department of Agriculture-protected legalization of marijuana as a common commodity. More important, the prosecution and defamation of users of hemp/marijuana should be regarded as a crime against humanity, because that is exactly the assault we now endure. We must take a look at America's stockpile of nuclear power, alcohol, petroleum products, etc., and ask ourselves, exactly, what is our definition of poison? Legality? Humanity? Crime?

Peace out,

Todd Alan Smith

More Historical Arguments

Dear Editor,

The difference in the two peace movements obviously is that the earlier one prevented Chamberlain and Daladier from confronting Hitler early. And it prevented FDR (that right-wing nut) from doing what he saw clearly needed doing – getting into the fight. The implication is that the Thirties movement made things worse than they may have been. World War II would have happened anyway. But if begun earlier, it may have ended earlier and at less cost. Like it or not, only one element prevented it from starting earlier. The Vietnam protests didn't spring up until after we recognized that we weren't going to win. I'm not defending our entry there. I'm a retired Navy officer who would love it if no one ever fired another shot in anger. You might be surprised to find out how many active military officers feel the same. We know what those weapons do to people. But I'm surprised and pleased that you would print my last letter ["Postmarks Online," June 6], even though I think that you are wrong.

Scott Sexton

Supports Vigilantes

Dear Editor,

So state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, and a couple of other Democrats don't want the Minutemen to come to Texas because the Minutemen are vigilantes?

Hey, Senator and you other Democrats, the defenders of the Alamo were only vigilantes fighting against the lawful government of Mexico.

The real Minutemen who made their stand only some 20 miles from where this letter is being written were vigilantes too!

Was Sam Houston a vigilante when he holed up in his office to keep out the evil Democrats who wanted to secede to support slavery?

Don't they teach history to people who hold office in Texas?

Sen. Shapleigh, wake up!

Don Schwarz

Stoughton, Mass.

Ashamed of Our Public Leaders

Dear Editor,

The 79th Texas Legislature session has ended, and the senators and representatives have gone back home. Future Texans will look back at this session with shame and horror. Important work such as school funding was left unfinished as the majority party followed a national trend set by the current president. Forget the rules of good government; use lies, fear, and hatred to stir up emotions for future elections.

Rep. Talton, once again, attacked the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community with his attempt to stop them from being foster parents. He would rather see children left in abusive homes or placed back in overcrowded institutions than see them receive proper care in a loving home. He even stated in a letter that he had been called by God to wage this campaign of hatred. (Scary thought when an elected official forgets how he got in office.)

Rep. Chisolm authored the bill that puts a Texas constitutional amendment on the ballot in November to ban gay marriage, civil unions, domestic partnership, and also nullify common law marriage for heterosexuals. Was I the only one in the gallery when the House voted who heard him bring up the Terri Schiavo case when defending his bill, which is supposed to protect marriage? Stopping the court system from doing their job is the only thing this bill is written to do. Well, except get more ultra-right-wing money and votes.

Now Gov. Perry has shown his true colors. He is not a governor of the state of Texas. He is a governor for and of the Christian right. He has decided that his office in Austin is not a worthy place to sign bills. He will be at a Calvary Christian Academy in Fort Worth to sign two bills. One deals with abortion and one deals with gay marriage.

As a Texan, I am ashamed of the public leaders except the few who were brave enough to call for an end to this sham. There is no way to list all their names, but you can look back at the voting records and see which ones actually care about Texas and which ones are only following a national agenda of hate, lies, and fears. I would hate to sully their good names in the same company as those above.

Steve Whichard

Round Rock

Mutilating Constitution

Fellow Texans,

First off, I want to express my continued appreciation and admiration for the publisher, editor, staff, writers, and advertisers of The Austin Chronicle: Thanks, you're all cool.

After firing off a scathing yet unoriginal missive about the "conservative" agenda to mutilate the Texas Constitution with discriminating language against GLBTs, eureka! I hit upon an apt analogy for this fundamentalist mindset and activity.

Robert Talton, Warren Chisum, and their religious self-righteous cohorts intend to do to our state Constitution what the Taliban did to the giant cliff Buddhas in Afghanistan, and for the same reason: ignorant, backward spiritual bigotry.

They have aimed their cannons at the Texas legacy; watch now as they blast it to smithereens.

One could make the dire prediction that – should this travesty occur to a document which stands for all Texans – there will be a future move to "quarantine" the queers. Codifying a group's legal status as less than that of society at large is a literal step toward their dehumanization, which in turn predisposes their persecutors to rationalize genocide.

We could traverse this slippery slope in Texas unless moderate Christians and Republicans come to their senses and galvanize!


Kenney C. Kennedy

Majoritarianism Rules

Dear Editor,

There have been several letters by supporters of the smoking ban recently that span the spectrum of selfish and arrogant positions that all boil down to "I don't like it and therefore you can't do it." Smoking is legal and while it is unhealthy, business owners and adults that smoke do, or should, have a right to cater to or be catered to, respectively, whether most people like it or not. The characterizations of smokers in recent letters ranged from condescending (sick people) to selectively punitive (toxic factories) and ignored the fact that adults are legally entitled to engage in certain legal vices, and there are choices ban supporters make that fall under the same rationale (see my previous letter about cars ["Postmarks," June 3]). As it stands, the issue has been decided through an exercise in majoritarianism that uncompromisingly excludes any possibility that smokers can freely associate and be catered to by any business – even those whose stated purpose is to, legally, do just that. Fine. Let the paternalistic, selfish, and puritanical types have the bars and clubs. I wouldn't want to hang out with them anyway. Come September I call upon all smokers to boycott all bars and clubs – go buy booze at the liquor store and invite your friends over. Let the economic blood flow, and lay the corpse at the feet of the zealots. Your choice is to give up liberty and be treated like a child, a pariah, and to fork over hard-earned cash for the privilege (no thanks) or to let these pigs have the bars for two years and to try to rescind the ban – roll over now and it's done. Remember, the paternalistic puritans won by only 3%. I suspect some of them are not as rigid as the rest.

Thomas Boggs

Infidelity Is Everyone's Problem

Dear Editor,

I recently went to the Cheaters Web site and clicked on links and brought up your article on the show ["After a Fashion," June 14, 2002]. Your writer mentioned that the guests on the show are cheesy. Well, how many upper class or shall we say prominent citizens of this country do you know that are going to air out their dirty laundry? They don't. Because they don't have any problems in their relationships really, do they? Infidelity is everyone's problem. It knows no social orientation. I think what the show offers is a great service, and it may help someone think strongly about their own relationship. How would one react to find out for sure that their mate is cheating? We come out swingin'. Hurt causes a human to do and act out in many ways. Who is to say what is the political way to handle that situation until you've been there? How would you react?

Sonya Adams

Hartsville, Ind.

[Stephen Macmillan Moser responds: "Cheesy" is a delightful word that knows no class restraints, but has many interpretations.]

Get Issue Into Open

Dear Editor,

Recently, with little or no help from the American press, it has come to light that a British government memo dated from summer of 2002 reveals that the U.S. government had decided to fix intelligence around the decision to invade Iraq, and that the claims of WMD were contrived.

U.S. Rep. John Conyers has spearheaded a movement to demand an explanation from the White House, but has so far been met with nothing but silence, big surprise.

Help Rep. Conyers to demand an explanation for what may very well be the crime of the century, and sign the petition found on his Web site,

We must prove to our government that we will not complacently stare at the television while our democracy is hijacked from underneath us. Write a letter, tell your family, call a radio talk show and get into it with them, whatever it takes.

Let's get this issue out into the open and get some answers.

Mike "Dub" Wainwright

What's Really Absurd?

Dear Editor,

Let me see if I have this straight: A well-respected human rights organization has real information about real abuses, torture, death, and lack of due process for detainees in U.S. hands. Other organizations have uncovered much of the same information independently. The organization tried repeatedly to contact the administration about these matters, but was ignored – until the word "gulag" was used. Now the administration rains down fire and brimstone on the organization for using that word.

I say whatever it takes to wake them from their self-righteous stupor is fine. And Bush's response to the real information about real abuses, torture, death, and lack of due process? "Absurd."

It must be easy to be president these days. You can screw up, and if someone notices, you just label them America-haters, and – poof! – you're absolved of all responsibility.

I'll tell you what's absurd: Falwell saying gay people are to blame for 9/11. Now that's absurd.

Robert Wilks

We All Are Held Responsible

Dear Editor,

I cannot stand this any longer; first we hear of a story by Newsweek that had, among many disturbing things, an article about the mishandling of the Koran by our soldiers. Then our government attacks Newsweek over the story, claiming that it did not happen and the editor should be tried for treason. Then we find that Newsweek turned the story over to a high official in government, he or she has a few problems with the article, they give it back to Newsweek with recommendations, Newsweek changes the problems then prints the story. Then all of these people start coming out of the woodwork with stories claiming that the Koran was mishandled by our men. What in the hell does "might have mishandled" mean, Brig. Gen. Jay W. Hood? The Koran was either mishandled or not! Take some responsibility for your people's actions. Your people mishandled the prisoners' Koran, besides the little fact that they tortured the prisoners, too. If your people did not do these awful things, then show us what evidence you have, and let the American people read for themselves. I am tired of the lies that are coming out of this government. I am sick of being lied to! I am disturbed by the terrorist acts of our own military men and women, yet more than that I am disgusted with their leaders. Notice to our leaders in government and the military: One of these days, you will be held responsible. I just hope it is sooner than later.

Cecilia Nall


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