Our readers talk back.

Welcomes Critical Discussion

Dear Editor,

I read with concern Sandy Bartlett's summary dismissals of my work, and the work of anyone saying anything critical about HIV tests, AIDS drugs, or the state of AIDS research ["About AIDS," April 22].

Bartlett has stated that anyone having a contrary view – and this includes physicians in the field – is simply a "denialist."

For the record, that's not a term I use to describe myself. I am a journalist who digs into the medical literature in order to bring to light what the medical industry is not comfortable telling us plainly. I'm not here to make the industry feel good about cutting corners, taking advantage of public ignorance, or putting dangerous products on the market.

I'm here to try to keep the public discussion open, lively, and honest. And contrary to your assertions, I welcome nonpartisan critical thinking into the discussion.

Speaking of critical thinking, I am absolutely amazed, perplexed, and disheartened by the near-total lack of it on the part of many AIDS activists and much of the liberal media when it comes to the pills, tests, and research coming down from various pharmaceutical-run government institutions. For example, here's an AIDS story that was ignored for more than a year in the liberal U.S. media. In early 2004, I broke the story of Incarnation Children's Center, a New York City orphanage for HIV-positive children of drug abusers, who were being used in government and pharmaceutical clinical trials without consent. ("Orphans on Trial," NY Press, 2004, I have been attacked in print by hardened AIDS activists for bringing the story to light – despite the fact that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Human Research Protections voted that these trials were conducted unethically.

Kids in ICC were and are being pumped daily through surgically inserted tubes with a regimen of drugs that would peel paint off a car; drugs like AZT and Nevirapine; drugs which, by law, state at the top of their labels that they may very well cause the death of the person taking them due to blood cell death, skin death, or liver failure.

Many activists defend the use of these particular drugs, despite their toxicity, because some studies claim that they prevent transmission of HIV slightly better than no drugs at all – and I mean slightly. But how can you claim to be an AIDS activist while turning a blind eye to the use of orphans in AZT trials? Trials in which raw drugs are pumped into the open abdomens of children who have no one to speak for them?

From my point of view, AIDS activism has lost its way. Instead of demanding transparency in research, they too often act like mindless cheerleaders, allowing big pharma to keep dangerous drugs in the market, while it actively ignores or suppresses research into viable alternatives, like micronutrient studies, which show similar or better results in clinical trials than AZT and Nevirapine, without the threat of fatal anemia or muscle wasting.

For the record, I would never take AZT or Nevirapine out of somebody's mouth if they thought it was helping them. But I have spoken with and interviewed dozens upon dozens of gay men, pregnant women, and growing children who test HIV positive and who desperately want alternatives.

They are not afraid of letting some competition into medicine. They are not afraid to debate the science of HIV.

By the way, this is precisely what Bartlett calls "denialism" – debate. Open, unrestricted debate.

I invite the public to read, investigate, and weigh -in on the questions that I am interested in: Can we be doing better for pregnant women who test HIV positive than old failed cancer drugs like AZT? Can big pharma handle a little competition? And can we afford to turn researchers with good ideas away because they threaten to put the manufacturers of profitable drugs out of business?

Back to you,

Liam Scheff

'Chronicle' Reviews Way Off

Dear Chronicle,

I retain a lot of nostalgic respect for your paper and still enjoy reading Louis Black, his last "Page Two" [July 8] article was excellent, over a good pint at Lovejoys; however, in general I read the Chronicle to find out what's going on in town and during summer, when it's 100-plus degrees outside, catching an afternoon movie becomes a far more appealing distraction than riding the greenbelt, therefore I have found myself naively considering the Chronicle's movie reviews before taking in a flick. Three-and-a-half stars for War of the Worlds [Film Listings, July 1] and two stars for Cinderella Man [Film Listings, June 3]? Is this a joke? Have you even seen War of the Worlds? How can anyone actually watch that movie and then rate it above average when it has to be one of the worst movies I have ever seen; it was unbelievably bad. The only possible explanation is that you Americans really are as dumb as the rest of the world believes you are or your movie reviewers are from another planet entirely. I know Americans are not dumb, I've lived here long enough to wade through your jingoism and discover there are some people with real smarts living here, so I implore you to find some movie reviewers that have at least some minimal connection with reality or just please drop your rating system, list the times and locations and stop wasting paper.

Christopher Palmer

'Chronicle' Ripping Off Zine?

Dear Editor,

It's almost incomprehensible that I'd agree with the Yuppie Pricks on any music-related topic ["Postmarks," July 1], but it seems I must: Darcie Stevens does not know what she's talking about.

Not only that, but she seems to like ripping off others. Example: the previous issue's cover story, "99 Bands" [Music, July 8] covering the so-called Red River scene. In it, she features listings of seemingly noteworthy shows in the past month, with full lineups, and short descriptions. This is all well and good, except it is exactly what I have been doing in my own magazine, stage_scene, every single month since March, though without the convenience of hindsight. Granted, we have nowhere near the funds nor distribution of the Chronicle, so perhaps a writer such as Ms. Stevens had never seen an issue?

Except a few weeks ago, not knowing her position with the Chronicle, I asked her to write for us. Luckily (now), she refused, stating a conflict of interest, which only shows itself in its true form this week.

I hope you got a nice check for that, Ms. Stevens, while we struggle to dig up the money to print our measly 1,500 or so copies each month. I hope you enjoyed the bands that we probably brought to your attention. I'll keep doing all the hard work, you just keep taking the credit, because we all know this is how things work in Austin.


Anna Spysz

editor-in-chief, stage_scene

SOS Alliance Against Everything

Dear Editor,

I am so tired of hearing about the whiners from the SOS Alliance. In my opinion, they have lost all of their credibility because they are against everything: AMD bringing jobs to the west side of town, shopping malls in Bee Cave, highways, Lowe's on Brodie Lane, development along 71 West, etc. If they are so dead set against development, why didn't they ever oppose the HEB, Randalls, and the other massive amounts of retail development on William Cannon?

When I moved here nine years ago I met with two SOS board members in regards to the expansion of the Motorola plant (now Freescale) in Oak Hill, which had a sign right outside the Motorola property line that said, "Entering the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone." They did nothing about the toxic chemical-emitting plant expansion; instead, several years later they chose to fight a Motorola office building in the Circle C area complaining about the traffic impact.

Just to let you know I am an environmental activist that took the Lakeway MUD to contested case and stopped an experimental permit next to Lakeway Elementary School. I have traveled throughout the country regarding the sad state of the environmental policy in Texas.

So I am not a person who thinks that environmentalists are some sort of wackos. I value their efforts. But I do believe that SOS has gone too far. Being against everything is simply not credible. Engaging in fruitless litigation is negligent. Whenever I see or hear SOS I think same old stuff! Ho hum! Lastly: AMD, welcome to the west side of town with open arms.

Chris Wilson


SOS Alliance Parsing Words, Twisting Facts

Dear Editor,

I am amused at Mr. Bunch's byline stating "Bill Bunch Sets the Record Straight" regarding AMD's move to Oak Hill ["Postmarks," July 1]. Once again, Mr. Bunch and the Save Our Springs Alliance are parsing words and twisting facts.

Mr. Bunch accuses AMD of bad faith in ignoring their own pledge to cooperate with local stakeholders on major decisions. In fact, AMD has been talking to the folks who live and work in Oak Hill and Southwest Austin for months; asking questions and listening to answers. Over 100,000 people living in Oak Hill have needs, wants, and opinions. These residents have a significant stake in the community and protecting the environment too. I don't know how much more "local" and "stakeholder" that can be.

Surely Mr. Bunch is not arguing that SOSA are the only ones that care about the environment.

Mr. Bunch accuses AMD of false claims in stating compliance with the SOS ordinance. They have not said that. AMD has simply stated that it will meet the SOS water quality standards and in the process, improve water quality in areas that are not currently treated.

Mr. Bunch laments that their "broad coalition" in opposition is narrowed to SOSA. Could it be that the writer and the editors at the Chronicle realize (as most do) that the organizations mentioned are but extensions of SOSA?

Mr. Bunch claims Mayor Wynn kept the proposed move a secret and failed to enlist community support in finding AMD a better place. Secrets? SOS had information related to the AMD move on their Web site at least a month before the community at large knew about it. The Oak Hill community has been enlisted, and does support the move. The real beneficiaries of this move are the community in Oak Hill.

Mr. Bunch correctly states that this is a turning point during which the community must lead and others will follow. Oak Hill and Southwest Austin are leading, Mr. Bunch. Maybe it is time for you to work with them and not against.


Kathryn Moynahan

Stevens and 'Chronicle' Suck

Dear Editor,

What exactly was it that caused Darcie Stevens to write "99 Bands" [Music, July 8]? A few months ago, she made our music scene out to be almost dead in "31 Nights" [Music, Sept. 10, 2004]. Now, suddenly, it "has never been so rich." Perplexingly, in the same article, she states that "oversaturation breeds commonality" only to write off the truly inventive Opposite Day while tooting the horns of highly derivative rockers the Addictions. This logic does not compute.

"99 Bands" reads like a Best and Worst Dressed of 2005 where bands are judged based upon the volume of their amps rather than the quality of their work. What happened to the value of musicianship? Stevens obviously does not want to hear anything out of the ordinary on Red River in spite of her "commonality" comment. She seems to believe an overabundance of Big Boys wannabes makes our scene "rich." Only if we value homogeneity above all else.

There were hundreds of bands playing on Red River during the time frame covered by "99 Bands." Stevens apparently only caught a few of them that were not pounding out the usual mezzo forte drones at 120 bpm (Oh, Beast!, Cue, My Education). I challenge the Chronicle to give more coverage to bands that are forging their own musical vocabulary in Austin.

Josh Robins

Guitarist for the Invincible Czars

They Really Do


Seconding the Yuppie Pricks' questioning of what qualifies Darcie Stevens to review music ["Postmarks," July 1], her top 10 of the 99 bands completely suck giraffes' intestines ["99 Bands," Music, July 8]. I guess the bland and mediocre have finally conquered all. Very glad to see Assnipple didn't make that list, we would have been insulted.

With love,

Jason "Spicey Nipple" Christain

Thriving in Spite of 'Chronicle'!

Dear Editor,

I realize that Darcie-bashing is a regular fixture of your letters page, but this time she has really excelled herself. Can she please make up her mind if Red River is "dried up ... as empty as George W.'s promises" ["One Night on Red River," Music, Nov. 5, 2004] or if it is "rich [and] alive" ["99 Bands," Music, July 8]?

Not only were her "reviews" slapdash and cliché, many of the bands she listed had simultaneous sets. From this I am forced to conclude, her weird use of doublespeak notwithstanding, she either posseses the power of teleportation or didn't really take the time to watch more than 30 seconds of each band.

We have come to expect this level of hackery from national publications, but from a paper that prides itself on being part of the solution this kind of fluff not only fails to give credit to the bands in Austin that deserve it most, her article ends up looking like an archived gig list, albeit without the venue addresses. Once again, Darcie Stevens proves that the Austin music scene thrives in spite of the Chronicle and not because of it.

Mary Malton

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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