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September 30, 2005, Columns


Frances Newton Deserved to Die

Dear Editor,

Frances Newton was not executed because she was poor and black ["Without Evidence: Executing Frances Newton," News, Sept. 9]. She was executed because she murdered her husband and two children for $100,000 in insurance money using a pistol owned by the man with whom she was having an affair.

Concocted stories about multiple guns call for replacing an unbroken chain of evidence custody with an imaginary 18-year conspiracy by police and prosecutors to convict an innocent woman.

If you are going to base your editorials on that kind of fantasy then kindly give your readers an update on O.J. Simpson's progress in finding "the real killers."

Richard Turpyn

Alexandria, Va.

[News Editor Michael King responds: Mr. Turpyn's credulity for the prosecutors' (changing) version of the Frances Newton case evidence – not even endorsed by the police investigators – is apparently limitless, as is his entirely unsupported conviction that there was "an unbroken chain of evidence." We drew no conclusions about Frances Newton's guilt or innocence, but the notion that she received either a fair trial or due process in her appeals is frankly preposterous. That means we'll never know if she was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and neither will Turpyn. The state of Texas executed her anyway.]

Ventura's Faulty Economic Theory

Michael Ventura,

Your recent editorial "If New Orleans Were Dry" ["Letters @ 3am," Sept. 16] exposes a wrong and potentially dangerous point of view that is widely held by well-intentioned people working for the causes of anti-poverty, anti-trade, anti-capitalism, and even Islamic terrorism.

It's not the conclusion that a right-wing cabal is responsible for 9/11 and Katrina, or that the U.S. causes immeasurable suffering by using too much of the world's resources and not sharing, it's the untenable foundation of these conclusions, which many assume to be self evident: "Obviously if we had less, the world's impoverished people would have more ... the haves have because the have-nots do not ... we live on theft ... our way of life is a criminal enterprise."

The author lends some authority to his views by citing Lao Tzu, author of the Tao Te Ching, who unfortunately died 1,200 years before the arrival of the phenomenon of sustained growth in living standards. But let's ask ourselves what Tzu would think about capitalism in China if he were alive today? Wouldn't he look at the experience of his country over the last 70 years and determine that the reliance on sharing wealth rather than creating wealth does not work? Wouldn't he conclude based on China's experience and on the experience of their neighbors like India and North Korea that economic growth fueled by capitalism and free markets is obviously the best long-term answer to poverty, disease, and environmental damage? He might also point out how well-intentioned, anti-capitalists like our author do more real harm to impoverished people of the world than any injustice capitalism or free markets inflict.

Before writing about economic matters it's important to have a good understanding of the issues. I recommend reading Learning Economics by Arnold Kling or Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan.

Jeff Albrecht


Parallels

Dear Editor,

Thank you for the update on the environmental abuses of Freeport McMoRan in Indonesia ["Written in Stone," News, Sept. 23]. Thanks also for writing on AMD and Stratus Properties' attempt to launch a new satellite downtown above Barton Springs – the same one that FM's Jim Bob Moffett dreamed of in 1990.

Are these two stories really one story?

While local opponents to the corporate attack on our water and democratic institutions are not being murdered, the ties and parallels between FM's activities overseas and those of its "independent" spin-off, Stratus, here at home deserve exploring. One point of departure: the common, official address the two share at 1615 Poydras St., New Orleans, La., as stated in the two companies' most recent quarterly reports to the SEC. (Go to www.sec.gov/edgar/searchedgar/companysearch.html and enter FCX for Freeport and STRS for Stratus.)

The parallels in disinformation, water pollution, and disregard of local communities are disturbing. For more than 15 years there has been overwhelming public opposition to Stratus/FM's efforts to build a new downtown above Barton Springs. Most recently, more than 12,000 people have signed the petition at www.moveamd.com asking AMD to build their new offices outside the Barton Springs watershed.

Why the opposition? For the simple reason that building a new downtown above the Edwards Aquifer will ruin Barton Springs.

Yet (as in 1990) our elected officials are frozen in fear. Large amounts of cash and free computer equipment are spread around in the political, nonprofit, media, music, and film communities in an attempt to buy silence. These divide-and-conquer tactics are straight from Freeport's 1990 playbook.

Is the soul of Austin now for sale? It's up to you. FM/Stratus' development plans depend on it, and now AMD is betting the same.

As before, it takes a community to save a community spring.

Sincerely,

Bill Bunch

SOS Alliance


Government Is for the People

Dear Editor,

Louis Black's argument ["Page Two," Sept. 16] could be summarized in the entire quote of George Santayana from 1905's The Life of Reason, Volume 1: "Progress, far from consisting on change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. In the first stage of life the mind is frivolous and easily distracted, it misses progress by failing in consecutiveness and persistence. This is the condition of children and barbarians, in which instinct has learned nothing from experience." This reader is pessimistic about the poor's plight wherever they are located because without the analytical and technical skills required for success in our information society, they'll continue being stuck at the bottom. Possibly, locals may resent their new neighbors!

And politicians can argue successfully that all the previous solutions failed, so it's foolish to throw more good money after bad. Doing nothing was what created the problem and it's high time to accomplish doable solutions and abandon all do-nothing domestic policies, e.g., the resources squandered in Iraq could've taken care of all the USA's invisible working poor and the whole country would've continued to reap the economic benefits. Possibly it's high time that Americans realized that government is for the people and not the enemy.

Warren Weappa


Have Some Fun, Caligiuri!

Dear Editor,

I am writing in response to Jim Caligiuri's review of the Freddie Steady 5 recording Freddie Steady Go! ["Texas Platters," Music, Sept. 16]. Caligiuri missed the point of the recording. When I first heard this CD last spring my initial reaction was "Wow! This is great dance music." In other words, it was not meant to be listened to passively. One should participate and enjoy. Have some fun. Laugh. And marvel at the breadth of musical talent that seems to be second nature to the spirit of this vast state.

Not being a native Texan, I had no idea that all the songs in this collection were created by Texas artists. These songs reached the entire United States and beyond. The beautiful, wild, romantic, and generous nature of this state, along with the people who are part of it speaks to the very essence of the muse that drives all art, poetry, and music. This collection celebrates it. Have some fun, Jim.

Dana K. McBride


More International News Needed

Dear Editor,

I am an American who has recently moved to Austin from London, England, where I lived and worked for 16 years. The universal question I am asked outside the U.S. is "Why is there so little news in the U.S. about the rest of the world?" Therein, I believe, lies the reason the current administration has been able to perpetrate the politics of nightmares. Americans have always been insular, and after September 11th seemed to turn even more inward, if possible. Most young people outside the U.S. apply for and use their passports as soon as they are eligible, about 17 years old. They travel, they work, they experience other cultures and other cuisines. Yes, it's true that many British people still believe that the sun never sets on the British Empire, but they absolutely know what is going on in other countries and continents. Although Blair was able to commit British troops to Iraq, the British public at large has been and remains vociferously against this war, even after the recent bombings in London.

The Chronicle is an excellent paper. I would like to challenge you to bring more international news to your readership and encourage them to explore the world in which they live. Do the people in this country really want to be personally ridiculed and reviled by the rest of the world? Truth is they pretty much are. Or will they make the effort to assimilate with worldwide indigenous populations proving that the government may be an ass but the people are genuine and intelligent?

The Chronicle has an opportunity to dispel the enduring American media message "There's no place like home." Help your readers awake from the nightmares instilled by Washington. The reality is, no place is perfectly safe, yet no place is entirely dangerous either.

Bette O'Callaghan


Texas Filled With Liberal Yankees

Dear Editor,

I lived in Austin for many years. I know the area John Bush was arrested. My question, why was he picked out from the many? Yep, that is why I no longer live in Texas. It is not the same honest, caring place it once was. Now it is filled with liberal yankees ... that disgust me, and ruined Texas forever. Deny it, but it is the truth. You get to live there. Sadly, very sadly, I had to leave.

Brad Gilla

Nashville, Tenn.


Questions About Capital Metro

Dear Editor,

Regarding the impromptu one-day strike of the bus drivers (without any advisory or warning and on one of the hottest weather days of the year), there was spotted on the television news Thursday morning a couple of strike protesters' signs suggesting Fred Gilliam, CM GM, jump ship.

We can't know exactly what transpires daily within the confines of that big, ugly building he works out of on East Fifth Street, but I would offer up the semi-educated opinion that Fred Gilliam does not hold all that much power directly (similarly to the state govenor's limited powers) and that it would be more the board of directors.

As a routine bus user (with a bike), I could ramble for a few pages on the "mixed" experiences I've had over time, but I'll have to let that wait. For the moment, I would like to ask: Does the board have any members who actually use the bus personally? Is there anyone (with these powers) able to assess their true responsibilities to the public users and find they've got something to possibly be proud of they could look back on some day?

One afterthought for you all: You like to keep up on local matters that affect the quality of life for the general populace but are slighted sometimes by the other media. Does any staff of the Austin Chronicle attend any of the board meetings?

Charles Roberts


Truly Patriotic

Dear Editor,

After reading a reactionary letter last week I felt compelled to respond. Kandace Heimer's harsh and unfair criticisms of Cindy Sheehan were totally uncalled for ["Postmarks," Sept. 16]. I marched right behind Cindy when she was here in Austin recently, and when a man started yelling, "Impeach Bush," she gently told him to please not say that. Cindy seemed genuinely sweet and concerned, certainly not the unsavory type of person insinuated in Heimer's illogical line of reasoning. Just because Cindy is against the war doesn't mean she's against the troops and supports the insurgents and terrorists! I'm sure such thoughts were not on the minds of people at the vigils while they prayed for those killed and those still fighting in this totally senseless war.

Cindy is more patriotic than right-wing extremists are; she and other anti-war protesters want desperately to improve the lives of people in this undemocratic nation of ours. It is people like Heimer who are disgracing and dishonoring this country with their hatred and ignorance, which is the root of all suffering. Life provides us many opportunities to achieve insight, wisdom, and compassion. People who choose to be close-minded and malicious are impeding the achievement of social and economic justice. As the Holiness the Dalai Lama teaches us, "Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them."

Working and protesting,

Anita Quintanilla


Polanski Is Just a Child Rapist

Dear Editor,

I see in the movie listings that Oliver Twist will be advance-screening in Austin this week. I'd just like to remind moviegoers that it was directed by a child rapist. People should remember that when movie reviewers inevitably gush about Roman Polanski's greatness and skill and blah blah blah, they're heaping praise on a man who raped a 13-year-old girl and then fled the country to avoid prosecution. He's apparently still allowed to walk the streets solely because he's a famous Hollywood type. I expect this to be overlooked in most discussions of the film.

Jason Meador


Ventura's Right – We Did This to Ourselves

Dear Editor,

I have always enjoyed your point of view, Michael [Ventura], even when I thought you were totally off the mark. On this occasion I couldn't agree with you more ["Letters @ 3am," Sept. 16]. The America that we all know is, at a quick pace or a slow, coming to its inevitable end. This is not a claim of pending doom (depending on who you are it could be). It's a wake-up call we all need to answer. We did this to ourselves and so we will be the recipients of the rewards. There is only one result of burying our heads for so long – not seeing the pack of wolves with designs on our posteriors. Get ready, everyone. When it happens it's going to hurt. Bad.

Christopher Clark

Louisville, Ky.


Social Security Is Broken!

Mr. Black,

I agree with most of your assault on the know-nothing culture of the Bush administration ["Page Two," Sept. 16]. But I was concerned to see the perpetuation of a myth about Social Security and the stock market. Social Security is no longer particularly liberal. First, it now benefits the rich at the expense of the poor. The oldest Americans (who receive benefits) are now the wealthiest; the youngest (who pay) are now the poorest. It is also a regressive tax, costing the poor a much greater percentage of income than the rich. Furthermore it is a tax on the next generation, which has no representation, will not be able to afford the cost, and will not receive full benefits themselves.

Due to the graying of America, the number of Social Security beneficiaries is outpacing the number of contributing workers. This is causing the return on investment to fall. It will become negative if no reforms are made. Young people would be better off putting their money under the bed than putting it into Social Security! Stocks, bonds, CDs, even savings accounts are all becoming much better and safer investments than Social Security. I oppose Bush's private accounts plan because it costs too much and ultimately does not give citizens control over their own assets. A much better approach is what they use in Australia – mandatory savings for retirement, based on a percentage of income. There, citizens keep their own retirement money and have a choice of investments. That way, the poor are not subsidizing the rich (as in Social Security) – they are investing themselves! A much better arrangement. By the way, Australia has no long-term pension-system debt problem! See the wonderfully nonpartisan book Running on Empty by Peter G. Peterson for a full account.

Will Cain

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