Our readers talk back.

"Typically Biased Leftist Media'

Dear Editor,

Congratulations, Diana [Welch], on making the Texas Minutemen look like a bunch of fools ["This Ain't No Picnic: Minutemen on Patrol," News, Oct. 28]! I suppose I should thank you for only touching me lightly.

Your report was the typically biased leftist media viewpoint, and it just underscores the need for a news outlet like

Linking Texas Minutemen to KKK activities of the past was just too much. And saying that Terry [Trautman] said, "Don't shoot if they're carrying a shovel," that was over the top. In case you weren't listening, the Texas Minutemen were there to observe and report, not to shoot anyone. We only carried guns to defend ourselves with.

And somehow or another you distorted what I said about Ray Ybarra and his propaganda DVD he's been playing wherever he can get an audience. I hope you had your tape recorder going, because I know exactly what I said. I said that I suspect he inserted chants of "White Power" into a video of a Minuteman rally held in Phoenix on July 1 while editing his DVD. That is a far cry from saying he "instigated chants of 'White Power!' at pro-Minuteman rallies." There are many things one can do while "editing" video in a computer, and inserting a totally manufactured audio sound bite in a creative manner is one of them. Sadly, Ybarra's DVD got stuck when he showed it at UTEP, so we never got to that part. I feel certain that as a law student, and knowing that he could get sued over that, especially when you consider that there were others taping at that same event, he would have removed the "White Power" chants before showing the DVD again. Too bad I wasn't able to find out. If you'd like to see where I originally made the claim that those chants were inserted, you can go to my Web site, and read the report:

If you're in a hurry, just read the fifth and sixth paragraphs from the end. I gave you my e-mail, so I know that if you'd had any doubt about what I'd actually said, you could have e-mailed me.

Laine Lawless

Tucson, Ariz.

[Diana Welch responds: I'm sorry if there was a misunderstanding regarding exactly where Ms. Lawless claims that Ray Ybarra of the ACLU Legal Observer Project "played the race card," though I must admit I find both suspected places to be equally creative and confusing. And, in my opinion, what's "over the top" about Mr. Trautman's quote is that he said it at all, not to mention in front of a reporter.]

Why Did We Publish Article?

Dear Editor,

Your article on the Minutemen had me howling with laughter ["This Ain't No Picnic: Minutemen on Patrol," News, Oct. 28]. But why in the world have you elevated a cross between Barney Fife and the Three Stooges roaming around in the dark to be a threat to the civil liberties of the entire country? Seems to me that this bunch of bumbling buffoons pose a much greater danger to each other than to the rest of us. Is the Chronicle getting that hard-up for stories to print? And is the ACLU running out of real problems to confront? What comes next, an article about those clearly homophobic, pepper-spray-armed grandmas in the local neighborhood watch? Come on, Diana Welch, get on it. And just out of curiosity, if some white guy phones the cops about a bank robbery in progress, is he only a hero and good citizen if the robber happens to also be white, but a rank racist if the robber is a person of color? The rules covering these situations seem to be obvious to you, but us mere mortals need some guidance.

Scott Sexton

[Diana Welch responds: Homophobes! Pepper spray! I'm on it! Do you have contact info for those grandmas?]

The Problem Is the Ban!

Dear Editor,

Federal Judge Sparks and even Christopher Gray seem unconvinced that the drop in bar business is due to the smoking ban ["TCB," Music, Oct. 21]. What my colleagues notice is that many bars with patios have enjoyed increased business beginning Sept. 1. Most indoor bars have lost sales and most earnings. Indoor bars are observing no meaningful increase in new nonsmoking clientele to offset the loss of smokers. This particular smoking ban doesn't reduce smoking in Austin; it merely puts in motion dynamics to push dozens of small entertainment businesses into failure.

In the eight weeks since the ban took effect we observe that smokers are merely relocating to bars with outside patios, or not going out at all. This was a law motivated by political correctness that is hurting small businesses without any appreciable reduction in smoking.

Paul Silver

219 West Lounge and Restaurant

Something Wrong In Edna

Dear Editor,

All of Bell's convictions run to the maximum ["Crackpot Crackdown," News, Oct. 21] unless you catch him off guard in negotiating the case. The town of Edna operates on the basis of a name game; if your last name isn't among the high citizens of Edna, you will not catch a break. I work for an attorney in Houston; I have had two attorneys go to Edna to defend cases. They both state his practices are unorthodox. I have also negotiated a case for a defendant in an assault case in which the other party never even filed a report or complaint. I was able to negotiate a 30-day two-for-one sentence, only because he hadn't reviewed the file yet. They now know my name there in Bell's office due to other cases. Edna's police team and Bobby Bell should all be investigated.

Pauline A. Garza


"Yes' on Proposition 1

Dear Editor,

I think you missed the point of the rail-relocation measure [Endorsements, Oct. 21]. Moving rail lines out of the cities helps the public a lot more than it helps the railroads. That's why they haven't paid their own way to do this before, and that's where the equity for Texans comes in now. The state's investment means we, the citizens, get more rail transit (which Austin wants), more efficient freight rail, fewer cars and trucks on the road, and more redevelopment in the state's inner cities, which means less sprawl. A "yes" on Prop. 1 is a lot more consistent with what the Chronicle has long advocated on the transportation front.

Glenn Gadbois

Wrong on Maglev Trains

Dear Editor,

Michael Ventura seems to have invented perpetual motion with his statement "Maglev trains use no fuel. Emit no pollutants" ["Letters @ 3am," Oct. 28]. While there is no fuel on the Maglev, they certainly use a lot of fuel in the form of electricity to power the electro-magnets that levitate and move the cars. How can one believe Ventura when he makes mistakes like this?

I rode the Shanghai Maglev this year, and while it is smooth at slow to moderate speed, the ride became quite bumpy at its maximum speed of 267 mph (430 kph) on the 20-mile run. Even in heavily populated China the Maglev operates at a loss due to the high operating cost. Since the guideway ends on the outskirts of Shanghai it functions mainly as an amusement ride. As I exited a worker was cleaning the bug- and possibly bird- (birds are few in China) splattered windshield.

Jerry Whiteaker

Maybe It's Just Hoffman

Kimberley Jones,

I guess it's flattering, but you can't be too happy about Roger Ebert ripping you off like this on all your clever lines:

"Philip Seymour Hoffman's precise, uncanny performance as Capote doesn't imitate the author so much as channel him, as a man whose peculiarities mask great intelligence and deep wounds." Roger Ebert (

"Hoffman who doesn't so much act out Capote's distinctive mannerisms and high-pitched lisp as channel them." Kimberley Jones [Film Listings, Oct. 28].

Robert Ritchie


[Editor's note: Instead of Jones influencing Ebert or Ebert influencing Jones, we suggest that Hoffman's performance is responsible for the one-word similarity between them. A very quick Web scan reveals: "Capote features ...: Philip Seymour Hoffman channeling Truman Capote," Keith Demanche, The Wire. "Hoffman begins with a dead-on impersonation of Capote that soon becomes a kind of channeling," Richard Corliss, Time. "... is worth seeing solely for Philip Seymour Hoffman's brilliant channeling of Truman Capote," The Gothamist. "Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman channels the effeminate true-crime writer)," Steve Fisher,]

Eerily Intuitive 2003 Column

Dear Editor,

Michael King's article March 14, 2003 ["Capitol Chronicle," News], about the Iraq war and Karl Rove was the most eerily intuitive column I have ever read. Please run it again for those who might have missed it. I had to keep checking the date, I couldn't believe that it was written in 2003. I wish you could repeat it.

Wanda E. Webb

Columbia, S.C.

[Editor's note: See for this column.]

Cover in Bad Taste

Dear sir,

Your cover comparing Barbara Bush to Marie Antoinette and the "instructions" related to that feature are in very bad taste and show a complete ignorance of the character of this first lady [Oct. 28]. If you can't win at the polls, attack and belittle people and pretend it's meaningful "satire" seems to be your mantra. Your magazine has degenerated into a meaningless ideologically driven yellow sheet that people basically pick up because it's free and they can get fairly accurate showtimes. Please try to do better.


Matthew Stavrowsky

Rethink Valet Parking Ordinance

Dear Editor,

The Valet Parking Ordinance that council passed some years back was a golden egg for some while the taxpayers who pay for the signage, enforcement, and maintenance of the streets get screwed.

For a small fee of $250 a year per parking space in a public street, business owners contract with valet parking services who report very little sales tax and abuse the ordinance, knowing they will only face a fine of $20.

At a recent council meeting with a video I took of the problems caused by the valet companies, COA Jason Redfern told a KXAN reporter that stiffer penalties would be used.

But the stiffer penalty is only $25; valets make that with two vehicles.

I wonder when staff created this ordinance if they took into concern the cost of signs, installation, and enforcement of the ordinance in deciding how much the parking spaces were to be leased for.

According to the COA, there are six valet parking operators that have control of the valet parking spaces located on public streets for approximately 30 businesses.

With parking being a premium in the downtown area, it's in no way fair for certain valet parking services to take over parking spaces marked for valet if the business is not using them.

It's my opinion that some of the valet parking companies could be trusted to comply with the ordinance as much as a sex offender working in a day-care facility!

According to the COA parking management, a parking meter in the downtown area nets an average of $300 a month.

So, tell me, how are the taxpayers getting a good deal with the use of our tax dollars by allowing a business to secure a block of parking spaces for only $250 a year per space?

Pat Johnson

"Aixi Em Semto Millor'

Dear Editor,

In reference to your article "Finding the Write Word" [Books, Oct. 28], I would like to help to "find the language." Liliana Valenzuela states, "Catalan is a mixture of French and Spanish."

While you could say that Catalan sounds somewhat like a mixture of French and Spanish, it is incorrect that Catalan is such. Catalan is its own language, it evolved from Latin, independently, just as Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese did. All these romantic languages have a common root, Latin, and they all have similarities among them, due to this shared origin and geographical proximity to one another. These languages have all spawned dialects as well.

The Catalan language is spoken in Catalunya, the Northeast region of Spain, and dialects of Catalan are spoken in some areas in Southern France, Valencia, Pyrenees, and the Balearic Islands. French, Spanish, and Catalan are, then, all of the same age, and have distinct grammar, vocabulary, their own language academy, and body of literary work. Nowadays, and in its unstoppable flourishing after Franco's death, Catalan is the official language of the Catalan "autonomy" (Spain is sort of a federal state of "autonomias," self-governed to different degrees, where there are four official languages, Español, Catalan, Vasco, and Gallego). As the people that have traveled to Catalunya know, TV and radio stations, many newspapers, books, the Catalan Parliament, and city bodies there are all held in the Catalan language.

It's such a common mistake to consider Catalan a dialect of either Spanish or French that I had to write this letter at some point!

"Aixi em semto millor." ("There, I feel better," in Catalan; compare to Spanish or French!)


Viviane Vives

Get out of Marriage Business

Dear Editor,

With the latest hue and cry from the religious right and homophobics, and their unholy war against same-sex marriage in the guise of Proposition 2, it has occurred to me that all marriages should be declared null and void, and that marriage as currently institutionalized should be struck down [Endorsements, Oct. 21].

Under the Constitution we have the rights of free association and freedom of religion. Therefore, if two or more people desire that their relationship be recognized as permanent and committed, then they can do that, perhaps with the customary religious ceremony and their friends and family around them. However, their union should not be recognized by the state. The state has no business being in the business of marriage, a personal relationship formed between consenting adults. It is not a state matter. Nor is it the place of the state to promote, reward, protect, and otherwise take responsibility for a personal union between citizens who have, independent of the state, chosen their life mates and partners. As it exists now, the legal construct of marriage is indefensible because it is patriarchal, inequitable, and discriminatory. It hurts all of society, particularly women and children, while it purports to protect and preserve society. Moreover, if the benefits that accrue to some are not available to all, regardless of marital status or gender, then they should be available to none. After all, as citizens of this nation, we are guaranteed equality under the law.

Linda Evans

Neglecting SRV's Birthday

Dear Editor,

I find it hard to believe that your newspaper has such disregard for mentioning Stevie Ray Vaughan's birthday in October (first Sunday of October) and his memorial ride and tribute every year. It's frankly disturbing ... all the way to California, coast to coast. What the heck is wrong with you guys? You would think that Texas would be celebrating one of the world's best blues and rock legends of all times. Shame on you people.

Maria Collins

Los Gatos, Calif.

Photographer Credited

Dear Editor,

I'm working for the Travis County Parks PAC and we placed a full-page ad in last week's Chronicle that included a beautiful photograph of a rock climber scaling a cliff at Reimers Ranch above the Pedernales River. Great photograph. Great ad. Hopefully a whole lot of readers saw it and got the message (vote for the Travis County Park bonds if you want to save Reimers Ranch and preserve open space and water quality).

However, we neglected to credit the photographer, Merrick Ales, who took that wonderful shot we used in the ad. So we wanted to ask readers to do two things. First, check out Merrick's Web site at He does wonderful work. Second, please get out and vote for the Travis County Park bonds. See, if we win, hopefully Merrick will be so happy he will forget all about this unfortunate incident.

So readers, it's up to you. Early voting ends Friday, Nov. 4, and election day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. Please get out and vote for the Travis County Park bonds to save Reimers Ranch, preserve open space and water quality, and make a great photographer happy.


Mike Blizzard

Travis County Parks PAC

More Coverage Please


The Austin high school redesign project is an amazing event, yet it's kind of invisible ["Parents Playing High School Redesign Hooky?," News, Oct. 7]. Certainly, zillions of people are interested, yet they might not know it. The word "education" merely means "what to know and how." We are in good times when such a topic comes for review in a way that could incite change. Please, provide more coverage for this topic. Help make the debate accessible to everyone, keep it alive so all of us may realize how we can influence the course – it affects everyone.


Charles Edwards

Bush Quote: "No Casualties'

Dear Editor,

I am not one to complain, I am simply pointing out a fact. Well, more than a fact. It's a quote from President Bush to Pat Robertson, the head of the Christian Coalition. In an interview with CNN, Robertson described a conversation with Bush shortly before the war in Iraq in which Robertson voiced his fears for American troops and suggested it was time to prepare the country for loss.

"I warned him about this war. I had deep misgivings about this war, deep misgivings. And I was trying to say, 'Mr. President, you had better prepare the American people for casualties,'" Mr. Robertson said. "Bush then replied: 'Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties.'"

I believe this quote from Bush gives insight into just how ill-prepared and ill-informed Bush was concerning a very, very grave matter. I believe now that Bush is 2,000 times dead wrong and that we, the American public, must revisit other things Bush has said. Our country is at stake.

David Porter

An Improvement That Makes Things Worse

Dear Editor,

The good folks at New Scientist magazine, tirelessly working to keep us all informed, have come up with a term that I believe everyone here in Austin [and possibly elsewhere] will find highly useful in describing many of the new and exciting things we have to look forward to in the coming months and years ahead: Schlimmbesserung. Doesn't that just roll off the tongue? It is a German word meaning something along the lines of "an improvement which makes something worse." Think, oh say, highway improvements perhaps, although many, many other uses for this word will, I am certain, be found to obtain.

In light of this I think it will be well and appropriate to alter my greetings for the upcoming holiday season to: "Merry Schlimmbesserung and a very happy Zeitgeldundauskunfstmettelsvernichtung (a complete waste of time, money, and resources)!"

Byron Pratt

It Goes Both Ways

Dear Editor,

As I have been watching the news lately I have thought about what will happen when the state starts to legislate the church. The church seems very adamant about joining the state government so as to have a say in what state government will do and what it should not do. What will happen when the pendulum swings the other way, as it always does? Will the state government be allowed to legislate how churches are run? Maybe making it state law about how many people can join one church so as to limit the Sunday flow of people from one church. Or make it state law that there has to be a set amount of blacks, whites, and Hispanics in each church. And how about that they have to limit how loud those bells can sound. Or how many churches can be in one neighborhood. You know that once you start stepping over that line between church and state, the state might decide that it can step over it, too.

George Lewis

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