The Austin Chronicle


January 20, 2006, Columns

Cover Aids Enemy

Dear Editor,

The cover of your Jan. 6 Austin Chronicle is a blatant example of seditious tripe. You would dare to compare our precious nation with the rapacious specters of war, famine, and pestilence? You would dare to personify these malignancies with three of our top elected executives? You would dare to show them breaking down a door threatening a Muslim woman and child?

America is the only beacon of hope and freedom for the vast majority of humanity. The type of specious and deadly message you are sending provides the enemies of liberty, e.g., Islamic fascists, extra incentive to destroy America and enslave humanity in an 11th-century existence. This is the lesson of the September 11, 2001, attacks on America. If you continue you can take credit for playing your part in their malevolent efforts.


Vance McDonald

Podcasting Good

Dear Editor,

Thanks for covering podcasts ["Good Night and Good Luck," Music, Jan. 13]. As one of the veterans in the industry (meaning I've been podcasting since March with the Brobdingnagian Bards), it's great to see The Austin Chronicle hit on one of the hottest new technologies. Content on demand. It's a wonderful thing. I should point out that that is compiling a list of musician podcasts that is well worth checking out.

Marc Gunn

Smaller High Schools Better

Dear Editor:

Reading this article ["AISD Gets the Ball Rolling on High School Redesign," News, Jan. 13] gives me hope for the future of high schools, because I am a 31-year educator and longtime advocate of smaller high schools. This story takes me back to AISD in the 1970s, when Superintendent Jack Davidson and Principal Ron Beauford implemented the "schools within a school" idea at LBJ High School.

This is not, therefore, a new idea; however, it has always been a good one. Large high schools are a nightmare. Smaller ones under 1,000 enrollment are the dream. And, if they cannot be that small due to existing large facilities now, then by all means let us move now to break all the big ones up as described by the current movement. I hope it gains the critical mass needed for broad reform and an end to the 2,000-student behemoths we have far too many of throughout Texas and the USA.

Dale Summitt


Disputing Aquifer "Facts'

Dear Editor,

Regarding Mr. Raymond Slade Jr.'s letter of Jan. 13 ["Postmarks"], I am compelled and obliged to reply. Aquifer flow studies in a joint project between the city of Austin and the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District conducted between 1996 and 2002 demonstrate that runoff and groundwater from the Lantana tract (and the contributing zone north of Highway 71) would drain into the hydrologically distinct Cold Springs Basin segment of the Edwards Aquifer system and thence flow northeastward to emerge at Cold Springs on Town Lake, thereby bypassing Barton Springs entirely. Mr. Slade should be made aware that a summary of this study ( is on the same Web site as his referenced water-quality degradation study. Figure four of the full report ( is particularly informative. Perhaps Barton Springs is not in peril, after all, from pollution directly related to developments in this area. Further, I stand by my observation that most of the local Edwards Aquifer direct recharge zone has already been extensively developed.

Re: Mr. Colin Clark's letter of Jan. 13 ["Postmarks"], it is not my conclusion "that Advanced Micro Devices should spur further urbanization." My conclusion is a simple observation that the growth boom in the southwest has already occurred and continues apace, AMD or not, Motorola or not, SOS or not. As for the claim that AMD is "building a major campus in our most fragile watershed," please see the above referenced study and its implications. As a geologist, I am amazed at the lack of scientific and intuitive logic being applied to this issue, which appears to be a wretched emotional and political zero-sum conflict.

Douglas Watkins

Exploration geologist

Newcomers Changing Marfa

Dear Editor,

Bravo Dan Keane! Someone finally mentions the people that have been in Marfa for generations and how the influx of new "residents" is impacting their lives ["To Marfa, on a Tuesday in December," the Arts, Dec. 23]. I am so tired of seeing articles in Texas Monthly and other publications that only focus on what the artists have done for the town. The day will come when they have changed the town so much that the characteristics that drew them won't exist anymore.

Jo Ann Nowak

Ventura Ill-Informed

Dear Editor,

The latest rant from Michael Ventura on the illegality of the NSA eavesdropping program is remarkably ill-informed ["Letters @ 3am," Jan. 6]. A good case can indeed be made that the program was illegal (and I'm a happy member of the Republican Party), but Ventura's article did not make it.

Indeed, Ventura deserves a medal for discussing the program at such length without having the slightest idea what the program even is. As even a casually well-informed person now knows, the NSA program is not about your run-of-the-mill wiretaps, but rather a data-mining or packet-sniffing operation that analyzes vast amounts of data for suspicious patterns or words. Such a program would not pass muster for a warrant by definition.

FISA needs to be updated to incorporate the latest techniques; that doesn't retroactively excuse the Bush administration for bypassing it. That Ventura totally disregarded the reality of the program to get on his high horse about the evil Bush administration's desire to usher in the Fourth Reich does no credit to himself nor to you for continuing to publish his totally predictable screeds.

I realize you are a liberal publication; that's fine ... but there are far, far better writers who are vastly more informed and intriguing than Mr. Ventura.

Mark Coffey

More on Drunken Driving

Dear Editor,

Thanks for your stories on war and police abuse killing innocent people.

I still don't understand, however, why you never write stories about drunken driving killing innocent people (multivehicle accidents).

A Google search on "drunk driving" and "Austin Chronicle" turns up very little, just one syndicated column. Substituting "Taser" for "drunk driving" yields dozens of entries (I stopped counting after three pages).

I think your rationale has something to do with personal freedom, but it's somewhat hazy to me, as I (would) cherish my personal freedom to not get rear-ended by a drunk.

Herbert Ward

[News Editor Michael King responds: The editorial emphasis has little to do either with "personal freedom" or even the number of deaths – rather with the difference between personal irresponsibility and public policy. Moreover, there are enormous organizational and public relations efforts devoted to excoriating drunken driving, which hardly need any help from the Chronicle.]

What About Hut's Gigs?

Dear Mr. Black,

I support the Chronicle and so do my friends, that's why I receive a subscription. We have always been staunch supporters of the Austin music scene as well.

Personally, I have always appreciated Margaret Moser's contributions to your publication, but I am troubled somewhat after reading her article on Erik Hokkanen ["Realms of Inspiration," Music, Dec. 2, 2005]. Troubled by an omission that amounts to disrespecting Hut's and Tex Thomas and the Danglin' Wranglers. I fear for her credibility.

You see, back in the Eighties I was a Sunday night "regular" at Hut's. Tex Thomas (aka Harvey Young) and the Danglin' Wranglers played every Sunday night to an audience that was generally musicians in the majority. I won't bother dropping the names; they know who they are.

At any rate, Erik used to stand in regularly. The set would invariably lead to a bout of "dueling fiddles" between Erik and Tex's band leader, Danny Levin. It was high art.

How could Ms. Moser have failed to mention those gigs?

With all due respect,

Robert S. Moore

Baffled on Election Questions

Dear Editor,

We have a couple of questions. We always vote in primaries and elections city-, state-, and nationwide, and we are a little baffled on the following questions. Luckily, we aren't alone, no one else seems to know the answer either.

OK, I understand to vote for Carole Keeton Strayhorn we cannot vote for a governor in the primaries; however, can we vote for anything else or do we have to skip it all together?

Second: How, when, and where do we vote for her?

Glenn and Kathy Jackson


[News Editor Michael King responds: According to the Texas Election Code, if you wish to sign a petition for any independent candidate, you must not vote in any primary for which a candidate is listed for that office – so if you wish to sign a petition to get Carole Keeton Strayhorn (or any other independent candidate, e.g., Kinky Friedman) on the ballot, do not vote (at all) in any primary election or run-off. Signatures will be collected during a defined period after the primaries. Only one signature will count; should you sign two petitions, only the first one will count. Presuming your candidate gathers sufficient signatures to be listed on the November ballot, you can vote for that candidate on Nov. 7, in the general election.]

Smoking Ban Good

Dear Editor,

Recently I had the opportunity to take my visiting stepson to Casino el Camino for a burger. I haven't been there in a while because although I love the food, the smoke in there would burn my lungs so badly and cause my hair and clothing to reek with such a killer stench that I'd have to fumigate myself in the shower before going to bed and pay money to the cleaners to restore my poor, destroyed clothing. It just wasn't worth going very often for that reason. This last time, something was different. I couldn't figure it out at first. The place actually felt good to walk into; I could see clearer. Then I realized why – no one was smoking! This was a bar where it seemed requisite to smoke in order to occupy a space. Now there seemed to be a variety of people enjoying the food and ambience, not just the chain-smoking, multiple-pierced, heavily tattooed, leather-bound toughies frequenting the place. As I realized how awesome this bar could be with clean air, I took a deep breath and vowed to go back on a regular basis. After this experience, I feel freer and more motivated to do the downtown scene. Thank you, brave souls who supported and passed this ban. Bar owners, you're just going to have to have patience while you redirect your marketing efforts. People will come, but you've got to let them know why they should. They've been scared off by the air pollution. There are tons of smokers who frequent bars in NYC. They're quite content smoking outside the bars, and using the bar-provided outdoor cigarette disposals. These would be a very good idea to have in Austin, too.

Laine Jastram

Don't Miss "Aqueous'

Dear Editor,

Rachel Koper's review of "Aqueous," Liz Ward's current exhibit at Women and Their Work, is as refreshing as the wonderful art being described [Arts, Jan. 13]. Her phrasings "richly layered" and "a quiet storm" are accurate, and understandable. Her statement "This is great art work" is committed. These are rare commodities among the cryptic reviews we're used to reading in art journals. By the way, I went to see "Aqueous," and I'm telling everyone I know, "Don't miss it!"

Andrew E. Davis

Bitter or a Friend?

Dear Editor,

I wanna be in an emo band with nine members who all play the same note at the same time at the same volume.

I wanna be the one that sings most of the songs and has the asymmetrical haircut that looks like I slept on a pillow coated in glue.

I wanna look like I know something really horrible that you should know, and you're not cool because you don't.

No, I wanna be the skinny guitarist with a beard and a sly virgin smile, who's never really comfortable on stage. Or the keyboard player that looks like the singer, but is only in this band until he gets an office job.

Fuck, retro Eighties emo sucks. Mostly because the bands can't play and they act like they invented music. They haven't even reinvented it. They're badly rehashing music that sucked when it was new. That makes them tasteless and unoriginal. And I'm pissed that it's popular. But not because it's not me in the limelight.

You'll be embarrassed for liking it in about nine months, when retro New Wave is cool. Only it won't really be that cool either. And Trail of Dead will be making copies for you at Kinko's next summer. Maybe the summer after that if they're lucky. Broken Social Scene will be making coffee and selling German cars to French Canadians.

Am I bitter? Maybe. But I'm not jealous.

Do I wish I could get away with it? No. But for fun, sometimes my band will play an entire set in that style as a joke.

Please request something in Eighties emo style at a show. We'll do it and we'll have fun. You'll see that your favorite band maybe isn't so special. It's OK, neither is mine. Then you can talk to your friends and forget there's a band playing. We don't mind.

Hopefully I made you laugh. And then I hope I made you a little nervous, and then angry.

I'm a hypocrite. I'm bitter. What are you? How about a friend that I love and care enough to challenge your thinking?

Or not.

Crashing your emotional iPod,

Troy Dillinger

What About a Little Courtesy?

Dear Editor,

People like Michael M. Simpson are yet one more reason why places like, say, Amsterdam are looking better all the time ["Postmarks," Jan. 13]. The Dutch, Scandinavians, and others have, quite sensibly, come to the conclusion that vices will always be in demand and that prohibition and judgmentalism don't work. From prostitution to drug addiction, the state provides information and assistance to those who insist on engaging in them in an engaged and respectful way so as to mitigate unnecessary suffering – all for the greater good. Parts of the city are set aside for the purposes of providing safe places to those who would have their vices. Then the city monitors and regulates these activities on every important level, and also provides alternatives and support for those who may be interested.

As the outright ban on smoking suggests, in Austin, and in the U.S. generally, the prevailing attitude is less pragmatic and respectful. Michael's referring to smokers as "pigs" is in keeping with current ways of dealing with folks who insist on smoking, etc. What you get are attacks/insults and disenfranchisement by noxiously self-righteous, mean, pinch-faced puritans bent on sanitizing Austin to fit their rigid comfort zones. You know, Michael, a little courtesy can go a long way. How about more ashtrays outside of businesses to accommodate those who are forced to stand outside to enjoy their vice? Not all smokers are "pigs."

Thomas Boggs

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