Our readers talk back.

IEES Rollout Caused Problems

Dear Editor,

This is in response to Nicole Huizar's concerns regarding the difficulty she has been experiencing with her CHIP application ["Postmarks," June 23]. On January 20, 2006, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission initiated a new program called the Integrated Eligibility and Enrollment System with the intent to allow individuals seeking human services to apply in new and expanded ways, including online, by fax, and through a statewide call center (211).

IEES is the result of an $899 million, five-year contract between HHSC and Texas Access Alliance. TAA is part of Accenture LLP, a company with a history of unfulfilled state contracts throughout the U.S. As with many attempts to privatize social services, there have been significant problems in the efficient and effective rollout of IEES, which have caused severe delays with applications for all services, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Food Stamps, Medicaid, CHIP, and services for the elderly and disabled. While IEES is currently only a pilot project in Travis and Hays counties and has not been implemented statewide, it has created a domino effect, causing delays throughout the state.

It is a sad truth that the most vulnerable segments of our community, particularly children, are so often the first to suffer the consequences of ill-conceived and poorly executed programmatic changes. My office has been working closely with our constituents to resolve cases such as Ms. Huizar's. I recommend that any individual experiencing similar problems call the HHSC Ombudsman's office at 491-1387 and their state representative. Due to confidentiality, the details of Ms. Huizar's case may only be disclosed upon her direct request. I am more than happy to assist her and any other constituent in my district. I can be reached at 463-0114.

Gonzalo Barrientos

State senator

District 14

Back Room Slighted

Dear Editor,

So, no mention of the demise of the Back Room. Except for the backhanded slap in the "TCB" Music news column [June 30]. This does not surprise me because the Chron has never supported the metal music scene in Austin. I am sure that the nerds at the Chronicle must have had a fucking party when they heard the news. The picture of Malmsteen at the Back Room with the idiotic blurb "the Writing on the Wall" is a good example of the chicken-shit jab at metal music. This paper has a history of slagging, not only metal, but any music that has any competent level of musicianship, i.e., Eric Johnson, etc. Just because you nerds never learned how to play an instrument doesn't mean there aren't plenty of good people out there who want to read about something other than the typical singer-songwriter garage-band crap that you rave about in this paper every week.

The Back Room had many great shows, which I was lucky enough to attend. I think the place deserved a little more coverage than just a sarcastic, snotty little mention by the nerd who writes that column.

Thank you and goodnight.

Jack Pennington

Join ECT Fight

Dear Editor,

I hope you are well!

I am writing in support of the End of Shock movement here in Austin ["Naked City," News, July 7].

While I do not dispute the strong, obvious evidence that brain damage always occurs from electroconvulsive treatment, I am writing from a very personal and heart-centered position.

My oldest brother, Roky, received ECT in the Sixties. He told me that he wishes that he hadn't had that experience and that he believes that it did not help him.

Further, if there were a long history of wonderful success from ECT, we would all be lining up to celebrate shock. Sadly, not only can we not celebrate, but we are left to mourn for those whose lives have been ravaged by ECT.

I believe in the human spirit and the human body's great ability to restore wellness after the most devastating of experiences. Thank God: Roky is proof of that! But let's not give people something tragic to get over by design.

Please let us all join together to stop ECT, first at Seton Shoal Creek Hospital, then in all of Austin ... Texas ... then the world.

Peace, love, compassion, nonviolence, and understanding must always be the basis of all our actions, especially for those who are challenged with mental-health issues.

Peace and love,

Sumner Erickson

Paying for War


Re: "Page Two," July 7: Ever wonder how many big American patriots would remain so rabid if their share of the war bill arrived in the mail every January?

Stanley Gilbert

Fates Worse Than Death?

Dear Editor,

Your article of today does a good job covering the issues involved in allowing military recruiters on campus to try to enlist students ["AISD: Students Rein in Recruiters," News, July 7].

You mention the possibility of an early death in service. I would point out that some consequences of military service are almost worse than death, and very prevalent in the current conflict: traumatic head wounds with resulting organic brain damage, which can turn a healthy young person into a "walking veggie" who requires supervision 24/7, for life; and post-traumatic stress disorder, which can make it impossible for a veteran ever to reintegrate into civilian society and which can result in homicide or suicide even long after military service. Incidence of the latter is expected to total at least one in six vets, or about 170,000 people.

As a retired career counselor for people with disabilities, I can testify that such disabilities as TBI and PTSD can make these young people incapable of employment or productive endeavor indefinitely.

Lynn D. Gilbert, M.Ed.

Certified rehabilitation counselor

member, Nonmilitary Options for Youth

Black Maligns America

Dear Editor,

Louis Black's June 30 and July 7 Austin Chronicle "Page Two" columns are stunningly lame attempts to conflate illegal immigration, the world war against Islamist fascism, prayer, religion, and his neo-leftist attack-and-slash mindset to once again malign America.

For those interested, here are the realities. First, religion and prayer have nothing to do with the pertinent issues in Mr. Black's articles. They are polemic narrative devices he uses to vilify those not subscribing to his neo-leftist, utopian delusions. Furthermore, his ad hominem assaults on President Bush and the American people are childish and nonsensical.

Secondly, the current illegal immigration debate ignores the virulent cultural and economic problems of Mexico, South America, and the third world in general. The result is U.S. vulnerability to societal balkanization and economic collapse (not to mention Islamist fascist terrorism). And sorry Mr. Black, the U.S. supports illegal aliens economically, not the other way around. That is the reason they are here. The danger is that illegal aliens will import overwhelming third-world poverty, ultimately ending American and worldwide prosperity.

Lastly, Iraq is the primary strategic front in the global war against Islamist jihadism. Indeed, any rational person understands that since September 11, 2001, we have been in a world war with millions of Islamist fascists attempting to destroy freedom and America, commit genocide, and tyrannize humanity. They must be defeated. Neo-leftists such as Mr. Black are morally and intellectually incapable of comprehending this.

Moreover, neo-leftist ideology now drives the Democratic Party. It is no longer the party of Roosevelt, Truman, and John Kennedy. It is now that of neo-leftist extremists such as Michael Moore, Cindy Sheehan, and Howard Dean. That is why national security, economic, and immigration policy can never be controlled by Democrats.

Vance McDonald

Finds It Humorous

Dear Editor,

I've always found it humorous when civilians complain that military recruiters fail to tell potential recruits that military service may get them killed ["AISD: Students Rein in Recruiters," News, July 7]. Most GIs don't dwell on death as it is just another part of the job they've chosen. Anyone so dense as to not understand that donning a uniform and shouldering a weapon may lead to their demise probably should not be donning a uniform and shouldering a weapon. They probably should become newspaper reporters who complain that military recruiters never tell potential recruits that death may be a consequence of service.

Scott Sexton

Prove Electroshock Claim

Dear Editor,

Your coverage of the June 28 protest of electroshock treatment at Seton Hospital quoted Mary Ann Dale, manager of Shoal Creek's Electroconvulsive Therapy Department, as claiming, "Research has proven that it [electroshock] does not damage the brain" ["Naked City," News, July 7].

I question this statement and call on Seton and Ms. Dale to provide citations to the research that would back up their claim. I highly doubt research can prove that shock treatment does not damage the brain.

Best regards,

Ruth Rinehart

HPV Serious Business

Dear Editor,

As a cervical cancer survivor, I want to thank the Chronicle staff for your efforts to educate the public about human papillomavirus, this relatively unknown, yet potentially life-threatening virus ("Fight Against Cervical Cancer Advances," News, July 7). HPV is a sleeping giant – sexually active women everywhere must become more fully educated about the dangers of HPV. Why? Because no one is really talking about it, yet HPV is the second-leading cause of death in women worldwide.

Only through detection of abnormal cells during my annual gynecological exam did I learn that I had HPV; then even more shocking, I learned I had cervical cancer. I had never heard of HPV before and had no idea what it was – boy, do I know all about it now!

Unfortunately, the FDA's approval of the new vaccine Gardasil will not help the millions of women around the world whose lives have been changed forever by HPV, like mine has. It is absolutely crucial for every sexually active woman, especially those who are in their child-bearing years, 1) to have an annual gynecological exam, 2) to demand to be tested for HPV, 3) to ask her gynecologist for information about HPV, and 4) to educate herself so that she can protect herself before it is too late because the birthright of motherhood can be stripped away from her without warning.

HPV is serious business. For prevention's sake, we must keep talking about HPV and educating the Austin community.

Kerry Manning

Duh! Read the Book!

Dear Editor,

Re: The Devil Wears Prada review [Film Listings, June 30]: Duh, Marjorie, she got her clothes from Nigel (Stanley Tucci). If you couldn't get it from the movie, maybe you should have read the book. Were you wearing a lumpy sweater when you saw this?

Marty Wade

Seattle, Wash.

Religion Not a Factor in Immigration Fight

Dear Editor,

Although I am a conservative and a senior citizen, I enjoy reading the alternative viewpoints in The Austin Chronicle.

I must say, regarding your June 30 ["Page Two"] editorial on illegal immigration, where you rambled on about religion being a factor in the support of the extreme right to secure our borders: If this were a question of abortion or gay rights, you might have a point, but to try and make this an issue on immigration is ridiculous.

All conservatives do want to have our borders secure, but this has nothing to do with any prejudice against Latinos as liberals try to imply to buttress their argument for open borders.

Virtually all countries the world over, including all of Latin America, attempt to secure their borders as far as they are able, and we should, too. A wall will help (to keep illegals "out," not to keep citizens "in" as the Berlin Wall did), plus thousands of extra border patrols, surveillance technology, and all else possible to reduce the flood of illegals to a manageable trickle.

The point is that our country's resources are not infinite, and we cannot absorb the poor of the world, no matter how deserving they are. There, resources would be better spent helping our own poor citizens. Our government should decide each year how many immigrants we need to support our economy, who should be deported, who is to be given green cards to work, and how many immigrants to put on the path to citizenship.

The House has already indicated willingness to drop the clause designating all illegals as felons (though they are), as well as the clause prohibiting assistance to them by charities (i.e., the Catholic Church). Hopefully, the House and Senate in conference can reach a fair and practical compromise.


Winston Harwood

A Different Recruitment Style

Dear Editor,

Re: Military recruitment on high school campuses ["AISD: Students Rein in Recruiters," News, July 7]: When I was a high school senior, I hadn't gotten any information from any colleges. Although Texas A&M invited me to an overnight retreat near the end of my junior year, I had heard absolutely nothing from any other schools. Thus, when a Navy guy approached me, I went along with him. I learned that I would have done well on the ASVAB and that I would get to travel. The night I finished talking to the Naval recruiter, named John, I got an invitation to apply from Harvard. I could still remember that recruitment officer if I passed him on the street, and to this day, whenever I see Navy recruitment posters, I still say, "Yep, I almost did that." Who knows? If there had been a base near New Haven, Conn., I might have.

John was a courteous, tasteful recruiter whom I had a good conversation with, and I remember him the way I remember all the other colleges that I didn't go to but got accepted to: with respect. When I said I didn't want to join the Navy, he respected my choice and didn't contact me further. He didn't show up outside band practice or make me late for Latin. We'd had a good conversation, and for the rest of that year, we exchanged pleasantries with the air of "Hey, no hard feelings."

For all those military recruiters (and principals) who think that doing it any other way is appropriate, I would remind you that people who continue to harass the attention of uninterested people are called two things: credit card solicitors and stalkers.

Stephanie Webb

Bike It – You Might Like It

Dear Editor,

I think that Mr. Harwell would be hard-pressed to insist that his car is unsmelly if he were forced to stand behind it straddling a bicycle ["Postmarks," July 7].

Furthermore, I think he would be equally hard-pressed to find a cyclist who rode while talking on a cell phone, eating a burger, and smoking a cigarette simultaneously.

Finally, cycling as an alternative mode of transportation isn't necessarily about making every single trip a bike trip. It's about realizing the difference between the necessity of a vehicle and the luxury of a vehicle and making a responsible choice. Most people can't take their kids to school or ride to work on a bike. However, they can ride to the corner or to a friend's house without starting up their car. A gallon of milk or a couple of sandwiches fit neatly into a backpack.

Cycling as a movement isn't about replacement, it's about augmentation, and the benefits that come with it. Health, environmental, financial ... shall I go on?

I am tired of people decrying the assertions of alternative transportationalists because it won't replace their cars. Nothing will replace your car, jerk. Even I was forced to purchase one, because my commute became too dangerous. But denying the efficacy of bike transportation as opposed to car transportation is akin to claiming that wind power won't hold a candle to fossil fuels. Of course it won't! But that doesn't mean it can't make a difference and that we shouldn't respect (and possibly defer to) those who chose it as their means of powering their homes or getting around town!

Eric, I'm sorry that you saw a cyclist burn through a deserted red light, and it enraged you. Maybe if your car ran on calories you would appreciate the impetus for capturing inertia to its fullest. I am sure that if you had been going through the green light running perpendicular, your car would have won that clash of the titans. Hopefully you would have at least proffered assistance to the poor cyclist your vehicle had crushed, a courtesy that is becoming extinct in this city.

Until that magical moment, why not try riding your dusty bike for something other than recreation? You don't have to do everything on it, just a few things, here and there. Then perhaps you'll understand the cycling community's problem with asshole drivers, and perhaps even share some of our collective pissed-offedness about the average motorist's utter lack of respect (and apparent bloodlust) for those less en-motored.

Mike "Dub" Wainwright

Belated Thanks to Hardwig

Dear Editor,

Thank you Jay Hardwig! One whistler down, millions to go ["This Blows," June 2, 2000].

Here in NYC, whistlers are everywhere. You can't go food shopping without hearing whistling (even from the working men). Whistling even reaches into your home. (A whistler recently moved into an apartment four houses away. On our second floor, with one window closed, the other half open, his whistling fills the room.) Aside from the loud, the tone-deaf appear to enjoy whistling and do so at every opportunity. If asked to refrain, they invariably refuse and become belligerent. Why do they think everyone enjoys hearing them? With so many people sharing public space, what if everyone insisted on filling this public space with their own choice of audio?

Once again, thank you Jay Hardwig, and welcome to my world. I suggest you get headphones.

MonikkaMarie Jackson

New York City, N.Y.

Shocking Denial


I am so amazed by the level of denial people stand in when what they are involved in has opposition.

Of course it [electroconvulsive therapy] causes brain damage. How could it not?

Mary Ann Dale and Seton's statement that it causes no brain damage is insane ["Naked City," News, July 7]. Perhaps we should have a public ECT viewing with Mary Ann Dale and the other heads of Seton be the subjects to show us how safe it is.

The attitudes of these people who find delight in ruining peoples lives is criminal at the very least. What ever happened to the Hippocratic oath, "Cause no harm"?

Until Mary Ann Dale and her counterparts come forward for a public show of the safety of this draconian treatment by being subjects for the public to view, I will stand in the space of saying these people are bald-faced lying to the public and, worse yet, their patients.

It is my opinion that the use of anti-depressants offers a false hope to people who have already been exploited and hurt. Sadly, they find they are worse off at the hands of their supposed helpers, the white-coat executioners who then assault their brains with electroshock.

There is no excuse for this type of treatment. It is cruel and unusual punishment – torture, which is a crime. A crime is: harm to a person or their property, which this practice definitely does.

Let's not be afraid to speak truth to power.

Beth Jezik

God Isn't What Is Wrong

Dear Editor,

It is so sad that apparently so many believe that what is wrong with America is that God is not taught in schools. I say nonsense and that what is wrong with America is the lack of responsibility of the approximately 60% of the voters who ignore the importance of their vote.

Granted, it seems that sometimes we are only voting for the lesser of two evils, but even then damage control is still necessary. Why are so many people either so lazy, cowardly, or ignorant. Mind boggling, isn't it? We as Americans are not condemned to a two-party system. All we really need is for the totally uninterested "because we can't do anything about it" or "let someone else make the sacrifices" mentality to wake up before someone they thought was their friend cuts their throat with a borrowed knife for their weekly, or should I say, I mean weakly, unemployment check. And stop with the God-will-take-care-of-us crap. I can just hear the conversation between God and Jesus now, not that I'm declaring they exist.

Jesus to God: "After all these years, the people of Earth are still begging for peace, wealth, health, forgiveness, and happiness."

God to Jesus: "Yeah, and they also expect you to go down to Earth and save their pathetic, lazy, selfish behinds."

God and Jesus together: "Hahahahahaha." God, "They really crack me up."

Come on, lazy, pathetic America, stop expecting someone else to wipe your cowardly lion.

M. Edmund Howse

U.S. Shouldn't Take the Bait

Dear Editor,

Will someone out there help me understand something? How come people keep saying the reason we need Bush in the White House is because of the threat of terrorism? Am I the only one who heard Osama bin Laden declare that the jihad against America and the 9/11 attacks were a response to the first Gulf War and for the presence of U.S. military bases in Saudi Arabia's holy lands? The terrorists have said repeatedly they will no longer tolerate the invasion of Muslim lands, the construction of U.S. air bases on Muslim lands, the influence of Western nations that collude with dictatorships and monarchies in the Middle East, and the United States' immense support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine. How does invading and occupying Iraq and Afghanistan stave off terrorism? It sounds to me like we want more terrorism. Millions of Muslims who were sympathetic to our tragedy on 9/11 have likely retracted their sympathy once they saw the horrors achieved by fomenting war. I understand 9/11 was a declaration of war and a battleground was created, I just don't think we should have taken the bait.

Jamie O'Brien

Leadership Doesn't "Support Troops'

Dear Editor,

Well, it's started. We've learned that two U.S. soldiers were tortured to death by their captors in Iraq. This is actually the first time U.S. soldiers have been tortured by the insurgents. (The employees of Blackwater U.S.A. who were killed in Fallujah were mercenaries, not soldiers.) It is not, however, the first time people have been tortured – yes, to death – in this war; to my great shame, though, the United States has done the torturing up to now.

I have to lay responsibility for this latest atrocity squarely at the feet of Alberto Gonzales and the rest of the gang of amateurs that are "running" this country and our invasion of Iraq. There is a very good reason United States forces do not – no, make that did not – torture their captives: If we do not torture opposing soldiers, the other side will not torture our soldiers. That's just the way it works.

Anyone with the slightest military background knows this; as a former Army officer, I know this. However, the "chickenhawks" in charge of our forces, from George Bush (a deserter from the U.S. military during the Vietnam era) to Dick Cheney (who "had other priorities" at that time) to Alberto Gonzales (who also never served), do not know it.

A very large and very dangerous door has been opened. Because of the ignorance and incompetence of our "leaders," our soldiers are now at constant risk of torture whenever they are captured. "Support our troops," they say. What a joke!

Tom Davis

MIT Professor Berzin's New Coal-Related Technology

Dear Editor,

Given the controversy surrounding new coal plants in Texas, readers might be interested in the work of Isaac Berzin at MIT. Berzin is developing a process to capture major portions of CO2 from coal-plant emissions by running the fumes through algae-filled pipes. It promises to become both an inexpensive emission-scrubbing technique and a major source of algae-derived biodiesel and ethanol. Perhaps Austin Energy could look into this process as a way of making its own fossil-fuel plants more ecologically friendly? Berzin is testing the process out currently with MIT and his startup company GreenFuel Technologies.

Donald Jackson

Supports Strayhorn on Foster Care System

Dear Editor,

Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn's current allegations should not come as a surprise to Texas officials ["Strayhorn Blasts Foster Care System," News, June 30]. What is surprising is that she is still being stonewalled and her efforts are still being resisted after three years. Comptroller Strayhorn and her staff have been investigating the Texas foster care system and publishing their negative findings since 2003. In 2004, due to deficient services and inadequate oversight, a complete overhaul of the Texas foster care system was recommended by Strayhorn.

At that time, Strayhorn called for greater accountability:

1) Accountability for service providers: Strayhorn recommended that direct services be outsourced and that DPRS conduct unannounced site visits and financial audits.

Direct services providers would be assessed based on:

– Safety

– Placement stability

– Maintenance of familial connections

– Shorter stays in foster care.

2) Financial accountability: Money was to be directed toward funding programs for foster youth.

3) Accountability for facilities: If a facility compromised the health and safety of foster youth through noncompliance to standards, their license was to be revoked.

4) Accountability for Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services (which is now Texas Department of Family and Protective Services):

– Caseworker visits were to be thoroughly documented.

– Comprehensive background checks were to be conducted.

– Complaints were to be thoroughly reviewed.

– Minimal number of foster placements.

– Children were not be placed with peers who had a history of violent crimes and/or juvenile sexual predators.

– A crisis management team was to be created, in order to decrease the number of child fatalities in foster care.

5.) Accountability regarding the drugs being administered to foster children.

Comptroller Strayhorn's 2004 investigation uncovered that:

– 60% of children in the Texas foster care system were being given psychotropic drugs that were not approved for children.

– Physicians had prescribed mind-altering drugs to children as young as 3 years old.

– Two Texas doctors who weren't psychiatrists were prescribing mental health medications to foster children.

– It was not uncommon for some foster children to have up to 14 different prescriptions.

– Many of these drugs were labeled "not for use by children," and listed as having serious side effects, such as diabetes, cardiac arrhythmia, suicidal tendencies.

In 2004, as is currently happening in 2006, Texas health officials cited "privacy concerns" and patient confidentiality as reasons for their reluctance to share information.

Lisa Dickson

Columbus, Ohio

Against AMD

Dear Editor,

Is the environmental community serious about stopping AMD? If so, what would happen if a nationwide boycott was staged – not of AMD, as they sell to other companies – but of AMD's customers? These companies are the only ones who have any real leverage over AMD, as they're the ones who affect AMD's bottom line. Imagine the effect of somebody like Michael Dell picking up the phone and saying, "Hey, Hector, what in the world are you doing? You're costing me money. Maybe we should get our chips somewhere else." Now, imagine if Mr. Ruiz gets three or four of these calls from other CEOs. Do you think it might change his mind?

George Bronner

Fire Cheney and Rumsfeld

Dear Editor,

If George Bush is a true president of the United States of America, he will fire Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld immediately. Those two are directly responsible for the behind-the-scenes coup that has left our country less safe than at any time of 9/11. By putting their political allies in various positions of power in our government. By undercutting the CIA when they were the ones that had located Bin Laden at Tora Bora while Rumsfeld sat on his laurels for a month. Which, if Rumsfeld was doing his job by putting troops on the ground, might have led to the capture of al Qaeda's leader. By twisting intelligence to feed their obsolete notion of a "policy for a new American way." A little history lesson: Those two hacks were responsible for another behind-the-scenes coup during the Ford administration, which probably led to the Republican loss of the White House to Carter in '76. A new book suggests that crucial information about national security was even withheld from the president so that Cheney and Rumsfeld's false case for an Iraqi invasion would be unhindered by the president knowing too much. These two have polluted our government with such individuals as "Scooter" Libby and various other neo-cons who subscribe to their notions of United States hegemony. President Bush would gain a measure of respect by finally acting on his own and sacking those in his government who have led him astray and betrayed our country to feed their own hunger for power.

Paul Chavera

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