Our readers talk back.
The Unidentified Person Was ...Dear Editor,
You can be quite sure that the unidentified (unknown) cowboy in the Jerry Wexler photo ["TCB," Music, July 14] is none other than the late and great Doug Sahm, who was in the same recording sessions in New York on that groovy day. You should have (really) picked it up.
Michael Cosper[Music Editor Raoul Hernandez responds: Yes, dear readers, the unidentified person's back in the picture in question looks an awful lot like Doug Sahm to us as well. Unfortunately, that's unconfirmed. The photo came from the personal archives of Atlantic Records pioneer Jerry Wexler for a story the Chronicle did on him in 2000 (Vol. 20, No. 14). He was asked at that point if it was in fact Doug Sahm, and he simply could not say either way. Anyone with incontestable verification, please step forward.]
Case Likely Motivated by BiasesDear Editor,
As noted by the Chronicle ["Gun It, Chief!," News, July 14], a previously lodged complaint against acting APD Chief Cathy Ellison was reviewed and adjudicated more than six months ago. For reasons we will never know, it has been revived and is now undergoing the scrutiny of city managers.
Aside from the merits of the specific actions that inspired the complaint, it seems strange that the real issues are the attitude and language of acting Chief Ellison. One would think that there would be more than a few notations in her file that indicate her purported arrogance and disdain.
Or, maybe the prevailing double standard against females in positions of power (which are again doubled if the female is a person of color or with a disability) is rearing its ugly head? Does the city plan to open and re-adjudicate all outstanding complaints against male APD officers or administration? It is amazing the amount of flexibility that our society still gives to white males in positions of power, and related to this, witness how far the Enron, Tom DeLay, Texas Lottery Commission problems (to name just a few recent events) progressed before anyone even opened an official investigation!
Come on Ms. Futrell, Mr. Garza, and City Council: Thoroughness is good, but it should be levied "across the board," not in one specific case that is most likely motivated by personal bias.
Austin needs a chief for APD who is strong, knowledgeable, and able to bring community consensus to the difficult issues of suspects and defendants with racial and mental health concerns.
Undermining a key contender for this position will absolutely guarantee that the best candidates for chief will not even bother to apply, as their decisions will be constantly micromanaged by city administration.
Mary E. Wambach
Of Course People Have ChoicesDear Editor,
With the rise of global heating, air and water pollution, and oil wars, car addicts have changed their tune. They used to say, "Cars give us the freedom to choose where we live and work." Now they say, "We have no choice. We are forced to drive. Where we live and work is dictated by education and income level." It seems that one consequence of too much car driving is the illusion of loss of one's free will.
Really, of course, people do have choices. I know several people who have moved from walkable areas to places where people drive everywhere. They did it to get bigger houses. I know many folks who drive less than five miles to work. Articles in the Chronicle urge people to drive to Bastrop for dinner. "Worth the drive" is a frequently occuring phrase in restaurant reviews. A lot of people just don't want to connect their own personal driving to big problems such as global heating, foul air, dangerous streets, and oil wars. And many people can't quite imagine changing their habits. They think two miles is too far to walk and that it's impossible to carry groceries by bicycle.
If only more people in Austin would switch from car to bicycle! There are good electric bicycles now, and even electric tricycles with sun canopies. Bicycles are not only much cleaner than cars but also far less destructive and expensive for society. Bicycles don't burst into flame when they crash. They don't crash into buildings and kill or maim people inside. They don't damage roads and personal property. They don't run people over and kill them.
To claim lack of free will is to abandon moral responsibility. People are moral agents, and our choices matter.
Biases Lose ReadersDear Editor,
Over the weekend, a friend brought a published reader's comment about your coverage of the Back Room closing to my attention ["Postmarks," July 14]. After reading the letter, I decided to add a few comments of my own:
1) Freedom of the press is a right retained by those who own the press. Therefore, the Chronicle is not required to cover what happens to the Back Room or any other Austin music venue.
2) The Austin Chronicle is primarily regarded by readers as an arts-and-entertainment paper. So, by barely mentioning the closing of a venue such as the Back Room, your paper places its credibility as an authoritative source of Austin music news in doubt.
3) For years, The Austin Chronicle has generally ignored (heavy, extreme, etc.) metal. Consequently, the Chronicle lacks credibility with metal fans, and there are at least a half-dozen metal-oriented music papers available in Austin which command greater respect and interest than the Chronicle among thousands of music fans.
I think losing the Back Room as a music venue is a big entertainment-news item, and the loss will have a major (negative) short-term impact on Austin's music scene.
For as long as I've lived in Austin, the Back Room has been the main venue for hard rock, heavy metal, and other extreme music. Austin has scores of places that feature live music, but for myriad reasons, the Back Room was the only place that was consistently interested in featuring heavy metal or similar music genres. I hope at least one Austin venue decides to become a heavy/extreme metal replacement site.
The Chronicle may elect to ignore heavy/extreme metal music and continue focusing on emo, pop, folk, and similar genres. But you risk following America's daily newspapers into oblivion and irrelevancy (consider: hardly anyone under 40 even reads the Austin American-Statesman these days).
It's your choice. Freedom of the press guarantees you can print what you want, but it can't guarantee readership.
Brian Lynch[Music Editor Raoul Hernandez replies: Sorry, the lead item on the Music news page "TCB" (June 30) hardly qualifies as "barely a mention."]
Fox News Pyschosis Disorder?Dear Editor,
In response to Vance McDonald's "Black Maligns America" ["Postmarks," July 14], ol' McDonald treats us, yet again, to his limited right-wing vocabulary, using the terms "neo-leftist" and "Islamic fascism" some seven or eight times (I lost count). I would have suggested a different title to his angry, nonsensical rantings, however: perhaps "Psychobabble 2: Electric Boogaloo." Kudos to the Chronicle for being an equal-opportunity publisher and not discriminating on the basis of Mr. McDonald's severe case of Fox News Psychosis Disorder.
Christopher W. Ringstaff
Common Sense, Pro-Freedom AgendaDear Editor,
The Chronicle implies that my Libertarian candidacy for governor will "drain votes" exclusively from Rick Perry's right ("Point Austin," News, July 14). I beg to differ.
I am the only candidate for governor of Texas who advocates ending the cruel and destructive "war on drugs." I am the only candidate who proposes ending state-sponsored discrimination against gays. I am the only candidate who wishes to open our nation's borders to all law-abiding immigrants who wish to work. These are hardly "right-wing" positions.
It is certainly true that I am a fiscal conservative as well. My common sense, pro-freedom agenda, however, transcends the tired labels of "right" and "left," and places me squarely in the realm of moderation. My candidacy will draw votes from Rick Perry among all Texans who are disgusted with the status quo.
Libertarian candidate for governor
Viewpoint Not UnchallengedDear Editor,
Big shocker that Louis Black would employ "polemic narrative devices" in his editorial ["Page Two," July 7]! Maybe the irony was lost on Vance McDonald, but not on me. Apparently, it's cool for him to insult Americans of opposing viewpoints, but Louis Black is supposed to defer to people in the name of what patriotism? I'm no Democrat anymore, but it never ceases to amaze me how these right-wing platitude-screeching door knobs just don't get it. I finished McDonald's acidulous missive ["Postmarks," July 14], slamming Louis Black's attempts to "malign America," with the hearty yawn normally reserved for Rush "the human omelet" Limbaugh's similarly obtuse rhetoric. It's no secret to the thinking folks of this nation that the Republicans don't really embrace nuances in analysis. You're either a decadent secularist, a churchgoing Christian, or an Islamic jihadist, right? McDonald says, "Iraq is the primary strategic front in the global war against [terrorism]." Never mind that Saddam Hussein was a leading member in the Baath Party, which espoused secular pan-Arabism, was never interested in religious war, and he was never connected to the dealings of al Qaeda in any meaningful way. McDonald, like so many of his Republican brethren, open up wide with pride for a heaping spoonful of bullshit when it's sprinkled with good old-fashioned nationalism and the gratifying, archaic bloodlust expressed by so many lately. Yeah, that's right, I'm pissed at Americans, and there's nothing wrong with that! The funny thing is McDonald and I clearly have that in common. People like him look as if they just smelled a turd when you dare take issue with actions of our leaders or fellow citizens. So Vance, what's more American than questioning authority? Black isn't "morally and intellectually incapable of comprehending" your viewpoint. He's incapable of allowing it to go unchallenged.
More on Helmets and the LawDear Editor,
Re: Against Helmet Law, "Postmarks," July 7: In her most recent letter, Amy Babich states there is "no law requiring adults on motorcycles to wear helmets." In truth, Texas law does require adult motorcyclists to wear helmets. However, the law also provides exemptions to that requirement for riders who can meet certain criteria a popular option.
Babich also claims "motorcycle helmets are much more effective than bicycle helmets." Evidence suggests otherwise. The best top-of-the-line motorcycle helmet (which can cost upward of $400) is not certified to protect in crashes over 13 miles per hour. In addition, according to the manufacturers themselves, that high-dollar helmet can be rendered completely useless if it rolls off your motorcycle and hits the garage floor. How effective is that?
Finally, contrary to her assertion, riding a motorcycle is no more dangerous than riding a bicycle on public roads, and might be less so. Yes, just like bicyclists, we are targets for oblivious, cell-phone-yakking, and/or drunken auto drivers, and if we crash, we suffer the same injuries. That's why most experienced motorcyclists wear boots, long pants, long-sleeved shirts or jackets, and gloves to protect their hands in a fall. How often do you see a bicyclist so protected?
Another factor, which might help keep us just a little safer than bicyclists, is that our machines are bigger, frequently louder, and equipped with headlights and loud electric horns all of which help get a motorist's attention in traffic. Our machines also have the power to pull away from tailgaters and other menacing drivers. It's still a struggle to survive, but I'd rather take my chances on a motorcycle than a bicycle any day!
On one point Babich and I agree. Even though I don't ride bicycles, and have no intention of starting, I oppose mandatory helmet laws for adult bicyclists, as a matter of principle. It has never been the government's duty to protect adults from their choices, and, so long as America brags of being "the land of the free," it never will be.
The Law Wins AgainDear Editor,
I was hoping to read many comments and experiences in this week's Chronicle about the "antics" of Williamson County and how they have deprived so many destitute individuals of their rights, liberties, and freedoms by denying them their right to a court-appointed attorney. In all of my "experiences" with WilCo, they have never offered or asked if I wanted or needed a court-appointed attorney. I have requested a court-appointed attorney at least four times, proved I couldn't afford an attorney, filed motions and the paperwork with the district clerk, suffering from PTSD, complete financial breakdown, couldn't work and still denied a court-appointed attorney. To top that off, after being denied an attorney, the judge tossed me in jail (child-support issues) and said I had three days to appeal his ruling from the cell. I've been in the courts many times in Williamson County, and not once have I been offered the required paperwork to file for a court-appointed attorney and have never seen or heard WilCo offer it to anyone else at the magistrate level or in court. Williamson County plays by its own set of rules and will continue to do so until someone with clout stands up to the plate for all of us little guys. The same thing applies to the Texas attorney general's child-support division, which rules the courtroom and plays by their own rules, ignoring procedures, liberties, and rights. The old story of "I fought the law and the law wins" is true in this Texas county. Suing them in their own yard? Good luck on getting a fair trial. My hat goes off with many thanks to the Texas Fair Defense Project in their attempts to bring these matters to the public eye.
Higher Prices Are a ProblemDear Editor,
As a music lover, living in the live-music capital, I turn to the Chronicle for upcoming shows. So, first off I'd like to thank you for great music listings. I have recently been concerned by a possible problem, ticket prices. It seems like ticket prices have been becoming inflated as more online ticket stores have made their presence known in the area. A friend of mine told me that they buy up as many tickets as they can and then turn them around for a large margin. I understood this as scalping, and my friend informed me that since they pay taxes, it is not considered this. If there is any validity to this, then I would consider this a legal loophole for scalping and do not consider this as ethical business behavior. Is there any validity to this, and if there is, what can we do to stop the artificial inflation of ticket prices?
Michael Gammage[Editor responds: Ticket scalping is not illegal in Texas.]
Try Electric ScootersDear Editor,
For those of you who are looking to lessen your dependence on oil for transportation but find that biking is too impractical, may I recommend investing in an electric scooter? They are free from noise and air pollution and cost about 10 cents of energy to recharge. I just got an EVT-168, which reaches a top speed of 35 mph with a range of 30 to 40 miles, making it perfect for getting around town. Scooters have been a popular means for short-distance transportation in European cities for decades now because of the numerous benefits they hold over cars. Let's support electric transportation and create demand for more advanced electric vehicles in the U.S.
Vote Smith Out of CongressDear Editor,
The latest AP/Ipsos poll shows that Americans have low regard for the Republican-controlled Congress. Recently, even two old political foes, former speakers Newt Gingrich and Thomas Foley, agreed there needs to be some housecleaning in the legislative body. Let's start with Lamar Smith in District 21. He has a zero rating from such environmental groups as the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters. That fact alone should make Austinites fear for our beautiful city. And Smith has consistently voted with the GOP majority to extend tax credits for the wealthy and reduce the estate tax on those poor millionaires, even as the minimum wage has not been raised in almost a decade. John Courage, Smith's Democratic opponent, will work for a budget that reflects the values of mainstream Texas families, not special interests. I encourage all voters in District 21 to take a look at John Courage's credentials and consider supporting him for a new day in Congress.
Ardent Gene Clark ConvertDear Editor,
Praises on an intelligent, thoughtful article on a truly underappreciated artist ["The True One," Music, June 30]. I am not easily convinced of the genius of obscure individuals. but, in Gene Clark's case, I have become an ardent convert. While there have been many equally memorable pop/folk/rock/country songwriters, none has possessed the vocal quality of Clark. While his voice is not classically pure, its plaintive quality, ranging from baritone to tenor, is perhaps one of the most affecting in the whole musical canon.
Perth, Western Australia