Our readers talk back.

Early Halloween Cover?

Dear Editor,

Re: "Grandma" ["She's Her Own Grandma," News, July 28]: Why so early with the Halloween cover this year?

Tim Lyon

Bainbridge Island, Wash.

Facts vs. Lies

Dear Editor,

In his latest rant contained in "The Hightower Report" [July 14], wee Jim claimed, and I quote, "There are 7.3 million Americans working for minimum wage. Another 8.2 million of us are paid only a dollar or less above the minimum." Point one, "Us" Jim? You get minimum wage? You're overpaid. But the fact is he lied, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,, Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers: 2004: "According to Current Population Survey estimates for 2004, some 73.9 million American workers were paid at hourly rates, representing 59.8% of all wage and salary workers. 1) Of those paid by the hour, 520,000 were reported as earning exactly $5.15, the prevailing federal minimum wage, and another 1.5 million were reported earning wages below the minimum. 2) Together, these 2.0 million workers with wages at or below the minimum made up 2.7% of all hourly-paid workers."

Five hundred twenty-thousand compared to Hightower's deliberate lie of 7.3 million. A few years ago, Hightower claimed that President Bush had spent, in one year, more than $7 trillion. What he didn't mention was it was "projected revenues," not money in the bank, and that year, the federal budget was $2 trillion. But hey, Hightower and facts are like oil and water.

Carl Swanson

[Jim Hightower responds: Gosh, to be called "wee" by such a giant intellect as Carl – is it an insult ... or honor? But, yes Carl, I use the term "us" because I believe in the great American ethic of "we're all in this together." Just because I make more than minimum wage doesn't mean that I disassociate myself from the plight of those who do. America is "us" – though maybe Carl doesn't care to be included. By the way, 82% of Americans say raising the minimum wage is an important priority, and only 6% oppose raising it.]

My People Were Here

Dear Editor,

Re: The Back Room article ["Welcome to the Jungle," News, July 28]: I really liked your article, 'twas a good read, you know. I guess all good things come to an end (Liberty Lunch, Sound Exchange, the Cavity, etc.) but it almost seemed that every time I ended up at the Back Room there was this twinge in the (h)air, some kind of feeling of "nothing can hurt me," almost a "my people are here, I can't be touched," and I never really dressed the part. Well I had the jeans with holes in the knee and most likely an Exodus or Slayer shirt but just never did the glam thing, but those people were the metaphorical family that I'd see on the weekends and such. Oh and before I forget, I started to write this because you mentioned you were in Zero Tolerance and you did a show on KTSB (RIP). I actually have the flier for the KTSB Underground Metal Onslaught at the Back Room. Bands included the likes of Agony Column, Civais, Dread, and you guys. Didn't get to that one though, and man, KTSB, we would stay up after Headbangers Ball and call in and request all kinds of shit. I could safely say that KTSB (and access television) are responsible for a good 80% of any of the "off" music I got into – the true metal shit, weird crap like Crust and Butthole Surfers, all the Ministry, Skinny Puppy, RevCo shit. KTSB fed me up until and well into KVRX, and now I do my little radio stint on or on the dial if you're lucky (95.9FM and 92.7FM). Let's get back to the subject: the Back Room article. The only flaw was not one word about the whole Ed Hall, Fuckemos scene. I miss that obnoxious, bottom-heavy noise that came and went. There's a little bit out there now (Gorch Fock, Castle Siege, Assacre) but not enough! I'm done now, thanx for your time and thanx for the reading material.

Billy Boykin

Time to Rethink Energy

Dear Editor,

Re: "There Goes the Sun" [News, July 28]: Dan Mottola's story is a good piece of solid reporting. I have watched the development of solar for a good 40 years, and I can't believe the same benighted lack of vision is still slanting our perception and hampering efforts to turn this country's misuse of energy around. The ignorance of the affluent and their lack of social responsibility as indicated by McMansions with four furnaces and six air-conditioning units tells me they do not and perhaps cannot comprehend that we all have an obligation not to leave our children saddled with a crushing enslavement to an energy system designed to benefit only our energy aristocracy.

Art Ragusa

Why Run Willie Nelson Photo?

Dear Editor,

I just read the article by Dan Mottola announcing Austin's transition into the "biodiesel big league" ["Austin Reaches Biodiesel Big Leagues," News, July 28]. Despite the headlining photo of Willie Nelson, which seems to appear atop every biodiesel-related story in your paper, I was unable to find any mention of the man in the actual article.

Seems to me that it would have made a lot more sense to include a picture from the event about which the article was written.

Robert Plenge

[Associate News Editor Lee Nichols responds: That would have been our preference, but unfortunately, we did not have a professional photographer availabe for the event; since we desired to illustrate the story in a way that would be eye-catching and draw readers into the story, we went with the Willie photo.]

Celebrity Instead of Facts

To the editor,

I was disappointed to find the Chronicle following the lead of the Statesman, KXAN, and probably others by promoting Willie Nelson's biodiesel and barely giving lip service to the real stuff ["Austin Reaches Biodiesel Big Leagues," News, July 28]. Willie Nelson B20 is 80% conventional petroleum-based diesel fuel. Eco-Wise sells 99% biodiesel. Rather a major difference, folks! While the article mentioned in passing the availability of 99%-pure biodiesel, it didn't say where it is sold. I buy mine at Eco-Wise on Elizabeth Street and am happy to report no difference in how my truck runs apart from greatly reduced smoke and odor. Obviously Willie Nelson's name means more to the Chronicle than ecological considerations.

Donald E. Lewis

Don's Automotive

[Dan Mottola responds: Donald Lewis is correct about the difference between Willie's B20 and the 99% and 100% biodiesel Austin Biofuels sells at two locations here in town. While no one disputes that B99 or B100 is better for our environment and our oil jones than B20, the point of the article was that Austin has the most B20 pumps in the nation, and 20% biodiesel is better than no biodiesel at all. Austin Biofuels sells B99 or B100 at Eco-Wise, 110 W. Elizabeth and at Alternate Fuel Systems, 2027 Anchor Ln. While Willie Nelson has become the poster boy for the biodiesel industry, his organization is responsible for supplying only one of Austin's now 33 total biodiesel pumps. The other 32 are thanks to Austin Biofuels and Triple S Petroleum. See for a full list.]

Ludicrously False Statements

Howdy y'all,

So, Louis Black says he has "some major ideas" that drive his column ["Page Two," July 28]. Some of those ideas (I will just paraphrase them) are: "The past is ... a lie, the present is misunderstood, and the future is unknowable."

I think Mr. Black has handed his readers a load of bunk (with the word "bunk" defined as – making ludicrously false statements).

Are we to believe that these major ideas sprang full-grown from Mr. Black's head in a recent burst of intellectual insight? Or, wouldn't it be ironic, if he just borrowed these ideas from the past?

May 25, 1916, Henry Ford: "History is more or less bunk." At the time Ford said it, he was thought by many to be a "bigot and a tyrant." Another view of Ford: "There is plenty to detest about Henry Ford – his racism and anti-Semitism just for a start." And as someone else once pointed out, "He [Ford] suddenly became a great 'historical philanthropist,' when it was a matter of preserving his own personal history [at Greenfield Village]."

Perhaps Mr. Black did not borrow his ideas from that far back in history. Maybe, just maybe, he only went back as far as 1987. That was when Sting came up with the song "History Will Teach Us Nothing" from the Nothing Like the Sun album.

Or, could it be, that Mr. Black went as far back as the 1800s? That is when Matthew Arnold wrote, "On the breast of that huge Mississippi of falsehood called History, a foam-bell more or less is no consequence."

As for the truth about Mr. Black's "I" versus "You" ideas, you might want to go here:

Best regards,

Rick Hall

Another Inconvenient Truth

Dear Editor,

I went to see An Inconvenient Truth lately out at the Arbor Cinema [Film Listings, June 2]. It was a great movie and recommend it to all.

The most inconvenient part of the whole thing was we had to drive our car out to see it. Let's get a better transit system in Austin!

Martin Thomen

Culture's Priorities Twisted

Dear Editor,

I am not a smoker, and I completely agree with Michael Ventura's "Got a Light?" column ["Letters @ 3am," July 21]. We live in a culture where our priorities about what we fear are twisted. For example, he mentions auto fumes as being as dangerous as secondhand smoke. Also, about 48,000 Americans are killed each year by our favorite form of transportation: the automobile. This exceeds, by far, rail or other modes of public transportation currently in use here and around the world. We are more afraid of terrorists who kill and maim far less of us than the very car we sit in each day!

Oh well, we must get to work, and we certainly wouldn't want to be driven by someone else, even if statistically that would be safer. By the way, air pollution kills about 3 million annually. Life and death: What are we afraid of?

Paul Habib

The Stuffed Pork Loin

Dear Editor,

Man, I have to say, I really enjoy most everything about Woody's South. Good food, good music, good time! The only thing I regret is that they took the Chorizo Stuffed Pork Loin off the menu. To die for.

Cheri Hartman

More Information, Less Laws

Dear Editor,

According to APD and DPS records, about 12,000 crashes occur on Austin's streets every year – an average of more than 30 per day. There are about 12,000 injuries and 60 deaths on Austin's streets every year. And we see almost none of this in the news. If we got a daily crash report, with locations, circumstances, time of day, cost of damages, and description of injuries, we would all be well-informed of the risks involved in each mode of transportation and could make decisions accordingly.

Motorcycles represent about 2% of road traffic. Nationally, there were 4,008 motorcycle deaths in 2004, out of 42,636 road-crash deaths. Bicycles, which are thought to be about 1% of road traffic, accounted for 725 deaths in 2004. Motorcycle deaths declined sharply from 4,566 in 1986 to 2,116 in 1997, then rose sharply over the next seven years to 4,008 in 2004. The national speed limit was deregulated in December 1995, and state speed limits on highways rose soon thereafter. Pedestrian and bicycling deaths rose and fell, but basically declined from 1986 through 2004. These are U.S. government figures, available from

Local numbers are harder to get. Texas DPS told an information seeker that all records before 1997 had been destroyed. This seems crazy. How can we plan for the future if we don't know the past?

In the absence of widely disseminated crash information, an adult helmet law for bicyclists but not for motorcyclists will lead people to believe, erroneously, that bicycling is more dangerous than motorcycling. Instead of arbitrary rules, adults need enough information to make wise decisions. Instead of an adult bicycle-helmet law, how about information on Austin's annual 12,000 crashes?

Yours truly,

Amy Babich

What Logical Connection Between 9/11 and Iraq?

Dear Editor,

Kudos to you for printing Vance McDonald's critical letter in your July 14 issue ["Postmarks"].

Mr. McDonald, I implore you to elucidate the argument which would lead "any rational person" to understand the strategic connection between September 11 and the present Iraq war. From my perspective, I'm afraid, there appears to be no sufficient connection between the two, outside the rather grim logic of political and economic expediency.


Sean Ragan

Think About Adding Bike Racks

Dear Austin business owners,

Rising gas prices are driving more of your customers (pardon the pun) to ride their bikes to your establishments. It's easy to see that a lot of Austinites enjoy riding their bikes. It would be nice if you could accommodate and reward such good behavior by providing bike racks. Some of my favorite places do not have bike racks, such as the Austin Diner and Dart Bowl. It's a real drag wandering around looking for a place to lock up and may ultimately be a factor in choosing a business to patronize. Nothing fancy ... just a secure bar embedded in concrete will do. Thanks from your nonmotorized patrons.

Lili Lytle

The Great Gene Clark

Dear Editor,

Just read the Louis Black article on Gene Clark ["The True One," Music, June 30]. That was some of the most beautiful and insightful music analysis I have ever read. I had chills at the end. As a fan of Mr. Clark and this genre, I just wanted to let Mr. Black know and thank him for shining some light on a great, underrated artist.

All the best,

Al Engberg

Newark, Del.

Wants More Knowledge on Development

To the editor,

This note is really to the City Council and mayor or any citizen who can answer this question: Why, in the face of water-rationing, are you allowing four or more hotels to be built, not to mention continuing building of homes? Especially hotels, which are well-known consumers of huge amounts of water. I'll appreciate more knowledge on this subject.

Linalice Carey

Hope Austin Survives Growth

Dear Editor,

I'm writing regarding the current situation on Congress with Las Manitas and Tesoros, as well as the other businesses in that particular block and building.

I especially loved the comments by the 10-year-old in one of your recent editions; it makes a lot of sense to me ["My Migas, My City," News, July 21].

Just curious if there is any way to make it a "historical" site, which would eliminate the issue of tearing it down. Being the developer, I would also be cautious about forcing out a whole block that is so diverse, especially with all that's going on in that realm at the moment. I hope the store owners are and have also been made aware of this reality and their legal rights, as well.

And, while I know Austin is moving in a new direction, isn't it also necessary to keep a few remnants of the past in order to protect both the present and the future? Just a thought.

As for me, I lived in Austin in its heyday in the mid-Nineties, my husband in the late Seventies and early Eighties, and while we visit each spring, it is always a new experience with missing favorites of yesterday and a new skyline. I only hope that Austin can survive its own growth in future time, especially with all the glass in all the buildings being built on a fault line. Just a thought. Cheers, Austin – cheers!

Sharla Shotwell

Arcata, Calif.

Unqualified to Be Governor

Dear Editor,

Re: Carole Keeton Strayhorn ["She's Her Own Grandma," News, July 28]: Anyone whose spawn is the decerebrate ignoramus Scott McClellan or whose mother's milk nourished the crypto-Christian marionette Dr. Mark McClellan is unqualified by intellect and temperament from being governor of this great state.

Howard R. Slobodin

More Than a Restaurant

Dear Editor,

Re: Las Manitas ["My Migas, My City," News, July 21]: All utility aside, as one of Austin's best Mexican breakfast, brunch, and lunch sites, Cynthia and Lidia Pérez have created a [cultural community] on Congress. Manitas supports La Pena art gallery, and the gallery exposes more Latino youth and others in Austin to Latino artists in addition to studio-art workshops and outreach for kids who may not have the cash resources to explore creativity on their own. And, ahead of all those beastly corporate entities that ignore the need for employee child care, Cynthia and Lidia both realized parents can't work at Manitas without a place for their kids to go, ergo Escuelita del Alma. They continue to set standards that multibillion-dollar corporations have yet to even consider. And, they are role models for women and other Latinos in Austin trying to leave a positive imprint on this city and world. I started Latinitas magazine and outreach with Alicia Rascon more than three years ago, and on more than one occasion, the ladies of Las Manitas have stepped up, assured, and reminded us that what we are doing is valuable, through support, space, and other donations. That kind of mentoring is priceless. That city block in Austin is not just real estate; it is a beacon of Latino representation and role-modeling in this city that "talks" a lot about being sensitive to diversity. I implore Austin to stand behind that rhetoric.

Laura Donnelly

What Happened?

Dear Editor,

It only makes sense that we are spending needless money on banning a weed ["The Hightower Report," July 21]. Christ, I don't even smoke anymore, but if you want to, I say do it. But outside a bar? Who comes up with these stupid ideas. How embarrassing for us as a country. What happened to freedom? What happened to having privacy? Oh yes, now that we are over 30 we can't trust ourselves or anyone.

Michal Thomas

It's Very Dangerous Right Now

Dear Editor,

Despite insistence from our right-wing media and government that Israel is targeting Hezbollah and rocket sites alone, the facts speak of a much different reality.

The UK's Guardian reported that early estimates of the damage to Lebanon are in the billions of dollars. Fifty-five bridges have been destroyed, electrical grids have been decimated, airports and hospitals are inoperable. The economy is failing, and banks are limiting terrified customers to $1,000 withdrawals in an attempt to prevent total currency failure.

Targeting civilian infrastructure and "collective punishment" are war crimes under the Geneva Convention. But that's just a "quaint" document with no bearing in today's modern world, isn't it?

Hezbollah is, unsurprisingly, still at large and as capable as ever.

Isn't it time the West learned that military action against "terrorists" is a failed tactic? How can one destroy an ideology with bombs? How many hearts and minds can be won through senseless destruction?

From the blood and rubble of Lebanon will rise such seething hatred and fury that no amount of brutal occupation will contain it. Terror thrives on violence and fear, and our "strongest ally" in the Middle East is pouring gasoline on the flames in an attempt to extinguish them.

The best part: Your tax dollars (more than $2.3 billion a year) go directly to the Israeli military! So when you see those pictures of children blasted to pieces on CNN, you can feel proud that your money is actually accomplishing something.

My fellow Americans, we are entering into a very dangerous time and are supporting a very dangerous government in a very dangerous part of the world.

Peace to you,

Mike "Dub" Wainwright

God Will Pick the Winner

Dear Editor,

Well, I think all these wars are cool, cuz it'll show the world whose religion is right. Finally, because God will pick the winner.

Blair Bovbjerg

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