Our readers talk back.

Questions Motives of Board

Dear Editor,

As an active member of Austin's theatre community and a theatre artist regularly employed by the State Theatre Company, I feel it's important to make a few things clear about the recent cancellation of the State's season and the firing of its entire staff (a point omitted entirely in most press coverage of the event) ["State Theatre," Arts, Aug. 11].

The State Theatre Company existed in a dysfunctional relationship with the Paramount Theatre, known as the Austin Theatre Alliance. The union has never been complimentary to the State, primarily because the two organizations have such drastically different missions. As a result, there has been little devotion to, or understanding of, the mission of the State Theatre or its needs as a producing theatre. Instead, the focus of the board, and the ATA's leadership, has always been the Paramount.

The State Theatre is being dismantled, and while the company line is flood recovery, many of us who have experience within the organization fear that the flood is nothing but an opportunity to escape the burden of producing theatre. Remember, this is the same board that sold off the building that the State's backstage, dressing rooms, rehearsal hall, backstage restrooms, production offices, and scene shop were in – now a serious problem that is being cited as another reason for the shutdown.

One thing is certainly clear: The ATA Board has no commitment to theatre in Austin.

Now, all of what I have said will be discredited with an easy sound bite: "The State Theatre's remaining season has been canceled due to flood damage." My purpose in writing this letter is not to prove that all of my suspicions are correct, but to open the debate and encourage those who care about the State Theatre, and the Austin arts community, to carefully consider just what exactly is going down at the Austin Theatre Alliance.

Mike Lawler

Repeating It Doesn't Make It True

Dear Editor,

Well, just because a former commissioner of agriculture says something over and over again, and says it louder, still doesn't make it true ["The Hightower Report," News, Aug. 11]. Fuzzing the facts just to make his point doesn't make the point true.

The fact remains that the SBA never said it had awarded $25 billion in contracts to small business. It said that was the figure for the entire government. And if a big company like General Dynamics buys a small company that has a small business contract from the Department of Defense, that also doesn't mean the SBA awarded a small-business contract to a large company. Saying over and over that the SBA awarded this contract to a large company doesn't make it true.

Mike Stamler

Washington, D.C.

[Jim Hightower responds: Once more, with feeling: SBA issued a press release in July bragging that the Bushites had produced a sterling record of delivering 25% of all federal contracts to small businesses. My point was that this is a lie. Billions of dollars in "small business" contracts actually are going to the likes of Boeing. You don't have to be a former ag commissioner to know that the big corporations game the system to extract money meant for the small guys – small-business people all across the country have deplored this scam (check out American Small Business League, Also, since the letter-writer is the chief press flack for SBA, he knows that even his own agency's inspector general has condemned this ongoing rip-off.]

Reforms Not Unachievable

Dear Editor,

I have seen reasonable criticisms of the education reforms I promoted in the special session. And I have seen silly ones. But I have never seen a comment, until Amy Smith wrote it, that our proposals "would have established a series of unachievable reform mandates for public schools." ["Voucher Creep," News, Aug. 11]

Unachievable? And unachievable for whom?

Remember that only 4% of Texas' schools are rated unacceptable. A school is currently rated acceptable as long as a mere 35% of its Hispanic or African-American students passes the science tests, and 40% passes math.

So, what proposals did we push?

If a school is at risk of being unacceptable, it gets technical assistance. If it is unacceptable, it gets the help of a campus-intervention team. If unacceptable for two years, its practices and personnel must be reconstituted as approved by the commissioner. If unacceptable for three years, the school may be closed or provided alternative management. If unacceptable for four years, the school must be closed or provided alternative management.

Is getting 35% of the poor or minority students to pass science over multiple years unachievable? Is getting 40% of these students to pass math unachievable?

If you want to criticize the law as being too soft or too slow, I can understand that.

But I don't believe that Ms. Smith would find this bar and this pace unachievable for her own children. They shouldn't be seen as such for disadvantaged children.

Sandy Kress

Brentwood Not Allendale

Dear Editor,

I'm sure someone has informed you already that the Nighthawk/Walgreens debacle is technically in Brentwood and not Allendale ["Food-o-File," Food, July 21]. Either way, both groups are pretty upset about this issue. Can we get some further coverage from the Chronicle on this? I count four available pharmacies within a 1-mile stretch of Brentwood, and I'm probably missing a couple.

In other news, I've personally tied the proliferation of Walgreens to the rapid and growing problem of restless legs syndrome. As my television regularly tells me, any one of us might have it and all of us need to treat it. The more Walgreens we have available to stop the spread of this horrible syndrome, the better. Right?

Jimmy McArthur

Calling a Spade a Spade?

Dear Editor,

About three or four sentences into this article, I got that gut feeling, kinda like Audrey San Miguel's about those black girls who robbed her shop ["Vintage Thieves," News, Aug. 11]. I got that same gut feeling about where this article was headed. I was reading and praying at the same time, "Lord, please don't let the thieves be black, please don't let 'em be black!" Then, I saw it, right there in black and white: "They were so well-spoken" (Karen Jo Vennes). Oh my God! Did she say "so well-spoken"? No, she didn't!

Why are white/nonblack people so surprised that Negroes can speak English? Why are they so surprised that some of us speak English well? We've been here a long time. We were bound to pick up a few phrases here and there.

I know these boutique-owner types; they are innocent, pure, and clueless. We should wrap them in a cocoon of love and protect them from reality – the reality that Austin is not Mayberry and that one must protect one's business. I am sorry and embarrassed that these black chicks have taken advantage of their so-called trusting hearts. I really am. The black community does not need this bad press, and it is tough for the small-business owner. But what I don't appreciate about these victims, at least the ones featured in the article, is that because of their stupidity, they now feel justified to do what they do anyway, follow that rare black customer around their stores and watch them like hawks. The gut feeling that Audrey San Miguel had had little to do with intuition and more to do with her own prejudices. She should just call a spade a spade – or maybe that's what she was doing in her own innocent way.

Kinaya Ulbrich

Savlov Has No Sense

Dear Editor,

Marc Savlov wouldn't know a good movie if it straddled him and shot fireballs into his brain from its nether region (to paraphrase Mr. Savlov). Is he a disaffected wannabe filmster whose dreams were squashed by a critic's razor-sharp pen? Does he now feel the need to thrash anything that someone, particularly the general public, might actually enjoy? Is he so jaded and angry that he can't recognize, acknowledge, or appreciate when a good story merges with good talents (in front of and behind the camera) to create a genuinely good, enjoyable movie? And heaven forbid the movie should be subtly encouraging of reaching beyond ourselves to become better people. Sheesh.

I must give him some credit, though - when he pans a movie, my friends and I automatically go out and see it because we know it will be really good.

Kara Dotter

Independent News

Dear Editor,

Thanks to Michael King for his piece on Oppel vs. Chomsky ["Point Austin," News, Aug. 11]. I was privy to the exchanges between Noam Chomsky, Rich Oppel, and my mother Sylvia Shihadeh, on the anti-Palestinian slant of the Austin-American Statesman and finally came to the conclusion that though he's well-meaning, Oppel really lacks the critical intellectual faculties any editor should have. He can't seem to reason with contradicting "facts" and so he relies on the agenda-setters like The New York Times to do it for him. If a story didn't appear in the Times, The Washington Post, etc., it must not be credible. So of course, the Statesman isn't biased any more than a TV tuned to CNN or Fox. Oppel, sadly, is just a diode in a larger machine.

I urge anyone looking for news independent from the Cox Newspapers and Co. framework to start with Z Magazine (, CounterPunch (, and The Texas Observer (

Alan Shihadeh

Associate Professor

Mechanical Engineering Department

American University of Beirut

Beirut, Lebanon

Ventura's Not 'Anti-Israel'

Dear Editor,

So Adam Loewy, in his response to Michael Ventura's "anti-Israel screed" ["Postmarks," Aug. 11] (as he calls it), believes that if a group of Mexican terrorists kidnapped several American soldiers, we should bomb the living bejeezus out of northern Mexico, destroy the infrastructure of the country while causing billions of dollars in damage to not only public but private property and effectively scuttle Mexico's entire economy? He thinks we should bomb indiscriminately any house or car where we suspect these terrorists might be hiding or traveling in with complete disregard to civilian casualties? He believes that we should respond with force ridiculously beyond the scope of the original crime, punishing and displacing more than a quarter of the population of the country who have nothing to do with the attack (so as to attempt to turn public opinion against the terrorists whose "fault" it is)?

To think this type of action would be tolerated by not only the American people, but the rest of the world is a ridiculous fantasy. The standards we should hold Israel to are only those standards that we should hold any decent, civilized country to. I wonder if he even read Mr. Ventura's piece past the line he so takes issue with about Israel's worst enemy being its reliance on American money. It is certainly critical of Israel, but "anti-Israel"? Hardly. I find it ironic that criticizing Israel or Israeli policy, to many people, immediately brands you as anti-Israeli or worse, anti-Semitic. For the record, I'm a Jew and deplore the actions of the Israeli government in both Lebanon and Gaza. I think Ventura's warning to Israel is an important one even to those who support Israel. American power in the world is on the wane and as goes the U.S., so goes Israel.

Douglas Benjamin

Media Is Accountable

Dear Editor:

I am writing to commend The Austin Chronicle for publishing the article by Michael King reporting on Oppel vs. Chomsky ["Point Austin," News, Aug. 11]. It is high time to raise the standards and make the printed media accountable for the misinformed and biased coverage with which they hammer their readers. Oppel's reporting, in particular, required redress, and King has done so masterfully. Thank you!

Mona Fawaz


On Bike Helmets and Cars

Dear Editor,

Bicycle helmets are good things, in moderation and taken with a grain of salt. But mandatory bicycle-helmet laws are not a good way to promote safer bicycling. Their main effect is to convince people that bicycling is terribly, terribly dangerous.

Here in the U.S., the powers that be want us to keep driving cars. There is great reluctance to regard cars as dangerous. European countries have outstripped the U.S. in traffic safety. They're willing to admit that cars kill and maim people, including bicyclists and pedestrians. So they regulate the lethal cars with lower speed limits, restricting private car use in city centers, and narrowing car space to make room for nonmotorized traffic.

But in the U.S., we take the view that motorists can't be expected to control their cars. So bicyclists must be protected from cars by wearing conspicuous headgear. (The next step, I suppose, will be mandatory gas masks to protect us from exhaust.) This doesn't work very well. Children die in cars with depressing regularity, and fewer and fewer people walk or bicycle for transportation. So far from improving public health and safety, a policy of branding bicyclists while declining to restrict cars winds up afflicting the population with ailments of the sedentary: heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, excess weight gain, and depression. The U.S. has higher rates of these diseases, as well as higher traffic death and injury rates, than other prosperous countries. But since this fact is seldom reported, and since most traffic crashes are not reported, Americans can just keep driving cars in blissful ignorance.

Austin could be as great a bicycling and walking city as Copenhagen or Amsterdam. But not unless we can get past regarding cars as harmless no matter what they do to us and reducing bicyclists' safety to mandatory helmet laws.

Yours truly,

Amy Babich

Should Wright Promote My Conspiracy Theories?

Dear Editor,

After reading Taylor Holland's interview with Lawrence Wright ["Eve of Destruction," Arts, Aug. 1], author of the forthcoming book, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, I feel doubtful as to the author's ability to give an accurate and unbiased history of the world's foremost terrorist organization.

It's not so much that I feel from his answers he's any kind of overt ideologue for the right, but more a centrist liberal. And sometimes the positions taken by that breed are the most deceptive. At least with a right-winger you know where they're coming from. For instance, when Wright says about bin Laden, "We would be better off with him gone. He's an irreplaceable asset," that seems a bit naive to me. Of course the perpetrators of 9/11 should be brought to justice (and if I'm not mistaken, there still isn't definitive proof bin Laden was involved), but to think liquidating or capturing bin Laden would solve things is short-sighted. If someone assassinated the president of the United States does anyone believe that would slow our military down? It would do the opposite. The same is true for al Qaeda. And when Wright says there is no doubt in his mind that bin Laden's game is "a clash of civilizations," perhaps there's some truth to that, but is U.S. foreign policy doing anything to mitigate that? The answer is a resounding no. If we weren't bleeding the Middle East for oil by invading countries and FedEx-ing weapons to Israel to abolish Hezbollah so we might bomb Iran uninhibited, bin Laden's call to arms would probably bring in quite a few less recruits.

Does Wright ever mention how the CIA helped create al Qaeda? I hope so. It just bugs me that so many journalists give credence to the idea of a war on terror.

Justin Finney

RIP Bill Gossett

Dear Editor,

How come no mention of Bill Gossett's death from cancer in your paper? Since the mid-Sixties, Bill played drums in some of Austin's better bands. From the Jade Room to the Armadillo to Austin City Limits playing with Cedar Frost, the Sardines, and many, many more. Singer-songwriter/drummer with friends worldwide. Gone, but never forgotten. An Austin mainstay for four-plus decades. Thanks.

Ray "Lumpy" Holland

If It Is So Skipped Over, How Do You Know This?

Dear Editor,

I couldn't agree more with Anne Marie Beard's assessment of Stephen MacMillan Moser's column ["Postmarks," Aug. 11]. "After a Fashion" is nothing more than self-indulgent tripe, and I guarantee it is the most skipped-over column in the Chronicle (well, maybe second to "Soccer Watch"). Rather than recommending the editorial staff better support the Austin fashion community, however, I might suggest they consider a stricter nepotism policy.

Oh, and Stephen, that soggy french fry that hit you in the head last time you were out was thrown by my wailing 3-year-old. So sorry if it detracted from your dining experience.

Eric Metcalf

Buy My Conspiracy 'Truth'

Dear Editor,

I read Taylor Holland's article, "Eve of Destruction" [Arts, Aug. 11], and I felt that it, like most of the Chronicle's coverage, was just a few shades shy of the truth. I wanted to hear more about how "bin Laden intentionally helped Bush win the election by appearing on tape the week before the election." But then you just went back to the same old pale cop-out that the government didn't know about 9/11. Have we yet convinced ourselves of this (plane) rubble-less rubbish: That the Pentagon and Pennsylvania were works of Muslims? Or that the Towers went down by plane impact alone, in perfect demolition-style, including one nearby that was hit by just debris? Actually, on this subject you have about 50% of the shades right.

Daniel Cioper

Liberty and Security

Dear Editor,

MI5, the British Secret Service, has apparently saved thousands of lives through its efforts to monitor and track terrorists. As someone who was on a plane during the arrests, I think we owe the British a big thanks.

What is remarkable about MI5 is that they have not one but two judicial oversight committees. These committees are made up of members from diverse backgrounds, and they ensure that domestic counterterrorism operations are carried out responsibly and appropriately.

I wish we had a judicial oversight committee on homeland security. How would they respond to homeland security's investigation into our state representatives during the redistricting battle? Would they allow American citizens to be detained without a lawyer? Would they consider dunking someone's head in water torture? Currently G.W. Bush and his cronies consider these acts to be acceptable behavior.

Richard Clarke, and several members of the 9/11 Commission have recommended similar measures in the United States. Yet the Bush administration continues to claim that our department of homeland security cannot protect us without suspending civil liberties, eliminating judicial oversight, torturing detainees, or detaining American citizens without the right to appeal to a jury of their peers. We deserve both liberty and security.

Thomas Vinson

War Is About Oil

Dear Editor,

Though Bush Inc. claims we are in Iraq to fight the war against terrorists, anyone not in a vegetative condition should know the only reason we are there is to cause a worldwide increase in oil prices so G.W.'s buddies can become not obscenely rich but unjustifiably richer. If we were serious about getting the real enemy that attacked us, we would have had 200,000 troops on the Eastern Afghanistan border immediately after 9/11 and zero troops in Iraq. Saddam Hussein was just another evil secular dictator with no love for al Qaeda whatsoever. These Rush Limbaugh wannabes who keep writing letters to the Chronicle are idiots!

Max Minor

Sponsor Presidential Forum

Dear Editor,

I would very much like to see the Chronicle sponsor a forum along the lines of "If I Were the President I Would Do the Following." Judge the submissions on clarity and conciseness. I am personally tired of all the complaining with no real concrete proposals to fix the problems. Maybe all of these political hacks just need some clear guidance from the Great Unwashed. I certainly would be able to crank out some specifics worthy of debate and would enjoy seeing this for the next two years.

Patrick Barnard

Angry at Administration

Dear Editor,

I am so angry at Bush, Cheney, Rove, Gonzales, and all of these people that make up the current administration that I can't look at any of them without feeling violent. I am at a complete and total loss as to understand why they have not all been rounded up and arrested. How many more laws do they get to break? (Gee, isn't one too many?) How many more wars do they get to start? (Gee, isn't one too many?) How many more lives do they disrupt or place in harms way? How much deeper do we sink into debt? How many more ways can they squeeze and milk the middle class and the working poor for money that we don't have and turn around and misappropriate those same tax dollars? How many more countries do they alienate, and how much more shame do they bring on our country before we say enough is enough?

There are so many answers to these questions but a quick response is to understand that the Bush administration is the poster child for the proverbial adage of "absolute power corrupts." They hold themselves above and outside of the law and fundamentally believe the American people are sheep. As such they count on the sheep largely to be passively asleep. They operate on the belief that, with a public collective IQ of mildly retarded and the attention span of a gnat, the sky is the limit. They posture themselves as shepherd saviors and herd by blinding and scaring the public with cries of wolf like "War on Terror," homosexuals, and abortion.

My heart is heavy every day that I pick up a newspaper and Bush has not been arrested or impeached. America, wake up and smell the fricking coffee. These shepherd saviors are the wolves.

Madeline Henshaw

Here's His View

Dear sirs,

Israel's war is against Lebanon (and Palestine), not Hezbollah, and has killed almost a thousand people, mostly civilian children. It is said that Israel is not targeting the rocket sites, so they will have an excuse to continue turning Lebanon into rubble. Two Israeli pilots refused orders to target civilians; they will probably throw them in jail.

How much money have the American arms manufacturers made from all these murders? America is giving and selling depleted uranium, cluster bombs, and white phosphate to Israel. These are banned weapons that are considered weapons of mass destruction. But, since they are killing Arabs, Americans don't care. (So much for our so-called moral country.)

Mass demonstrations are spreading across the world including in Israel by Jewish peace activists. Lebanon is destroyed. Who's going to pay to rebuild it? It will probably be the United States, the same ones that gave Israel the weapons to destroy it in the first place. And Bush, like usual, is acting and sounding like an idiot and showing by his actions that he loves war and destruction.

Julian Ward

Austin Needs to Be Especially Interested in 9/11 Cover-Up

Dear Editor,

Recently C-SPAN aired portions of a 9/11 truth conference on the show American Perspectives. This major media coverage was a historic event, though the rest of the media has continued their deplorable silence. The evidence that was presented by the various scholars, scientists, and government officials among others must no longer be ignored by the American press, especially here in Austin. The growing 9/11 truth movement has strong roots in Austin, much thanks to filmmaker, Austin public-access show host, and radio talk-show host Alex Jones. Jones' new documentary, Terror Storm, will be playing at the Alamo Drafthouse South in early September. This film is an excellent documentary that tells the truth of what really happened on 9/11 as well as the truth of historical state-sponsored terrorism.

I am writing this letter to The Austin Chronicle because I am continually disgusted by the lack of coverage that these films, conferences, and the evidence in general of treason receives from the mass media. Most media outlets refuse to report on the evidence that the official story on 9/11 is a lie (proof of controlled demolitions of the twin towers and WTC building 7 for example), and if not even The Austin Chronicle will report on this information, I fear that another state-sponsored terror attack bringing martial law, perhaps through avian flu, will be inevitable. Think the idea of 9/11 being an inside job is crazy? Well I think the idea that the World Trade Center buildings being the first steel-framed buildings in the history of civilization to completely free-fall collapse is crazy, and you should, too.

Colin Donoghue

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Postmarks
Our readers talk back.

July 9, 2004

A plethora of environmental concerns are argued in this week's letters to the editor.

March 31, 2000

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle