Our readers talk back.

Knows Who the Good Guys Are

Dear Editor,

Every time I think Michael Ventura has lost his mind, he writes a column even crazier ["Letters @ 3AM," Aug. 18]. Now the Israelis are the moral equivalent of Hezbollah.

I know that Louis Black is having trouble lately with distinguishing right and wrong ["Page Two," Aug. 18] (especially with all those cultures he has to deal with), but I will arrogantly plow ahead.

Where I come from, hiding behind women and children in a fight is poor form. Dressing like civilians, kidnapping, ransom, and killing all who do not accept your religion is also frowned on. Launching unguided rockets from behind homes at unarmed civilians for terror purposes is simply wrong.

This is not the equivalent of accidentally killing civilians in an attempt to get the terrorist. This type of collateral damage is a known and accepted consequence of war. To imply that Israel is targeting civilians to improve tourism is utterly pathological.

I am not a Jew. I don't have any particular love for Israel. But if you can't tell who the good guys are in this fight, then you are one frickin' sick puppy.

Greg Solcher

More Fashion Reporting

Dear Editor,

I was pleasantly surprised to turn to Stephen Moser's "After a Fashion" column this week [Arts, Aug. 25] and find some useful information about local designers; I hope that next week I'll see more of the same. How about taking one of those local designers and devoting a column to a more in-depth review of his or her work? And what about the buyers for Austin's trendsetting local boutiques? Since the survival of their stores is inexorably linked to their ability to tune into what's hot and what's not, they'd be ideal candidates to pass some of those tips on to their readers.

Fashion is, of course, a matter of taste, and it is not at all unreasonable for a fashion writer to include his viewpoint in his column. It is also not unreasonable for Chronicle readers to expect the Chronicle fashion writer to report on relevant fashion-related events, shops, and designers. We might not agree with Moser's take, but at least we have a resource for what's going on in the first place.

When Moser makes the claim that do-it-yourselfers are not designers, I'm afraid that once again he is confusing a process with an aesthetic. I would wager that most of the designers Moser lauded this week have "done it themselves"; they just happen to have also developed the talent, skills, and aesthetic sensibilities to successfully do it for others, too. Just as Austin's live music scene is made up of professionals, amateurs, and hobbyists, so is Austin's less-developed fashion scene. Just because I may occasionally have to suffer through a downright awful singer with delusions of grandeur, it is still worth it to live in a city that fosters such experimentation and participation in culture. Sometimes the local DIYers are right on. And when they're not, at least they're "keeping Austin weird."

Claire James

Robbed in More Ways Than One

Dear Editor,

When my store was robbed, we were hit with one injustice after another ["Vintage Thieves," News, Aug. 11]. Like prizefighter jabs to the stomach, they kept coming and coming. First, more than $1,800 was lost to two smooth-talking criminals targeting small-business owners like myself. Then, despite several videotapes and countless other pieces of evidence available to the police, the detectives involved could not offer any hope that these people would be caught. Once I thought the dust had settled, and we could move on with normal business operations, the knockout punch came in the form of a letter to the editor accusing me of harboring prejudices against African-Americans ["Postmarks," Aug. 18].

Imagine my feelings of anger and frustration that after all that's happened, Kinaya Ulbrich has the audacity to call me a racist! My store was robbed by two African-American females – that is a fact that I cannot help and wish never happened. That Ms. Ulbrich considers me "clueless" and that we were robbed out of our own "stupidity" is one thing, but to say that I'm a racist goes beyond any worst-case scenario repercussion of the theft.

The focus of my story should be that a well-honed team of criminals targeted small businesses and have gotten away with thousands of dollars and that the police have been doing little to help. Those that choose to create a racial issue out of this are perpetuating the very imbalance they believe they are fighting against.

I invite Ms. Ulbrich to come into my store and take notice of the treatment she gets. Instead of calling me out on who and what she thinks I am, I urge her to come in and find out for herself, rather than making snap judgments about people based on her own prejudices. Isn't that what got us into this mess in the first place?

Audrie San Miguel

What About the Curitiba System?

Dear Editor,

I hope Brewster McCracken's crack about the done-dealness of downtown mass transit ["Streetcar Plan Takes Shape," News, Aug. 18] leaves a door open for cheaper, more flexible alternatives to streetcars, formerly known as light rail. Bus rapid transit has been wildly successful in places like Curitiba, Brazil (population 1.7 million), and Brisbane, Australia (population 1.8 million). The Curitiba system ( offers service every minute for 2 million passengers! The cost of bus rapid transit is one-tenth to one-twentieth that of light rail and allows for alignment adjustments that rail does not. It also comes without the business-killing construction necessary to build rail lines. Let's do exactly what Urban Transportation Commissioner Patrick Goetz suggests and spend $5 million, rather than $233 million, and run hybrid buses every 10 minutes along the exact same route proposed by Capital Metro.

Glenn Gaven

An Engineer Checks In

Dear Editor,

The idea that the WTC buildings are the first steel-framed buildings in the history of civilization to completely free-fall collapse is ridiculous to Colin Donoghue ["Postmarks," Aug. 18]. As an experienced engineer, I disagree with him that I or anyone else should think so, too.

The collapse of these buildings (including WTC 7) was from a loss of strength in the steel due to heating from burning building contents. In the twin towers, the collapse was accelerated by a loss of lateral stability in the outer shell columns by collapse of the floor trusses in the area of the strikes.

It was not necessary to reach the melting point of the steel because steel loses about half of its strength at 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, well within the range of temperatures in the fire areas. The steel in the towers failed because the fireproofing was lost in the impacts. In WTC 7, the fires burned all day without being fought, more than any fireproofing system could protect from.

The idea that controlled demolition was involved is ridiculous. Preparing for a demolition involves much more than just setting a few charges and pushing a plunger. Preparing a steel structure for demolition involves extensive weakening of the structure by ripping away the interior finishes and notching the beams and columns with torches before setting any charges. There is no way to hide this or to do it at night. The puffs of smoke seen in the films are air being forced out between the floors as the buildings pancaked. Moreover, if there had been an explosion due to demolition in the towers, then unmistakable evidence would be found in the form of cut structural steel. None has ever been located.

Why did the buildings pancake straight downward? It is simple. The upper sections of the towers were unimaginably heavy and, when the support of the columns in the damaged areas was lost, they fell downward because that is the direction that gravity pulled them, and there was nothing in the way that was capable of stopping them.

Don't you think that it is a little suspicious that there has never been a single, licensed professional structural engineer who has put forward an alternative collapse scenario that explains the evidence? I agree that all of us should be skeptical of what we are told – especially today – but the structural engineering community is in agreement on what happened on 9/11, and controlled demolition was not a part of the picture.

Ethan A. Love

Wrong on 'The Night Listener'

Dear Editor,

I am curious whether your movie reviewers are required to actually watch the movies that they review. In his recent review of The Night Listener [Film Listings, Aug. 4], Marc Savlov states that "this taut, wiry exercise in eerie bad vibes saddles its protagonist ... with not only the death of his longtime companion (Cannavale), but also an increasingly bizarre series of events." One of the major plot points of the movie is that the Jess character (played by Cannavale) has recovered his health and subsequently moved out of Gabriel's home. For Mr. Savlov to think that the character had died, he either must not have seen the movie at all or slept through major portions of it. This makes me question the reliability of future reviews by Mr. Savlov.

Paul K. Smith

[Film Editor Marjorie Baumgarten replies: Oops. This is actually an editing error that occurred when condensing Savlov's review to capsule length, and not the author's mistake. Savlov's full-length review states that the protagonist is saddled with "not only the unexpected exit of his longtime companion Jess (Cannavale ...)." An unfortunate editing error converted this into with "the death of his longtime companion." We regret the error.]

Streetcars – Then and Now

Dear Editor,

A better-late-than-never thanks to Mr. Daniel Mottola for the great story about streetcar(s) making a possible comeback to downtown Austin ["Streetcar Plan Takes Shape," News, Aug. 18]. Bringing back wonderful memories of old Sixth Street in the mid-Thirties, when our parents Juan and Maria Santos would take me and my two siblings after Sunday's church services, and we would board a streetcar. What the fare was, I do not remember; but it was a great feeling!

The proposed circulatory alignment looks good on paper, but it still needs some fine-tuning in order to appease all of the taxpayers.

Moses P. Saldana Sr.

Enjoyed Article on Stavers

Dear Editor,

Just a note to say that I enjoyed reading Margaret Moser's article on Gloria Stavers and 16 magazine ["The Singer Not the Song," Music, June 11, 1999]. Because I learned how to read through 16, at the ages of 5-6, I didn't have to recite Dick and Jane reading primers in school.

Stavers truly set a precedent for celebrity journalism.

Betty Richardson

Paris, Maine

Improv Thanks

Dear Editor,

As a member of the Austin improv community for 10 years, I want to sincerely thank you for putting improv on the cover of the Chronicle ["Mission: Improvable," Arts, Aug. 25]. Austin has some of the best improv in the nation, and there are tons of people here working tirelessly to serve the art of improvisation. It's wonderful to have a paper that is hip enough to give an emerging art form the recognition it deserves.


Shana Merlin

Merlin Works

The Party of Cut and Not Run

Dear Editor,

With the recent decision of [Ben] Bentzin to drop out of the race [Texas House District 48], maybe we should start calling Texas Republicans the party of cut and not run. It's as if the Republicans are afraid to compete on a level playing field of ideas that are important, such as jobs, education, and health care, not gays, guns, and gestation. This opportunity must be seized not just by Democrats, but by everyone who believes in democracy. Let us not forget that the origin of the Texas, old South, and more recently the national Republican Party was made up of people who left the Democratic Party after the passage of the civil rights bills of the mid-Sixties and people who were, at that time, considered lunatic fringe right-wing wackos.


Chuck Waldrep

Media Bias Everywhere

Dear Editor,

It baffles me how a person who seems, at first glance, to be reasonable can simultaneously dismiss Reuters and BBC News reports as propaganda while referencing as fact a blog that has the phrase "carnivorous conservative" in the URL ["Postmarks," Aug. 25]. Somehow, I don't think that Mr. Cohen is going to find fair and balanced reporting on that blog or any of the other rabid neocon sites he is pushing as fact.

Now, I could write a letter to Mr. Ventura, disputing his position on 9/11 and reference, but that would be silly. While I love Alex Jones, agree with him (most of the time), and believe that Ventura is copping out with his "let's just forget about it and move on" tirade ["Letters @ 3AM," Aug. 18], InfoWar's bias is clear, and frankly it is not a balanced and impartial source of information.

While you blast the mainstream media as being biased propaganda, it's clear that all of your info comes from extremely biased sources, as well. So are you only able to distinguish bias when it's incongruent with your opinion?

If so, then you are the very essence of America's greatest current fault, which is blindness to and deification of one's own personal perspective. Perhaps it's time that we all took a step back and engaged in some critical thinking.

And Ben, as sure as I am that Hezbollah is engaged in a propaganda war against Israel (and vice versa), I seriously doubt that the exploded corpses at the bombed sites were "planted" there, as the sites you visit claim. If you believe that, then you, sir, are a fool. I would just as easily make the idiotic assertion that dead American soldiers are "planted" near roadside IED craters to "turn American opinion against the insurgency."


Mike "Dub" Wainwright

Burn Rate (Unbelievable)!

Dear Editor,

Re: "Gubernatorial Booty" [News, Aug. 25]: Jason Stanford said, "He's taking retail politics literally. But clearly he's keeping a very small percentage of each dollar he raises. A big chunk of every dollar that comes in the door goes to pay for what people are buying – that's an incredible burn rate he's got going on."

Burn rate? I thought this was an election. Kinky has a better "burn rate" (actually, if the numbers presented in the article are accurate, he has no burn rate in this situation) than any other candidate. How much do the other candidates make on their bumper stickers, buttons, shirts, et al. I sure have seen a lot of Kinky paraphernalia. If people are willing to buy this stuff that the other candidates are giving away with little or no success, I wonder what will happen Election Day. Burn rate? Was that one of those "Did I say that out loud?" moments? I think I might have had no comment on that one. Mama always said, "If you don't have anything intelligent to say, don't say anything at all." Gotta love Mom.

Burn rate. (Unbelievable) head lowered and shaking.

Jeff Grajek

More on Bike Helmets

Dear Editor,

On Aug. 24 the Austin City Council held a public hearing on a proposal for a mandatory all-ages bicycle-helmet law. Austin had such a law 10 years ago. It was very unpopular. Injuries increased, but bicycle sales dropped. We've had 10 years of a youth helmet law, and the number of children who ride bicycles keeps falling.

This proposal is being pushed by a former Austin mayor who fell off his bicycle onto his head near Lockhart. He says that his helmet saved his life, but no one really knows. With better bicycle-safety skills, perhaps he could have avoided the crash altogether.

Mandatory bicycle-helmet laws often sound good to people who never bicycle for transportation. This is because such laws don't affect them. Mandatory helmets for others always sound better than mandatory helmets for oneself. Would you be willing to wear a bicycle helmet everywhere you go? Nonbicyclists don't always understand why helmet-wearing utility bicyclists are against mandatory helmet laws. It's simple. These laws put fewer bicycles and more cars and motorcycles on the streets. They make our lives more stressful. Making someone wear headgear is basically insulting. A witty woman named De Clarke compares motorists who protect bicyclists with mandatory helmet laws to men who protect women with mandatory burkas.

Instead of a mandatory bicycle-helmet law, the city could offer voluntary bicycle-safety classes, reduce speed limits, publish local crash information regularly, fix the traffic lights so that they detect bicycles, and prohibit car parking in bike lanes. People who live without burning gasoline every day should be encouraged and empowered, not humiliated.

Yours truly,

Amy Babich

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