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Letters are posted as we receive them during the week, and before they are printed in the paper, so check back frequently to see new letters. If you'd like to send a letter to the editor, use this postmarks submission form, or email your letter directly to mail@austinchronicle.com. Thanks for your patience.
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History Offers Basis for Predicting Future

RECEIVED Wed., Jan. 14, 2004

Howdy y'all,
   On y'all's Web site is a letter ["Postmarks" online, Dec. 19] I sent to the Chronicle, and in it are events from history, which I used as the basis for a prediction. What did happen to Gen. George A. Custer and Adolf Hitler, I said, "Both men bit off more than they could chew." I was suggesting that our country's war policies put us in danger of repeating history.
   There was a "Page Two" editorial (Jan. 2) by Louis Black about using history to make predictions. The editorial said: "Over the years, we've received inane letters that begin with Plutarch's observation that 'history repeats itself' and proceed to take as law that the past offers a concrete guide to unfolding events."
   Thomas E. Ricks of the Washington Post wrote on Jan. 12 an article "Study Published by Army Criticizes War on Terror's Scope." The "scathing new report published by the Army War College" was written by professor Jeffrey Record.
   Mr. Ricks stated in his article that: "Record's core criticism is that the administration is biting off more that it can chew. He likens the scale of U.S. ambition in the war on terrorism to Adolf Hitler's overreach in World War II. 'A cardinal rule of strategy is to keep your enemies to a manageable number.'"
   I do not write "under the umbrella of academic freedom" like a professor of the Army's Strategic Studies Institute, nor am I a rocket scientist. However, I also predict that if our political leaders continue to use overwhelming force to bite the butts of other nations instead of chomping down on the real problems Americans face here at home. In the future, a new base on the moon might be the only safe place for an American to live.
   p.s. The moon might be a good place to go out to eat dinner – but I hear the place has absolutely no atmosphere!
Rick Hall
   [Editor replies: Let's see, Hall wrote "... events from history, which I used as the basis for a prediction." I wrote "... proceed to take as law that the past offers a concrete guide to unfolding events." Hall, whom I was not writing about, and I are in agreement, though not about his prediction that history offers a substantive basis for thinking about the future rather than a concrete guide.]

Austin Offers Rich Music Menu

RECEIVED Wed., Jan. 14, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Jesse Santos, why Austin is the live music capital of the world ["Postmarks," Jan. 9]:
   Doubtless there are many who have called for your head for disparaging our city and musicians. I welcome your opinion.
   The "lot of local groups performing every night" that you so casually dismiss are world-class. Any night in Austin there is rock to rap to soul to jazz to world beat to reggae to hip-hop and every point in between. I have seen music I cannot even classify and have been mesmerized by it.
   I have enjoyed seeing many national acts, but I also have been blown away by local musicians who have practiced thousands of hours and played their hearts out for maybe 10 people. Many local musicians have played on national tours, and many famous musicians come here just to check out our music scene and are almost always amazed by it.
   Yes, Jesse, many bands do not stop in our fine city. I could tell you a few stories about going to San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, and even to L.A. to see bands, and the trips were almost as much fun as the destination and concert.
   People live here because of the beautiful, friendly people; the climate; the lakes; the music; the arts; the parks; and so many more reasons that I cannot even begin to count them all. Perhaps a good resolution for you would be to count yourself lucky for the blessings you have to live in such a fine city with its artists, dreamers, and performers.
   You ask us to "please spare me your bloody story." One of the great things about living in America and Austin especially is that we each have a story and can express it. I do want to thank you for using your freedom of speech to voice your opinion; however, I respectfully disagree with you.
Tom "Phoenix" Strubbe
lead singer, the Unsolved

What Are the Republicans Up to?

RECEIVED Wed., Jan. 14, 2004

Dear Editor,
   How odd it was that the Cheney-Bush machine decided to float out such a liberal Democrat idea as literally opening the border to Mexican labor, then follow it up with manned missions to Mars the next day. Did anyone not notice the real news that came out the same day that was delegated to the nether regions of the newspapers, that we are pulling the teams out of Iraq whose job it has been to search for weapons of mass destruction? Conclusion? There never were any, and the cause for war was knowingly amped up to the point of hysteria ... what? Surely you recall that Saddam had missiles that could reach the East Coast and vaporize, say, New York City, or at least Savannah, Ga., or Hilton Head. The ends do not justify the means here. Nor does the inexplicable foot-dragging the Republicans have done in conjunction with the bipartisan investigation into 9/11. Wrapping themselves in the flag amid the rubble of the twin towers is ironic, um, to say the least. Sadly, the Democrats are so busy hacking each other to pieces, it's hard to see them running the country when they can't even run their party. Choice?
Tim Abbott

Are Libertarians the Only Environmentalists Left?

RECEIVED Wed., Jan. 14, 2004

Editor:
   According to the Clean Air Force, 767 tons of ozone-forming pollutants are released into Central Texas air daily. CAF has proposed a plan to reduce emissions that will become law soon when local counties and cities vote on it. The crown jewel of the plan is mandatory testing of cars and trucks, at $27 a pop, and repair of high emitters, at an average cost of $550.
   CAF says inspection and maintenance will cost $31 million per year, but $50 million is more realistic, not counting the lost hours of the vast majority of owners of clean cars. CAF says that inspection and maintenance will eliminate 7 tons of pollutants. That's less than 1%.
   While emissions are reduced 1%, ozone is only expected to decline by one-half percent. CAF has chosen the most expensive method of ozone reduction acceptable to the EPA. Yet Democrats and Republicans are solidly behind this plan. Probably has something to do with all the money that the manufacturers of inspection and maintenance testing machines spread around the Legislature. Or could it have something to do with protecting big, dirty coal-fired power plants from having to clean up their toxins?
   Either way, it seems traditional allies of the environment have become too fascinated with gadgets and procedures to remember that cleaner air with minimum costs should be the goal.
   Are Libertarians the only environmentalists who still care about clean air?
Wes Benedict

MoveOn.org Scandalous

RECEIVED Wed., Jan. 14, 2004

Dear Mr. Black:
   I am a semiregular reader of the Chronicle, and while I rarely agree with your politics, I enjoy the paper. However, I was disappointed that you used a crank letter to avoid dealing with a serious issue last week, i.e., the scandalous Bush = Hitler libel that seems to be standard fare at MoveOn.org ["Page Two," Jan. 9]. If MoveOn were as marginalized as your letter-writer, they wouldn't be worth remarking on. Unfortunately, MoveOn appears to be the current mainstream of the Democratic Party.
   You don't strike me as the kind of guy who believes Bush = Hitler. If not, you owe it to your readers to rein in their political fantasies from time to time rather than reinforcing them while you make fun of a nincompoop.
Greg Wilson
   [Editor replies: Can't we all just leave Hitler alone? I readily agree that almost all the Hitler = whoever comparisons are ridiculous, be it Bush or Saddam Hussein. With Bush, such comparisons are counterproductive – changing no minds, marginalizing legitimate critics, and satisfying only those making them. There are reasonable criticisms of MoveOn.org, but taking them to task over a couple of entries in an open contest that received more than a thousand responses is not legitimate. Attack them on other grounds, but not for this.]

Texas Education Still Needs to Be Desegregated

RECEIVED Wed., Jan. 14, 2004

Dear Editor,
   With all the helpful coverage and activism that has already emerged in response to the Texas A&M decision to rescind affirmative action in admissions, there is still one crucial fact which has not been reported: Texas higher education is still under federal supervision for desegregation.
   Perhaps everyone is a little embarrassed by this fact, so people are a little reluctant to mention it publicly, but Texas has agreed to four successive "Texas Plans" with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. The first Texas plan officially began in 1983. The fourth Texas plan was offered by Gov. George W. Bush in the summer of 2000, and it will continue for several more years.
   In fact, Texas A&M adopted affirmative action on Dec. 5, 1980, in order to show that the university could be counted on to act as a trustworthy partner in "good faith" during the upcoming years of desegregation. Affirmative action, therefore, is the university's way of saying, you can depend on us to take responsibility for our own desegregation.
   The crucial context of desegregation changes everything about the importance of the Texas A&M decision, so it should be reported and discussed, not evaded.
Greg Moses

School Finance Solution Is State Income Tax

RECEIVED Tue., Jan. 13, 2004

Chronicle,
    The plain, simple, fair, and painfully obvious solution to the school finance problem is being avoided like a leper in the mosh pit. Income tax. Surprise! The wealthy ones have the money the state keeps looking for. If you need water, go to the well.
    I have a client who makes $600,000 a year. He pays 3% of his income in property taxes. I make $25,000 a year and pay over 20% in property taxes. This method of taxation is designed by someone who has a lot of potentially taxable income.
    So, property taxes totaling $150 a month in 1998 should be, at the current pace, just shy of $2,000 a month at my "no collar," pensionless, health-care-less, ripe old retirement age of 62 years in AD2016.
    Don't get me wrong, there is a certain satisfaction in paying for all the government pensions and benefits. I'll just have to settle for the vicarious experience.
Respectfully,
James M. Paine

Austin's Wonderful Late-Night Eateries

RECEIVED Tue., Jan. 13, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Reading the article on Austin late-night eateries has made me fierce homesick ["Second Helpings," Food, Jan. 9]. Since moving to San Jose, Calif., in 2000, I've told all my pals how wonderful Austin is, how one can actually go out for dinner after 10pm.
   San Jose, if you don't know, rolls up the sidewalks and turns off the stars nightly, at 9pm. The weekend club scene is blitzkrieg-closed by hordes of police at 2am.
   Then I read this lovely article about Magnolia Cafe, Kerbey Lane, and even Katz's. Homesick I am. Wanting good food, after work. Is the Starz Inn coffee shop still open?
   Oh, to once again savor the delicious green chile chicken enchiladas at Chuy's.
   Yes, I miss Austin. I'd come back, if only there were some paying jobs.
Charles Statman

A Canadian's Advice on How to Vote

RECEIVED Tue., Jan. 13, 2004

Dear Editor,
   As a Canadian who lived in the U.S. for many years and who believes strongly in the American values of yesteryear, the America that stood for liberty and was a welcome haven to those yearning to be free, I am greatly encouraged by the forthright and humane policies outlined by Dennis Kucinich. His is a voice of sanity in a country which appears from the outside to have gone mad. If Americans have the sense to elect him president there will no longer need to be a "war on terror" or any of the other barbaric and retrograde nonsense of past and particularly present administrations. His compassionate and forward-looking ideas will by themselves bring terrorism as we know it to an end. Please vote for this calm and courageous man!
Yours,
Alan Scarfe
Saturna Island
Canada

Pot Policies Determine Her Presidential Choice

RECEIVED Tue., Jan. 13, 2004

To the editor,
   Re: "Weed Watch: Democrats on Drugs Part II," News, Jan. 9. Poll after poll shows the majority of Americans are in support of marijuana's medicinal use. Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich is the only democratic candidate in sync with the American people on this issue.
   It is ridiculous of our government to deny the sick a treatment that studies show is beneficial to their ailments, and deprive us of higher education by restricting research, over something that evidence shows is less harmful than alcohol, tobacco, or many legally prescribed substances. Last week in Texas, Willie Nelson held a benefit concert to help support the Kucinich for President campaign, and a press conference was held where Mr. Kucinich was advised by the president of the U.S. Marijuana Party, Loretta Nall, that all state chapters were behind him "100 percent" and will be campaigning for him in their respective states. He is truly deserving of our support. If the other candidates hesitate to agree with the majority of Americans on such a simple issue, then how could we ever trust them to represent us on any issue?
Sandy Cote
Toledo, Ohio
Ohio Marijuana Party Political Action Committee, co-founder, Ohio.USMJParty.com U.S. Marijuana Party, National Outreach Coordinator, www.usmjparty.com

Bush Administration Supports Business Over Environment

RECEIVED Mon., Jan. 12, 2004

Dear Editor:
   It appears as if an ironic sense of holiday spirit is alive and well in the Bush administration. With a Christmas Eve announcement, it gave the timber industry a gift of enormous proportions by revoking protections on our nation's largest national forest. The gift: the best and biggest wild areas in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska – a national treasure and the world's largest remaining coastal temperate rainforest.
   Shamefully this "gift" was given despite the public's overwhelming support for conserving wild areas in the Alaskan rainforest. And the price tag – billed to American taxpayers – is steep. We lose millions of dollars every year – $35 million in 2002 – because the Forest Service spends far more money preparing logging projects and building logging roads than the timber industry pays in return for the trees.
   Rather than catering to the timber industry, the Bush administration should have fulfilled the wishes of the American public and maintained the protections of the Tongass. It would have been a priceless gift for our children – and theirs.
   As far as I'm concerned, this is just another dreadful example of what the Bush administration is doing to our "wild" lands that were set aside by far-thinking persons for the future generations of the USA. If this disregard for our future citizens continues, there will no longer be any wildlands for any of us!
Sincerely,
Ms. Janet E. Brown

Manipulation?

RECEIVED Mon., Jan. 12, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Take a look at the video footage of U.S. troops showing off the "spider hole" where they caught Saddam Hussein, supposedly in December. The palm trees in the background are full of ripe dates; the problem being, dates only ripen in Iraq from July to September. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? I can see the Dubya regime waiting a few months to announce Hussein's capture (so that pesky blackout in the Northeast wouldn't steal their headlines, and the "capture" could be timed to kick Germany and France back in line), but how stupid do they think we are? Sure, we've forgotten that the reason Little Dick Rumsfeld knew Iraq had "WMD"s is because he sold them to Iraq in the first place, and we don't seem to mind the millions Big Dick Cheney stands to make from all those Halliburton contracts, but come on! What's next – a big stockpile of chemical weapons just happens to turn up next October?
   Oh well. I guess if America can get used to the idea of an election-losing military deserter in the White House, we can get used to anything.
Jason Meador

Response to the Always Eloquent Standiford

RECEIVED Mon., Jan. 12, 2004

Dear Editor,
   The always eloquent Kurt Standiford asked in his most recent letter ["Postmarks" online, Jan. 2], in so many words, why all the liberals don't pack up and "move someplace where [they] can pull the wool over voters' eyes."
   Unless I'm mistaken, this has already happened. Ever check out the Austin City Council, Mr. Standiford?
David Rigsby

Contradictions of the 'Godly'

RECEIVED Mon., Jan. 12, 2004

Hello editors,
   When one has experience debating religious fundamentalists, one commonly hears contradictory statements. So it didn't surprise me to hear Alanda Ledbetter claim that articles on fundamentalists' Web sites about abortion are "not necessarily" influenced by their religious beliefs, only to go on and admit that her position is held by people like herself because they "are godly" ["Postmarks," Jan. 9]. The ideological opposition to abortion among religious fundamentalists is no secret. To claim the ideology isn't there when it threatens to hamper one's scientific street cred is dishonest.
   Why is "godliness" automatically a point in someone's favor? Lots of godly people do nice things. But Paul Hill felt he was godly, and so, I suspect, did Eric Robert Rudolph. The 9/11 terrorists had a five-page list of instructions and prayers in which the word "God" appeared 88 times. So much for godliness as a résumé item.
   Citing one study from Finland is an example of confirmation bias. This is a fallacy in which a person with a preconceived belief seeks only evidence that appears to confirm the belief, and ignores disconfirming evidence.
   I agree with Ms. Ledbetter's suggestion about doing a comprehensive study among women who've had abortions to find out the truth. However, that would take an attitude of open-minded scientific inquiry by folks who weren't working from the conviction the truth was something they already had in the bag.
   Her final remarks ("This country is full of a lot of expensive speech instead of free speech, and that is going to change") are baffling. After all, the Chronicle is allowing both Ms. Ledbetter and her critics to exercise their free speech, so why complain? But I imagine it is hard for free speech to get the same airtime as the "expensive speech" being pushed by well-funded religious right organizations.
Sincerely,
Martin Wagner

South Congress Landlords Hurting Austin

RECEIVED Mon., Jan. 12, 2004

Dear Editor,
   So, the landlords are kicking out shops on South Congress so that they can charge more to people opening "eclectic, hip shops." Is it all about money to the landlords? If so, you can charge a lot more in Santa Fe than you can here in Austin, or in L.A. How about you move there and open "eclectic, hip shops" for yuppies? Anyone can charge absolutely as much as they can get for their property, if money is what defines their lives. Decent people make a decent income and are happy with it without charging longtime renters more than they can afford to pay. So, go ahead landlords, close down the people who supported you when SoCo was trashed, put them out of business, let them worry about paying their mortgages, you can get lots more money than they'll pay you. Sleep well knowing you helped put a knife through the heart of what was once a very special place in Austin.
Carl T. Swanson

Handel's Music, but Words Written After He Was Dead

RECEIVED Fri., Jan. 9, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Some time back Smarty Pants wrote that G.F. Handel (1685-1759) wrote a hymn about "interstellar space" and "light years" ["Mr. Smarty Pants," Sept. 13, 2002]. Wrong, Mr. Pants! Handel wrote the music only, for a different set of words in his oratorio "Susannah." The words you saw were by Howard Chandler Robbins, who added them to Handel's music in 1931. Check it out!
Russell Schulz
   [Sir, thank you for bringing this to my attention, but my disclaimer reads: "The above is information that Mr. Smarty Pants read in a book, magazine, or the newspaper; heard on the radio; saw on television; or overheard at a party." I believe the factoid in question was overheard on a radio playing at a party. This cleverly planned deception was not only a slap in the face to you and me, but to Robbins, and Handel. I will contact the FCC, host of the party, and the estates of Messrs. Robbins and Handel accordingly. If you e-mail me a mailing address, I will reward you with an honorary Smarty Pants bumper sticker as a small token of my appreciation.]

Not Optimistic About U.S.' Future

RECEIVED Fri., Jan. 9, 2004

Dear Editor,
   I wish I could agree with the optimistic thought that "within a few years of this massive dismantling most of those social structures will begin to be slowly rebuilt" ("Page Two," Jan. 9).
   First, the Republican Party is doing everything it can to ensure it will effectively dominate the federal government, perhaps forever. Redistricting Texas to prevent Democrats being elected could well lead to redistricting the nation. And the California recall vote shows how duly elected state officials can be discarded. Let's not forget the nonstop efforts by President Bush to load the courts with far-right judges, nor what happened in Florida in 2000.
   Then there are the American people who do not have the time to delve into issues and believe that being patriotic means supporting President Bush and Republicans. There's the media that has turned news into entertainment while giving short shrift to critical issues. And the Christian right who will vote for whoever publicly screams his religious beliefs (Christian, of course) the loudest.
   The final blow is the increasing gulf between the rich and the poor and middle class. The rich can afford medical care, needed medicines, and private schools. They can purchase any social structures needed. Will they pay higher taxes for those who can't?
Claude M. Gruener

Time to Legalize Marijuana!

RECEIVED Fri., Jan. 9, 2004

Dear Editor of The Austin Chronicle,
   I was pleased to read that the Marijuana Policy Project's report card ("Weed Watch: Democrats on Drugs, Part II," News, Jan. 9) gave Democratic presidential nominee Dennis Kucinich an A+; however, one crucial fact was not printed in the article.
   Part of the reason Kucinich gets the A+ is because of his platform written on his Web site (www.kucinich.us/issues/marijuana_decrim.php) declaring that as president he will decriminalize cannabis (marijuana) and regulate it similar to alcohol. As a cannabis activist and obedient Christian, ending the policy of caging our brother for using a plant is an important issue whose time has come.
Truthfully,
Stan White
Dillon, Colo.

Gentrification of SoCo

RECEIVED Fri., Jan. 9, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Chronicle readers call Austin home, but chances are most of us have been born and raised in another part of the state, if not another part of the country. I left the land of glass and plastic, Dallas, eight years ago and swore that I would never move back to this cultural desert called Texas – unless, of course, happenstance brought me to its oasis.
   When I moved to Austin I wanted location over amenities – soul over stuff. Although you won't find me sporting a "78704" bumper sticker, I was thrilled to find a funky little apartment complex a few blocks away from South Congress Avenue. Screw the five-bedroom house on a one-acre lot, I wanted to live in a part of town where people tuned into their neighborhood rather than tuning out to their plasma-screen television.
   Unfortunately, a lot of people with a lot more cash have been thinking along the same lines as myself. The houses in my neighborhood, although built on foundations of tree stumps, are now going for 350k! The Motorola and Dell clans, realizing that a Capital Pacific Home = Death, have been looking for a little soul themselves. Land value rates are now so high I can barely sustain my rent, and the funky soul-filled neighborhood I moved into is now drastically changing.
   On Thursday the eighth, three stores that I try to frequent on South Congress announced that they no longer could afford to stay. They have been officially rubbed out by [new businesses] and property owners seeking higher rents. Although the usurpers remain independently owned, their merchandise is dependent culturally on MTV and Stuff magazine. "SoCo" is effectively pushing out South Congress, the pastiche is forcing the original to move, and chances are I'll follow.
Rad Tollett

Let's Have a 'Bass-Off'

RECEIVED Fri., Jan. 9, 2004

To all,
   I had the hilarious task of informing my friend of many years about his sudden surge in "celebrity" taking place in the pages of the Chronicle ["Postmarks," Jan. 2]. And Yoggie's response is very simple and I quote; "Huh?" But seriously, right after that he said, "I would be happy to have a 'bass-off,' anytime, anywhere. Come one, come all bass players, and we can donate the proceeds to charity. Say for instance the Faith Home."
   In his own words he said, "It would be fun to play with all those guys. And after all, it is for charity, right?"
   So what do you say guys? I know alot of you bass players have been following this, because I've been approached by several of you with this same story. And I'm just a lowly keyboardist.
With much respect to all,
Phil Redmond

Rock Is From the Soul

RECEIVED Fri., Jan. 9, 2004

Dear Editor,
   I've been reading a lot lately about the analytical forms of rock music, one guy even going so far as to mention Mingus and so on ["Postmarks," Jan. 2].
   First of all Mingus played jazz. Jazz musicians play fast all the time; they know all the notes, when to play this, when to play that. All of this having nothing to do with rock. Rock was built on simplicity. Whether you can play three chords or 19, fast or slow doesn't matter. Anybody who says this band is better than that band is missing the point. Rock is about power, rhythm, sadness, love, and feelings I can't even write down on this paper. Not only that, all rock is corporate, if you sell albums, if people pay you to play, you're corporate! Just as Chuck Berry, who hoarded money and paid stand-ins because he was too cheap to keep a real band.
   And for all you punk rockers, I'd just like to say, as I fire up a joint and slap on some Zeppelin, rock on.
Mike Luther

La Meata Mada

RECEIVED Fri., Jan. 9, 2004

Dear Editor,
   
   Topical variation on the Ricky Martin song: "La Vaca Loca"
   
   She came from South Alberta
   Or somewhere in B.C.
   Something's wrong with ol' Bertha
   She's been eatin' tainted feed
   
   On her hooves she grows unsteady
   Wild-eyed, she starts to wheeze
   she's got en-ceph-alo-pathy
   Oh my God: Mad Cow Disease!
   
   She'll make you take your clothes off
   And go dancing in the rain
   She'll make you live her crazy life
   But she'll take away your pain
   Like a bullet to the brain
   
   Upside inside out
   You're eating La Vaca Loca
   You'll go nuts, no doubt
   Eatin' La Vaca Loca
   Her eyes: wildest I've seen
   Her hide is white and mocha
   She's one sick Holstein
   Don't eat La Vaca Loca
   
   Don't eat La Vaca Loca
   Don't eat La Vaca Loca
   Don't eat La Vaca Loca
Dave Troxell
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