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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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Transit-Use Growing

RECEIVED Wed., Oct. 27, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Nationally, transit ridership grew 21% over the last five years, while the number of miles driven grew by 12%. This was the first time since World War II that growth in transit ridership substantially outpaced growth in driving.
   California, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, and Texas experienced more than a 20% increase in transit ridership.
   Transit appeared in cities that have traditionally not had much transit service. New rail systems opened in San Diego, San Jose, Sacramento, Portland, Salt Lake City, Denver, St. Louis, and Dallas. Forty-seven of the nation's top 50 metropolitan areas are pursuing rail investments, many in new transit markets, and when they open most are exceeding ridership projections.
   The demand for new transit-starts projects is much greater than the funding available. As of 2003, 25 New Start projects had full funding grantee agreements, including projects in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Memphis, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Portland, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, San Juan, and Washington, D.C. These commitments will add 131 new stations to the existing inventory of about 2,400 transit and inter-city rail stations and a wide variety of intercity bus locations.
   The public is more aware of and supportive of public transportation than a decade ago.
   Four in five Americans believe that increased investment in public transportation strengthens the economy, creates jobs, reduces traffic congestion and air pollution, and saves energy.
   Almost three-quarters (72%) support the use of public funds for the expansion and improvement of public transportation.
   Are all of these people around the country delusional and only the opponents in Austin see the light?
Glenn Gadbois

Some Transportation Planners More Dangerous Than Terrorists

RECEIVED Wed., Oct. 27, 2004

Dear Editor,
   In his response to my letter, Mike Clark-Madison dismissed my concerns about the CTRMA toll road plan by opining that I "don't like roads" ["Postmarks," Oct. 15]. This is absolutely correct, although largely irrelevant. Allowing a basically private entity with no accountability to the public like the CTRMA to borrow huge sums of money to build roads willy-nilly with only a vague plan, based on wishful thinking, for paying back this money is bad fiscal and public policy regardless of how one feels about roads. But in point of fact, the current roadway plan is a recipe for economic disaster, never mind environmental or quality-of-life concerns, which is why I "don't like roads." New highways encourage urban sprawl – can there be any doubt about this? Austin already ranks fourth in the nation for number of miles driven on average per capita per day (www.rrc.state.tx.us/tepc/092404presentations/billbarker.pdf). At the same time, Houston Republican oilman Matthew Simmons is telling us that we are probably already at or near the peak of world oil production (www.simmonsco-intl.com/files/SPE%202004%20Annual%20Conference.pdf). If true, this means that the supply of oil will decrease from now on, resulting in dramatically increasing prices. Even the most optimistic Pollyannas agree that oil will start to run out within 30 years, and these folks are a distinct minority, similar to the scientists who claim that global warming is a myth. There is considerable consensus that peak oil will occur before 2010 – see the documentary The End of Suburbia (www.endofsuburbia.com) for a plethora of expert opinion. Meanwhile, if we begin to focus our efforts now, reversing our dependence on oil will still take decades. If this is true, why do we have a transportation plan which can only serve to increase our consumption of oil over the next 25 years? The people promoting this plan are more dangerous to us than terrorists and should be treated accordingly.
Patrick Goetz

Doesn't Like 'Statesman's Endorsement of Bush

RECEIVED Wed., Oct. 27, 2004

To the editor,
   I have lost all faith in the intelligence and objectivity of the Austin American-Statesman following their endorsement of President Bush's re-election. It is ironic that they endorsed Bush the same week they ran an article giving polling results showing that the majority of Bush supporters have their facts wrong on a number of significant issues. The majority of Bush supporters believe incorrectly that: there was a link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks, the 9/11 Commission Report found that Saddam Hussein was hiding WMD, Bush supports the Kyoto Accord, and the majority of the world's citizens support George W. Bush.
   I can think of three possible reasons for the Statesman's endorsement: 1) The members of the editorial board are as misinformed as the typical Bush supporter; 2) they don't have the reasoning capacity to look at the facts and see that Bush is deceitful, fiscally irresponsible, and a threat to the future U.S. economy and world security; or 3) they were told who to endorse by higher-ups at Cox Enterprises.
   For an excellent analysis of why Bush should not be re-elected, see The New York Times' endorsement of John Kerry at www.nytimes.com.
   I have canceled my subscription to the Statesman and from now on will get my national and international news from The New York Times. I will rely on the Austin Chronicle for my local news. Thanks for being here as an alternative to the Statesman!
Yours truly,
Paul K. Smith

Austin Needs a New Daily

RECEIVED Wed., Oct. 27, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Now that the Austin American-Statesman has endorsed Bush, they have demonstrated ever more clearly where their head is at. After hiding critical stories on Iraq, the economy, and corporate scandals far away from the front page, they have now shown why. They are either stooges of their corporate owners or are fools with the worst sort of political judgment. Austin needs a new daily to provide us with sound local, regional, and national news. Why not attempt this with a trusted source already available – you? I'll be your first daily subscriber. And I can assure you I will be only one of tens of thousands.
Steve Davidson

Don't Vote for Stick

RECEIVED Wed., Oct. 27, 2004

Dear Editor,
   I received a brochure today from the Jack Stick campaign. The guy on the cover was supposed to be a trial lawyer for Strama. However it looks more like Rush Limbaugh. The theme was personal-injury lawyers buying Mark Strama for their personal use. Tort reform is just a tool big business uses to insulate them from liability. That's why the Texas Business Association endorses Jack Stick. My father told me once, "We all get what we deserve." If the people slide and don't vote against Stick, we'll get exactly what we deserve.
Best regards,
Kenneth Harrison

Wants to Vote on Rail but Can't

RECEIVED Wed., Oct. 27, 2004

Dear Editor,
   I voted early yesterday. After I had finished and reached the bottom of the ballot I was surprised that there was nothing about the commuter rail. I asked one of the election workers where I was supposed to cast my vote for or against the commuter rail and I was told that I did not get a vote because it did not concern me. I happen to live in Leander. The tracks that the commuter line will run on are about four blocks from my house. I commute 30 minutes every morning and afternoon, Monday through Friday, to get to work in Austin. I am one of the people who would ride the commuter rail. If it doesn't concern me, just who the hell does it concern? People in South Austin will get to vote on this, although they will never need to ride it. How come my opinion isn't considered relevant since I will be one of those who will utilize the rail? I have to say that I was extremely ticked off yesterday. I would still like to cast a vote for the referendum, but I guess that people directly involved don't get a say. Way to go in a "democratic country."
Stacy Klawunn

KUT-FM Thanks

RECEIVED Wed., Oct. 27, 2004

Dear Editor,
   KUT listeners and Chronicle readers rock. First you voted KUT 90.5FM the "Best of Austin" radio station ["Best of Austin," Oct. 1] (OK, you shared the honor with KGSR), and then you made pledges totaling more than $611,000 during our recent on-air fundraiser.
   KUT is committed to being your local station with a global perspective. While radio stations and formats come and go KUT is here for the long haul. At the risk of being a bit dramatic, we believe public radio has a responsibility to preserve and promote democracy in our community, and that democracy is better served when citizens have free, accessible, independent, and private access to information from a variety of sources. With your support we have invested in this belief by developing the first public radio news service in Austin, by bringing you the best that National Public Radio has to offer and by seeking out additional perspectives from Public Radio International and the BBC. We also step back from the pressing issues of the day and play some really cool music.
   On behalf of the nearly 200,000 people who rely on KUT each week, thank you so much for your support. Though I'm sure that we could do better. If you have an idea how, feel free to post in on an independent blog at our Web site www.kut.org, or send us an e-mail directly at kut@kut.org.
Thanks again,
Stewart Vanderwilt
Director and general manager
P.S. p.s. For those asking, "What's the frequency, Kenneth?" you can find us on the left of the dial at 90.5FM.

Alarmed Over Voting Machine Problems

RECEIVED Wed., Oct. 27, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Thank you for the attention on the voting machine issues ["County Responds to Voting Machine Problems," News online, Oct. 22]. I find the theory from Gail Fisher, manager of the county elections division, to be alarming. This is an example of poorly written code. Paper ballots didn't allow for a default candidate, it required placing a vote if you wanted it counted. If a voter selects a straight party vote, they should be asked to confirm the choice, and then move to a new screen automatically, were they can review (read only) the selected votes. It should take a conscious selection to allow for any additional changes, such as writing in a candidate or changing an individual vote for a specific candidate. This is another example of how a small issue can indirectly benefit one candidate over another. With the advent of electronic voting we have the opportunity to create systems that minimize potential voter error. The fact that the county system in any way "defaults" ("Since the Bush/Cheney ticket is the first thing on the page, it is highlighted when the page comes up – and thus, pressing 'enter' at that moment causes the Kerry/Edwards vote to be changed to Bush/Cheney.") is an indirect, albeit unintentional, benefit to Bush. That has to change. The system should be as free of any endorsement as possible. The fact that Bush is in the box by default is insulting to those who have no intention of voting for him in the first place. Having defaults might be OK while filling forms on the Internet, but when it comes to voting, no preselected choices should be the norm.
Bernard Brown

Supports Commuter Rail Plan

RECEIVED Tue., Oct. 26, 2004

Dear Editor,
   I support the commuter rail plan even though I voted against light rail in 2000. Here's why:
   Commuter rail isn't light rail. This means roads won't be ripped up for years as track is being laid. Commuter rail will use existing track that already runs freight; this plan simply adds passengers to the mix. This translates into less disruption to existing traffic and lowered costs than light rail.
   Commuter rail isn't expensive. While light rail would cost about $1 billion, the commuter rail plan costs $60 million to $90 million (roughly the cost of 1 to 2 miles of light rail). Capital Metro won't have to raise taxes since it has already collected enough money from the one-cent sales tax and federal matching funds.
   Commuter rail gives people transportation choices. This is achieved not only with hybrid-diesel trains equipped with wi-fi, but by the 32 miles of pedestrian and bicycle pathways that will be built alongside the rail corridor. This will be achieved by the park-n-ride lots that downtown revelers can use instead of endlessly circling for parking. This will be achieved by providing rail service that is grade-separated, meaning the train won't take up any lanes currently used for cars.
   Finally, commuter rail will affect our region's growth. While some believe the issue is getting people to trade their car for rail, I believe the issue is preserving what we have while preparing for the 1.5 million people coming in the next 20 years. Commuter rail will change the highest-and-best use of tracts along the railway, spurring the sexy kind of mixed-use development and density our city needs to avoid making sprawl our legacy.
   Take it from someone who voted against light rail in 2000: Commuter rail is worth supporting. To see for yourself, check out www.newwaystoconnect.com.
Lonny Stern
Outspoken
91.7FM KOOP

You've Made the Paper Worse

RECEIVED Tue., Oct. 26, 2004

Dear Editor,
   I'm a longtime reader of the Chronicle. Let me get right to the point. Most of the changes you've made to your paper to make it a tighter publication have been for the worse.
   Bring back Cecil Adams' "The Straight Dope." And while you're at it, bring back "Coach's Corner" by Andy Cotton, too.
Jason van Dong

Doesn't Like 'Statesman's Endorsements

RECEIVED Tue., Oct. 26, 2004

Dear Editor,
   The tortured reasoning of the Statesman's presidential endorsement is not hard to understand. First, the Statesman routinely sides with interests that will potentially enhance its own economic prospects (such as toll roads, building bonds, urban sprawl) even when these interests cut against the grain of the paper's otherwise more liberal social stances. Second, since an endorsement of Kerry has no practical effect in a state which will vote for Bush, the Statesman's support for the presidential incumbent makes economic sense. It is aimed at conservatives who have accused the newspaper of liberal bias, potential readers and business people who may now subscribe to or advertise in the paper. Liberal readers will be upset by the paper's endorsement (note the picketing outside the Statesman's office last Sunday) but as a group they are far more tolerant of diverse opinions than their conservative peers and so their reaction will have no measurable financial impact on the newspaper. In comparison, Crawford's little Lone Star Iconoclast seems a model of integrity, not because it supported Kerry but because its risky endorsement represents editorial conviction rather than cold economic calculation.
William Scheick

Misunderstanding

RECEIVED Tue., Oct. 26, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Mr. King does the state a great service by bringing to bear the number of problems with CPS ["Capitol Chronicle," News, Oct. 22]. Although I don't know what he meant by headlines made by troublemaker liberal media. Frankly I don't see the purpose of hitting on Ms. Strayhorn. She would make a better governor than Pushover Perry. Also, the federal guidelines for social workers is 100.
Clyde L. Harris
Hillsboro
   [News Editor Michael King replies: The reference to "troublemakers in the liberal media" was a small attempt at irony, clearly not entirely successful. I don't know which "federal guidelines" Clyde Harris refers to, but most official sources and child protection advocates recommend a monthly caseload of no more than 12-23 cases per caseworker, and Texas is ineffectively attempting to hold the line at 60.]

Improving the Quality of Education

RECEIVED Tue., Oct. 26, 2004

Dear Editor,
   As a former high school counselor, now serving the community in a middle school, I read this well-written article with a high level of personal and professional interest ["AISD High Schools Flunk Real-World Test," News, Oct. 22].
   If you have the time, would you please consider presenting comprehensive articles on the two high school institutes, Culinary Arts and Hospitality at Travis High and the Health Science Career Institute at Lanier High?
   Both were inspired by John Blazier, who founded the Travis Community Education Foundation. Its history and its influence on Austin's public schools are extraordinary examples of commitment on the part of citizens with a mission to improve the quality of life, through education, for those who have not had some of the advantages many of us take for granted.
Judith Johnston
   [News Editor Michael King replies: Thanks for the suggestion. May I also direct readers' attention to a profile of the Culinary Arts program by MM Pack, a couple of years ago: (austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2002-10-11/food_feature.html).]

Support Commuter Rail

RECEIVED Tue., Oct. 26, 2004

Dear Editor,
   The undersigned bicycle organizations urge everyone who wishes to see a more bicycle-friendly Austin to vote for Cap Metro's urban commuter rail proposal next Tuesday. Here's why: Cap Metro has a proven track record of supporting bike transportation, accommodating bikes on its buses (the first transit agency in the state to do so), and returning millions of dollars to build bicycle facilities as part of regional mobility efforts. Consistent with this outstanding record, the agency is now committing to provide state-of-the-art bicycle accommodations on rail cars, secure and adequate parking at future rail stations, and safe and adequate bicycle entry to and exit from future rail stations. Moreover, in response to requests from the bike community, Cap Metro has agreed to build hike-and-bike trails (rails-with-trails) parallel to and at a safe distance from the tracks wherever feasible. Since rail corridors usually pass beneath highways and major roads, rails-with-trails can allow people to walk or bike safely beneath barriers such as 183, MoPac, I-35, and Ben White, and help close gaps in our existing bicycle and trail networks. We believe that urban commuter rail can help make Austin one of the premier cities for bicycle transportation, and one of the most liveable cities overall, in the nation.
Yours,
Robin Stallings, executive director, Texas Bicycle Coalition
Jeb Boyt, president, Austin Metro Trails and Greenways
Preston Tyree, legislative chair, Austin Cycling Association

Excited About Hybrid Cars

RECEIVED Tue., Oct. 26, 2004

Dear Editor,
   The planets rarely align in the transportation business. Mostly transportation just muddies along through trial and error and narrow self-interest. Then along comes the plug-in gas/electric hybrid automobile, the vehicle for all occasions ["Can Austin Kick-Start the Hybrid-Car Future?," News, Oct. 22]. It’s good for local errands driven electrically and for traveling across the country using the internal combustion engine. I believe that we have met the future. Many thanks to Council Members Brewster McCracken and Danny Thomas and to Mayor Will Wynn for recognizing an opportunity and using the city’s influence to move the plug-in hybrid Sprinter van along.
Dick Kallerman

Likes Interpol More Than Green Day

RECEIVED Tue., Oct. 26, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Unbelievable. The same reviewer that gave Interpol's Antics 2 1/2 stars gives Green Day four. I mean, maybe musical talent and songwriting don't have to matter to a music critic, but last time I checked they appeared to be essential ingredients. Not even a "different genres – impossible to compare" argument can obscure the fact that Interpol's arrangements are of vast technical and melodic superiority (not to mention of greater human feeling) than Green Day's.
   Then again, I suppose music trends have made it fashionable to be pleasantly surprised at Green Day, and predictably sour-faced about Interpol's sophomore album (never mind that it's of greater complexity and tighter arrangement than their debut). But I must have missed the trend when actual musical analysis goes out of style. Does Mr. Gray even mention the album's songs before slapping it with a low rating?
Amir Nezar
Charlottesville, Va.

Beastie Boys Rocked

RECEIVED Tue., Oct. 26, 2004

Dear Editor,
   All I want to say is kudos to the Beastie Boys for their amazing show on Friday [Oct. 22]! Not only are they as amazing as I had hope they would be (since I am 28 and hadn't ever been to a show of theirs – ever – however a fan from way back in the day) but I had the very privilege of feeling their breath and close vibrations upon my neck on the shores of the no-man's-land of section 79 of the Frank Erwin Center. Their political shout-outs and video footage gave me hope that there are people that influence our society through music, especially on our side of the world, that actually give a damn about what is really going on and aren't afraid to say so.
Thanks and praises,
Sarina Barrera

Nader and Bush Like Twins

RECEIVED Tue., Oct. 26, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Michael Ventura is right: In their behavior, Ralph Nader and George Bush are twins separated at birth ["Letters @ 3am," Oct. 1]. Both define leadership as assertive persistence. Both stick to their guns (so to speak) regardless of opposition and contrary evidence. But the similarity also applies to their beliefs.
   Both seek ideological purity. Both propose radical solutions, from scrapping treaties to dismantling institutions. Both abhor pragmatism and trivialize reform. Each sees himself as "a prophet crying in the wilderness," destined to endure harsh attacks from agents of the devil.
   The difference is their view of power. Bush and Nader are today's avatars of the opposing world-views critiqued by Karl Popper:
   For Bushites, "might is right." Power is the bulwark of good against encroaching chaos. Material and political success signal divine approval. Perpetuating that power is paramount, by any means whatsoever.
   For Naderites, "future might is right" (or "might is wrong"). Power corrupts absolutely. Material and popular success signal relaxed vigilance against the demons attending on power. Anyone in power is wrong and anyone who achieves power immediately becomes wrong. The only ethical position is constant resistance.
   Criticizing Nader will not reduce his support. To Naderites, public ridicule only confirms his steadfast righteousness. Nader's spartan lifestyle and his willingness to take abuse signal his status among the elect (if not the elected).
   It's useless to argue that Nader can't win or that votes for Nader are votes for Bush. If you believe that might is wrong, nothing succeeds like failure. Even "conversion narratives" from Naderites-turned-Democrats are useless. Testimony from "fallen angels" who have succumbed to the blandishments of the mighty only stiffens the resolve of the faithful.
   We have to break our obsession with power. That's what fuels the politics of personal destruction and cynicism about democracy. In Popper's Open Society and Its Enemies, people investigate might before judging what is right. Only then can we distinguish between better and worse, rather than merely right and wrong. Power is overrated.
Davida Charney

Austin Needs to Go Further Toward Electric Vehicles

RECEIVED Tue., Oct. 26, 2004

Dear Editor,
   If Austin is thinking about purchasing hybrid vans from Germany I wonder why they don't take a huge step in the direction of converting traditional gas-powered vehicles to fully electric vehicles using the city's facilities.
   A plan of this sort would generate savings, educate the city mechanics about these conversions, and encourage more conversions in the general public. They could even add these conversions to ACC's curriculum.
   If Austin makes purchasing decisions according to how they can affect the auto industry's bottom line then that appears a bit naive to me. If we really want an electric automobile culture then why don't we take it upon ourselves instead of depending on the auto industry, the foreign auto industry for that matter.
   How many late-Nineties vans could we convert into fully electric vehicles instead of purchasing new hydrid vans?
Regards,
Wade Reynolds

Nader Attacks Are Just Lame Scare Tactics

RECEIVED Mon., Oct. 25, 2004

Dear Mr. Black,
    I am writing to thank you and Michael Ventura for helping me decide who to vote for in this year’s presidential election. For years I have been an ardent supporter of Ralph Nader. I knew in 2000 that if "W" became president it would be worse than if Gore had, especially in areas like environmental protection. But the corruption of our political process by major corporations, and the increased participation in that corruption by the Democrats, along with their middle-of-the-road platitudes on many so-called progressive issues, led me to support the candidate who has spent his entire career fighting for consumers, the environment, and the right to a transparent government. That man was Ralph Nader.
    Mr. Ventura wrote in one of his columns that a vote for Nader was a vote for the extreme right ["Letters @ 3am," Oct. 1]. This week you, Mr. Black, write that Nader supporters do so at the expense of Iraqis, American troops, the environment, and poor children, among a long list of things ["Page Two," Oct. 22]. I supported Nader exactly for these things. To try to turn that around is to employ the same type of lame scare tactics that Cheney uses. Kerry has admitted he would basically do the same thing in Iraq that our current president is doing, except "better." He voted for the PATRIOT Act. In three debates, his only mention of the environment was in response to a question about abortion.
    I have read your paper since its first year. For someone who started out more than 20 years ago as a guy who always wrote in favor of doing the right thing, you sure seem to have become comfortable with adequacy. Whatever happened to voting for the best person for the job, not the lesser of two evils? If that’s all we ever vote for, it’s all we’ll ever get.
    If you and Ventura can make comments like the above, you are obviously either socially clueless or emotionally manipulative, and should not be trusted. I’ll be sticking with the man who opposes the Iraq war and the PATRIOT Act, the man with a record of real consumer and environmental protection, the man who has spent his career fighting for what is best for the common man: Ralph Nader.
Sincerely,
Guy LeBlanc
   [Louis Black responds: From the disingenuous opening two sentences – the decision to vote for Nader was obviously made long before reading either Ventura or me – to the acknowledgement that it doesn't matter what happens to the environment as long as the voter feels good, I don't see any contradictions with what we wrote. The idea is not to scare anyone but to share our gut-wrenching fear about what has happened and what may well continue to happen with our readers. Over the last 20 years I have always taken responsibility for the consequences of my beliefs and actions. I still do. Nader's supporters don't.]

Faith Shouldn't Trump the Truth

RECEIVED Mon., Oct. 25, 2004

Dear Editor,
   The faith-based presidency doesn't care about facts and is happy to lie about history in speeches, but now they are engaging in wholesale doctoring of the written history at www.whitehouse.gov – which is supposedly an official government Web site of historical record, paid for by the taxpayers, but is now being turned into another campaign tool. Embarrassing sound and video clips of Bush, removal of the list of coalition members, and more. This administration cares only about retaining power.
   The site www.bradblog.com/archives/00000795.htm has a lot of information on the phenomenon, which seems not to be getting much notice in the press. I encourage the Chronicle to investigate and write a fuller report on this issue.
Sincerely,
Russ Williams

Where the Blaming Starts

RECEIVED Mon., Oct. 25, 2004

Dear Editor,
   The debates and several of your articles make it painfully clear that Bush and Cheney have a pathological ability to blame others for the disasters they've caused and are causing.
   President Truman had "The Buck Stops Here" on his desk. Perhaps Bush should consider putting "The Blaming Starts Here" on his desk.
   It's hard to believe that at least 50% of our populace intend to vote for chronic liars and blamers who have gotten our country into a mess that it will take generations to rectify.
   Thanks for the Chronicle.
John M. Stevenson

Extremists Usually Not to Be Trusted

RECEIVED Mon., Oct. 25, 2004

Dear Editor,
   The Democrats are complaining that Republicans are trying to keep Demo voters off the voter lists. The Republicans are countering that Demos are turning in a lot of registration forms with fake names or dead people's names on them. So both sides offset each other, right?
   Stop for just a minute. Republicans are directly affecting someone's constitutional rights and committing election fraud if they prevent someone from voting who is legally entitled to vote.
   Voter registration cards turned in with fake names probably mean the Demos got suckered by someone they hired to register voters. No Republican candidate suffers unless someone claiming to be Mickey Mouse or Michael Jackson actually manages to vote for a Demo fraudulently. Only the Demos suffer by paying someone for stiffing them!
   We still have to think before we understand who got fleeced and who did the fleecing.
   I have never met a sinister liberal; I have, however, met many people who I can only describe as extreme leftists or extreme rightists. Only the most personally disciplined among the extremists on either side seem able to resist resorting to less than admirable behavior. This election is about extremists vs. moderates.
   I believe that, once again, the scales don't balance. All voter fraud is abhorrent and must be prosecuted. Don't condemn the victims along with the perpetrators. Remember the recent slogan, "When Clinton lied, nobody died."
Ron Coldiron

We Get the Government We Deserve

RECEIVED Mon., Oct. 25, 2004

Dear Editor,
   The grand dreams of our forefathers are being reshaped by current voters in a manner that will eventually make the American dream unrecognizable to the original, if left unchecked. The first group is the nonvoters; a democracy needs all points of view to allow for an end product that makes a country livable by all citizens. The second group is the "party" people; no matter if their party has long left the basic tenants behind, these folks think their political party is equivalent to their favorite ball team and they are dead set on helping that team win. The third group is the "one issue" voters who look no further than gun issues or abortion or their religion (there is a bit of history on how well that doesn't work).
   Thomas Jefferson said, "You get the government you deserve." Democracy is messy and difficult to maintain, it needs mature and thoughtful voters who carry Jefferson, Franklin, and the rest of the boys of the Constitution into the voting booth with them to vote for a more holistic vision of an American future. When people sell their country out for their own, very narrow agenda they give politicians a great tool for manipulation that they will not be able to ignore. If voters are only watching a few issues, beware of what is happening under the radar as our democracy is always under attack, and it's often from within. Caring for your country is akin to caring for your children; you have to look at the big picture to grow a functional and complete entity.
Shelley Palmer

It's Those Greedy Corporations That Make Us Drink

RECEIVED Mon., Oct. 25, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Few drugs are as socially accepted yet privately scrutinized as alcohol. Many appreciate the status quo; others favor the renewal of prohibition while some just want a Sunday-morning six-pack. Regardless if we perceive this substance as a harmful drug, inspirational elixir, or life support, forecasts show that we're imbibing at record pace.
   Data from the World Health Organization shows that between 1961 and 1980 Americans increased their alcohol consumption by approximately 60%. Subsequently, perhaps due to an oversaturation of sobering pop bands, consumption levels began to decrease, bottoming out in 1994.
   This trend was especially disheartening to hard liquor companies. In addition to a decade of decreasing alcohol consumption, hard liquor's marketshare had been shrinking for decades. By the mid-Nineties it seemed America had chosen beer and wine as their booze of choice. Liquor companies needed to respond to survive.
   In October of 1996, Seagram broke with a 48-year-old voluntary ban by the Distilled Spirits Council and advertised Crown Royal on KRIS-TV in Corpus Christi, Texas. The outcry from D.C. was immediate, and by 1998 24 bipartisan congressmen had the FCC investigating the legality of these ads.
   To dodge this regulatory cannonball, liquor companies made a turnabout to safer waters. They realized that American society wasn't ready to accept liquor ads, but it sure liked those malted beverage spots! As a result, Americans soon found "hard" malt beverages on store shelves from some of the most recognized liquor labels in the industry.
   Due to slow yet persistent propagation of their labels, liquor companies today are advertising their marquee products without even a bark from the FCC. This example showcases the resolution corporations have to manipulate public perception for profit. Therefore, the question isn't whether or not corporations are successful at conditioning our behavior; they are, but at what point will this programming be deemed unacceptable?
Rad Tollett

Dumb as a Post

RECEIVED Mon., Oct. 25, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Some think that the average American voter is as dumb as a post. But the "box of rocks" IQ award goes to the American nonvoter.
Richard Hartgrove

Kerry Needs Every Vote

RECEIVED Fri., Oct. 22, 2004

Dear Editor,
   As election day approaches, it is hard to imagine why anyone would vote for Bush or Nader. Or worse yet, not vote at all since Bush will win Texas regardless.
   The main reason to vote for Kerry is that if Bush is re-elected he is sure to turn the Supreme Court and other courts into ultra-right groups. Forget any gay rights won and say goodbye to women's right to choose.
   Of course Bush will win in Texas, but don't make the mistake of voting for Nader as a protest. We must insure that Kerry wins the popular vote – so a vote for Kerry will matter.
   Isn't it time for an "intellect" and, yes, intelligent person in the White House? We need someone who reads about and studies the issues, not relying on advisers, and yes, God, to tell him everything and guide his decisions.
   Also, we need someone who will protect the environment, not someone who doesn't even believe in global warming, for instance.
   And, of course, we need someone we can trust, not someone who has intentionally or unintentionally misstated the facts whether they be about the reasons for going to war, "mission accomplished," or how his tax cuts for the rich are helping everyone.
Claude M. Gruener

The World Is a More Dangerous Place

RECEIVED Fri., Oct. 22, 2004

Dear sirs,
   I admit that I've never liked George W. Bush but once he was "appointed" our president I resigned myself to the fact. After 9/11 I was actually impressed for a while by the way that our government conducted themselves and reacted. Of course, this was all before the more recent revelations that Richard Clarke had tried to warn them about an impending attack from al Qaeda and he couldn't get the time of day from our leadership. We actually had the sympathy of the world and a window of opportunity after 9/11 for real global intelligence-sharing in the war on terror. We had countries offering to cooperate with us that we had barely had relations with for years. Like it or not that is what it will take to defeat or curb terrorism. We cannot do it alone even as powerful as we are. This window was slammed shut when the first bomb hit Iraq because the president and his boys were either a) too dumb or arrogant to realize the opportunity that was sitting right in front of them or, b) just as Paul O'Neil (former secretary of the treasury) stated in his book that Bush came into office yelling for his people to find a way to go to war with Iraq. Either answer is criminally stupid. I believe that the world is a far more dangerous place today and we are much more vulnerable because of this overlooked "gift" that they could have utilized but were too stupid or agenda-driven to even see. Either way, we are and will be paying the consequences for it for years to come.
Allen Cunningham
Wimberley

Draft Is Coming

RECEIVED Fri., Oct. 22, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Let's all wake up, now! Our government is pursuing fantasies that will require a steady supply of troops. It is obvious that our current leaders have decided that we will be the cops of the world. Forget diplomacy! Forget foreign relations!
   Finding conspiracy and all manner of threat under every rock is not foreign policy. But, it will require a military force much larger than what exists today.
   Military service, once considered a stepping-stone to future educational and professional opportunities after completion of service, is quickly devolving into a sure strategy for an early encounter with the grim reaper.
   The Reserve forces are being used in a way that was never intended. Predictions of a quagmire appear to be coming to pass. Because Cheney, Wolfowitz, and the rest of the neocons managed to hijack our democracy, while the president was busy dwelling on a goat story, the world has become an infinitely more dangerous place.
   The new, improved draft board, coming to our town soon, will also be registering our daughters.
Mike Heinichen
Dripping Springs

'AC' Stands by Endorsement Though Error Was Made

RECEIVED Fri., Oct. 22, 2004

Dear Mr. Black,
   While we respect your right to endorse whomever you choose, we wanted to point out some inaccuracies in your depiction of Justice Bob Pemberton that appeared in your last edition ["Endorsements," Oct. 15].
   You indicate that Justice Pemberton was appointed off of Gov. Perry's staff. That is simply not true. At the time he was appointed, Bob was senior counsel with our firm, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. He was our Texas appellate specialist. He successfully spearheaded appeals in the Texas Supreme Court and several courts of appeals, as well as advising trial teams in complex litigation in the event of an appeal in many high profile cases.
   In addition, Bob was named to the prestigious Texas Supreme Court's Rules Advisory Committee, comprised of 50 of the best lawyers, judges, and legal experts in the state.
   Although there was no discussion of community service in your article, you should also know that Justice Pemberton was elected by his peers in Austin as the president of the Austin Young Lawyers' Association, during which time he focused his efforts on helping the youth in our community through such award-winning programs as "Aspiring Youth," "College for a Day," and many others. These programs were very well received by the schools and the children alike.
Sincerely,
Edward F. Fernandes
   [News Editor Michael King replies: Edward Fernandes is correct; we should have described Gov. Perry as Pemberton's "former boss" rather than his "then boss." After serving as the governor's deputy general counsel, he was briefly senior counsel at Akin Gump, until Perry appointed him to a vacant seat on the 3rd Court of Appeals. The Chronicle regrets the error, but otherwise we stand by our endorsement of Diane Henson.]

Nonvoting Alleviates This Citizen's Responsibility

RECEIVED Fri., Oct. 22, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Several letters to the editor and then Michael Ventura tout the reasons we shouldn't vote for Ralph Nader! What's wrong with these people!? The assumption is that if you don't vote for Kerry, you'll get Bush. True enough. But what if you don't want your vote, your so-called "most precious right," to go for a sociopathic war president who believes in trampling your rights? What if, for moral reasons, you wanted your vote to go to someone who is against the war? Well, your choices are limited to candidates who can't win. So, if you want your vote to "count," then read the polls, vote for the predicted winner, and it'll be like betting on the horse that won. Whoop-dee-do! I mean the only votes that really count are the votes for the winner. The rest are "wasted"!
   As for me, I'm casting my lot with the ever-thoughtful nonvoters. I'd really like to see Badnarik win, but the nonvoters win every time and we don't share any responsibility for the wars (war on Iraq, war on drugs, war on poverty, war on ignorance, war on smokers, war on obesity, soon-to-come war on nonvoters, etc.).
Slim Richey
Driftwood

'Chronicle' Endorsements Focus on Central Texas

RECEIVED Fri., Oct. 22, 2004

Dear Editor,
   The Austin Chronicle endorsements are always very complete ["Endorsements," Oct. 15], but I did not notice an endorsement of Richard Morrison, the Sugarland Democrat running against Tom DeLay in District 22. Those of us wishing to thank Tom for the special treatment he gave Austin in the recent redistricting can visit www.richardmorrisonfordistrict22.com to send Tom our regards in the most meaningful way possible. After the recent ethics rebukes and his refusal to debate Mr. Morrison, Tom could conceivably tank his own re-election. By the way, The Houston Chronicle has endorsed Morrison.
Steve Crow
   [News Editor Michael King responds: While we definitely wish Richard Morrison the best, the Chronicle endorsements are generally confined to contested races in the Central Texas area, that will appear on Central Texas ballots. If we ranged much beyond that, we'd run out of ink, paper – and expertise.]

Write-In Candidate Supports Taxes, Not Tolls

RECEIVED Fri., Oct. 22, 2004

Dear Editor,
   I was taken aback by your choice not to endorse a candidate in the Texas House District 52 race, and surprised by your observation that the incumbent "has shown signs of enlightenment" in areas of transportation and growth management ["Endorsements," Oct. 15].
   You stated that I have "gone after" Mr. Krusee on issues where The Austin Chronicle supports his positions. The only one of Mr. Krusee's transportation positions that I have opposed is his support for tolling our roads. I am curious to know just what you regard as his "signs of enlightenment"?
   Is it Mr. Krusee's decision to steal the vote away from the voters on the toll road plan? Or his support for a toll road plan that will use 40 cents of every dollar for collecting those tolls? Maybe it is his endorsing a plan that gives 40 cents of every dollar to a privately owned, for-profit company? Perhaps, it is his support for a system that is likely to yield four to five times more accidents than a nontolled alternative. Is it "enlightened" to support a system that will cause more pollution and congestion than a nontolled alternative?
   An increased gas tax would be a better way to pay for the roads we need to develop. The gas tax has not been raised since 1991, and 25% of the money we raise from a gas tax would go to support education, instead of 40% to a private, for-profit company!
   Freeways, not tollways! Now that's enlightenment!
Karen Felthauser
Write-in candidate for Texas House District 52
Round Rock

Upset With the Way Things Are Done in Williamson County

RECEIVED Thu., Oct. 21, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Thank you for shining some light on the unethical practices of the all-Republican government in Williamson County, and for endorsing Janet Engvall McTigue for county attorney and Sharon Sanders Webster for commissioner Precinct 3. They are both very well qualified and can help change the situation.
   The county has let out large construction contracts with no competitive bidding to their campaign contributors, created new higher paying jobs for themselves, displayed partisan political signs in public buildings, violated open government rules, and then of course there was the whole sheriff fiasco.
   There are lawsuits about unlawful firings, harassment, and a death in a noncompliant jail. And the list goes on and on.
   They felt so good about what they have done that they gave themselves big raises.
   People have the opportunity now to stop the good ol' boy network and bring an end to the sorry state of affairs in Williamson County. Vote Democrat!
David Fedesna
Cedar Park

Thou Shalt Not Kill

RECEIVED Thu., Oct. 21, 2004

Dear Editor,
   I don't understand how the conservative Republican Christians who voted for President Bush could do it again. "Thou shalt not kill." Is this war not killing by proxy? It's time to change your vote or your beliefs. As a modern, forward-thinking country, it is our job to stay out of wars, not get into them.
Bob Singer
Waco

Opposes Bush

RECEIVED Thu., Oct. 21, 2004

Dear Editor,
   You know I have always wondered how I would have fared in Germany as a German during the Nazi regime. I wondered if I would have believed the propaganda and been fooled into a with-or-against mentality. I wondered if I would have learned to hate the ones that Hitler told me to. During this election, I strongly feel that I would have not been a part of the Nazi regime. This administration, with consent by our media, has robbed us of our civil rights, manipulated the truth, outright lied, and are now systematically picking and choosing American citizens to be kept track of by the FBI, and people are being arrested for wearing anti-Bush shirts in the wrong places. I am adamantly against everything that this regime has stood for. The only thing that I am thankful to this administration for is answering my question. Thank goodness I know better than to vote for Bush.
Tracy Haus
Round Rock

Being Willing to Adjust Your Opinion Is Necessary

RECEIVED Thu., Oct. 21, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Thank you Klaudia [Flanigin] for addressing this so-called flip-flopping issue with John Kerry ["Postmarks," Oct. 15]. I am so sick of hearing about this. Adjusting your opinion when given new information is very necessary. Any intelligent leader would know this.
   What is really scary is sticking by your decision to go to an unjustified war for unjustifiable reasons without the support of the United Nations and expecting the American people to be willing to support it when their sons and daughters are expected to make the sacrifice?! All he has had to say is this strange mantra: "The world is a safer place without Saddam Hussein in it." Is this mantra conveniently packaged in the length of a sound bite supposed to do anything for us?
   Like say: Give us one good reason why our children are sitting ducks in some jihad while we pump out oil and try to rebuild a country whose people may or may not even want us there? My god, they are beheading and burning civilians alive – but blue skies abound according to W (say it with him), "The world is a safer place without Saddam Hussein in it." Actually W, the world is actually now a much more unsafe place than before now that you have stirred up this bees' nest. Thank you – what a mess!
Voting citizen,
Monica Savant
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