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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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Sonleitner Failed to Bring City and County Closer Together

RECEIVED Wed., March 1, 2006

Dear Chronicle,
    The overlap of the primary and city election seasons has brought to mind something that many voters don't often remember. Over the past several years there have been many instances of city candidates vowing to strive to get the city and county to work more closely together. But it takes two to make a partnership. Not every county commissioner has shown an eagerness to coordinate the workings of our two local governments; indeed, at least one commissioner has actively obstructed progress toward that goal.
    In recent years, Karen Sonleitner has, far from building good relations with our City Council, accused Betty Dunkerley of taking millions of dollars from Brackenridge Hospital for the city coffers. Talk about poisoning the well of goodwill. She also adamantly refuses to consider the possibility of the county pitching in on the Waller Creek flood-control tunnel downtown – this despite the fact that transforming the area into our own river walk would be a great economic boon for both the city and the county. (Remember, most of Travis County's tax revenue comes from Austinites.)
    I want our city and county governments to work together, with greater effectiveness and efficiency for the public good. Travis County has a higher property tax rate than the city, and as an Austin resident, I am paying them both. Let's vote for candidates who will build bridges, not walls around fiefdoms. We can do better.
Margot Clarke

Shea Supports Eckhardt

RECEIVED Wed., March 1, 2006

Dear Editors,
    You guys are great and our politics are generally simpatico. But I have to respectfully disagree on your abstention in Sarah Eckhardt’s race for Precinct 2 county commissioner [Endorsements, Feb. 24]. I want an elected leader I can be proud of and someone I can count on.
    I believe neither is true in the case of incumbent Karen Sonleitner. When so many elected officials took courageous action to protest Tom DeLay’s butchery of Travis County, Karen was a coward. She voted not to join the legal fight, saying at the time, I can’t go there. And she is misleading voters by claiming she voted against redistricting – she only voted to fund the lawsuits after they were under way.
    As for your comment that she “almost always comes down on the side of good ... and open government,” one of the greatest violations of open government and public trust was Sonleitner’s vote to cram the ill-conceived toll plan down our throats. Regardless of your view on toll roads, no one supports the process that cut the public out and rushed passage of such a disastrous plan that they’ve had to go back repeatedly to revise it. We’re still discovering massive problems with the plan like the fact that Round Rock will lose its I-35 access ramps because of toll roads.
    Sonleitner could have voted with the other Democrats and Republicans who wanted to slow it down. But she not only rushed to pass it, she had a huge fundraiser with the toll-road interests less than two months later. And in the last two years, 74% of her campaign money has come from these same toll road interests.
    Karen’s not someone I can trust or be proud of. By contrast, Sarah Eckhardt is principled, courageous, and steadfast. I urge everyone to support her election.
Best,
Brigid Shea

No-Brainer on Tolls, Just Think Like I Do

RECEIVED Wed., March 1, 2006

Dear Editor,
    Too many elected officials and Texans have bought into what TxDOT told them – that roads can be built quicker if they are toll roads, that there isn't money to build and maintain roadways, that toll roads will decrease traffic and pollution, etc. TxDOT warned Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, cities, and legislators that if they didn't approve Central Texas Toll Plan by the deadline, available funding would divert elsewhere. These are bogus "shock and awe" statements lacking verification.
    There's no doubt many special interests benefit financially off toll roads, from the governor on down the line. There are many who have conflicts of interest and shouldn't hold offices that currently they are in. Furthermore, foreign companies (e.g., CINTRA) will snatch up to 45% of toll road revenues each year for the next 70 to 90 years. How does that benefit Texas communities?
    While pro-toll enthusiasts are fond of stating that Texans will have a choice to drive on toll roads or not, that's just another bogus statement. Texas families will pay toll taxes whether or not they drive on toll roads. They'll pay toll taxes on goods and services when businesses divert their own toll taxes/expenses onto their consumers. No one addresses this issue. An average consumer who does not drive on toll roads will pay an estimated yearly toll tax at the register totaling thousands of dollars!
    Furthermore, gas taxes are supposed to pay for roadways. Legislators prompted by the governor froze those taxes without cost-of-living adjustments. They also diverted some gas taxes to other interests; implementing toll taxes ensures a double tax on Texas roadways.
    So, believe what you want to. It's a no-brainer. We need to vote out lackluster special-interest incumbents. Toll taxation is a special-interest power play that generations of honest hardworking Texans don't need!
Clyde Barrett

Eckhardt Supports Eckhardt

RECEIVED Wed., March 1, 2006

Dear Editor,
    Thank you for your kind words about my candidacy for Travis County Commissioner in Precinct 2 [Endorsements, Feb. 24]. I hope to live up to your description as a “spring breeze” in county government. However, I do take issue with the assertion that I am insincere or politically opportunistic in my position against toll roads. I believe that tolling roads we have already paid for with the gas tax is regressive double-taxation. Further, it will cost our county far more than other reasonable alternatives for funding our transportation needs. CAMPO's 2030 plan to toll portions of existing highways such as 290, 183, 71, MoPac, and 360 will create a two-tiered transportation system – those who can afford the additional toll tax will have access to far better highways while the rest of us will be relegated to slower, inadequately maintained access roads. Such a two-tiered system is fundamentally unfair and progressives like myself should work against it. Not all folks who live outside the city are “Rob Royalty” or “Circle C-vians” per the last census, the median per capita income is $25,883 in the county and $24,163 in the city (see quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/48/48453.html). The toll option will not be affordable to average people regardless of whether they live inside or outside the city limits.
    As you mentioned in your Endorsements article, toll roads are not my only issue. I will also work for the progressive goals of a viable public transportation system, land-use management that preserves our environment and promotes safe connected communities, better access to physical and mental health care, an end to jail overcrowding, and a genuine embrace of community policing.
    Thanks again for your paper and, most of all, your readership.
Sincerely,
Sarah Eckhardt

Age Discrimination by 'Chronicle'?

RECEIVED Wed., March 1, 2006

Dear sir,
    I'm writing in regards to the Feb. 10 article “The Primary Colors” [News] on the District 10 U.S. Congress race. I am a candidate in this race. Pat Mynatt RN, 68 years old. I'm the one who pointed out to Lee Nichols that he had the ages wrong on the other two candidates: We all are in our 60s. By the insurance mortality table, this makes the others a few years older than me!
    I felt it was discriminatory against myself and Mr. Smith. I have a question. What does age have to do with anything? It's solutions to the problems of good jobs, health care for all, the safety of people, truth in government, and the accountability for your actions, whether elected or appointed, that's important.
    It is wrong to have a picture of one candidate and not of all four candidates. I was not asked for one at the time of the interview.
    Make your own conclusion!
Respectfully,
Pat Mynatt RN
Candidate
U.S. House District 10

Look Into Your Pure Republican Heart

RECEIVED Wed., March 1, 2006

Dear Editor,
    This letter is addressed to Vance McDonald regarding his letter Black an Addict, Hypocrite! [“Postmarks,” Feb. 17]. You proved Mr. Black's whole point with your elevated response. In this post-9/11 world war you refer to, how do you justify our government giving our ports to an Arab nation that contributed money and death to U.S. citizens to that “mass murder and destruction of Sept. 11, 2001”? How far will you go to resist the “neo-leftist utopian Democratic Party”? Give up our nation? Please, I beg you to look into your pure Republican heart and weigh the consequences. There is no shame in swallowing pride or prejudice – we all must do it. It makes us stronger and kinder.
Sincerely,
Beverly Farrell
San Marcos

Tolls Are Not the Answer but Just More of the Problem

RECEIVED Wed., March 1, 2006

Dear Editor,
    So often I identify completely with your anger and sadness at the deceit that led us into war, the same deceit that sells so much of Washington's mean-spirited policies to the very people who will be hurt the most by those policies.
    But then [“Page Two,” Feb. 24] you pose a contrast between Bush's “immoral genius” of piling up debt to be paid by our children and grandchildren with the sober “truth” on toll roads. The really depressing truth is that the mad rush to debt-financed toll roads from decades of public, pay-as-you-go road building is the same failed Bush program delivered home.
    It's building an Austin of mega-sprawl, one dependent on ever-greater consumption of Middle East oil. Privatized, debt-financed roads, like a privatized, debt-financed, no-draft war, give the illusion that someone else is paying the tab. Our toll and road plan assumes 30 years of average citizens driving longer and longer commutes when everyone – by personal choice, financial necessity, or the dictates of peak oil – both hopes for and expects a future where we drive less (or, at worst, roughly the same as today). The current tolling scheme calls for us to bet against sustainability, against clean air and water, against preserving the Hill Country and Barton Springs, against energy independence.
    We all want less traffic congestion. But even TxDOT admits that our toll-road-heavy transportation plan will cost $22 billion, while congestion will increase more than 300% from current conditions. Tolls provide only a small fraction of the funds, but divert attention away from both the long-term, public-backed debt financing and the total failure to deliver reduced congestion.
    There are far more affordable and sustainable options that will actually reduce congestion, keep our public highways in public hands, and prevent dumping more debt (and an unlivable Austin) onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. Perhaps we can agree that it is time for an open, respectful, and thorough debate on transportation for the sake of our shared future.
Sharing your pain,
Bill Bunch
Save Our Springs Alliance

Supports Montemayor Over Gómez

RECEIVED Wed., March 1, 2006

Dear Editor,
    Re: The Chronicle's kind of, sort of endorsement of Gómez over Montemayor [Endorsements, News, Feb. 24]: It was a long criticism of 12 years of the performance (or lack thereof) from County Commissioner Precinct 4 Margaret Gómez and ended with only a short sentence about the opponent, Yolanda Montemayor's lack of familiarity with county government. I know I'm probably a little older than most of the Chronicle's staff and readers, but I would like to remind that Chronicle staff and those readers of another candidate who lacked any knowledge of county government before he became Travis County's first elected Hispanic official in 1970, Richard Moya. Commissioner Moya ended up serving as county commissioner of Precinct 4 for four terms from 1970 through 1986. And from what history tells us, the voters were so happy with the job this inexperienced candidate did, they gave him a total of 16 years in that office. Some might say, "Not too shabby!" for someone who had no prior knowledge of the workings of Travis County government before the voters of Precinct 4 decided to take a chance in 1970.
    We know what Margaret Gómez can and can't do. She made sure we all knew her hands were tied in the Capital Metro/StarTran/Transit Workers negotiations so we really do know what she can't do. I'd like to suggest that for a change we consider a candidate that wants to tell us what she can do and vote for Yolanda Montemayor for Travis county commissioner Precinct 4. Face it, from your own weak endorsement it would be hard to imagine Ms. Montemayor doing any worse than Ms. Gómez has, and Commissioner Gomez has had 12 years in which to practice.
Sincerely,
Delwin Goss

Need Writers With a Real Nose For News

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 28, 2006

Dear Editor,
    One thing disappointed me about Andy Langer's interview with Kris Kristofferson [“Lone Star,” Music, Feb. 24]: Even though the story reproduced your previous Kris cover from an '81 issue, Andy didn't even ask Kris about that 1981 interviewer, Mark McKinnon.
    McKinnon has, on more than one occasion over the years, rightly noted his Kris connection to burnish his old-school "Austin-centric" bona fides.
    That's fine, but now that Mark has become famous and wealthy by producing the TV commercials that elected George W. Bush in 2000 and – gulp – re-elected him in 2004, I have to think Kris would have had something interesting to say about that had only he been asked.
    Perhaps someone with a real nose for news should have tagged along.
Jackson Williams
   [Louis Black responds: I spent several days traveling with Kris Kristofferson last year, and he made it very clear that this was a topic about which he had nothing to say.]

Bishop Should First Clean His Own House

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 28, 2006

Dear Mr. Black,
    Bishop Aymond's outrage on that Bible-shield portrayal is well put [“The New Texas Family Planning,” News, Jan. 27]. Now I hope to hear protests from Jews and Baptists over disrespectful depictions of the Virgin of Guadalupe in your publication, as he's passed that up on several occasions. Catholics would be better served if he'd care to the 80% of us in jails, our women dressing like sluts, or all those Catholic-owned businesses encouraging prostitution and alcoholism.
Sincerely,
Paul Aviña

The Public Is Not Clamoring for New Roads

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 28, 2006

Dear Editor,
    I disagree with certain of Louis Black's recent conclusions on toll roads [“Page Two,” Feb. 24].
    First, I disagree that the public is clamoring for new roads, other than projects intended to solve local, specific problems. If one goes to road hearings, those speaking most forcefully in favor of new highways are usually special interests that benefit from such roads, including road contractors, their engineering firms, real estate developers, chambers of commerce, and lobby groups. The politicians tend to favor such interests to get campaign money.
    In Texas, road deals are guided by special-interest politics, centered around TxDOT and the road lobby. The biggest road contractors have given Gov. Rick Perry more than a million dollars. Perry appointed the TxDOT commissioners who endorsed his $185 billion Trans-Texas Corridor, despite a glaring lack of funds.
    When there is insufficient money to build free roads, the easy way out is to issue bonded debt to build toll roads. There are two kinds of toll roads being planned and built. The first approach is to toll existing roads like 183, 290 W., and Loop 360, which generates strong public opposition. This approach generates reliable revenue, however, since existing suburban residents are trapped. The CTRMA, operating closely with TxDOT, has planned to use such revenue as collateral to help borrow the money to fund riskier “new start” toll roads like SH 130 and 183A, largely intended to serve future suburban sprawl.
    These plans will come undone as fuel prices continue to soar in years to come, since the world is close to a peak in oil production. Driving behavior will change radically when the price of gasoline exceeds about $6 a gallon. The long-range toll-road bonds will then default, with serious effects on our municipal bond credit rating for this area.
Roger Baker

Bill the Fellow Behind the Tree

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 28, 2006

Dear Editor,
    I would like to congratulate Louis Black for the article, Shock Therapy [“Page Two,” Feb. 24]. In fact, it reminded me of an old saying (attributed to the late Sen. Russell B. Long): "Don't tax me, don't tax thee, tax that fellow behind the tree."
Fabio Storino

Skeptical About Wristbands

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 28, 2006

Dear Editor,
    Maybe I am naive. No, I am naive.
    Can you tell me why wristbands sold out in seven hours and 30 minutes at Waterloo, yet I can find them all over eBay, and at all the legal "scalper" locations in Austin for a $200 mark-up?
    I thought there was a two-wristband-per-person rule in effect this year to curb "scalpers" and resellers from screwing the common music lover out of an affordable (well ... more affordable at $130-175) ticket.
    Is SXSW profiting at all from these "after-market" sales, beyond the face value?
    A likely response is "of course not,” but guess what? The Chronicle profits. By selling ad space to organizations like www.austinticketcompany.com and www.ticketcity.com, the Chronicle is directly promoting (for a small fee) one of the problems with quasi-exclusive "conferences/festivals.”
    Who wins in this? The independent labels, the musicians, the venues, the people buying the albums, buying concert tickets for non-SXSW sponsored gigs? Just curious.
    I will probably end up shelling out way more than I should this year.
    Why? Because I care more about putting my skeptical ways aside and paying the artist the only way the fan can these days, with a clap or a cheer.
Sharpa Jenkins
   [Louis Black responds: If SXSW wanted to they could charge more for the wristbands, but the desire is to get them out to as many Austinites as possible. If you want to believe that the very small amount of Chronicle ad revenue generated by those ads motivates a conspiracy, why bother denying it? People were limited to two wristbands per person. Scalpers had people in the line, and they offered people planning to buy only one wristband money to buy them the second one. Unfortunately, scalping is legal in Texas, limiting what can be done.]

Xenophobia at Its Worst

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 28, 2006

Dear Editor,
    The people who protest the purchase of ports operations by the United Arab Emirates are xenophobic and very ill-informed. No American workers would lose their jobs. Port security would remain in American hands, by U.S. Customs and the Coast Guard, and it is certain that security would be beefed up. The UAE is a very valuable American ally in the war on terror. The UAE allowed the United States to build an air force base in their country at al Dhafra. The UAE is located just south of Iran, and it is vital to our safety to have military bases in that strategically important area. The UAE's port of Jebel Ali is the most frequent port of call in the Middle East for U.S. Navy ships. The UAE has troops fighting beside American troops in Afghanistan. The UAE gave America $100 million in foreign aid for the victims of Katrina, long before this port deal took place. The UAE's Dubai Ports World handles the shipping of goods and ports operations all over the world, and the company has a very good security record. This is a billion dollar deal – do you really think the UAE wants to lose all that money and mess it up by having poor security? The screaming congressmen who oppose this deal already know all these facts. They are merely pandering to American voters, because they know elections are coming up and they want to appear strong on the war on terror. It's politics as usual! The Arab terrorists would love it if this deal fell through, because they know we would be slapping the face of one of our most important American allies in the Arab world, the UAE – and only because they are Arabs.
    That's xenophobia at its worst.
Leslie Stavrowsky

Why No Latin Bands? Well, Because There Are?

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 28, 2006

Hi,
    Although this has nothing directly to do with your publication, I thought this might be an interesting question for your writers to be asking when covering SXSW: No Latin Bands at SXSW? What is that all about, have the organizers of this event forgotten they are in Texas, a state with one of the largest Hispanic populations in the country?
    I have been to the last five SXSW festivals, and every year there are anywhere between 15-20 Hispanic acts, usually playing in clubs filled to capacity, with extremely long lines of people (with and without wristbands) hoping to get in.
    In a city that has already made many of its minorities feel inadequate, for multiple reasons of which I am sure you are aware, is this truly the message the music community wants to be sending? Is this a cultural breakdown?
    I for one am a huge supporter of the music scene, and feel we deserve an explanation from the organizers. Maybe you guys could help us figure it out.
Thanks,
Eduardo Garza
   [Editor's response: Perhaps if you had spent just a bit more time checking the SXSW schedule. When I asked SXSW about this, the reply was "There are already Latin band showcases booked, and we are working on more. It's taking some extra time this year (we work with several outside consultants when we book Latin acts). There will be a complete night of Latin rock at Opal Devine's on Wednesday, and there is a full night of Latino artists booked on one of the stages at Spiro's on Saturday. We are working hard to book another complete Latin bill at Spiro's. We also have a few other Latin acts scattered throughout the showcase schedule, including Los Abandoned, Caucasians Delenda Est, and Gecko Turner. And there will be more confirmed soon."]

Still Gets Choked Up When Driving by Mural

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 28, 2006

Dear Editor,
    Thanks so much for accurately and enthusiastically telling the story of the new South Austin mural at Time Warner's Stassney location [“Austin Murals,” Arts, Feb. 24].
    Accolades were not necessary but are certainly appreciated. The artists did an amazing job of sketching and portraying South Austin on the wall at the beginning of the project, and when the paint started to go up, it was wonderful to watch come to life. I still get choked up when I drive by.
    I am proud to have had the opportunity to be a part of it all. Special thanks to Jim Tompkins at Time Warner who took on the corporate side of the project!
Regards,
Tracy Wolczanski

The Darker Side of Austin

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 27, 2006

Dear Editor,
    Thanks to the Austin hockey fans I was introduced to the darker side of the Austin population. The game was between the Austin Ice Bats and the Laredo Bucks. I go for the Laredo Bucks. I've been to many different sports games before, and I never have experienced such racist remarks toward another group of people. This wasn't your usual bashing of the opponents. Of course at the hockey game I heard people yell out that a certain player “sucked” and they were “ice princesses.” Which is all part of rooting for your own team, but to hear fans make racist remarks toward the citizens of Laredo (not the players) is disturbing. As we stood in line for our tickets, a white man tells his son to go tell the people handing out jerseys that “he can name all the players on the Laredo Bucks team, like Julio and Juan.” Lets remind everyone that 95% of the Laredo Bucks team is from Canada, not Mexico or Laredo. I thought that it was just some ignorant man passing on prejudice remarks to his son. We sat on the visitor's side, and it was what you would think a typical game would be. Bucks win 5-3 against Ice Bats. And as we were leaving, an obese white man stops me and my friend, asking “who owns Laredo?” Me and my friend were not sure what he was asking. The man continues to say, “It's the drug cartel, right?” I was completely offended that first of all he would stop us deliberately and make this remark. Why? Because his team lost? Get over it, it's a game! I've lived in some of the most prejudiced places in Texas, and not once have I heard such racially aimed remarks toward a city. The citizens of Laredo have nothing to do with the performance of a Canadian-based hockey team.
Nina Sharp
San Marcos

Hello Chaps, Come See Us Play SXSW!

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 27, 2006

Dear Editor,
    Just wanted to say hello on behalf of a small but perfectly formed troupe of musicians, coming over from London to SXSW, called Paris Motel. I couldn't help but read your article on international acts coming to visit you and thought I'd drop you a line [“SXSW International Bands,” Music, Feb. 24]. We're actually also using classical musicians from the University of Texas to come and play with us and are quite a “different” band to behold (see www.parismotel.co.uk). We're also one of the only bands that are totally self-funding our trip, but are still riotously excited about coming along.
    Anyway, I just wanted to say “hello,” and if you wanted to cover any bands that are a bit different to the usual guitar stuff (particularly from the UK), then we're your chaps!
Best wishes to you and have a great festival,
Amy May
Paris Motel
London, UK

Your Marxist Drift Into Neo-Leftist Class Envy – A Heavy Thinker Weighs In

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 27, 2006

Dear Mr. Black,
    The old adage that a blind squirrel occasionally finds an acorn is proven by your Feb. 24 “Page Two” article, Shock Therapy. Your observation that “There ain't no such thing as a free lunch” is correct. Likewise, your remarks regarding the certainty of toll roads and bogus politicians are also accurate. However, your wisdom ends there.
    Your contention that “Texans are overtaxed” because of a lack of an income tax demonstrates an astounding level of economic and political ignorance. Struggling under a 40-50% tax rate after federal and state levies, all Americans, not only Texans, are overtaxed. If Texas adopted an income tax in addition to existing state and federal taxes the state's economic growth would dissolve. And don't believe the politicians would rescind or lower existing taxes if an income tax was implemented.
    The California budget morass is an instructive example of this destructive scenario. As its citizens labor under a 9.4% income tax as well as exorbitant sales and property taxes, the state's economy strains. It hasn't cratered because its citizens love the weather, ocean, and mountains more than paying the high taxes. Texas does not have that luxury. This real-world model illustrates why a state income tax is perniciously foolish.
    The fiscal challenges facing Texas do not require more tax revenue. These problems must be solved by wiser allocation of the billions of dollars already taken from hard-working Texans. Moreover, tax policy that increases economic growth, not one that destroys it by increasing taxes, must be the legislative focus. The economic and cultural success of Texas depends on it.
    As for your comments regarding “regressive taxes” falling on the “lower end of the income scale” and the Bush administration's so called profligacy, you reveal your Marxist drift into neo-leftist class envy. We must ensure that our representatives in Austin are not as ignorant.
Vance McDonald

Cover Photo Worth a Million Words

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 27, 2006

Dear Editor,
    I cheered the Chronicle upon seeing the Jan. 27 cover [“The New Texas Family Planning,” News]. The photo is one of those rare images that's worth one million words. I'm not arguing that it's good or bad – that's a matter of taste. But it's undeniably powerful and provocative.
    It takes guts to run a cover knowing it will stir emotion and provoke reaction, and gutsy papers are rare these days. The Bush administration tactic to exclude reporters who ask unwanted questions has effectively censored the press nationally.
    To me, the decision to run the Jan. 27 cover is evidence of the press retaking its place. Reporters and editors' willingness to make statements knowing there will be a backlash is critical to re-establishing freedom of the press.
    Thus it wasn't surprising to see some complaints to the editor and to managers of businesses who distribute and/or advertise in the Chronicle.
    Unfortunately, people more concerned about personal limitations and sensitivities than freedom of expression is not a new theme.
    It remains that they're the exception, not the rule. Yet they speak in terms of normalcy, apparently believing they're status quo. They're not.
    To be direct: You who found the image more offensive than censorship are the fringe of America. The few, a minority, the exception, absolutely not status quo.
    It's disconcerting that some businesses severed their ties with the Chronicle over the outcry of these shallow few.
    It would be a great service to make public a list of businesses which did so; whether by canceling their ads, as Altex Electronics did, or discontinuing to be a Chronicle distribution point.
    It takes conviction for a business to not change policy when threatened with customer loss, especially in the economic wasteland of our times. It's very important to support those which stand firm against pressure to censor.
Sincerely,
Dwayne Barnes

So Raising Taxes Would Be the Way?

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 27, 2006

Editor,
    You say “Texans want more roads. They just don't want to pay for them” [“Page Two,” Feb. 24]. However, in all your arguments you ignore the fact that toll roads cost 30% or more to build than nontolled expressways. Similarly, you ignore the option of upgrading city thoroughfares which cost 90% less than toll roads.
    Certainly some of the anti-toll road folks are anti-road in general. However, there are quite a few people who just want more road per tax dollar.
Wes Benedict
Chair
Travis County Libertarians

100% of People Against Toll Roads

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 27, 2006

Dear Editor,
    Let me clear up a few inaccuracies in your recent column about toll roads [“Page Two,” Feb. 24]. You say, "Texans want more roads. They just don't want to pay for them."
    Texans already pay enough federal and state gas taxes for good roads. The problem began 25 years ago when the Reagan administration began diverting increasing amounts of our gas tax dollars into nonroad programs. After 25 years of losing 15% of our road funding annually, there are some congestion problems, especially in fast growing areas like Austin.
    The public laws which created the federal and state gas taxes promised that all such monies collected would be put into a trust fund, to be used only for road construction and maintenance. If Democrats and Republicans can't be trusted with our gas taxes, why would anyone be so foolish as to permit them to collect tolls?
    You say, "Politicians who defend toll roads are attacked as selling out the people and being corrupt." Duh! With nearly 100% of the people opposed to tolling, 100% of all of the Democrats and Republicans in the state House voted for tolls. (Most of them sheepishly admit that they never read HB 3588 before voting for it.)
    Does the Chron now support a reformulation of democracy wherein a couple hundred professional politicians should rule against the wishes of the millions of proles who pay their salaries? Our “public servants” have become our slave masters.
Vincent J. May
Elgin
   [Editor's response: Kind of surprising to read "Does the Chron now support a reformulation of democracy wherein a couple hundred professional politicians should rule against the wishes of the millions of proles who pay their salaries?" because it would seem that is something like exactly what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they made this country a Constitutional Republic and not a Democracy.]

Satire or 'A Tiny Masterpiece of Coercive Ideology?'

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 27, 2006

Dear Editor,
    In Sorry We Missed Church [“Letters @ 3am,” Feb. 17], Michael Ventura has made a rare (for him) error: misinterpreting the tone of the bumper sticker he saw in Lubbock which he used as the theme and title for his article.
    The two young women riding in the car with “Sorry we missed church, we were busy/learning witchcraft and becoming lesbians” on the back were being sarcastic, not courageous.
    The bumper sticker speaks in the imagined voice of women who are not at all sorry they missed church, because they're nonbelievers. It implies that such women are homosexual witches, and it implicitly equates homosexuality with devil worship. Of course, there are also underlying stereotypes about women's proper role and outlook.
    This bumper sticker is a tiny masterpiece of coercive ideology that means, “Women who don't go to church are lesbians and witches.”
    Such a message sounds courageous only to people in places like Austin, where it's interpreted as liberal; after all, who could be so crazy as to equate nonchurchgoing with lesbianism or devil worship?
Lynn Gilbert
   [Michael Ventura responds: Dear Ms. Gilbert: I saw those young women, and I believe you are mistaken. I also spoke of the sticker to several Lubbock friends and their response was a whoop of admiration followed by comments like, "Those girls have some cojones!" Some of these friends have lived in Lubbock most of their lives, some for merely a decade or two; their take on the sticker was the same as mine. ps: Ms. Gilbert, "witchcraft" is not "devil worship."]

We're Guessing This Is 'Satirical' (Though We Don't Quite Get It)

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 27, 2006

Dear Editor,
    After finally weathering the maelstrom that erupted over the cover you published on Jan. 27 [“The New Texas Family Planning,” News], I would like to take the time to commend you for your courageous example. It must have been a frightening ordeal. Who would believe that your subtle yet slyly sarcastic critique of religious extremism would be used as a pretext for so much mayhem.
    You welcomed all the angry shouting and the boycotts with determined composure. And when the shouting turned into riots – thrown rocks, torched cars, gutted buildings ... I simply can't imagine what it took to persevere. Not only did you have to contend with the violent Bible thumpers in this country, soon Christian preachers throughout the world were uniting in a calculated, cynical gambit to enrage their congregations into a furious pitch. Through distortions and lies and even exhortations for blood they hoped you might lose your voice if not your heads. What a perilous, ugly time.
    But did you cower? As if.
    You showed those zealots you wouldn't be intimidated, no matter how many embassies they burned down. By standing firm, no matter how frightening or dangerous it was, you revealed the whole outrage for the cowardly charade it was. What moxie. What gall. It was as if you knew there was really nothing to be afraid of after all.
    I wish the rest of the world's newspapers possessed the kind of conviction you were able to muster during those fateful weeks. For my part I vow to show that cover to my children. I'll tell them that while the whole world threatened to tear itself apart, a little newspaper in Austin proved that courage and conviction could keep the barbarians at bay. Hooray for civilization. Hooray for The Austin Chronicle.
Thomas Copeland

Keeping It Alive Through Their Latin Voices

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 27, 2006

Dear Editor,
    Ahh, where to begin. Well, I guess I will inform you of my roots. I’m a born and raised Austinite. My father is from Tamaulipas, Mexico, and my mother is from Michigan. My husband is from San Luis Potisi, Mexico (has been in Texas since age 5). As I grew up, my parents always had Tejano/Conjunto/Norteno music on, whether it was just lunch or family gatherings. Since I have been with my husband, he has really expanded my Mexican music horizon – Fito Olivares, Los Tigres del Norte, Vicente Fernandez, Antonio Aguilar, Chapo Guzman, Luis y Julian, Ramon Ayala, Tucanes del Norte (we are lovers of all types of music, from rap to alternative to classical to techno). Most Mexican regional artists, and so many, many more, have been around since the '50s and '60s up until now. At the time when Tejano music was in the sunshine, Mexican regional music was back in the shadows. You could only buy that kind of music from the flea market or from Tejano music stores carried as specialty music. Now that Mexican music is out of the shadows, Tejano artists want to complain or as it was stated, “aliens took over” [“Outlaw Onda,” Music, Feb. 17]. If Tejano stations want to keep their audience happy, then they should use their voice to make a stand with the broadcast companies, not hate on the uprising of Mexican regional music stations. As for Ms. Acosta’s comment on the three “black” girls singing Selena on the bus. You must be clueless to the fact that Latinos also come from South and Central America, where they do tend do be “dark skinned.” So for you to state that you have faith that all is lost, they could be keeping her name alive through their Latin voices.
Un Orgullo Latino,
Patricia Estrada

Accuser Loudmouths Lacking in Guts

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 27, 2006

Dear Editor,
    So Gary L. Zimmer diagnoses Louis Black with a lack of both maturity and masculinity [“Postmarks,” Feb. 10] for not “accept[ing] criticism when it is due.” If you are so “glad that [you are] not like [Editor Black],” you should give praise you are not like the occupiers of the White House.
    Mr. Zimmer does not tell us what the “criticism” is. In public disourse, accusers should explain specifically what “disgusts” them enough to throw beer bar insults around. Otherwise, the reasonable reader will conclude such accuser loudmouths lacking in guts, a condition common to both sexes.
Stephen McGuire

Either Outright Lies or Grievous Mistakes

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 27, 2006

Mr. Black,
    You have abused your position as editor of one of Austin's two most important publications in your pro-toll editorial [“Page Two,” Feb. 24]. Every paragraph contains either outright lies or grievous mistakes. Space prevents my addressing them here; if anyone wants a point-by-point deconstruction, e-mail panicked@ccms.net.
    I'm taking a stand against making all the freeways toll roads. Contrary to your obvious bias, I'm not foolish or misinformed. It's simply unaffordable for me to commute to Austin and pay all the tolls currently slated. Moving into Austin is not an option because of Austin's high housing costs and taxes. My back is against the wall.
    If we don't take control of these toll roads, the debt you talk about us leaving “for your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren” will be privately owned roads with ever-increasing toll charges, out of public control forever. Another debt will likely be the default of these toll roads when they fail to deliver the projected profits and have to be bailed out by taxpayers and landowners.
    If Rick Perry would put aside his plan to build the Trans-Texas Corridor, a monstrous, horrible 22-lane-wide boondoggle (which many people oppose) we would probably have enough money to pay for road maintenance and improvement. Most toll opponents are not against a small increase in gas tax to cover freeway improvement needs. CAMPO recently estimated that a 1.6 cent per gallon increase would be sufficient to avoid tolls.
    You say toll opponents “cast aspersions” and “spread ... gossip.” Well, if that ain't the pot calling the kettle Black! You used your position to do a great disservice to a positive, well-reasoned grassroots movement that you neither understand nor respect. What a sleazy thing to do.
Fancy Fairchild
Elgin
   [Louis Black responds: If I accused someone of writing a piece where "Every paragraph contains either outright lies or grievous mistakes," I would cite some. Instead of, in the most vitriolic tones, only offering a differing opinion.]

Republican Lite?

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 27, 2006

Dear Editor,
    Re: Your gubernatorial endorsement [Endorsements, Feb. 24]: Chris Bell? A touch of Republican lite? Oh fie, and shame.
Jesus B. Ochoa
El Paso

What Was He Really Asking For?

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 27, 2006

Dear Editor,
    Watched Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, U.S. central command, on CSPAN recently. Was mesmerized by his comments on the need for speed of thought and agility in military leadership over the next "decades.” My first image vision revealed super-warriors in the service of humanity. My next thought: "Wow, he's asking for a better commander and chief.”
Peace out,
Todd Smith

Jews Are Good With Money?

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 27, 2006

Dear Editor,
    We live in gawdless times. I'm not sure the good Baptist people of Texas are ready for an "unsaved" governor [“Here Comes the Guv,” News, Feb. 17]. I'm confident that Kinky would be good with money, like most of his co-religionists, and that would be desirable in these perilous economic times. He must avoid Satan in the future, stop pandering to the Christian right, and "unleaven" the campaign with a little gravitas.
Howard R. Slobodin

Method to Their Madness

RECEIVED Fri., Feb. 24, 2006

Dear Editor,
    Here's something the average guy on the street should easily understand. When you see the Bush administration adamantly defending something they've done, no matter how senseless it may seem, there is a motive behind it.
    Warrantless wiretapping is a prime example. Why are they pursuing warrantless wiretaps, when they could just as easily get warrants, even after the fact, to track terrorist phone conversations? The only motive that makes sense is this: Bush is tapping conversations that have nothing to do with terrorists, and the FISA court would never approve them. He's creating an enemies list, just as Nixon did with his domestic spying. That's the reason the laws against spying on Americans were passed in the first place.
    Now we see Bush threatening to veto any legislation to halt the takeover of six U.S. port terminal operations by the United Arab Emirates. Even many Republicans in Congress are outraged. Why would Bush push so hard on this, despite the real security threats it poses? The only motive that makes sense is that Bush is paying someone off. He's doing the bidding of his real constituents, who happen to be global corporations, not the American public. Our interests are way down on his list of priorities. As a lame duck, Bush doesn't have to placate ordinary citizens. He's free to pursue the interests of his real bosses.
    Here's another question. Why do mainstream news outlets just report these controversies without examining the motives behind Bush's actions? Oh, yeah. I already answered that one. The same corporations that own Bush also own the major media.
Ben Hogue

In Denial to America's Dire Peril

RECEIVED Fri., Feb. 24, 2006

Dear Editor,
    Vance McDonald's letter of displeasure [“Postmarks Online,” Feb. 22] over Michael Ventura's column (Sorry We Missed Church) [“Letters @ 3am,” Feb. 17], it's a retread of his letter blasting Louis Black's "Page Two" from the week prior [“Postmarks,” Feb. 17]. Both had “specious” arguments ("specious" equals the very intelligent person's way of saying “wrong”), and were the product of “hypocritical neo-leftist Gestapo” types. Almost as if he were writing from a script. Both letters warned of America's dire predicament, being overrun by liberals who haven't the foggiest notion how viciously evil the devotees of the Muslim religion really are and what they have in store for us all once they have conquered. Basically, McDonald is saying, Oh, so you call “us” neo-conservatives? Well, “neo-leftists” right back atcha! When actually, the liberals of today are touting the same tenets of human rights upon which their movement was founded during the civil rights era.
    That McDonald would quote Dylan to add punch to his argument really bakes the proverbial cake!
    Here's the situation in a nutshell: Our government has taken us into an unnecessary war based on fraudulent, manipulated intelligence, costing billions of dollars borrowed from foreign banks that will bankrupt our future generations; a war which has now lasted longer than World War II from the point of Pearl Harbor to Japan's surrender, with no end or clear strategy in sight.
    We are in the war described by Orwell in 1984 which is against a bogeyman (bin Laden), around whom the populace is whipped into a frenzy of hatred, and which effectually never ends. The atrocities committed by American “intelligence” at Abu Ghraib has ensured al Qaeda their recruiting initiative for generations to come. This is the true danger, Mr. McDonald. It is you who are in denial, to America's dire peril.
Sincerely,
Kenney C. Kennedy

Kinky's Campaign Offensive and Immature

RECEIVED Thu., Feb. 23, 2006

Dear Austin Chronicle editor,
    Kinky Friedman's “Save Yourself for Kinky” slogan discouraging voting in the primaries is egocentric. Carole Strayhorn is also running as an independent. Voters can sign only one independent's petition. Strayhorn has wisely encouraged voting in contested primaries. The most critical race in Texas for state Senate is District 18, where I live, and where Sen. Armbrister is retiring. David Stall, founder of CorridorWatch.org, is running in the Republican primary to continue our fight against the Trans Texas I-69 Corridor and to protect private-property rights, which were seriously undermined in the last legislative session.
    The sexual innuendo in Friedman's campaign is offensive and immature. It shows no respect for what is at stake for voters or sensitivity to the thousands of ranchers, farmers, and residents whose land is about to be grabbed! Voters need to understand their options. If we vote in the primary, we cannot sign a petition, but we can carry one. That's what I'm doing for one tough – and serious – grandma.
Sincerely,
Martha Estes
Hempstead

Kinky a Great Texan

RECEIVED Thu., Feb. 23, 2006

Hello,
    Your article about Kinky Friedman was wonderful [“Here Comes the Guv,” News, Feb. 17]. I think he is truly a good man and a great Texan. And, he wants what is best for our state. I would encourage everyone to read up on him. I believe it is time for a change. He is truly interested in the welfare of all the people of Texas.
Regards,
Sue Baggett
Waller

Comparative Religion 101

RECEIVED Thu., Feb. 23, 2006

Dear Editor,
    I have been reading with interest the letters to the Chronicle concerning the recent cover that pictured a Bible coming between a woman and her gyn [“The New Texas Planning,” News, Jan. 27]. Or at least that was my interpretation. Many letters have expressed outrage and indignation about this image; there have been threats to withdraw support from your newspaper. Some readers feel that their religion has been offended; others that their womanhood has; still others that their children have been harmed.
    I find all this fascinating against the backdrop of everyone's incredulity over some Muslim's response to the Danish cartoons. Many Muslims have taken offense at the cartoons. Many in Austin have taken offense at your cover. Granted I didn't see any letters threatening death to Chronicle staff, and I assume the Chronicle offices have not been set on fire. But isn't it interesting that though the reaction is much milder, we respond to perceived threats to our religion/beliefs in the same way that many Muslims have: We take offense; we make threats. Perhaps we are not so different after all. And perhaps if the population of Austin was as desperate, hungry, scared, and under attack as many Muslims in Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, etc. must feel, reactions here might have tended more toward the violent as well. Just something to think about.
Best,
Annie Hartnett
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