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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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Chávez a Hero, Black a Stupid Fool

RECEIVED Wed., June 13, 2007

Mr. Black,
    You were clearly fooled by the massive campaign of lies against Chávez [“Page Two,” June 8]. He's not "anti-American" as you stated. He's against the worst aspects of our severely f'd-up nation, as are most progressives.
    This article could help clear up some of your misconceptions (www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=2064) – which you so generously (and stupidly) shared with all your readers.
    You're encouraged to burn your American flag. The damn thing is soaked by now with the blood of thousands of Iraqis, and only tyrants hide behind it. It's time for us to design a brand-new one.
With respect,
John O'Neill
San Marcos

Save Las Manitas

RECEIVED Wed., June 13, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Almost a quarter-century ago in Austin, a high-rolling developer's wrecking ball destroyed the last place Downtown a person traveling on a low budget could afford a night's rest or a Good Samaritan could put up for a few days a homeless family. Anyone remember the Alamo Hotel?
    Destiny took me to other places and other work. I had spent the time allotted to rant against a developer and his cohorts, bent on "gentrifying" what was serving a useful purpose in Downtown Austin.
    Many moons have passed, and, from a neighboring place, I hear news that wise heads in Austin have a plan to save from another "gentrifying" ball a place that serves a useful purpose ["Beside the Point," News, June 8].
    Rather than curse the wrecking ball and anyone aiming to swing it at the modest taco place at 211 Congress Ave., I say: Let Austin do what's necessary to save Las Manitas!
    Do what it takes to enable the Perez sisters to keep their place open and alive for Downtown Austin! Bless the loan! Losing Las Manitas will be unforgivable!
    And remember the Alamo Hotel!
Tony Hearn
San Antonio

It Is Not Un-American to Demand a Decent Wage

RECEIVED Tue., June 12, 2007

Dear Editor,
    I suggest Vance McDonald (against the minimum wage) [“Postmarks,” June 8] check the results of Washington state's implementation of a higher minimum wage, per The New York Times.
    They found that people were actually commuting across the border from Oregon to work there because of the better wage. One business owner interviewed stated that he now has better workers because, at the old wage, the employees would come across a dilemma on Saturday night: Go to work, or blow off work, meet up with buddies, and go drinking? Guess what they chose to do?
    Beyond attracting better workers, it motivates people. The owners feared it would hurt their business at first, but as one restaurant owner they interviewed said, he actually discovered an increase in business. I guess people simply don't want to bust their asses when they are not getting paid a decent wage.
    McDonald is spouting the drivel (economic theory) that is taught by business professors. Guess what politics businessmen adhere to? The politics that make them wealthy! But theories are theories … meant to be disproven. If they had "the answer" – then why doesn't the economy work perfectly? Or maybe it does for some.
    As to McDonald's dogma: I thought that they taught us in college that you have to keep your mind open to change because it is inevitable?
    My favorite moment is King George with his arm around a woman saying she is a "good American" accidentally blurting out that she works three jobs! Yeah, me too! I'm a "good American." I have three jobs, too!
Taylor Sheppard
San Marcos

What About a Balanced Consideration of Venezuela?

RECEIVED Tue., June 12, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Louis Black's comments on Chávez and RCTV are frustrating [“Page Two,” June 8].
    I must reiterate something he appears to consider irrelevant: This news station's management were active participants in a military coup against an elected president! He was kidnapped and tortured and only survived through enormous popular protest. This coup dissolved the parliament and court system and installed an oil company head as leader.
    If ABC News conspired in a violent military coup against an elected American leader, I hope the station would be dissolved.
    Here's my real concern: For decade upon decade, the famously corrupt and racist political elite of Venezuela, and much of Latin America, have brutalized, robbed, and cheated working and poor majorities. The poverty rate of Venezuela prior to Chávez was more than two-thirds of the population, despite its oil wealth. Yet we only take notice when Bush and Fox News scare us with irrelevant visions of a "new Castro"? Where was our press when this elected leader was, once again, kidnapped and tortured in a military coup endorsed by our government?
    If the U.S. intervenes against Venezuela, will you oppose it? Or will your contempt win out? Why doesn't the Chronicle do a balanced treatment of the Venezuelan situation, discussing both Chávez's problems along with what has been done in that country in terms of radical expansion of political participation and economic security?
    Finally, let's be honest folks. Our country is occupying another nation in total disregard of world opinion, and most of us know or think it's over oil politics. Yet we care less about this than TV and music shows or whatever petty distraction happens to float by. We're governed by weak-minded and weak-willed gangsters, and we don't care enough to fight them.
    We don't have the right to be self-righteous anymore.
Donald Jackson
   [Louis Black responds: Unfortunately, "[W]hen Bush and Fox News scare us with irrelevant visions of a 'new Castro'" has nothing to do with my concerns over Venezuela. Rather, they result from talks with dedicated progressives who are Venezuelans. It would be nice if American progressives could also respect Venezuelans who oppose Chávez. In last week's "Page Two," I expressed skepticism over Chávez but didn't go in to detail because I really haven't studied the situation enough. Denouncing a TV station losing its license and advocating, supporting, or not denouncing an American invasion of Venezuela, I hope, are two very different and in no way connected positions. Probably the most common reason given by any government when shutting down opposition media is that it threatens national security, advocates revolutionary change, and has content that is treasonous. Hearing American lefties support censorship scares the hell out of me. It is more than possible to support Chávez without supporting his attempts at silencing his opposition.]

Now Is the Time for Justice!

RECEIVED Tue., June 12, 2007

Dear Editor,
    I am writing this letter as an involved citizen in East Austin who is a member of the Blackshear Prospect Hill Neighborhood Association and current president of the Organization of Central East Austin Neighborhoods. It is apparent to me that we as a community have not attained racial reconciliation and social justice.
    Too many of our black and Hispanic young people are caught in the tar pit of our criminal justice system. It is this system that keeps our youth targeted by police, mired in criminality, and burdened in financial servitude. There are no job-training programs, no jobs, alternative sentencing, or early interventions for our community – only jail, financial penalties, and possibly death or injury at the hand of law enforcement.
    This system must be recognized for what it is: the unmentionable "R"-word. It infects not only the way the police treat blacks and browns in East Austin. It also still lingers in our community schools that struggle with resegregation, lack of resources, and attempts to close minority schools. It is embedded in the UT landgrab of the Blackland neighborhood. It clings to our City Council in the form of the "Gentlemen's Agreement" that designates two seats – one black, one Hispanic – to be elected at large. It is especially noxious in the form of gentrification and the expulsion of minorities and the poor from their neighborhoods through ever-increasing property taxes. It is apparent in the planning and development of high-rent condos and townhomes encircling our neighborhoods and sold or rented at rates that only the wealthy can afford. It also identifies the future demarcation of the minority community as east of 130/183 toll road.
    Kevin Brown can be found again and again in our history, recent and past, going back to emancipation. Instead of once again focusing on the individual act of one police officer against another minority, it is time the city, county, and AISD work with the black and Hispanic community to identify ways to reconcile a racist past and actually work toward a more just society. It is also time for young blacks and Hispanics to pull up their pants, tighten their belts, lace up their tennis shoes, and get to work. We are not in the promised land. It's up to your generation and your children's generation to pick up the banner from your grandparents and parents and fight for racial and social justice.
Rudolph Williams

Results of the Free Market

RECEIVED Tue., June 12, 2007

Dear Editor,
    On the conservatives' list of things we believe in, just under God, is the free market. That's the magical mechanism that solves everything not taken care of by No. 1 on the list. But the righties run into problems with the free market, and I think it might be time for a little adjustment.
    For example, the immigration problem is really just an instance of the free market at work. Demand for cheap labor in the U.S. pulls an endless supply of willing workers from south of the border. A similar situation exists with illegal drugs. Not the kinds of things you want to take responsibility for as a movement.
    Several thousand years ago, man separated God into God and Satan in order to account for the less benevolent aspects of himself. I suggest the righties split the free market in two to account for the messier aspects of that system. Call the dark side chaos, and blame it on liberals.
Ben Hogue

Free Means Free

RECEIVED Mon., June 11, 2007

Hey Louis,
    Excellent Free Means Free article last week [“Page Two,” June 8] condemning Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s “nonrenewing” the broadcast license of RCTV in Caracas.
    Yes, AMARC did issue a statement opposing the shutdown of RCTV, which I passed along to the Chronicle in my capacity as the vice president for the international board of the Canadian NGO, the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (www.amarc.org).
    AMARC opposes all forms of censorship. Be it the nonrenewal of a vitriolic, even dangerous, media outlet bent on undermining a seated government, or, and speaking of the wordfree;” the threatening to throw programmers off the radio because a representative of an Austin environmental group actually dared to utter the word “free!” over the Austin airwaves, as was the case with Ken McKenzie on the Green Show on KOOP Radio recently.
    I have been advising folks who want to learn more about RCTV and its underhanded role, to say the least, in the 2002 failed coup attempt, to acquire a copy of the documentary The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (www.chavezthefilm.com/index_ex.htm) which you reminded me had its debut at a SXSW Film Fest a few years back.
    But even that film is now caught up in controversy. There is an online petition (www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/signed.cgi?Recivex&5801) urging folks not to show the film!
    I am here in Vancouver, home of legendary Co-op Radio (www.coopradio.org) at the NCRC, National Campus and Community Radio Conference, the biggest community radio event on the continent, talking about KOOP Radio, RCTV, and other media debacles (www.citr.ca/conference).
    Yeah. Louis, I too find myself getting ill listening to much of the liberal rhetoric surrounding community media, be it from Caracas, Venezuela, or there in Austin.
Cheers,
Jim Ellinger
Vancouver, BC

There's Even More to 'Prince'

RECEIVED Mon., June 11, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Re: Your cover story on Jim “Prince” Hughes [“How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Mighty Atom,” Music, June 8]: Nice that you recognized this genuine Austin icon, before he disappears as have so many others. But Jimmy is so much deeper than your story lets on and has done so much more for Austin than he's apparently revealed to your reporter. For example, were it not for Jimmy nagging and nagging, Carnaval as we know it today would never have happened. His love and devotion to "roots" samba drove him to drive the party into existence. Also missing: his never-ending generosity to people he considers in need. I've witnessed this on many occasions with a broad spectrum of folks, musicians, artists, etc. Jimmy has done much to keep Austin weird, and it goes way beyond his store and his tattoo. He's just one of the nicest, least self-obsessed people around – he's too obsessed with deco chandeliers and interesting music and film to be worried about himself!
Mike Quinn

McDonald Praises Black

RECEIVED Mon., June 11, 2007

Dear Editor,
    While I am torn between opining on the shortsighted nonsense in Michael King’s June 8 article [“Point Austin,” News] or Louis Black’s piece [“Page Two,” June 8], I had to choose Mr. Black because he is so right. I must say that it is gratifying. And ironically, his entire position for the most part defines neoconservatism: to the chagrin of all lockstep neo-leftists.
    Yes, Mr. Black, it is true. By definition, neoconservatism is the honoring of individual freedom guided by generally accepted moral precepts, e.g., Judeo, Greco, Roman, and Christian ethics evolved over thousands of years. And the most important is freedom of expression.
    However, I would make one exception to my praise of Mr. Black. We can and must always confront spoken and written positions “because we disagree with it, or because of who is behind it.” This right and obligation of confrontation keeps everyone honest. This is the bargain of liberty. What can never be allowed is for government to shut down or arbitrarily negate free expression with the blunt force of political fiat.
    That said I congratulate Mr. Black. Moreover, I urge him to continue to rebut his neo-lefty cohorts’ attacks on the U.S. as pathologically misguided. Indeed, we must understand that just as Mr. Lincoln famously proclaimed, America is “the last best hope.” Without precious freedom and its only real defender on Earth, humanity is exposed to tyranny, genocide, and enslavement. This time around, that exposure is represented by Islamist extremism.
    While we all wish that world freedom and peace could always coexist, history cruelly disavows that notion. This is the way it has always been and always will be. The heritage of this nation has forever and wisely been based on that premise. Unfortunately some Americans have forgotten these profound realities. We can only hope that more have not.
Vance McDonald

Deep Eddy Should Be Seedy

RECEIVED Sat., June 9, 2007

Dear Editor,
    I've been swimming at Deep Eddy for more than 25 years: It's a great pool and an important part of Austin [“Deep Eddy Rising,” News, June 1]. Like many of the lovable places here, it was also a bit seedy. Now the entrance looks like a lawyer foyer in a McMansion. If I can hang on for another 25 years, however, I'm sure it will look just as seedy as it used to. I hope that when the pool itself is renovated, it doesn't end up with a corporate logo on the bottom.
Richard Crooks

'Chronicle' Ad Looks Like Editorial

RECEIVED Fri., June 8, 2007

Dear Editor,
    While reading the latest Chronicle [June 8], I came across an “article” on “living without pain,” or something like that. It sure seemed like an advertisement, so I looked for some sort of notice indicating that this cleverly designed piece of filth was indeed an advertisement. Nothing could be found, but, wait, what is that microscopic dot near the top? Hmmm, I wonder what this could be! I got out my 30x microscope in the lab and took a look, but alas, I could not make out what it was. I guess my scope is just not strong enough; it is only designed for studying human cell structure. So I placed the page under a Scanning Electron Microscope to get a better look. I figured the SEM would work because it is generally used for subatomic particle research. Ah ha! There it is! “Paid Advertisement”! The letters were only one-atom wide, but sure enough, there it was, satisfying the requirement that swindlers must meet, indicating that a contrived, fraudulent piece of trash is just an ad.
    You should have more dignity than to let shit like this happen in your paper. It is your paper; you control what goes in it. By placing this pathetic crap in the pages, you are agreeing to take advantage of, and fool your loyal readers. Shame on you.
    Oh, and I know you have done nothing illegal, so don’t bother with that spin.
    I apologize for being so upset, but I like your paper, and I guess I am just really disappointed in this downhill turn.
Dan McAllister
   [Editor responds: There was no attempt to fool our readers. It does say "Paid Advertisement" in admittedly small letters, but in no way does the ad resemble Chronicle editorial style – the ad looks different from all and any of the Chronicle editorial styles. We have very high regard for our readers, so none of us thought anyone would interpret that as editorial. We are sorry that it was confusing and will review our policy (which is not to say that we are promising to change it).]

Austin Too Stoned to Understand?

RECEIVED Fri., June 8, 2007

Dear Editor,
    I am so sick of hearing political opinions, artistic notions, and general sociological whinings from people in Austin with a bong in their hands. I have never in all my years of travel/living (nationally and internationally) been in a place full of so many people strung out on an illegal substance and scrambling to justify it. Imagine the good that could be done to this city if these folk were pouring this kind of effort into our social programs.
    I do not consider myself to be any kind of pure person – I love to drink a few with my friends – but if alcohol were made illegal, I'd stop drinking. Period. There's no buzz worth prison, being ostracized, and jeopardizing my career and family. And that's the bottom line.
    Get rid of the weed and cheap existentialist rationalizations, Austin. Too stoned to understand what I'm saying? How about, “Just say no.”
Rich Newman

Austin's Corporate Welfare at Its Worst

RECEIVED Fri., June 8, 2007

Dear Editor,
    The City Council's vote to extend Las Manitas a $750,000 forgivable loan is corporate welfare at its worst [“Beside the Point,” News, June 8]. As a small-business owner, I understand the sacrifices that one needs to make to launch a successful business. It takes a high tolerance for risk, a willingness to fail, and incredible personal financial discipline. This forgivable loan allows the owners of Las Manitas to avoid worrying about these natural business sacrifices. It provides the restaurant a leg up on competitors who are having to compete without the backing of the city of Austin and its selected corporate handouts. I place no blame on the restaurant as I am a happy patron. I would take a similar deal for my business if offered … but therein lies the rub. I am not offered the same deal. Nor is any other small business that is forced to compete without the help of the city or the Austin taxpayer. This sets a dangerous precedent and is a slap in the face to other local business owners. A slap that may still be burned into our memory when we are at the ballot box.
Brian Bares

What's Wrong With Sentiment in Films?

RECEIVED Thu., June 7, 2007

Dear Editor,
    I just wrote a brief and smartassed response to Josh Rosenblatt's review of Knocked Up [Film Listings, June 1]. I don't know why, at this time, I finally chose to write a response, when I've disagreed with Mr. Rosenblatt on numerous films, some of which I liked even better than Apatow's latest effort. I realize the attention I'm seeking here is better suited for the classroom. It's not that I want to debate (I'm hardly qualified), I just can't understand why Mr. Rosenblatt so consistently dislikes sentiment in films? I understand they must not be overtly manipulative, but a certain degree of manipulation is required for effect. And given the subject matter of a film like Knocked Up, sentiment is likely to turn up more often than in, say, Army of Shadows. I believe the amount of manipulation used in both of these films probably turns out to be about the same (a deceitfully safe statement, I think, since we can't actually measure). The manipulation is simply of a different kind. But then, Mr. Rosenblatt is entitled to his opinion, as I am to mine. He is right to call attention to the fact that we require restraint. I just don't think it was warranted in this case. I can't believe Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries is any less sentimental than Knocked Up. Wild Strawberries might be even more sentimental than Knocked Up. The films simply require room to move about. We should not smother sentiment because it threatens, for a moment, to overwhelm the intellect.
Facetiously,
Timothy Sparks

Won't Be the Great City That It Could

RECEIVED Thu., June 7, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Katherine Gregor's article in today's Chronicle [“Developing Stories,” News, June 8] on the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter at Northcross Mall was dead-on perfect. I have yet to read such a well-crafted and thought-out explanation on what is happening in my neighborhood; I can stand on my terrace and see Northcross Mall – that's how close I am to this proposed development.
    The Austin City Council has, up to this point, failed the citizens of Austin. It's interesting. I spent most of my life in Los Angeles and New York City, and I don't recall ever being blatantly ignored by city leaders the way I do in Austin. That realization alone led me to send the Austin City Council a letter stating that with their lack of citizen-focused leadership, Austin would only ever be a good city … not the great city it could be. And I am not a "Keep Austin Weird" proponent. I believe that development and progress are important for the vitality of any city. However, this proposed Wal-Mart is problematic on so many levels with traffic, as Ms. Gregor points out, being only one concern. It really is about who is running the show. Thank you to the Chronicle and to Ms. Gregor for making that distinction!
    It is my sincerest hope that the Austin City Council pays attention to this smart and accurate article.
Deborah Dalton

Why Not Note Current 'Viper' Bands?

RECEIVED Thu., June 7, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Hi there! I really enjoyed Margaret Moser's piece on viper music [“If You're a Viper,” Music, May 25] and all its variations throughout the years (from the Thirties and beyond). But, I'm absolutely mystified as to how you can write so much on that subject (three pages, or was it four?) with not one mention of the bands currently playing around town who include viper music in their sets or even those who specialize in that genre! What's up with that? I would think it would be a no-brainer to include them in the article, or at the very least to include some kind of sidebar listing, so people could go check out this fun/danceable music! Some of the bands that fall into this category are: the Jitterbug Vipers, White Ghost Shivers, Asylum Street Spankers, and, to a lesser extent, Marshall Ford Swing Band, the Phoebe Jeebies, and I am sure there are others that I haven't heard but would like to!
Francie White
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