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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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'Sicko' Shouldn't Have Romanticized Cuba as Much as It Did

RECEIVED Wed., July 4, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Though an adamant supporter of nationalized health care, I was deeply disappointed by Michael Moore’s new documentary, Sicko [Film Listings, June 29]. Not because of his message, rather because I thought his romanticized excursion into Cuba to compare its nationalized system to the U.S. system was ridiculous and inane. Fidel Castro is notorious for not taking care of his people and for covering it up for a couple of days to dazzle visiting foreigners, and Michael Moore fell right into that theatric. Castro is repressive of artists, writers, gays, and anyone who does not conform, sending people to terrible prisons and concentration camps until they do. The people who do conform are lucky to get a meal since the country is so poverty stricken due to Castro’s disastrous economic policies. Of course, Mr. Moore is not the only one blind to the truth about this terrible dictatorship. Seems like everyone is wearing one of those trendy Che Guevara T-shirts these days, but no one really gives a damn about the Cuban people. We would rather believe they’re living in a fairy-tale land of universal health care under a benevolent communist system.
Michael McCown

More Focus on the Parents

RECEIVED Tue., July 3, 2007

Dear Editor,
    The Austin Chronicle seems more concerned with the poor reportage of the Austin Police Department and trying to convince the public that the murder [of David Morales] had nothing to do with race or the Juneteenth celebrations [“The Morales Murder: Misreported worldwide,” News, June 29]. I'm not buying that at all. What I really want to know is where were the parents of this 2-year-old? What was a 2-year-old doing after dark in a parking lot? My kid would be in bed or an arm's reach away. I believe there should be much more focus on the parents. If they were doing their job as parents, this murder never would have happened.
Robert Buce

Article on Oak Hills Redevelopment Is Off-Base

RECEIVED Tue., July 3, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Kimberly Reeves’ article on Oak Hill Redevelopment has some errors [“Oak Hill Redevelopment: Varying visions for town center,” News, June 29]. I did not say Oak Hill was part of the urban core but quoted a Travis Country resident who suggested “Oak Hill is so close to Downtown we might as well be part of the urban core.”
    Reeves also states our planning effort was a response to the U.S. 290/Highway 71 extension. Texas Department of Transportation’s 290/71 plans and the tolling issues complicated issues considerably but did not initiate our planning effort. The planning effort was precipitated by Cap Metro. They approached City Manager Toby Futrell noting Cap Metro was scheduling a neighborhood plan and market analysis of Oak Hill following voter approval of All Systems Go! Futrell said “Planning was the purview of the city.” Our planning effort was announced in 2004.
    Reeves also misquotes me saying, “Redevelopment under current land development code requires a net increase in building footprint and parking.” The city requires a decrease in impervious cover. The average drinking-water protection zone impervious cover is 55% on older commercial property. If those parcels were redeveloped under existing code, IC would be limited to 15 to 25%. Typical IC on commercial property in other parts of the city is 60% and higher.
    Reeves also states, “[My] answer is new development and even denser development to avoid sprawl.” I said Oak Hill should use vertical mixed-use commercial overlay zoning to entitle landowners to create denser pedestrian zones. While Save Our Springs mandates auto-dependent development patterns – sprawl – my VMU suggestion would not raise IC but encourage redevelopment more conducive to walking, cycling, and transit in an area where buildable land is at a premium and encourage higher quality development. It also could offer an economic incentive to SOS noncomplying property owners to install water-quality ponds as part of the city’s redevelopment effort in the Barton Springs Zone. Our neighborhood plan supports those goals reflecting interest in transit, hike-and-bike trails, and working shopping and playing close to home.
    Government agencies and nongovernmental organizations (the Environmental Protection Agency, Urban Land Institute, Congress for the New Urbanism, Sierra Club) all recommend clustering development in environmentally sensitive areas to preserve open space. They recommend purchase of open space and transfer of development rights to put greater density where appropriate. Oak Hill may explore this later as part of our neighborhood plan or the transit-oriented development planning effort.
David Richardson
Granada Hills

Extremism in Defense of My View Is a Virtue!

RECEIVED Tue., July 3, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Former Ambassador Joe Wilson said it best on National Public Radio. The Bush administration is "corrupt to the core” and "should be investigated by Congress.” However, the Dems, with few exceptions, are neutered. Perhaps at this point, it would be wise of the Repugnants to begin impeachment proceedings in order to salvage some credibility.
    I think Lewis “Scooter” Libby should go to jail for the full term. But I don't want to see President Bush and Vice President Cheney in jail. No, no. I'm holding out for the death penalty.
Ben Hogue

NSCNA Is Neutral

RECEIVED Mon., July 2, 2007

Dear Editor,
    According to Katherine Gregor's "RG4N to Sue City Today" post in the Chronic News blog [June 28], Lisa Elledge of Wal-Mart is quoted as saying that North Shoal Creek Neighborhood Association "support[s] the project and [is] in dialog with Wal-Mart.” This is incorrect. NSCNA is neutral to the Wal-Mart development. We have, as an organization, passed a resolution stating our concern with the additional traffic this development would push into our neighborhood. We have been actively working with the city, Wal-Mart, Lincoln Properties, and RG4N to see what can be done to mitigate this. We have declined, to this point, to endorse or partner with any one organization, choosing instead to try to amiably work with all involved to come to a solution.
Trey Hamilton
Board of directors
North Shoal Creek Neighborhood Association

Thanks for the Laughs (Not Really)

RECEIVED Mon., July 2, 2007

Herr Black,
    I must compliment you on your splendid sense of irony. Your latest rant against conspiracy ranters states, "What if 9/11 was not an inside job? In 10 years, expect to see the 'truth seekers' still out there seeking the 'truth,' with absolutely no real-world consequences to their decade and a half of work" [“Page Two,” June 29]. Right you are, sir. Why chase any version of "truth" other than the generally accepted official truth? Hence your love of Fox News. Better yet, you imply with a barely suppressed guffaw that "real-world consequences" are the yardstick of success. No doubt Donald Rumsfeld is ecstatic to hear that!
    Your own voluminous rants against George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Rick Perry, and their ilk have, of course, produced huge success in changing our real world, especially when bookended by your touching and endlessly fascinating nostalgic reminiscences of what it was like to be young and liberal and Louis. Where would the real world be without the truths of “Page Two”? Mired in some mindless war, no doubt, truth and consequences in shades of Black.
    Your best little conspiracy joke, however, is your weekly paycheck to Little Stevie Moser, arbiter of taste and nontackiness, whose desire to see Austin become Houston/Dallas is quickly bearing fruit. Why not go whole hog and publish his celebrity schmooze pictures in color? Put them beside the condo and porn ads; they'll fit right in. How "true" that will be!
    I bet the suave and svelte avatar of style and beauty would write a great column on this month's CIA "revelations" that they worked with the Mafia back around JFK time (like those conspiracy nuts always claimed; their work produced this little real-world consequence). Stevie can sell the story from the Jackie O fashion angle.
    Anyhow, thanks for the laughs, and keep up the great work in the real world!
    You are indeed one funny dude.
Chortling,
Kyle Swanson

Top 10 Austin Myths

RECEIVED Mon., July 2, 2007

Dear Editor,
    I feel like exposing some misperceptions/myths about Austin:
    1) The last people who have a right to complain about rude motorists are the bicyclists.
    2) The last people who have a right to complain about rude cyclists are the motorists.
    3) Austin is not/never was the live music capital of the world. I'd shout this out, but I'd probably violate some sound ordinance somewhere.
    4) What people around here call cedar is not cedar.
    5) What people around here call live oak is not oak.
    6) Town Lake is not a lake.
    7) Austin is a green city?
    8) = 6 + 7. Maybe what the City Council, Chamber of Commerce, et al. meant was the green-tinted sludge color of Town Lake. By the by, when was Town Lake any color other than some shade of brown?
    9) Austin is not weird. The farther north on 183 you go, the more the city resembles a suburb of Dallas. What we have/had were pockets of self-expression along South Congress, South First, North Loop, Duval, parts of Burnet Road, and other areas that have been horned in on by people co-opting this "weird”-ness to make money. Nothing shouts “weird” like self-conscious hipsterism, hundred-thousand-dollar-plus condos on South Congress and $750-plus "affordable" one-bedroom apartments on South Lamar.
    10) The real reason I wanted to make this list. This first nine are just me being petty. It was either this mayor or the previous who once proclaimed Austin traffic lights 84% timed. Bullocks. Horribly timed lights have been the bane of Austin drivers since before I moved here in '92. The fact is it's more like 84% of lights are not timed. Mistimed lights cause congestion, contribute to pollution (ahem, Austin is green?), and promote speeding and aggressive driving.
Noel Gonzales

Solar Is Crucial Energy Source for Now and the Future

RECEIVED Mon., July 2, 2007

Dear Editor,
    With so much solar energy to harvest, it's no time to sit in the shade. I was pleased to read the recent Chronicle article about the strides Texas is making in solar power [“Will Texas Catch Some Solar Rays?” News, June 29]. At the annual Cool House Tour on June 24, I joined the Texas Solar Energy Society to discuss our ability to address both climate change and big utility bills through solar technology available now. Many of our neighbors were out to view a wide variety of local homes that are already fitted with solar panels. As a newly designated Solar America City, Austin is leading by example in promoting renewable energy.
    And Washington is finally beginning to follow our lead. The House Ways and Means Committee, on which I serve, recently approved tax incentives to boost the use of solar energy – including a long-term extension and broadening of a 30% investment tax credit for solar energy and removing the cap on the tax credit individuals can claim for installing solar arrays on residential property. The same legislation gave approval to my bill offering tax credits for consumers who purchase plug-in hybrid cars.
    We must move quickly to make our clean energy future a reality. As Daniel Mottola's article notes, Austin is helping show the way for those of us concerned about the high cost of energy, the dangers posed by global warming, and the risk posed to our national security by our reliance on oil from the Middle East.
Sincerely,
U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett

Saddam Tried to Kill Bush's 'Daddy'

RECEIVED Mon., July 2, 2007

Dear Editor,
    I don't usually buy into conspiracy theories, but I find myself agreeing with Jay Williams [“Postmarks,” June 29]. I remember an interview with President Bush early on. He specifically and emphatically told the reporter that he was going after Saddam because "he tried to kill my daddy." I knew right then this whole thing was going to be a disaster, for Bush was going to let his ego get in the way of his common sense. (Does he really have any?) Did it ever occur to him that maybe the Iraqi people didn't want "democracy" stuffed down their throats?
    This country will be very fortunate if we come out of this quagmire in one piece. Bush and his cronies have worked hard to cause much of the world to literally hate us. There's no place an American can safely travel anymore. It's guilt by association. I've had total strangers in Europe demand to know why I support Bush. I say that the majority of the United States does not support his policies or his arrogant, narcissistic behavior.
Paula T. Phillips

'Chronicle' Could Have Caused Terrorist Scare!

RECEIVED Mon., July 2, 2007

Dear Editor,
    How courageous of the Chronicle to send a large chicken loose on the streets of Austin. Did no one ponder the consequences? How easily mistaken for a deadly weapon that chicken leg might have been, and your journalist gunned down! All in an effort to serve and protect … truly leaving nothing but a question as the onlookers gawk over the man-sized chicken corpse, "You guys like white meat or dark?"
John Nordstrom

Why Aren't You in Iraq?

RECEIVED Mon., July 2, 2007

Dear Editor,
    I love the line from Vance McDonald's latest screed [“Postmarks” online, June 29]: "There have always been those who have maintained that just because they believe their own conspiracy theories, they must be deemed true." Pot calling the kettle black? I think so!
Steve Coon

Details on Twin Oaks Closing

RECEIVED Sun., July 1, 2007

Dear Editor,
    This is a rather late response to Kate Walker's letter of a couple weeks ago concerning Twin Oaks Library [“Postmarks” online, May 22].
    It is always unfortunate when a library has to close for any length of time. The Twin Oaks closing is especially hard to take since the Manchaca branch is already closed (still), making finding a library tough for those in the near-south area. Twin Oak's Internet computers are badly needed by those in the area. And while the book collection is smallish, it does have a high circulation rate. The fact that the location itself will be closing eventually in favor of a new building does make the timing of a spruce-up seem dubious. Actually, the work has been badly needed for years – the carpet has been there since the mid-Eighties, and believe me, you wouldn't want your kid to sit/lie on it. The money came through – partly provided by the owner of the shopping center, I might add – so they decided to do it. Infrastructure is not such an unimportant thing. The library will be remaining in its strip-mall location for a least two years. I don't think four months closed is such a high cost to give the people of the neighborhood and the people who work there a decent environment. Twin Oaks continues to get new materials weekly through totally separate funding. The carpet and paint, in other words, are not coming at the expense of library materials.
    So, while the timing seems bad, I don't think the revamp is a bad thing to spend four months doing while we all wait patiently for the brand-new branch to open in a couple of years.
    The funding for the new central library includes doubling the number of Internet stations and purchasing more than 80,000 new materials (books, CDs, DVDs). Check out the library website, www.ci.austin.tx.us/library, for accurate information.
Justin Broce

Wireless Test Program Not Working

RECEIVED Sat., June 30, 2007

Dear Editor,
    I live in the free wireless test program recently celebrated by the city and Cisco for East Austin. We have never been able to connect or detect a signal. I have an interview with 7 on Your Side, because we have not been able to get any help from the program's supposed help page or gotten an e-mail response or had a phone call returned. The problem exists up and down the street here on Canterbury, and we are supposed to be one-half block from a transmitter. Does anybody have any suggestions or heard similar complaints? As a taxpayer, I am wondering what happened.
Alex Rodriguez

We Need a Real Solution

RECEIVED Fri., June 29, 2007

Dear Editor,
   In the article "The TAKS Is Dead! Long Live the TAKS!" [News, June 29], Michael May states that the "comprehensive nature" of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills tests is a "fatal flaw." If our aim is to skew data in order to indicate that our students are learning, then perhaps a comprehensive exam is flawed. If, however, our aim is to improve our schools, then a comprehensive exam is exactly what is required. The fact that students struggle to recall trivia taught in schools (as these comprehensive exams have indicated) should urge one to conclude that students are not learning the trivia, rather than to conclude that the tests should not be comprehensive.
   The truth is that these exams are evidence for deep, systematic "flaws" in our public schools. Why is it that students never forget how to ride a bicycle, but always forget trivia taught in schools? Riding a bicycle is a task learned by doing, rather than by reading about it in school. If the purpose of education is to teach students to become contributors to society and good stewards of our environment (thereby ensuring a sustainable society in the future), then classes must become smaller and more dynamic in order to provide opportunities for interacting with our society and environment.
   The TAKS test has served its purpose: It has identified a problem. Altering the test to manufacture higher scores will not address this problem. Instead of crafting a statistical delusion, our leaders should get to work on a real solution.
Eric Bennett
Teacher,
Sri Atmananda Memorial School

Oddly Comforted and Amused by 'News of the Weird'

RECEIVED Fri., June 29, 2007

Dear Editor,
   Every week, I read the Chronicle for various reasons, and I enjoy every section; but I always read "News of the Weird." I feel oddly comforted and amused that there are so many losers out there. Keep printing it. Thanks!
Eric Schiedler

Despite What McDonald Says, Black Insists That He Is a Moral Relativist (and He Thinks Everyone Else Is, Too, Only Some Folks Are Hypocrites)

RECEIVED Fri., June 29, 2007

Dear Editor,
   Louis Black’s column is rational, courageous, and wise ["Page Two," June 29]. Clearly, he exhibits profound maturity in his admonishments of conspiracy theorists and their acolytes. He is championing unvarnished truth. Good for him.
   There have always been those who have maintained that just because they believe their own conspiracy theories, they must be deemed true. Further, because of 40 years of slow-creep moral relativism, they demand to be defined as truth-tellers, regardless of those stubborn things called facts or evidence. And astoundingly, they usually achieve their goal.
   This is the formula for complete cultural breakdown. It allows for the false and dangerous equal perceptions of truth and untruth. And there is no greater example of how this terrible syndrome can negatively impact serious societal problems than the issue of illegal immigration.
   Moral equivalence falsely bestows a sense of entitlement of American rights of citizenship to those who breach our borders illegally. But this is where moral clarity steps in. For, to the contrary, these people have zero rights to any part of U.S. citizenship.
   While it is sad and distressing that their home countries’ cultures continue in the decrepit caste systems of feudalistic socialism and are unable to provide opportunities for societal and economic fulfillment, we cannot allow those pathologies to slowly subsume our nation. If we do, the free world is finished. To say the least, this is unacceptable.
   Moral relativism must be deposited in the file of unenlightened ideological theory. Indeed, if it is not balkanization, anarchy and tyranny await. Mr. Black’s display of moral courage is helpful in this crucial process. It is an example of how we can all play a part in perpetuating freedom and bringing down ignorant pernicious thinking. I encourage him to continue.
   
Vance McDonald

Black Is out of Touch, Pissing Reader Off

RECEIVED Fri., June 29, 2007

Dear Louis,
    It really angers me how you assess the character of the conspiracy revealers like a lawyer with no case [“Page Two,” June 29], not touching any of the facts (in how many columns on the subject?).
    Is the unexplained collapse of a third World Trade Center building "circumstantial evidence"? Please tell us! Yes, in talking about conspiracy theorists you "did a lot of generalizing about individuals" – a lot of generalizing about a lot of individuals. Check out this poll of New Yorkers (www.zogby.com/search/ReadNews.dbm?ID=855) showing that half of them believe the U.S. had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks and consciously failed to act. The numbers rise in the "under 30" category. And less than two in five believe that all the important questions were answered by the 9/11 Commission. And this was back in 2004, what could it be now after the Democrats gained the House and the criminals still run the show? Are all these people crazy? I am very insulted by your stereotyping, but I'm sure you have a pretty good assessment of me in your head and that I don't matter to you. But let me ask you, based on this poll, who is the nut? Who provides no evidence, and whose ideas are set in concrete? I think it's too important a subject to let go down the memory hole. I'm done reading your opinion pieces, Louis. You are out of touch. We need a progressive newspaper in this city.
Pissed off and offended,
Daniel Cioper

Poorly Researched

RECEIVED Thu., June 28, 2007

Dear Editor,
    I can't believe the cover story is so poorly researched [“Yardbird's Blues,” Food, June 29]. How can you visit a restaurant, Gene's, and not look at the menu or talk to anyone well enough to figure out that they do in fact have bone-in fried chicken. I ate it just the other day. Sometimes Gene's runs out of things, but it's right there on the menu in black and white. It's darn good, too. I'd be surprised if Gene smiled today after seeing this article.
Tommy McCutchon
   [Virginia B. Wood replies: Though I don't keep office hours at the Chronicle building, my colleagues there tell me Gene Toombs himself delivered chicken to the office last Friday. I guess he wanted us to know he does fry chicken, and the folks who ate it are so glad we stand corrected!]

Please Leave Iggy Pop Alone!

RECEIVED Thu., June 28, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Kelly Willis, please leave Iggy Pop alone! Your version of "Success" is an abject failure and lacks the sincerity and spirit of the song.
    Thanks and a huge sigh of relief from all the Iggy Pop fans of the world.
Lili Lytle

What Does It Mean to Be a 'Superpower'?

RECEIVED Thu., June 28, 2007

Dear Editor,
   Michael Ventura’s essay ["Letters @ 3AM," June 22] explores with well-reasoned points questions regarding the status of the U.S. as a "superpower." His piece merits thinking and inquiry.
   Ventura well demonstrates that the U.S. has lost its status as a superpower. I ask, what does it mean to be a superpower, and more importantly, what difference does it make that this shift is taking place? Why do we need such status?
   On the subject of military deficits, I raise a larger issue: Why should we spend half of our country’s budget on the military, and does this affect our status as a world power? Didn’t the USSR collapse, in part, because of disproportionately high spending on its military? Are we falling into a similar trap?
   If the idea of power includes leadership, would it not benefit our nation to shift our direction from a quest for might to one that includes more leadership, more fence mending, and stronger relationships with allies, leading to a goal of shared power? We’ve failed in this direction to the detriment of our status abroad.
   On a minor note, Ventura relies mainly on secondary sources to support his points. Googling is easy but not an excellent approach to research.
Stephen Cooper, PhD

Now He Can Rest Easily About the Two Biggest Criminal Conspiracies

RECEIVED Thu., June 28, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Thank you, Mr. Black! Not only can I find band listings, snarky restaurant reviews, and local color in the Chronicle, but I can finally rest easy about the biggest criminal conspiracies in history of the U.S. (JFK and 9/11) ["Page Two," June 22]. I feel at peace. I can believe everything my government tells me, now that Louis Black says it's OK.
Warmest regards,
Joseph Falco

Question About City's Recycling

RECEIVED Thu., June 28, 2007

Dear Editor,
   I have recently discovered that the city of Austin has begun a pilot program for recycling that basically means having a larger recycling bin (60-gallon cart) that is picked up every other week. While I believe this to be (finally!) a step forward for the recycling program, it baffles me as to why one of the "greenest" cities in America can only recycle No. 1 and No. 2 plastic? San Antonio recycles all plastic No. 1-7. (See San Antonio's Environmental Services Department website.) Why them and not us? There is a ton (literally) of plastic going in the landfill that could easily be recycled by the city of Austin. Why is it not happening?
John Rose
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