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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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Check Out This Documentary

RECEIVED Wed., Aug. 1, 2007

Dear Editor,
    I'd just like to encourage Chronicle readers to check out the documentary Meeting Face to Face about a tour of Iraqi labor union leaders in the U.S. President Bush kept in place Saddam Hussein's law outlawing unions in Iraq. Despite this, these union leaders continue to organize and work in Iraq, presenting a view of a genuine nonviolent, nonsectarian, and anti-occupation movement. This is incredibly important, because right now Bush is pressuring the Iraqi parliament to privatize two-thirds of Iraqi oil to foreign corporations. It would be wonderful if the Chronicle were to devote an article to the matter, and anyone opposed to the occupation should study this issue and contact their legislators.
Donald Jackson

Turf War in Hyde Park

RECEIVED Wed., Aug. 1, 2007

Dear Kimberly Reeves,
    Just caught your piece [“Naked City,” News] in the July 27 issue about our [Vino Vino] off-site parking hearing before the Planning Commission on Tuesday, July 24, and the opposition to our proposal by Karen McGraw. It's good to see the Chronicle taking a peek, if even an ever-so-lightly colored one, at this little turf war going on right here in bucolic Hyde Park (you could have given us a ring, you know). As you correctly point out, parking in Hyde Park and along the run of Guadalupe in question (from 40th to 43rd) is extremely tight. That's why we, along with our landlord, Thad Avery, have looked into every possibility to lighten our parking load along this slowly revitalizing stretch of Guadalupe. Ms. McGraw has led a "spirited" opposition to our attempts to find a solution. In spite of overwhelming approval by the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association back in February and last Tuesday's unanimous approval by the Planning Commission, we still await the green light to do our thing. We've been at this process, grinding it out, for two years now, and this is a wee bit frustrating. As to the concern Ms. McGraw expressed for her parking lot, we have no intention of letting any of our customers use her lot. Ain't gonna happen. No matter what she may say. About half of our customers are Hyde Park residents who have walked from their nearby homes, and this is part of the charm of being here in the first place. However, we are happy that some of the lunch customers of the deli located in Ms. McGraw's building use our lot to park their cars.
    But that's a whole other story. In fact, there is so much more to the story. Anyway, thanks for all the coverage of all things Austin.
Sincerely,
Jerry Reid
Manager, etc.
Vino Vino
P.S. p.s. As for the mass-demolishing-of-homes-on-Avenue A-scenario Ms. McGraw fears, got a clue as to how much those houses go for these days? That would be one friggin' expensive parking lot! Oh, and the bus? Yep, we rented a bus for our supporters. With more than 30 folks turning up to show their support, it was the least we could do. We had room for Ms. McGraw and her two supporters. They should have come along.

Willie Nelson Concert Benefits Medical Marijuana

RECEIVED Wed., Aug. 1, 2007

Dear sirs,
    One of the men who have been heroes of mine for many years – and who I have the greatest respect for – is giving a benefit concert to help medical marijuana patients. His name is Willie Nelson. The proceeds will be divided equally between the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (a hospice for medical marijuana patients in Santa Cruz, Calif.), and the Marijuana Policy Project. It will be held on Aug. 10 at the Backyard here in Austin.
    As a marijuana patient, I lobbied our state Congress with Texans for Medical Marijuana the last two years in a row. I was the only patient from Austin that I know that gave written testimony to the state public health committee on how marijuana would allow me to stop taking some of the many dangerous drugs the doctors have me on (sleeping pills, pain killers, etc.). It is very sad that I can't get one of the safest drugs (marijuana) for my pain and sleeping disorders. We don't have to remain a backward state that cares so little about our citizens' health. If I'm still around next year, I will again lobby our state Congress to change these ancient, corrupt, and very mean medical marijuana laws.
Julian Ward
Marijuana activist

'Chronicle' Food Writers Should Follow My Agenda!

RECEIVED Wed., Aug. 1, 2007

Editor,
    The reply to my letter [“Postmarks,” July 20] concerning Virginia Wood's glowing review of Lap-Band surgery ["Enough Is Enough," Food, July 13] missed the point entirely.
    Wood is your chief food writer but almost never mentions the concept of nutrition. Isn't that why we eat food? Instead, she treats food as entertainment and judges it weekly almost entirely on taste, not on its merits in contributing to a healthy life.
    Food is meant to keep one alive and healthy; only by abusing food does one become obese. Even then, any restaurant critic should have the common sense to exercise regularly to offset the job's built-in dangers. Many food critics are quite fit indeed.
    That Wood is not is her own choice; she starts the article by saying she has an "aversion to exercise,” as if that lets her off the hook. If that isn't lazy, what is? She then wholeheartedly recommends surgery as a wise alternative to living and eating intelligently. No wonder health care costs so much; the modern desire to have medicine replace self-control makes it so.
    This was my issue with the article. Wood may be the sweetest woman on the planet, but I address her as the chief food critic for a popular, "progressive" publication. That role carries a responsibility to go beyond the mere sensuality of food and to explore how food fits into and creates our culture and bodies and thoughts.
    Wood does a good job of mentioning farmers' markets and local chefs but could do so much more, including discussing how the money we spend on food impacts our lives in so many ways.
    Massive, dangerous pollution of our water and air is caused by the factory farming used by agribusiness in the USA. Pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, and manure by the millions of tons fill our rivers every year. Our topsoil is disappearing along with our water tables. A small amount of research by vital food writers such as Vandana Shiva, John Jeavons, Frances Lappe, and many more will show that if we stopped supporting mega-agri-biz, we could make a huge difference in our environment, health, and thinking.
    That the Chronicle would rather extol yet another barbecue joint using chemical-laden meat than discuss the health, environmental, and political consequences of our food-dollar choices is consistent with Wood's self-imposed health problems.
    A food writer should be healthy by definition.
Kyle Swanson

Rabies Rules Should Offer Exemptions

RECEIVED Tue., July 31, 2007

Dear Editor,
    I urge the Texas Department of State Health Services to grant an exemption for companion animals who are ill, old, or have no risk of exposure when rabies rules are reviewed on Monday, Aug. 6.
    Veterinarians who are aware of the risks of adverse reactions to vaccinations advise against administering them to a dog or cat who is stressed, under a general anesthetic, recovering from surgery, has a chronic illness, has allergies, is on treatment for an infection, or has a history of immune system disorder, etc.
    A multicomponent live virus vaccine is a robust challenge to the immune system, and when given on top of other existing factors, it can prove too much for the animal to cope with.
    Yet as the rabies law stands, there is no allowance for dogs and cats that are under the care of a licensed veterinarian for acute or chronic illness or who are at the end of their lives.
    We do not believe that a Texas resident should have to choose between harming a beloved companion animal with unnecessary booster shots or obeying the law.
    I strongly urge the Department of State Health Services to grant a standardized vaccination exemption for animals that are being treated by a licensed veterinarian for acute or chronic illnesses or that have adverse reactions from the rabies vaccine.
    Furthermore, I strongly believe this exemption should be universally valid in every Texas community when a dog or cat is licensed.
    This waiver would not exempt a pet guardian from licensing an animal according to local ordinances. Instead it would provide responsible Texas citizens with a reasonable way to obey the law as well as protect the health of a beloved pet.
    Anyone who loves animals will support this rule change. Sign our petition at www.petitiononline.com/tdsh2007/petition.html.
Pamela Picard

Knee-Jerk Environmental Activism

RECEIVED Tue., July 31, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Recently a consortium of environmental groups and activists launched a campaign against power plants in Texas. Sadly it resulted in the Austin area getting a dirty old coal plant, not too good for Central Texas. Now the same players are launching an anti-nuke campaign to attempt to stop the proliferation of nuclear plants in Texas, which, in reality, they have no one but themselves to blame for. And they performed their predictable anti-nukes street theatre in front of the Alamo Drafthouse at the premiere of The Simpsons Movie. How juvenile. Until the environmental movement gets meaningful political power, its street-theatre antics and anti-everything stance will never result in any meaningful wins for the environment and public health. Until the environmental movement elects good leaders into statewide and national positions, it will continue to flounder and frankly embarrass itself with such ridiculous street-theatre productions. A movement loses credibility when it is against everything. Just look at what happened to Save Our Springs. They were against every big-box project but never a peep against Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck) or the numerous expansions at the Motorola (now Freescale) plant in Oak Hill. Environmental groups need to choose their actions and issues wisely or they will continue to be irrelevant to the general public and thus have no political clout. The dismal and overwhelming failure of SOS' referendums illustrates that point so strongly. The mutual admiration society among environmental groups is further proof of their delusional state. They simply do not get it that they have no real power (no pun intended).
Chrystia Wynnyk

What About a Cheat-Free Poll?

RECEIVED Mon., July 30, 2007

Dear Editor,
    I like the idea of your "Best of Austin” Readers Poll. In theory, it gives deserving businesses recognition and points readers in the direction of some great services. Unfortunately, I do not trust the results. My partner worked at one of the businesses that has won a "Best of" award for several years. A flier posted on the employee bulletin board encourages its many employees to call repeatedly to vote for their business, and the manager spends several hours casting votes. Let me know when you devise a cheat-free poll.
Cayge Clements
   [Special Issues Editor Kate Messer responds: The saddest part of the dark heart of ballot-stuffing is that in many cases even deserving and potentially winning folks partake in this nefarious practice – or as is often the case, someone does it on their behalf. Sometimes we go ahead and give the award; sometimes we pull them out of the running. Despite our suspicions and techniques, there is no way to absolutely confirm which votes within their pile are legitimate and which are questionable. We do our best to sift out the most offensively egregious. I'm sorry you have lost faith. The presidential election must drive you absolutely mad.]

U.S. Arms Merchant to the Middle East

RECEIVED Mon., July 30, 2007

Dear Editor,
    The Republican administration, ever in bed with war-profiteering "defense" contractors, now plans a $20-billion weapons sale to selected Middle Eastern countries. Also proposed is the continued military handout at U.S. taxpayers expense of up to $3 billion per year to Israel, which has been armed to the teeth for decades, including their estimated 300-plus nukes. It's such a relief to know that the geniuses in Washington and their corporate masters are earning respect and affection for America and making the world a safer place for us all.
John Callaghan

It's Up to Us

RECEIVED Sun., July 29, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Wal-Mart at Northcross is not a done deal. It will, however, require a commitment from Austinites for the long road ahead. We find ourselves at a time in our city’s history when We the People must act as facilitators. We should voice our concerns when we don't like what is happening to our city. We need to protest to protect our city’s treasured uniqueness. Austin has provided us with a wonderful livability that is now being threatened. Current city leaders are not adequately representing Austin, so now it’s up to us. Austin needs our support. Wal-Mart at Northcross is one of many irresponsible developments encroaching on our sustenance. The McMansion invasions, the weed-sprouting condo high-rises, and the constant threat to Town Lake are all representations of outsiders looking to capitalize on Austin’s charm. And they are doing so by bending city codes and laws, not listening to local citizen input on projects that will directly affect those citizens, and by moving forward on projects without accommodating citizen concerns. Building despicable monstrosities that do not coincide with our local landscape and scheme. The allure of Austin is understandable, but “selling out” our town by city officials is intolerable. Good news to come of all this is our joining together as a community to find resolution. Wal-Mart at Northcross and all of the other dismantling projects facing Austin are cause for worry. How we conduct ourselves now will dictate our future dealings with greedy developers. If you are appalled by these recent Austin controversies, please get involved today. Find out what you can do by visiting the following websites: www.rg4n.org, www.austinfullcircle.org, www.liveablecity.org, and www.savetownlake.org. It’s never too late. Take Austin back.
Love and peace,
Colette Michalec

End the War

RECEIVED Sun., July 29, 2007

Dear Editor,
    I’ve written about a hundred letters because I feel that there has been, at best, almost no responsible coverage of this poorly conceived and even more poorly executed war in Iraq. I am confused about the Congress and Senate. They have an opportunity to, at the very least, change the direction of the war or even end this war outright. We have entered a dangerous time where partisanship has become more important than the needs of the nation. We have been gripped in an administration in which fear and not hope has driven the administration's every move. The violation of the Fourth Amendment shows the president's fear of the American people, not the phantom terrorists. In January we were told to wait until July, and now in July we are told to wait until September. President Bush pulls this tired rabbit out of his hat time and time again. We now have reporting without investigation because every time President Bush trots out this very tired excuse, the press receives it as manna sent from God. Wars are fought with results, not faith. The surge has not been successful or even useful but has been hurtful to our cause. Every time we extend this war with bogus reasoning, we hurt our cause. We overturned a tyrant who systemically terrorized his nation, and we have become the tyrant who terrorizes haphazardly. Think about this, we are trying to win friends by blowing up bombs in neighborhoods. Explain to me again how this builds democracy in the Middle East? We, the United States of America, need to end this war before October or at least come up with a plan that makes sense.
Ron Ruiz

Legislating Against Boy Scouts

RECEIVED Fri., July 27, 2007

Dear Editor,
    I am no fringe-element weirdo who collects snakes but a tax-paying citizen who installs hurricane shutters to provide safety for coastal Texas residents who happens to enjoy the outdoors and all creatures in it. I have been a Scout, scoutmaster, and merit-badge counselor for many, many years. Now it looks like this: Johnny and Sammy are huddled on the right-of-way during a hike, scoutmaster and group walk up, and scoutmaster says, “Whatcha got there?” Sammy says, “I think it's a box turtle!” All the boys crowd in shouting, “Lemme see!” Now I have to tell them, "Don't touch it, boys; that's illegal now [“Reptile Hunters Rattled Over Ban on 'Texas Tradition',” News, July 27]." They say, “But Mr. Hughes, you teach the reptile and amphibian merit badge at summer and winter camp. How can it be illegal?” What am I to say to these boys now? A very famous and respected herpetologist wrote the merit-badge pamphlet! He was a Boy Scout! These boys lose a passion, a mentor, a skill, a possible vocation path, and what should be a right: to hunt (nonlethally) these animals under my purchased hunting license and to learn about these creatures! Sure, not a big thing to some, but this takes away from the boys and takes away part of who I am. This cannot stand; show me the data!
Todd Hughes
Corpus Christi

Clearly Delusional

RECEIVED Thu., July 26, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Michael King is delusional when he portrays the U.S. defeat of Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi dictatorship as unnecessary and effectively criminal [“Point Austin,” News, July 27]. The truth is that Hussein was striving to establish an ethnic Muslim empire in the Middle East with him as dictator. Additionally, he sponsored Islamists and their mass suicide, murder, and torture operations. He played a collaborative role in their mission of worldwide jihadist conquest. In the wake of the 9/11 war crime, Hussein’s Islamist allied tyranny had to be defeated.
    Saddam Hussein’s plan to capture and manipulate Middle Eastern oil reserves was viable. Had he succeeded, he would have murdered and extorted his way to becoming the next Stalin or Hitler. When useful, he easily partnered with Islamists to forward his goal. They became allies. Moreover, mass Iraqi murders after Hussein’s fall rest almost exclusively with his ex-Islamist cohorts – not American or Iraqi forces. The deaths caused by the U.S. military campaign in Iraq are the responsibility of Saddam Hussein – from the beginning in the early 1990s to this day.
    And what happens if U.S. forces leave too soon? It is clear that Iranian Shiites and al Qaeda Sunnis would fill the power vacuum. To secure control, they would crush all resistance using genocide as their method. Indeed, as millions were murdered when American leftists abandoned Vietnam to communist partisans, history would repeat itself in Iraq if allowed.
    Undeniably worse, Iraq would become the staging area for worldwide jihad. Talk about creating more terrorists. Mr. King’s credulity is as a child. This is the reason why neo-leftists and their Democratic operatives can never control national security. Otherwise, the Islamist barbarians will not just be at the gate. They will be through it.
Vance McDonald

Suggestion for Alternative Transportation

RECEIVED Thu., July 26, 2007

Dear Editor,
    I think everybody has it wrong on public transport. Buses take forever because there's a stop on every corner. Trains take forever because they don't exist yet. However, every day I see a great form of public transportation in action. These cool vans with bright colors and flashing lights are constantly taking people from the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless to the hospital. They move through Downtown unobstructed and without stops. I don't know what they're called, but if we could expand their services outside this "hospital corridor," I'm sure it wouldn't cost the taxpayers a whole bunch of money.
John Nordstrom

Farewell to Austin

RECEIVED Thu., July 26, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Goodbye, our fair city. We'll miss your lively boroughs, districts, and neighborhoods where diverse music, art, food, and people blossom to make Austin what it is and has been throughout the years we've known it. We'll miss your festivals, your quality radio, and cable TV programming, the beautiful views of your Capitol and surrounding Hill Country.
    I could mention the things we won't miss, but instead we're pushing those aside to be forgotten and only remembering the things we love about Austin.
    My wife and I met here. We helped convince my family to move here. I wrote, created art, and played in bands here. We rode motorcycles here. We learned how to barbecue here. We volunteered here. We made many friends here.
    With a heavy heart and hat in hand, my wife and I say "until we meet again" to the place we've called home for the past 17 years. We love the city and people of Austin. We also love change, and change we have, to a different city, Tucson, Ariz. We leave family and friends in Austin and wish everyone and our beloved former city the best.
    Good luck, may the force be with you, happy trails, and for your sake, keep Austin weird!
Love and laughs,
Brett and Kelli Jewell Alexander

Roadway Ban for Reptiles Is Ridiculous

RECEIVED Thu., July 26, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Regarding the article: “Reptile Hunters Rattled Over Ban on 'Texas Tradition'” [News, July 27]: What the legislation has not taken into consideration is that there has never been a recorded traffic incident involving animal collection. Reptile collectors almost exclusively frequent roadways with very little human presence. Collectors are often literally miles away from the nearest moving vehicle, as highly traveled roadways lead to so much wildlife death that it becomes pointless.
    As far as protecting wildlife, the roadway ban is a ridiculous point. Far more animals are killed on public thoroughfares than could possibly be saved or caught by collectors. I'm not really sure what the real reason was for creating this ban, but the reasons listed are either incompletely reasoned or just plain false.
Jack Jeansonne

School Fear Disguised as School Pride

RECEIVED Thu., July 26, 2007

Dear Editor,
    This article gets right to the point [“Thumbs Up to 'Horns Down,'” the Score sports blog, Oct. 23, 2006]. If you are negatively obsessed with an opponent, you actually fear that opponent.
    As a proud Oklahoma State University graduate and alumni member, I am oftentimes astounded by my Oklahoma University brethren. In the central Oklahoma region, the majority of vehicles that you find sporting an OU sticker also display the inverted University of Texas "Horns Down" emblem.
    I have even experienced OU fans flashing me the horns down hand symbol because I fly the OSU flag from my flag pole! Wrong orange, pal.
    This leads me to an inescapable contention that I have long suspected. Most OU fans are not students, faculty, graduates, or even alumni. They are merely yokels who are more than willing to jump upon the schooner when OU is winning. What was that thunderous noise after the 2005 season opening loss to TCU (OU 10, TCU 17)? That was the sound of these same yokels jumping off the schooner.
    I long for the day when fans will display positive T-shirts and bumper stickers about their own university without openly boasting their ignorance by exhibiting clothing and emblems that denigrate the universities of their opponents.
    UT faithful can take heart in knowing that OU fans fear UT so much. But wait, I have also seen an increase in demeaning window stickers targeting OSU, so that means … hey, hey, hey.
Ray Chambers
Oklahoma City, Okla.
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