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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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Many of Those Ducks Are Driven by Firefighters

RECEIVED Wed., Feb. 6, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Austin City Council Member Mike Martinez might need a little history lesson on his little tiff with outgoing City Manager Toby Futrell and the Austin Duck Adventures request to use Lady Bird Lake [“Beside the Point,” News, Feb. 1].
    In 2003 I spoke to the council during citizens communication on the hardship lowering the lake annually poses to the company and to its part-time tour guides who have been predominately made up of firefighters. After speaking, Ms. Futrell spoke to me off the dais and said that some type of agreement could be reached and gave me the names of the appropriate city staff to make the Town Lake access happen. I passed this information on to Paul Mahler, the owner of the Ducks. By the time any agreement could be finalized, the lake was back up. And in the following years city staff changed, and nothing official was brought forth by Austin Duck Adventures till this January.
    This year it makes seven out of eight years the lake will be drawn down, and once again tour guide ambassadors of this city are without a chance to show the history and beauty of this city during those six weeks.
    And one final piece of history, Firefighter Union President Stephen Truesdell, the hand-picked successor to Martinez and political action committee chair of the firefighters during his campaign, was one of the first firefighters to drive the Ducks.
Don “Goathead” Williamson
Duck driver extraordinaire

Redevelopment Will Rid South Austin of Its Authentic 'Funkiness'

RECEIVED Wed., Feb. 6, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Re: “To Opt, or Not?” by Katherine Gregor [News, Feb. 1]: In Ms. Gregor’s article she makes statements such as “It’s [South Lamar] an ugly strip – visually chaotic, pocked with automotive joints, architecturally void” and further states that the buildings are “forgettable structures that relate poorly to the street.” She goes on to make the prediction that “Redevelopment could only improve the urban aesthetics here.” Does she mean new buildings such as the lovely condos behind Walgreens that are clad with two of the cheapest building materials available – orange cinder block and metal siding normally reserved for warehouses on out-of-the-way backstreets? Let’s not forget Austin’s claim to fame when trying to design the architectural tone of the future. One is our famous (or should I say infamous) “Keep Austin Weird” slogan and, secondly, our disputable claim to being the “live music capital of the world.” South Lamar, like South First and South Congress are three of the iconic Austin avenues that maintain a classical “weird” appearance in a town that is beginning to look like any other urban sprawl metropolis. As far as the music scene, two of the remaining iconic juke joints in Austin are located along this “ugly strip” – the Broken Spoke and Saxon Pub. Many of the other classic music venues of Austin, such as Liberty Lunch, have already fallen victim to so-called “redevelopment.” Of course we could tear them down and re-establish them in a “faux funky” new building such as was the fate of Maria’s Tacos. To me that place is just not the same as it was. The only thing that more new development will add to South Lamar will be traffic. What it will take away is that which cannot be replaced or reproduced – that authentic “funkiness” that makes South Austin what it is.
Sincerely,
Chris Schexnayder

Stephen, Readers Want to Know More of Your Story

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 5, 2008

Dear Stephen,
    I just had to drop you a line after reading your column this week [“After a Fashion,” Feb. 1]. Thank you for sharing what must be a very difficult time for you and your loved ones. Through your columns I feel I know you. You must sit down and write your life story. Your best columns have been when you shared stories from your childhood and the hardships you experienced. Written in your flamboyant spirit, they have been so very touching and heartfelt, written with such clarity and understanding. There has never been a hint of "woe is me." You are so much a part of the fabric of Austin! I think in the process of writing your story you will want to rethink your decision. You cannot let the cancer beat you! A doctor can only give you an educated opinion. No one knows your life path and destiny. Give it your best Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, or Bette Davis Hollywood ending.
All my best,
Ana Roland

Time to 'Live, Live, Live!'

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 5, 2008

Dear Editor,
    I've been driving around for the past few hours after picking up the latest copy of the Chronicle, trying to find words to best explain how I feel after reading your article in this week's edition [“After a Fashion,” Feb. 1].
    I guess the only thing I can really come up with is this: fabulous.
    Not that what you wrote about was in any way fabulous, but rather that is the attitude I pray that I have when this little "hitchhiker" I have (HIV positive since 2003) finally starts to take his toll on my body.
    Reading what you wrote has finally made me wake up a bit to the simple fact that I have been trying to float through life without really living it for the past few years. Why does it always take something monumental and cataclysmic to make us realize that the time we spend here on this tiny little speck is truly, truly fleeting? Why must we always look back and think about the things that we wished we had done? Why are there regrets? It's because we haven't been fabulous when it really mattered.
    You, Missy Moser, are Mame Dennis at the greatest banquet of all.
    Thank you for helping me to realize that it's time to stop hitting the snooze button and to get out there and "live, live, live!"
    Tito's and soda, two limes, no carcass!
John Pollard

Public Needs to Know Laws Better Than Police

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 5, 2008

Dear Editor,
    It is very frustrating not to be able to rectify situations that need to be resolved because of principle. One such experience was a parking ticket I received for parking within 30 feet of a stop sign. I was unaware of this rule, and I was very willing to pay the fee until I called the police station to find where the rule is stated. To my surprise, no one was aware of this parking violation. Their response was that they are not part of parking enforcement. My question is, if the police do not know the law, how am I expected to be aware of it? One officer thanked me for informing her of this rule because she parks “at least 10 feet from stop signs” and did not know the minimum was 30 feet. The only way to contest this ticket is to go to court, which would cost me more in time than to pay the $20 penalty. I am writing this to warn the general public that they need to know the laws better than local police and to please stay clear of stop signs.
Jessica Zidik

Vertical Mixed-Use Is Not a Solution

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 4, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Re: “Mixed Use, Mixed Emotions” [News, Feb. 1]: Vertical mixed-use is not a solution for Austin because it is car-centric, thus mired in obsolete design criteria. No matter how you spin it, or try to deny it, global oil production peaked in 2006. The oil left to us needs to be used in building post-oil infrastructure in Austin. By late 2008, the price of a barrel of oil is projected to be between $150 and $200. $100/barrel of oil helped send the U.S. economy into recession (even if no one said so but Michael Klare). Japan is 50% off oil. The U.S. would benefit by following suit as fast as we can, but we have two oil men in the White House while ExxonMobil and Chevron make record profits each quarter.
    Who is going to design for post oil? VMU isn't it. With VMU, we spend the last of the affordable oil miring ourselves in the oil age with car dependency. Who benefits from that?
Tommy Tolson

Celebrating Stephen and His Column

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 4, 2008

Dear Stephen,
    I'm sure you're receiving a ton of e-mail about your last column [“After a Fashion,” Feb. 1]. It is startling and unusual to have someone in your position, with a large and long-standing following/audience, writing so openly and honestly about facing their own disease and death. I will be celebrating you and your originality for a long, long time to come. You have made a profound and indelible impact on me and many others.
Mark Holzbach

Long May 'After A Fashion' Wave

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 4, 2008

Dear Mr. Moser,
    Your article this week is touching and poignant [“After a Fashion,” Feb. 1]. You have made a decision that most of us cannot even fathom having to think about. It is inspiring to see somebody take charge of their life and face the truth about illness.
    I hope that we can continue to read your weekly articles for years and years and years to come.
Sincerely,
Mechelle Lee

Admiring Stephen's Courage

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 4, 2008

Dear Editor,
    I just read your column [“After a Fashion,” Feb. 1] and can't stop crying. But in a good way! I honor and admire your courageous choices, and I am also praying for you and seeing you in total radiant, healthy, joyous light. I'm so happy you're having the chance to feel pretty again, I say rock on as much as you can and savor every moment. And if they come up with something that doesn't make you feel gross, check it out. If not – hey. With love and – Stephen, I admire your courage so much.
Your driving co-pilot,
Mandy Mercier
   p.s. Loved the Jackie Kennedy line.

Whew!

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 4, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Re: “After a Fashion” [Feb., 1]: Whew.
Love,
Jody Denberg

All Clearheaded Muslims Must Agree With Me

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 4, 2008

Dear Editor,
    A young Afghani journalism student named Sayed Parwez Kaambakhsh has recently been sentenced to death for asking, in writing, why Muslim men are allowed multiple spouses while Muslim women are not. His official crime, according to the Afghan court, is blasphemy against Islam based on sharia law. We can only hope that this verdict will be overturned.
    The dangerous reality is that this sentence comes from Afghanistan – a country supposedly liberated from Taliban tyranny. But the court’s ruling is identical to how the Taliban would rule. We and all rational Muslims must realize the moral quandary this pretense of justice represents as a leading indicator of how far Islam has yet to go before it can be generally recognized as a positive force. This is unfortunate but true. For coherent Muslims, this travesty is a slap in the face.
    Those favoring multiculturalism also have to search their souls. The example of this poor Afghani citizen is instructive of why premodern Islamist sharia is inconsistent with a free pluralistic society. While multiculturalism pleads that all cultural models are equally moral and worthy of respect, this mockery of justice is the latest example of how unhinged that position is.
    Moreover, this is another indication that we are in a world war with millions of radical Islamists striving to enslave the world in sharia totalitarianism and murder all who resist them. This requires that neo-leftists, e.g., Democrats, reform their unabridged acceptance of multiculturalism. And further, clearheaded Muslims must bravely stand up against those in their religion advocating and committing these types of crimes against humanity. The rest of us must never deny that we are currently at war and that the Islamist enemy must be defeated – totally.
Vance McDonald

Come On, Lighten Up, 'Rambo' Is Great Fun

RECEIVED Sat., Feb. 2, 2008

Dear Editor,
    I’ve come to do what the American government never did: defend John Rambo. Steve Davis’ review of Rambo [Film Listings, Feb. 1] reads like that of a man who went to McDonald’s, ordered the Big Mac, and then left in a huff when it wasn’t fillet mignon. Mr. Davis, does it really “boggle the mind,” or is it just so deliciously simple and authentic that it’s blowing your mind? The Rambo films – all of them – represent the absolute finest in American hero-worship, where most action movies pale in comparison. Doesn’t anyone want to go and yell for/laugh at the audacious hero anymore? Rambo is complicated, believe it or not, in that it invites you to giggle wildly at its outrageous impossibility, yet leave you feeling empowered with its one-man-vs.-the-world innocence. Despite Davis’ incredulity, those movies are powered by two pillars crucial to the identity of Americans: individuality, and the power of chimerical stories to embolden that individuality. Never mind that the history and ethos of the films is pretty right on (if, in retrospect, pretty basic). In the latest installment, Smith is put off by the villain’s characterization as a pedophile, but if he knew anything about the past and present of the region in which it was filmed, he’d know that the child sex-slave trade is one of its primary industries. I don’t think Sylvester Stallone employed that subplot strategically, but rather as a mea culpa for having filmed the movie in Thailand, a nation whose government is notorious for its encouragement of such hideous crimes against humanity.
    Now, as an enthusiast of films from A to B (God, give me more C!), I can appreciate how Rambo doesn’t appeal to the intellect in the ways a possibly haughty film reviewer might require (I saw There Will Be Blood last night, and think it was one of the best American films ever made). However, all the Rambo films express an iconic philosophy worth enjoying, without the immediate scholarly impulse toward logic. These movies are supposed to be fun! And they make a lot of people happy, like countless other pop culture chestnuts, which remain unfashionable in the hipster holodeck of irony.
    I’m an unlikely fan, as a woman, almost 30, and as politically progressive as they come (I like to think). But I can say, with no hesitation, when cherry-picking from the pantheon of modern superheroes, my choice is clear.
    When I grow up, I want to be just like John Rambo.
Sincerely (and with a good supply of body bags),
Teighlor Darr

We Have to Be Willing to Give Up Our Cars

RECEIVED Fri., Feb. 1, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Re: "Mixed Use, Mixed Emotions" [News, Feb. 1]. I love the passion of Austin residents getting involved in shaping the future of our city. I gather from the article that the vertical mixed-use process has been productive for that very reason. I have to wonder, however, what most perceive as the whole point of density. Considering one increasingly dense area, west Downtown, where groceries, employment, and entertainment are within walking or biking distance, to what extent are the high-rise dwellers giving up their cars? By 50%? 20%? At all? Where are the incentives for using alternative transportation, or the disincentives against driving? Unless somebody is willing to give up their car to some degree, density will simply mean dense traffic and dense pollution.
Robert Wilks

Clinton Is Not a Progressive

RECEIVED Fri., Feb. 1, 2008

Dear Chronicle,
    With both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama left to fight for the Democratic Party nomination, progressives should pay close attention. Though either senator would be preferable to the Republican nominee, a progressive, forward-leaning second Clinton White House is not likely, because the Clintons are not progressives.
    Bill Clinton ran a moderate White House, and Hillary Clinton has been a centrist senator. Both Clintons supported the Iraq war from the beginning, with former members of their administration like Richard Holbrooke, Sandy Berger, and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright offering public support for George W. Bush's war.
    Also, in Margaret Thatcher-like moments, Hillary threatened Iran over its nuclear enrichment program and also said that she would consider using nuclear weapons against Osama bin Laden. Mrs. Clinton has also received more campaign contributions from major defense contractors than any candidate of any party, according to the Huffington Post. It's clear that the Washington status quo will continue.
    Barack Obama has said that he supports the decriminalization of marijuana, though he opposes legalization. Hillary supports the current drug war and opposes any change in marijuana laws, including medicinal use. There's a good reason Sen. Kennedy and his family endorsed Obama.
    Instead of uniting independents and progressives, the Clintons have triangulated the Democratic Party base. Bill Clinton had no problem playing the race card in the South Carolina primary. Mr. Clinton, though extremely talented, has more baggage than Greyhound, and his presence in a new administration could be bad for a country that's trying to move into a post-racial, forward-looking era. Progressive policies from a new Clinton White House won't happen; that's becoming increasingly clear. Yes, Hillary would be the first woman president, but she is no progressive. Maybe it's time to turn the page on the Clinton-Bush era.
David A. Terrell

What in the Hell Is Wrong With the System?

RECEIVED Fri., Feb. 1, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Dude! How is it possible that one person in the market can drive the price of oil to $100 per barrel? Sounds like an oil company executive move to me. Seriously, if he wanted to be the first he could have just gone to any local Exxon station. Then one French bank can plunge the world's markets to the brink of collapse due to another rogue trader with a $7 billion debt. Looks like we should have stuck with freedom fries. I would be lookin' in Swiss bank accounts for that money. Maybe we should send the French a huge statue of Frylock. What in the hell is wrong with the system? Isn't there some sort of safety protocol in place to prevent this sort of catastrophe from happening? Maybe put a maximum of stock being unloaded or purchased on the market by an individual or corporation in a single day. It seems to me that the futures market was in place so these things wouldn't happen. Better yet get the Department Of Homeland Security to confirm backgrounds and transactions of any and all major brokers of U.S. markets, especially via the Internet. They like to be all up in our grills. Oh, never mind; I almost forgot the Hurricane Katrina fiasco.
Thank you,
Mike Homa

Unfortunately, There Is Nothing Simple About Racism

RECEIVED Fri., Feb. 1, 2008

Dear Editor,
    The Feb. 1 “Page Two,” Kings of Mean, was one of the most thoughtful pieces about race, racism, and civil rights that I've read in many years. Perhaps my comments should stop there, but a couple of quick thoughts: There is nothing simple about racism or efforts to eradicate it. However, your analysis of the feeble attempts to declare the end of a movement based on one Supreme Court decision was graceful in its simplicity. It is our good fortune that many good men and women continue walking down these mean streets. In my humble opinion, the dream is still alive because of them.
Max Woodfin
Former speechwriter for the late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan
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