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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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Mean-Spirited Fairy Tales

RECEIVED Wed., Feb. 20, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Once upon a time, Hillary Rodham Clinton's base was composed of women (especially older women), working-class individuals, Latinos, noncollege-educated, and Catholics and was deemed by the media to be "solid." Well, the walls of Jericho have started to tumble for H.R.C. The collapse of her base began with the Potomac primaries and continued in Wisconsin, where Obama recently earned a resounding mandate. Obama either exceeded Clinton or has pulled almost even with her, demolishing her once “impregnable” margin. With her supposed “firewalls” of Texas and Ohio on the horizon, either her base seems to be collapsing, or “this whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen.”
Ross Ackerman
Minneapolis, Minn.

Plans to Vote for John Edwards

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 19, 2008

Dear Democratic voters,
    As a staff member on the recently suspended John Edwards campaign, I am glad Edwards remains on the Texas ballot, because so far neither Sens. Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama has really reached out to us. Beyond the pro forma statements about poverty the day after Edwards bowed out, I haven't seen much leadership from either one on that, on global warming and safe energy, on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and telecom immunity, or on many other key issues.
    I plan to vote for John Edwards on March 4, just like a half-million other voters did on Super Tuesday, to help strengthen his hand in forging a progressive consensus at the heart of the Democratic Party. There will be plenty of time to coalesce around the eventual nominee later.
Peace y'all,
John McNally
Dallas

Sorry That We Just Don't Get It

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 19, 2008

Letter to The Austin Chronicle editor,
    I'm dismayed that you endorsed a Craddick Democrat [Dawnna Dukes] who, by your own words, "too often seems to take her supporters, if not her constituents, for granted" and "struck a devil's bargain" to support Republican Speaker Tom Craddick ["'Chronicle' Endorsements," News, Feb. 15].
    The Craddick Democrats, including Ms. Dukes, who you credit with being "tactical," actually put in place the primary roadblock – Republican Speaker Tom Craddick – to fully funding the Children's Health Insurance Program. They kept in power the very man who led the charge to cut more than 200,000 kids from CHIP in 2003.
    The truth is that Republican members went to Craddick and told him they had to put more kids back on the CHIP because they were getting killed back in their districts. The vote to fully fund CHIP was the precise moment when Democratic members should have been fighting tooth and nail to provide every child with health care, not settling for a deal Republicans had to pass to save their own hides from an angry electorate. It was not Craddick Democrats who secured the proverbial half-loaf (more like a quarter-loaf) for CHIP; it was scared Republicans.
    More than 150,000 Texas kids who had health insurance in September 2003 still do not have it today. And your publication wants to credit a Craddick D with a "tactical" vote to put more kids back on CHIP when she voted against the very amendment that would have provided full funding?
    Dawnna's indefensible votes are not limited to voting against fully funding CHIP. Time and time again, I offered pro-environment amendments on the House floor – like the amendment to clean up dirty school buses for our kids – that Dawnna voted against because she votes with Craddick's lobby interests (who are funding her campaign) rather than voting for the best interests of her constituents (Dawnna has more asthmatic kids in her district than any other district in Travis County).
    This election is real simple. I'm sorry you don't get it. This election is about changing speakers. Ms. Dukes, as one of Craddick's core supporters, stands in the way of that change. Brian Thompson represents real change for the people of District 46.
Lon Burnam
State representative District 90
Fort Worth

High Five!

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 19, 2008

Dear Editor,
    After a stultifying day at work, after spending 45 minutes in line at the post office, after being told it was going to take an hour to get my prescription filled, I backed into another car while trying to get out of the HEB parking lot, the one that's always packed, at Oltorf and South Congress. Thinking, "Damn, what a perfect end to the day." (It was my second parking lot fender bender in a month, although I was not at fault for that one.) The guy and I looked at the (minor) damage and he admitted that there was some previous damage. "Tell you what," he said. "Let's just forget about it. I like your Obama bumper sticker." High fives and a good end to the day. I hope he sees this public thank you; in our litigious world, such kindness is rare.
Martha Grenon

Liveable City Does Not Play Politics

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 19, 2008

Dear Editor,
    In regard to last week's article (“Meeker vs. Leffingwell,” News, Feb. 15), Liveable City is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that does not participate in candidate elections. While the board has a deep interest in a number of community issues, including affordable housing, the state of public education, and city financial policy, your characterization of "groups like Liveable City" encouraging candidates to run is incorrect. While individual board members may support candidates of their choosing, this does not reflect board policy. Any time a board member is quoted as speaking on a candidate for public office, he or she is speaking only as an individual not as a representative of Liveable City and should not be identified as such. Thanks for the ongoing in-depth coverage of the key issues facing our changing city.
Mark Yznaga
Board chair
Liveable City

How 'Conservative' Are Conservatives?

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 19, 2008

Dear Editor,
    The dictionary defines conservative as, “favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change.” It defines tradition as, “the passing down of elements of a culture from generation to generation.” By those definitions, how have people who identify themselves as conservatives performed over the past 10-plus years? What elements of culture have these self-identified conservatives attempted to pass down to the next generation? Have the precepts of America’s beloved Constitution been at the forefront, or has “faith” been the guiding principle? It appears to have been the latter, but faith in what or whom? Perhaps the answer is faith in God, the ultimate authority and those who speak in “his” name. It seems that those calling themselves conservatives have replaced our Constitution with their idea of faith as their guiding principle. Is that really a good idea, a conservative idea, or is it a new way of thinking of governing ourselves? Not traditional and certainly not constitutional, because the Constitution calls for the freedom to practice religion, not the requirement to practice it at the exclusion of all other views. Have those politicians who call themselves conservatives actually betrayed “traditional American values” by attempting to replace them with a “faith-based,” authoritarian form of governance not dissimilar to Muslim fundamentalism and other “isms” that have historically ended citizens’ freedom in exchange for the promise of “security”?
John Callaghan

If I Were From Houston, I'd Be Insulted

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 19, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Regarding the dual endorsement in Congressional District 10 between Dan Grant and Larry Joe Doherty [“'Chronicle' Endorsements,” News, Feb. 15]: The Chronicle editorial board missed it. It’s hard to believe that it didn’t choose to exclusively endorse Dan Grant. Dan is a young, fresh face on the political scene bringing with him a world of actual “boots on the ground” experience, straight from running elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, and with a foreign service degree from Georgetown University. Dan, an Austin native, is energetic, poised, and ready to serve all his constituents, even those who live in Houston and the smaller in-between towns that the Chronicle claims “take a dim view of Austin’s weird ways.” If I were from Houston, I’d be insulted.
Peggy Little

Supports Larry Joe Doherty

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 19, 2008

Dear Editor,
    The true test of a progressive, alternative paper is not solely found in its quirky "A Shot in the Dark" submissions or its off-the-beaten-path stories about local musicians and artists. As a lifelong Austinite (all 23 years), my hometown paper made my heart swell last week with their dual endorsement of Larry Joe Doherty and Dan Grant for Congressional District 10 [“'Chronicle' Endorsements,” News, Feb. 15].
    The Chronicle didn't just follow the braying endorsement-club sheep and instead chose to point out that Democrats need to listen to their own hearts and minds when it comes to whom they'll be casting their vote for in the primary to take on Republican Michael McCaul in November.
    I will be supporting Larry Joe Doherty, not because Dan Grant isn't a good candidate but because Doherty is the best one. Doherty has proven himself over the last 37 years to be a voice (one that by definition should be loud and opinionated) for victims of crooked lawyers and cares passionately about the environment on a personal level – a quality that is seriously lacking in most politicians' platforms. In Congress, he will continue to fight for his constituents' needs with the same fervor and tenacity that he has exhibited throughout his life and campaign. While I'm sure others my age may find his fresh-faced, Gen-X opponent appealing, Dan Grant simply does not have the experience and backing to stand up to McCaul in the general election.
    If overturning a Bush-rubber-stamp Republican and replacing him with a genuine, tough-as-nails Democrat is what the constituency of Congressional District 10 is looking for, then Larry Joe Doherty is the clear choice.
Rachel Farris

Conflict Over Conflict-of-Interest Provision

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 18, 2008

Dear Editor,
    City Manager Toby Futrell’s departure [“Beside the Point,” News, Feb. 15] will hopefully end “city staff’s making of policy rather than implementing it,” as Council Member Mike Martinez recently described. But, making policy hasn’t ended.
    Recently the city staff decided to ignore the crucial Conflict of Interest provision in Austin’s Neighborhood Plan Amendment Process. No one asked them to ignore this law. Neighborhood complaints about the lack of enforcement were rampant yet unanswered. Last year, neighborhood-planning teams were first told of city staff's working committee on their neighborhood plans but were never invited. Rather than implementing City Council policy, city staff decided to make its own new policy.
    After ignoring the policy, out of nowhere, city staff decided to remove the Conflict of Interest provision from the plan-amendment policy. Neighborhood-planning teams, most affected by that unilateral decision, were left out of the discussion and are still not included. The important Conflict of Interest provision is the neighborhood-planning team’s last line of protection against moneyed interests. City staff is once again making policy rather than implementing it.
    The questioned Conflict of Interest provision in the Neighborhood Plan Amendment Process is taken directly from Robert’s Rules of Order. Standard parliamentary procedure says if a person has a moneyed interest in a project, that member cannot vote on that project. For some reason, city staff says the Conflict of Interest provision is unenforceable. With Robert’s Rules, enforcement is a simple parliamentary procedure.
    A special thanks to the Planning Commission for not voting to remove the Conflict of Interest provision of the Neighborhood Plan Amendment Process and for inviting neighborhood planning teams into their subcommittee discussions. The Planning Commission understands that without this provision there is nothing to keep moneyed interests from dominating the neighborhood-planning team.
    Neighbors are looking forward to working with new City Manager Marc Ott. Hopefully he will change city staff from the top to the bottom. Council Member Mike Martinez's statement that former City Manager Toby Futrell “started making policy rather than simply implementing it,” goes both up and down the chain of command.
    Removing the Conflict of Interest provision is the last sediment of Futrell’s made-up, policy-making city staff. The Conflict of Interest provision should not be removed. I urge City Manager Ott to make a clean sweep of city staff. The neighborhoods are ready and waiting for our new city.
Sincerely,
David Haun

Obama Should Not Be Reluctant to Defend His Proposal

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 18, 2008

Dear Editor,
    In his article "Political Notes of a Relic" [“Letters @ 3AM, “Feb. 15], Michael Ventura suggests that Barack Obama has been reluctant to participate in debates because (among other reasons) he would not be able to defend his proposed health-care plan. More specifically, Mr. Ventura refers to a New York Times commentary by Paul Krugman that "cites a recent MIT study … that 'finds that a plan without mandates, broadly resembling the Obama plan, would cover 23 million of [the 45 million] currently uninsured, at a taxpayer cost of $102 billion a year. An otherwise identical plan with mandates" (like Hillary Clinton's) "would cover 45 million of the uninsured … at a taxpayer cost of $124 billion.'" Mr. Ventura (and Hillary Clinton in her current TV ad) focus on the fact that the Obama plan would thus appear to cover only about one-half of the uninsured at nearly 80% of the cost.
    Obama has apparently concluded that a plan that allows coverage to all currently uninsured who wish to avail themselves of it is better than a plan with a mandate (and its required enforcement mechanism) that may be unacceptable to the Congress (and hence not cover any). While a bolder proposal (such as the Clinton plan) may also be politically feasible (though possibly at the expense of other policy initiatives), surely Obama need not be reluctant to defend his proposal.
Lowell Dworin

Coverage of Clinton Hindered by Sexism

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 18, 2008

Dear Editor,
    As an old Austinite from the Sixties to 1997, I urge readers to look at the amount of, kind of, and lack of coverage for the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. One media mogul explained, "Sexism is less obnoxious than racism." Say what? We should not tolerate racism nor sexism in any media coverage! Or anywhere! I like both Obama and Clinton. I voted for Hillary, in part because she has been so vilified and attacked by the male-dominated and right-wing owned media. I don't think she has been given fair coverage of her policies and experience. Arkansas, my home, voted for Hillary. I hope Texans will look at her long record and accomplishments without sexist prejudice and give her a chance.
Trella Laughlin
Eureka Springs, Ark.

Get Over Petty Concerns!

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 18, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Re: Andrea Grimes' article [“Veteran Lays Siege to Library, West Lake … and Laura Bush,” News, Feb. 15] on Alan Roddy and the new Westbank Community Library to be named after Laura Bush.
    The decision to name the new library after Laura Bush was made by people who have worked hard and continue to work hard and endlessly to create the new branch on Bee Caves Road. The new library, like the current one on Westbank and Pinnacle, will be open to the public; you can arrive and park on a bicycle or in a pickup or Lexus. The new library will be there for you, your friends, and children. Being a veteran and a Democrat, I too was somewhat taken aback by the proposed name; however, the decision to name the new branch was made in honor of a librarian who has made an impact on the library community. The library is staffed with full-time paid employees, as well as volunteers. The beneficiaries of their work are not only the local residents and their children but also anyone, no matter where they live. The money for the new library has not been easy to raise; it has consumed many hours of volunteers' time and effort. Alan Roddy has done nothing to help with the new branch project or the current library. The site of the current library was either going to be a library or lighted tennis court; you tell me what has benefited the public more. So in all due respect for the first lady and coming from a yellow dog and military veteran, get over it, Alan Roddy; the name of the new branch is the Laura Bush Community Library.
Richard L. Gilliam

Doesn't Like 'Chronicle' Endorsement or Reasoning Behind It

RECEIVED Sat., Feb. 16, 2008

Dear Editor,
    As someone who reads the Chronicle for a progressive take on current events, I was disappointed in your endorsement of Rick Noriega over Ray McMurrey for the U.S. Senate [“'Chronicle' Endorsements,” News, Feb. 15]. McMurrey is a true progressive who supports publicly financed elections, single-payer national health care, and a 15-month timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. Noriega has only spoken in the vaguest generalities about clean elections and health care and twice refused at a debate last week to commit to a timetable for bringing home the troops. Further, Rep. Noriega voted last year to expand the death penalty in Texas, a position that no progressive should support.
    By far the most frustrating justification for the Chronicle’s endorsement of Noriega is the claim that he is the only candidate with any chance to beat John Cornyn, and as good Democrats, we should be more concerned with picking up a Senate seat than with promoting progressive values. This sort of shortsighted, single-election-cycle thinking is a big reason why this country and this state have moved so far to the right in recent years. If we’re ever going to create a progressive majority in Texas, we need to use the free publicity that elections generate to let people know where we stand and to create excitement about our policies in the public at large. John Edwards gave us a powerful example of this strategy in action when he gave legitimacy to universal health care. But don’t tell that to Rick Noriega, who did not even have a platform page on his website until a few days before last week’s debate. In contrast, Ray McMurrey has advocated for a truly progressive platform from day one. It’s a shame that the only candidate who has a compelling progressive vision for this country is not worthy of the Chronicle’s endorsement.
Jeff Versteeg

Zero Waste = No New Landfills

RECEIVED Sat., Feb. 16, 2008

Dear Editor,
    On Tuesday I attended a presentation held by zero-waste consultants hired by the city of Austin. On Thursday, city management made recommendations for a new landfill on city-owned property in eastern Travis County. It's Friday morning, and I'm confused but not surprised. This makes perfect sense in a town where $250,000 condos pass for affordable housing.
    Zero waste is hard. It requires money and sometimes unpopular legislation. Landfills are easy, particularly ones that are out of the sight of city voters and in an area that can't afford to foot the bill for a legal fight or public-relations campaign. Green isn't a Sunday morning bike ride and a canvas grocery sack. It requires political courage, not self-congratulating PowerPoint presentations and empty slogans. We can't pretend to care about the globe when we don't even care what happens 10 miles down the road.
    Dogs are on patios. Las Manitas survived. Now it's time for the City Council to make some real progress.
Sarah Jandle

Doesn't Want to Buy Ticket Too Far in Advance

RECEIVED Sat., Feb. 16, 2008

Dear Editor,
    After coming across the ad in the Chronicle stating that the Austin City Limits Music Festival tickets would go on sale Groundhog Day, I happily reported to the website to check out the lineup. To my dismay, no lineup was to be found.
    ACL is one of my favorite festivals that I more than enjoy when I can afford it. Last year I bought my ticket the day they went on sale, which was a week after the Statesman had a front-page article about the headlining bands. I was ecstatic about last year’s lineup. A few months after purchasing my ticket I find out Amy Winehouse would not be attending and then, as we all know, the White Stripes wimped out the Tuesday before their Friday show. I only use the word wimped because I do not find “anxiety” a legitimate reason to not play on such short notice, after coming out with their first album in 1999 and being on who knows how many tours since then. They should know better than that.
    Here I am today contemplating whether to buy a ticket or not, with no word from the White Stripes since September. I am assuming they will pick a great lineup due to upset fans last year; however, now I’m faced with the fear of one of those bands pulling out and the heartbreak that goes with that.
Hannah Swaab

Ventura Needs to Expand His Focus so He Can Realize How Corrupt the Democratic Party Is

RECEIVED Fri., Feb. 15, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Michael Ventura seems to have two modes: political mode and cultural mode. The former consists almost entirely of quoting newspaper articles to buttress his bland political arguments, which are by turns obvious (the U.S. government is corrupt and inept!), specious (America is going to hell!), catastrophist (ditto), and nationalist (ditto). The cultural columns usually take place at a diner somewhere south of Amarillo; depict authentic, colorfully named characters; and arrive at the shocking conclusion that, dad-gum, things have changed over these last few decades – for the worse, of course.
    Last week's column [“Letters @ 3AM,” Feb. 15] managed to combine the modes: "political" (quoting The New York Times to present conventional wisdom as revelatory insight) and "cultural" (nostalgia for the days when people had "a hunger for the truth"). The effect is one of a lecturing old codger. What bothers Ventura about Barack Obama is that he doesn't offer a health-care plan that would cover everyone, as opposed to Hillary Clinton's superior universal-coverage plan. Unfortunately, Ventura's hunger for the truth is not so insatiable as to drive him to reveal the reality behind Clinton's plan. Yes, Clinton's plan mandates that all Americans have health care. But mandating coverage is not the same as paying for it, and Clinton doesn't say how the financially strapped uninsured are going to afford the not-insignificant premiums her plan will require. Like Clinton, Ventura sees mandates as a silver bullet for the U.S. health-care system. But the problem with the system isn't that people don't have insurance – it's that it is completely market- and profit-driven. Most Americans recognize this, which is why they favor a not-for-profit single-payer system, the kind that politicians and alt-weekly columnists pretend doesn't exist.
    Maybe if Ventura were less interested in opening generation gaps and embracing his inner old fart, he'd write a more relevant column, one about Obama's and Clinton's similarities, specifically their unrivaled ability to fulfill the Democratic Party's unique structural mission: acting as the working class' sole political representative, frustrating the working class' needs and desires, and ensuring that no positive social change is possible.
Eric Beck
   [Editor's note: First the writer dismisses Ventura for being "obvious," "specious," "catastrophist," and "nationalist." Then he illustrates his point writing about how Ventura should write "a more relevant column, one about Obama's and Clinton's similarities, specifically their unrivaled ability to fulfill the Democratic Party's unique structural mission: acting as the working class' sole political representative, frustrating the working class' needs and desires, and ensuring that no positive social change is possible." There is nothing "nationalist" in that statement!]

Candidate Likes Himself More Than Doggett

RECEIVED Fri., Feb. 15, 2008

Dear Editor,
    For more than a year now, several local groups have tried to get Lloyd Doggett to join others in Congress in upholding the Constitution by supporting impeachment proceedings against Bush and/or Cheney. He has repeatedly ignored or dismissed us. Last July we held a forum to bring in the wider community. We filled the First Unitarian Universalist Church with more than 300 concerned Austinites. We have merely asked him to meet with our groups to discuss the issue, but he refuses even that. In a recent letter to a member of Austin Impeach, Doggett wrote:
    "As you know, I have held two meetings in Austin to listen to concerns about impeachment, neither of which you chose to attend."
    That is a bald-faced lie! He has held no such meetings about which I or my associates were informed or ever had any chance to attend. Many of us would certainly have attended any such meeting and put other obligations on hold to do so.
    In a form letter sent to many of us, he admitted his primary concern was political: that impeachment might bolster Republican support. In this time of crisis, when our civil liberties and system of checks and balances are being eroded by an administration seeking an imperial presidency, we cannot afford such political games. Please write Lloyd Doggett to encourage him to hold an honest meeting with his constituents on the issue. Or if you too are tired of the system that allows supposed “representatives” to ignore constituents between elections, you may want to consider voting for me instead.
Scott Trimble
Green Party candidate for the 25th Congressional District of Texas

Disappointed With Dunbar's Coverage on Scientology Protests

RECEIVED Thu., Feb. 14, 2008

Dear Editor,
    I'm very disappointed in Wells Dunbar's coverage of the Feb. 10 protests of the Church of Scientology [“Naked City,” News, Feb. 15]. He focused on the childish behavior of some of those known as Anonymous but completely overlooked the very important issues being protested, such as the Church of Scientology's harassment of their critics (such as their Operation Freakout campaign against Paulette Cooper), shattering of families through the process of "disconnection," the holding of recalcitrant members in punishment camps known as Rehabilitation Project Force, the theft of government documents in Operation Snow White, and the death of Lisa McPherson after 17 days of imprisonment. This was not a group of pranksters upset by a perceived slight; this was a serious protest against a corrupt and dangerous organization. I hope you'll consider printing more complete information in the future.
Sarah Brown

Supports Dan Grant

RECEIVED Thu., Feb. 14, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Regarding the endorsement for Congressional District 10 [“'Chronicle' Endorsements," News, Feb. 15]: Dan Grant has earned the endorsement of Hank Gilbert (2006 candidate for agriculture commissioner), Ted Ankrum (2006 CD 10 candidate from Harris County), Rep. Senfronia Thompson (District 141, Harris County), the Harris County Central Labor Council (AFL-CIO), the Brazos Valley Central Labor Council (AFL-CIO), Harris County Democrats, Houston GLBT Political Caucus, and the Texas AFL-CIO.
    Dan's support in the rural areas and Harris County is strong, and the voters will be out in force all across the district on March 4.
    I believe Dan has what it takes to beat McCaul in November.
    I will point out that Mr. Doherty stated in this very publication (regarding his campaign finance chair's fundraiser for Mitt Romney) that "Anybody that naive doesn't deserve to be allowed to have political commentary. They ought to go to school and study something" [“Doherty's Romney Connection,” News, Jan. 18].
    Is this the kind of folksy charm that will win over voters? I don't think so. Rural and suburban Houston voters are smarter than that.
Susan Shelton

King Us All!

RECEIVED Thu., Feb. 14, 2008

Dear Editor,
    As exemplified in his Feb. 8 “Point Austin: Special Treatment” [News], week after week Michael King does an excellent job of quickly getting to the nut of local and state political news. I appreciate his forthright analysis of events and of their coverage in the press. As we say around the cracker barrel: King me!
Ted Melina Raab
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