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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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Blackwell Supports Lipscombe

RECEIVED Wed., Feb. 27, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Re: False ethics complaint against John Lipscombe: I am very concerned that the opponent of John Lipscombe has filed a frivolous ethics complaint against Lipscombe and his wife, Judge Jan Breland. I have known both of them for more than 30 years. For 30 years, they have served the citizens of Travis County. For 30 years, honesty and integrity have defined their careers of public service.
    As I understand the complaint, it says that Judge Breland is using her office as judge to help John’s campaign for County Court No. 8. The complaint argues that because a campaign flier distributed by John Lipscombe contains a family picture of he and his wife, Jan Breland, she has unfairly used her office to assist her husband’s campaign. The charges are frivolous and absurd. The flier Travis County voters received simply had a picture of the two of them, with the statement that she is his wife. It did not identify her as a judge. Every candidate is allowed to use a picture of his or her family in campaign literature.
    Regardless of tortured absurdity of the facts, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees free speech. The Rules of Ethics allows judges to make their opinions known. The Supreme Court of Texas has recently ruled that Justice Nathan Hecht did not violate the Canons of Judicial Conduct in his outspoken support of Harriet Meyers for appointment to the Supreme Court.
    The other more nefarious complaint is that Judge Breland is somehow being tougher on the lawyers who support the opponent. Again, a totally false and bogus charge. I am in her courtroom every day. She treats every person and every lawyer with the same respect, kindness, and attention. I would ask you to come sit in her courtroom and watch for yourself, before reporting a false claim by a petulant political opponent.
    Seeing John Lipscombe in court every day, I know him to be exceptionally fair with every attorney dealing with him, regardless of whom they support in any political race.
    I am disappointed in his opponent’s campaign. It reinforces my belief that I chose the right person all those many months ago, when I decided to support John Lipscombe for County Court at Law No. 8. He is a man of honesty and integrity.
Sincerely,
Betty Blackwell

Voting Is Vital, but Real Problems Are There Every Day

RECEIVED Wed., Feb. 27, 2008

Dear Editor,
    The eyes of the political world are watching our every move in an attempt to predict how we will vote on March 4. But what happens the following day? How will we, as Central Texans, respond to the letdown that inevitably comes when the spotlight is snuffed out?
    The next president won't have a chance to directly address the issues we care about for a year or more. If ever. But we can all make real changes in the lives of our neighbors the moment we decide it's important enough to do so.
    As president of United Way Capital Area, I'm all too aware that the problems we have on March 4 will still be there the next day. More than one in five students entering ninth grade still won't graduate on time. The poverty rate will still creep upward. Access to quality health care will still be an impossible dream for many. And the gap between those who are getting ahead and those who are falling behind will still be far too wide.
    But starting March 5, we can vote again. Starting March 5, we can become mentors to young children who don't have a reliable adult to look up to; we can volunteer to clean up a child-care center in East Austin; we can sign up to teach literacy classes to adults and nonnative speakers.
    Starting March 5, we can decide that "change" isn't a hollow buzzword but instead something we can seize ourselves.
    Voting is vital. But you make an even more audacious statement by giving your time, talent, and treasure right here in Austin. Want to get involved but aren't sure how? Visit Hands on Central Texas, the volunteer center of United Way Capital Area, by visiting www.handsoncentraltexas.org or dialing 211.
Sincerely,
David Balch
President and CEO – United Capital Way

Keep Truckin' SXSW

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 26, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Re: The South by Southwest experience: My most treasured experiences as a parent were the opportunities to participate and share life experiences with my children. One experience that I will never forget was taking my son to SXSW many years ago. We purchased wristbands and checked out the schedules for bands that we wanted to see. Recognizing that my son was underage, I knew there were venues that we would not be able to enter. As luck would have it, the band that he most wanted to see was in such a venue. Try as we did, we could not get in (even the band roadies tried to get him in but the club would not give in). Still, the experience I shared with my son, of going from venue to venue, listening to music from all over the world, watching the Radiohead concert movie at the old convention center (?), and eating pizza at 2am on Sixth Street is something I will always remember. I have been lucky enough to continue attending and listen to live music that, if not for the Festival, I would never have listened to. And although the Festival has grown (and continues to grow), I know for the majority of the people, the experience is still well worth the work and effort of all involved. Keep truckin' SXSW, and thanks for the memories.
Danny Ybarra
Corpus Christi

Environment Is Central to Our Well-Being

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 26, 2008

Dear Editor,
    It was an exciting week for politics as Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton came to town and discussed many germane issues to our future well-being. The environment is central to our well-being.
    On behalf of the local chapter of the Sierra Club and as a Texan, I would like to direct your readers attention to the work of the National League of Conservation Voters at www.lcv.org/scorecard.
    Also of note is that this week the League of Conservation Voters gave Sen. John McCain a 0% score on the National Environmental Scorecard. According to Sierra Club, 0% is pretty tough to get and further, of the 535 members of Congress, he is the only one who chose to miss every single key environmental vote last year. McCain's LCV score exposes the real record: a pattern of voting with polluters and special interests.
    On behalf of Sierra Club, I am hoping that the LCV Scorecard will help Texans realize we have a long way to go in creating a smart growth for future generations.
Thanks for your attention and consideration,
Martha Perez
Austin Chapter Sierra Club member

Some Smaller Rail Lines

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 26, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Re: "Working on the Railroad" [News, Feb. 22]: A couple of smaller rail lines were not included in the map that may be of interest: The Bergstrom Spur connects to the Union Pacific line south of Ben White and used to end at Bergstrom (Air Force Base). The Georgetown Railroad also runs a line west of I-35 connecting to Round Rock and Union-Pacific’s line to San Antonio.
Greg Griffin, AICP
Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization
   [Katherine Gregor replies: Indeed, the Bergstrom Spur offers an interesting option for service to the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, from the Austin-San Antonio rail line (the spur nearly parallels Highway 71). While the rail itself has been pulled between Burleson Road and 183, the right-of-way remains available. (Union Pacific is said to be ceasing freight operations in March.) The Georgetown Railroad could connect Round Rock to Georgetown and ultimately both cities to Austin and San Antonio. Thanks to Mr. Griffin for bringing this to our attention.]

Mad at Demohypocrits, Too

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 26, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Obama, oh please. I think the Democratic Party has been felled by the oldest trick in the book: Just sparkle and look good, and let the voters project whatever their silly hearts desire onto you. While it's hard to know what Obama stands for since he doesn't stand for anything, I know a couple of things he's against. I've waited for years for a real leader to come up and give us a strong space program. Obama wants to gut the manned space program. Sorry, Obama, but that's a deal breaker. The Texas Democratic Party has let me down, too. They have consistently not supported candidates who could have made a difference like Chris Bell. And what's with dissing Dennis Kucinich? You took him off the ballot before he took himself out of the race. I'm so mad at the Republican'ts I'll never vote for another; now I'm so mad at the Demohypocrits I'm looking for a third-party candidate.
Richard Billingsley

Lehmberg's Involvement in Satanic Child-Molestation Case

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 25, 2008

Dear Editor,
    The Chronicle does us a great disservice in endorsing Rosemary Lehmberg as hard and as early as it did [“'Chronicle' Endorsements,” News, Feb. 22]. Apparently the Chronicle has forgotten her central role, as head of the district attorney's Sex Crimes Division, in one of the very last of the United States' satanic child-molestation cases, the Fran's Day Care case back in 1992-1993.
    In 1992, the McMartin Day Care case, the first and biggest of the hundreds of satanic child-molestation mania cases that swept the U.S. starting in the early Eighties, had been over for two years, after seven years of trials and something like $60 million in prosecution expenses. The net result was no convictions and ruined lives for all the defendants and children gamed by the prosecutors there. By 1992, most district attorneys had developed doubts about the secret giant international conspiracy of satanists infiltrating day cares, yet the Travis County Sex Crimes division, headed by Rosemary Lehmberg, took on this case and sent the day-care owners, a middle-aged couple named Keller, off to prison for the rest of their lives after another truly disgraceful circus of accusations of improbable and physically impossible satanic ritual behavior on the part of the entire day care staff. The Kellers still rot away in prison. Ms. Lehmberg doesn't remember the case, really, and expresses no interest in reopening it.
    If Ms. Lehmberg was fool enough to believe that satanic conspiracy rot, she is unfit for elective office. If she didn't have moral courage enough then to stand up to witch-hunt mania, then she is also unfit for office. If she lacks the moral integrity to reopen this case now and free the Kellers, then she is yet again unfit for office. We need someone else as D.A.
Daniel N. White

Is the 'Chronicle' Concerned?

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 25, 2008

Dear Editor,
    I am worried about the Chronicle's lack of support for the concerns of neighborhood associations and neighborhood-planning teams. Over the past few months, neither of my letters to the editor about the removal of the conflict-of-interest clause in Austin’s Neighborhood Plan were printed. That conflict of interest provision is the neighborhood’s last line of defense against unwanted development. The neighborhoods are concerned; the Planning Commission is concerned; but the Chronicle? The city wants to remove the clause and the Chronicle will not print letters about it. Neighborhood-planning teams are at the bottom of the pecking order. Neighborhoods have no place to voice our concerns. When Austin is clogged with development and Austin is not livable, maybe the Chronicle will start asking what happened. It will be too late. Until then, neighborhood-planning teams remain without a voice.
Sincerely,
David Haun
   [Editor's note: David Haun's letter “Decision Must Be Appealed” appeared in the “Postmarks” section of the Chronicle's Dec. 28, 2007, print edition, as well as being posted online. Haun's letter “Should Have Been 'Regulate and Mediate'” was posted in our “Postmarks” online section Dec. 11, 2007. Many letters only appear in “Postmarks” online due to space restraints in the print edition.]

Conflict Among the Democrats

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 25, 2008

Dear Editor,
    The candidacy of Barack Obama has excited a whole new generation of previously disinterested young Americans. And though this large and swelling involvement of youth should set Democratic Party members singing “Happy Days Are Here Again,” a few in the ranks of the regular and older members seem averse to joining the movement and instead expect these young people to temper their idealism and switch allegiance to a candidate of their elders' choosing.
    This wave of change is not going to happen if the incipient enthusiasm of these young people is squelched; the bulk of the newly involved will drift into the dead center of an apathetic public that has little faith in any political party's capacity to set this nation on a path that bodes a more promising and inclusive future for working and middle-class and destitute Americans.
    Before any of us good old Democrats let this happen, best we remember John F. Kennedy's inaugural charge to the American people of his time: “Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.”
Sam Osborne
West Branch, Iowa

What Change Is Sen. Obama Proposing?

RECEIVED Sun., Feb. 24, 2008

Dear sirs,
    I see that you have endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for president because you believe that he will be an agent for change in Washington, D.C [“'Chronicle' Endorsements,” News, Feb. 22]. This is true, but I believe that all the supporters that plan to vote for the senator should consider the change that Obama is proposing. He wants to bring about a huge expansion of the federal government into all aspects of our lives. Do you really want a government that is responsible for the Hurricane Katrina debacle to “fix” all the other problems in your life?
Sincerely yours,
Michael Fossum

Improv Thanks

RECEIVED Sun., Feb. 24, 2008

Dear Editor,
    I wanted to thank Avimaan Syam, Robert Faires, and The Austin Chronicle for the excellent piece on the grand opening of the Merlin Works Institute for Improvisation and Gnap! Theater Projects Improv Season [“Merlin Works Institute and Gnap! Theater Season,” Arts, Feb. 22]. It was well-timed, well-written, and gave a clear, accurate description of the event. Thankfully, the Chronicle gives equal exposure to improv and puts it where it belongs – in the Arts section. Improv in Austin is booming, and the Chronicle has helped immensely with that success.
Shana Merlin

'Conservatism' Means What I Say It Does

RECEIVED Sun., Feb. 24, 2008

Dear Editor,
    "Conservatism" means nothing whatsoever – other than the hatred of liberals (i.e., most people) and a fondness for catastrophic policies.
    Conservatives favor small government. Yet government grows far less under Democrats than under conservatives. Harry Truman and Bill Clinton actually made the federal government smaller.
    Conservatives are pro-military, yet Democratic presidents generally spend more on the military than Republican presidents.
    Conservatives seem to think they're fiscal whizzes. Yet the Democrats outscore the Republicans on all economic counts – gross domestic product growth, unemployment, real wages, etc.
    Conservatives are anti-abortion, yet abortion rates are much lower in places where liberal abortion laws apply. When conservative principles are applied, the abortion rate goes up.
    Conservatives talk about balanced budgets. Yet they have racked up the biggest deficits in galactic history. By contrast, the Clinton administration turned the biggest deficit in history (under Bush I) into the biggest surplus in U.S. history.
    Bush II promptly piddled away the Clinton surplus. This proves the man is a true conservative.
    Conservatives prattle about moral probity, yet the Republicans routinely top the list of corrupt congresspeople.
    The list of Republican pedophiles alone is shocking.
    In contrast to what you may have heard on the corporate media, the much-maligned Clinton administration was the cleanest two-term administration of the 20th century (as measured by the total number of convictions and forced resignations within the administration).
    By this same measure, Ronald Reagan was by far the most corrupt president in U.S. history – before GWB – with more than 100 members of his administration charged with crimes.
    And, of course, the red states have higher abortion rates, crime rates, murder rates, etc., etc. So much for morality.
    Conservatives lose on crime, too. The violent-crime rate went down for eight straight years under Bill Clinton. Now it's going up.
    Public health? The infant mortality rate was at its lowest ever under Clinton. Under "conservative" rule, it has started going up for the first time in 40 years.
    And, of course, conservatives keep changing their minds about what the hell it is (other than the hatred of most people). Eight years ago, GWB was a conservative. Now that he's the worst and most hated president in U.S. history, he's apparently not a conservative anymore.
Perry Logan

Shocked at Lack of Literacy

RECEIVED Sat., Feb. 23, 2008

To the editor,
    I am a 19-year-old English major attending Austin Community College. Every day I find myself more shocked and disturbed by the lack of literacy among high school graduates and college students, and I believe that much of the problem comes from how English is taught in high school.
    My first-year high school English teacher, D’Anne Farmer, told our class that due to the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills testing material, she was forced to teach a curriculum that included writing and reading but not grammar. In an attempt to offset the lack of essential grammar taught by the curriculum, she kept our class working from bell to bell, every day of the school year, without a single “free day” or 10-minute break, so that she could cram a mere five to 10 minutes of basic grammar rules into our class time each day.
    Even despite the efforts of Farmer and other teachers like her, I graduated in May 2006 alongside a large number of students who had such poor grammar skills that they were still writing run-on sentences and using apostrophes when they wanted to make words plural.
    I strongly feel that our education system needs to stop worrying about standardized tests and start working to make sure our youth can have a firm grasp on the basic rules of our language before they have to start writing 10-page research papers once they get into college.
Matt Presley

Appetite for Change

RECEIVED Sat., Feb. 23, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Thank you for the article on the Re-Energize Texas Summit [“The Re-Energizer Revival,” News, Feb. 15]. It is important that communities realize young leaders are rising to face the challenge of a climate change crisis and get onboard.
    As an attendee and reporter myself, I would like to offer a few suggestions:
    1) If one listened carefully, not only did most speakers equate the climate change challenge to the civil rights movement, they gave global warming one better and pronounced it a greater challenge than past movements have seen.
    2) It is belittling to write off the young activists' commitment to the message as a flirtation with fashion: "a 'Proud to Be Vegan' patch" and "virtually obligatory dreadlocks." Activists know that patches and T-shirts are good mediums for a message, but it doesn't end there. And respectfully, I don't think there were more than three sets of dreadlocks (if that) in the auditorium and only a handful of Birkenstock sandals, while we're on stereotypes.
    3) Gary Hirshberg served himself up as a great example of economical success being compatible with environmentally responsible business. And I, for one, left with an appetite for change (not a hunger for yogurt).
    4) Whether you call it a revival, a resuscitation, or a re-energizing, this call for action, and others happening simultaneously around the country, is aimed at giving citizens the tools and inspiration to face the titanic problem of climate change. Global warming is not new, but it is now. We have acted irresponsibly, and now we must act in response.
    Again, thank you for writing this well-crafted criticism of the summit. We can all sit in the corner and sneer cynically at the vegangelicals and bedreadlocked tree-huggers, or we can write responsibly, act immediately, and save a swiftly warming planet from the "major downer" that is climate change.
Angel Horne

'Ghost Cattle in the Sky'

RECEIVED Fri., Feb. 22, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Regarding your snapshot of the Texas Hill Country 2003, your writing is very entertaining and descriptive [The Austin Chronicle's Hill Country Guide]!
    "Just look out for the ghost cattle in the sky."
    After reading a recent novel, Be Still My Heart by Suzanne Mason describing Texas Hill Country, I found your article on a Google search. Now I am interested in visiting this area!
Sincerely,
Doug Danner
Norman, Okla.

We All Mourn Raúl Salinas

RECEIVED Fri., Feb. 22, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Thank you so much for covering the passing and the honoring of Raúl R. Salinas [“In Remembrance of Raúl,” Arts, Feb. 22]. The paper's commitment to celebrating local heroes, local artists, and local activists is the major reason why I pick up the paper. Raúl was a talented poet who could have gained more notoriety as a poet if he had spent less time working on human rights, poverty, and other issues that impact various segments of the Austin community. I greatly appreciate the paper giving editorial space to someone so many of us respected, loved, and live to emulate.
Celeste Mendoza

Media Should Stick to the Facts

RECEIVED Thu., Feb. 21, 2008

Dear Editor,
    It is so wild to me that the media can be so biased and the people will put up with it. Frankly, I find it outrageous.
    Recently, Barack Obama had a major flub. He actually used the same speech used by the governor of Massachusetts. He didn't just take a line but the entire speech and delivered it with the same cadence as the governor. Now, the amazing thing about it is that the context of the speech was explaining the importance of speeches and words. Yet these weren't his words. Is that irony? But, somehow the media finds a way to spin this against Hillary. Apparently, it's now vicious to point out that someone is plagiarizing. Obama's not known for his ideas but his ability to inspire crowds with his speeches. The fact that they're not his words is relevant and makes his appeal zero.
    The American people like Hillary Clinton because she is tough, experienced, compassionate, and has a clear plan for the future of our country. So the media should stick to reporting the facts and let the people make their own decisions instead of force-feeding us with the slanted views of bogus “experts.”
Thanks,
Malena Copeland
McAllen

Supports Carlos Barrera

RECEIVED Thu., Feb. 21, 2008

Dear Editor,
    In the upcoming election, the voters of Travis County will choose a new judge to preside over a newly created county criminal court.
    Carlos Barrera is the candidate of choice for several reasons.
    Carlos Barrera is the only candidate in the race who has been both a prosecutor and a defense attorney. If you have ever had a friend or a loved one who has been accused of a crime, you will recognize the importance of having a judge who can see both sides.
    Carlos is the only candidate in the race who is certified as a criminal law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He has been practicing criminal law for 25 years. His qualifications are unmatched.
    Travis County needs and deserves to have ethnic diversification in its political and judicial leadership. Right now, there are no Hispanic judges in the criminal courts of Travis County.
    When we have an experienced, highly qualified, Hispanic criminal defense lawyer running for the position of judge of a Travis County criminal court, why would we wait for someone else in the future? We need Carlos Barrera as a judge, now!
David N. Smith

Which Would Be More Effective?

RECEIVED Thu., Feb. 21, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Regarding Katherine Gregor's Feb. 22 cover story promoting light rail [“Working on the Railroad,” News]. In 2006, Capital Metro commissioned a Circulator Alternatives Evaluation Report comparing the Downtown streetcar plan with a bus system of identical alignment and capacity (www.allsystemsgo.capmetro.org/circulator-system.shtml). The consultants refused to analyze cost effectiveness, as is customary. We taxpayers must now decide which would be more cost effective: a $29 million bus system or a $230 million streetcar system?
Glenn Gaven

Free to Speak and Think Like Me

RECEIVED Thu., Feb. 21, 2008

Dear Editor,
    A recent letter to the editor by John Callaghan [“Postmarks” online, Feb. 19] regarding conservatism as an exercise in either blind ignorance or denial of truth. The accurate ideological definition of conservatism is simply the perpetuation of human liberty. It makes clear that everyone is naturally flawed by corrupt, unenlightened appetites that must be restrained. And the only rational method of checking these passions while preserving liberty is moral virtue, i.e., truthfulness, gratitude, humility, courage, and honor. Without this clear moral discipline, humanity descends into anarchy and tyranny.
    This thesis was developed in the Western world by the ancient Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, and Christians. It is now more than three millennia old. England and America adopted this social model. And when viewed in an honest historical context, the results in human progress have been spectacular.
    Additionally, Mr. Callaghan’s contention that conservatives have attempted to replace “traditional American values” and the Constitution with religious authoritarianism not “dissimilar to Muslim fundamentalism” is unhinged. Indeed, we have the right to worship or not without harassment. Would that Muslim cultures were so civilized. Moreover, freedoms of speech and association in America are alive and well.
    Those of Mr. Callaghan’s persuasion are infatuated by the illusion of postmodern, hyperemotional, leftist relativism, in which intellectual and moral questions are answered according to contemporary social fashion instead of the immutable precepts of virtue. This is why deviant ideologies such as Marxism, socialism, anarchy, and radical pacifism are leftist darlings. This is why well-intentioned people like Mr. Callaghan are so afflicted.
    And this terrible ideology has now fully infected one of our main political parties – the Democrats. Its presidential candidates make that clear. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are screaming leftists. I urge Mr. Callaghan and all truth seekers to join the conservative effort to preserve liberty and defeat Democrat leftism.
Vance McDonald

Time to Realize Your Voting and Purchasing Power

RECEIVED Thu., Feb. 21, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Politicians love to talk about perpetuating issues like universal health care and the housing market. It would be refreshing to hear other important issues addressed, such as the taxation of an individual's income for means of providing "social security" to everyone except for said individual. "Security" money taken from a person's income should be allocated for that particular individual. A fair government would tax either income or spending – not both. The Clintons receive support from the Waltons. Wal-Mart's takeover of the world right after NAFTA is more than a coincidence. Obama and his running mate Oprah are an equally scary political realization. It's time for leaders (not celebrities) with realistic expectations and accomplishments that will nurture the middle class. While our livability is consistently being threatened, be it by the influx of immigration, heavy taxation of citizens, or the loss of American jobs, politicians skirt around heavy issues in the interest of appeasement. This accomplishes nothing. As long as big business runs the political system and democracy only exists in the current two-party system, there will never be real change. We should stop conforming into mindless consumers and instead become involved. Learn more about fair taxation by visiting www.fairtax.org. On the home front, find out how you can better serve Austin by visiting www.betteraustintoday.org, a political action committee for responsive Austin government. In the meantime, realize the potential in your voting and purchasing powers.
Respectfully,
Colette Michalec
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