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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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Err On the Side of Individual Rights

RECEIVED Wed., July 2, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Regarding the editorial by Louis Black on the Supreme Court's Second Amendment decision [“Page Two,” June 27]: Mr. Black made some excellent points, especially the point about the people on both ideological fringes controlling the arguments at the expense of reason. But the court did what it has always done in complex issues; it erred on the side of individual rights. Does that leave the door open for people to make bad choices and cause physical or emotional harm to others? Unfortunately, yes, as it has in its other decisions. But that is the price of living in a free society.
William Schultz
Johnson City

What Happened to the Austin Pedestrian Plan?

RECEIVED Wed., July 2, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Here's a great idea Austin can steal from Philadelphia: sidewalks on both sides of the street. But is Austin ready for such a radical change?
    A few weeks ago, the Chronicle covered the 10th anniversary of the Austin Bicycle Plan [“The Revolution Will Not Be Motorized,” News, May 9]. Whatever happened to the Austin Pedestrian Plan of the same vintage? Perhaps pedestrians will need to start our own Critical Mass before anything will be done to improve our situation.
    A second pedestrian (in less than two years) was recently run over and killed on Lamar near T&S Seafood. The police say that pedestrians should not cross in midblock. But when you try to cross a busy street at a light on foot, cars keep turning right in front of you. If the cars won't yield to you, then you just can't cross.
    The name Critical Mass refers to the number of pedestrians that need to band together to walk across a busy street in China.
    I hope that the Austin Pedestrian Plan, when unearthed, will provide answers to a few puzzling questions. On a street without sidewalks, with xeriscaped curbsides and parked cars lining the curb, where are pedestrians supposed to walk? Do pedestrians in Austin have any rights at all? If so, what are they? In what year is the sidewalk and crosswalk system scheduled for completion?
    Austin's motor vehicles kill more than 20 pedestrians per year, and hospitalize at least 10 times that many. How many of the motorists who hit pedestrians get tickets?
    It may be time for a pedestrian Critical Mass, just to remind Austin that pedestrians exist.
Yours truly,
Amy Babich

NRA Is Like a Union?

RECEIVED Wed., July 2, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Steven McCloud, in a letter to the editor [“Postmarks” online, June 30], makes several statements worth commenting on. Mr. McCloud said, "The NRA is the Republican Party" and that the NRA is spending money "solely to portray Barack Obama as the candidate that will take away your guns." Mr. McCloud also claims this to be nothing more than vote-getting scare tactics and then emphatically says, "No one is taking away your gun."
    To start with, the NRA is not the Republican Party. Think of the NRA as a union: We all like unions, right? The NRA rightfully supports candidates that they feel have their members' best interests in mind. If a Democrat has a track record of supporting the Second Amendment, the NRA will back that candidate. It could be said that the NRA is not "portraying" Obama as the candidate that will take away guns, but that Obama's own statements bring into question his sincerity when he says he supports the right of Americans to bear arms. Like when he recently said that people cling to guns out of fear. Or how he has said that we (that's you and I) shouldn't be able to have concealed-carry licenses, or perhaps the time he said he was against citizens owning semi-auto firearms. Google it.
    While Obama won't wave a magic wand and make guns go away, he would as president be able to make Supreme Court nominations. The recent Supreme Court ruling against the D.C. gun ban was a 5-4 split. It's very likely that an Obama justice would've upheld the gun ban and eviscerated the Second Amendment in the process.
    As for the "No one is taking away your gun" comment: Thankfully Mr. McCloud is right. But be assured, there are people actively working to do just that. There are people that just don't like guns, they don't understand the wisdom of the founders of this nation, and they cling to a hatred of firearms out of fear. Sounds like Obama to me.
Hestonly yours,
Patrick Zepeda

Celebrate the Declaration of Independence

RECEIVED Tue., July 1, 2008

Dear Editor,
    I see the national election as a distraction from the crimes of the Bush administration. As a sovereign citizen I demand impeachment hearings.
    Face it, these people are crooks, plain and simple. How much evidence of wholesale desecration do you need?
    Their collective actions have put this country's budget in the deepest debt ever, let alone condoning and practicing torture, illegal spying, and imprisonment without habeas corpus. The military corporate owners of the Bush administration act unashamed, their war-economy policies a direct translation of laughing all the way to our graves. Their actions are morally bankrupt, wasting no time bankrupting more people every minute around the world. Actions pathological, intentional, and in your face. Don't want to pay their war taxes? Go straight to jail.
    It is an unconscionable slap in the face to hear Rep. Lynn Westmoreland promoting a petition to open the coastal areas and national wildlife refuges for wholesale drilling given the price of gasoline – prices manipulated by unregulated markets, yet not at the international level, yet. These soulless profiteers care not for the heart and lungs that these priceless quality of life, natural national treasures provide us all and the other living things we share the planet with. The manipulative tools that these hacks embody are quite happy to brutally poison our "nest" to continue to reap grotesque profits without investing in clean solar or wind or tidal power. GWB's people act, and I see single drivers racing their SUV's, like we are not at war: During World War II people conserved, recycled everything, got coupons for fuel, and came up with creative ways to support the war effort against fascism. What a turnaround now that fascists under corporate ownership run this country. I request you all to pick up the phone or your pen and call Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to start impeachment hearings, today!
Progressively in peace,
Bill Stout
Travis County Green Party member

NRA = Republican Party

RECEIVED Mon., June 30, 2008

Dear Editor,
    I see the National Rifle Association is planning on spending $40 million between now and the presidential election. They have earmarked $15 million of this solely to portray Barack Obama as the candidate that will take away your guns. OK, let me clarify this for you, since obviously you haven't understood in the last four elections. The NRA is the Republican Party. They bring this Second Amendment crap up every election solely to get your vote. No one is taking away your gun.
    While we are at it: Abortion, gay marriage, the "war" on terror, and eliminating NASCAR are all just ploys by the Republican Party to get your vote. Well, maybe they haven't resorted to the last one yet, but I can already see the headline: "Obama Rumored to Put a Stop to NASCAR Races.”
Steven McCloud

Murder Is a Joke to the 'Chronicle'?

RECEIVED Mon., June 30, 2008

Dear Editor,
    While threatening vehicular multiple homicide for delaying your rush-hour drive might be your idea of a joke [“After a Fashion,” June 27], I can assure you that the many of my friends who have been hit and seriously injured by drivers of your ilk during their daily commutes aren't laughing.
    When the concern you feel over damage to your car outweighs the concern you hold for the well-being of your fellow man, I think it's time for a serious re-evaluation of your priorities.
    The ride you ran across isn't about a "cause" or a "protest,” it's just a pro-bike celebration open to anyone who rides a human-powered vehicle. It meets the last Friday of every month on the UT West Mall at 5pm. Come join us, and see what it's all about; you might even find yourself smiling, having fun, and not feeling so aggro about things. It's nice.
Jason Abels

We Need Truth From All the Enablers

RECEIVED Mon., June 30, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Give Scott McClellan credit for coming (sort of) clean, even if he didn’t have the integrity to do so when it might have made a monumental difference – prior to the catastrophic and immoral war wrought by his boss [“Who Did He Serve?” News, June 20]. Now, how about getting Mark McKinnon and Matthew Dowd to step up? We need a heavy dose of the truth from all the enablers. They owe it to the American people for their considerable contributions to the rule of the man who has wrought more damage upon this country than any of his predecessors.
Regards,
Patrick Cosgrove

Remembering What Drove Colonists to Rebel

RECEIVED Mon., June 30, 2008

Dear Editor,
    As we celebrate our nation's independence, it is an opportune time to recall what drove the American colonists to rebel. In their own Declaration of 1776, they listed their grievances against King George III of the UK; in part, they wrote:
    "For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us: For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment of any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States: For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world: … For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury: For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences: … He has excited domestic nsurrections amongst us. … "
    Now reminisce on the recent past: U.S.-led armies in Afghanistan and Iraq, Blackwater and contractor immunity, trade sanctions, Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, Muqtada al-Sadr and Iraqi militants, the Taliban resurgence.
    History repeats itself. The script outline is the same, the actors change. Though by chance, lead actors sometimes have the same first name. Isn't that curious, George?
Apostolos Lerios

Voting System Is Rigged

RECEIVED Mon., June 30, 2008

Dear Austin Chronicle,
    On June 25, computer experts demonstrated vote flipping to the Texas House Committee on Elections Interim hearing about the security of electronic voting systems.
    One expert was whistle-blower Clint Curtis, a computer programmer from Florida. He designed vote-flipping software at the request of Tom Feeney (now a U.S. congressman) for Yang Enterprises in 2000. He believed the program would be used to prevent election fraud. He later learned that it was to be used to “control the vote in South Florida.”
    Included in a press packet from VoteRescue is an affidavit dated December 2004 from Curtis: www.bradblog.com/Docs/CC_Affidavit_120604.pdf. He describes how he designed ways to program electronic voting machines to alter the voter’s intent.
    Curtis writes, “In the vote fraud prototype that I created things were not what they seemed. Hidden on the screen were invisible buttons. A person with knowledge of the locations of those invisible buttons could use them to alter the votes of any candidate listed.”
    Vote totals could be altered to ensure that the selected candidate would lead the race by 51% to 49%.
    Curtis continued, “No amount of testing or simulations would expose the fraud as its activation and process is completely invisible to everyone except the person programming the vote fraud routine.”
    All electronic voting machines carry this risk: touch screens, optical scanners, and Hart InterCivic’s e-Slate with button controls used in Travis County.
    Electronic voting machines are a severe threat to democracy, and should be immediately banned from use. The most secure voting system is paper ballots, counted by we the citizens, in public view, with totals posted at the precinct.
    How can we “vote the bums out,” when the system is rigged? Use your outrage by contacting city, county, and state officials, and tell them you demand hand-counted paper ballots, now!
Jenny Clark
VoteRescue volunteer

Are You Kidding Him?

RECEIVED Mon., June 30, 2008

Dear Editor,
    OK, I am now convinced that Barack Obama is a terrorist. The nominee is planning on bringing the detainees in Guantánamo Bay to U.S. prisons! These are the same individuals caught trying to kill Americans on a mass scale, straight from the war. Are you fucking kidding me, Barack? We really do not need al Qaeda forming cells in prisons out of U.S. citizens – these people are already pissed off at the government for taking away their freedom – especially if they will be released back into society. Have you no common sense or do you want to destroy us from within? My fellow Americans, do you remember Nostradamus predicting World War III being started by the Blue Turban? The third Antichrist predicted is called "Mabus." Add an O and A and scramble, it becomes Obama U.S. Michel de Nostredame was still just one letter off.
Mike Homa

The Right to Keep and Bear Arms

RECEIVED Mon., June 30, 2008

Dear Louis,
    A salute to you and your June 27 “Page Two,” “Unreasonably Reasonable.” Even the gun-control groups now use “reasonable” and “common sense” to describe their regulations du jour.
    Liberals should be thankful for the Heller majority; had the Supremes been as “liberal” minded on the subject of expanding individual rights as courts past, they would have instructed in detail where D.C. could file their post-Jim Crow ordinances. But the ruling was limited – and reasonable.
    The future battle against local/state measures denying the individual right to keep and bear arms should be quite a show. See! the fierce 2A lobby change strategies from legislation to litigation (the NRA initially opposed suing D.C.). Marvel! as the Supremes deal with the 14th Amendment and incorporation.
    Ironic that the 14th (1868), the most powerful and storied tool of “liberal” civil rights over the last half century, was written largely to ensure the rights of newly freed slaves to keep and bear arms when confronting Southern state militia bent on suppressing blacks. Kinda takes the shine off the “militia clause.”
    Some technical notes: the average deer rifle fires “cop-killer bullets” if we mean thereby a bullet’s ability to penetrate body armor. And “powerful automatic weapons” are already under strict regulation, held only by a few hundred thousand civilians. On the other hand, the semi-auto medium-power carbine (AR-15, AK-47 clone, SKS) is owned by an estimated 12 million to 15 million Americans. The largest-selling center-fire arm-type in the U.S. is now the dominant class seen on the rifle range. Politically, this is a huge, motivated constituency.
    Second Amendment advocates have a special place in their hearts for Vermont’s “gun laws,” the thinnest gruel found in the whole debate. Huge crime rate there (wink).
Sincerely,
Stephen W. McGuire

Not Sufficient Coverage of Local Talent

RECEIVED Mon., June 30, 2008

Austin Powell,
    It really offends me as a musician/booking agent and citizen of Austin that there is not sufficient coverage of more local talent that is not considered "already cool."
    I threw a really important benefit show for a friend battling stomach cancer May 23 at Red 7, and it didn't even get a mention in your column, “Off the Record.” He was the drummer in Badger/the Tie That Binds from Houston, who, in the mid-Nineties, was a big influence in post-punk here in Texas.
    What's really sad, Austin, is that your predecessor, Chris Gray, wrote an amazing story about the second benefit I threw Alex Arizpe Saturday, May 24, in Houston.
    Can we get more focus on local talent now?
Al Shire

Actually Does Appreciate the 'Chronicle'

RECEIVED Sun., June 29, 2008

Louis Black,
    I know I have sent you some pretty severe hate mail in the past, some halfway joking, but I just wanted to say that I am sorry – for the really mean letter ["Postmarks," Nov. 25, 2005] I sent to you about the dead cats on your cover a few years ago; I didn't even read the article at the time ["What Happened to the No-Kill Millennium?" News, Nov. 18, 2005], and since then I have felt like an asstard about it.
    I actually really do appreciate you and your Chronicle, and taking good care of a few friends of mine, like Jack Anderson.
    I'm not sending this asking for anything. I just wanted to say that I hope you can look past my douche-baggotry and forgive me.
Cheers,
Jason Christian

Just How Funny Is Murder to the 'Chronicle'?

RECEIVED Sat., June 28, 2008

Dear Editor,
    "I was ready to pull a Lizzie Grubman and plow right through them and be on my way. But I was hesitant to rack up a lot of hit-and-run charges against me … and then there would be all that damage to my car" [“After a Fashion,” June 27].
    If you're really that close to committing a multiple homicide and/or multiple aggravated assault, then you really should look in the mirror at your own behavior and situation. From your story, it really sounds like you shouldn't be driving and should have your license revoked immediately. Anger is one thing, justified or otherwise – considering homicide and assault is a whole other thing.
    A car is a vehicle and should not be used as a weapon for intimidation, threats, assaults, or homicides.
Tom Wald

'Chronicle' Part of the Problem

RECEIVED Sat., June 28, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Why on earth would you give top-of-page, large-print prominence to an anonymous blogger who calls Jason Meeker a "boil" (Reader Comment of the Week, June 27)?
    The rest of us were required to submit our real names and contact info for the chance to be published. Why not this guy?
    You've lamented the sorry state of political discourse in this country before; your action here shows that you're part of the problem.
    Regardless of how you feel about Meeker's cause, the fact is that he was willing to dedicate untold hundreds of hours to help his community. The halving in size of the Wal-Mart is due in no small part to his efforts. Many neighborhood residents, including myself, are grateful to him.
    He deserves better than to have you publish this person's vitriol.
Dan Jones

Weatherpeople's Questionable Odds

RECEIVED Sat., June 28, 2008

Dear Editor,
    The weatherman’s percentage estimate of the “chance of rain” in Central Texas appears distilled out of rarefied air, lacking correlation with what actually happens. Except for 0% and 100% predictions, nature very rarely comes in step with the weathermen’s published odds. In my unscientific observation, it is more accurate to take the weatherman’s announced percentage and divide it in half. That calculation alone will get you much closer to the real rainfall, if any. And let’s be honest: anything below 30% is actually 0%.
    In Central Texas, it is foolish to continue to proclaim that a clear, warm day is “beautiful weather.” This is a banal and inappropriate cliché which – in all fairness to weathermen – is cheerfully chirped more often by news and sports colleagues who have to say something to fill the transition from their own segments to the weather. In this land troubled by ever more prolonged droughts, the only “beautiful weather” between April and September is cloudy and wet. Let us redesign our paradigms and make “cloudy with a 90% chance of rain” the promise of very beautiful weather, indeed (even though the real chance be only 45%).
Sincerely,
Don Terpstra

Ill-Conceived Plan to Drain Lake Travis

RECEIVED Sat., June 28, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Called the Brushy Creek Regional Utility Authority, the cities of Leander, Round Rock, and Cedar Park have quietly hatched a plan to put a $330 million taxpayer-funded pipe into Lake Travis to pull nearly 140 million gallons of water per day. If this much water were pulled from Lady Bird Lake it would be drained in less than two weeks!
    In my opinion, the manner and arrogance of how the tri-cities are pushing this is troubling. Here are just a few of the many examples:
    1) To pay for this project they will probably need to establish a bond package that will either be paid through taxes or higher water rates. Unfortunately, the water will only be used for future development. Existing residents just get to pay for it.
    2) Austin has their own pipe dream. Austin's pipe will pull more than 300 million gallons per day making the total amount of water pulled from the lake nearly 500 million gallons per day. Neither has mentioned any plan for recharging the lake. What will happen when we have another drought?
    3) Current plans call for a massive industrial structure and possibly a huge tower in the lake near Volente Beach. The plan is to drill onto the lake bed stirring up tons of mud and debris. From there, they want to run a 96-inch pipe, the route of which would destroy several square miles of confirmed habitat for at least two endangered species.
    The impact of this project is massive and its effects will be devastating for generations. The roughshod way in which they are pushing is astonishing and smells of lobbyist influence and backroom deals that have unfortunately become the mainstay in politics. It is not too late, this project must be stopped!
Christopher Wilder

Queer Culture Valuable to All

RECEIVED Fri., June 27, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Kate Getty's June 13 article [“Respectable Street”] about changes to Austin's Gay Pride did an admirable job of providing a range of perspectives on the meaning and purpose of Pride. However, as a mom who's been taking my son to Pride since he was 6 weeks old, I want to encourage Chronicle readers (and Pride organizers) not to accept the "family friendly" vs. "sex positive" dichotomy without questioning. As a queer parent, I believe that queer cultural values are among the most important things that I can bequeath to my son. At its best, queer culture can offer the rest of our society a lesson or two about valuing pleasure and eschewing shame. It's true, my son might see a thing or two that we need to talk about and contextualize, but the same is true of mainstream heterosexual pop culture. Right now, the Cartoon Network and Lego are aggressively marketing the entire Indiana Jones saga – which is chock-full of adult sexuality (it's pretty clear that that whip has multiple uses) – to preschool-age kids. And I haven't heard a single straight parent at my son's school complaining. So I don't think we need to hold queer culture to a different, desexualized standard on their account. And I certainly hope that no one is making Pride benign on my family's account.
Sincerely,
Paige Schilt

'Can’t We All Just Get Along?'

RECEIVED Fri., June 27, 2008

Dear Editor,
    My good friend Handsome Joel might be alive today if he had been wearing a helmet the night he was struck from behind by a drunken driver while he sat, in his car, at a red light. The impact caused a fatal brain injury that might have been avoided had he worn head protection.
    According to the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control website, only 3% of traumatic brain injury occurs in bicycle-related accidents, whereas cars account for 20%. So where’s the debate for an auto helmet law? Actually, far more pedestrians than cyclists are killed every year by being hit by a car. In 2001, there were about 5,800 deaths (and 90,000 injuries) from auto/pedestrian accidents, versus the estimated 800 deaths resulting from auto/cyclist accidents. Where is the pedestrian helmet law debate?
    Hell, we should all have helmets, right?
    But what I really want to know is where is the discussion about trying to bridge the gap between cyclists and drivers? Why is it always an us versus them mentality?
    Yes, there are cyclists who do not follow the law. There are also drivers and pedestrians who break the law as well. This is not an excuse to label all cyclists (or drivers, or pedestrians) as a menace to the safety of everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are commuting or traveling for recreation (both done by cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians/joggers). You are traveling and we should all be able to get to our destinations safely.
    This hostility between the two groups needs to be back-burnered so we can collectively solve our transportation issues and make Austin a world-class town for all forms of transportation.
    In the immortal words of Rodney King (who would have benefited greatly from wearing a helmet), “Can’t we all just get along?”
Sincerely,
Bob Ray

Scattergun Blast at ROT Rally

RECEIVED Thu., June 26, 2008

Dear Editor,
    After reading Tom Bowman's scattergun blast at the ROT rally ["Postmarks," June 20], I really felt I had to respond. Kind of hard to start though, since I'm not real sure just what his point was.
    He starts off with a blanket assumption that the bikers in your picture were on drugs and totally drunk. Which is OK, so long as you are willing to make the same assumption about any other two adult members of society. I've been riding motorcycles all over this country for over 30 years, and in my experience there are more out-of-control fools in pickups than on bikes.
    Then he seems to be saying that riding a motorcycle is dangerous. I'll give him that one. Riding a motorcycle through heavy traffic is dangerous; anyone who doesn't understand that shouldn't be riding one. So is he saying that motorcycles should be banned as too dangerous? Or maybe just banned here so that his workload doesn't increase? And the idea that we are somehow overloading the system for "the city's poor and unfortunate" just doesn't wash. Prices for a big-twin bike start at 15K, you can figure an average of about 20K for each bike. So these aren't ridden by poor people. We're all required to have insurance and it's strictly enforced. So unless you have some actual figures showing that ROT is a drain on the system, then you're just blowing smoke.
    Which I think brings up the real reason for the rant. Ol' Tom's burned out and wanting a new job. I'd say it's definitely about time, maybe lose that R.N. designation. I'd suggest something out in the country, far away from all those icky sick people hanging around at the hospital.
Good luck to ya,
Jim Vest
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