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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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'Fuel' Needs to Be Seen

RECEIVED Wed., Nov. 26, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Gee, if it looks and sounds and feels like a movie … and the Sundance Film Festival audience deems it worthy enough to award it as such, then who the heck is Josh Rosenblatt to tell us that it shouldn’t be in a theatre [Fuel, Film Listings, Nov. 21]? How about the 10 minutes worth of Wal-Mart commercials I had to suffer through before I got to see what I paid to see, Josh? Care to opine? The fact is that Mr. Tickell admitted that his initially chosen alternative fuel was not the ultimate solution he first thought it to be. His refreshing and inspiring conclusion is that all is not lost, that through a combination of solutions we can envision and hope for a sustainable economy and culture. Please don't relegate this movie to some nonexistent "meeting hall.” It needs to be seen.
Jim Wray

People Hypnotized by Obama

RECEIVED Wed., Nov. 26, 2008

Dear Editor,
    How revolting the president-elect gets special television coverage as he announces his cabinet of crooks. Already, in the short 22 days of Obamanation, we can clearly see there will be no real change. The Obama hysteria has been unreal, the masses being so blind. The media is excusing his recent appointments of recycled cabinet members as our needing “experience” in the White House, which is to make up for his lack of. This is the complete opposite of the fresh, new, different campaign of “change” that catapulted him into history. So now it is perfectly acceptable, according to the media, for the majority of his highest-ranking cabinet members to be former staff members from both parties. Recycling former White House staff and appointing “economic advisers” who are in bed with the Federal Reserve does not make for change. The Federal Reserve is a private banking cartel implementing and maintaining our financial crisis. Real “change” would be witnessed if the president-elect were to abolish the Federal Reserve. Therefore aiding us out of this monetary mess – not enabling us deeper. Too bad the creative minds at the local, alternative press – along with the masses – were so easily hypnotized by the “change” propaganda. Congratulations, Chronicle, for your biased endorsement of the Democratic Party. Certainly you’ve noticed, there is no difference between political parties. As long as big business remains the puppet master, every politician will be corrupt.
Anxiously awaiting true change,
Colette Michalec
   [Editor says: Since an endorsement is an expression of opinion, do not all endorsements emanate from bias? Can there be a nonbiased endorsement?]

Carole Keeton Strayhorn Deserves Our Thanks

RECEIVED Tue., Nov. 25, 2008

Dear Editor,
    With regard to Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Woodside Trails, Strayhorn is the wrong target [“Campfire Horror Story,” News, Nov. 21]. She spoke out on conditions in foster care that urgently needed to be addressed. She deserves our thanks and our support. As to Woodside Trails and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, I disagree with letting children live outdoors in makeshift shelters year-round. That said, it is obvious that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services will stoop to anything to protect itself. It sounds like its pursuit of the individuals at Woodside had more to do with retaliation and less to do with justice. Unfortunately, this scenario plays out in the lives of families on a constant basis.
Lee Spiller

Article Brought Back Memories

RECEIVED Mon., Nov. 24, 2008

Dear Editor,
    I just finished reading the long article in the Chronicle about what happened out in Lost Pines, and I have to tell you: I'm in tears [“Campfire Horror Story,” News, Nov. 21].
    I had the opportunity back in about '97 to help facilitate a drum circle out there, and it became, for me, one of those events that changes the track of your life without your conscious awareness.
    I had been on the road traveling for a while; had landed in an intentional community near Lost Pines; had been out to Hawaii for a while; and had just returned to Texas when someone asked if I could help with a drum circle out there. I said sure and arrived at Lost Pines to be offered dinner in the dining hall, and one of the boys was assigned to me as my guide. I can't remember his name, only that he spoke very quietly and proudly of the fact that he had recently earned his "graduation" from the camp in the form of a four-month Appalachian hike. He showed me the campsite and explained how things were run and the expectations placed on all the boys. He showed me the site that he and the other boys had prepared for the evening drum ceremony. It was beautiful. Majestic stumps had been placed all around a giant fire pit, wood was stacked and ready to burn, and the boys were eagerly awaiting the evening.
    Two things I'll never forget: first, the complete and utter abandon with which the boys participated in our ceremony – faces painted, looking like warriors – they placed their "majic" sticks (sticks into which they had symbolically placed their fears, angers, and pain) into the fire, shouting as the sticks burned. Second, the love and trust that most of the boys I interacted with seemed to feel for the staff and for one another.
    I personally spent 10 years living outside year-round, sleeping on a second-story screen porch even when the temperature dipped below 25 degrees, cutting wood for the wood stove in winter, and playing guitar by lamplight for my children at night. The only person who would ever wonder at the appropriateness of children living outdoors all year is a person who has never awoken to the majesty of a forest at dawn or felt pain begin to diminish in the softness of a breeze or the companionship that develops around a campfire at night. That person should ask my children if they believe their new life in the city is a comfort. My daughter will adamantly tell you it's not and that she longs for the woods and has spent four years trying to adjust to the sound of cars at night that has replaced the sound of coyotes, owls, and frogs; she'll tell you the television has stolen her mother from her and that there is no longer music in our home in the evenings.
    I've now been working with at-risk youth in the city of Austin for the past four years as a drum instructor and have recently been awarded a grant from the city … and whenever I feel the pain of 60-hour work weeks, the continuous drone of "comfort," and the total disconnect from the natural world around me, I remember those whooping, howling, laughing, crying lost boys of Lost Pines … thank you, Bebe Gaines, for the work you did there.
Sevylla del Mazo

Injustice to Woodside Is a Tragedy

RECEIVED Mon., Nov. 24, 2008

Dear Editor,
    I read the articles about Woodside Trails in the Nov. 21 issue of the Chronicle [“Campfire Horror Story,” News]. I am a past chairman of the Woodside board of directors. I raised more than $1 million from foundations and individuals in order to improve the facility. We built an office, a kitchen and dining area, an indoor shower and restroom building, and an outstanding school staffed by the Smithville Independent School District. As we raised money, we continued to upgrade the entire camp.
   The injustice to Woodside has been one of the biggest disappointments in my life of 87 years. The wilderness program was the life-saving future for hundreds of sexually and physically abused kids that nobody wanted. Not only was Woodside’s CEO, Bebe Gaines, competent, but she loved all the boys, and they truly loved her. Also, the staff was well-trained and dedicated.
   Upon arrival at Woodside, most of the boys had no self-esteem; were defiant, uneducated, used foul language; and were unclean and uncaring. When they left, they had a much better chance to live decent lives.
   The article about Bebe Gaines told the true story. I’m sorry that Carole Keeton Strayhorn didn’t meet with Bebe Gaines to answer her questions. Bebe wasn’t there the day Strayhorn visited the camp. I think she would have realized how wrong she was. One complaint Strayhorn had was that the boys were sleeping outside even though it was very cold. Actually, the plastic on their sleeping areas was up by late November. The kids don’t get motivated until it gets cold and then do a wonderful job. They’re not told when to do it; they do it when they’re ready. Strayhorn needed to ask the questions and get the right answers. A wonderful safe haven for at-risk boys was destroyed.
Sanford “Sandy” Bauman

Appreciates 'Page Two' Even Though Occasionally Disagrees With It

RECEIVED Mon., Nov. 24, 2008

Louis,
    I was out of town on a Michael Martin Murphey gig this weekend and only got to read your “Page Two” [Nov. 21] this morning (Nov. 24), but I want to compliment you again for your thoughtful insights. Though we may occasionally disagree … less so lately … I've always appreciated your writing.
    By the way, Alex Jones is a complete putz. Of course, that's just my opinion … not necessarily the "truth."
Herb Steiner

Thrilled by Sen. Hutchison's Actions

RECEIVED Sun., Nov. 23, 2008

Dear Editor,
    I'm a die-hard Democrat, but I was absolutely thrilled when I heard Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison recently issued a statement condemning a recent wave of political arrests in Burma. I'm sending her a holiday card to let her know how much I appreciate her action, and I hope other Chronicle readers will do the same. It's a pain to always write to complain or beg; it's nice to send a positive message for once, and I'm sure it's nice for Sen. Hutchison to receive one.
Vanessa Hutcheson

Supports Direct Financial Support of Musicians

RECEIVED Sat., Nov. 22, 2008

Hello Editor,
    I just finished reading your article on the Music Department [“Music Deportment,” Music, Nov. 21], and while I generally support Austin's city government moving in this direction, I feel I have to voice one concern. I wonder at the decision to make music issues a part of Economic Development. Your article cites many numbers regarding the amount that Austin's music brings to the city; what you fail to mention is how those dollars are distributed.
    Having not read the studies in question, I can't say what the answer to that question is. But I do know this: As a musician, I know precious few musicians who can support themselves by playing alone. I see a city where the supply of talented musicians vastly outstrips demand. I see a city with a population that expects to pay $5 or less to see local musicians play and more often than not won't show up if the cover is more. I don't see either of these factors changing in the near future, except to get worse for musicians.
    If the citizens of Austin think this glut of talented musicians is a good thing (and it seems to me that it does) the only city-level policy that makes sense to me is direct financial support for those musicians. We don't need more venues; we don't need to guilt our audiences into coming out to more shows. What we do need is for someone to help us pay for recordings and tours, not to mention rent and health care.
Thanks,
Marshall Escamilla

Bicycles Are the Solution, Not the Problem

RECEIVED Sat., Nov. 22, 2008

Dear Editor,
    I'm so sick and tired of people complaining about bicyclists. Cops cracking down? Are you kidding?! Bikes are not the problem – they're the solution.
    We're about to live in a world without oil, and bicyclists are the only people on the road making a step in the right direction. How about, instead of ostracizing them, we offer them some room? Real bike lanes would be a start. Better yet, shut down a lane for cars, and give it to bicycles! Get more fatties on their bikes and out of their gas guzzlers! Maybe if these consumptive sloths spent less time burning fuel and more time burning fat, they'd be happier and have less to complain about.
    Let's support the only people on the road who are being earth-friendly. I move for an incentive to get cars off the road and put bikes in their place. Giving more tickets to bicyclists is a step in the wrong direction.
    I am proud to be an urban cyclist. I am happier and healthier than I've ever been in my life. I love being part of the energy solution. I love having great legs! What I don't love is riding on the sidewalk because there is no room on the road. "Breaking the law" for bicyclists often means putting safety first. Punishing them for that is not the answer. Making safer roads is.
Sincerely,
Emily Kate Moon

'Fuel' Is Just Infomercial

RECEIVED Fri., Nov. 21, 2008

Dear Editor,
    I am a purist. I like my swimming holes unchlorinated, my whiskey straight up, and my meditation practice Zen. So even though I might like the film, I naturally resonate with Josh Rosenblatt’s argument that the movie Fuel is an infomercial belonging to the meeting hall rather than on a theatre screen [Film Listings, Nov. 21]. Now if we could just get the actual commercials off the movie screens that I have paid $8 to stare at.
Lauren Ross

Reporting on the 'Other Side' of the Story

RECEIVED Fri., Nov. 21, 2008

Dear Editor,
    I just read the issue of the Chronicle regarding Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Woodside Trails Therapeutic Camp and School [“Campfire Horror Story,” News, Nov. 21]. To me, your article is the final outcome that everyone needs to hear. Not so much for Woodside Trails as to how we trust the media and the people in charge to do and say the right thing. If I weren't an internal part of this program, I too would probably make a judgment call, because we "trust" the officials in charge, and we want to trust the sources.
    I had the fortune to be on the other side of the story regarding the allegations and closure of Woodside Trails. I am a productive citizen with a long business career. I served as mayor of my community and tried to contribute to good causes. From personal reasons, mine was abused children. I served as a volunteer for more than 20 years at Woodside. During this time, I saw what went on there. I also saw the results of a program that offered hope to youth who did not get it at other facilities. I was never a volunteer who only attended the monthly meetings. I was in the camps days and nights observing the work this program did for these boys. While not perfect, it was intense, meaningful, and successful.
    Like most citizens, I would have been the first one to "call in" this program if I felt any of the allegations were true. I was able to see how politics and the desire for power can destroy something like Woodside Trails.
    To my amazement, most of the media developed a frenzy over facts that were never proven. No one bothered to get the "other side" of the story except The Austin Chronicle and News 8. Even after the verdict was in and all allegations are cleared. No frenzy then. Only dabs of the truth. It should not be that only bad news sells. Media should report both sides and give equal reaction to the verdicts. People who made these errors and allegations should stand up with courage and try to improve our society rather than continue to stand by their comments and let a good thing like Woodside Trails disappear forever.
    Give credit where credit is due. Thank you (and Jordan Smith) for being courageous enough to tell your readers what really happened. One really needs to especially read the bottom of your article to get the real facts. What an eye opener.
    Thank you for standing up.
Erland Schulze

Light Rail Has and Is Working

RECEIVED Fri., Nov. 21, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Light rail has successfully attracted choice riders (defined as those who own a car and could drive to work) all over the country, including Dallas and Houston. Many people who will not ride the bus for good reasons (speed, reliability) and bad reasons (classism) will and do ride trains to work.
    We're not building light rail here (yet); our commuter rail line is stupid and will likely be an impediment rather than a help to urban rail if and when it ever gets here, but that doesn't change the fact that Skip Cameron's demonstrably false statements have no place in your paper [Postmarks online, Nov. 20].
Regards,
Mike Dahmus
Urban Transportation Commission, 2000-2005

Definitely Check 'Fuel' Out

RECEIVED Thu., Nov. 20, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Re: Josh Rosenblatt's review of Fuel [Film Listings, Nov. 21]: The reviewer seems to have missed the second half of the movie – the part where Joshua Tickell acknowledges the important limitations of biodiesel and the part where he spells out an array of positive solutions to one of the most enormous dilemmas of this age. Regarding the reviewer's limitations on cinema's purpose – film theatres are not just for vapid ghosts of people who are either trying to wake up and want to get scared or who are choosing to remain in the dreamy chuckle of a romantic reverie. Film theatres can be meeting halls where people actually decide together to change the world and get up from their seats to do so. Joshua's highly motivating film holds out hope for a different energy future and a clean planet. Full of beautiful music and richly layered imagery and information, his heartfelt story features interviews with Willie Nelson and Neil Young, Eliza Gilkyson’s haunting song “Requiem,” and footage of Texas and Louisiana settings. You definitely want to check it out because Fuel could make you want to do something to help us emerge from this smog cloud that we breathe in on I-35, 183, MoPac, 290, 71, and all the streets that connect us.
Donna Hoffman

Rail Is Not the Answer

RECEIVED Thu., Nov. 20, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Regarding John Langmore's Postmark "Don't Throw Out Passenger Rail With the Bathwater" [Nov. 21]: he is a self-appointed expert on transportation issues and a consultant paid to promote rail.
    Rail will not corral urban sprawl, causes more air pollution than single occupant vehicles, will not reduce congestion, wastes huge amounts of taxpayer money for no people mobility gain, diverts money from real solutions, forces increased fares and reduced service to people depending on public transportation (it's happening), all the while chasing choice riders who aren't interested.
    It's time politicians and bureaucrats listen to their constituents and put our tax money to work on real people mobility improvements.
Skip Cameron
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