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 Thanks for your patience.
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Farmers and Ranchers Are Gamblers

RECEIVED Wed., Aug. 5, 2009

Dear Editor,
    Gamblers we are by trade. Farmers and ranchers, especially in the current drought cycles, and as some of us remember it in our childhoods in the 1950s, gambled with every seed put into the ground and every head of livestock kept instead of sold.
    Our health-care premiums are way out of sight, and who doesn't have an older aunt or uncle or grandparent who tilled the soil and sweated in the fields, only to be confronted with massive, unpredictable health-care costs that exceeded insurance coverage? Or exceeded savings that were to take the place of monthly insurance premiums?
    What if we gamble only with our profession but not our lives? What if we instruct our Congress that we want health care, accessible to our aunts and uncles and grandparents? What if we pay a little more in taxes if we have to, which is predictable, not a gamble, in exchange for some assurance?
Leroy Haverlah

Confusing 'Rights' With 'Wants'

RECEIVED Wed., Aug. 5, 2009

Dear Editor,
    Tom Cuddy ended his letter on rights and health care with "to claim that the right to health care is fundamentally different from a right to own property is wrong" [“Postmarks” online, Aug. 4].
    He started the letter with "conservatives have long attacked the notion of rights held by the left, the sort of rights that include a right to health care. Conservatives claim this sort of thing might be a social good but cannot be a right because it puts an obligation on another party to provide this right. Under closer inspection however, many commonly accepted rights also rest on an obligation from another to provide said right."
    Actually, there is a fundamental difference. The difference, however, is how many liberals and conservatives view rights. Rights are not "provided" by the government, and this is an important distinction to make; rights are "protected" by the government.
    He fleshed out his argument by saying that, "The right to own property rests on a structure of police, courts, laws, and a punishment regime."
    Because there is a legal framework in place to protect a given right is not to say that the government has an obligation to purchase for you the object, in this case, that your rights are tied to. In other words, I have a right to own property, but Uncle Sam is not obligated to give me free land. Likewise, I have a right to protect myself by keeping and bearing arms, but the government isn't obligated in any way to give me a gun. The question begging to be asked is, what other desired goods and services provided in the marketplace should be given freely? Quite frankly, Cuddy is confusing rights with wants.
    Let's look at this statement of Mr. Cuddy's again, because it is of paramount importance to all of us. Rights "rest on an obligation from another [the government] to provide said right." When we start to believe that the government provides instead of protects rights, we start moving into a dangerous area. Rest assured, if the government, or more rightly, politicians, "provide" our rights, then they damn sure can take them away when it suits them, and then of course there would be no such thing as "inalienable rights."
Patrick Zepeda

Bad for Property Values and Bad News for the City

RECEIVED Tue., Aug. 4, 2009

Dear Editor,
    The Travis County commissioner refuses to audit the tax rolls for the 35-plus properties that were found to be undervalued by more than $120 million [“No Fair Share? Property Tax Report Provokes a County Review.” News, July 17]. County Judge Sam Biscoe said that he would not support an audit. The numbers are very troubling, because these are hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue that could be benefiting our community and local economy. The tax rates continue to go up for residents of Austin, while million-dollar commercial properties are undervalued by millions lower than the sale price on tax forms. This is bad for property values and bad news for our city.
Krissy Acevedo

'Satisfied Mind' Written by Jack Rhodes

RECEIVED Tue., Aug. 4, 2009

Dear Editor,
    Re: “Do Right Woman” [Music, July 31]: There was a great error in the article. "Satisfied Mind" was recorded by Porter Waggoner but was written by Jack Rhodes (with J.H. “Red” Hayes), and Jack is in the Country Music Hall of Fame primarily for this song. Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and probably hundreds of others have recorded this song. Please right this wrong done to my uncle.
Curtis Hitt

Notion of Rights Includes Obligations

RECEIVED Tue., Aug. 4, 2009

Dear Editor,
    More intellectual conservatives have long attacked the notion of rights held by the left, the sort of rights that include a right to health care. Conservatives claim this sort of thing might be a social good but cannot be a right because it puts an obligation on another party to provide this right. Under closer inspection however, many commonly accepted rights also rest on an obligation from another to provide said right. The right to own property rests on a structure of police, courts, laws, and a punishment regime. Without these, one is left with the "law of the jungle," a person holding what they can defend. A law on contracts is only good if there is an arena to resolve conflicts (courts, binding arbitration, etc.); otherwise a weaker party could never count on "the sanctity of contracts.” A right to free speech depends on an independent forum (courts) to enforce the First Amendment when challenged. I say the entire notion of rights includes obligations from all of us and to all of us. The rest of the Western world acknowledges the existence of economic and social (health care) rights. We can argue on the specifics, but to claim that the right to health care is fundamentally different from a right to own property is wrong.
Tom Cuddy

Closure Needed for A Shot in the Dark Stories

RECEIVED Tue., Aug. 4, 2009

Dear Editor,
    A Shot in the Dark: What about success stories? We’ve all done it. We’ve all opened the Chronicle and turned straight to A Shot in the Dark. Perused for the chance that it’s us they’re looking for. Lamented the ad placer’s timidity in BookPeople. Vicariously been that alluring reader in jeans and a white shirt flipping through the Turkey travel guide. We identify. We hope. And we wonder. Will the book lovers connect? Well, what if you told us? I propose that The Austin Chronicle begin A Shot in the Dark success (or failure?) stories section. Because don’t we all want to know if it ever works out in the end?
Jamie Lippman

A Truly Ridiculous Comparison

RECEIVED Mon., Aug. 3, 2009

Dear Editor,
    The picture you ran of Tim Austin and his homemade protest sign really drove home the problem with the right-wing propaganda that has infected the simple-minded [“Naked City,” News, July 31]. (The sign showed Obama, Pol Pot, and Stalin listed side by side on the basis that they were all health-care reform advocates.) The idea that you can associate a democratically elected leader who is proposing a sustainable solution to America's health-care problem with leaders who seized control of countries by force and then forced them to slaughter one another is – to say the least – ridiculous. To even make a sign hinting at a relation between the two shows an extreme lack of cognitive ability.
    This is what really needs to be addressed in order to make true, lasting change for health care and many other issues. The right has long taken advantage of the natural human desire to make a decision based on as little thought as possible. It is the duty of the rest of us to treat those who have clearly not thought about the issues at all to educate them where they can be educated and ignore them where they cannot. Because there is nothing constructive to come out of considering viewpoints that are based on fiction.
Nick Dengler

Partisan Supporters of Reform Don't Need a Salesman Like King

RECEIVED Mon., Aug. 3, 2009

Dear Editor,
    Michael King's “Point Austin” of July 31 [News] contains so many nonstarters, logically, that I hardly know where to begin. Leaving aside partisanship, supporters of reform don't need a salesman like this.
    First, is King aware of the Hippocratic Oath? It might surprise him to know that most professionals in any field take their ethical obligations very seriously. Are there unethical doctors? Of course … and there are unethical columnists for alt weeklies, too. I don't presume King is unethical … nor should the doctors in general.
    Second, King equates favoring tort reform with favoring the abolition of all legal remedies. It is frivolous claims that draw the ire of tort reform supporters, not legitimate ones. I realize this is subjective, but still ….
    But the real howler is the statement that the fact that we spent billions and trillions on defense means we have that money for health care. What? Does King know the meaning of “spent”?
    If I buy a house I can't afford, do I then have money for a car I can't afford? It's easy to accuse our opponents of bad faith … much harder to directly face their actual arguments.
Mark Coffey

Critics Stop Showing Off and Pay More Attention

RECEIVED Fri., July 31, 2009

Dear Editor,
    I just saw The Hurt Locker last night. I'm sure the last thing you need is criticism for the critics, right? This is more of a request, really. I love the Chronicle and the movie reviews, and … these reviews seem to be more interested in showing off literary prowess than actual movie reviewing. In her eloquence, I fear Kimberley Jones greatly missed the point [Film Listings, July 10]. The movie was a commentary on how men avoid being responsible for communicating in their relationships: James' avoidance of his wife and child on the micro level and the U.S. deciding on war in general over diplomacy on the macro level. The movie was good, and I'm sure it deserved a few stars. However, this movie, especially written by a woman … speaks a much deeper message than just another good war movie.
    My request is embedded in there somewhere. Thanks for the opportunity to rant.
Brett Morris

Questions for ISWMMP

RECEIVED Fri., July 31, 2009

Dear Editor,
    I have a few questions for the Integrated Solid Waste Management Master Plan planners [“A Plan to Plan for a Zero-Waste City,” News, July 31]. I didn't catch their meeting announcement in time to attend last Thursday, July 30. The questions the ISWMMP pose seem to lead to the obvious answer of locating waste disposal in Webberville. (This is Parenting 101: When you want the kid to do something, you give them the choice between one obviously bad and the other, which is the outcome that you desire.) Solid Waste Management in Austin is obviously going to have to change, but the options presented don't serve Austin's long-term potential. Locating a landfill within a mile or two of the Colorado River on the bluff with views of the river valley is stupid.
    What are the results of an impartial environmental impact study on the Colorado River and local watersheds?
    Will the state and/or federal government conduct an economic analysis that considers alternative development of the city-owned Webberville tract and its impact on the Del Valle, Manor, and Elgin economies and school districts?
    Is the city of Austin going to make use of its investment in rail infrastructure to collect and transport solid waste? What are the benefits of a regional or state waste facility? Is the city government able to correct its reputation as arrogant asses and work with the state and neighbors for a better solution?
    Will the city of Austin implement a surcharge for trash service farther from the dump because the trash has to be hauled farther?
    Is the city of Austin going to expand the "pay-as-you-throw" model with bar codes or radio-frequency identification on individual trash cans?
    What is the cost of road upgrades throughout the county that will be needed due to the larger heavy trucks?
    Is the city of Austin going to expand city limits to encompass the site before construction? Shouldn't the city take responsibility and own all of the consequences of its decision?
    Given the future changes in solid-waste handling, is there opportunity for an empowered solid-waste worker union?
Jerry Henrichs

Some Ideas About Acts That Could Replace the Beastie Boys at ACL

RECEIVED Fri., July 31, 2009

Dear Editor,
    First, I'd like to wish the ailing Beastie Boy a speedy recovery – get well soon!
    Second, as a past and current three-day Austin City Limits Music Festival ticket holder, I'd like Charlie and the "powers that be" at C3 Presents to consider several suggested replacement acts! You could put the "Austin" back in the Austin City Limits Music Fest with homegrown (and headliners in their own rights) performers such as Marcia Ball, Jimmie Vaughan with Lou Ann Barton, Spoon (they did sell out Stubb's for three nights in July), the Flatlanders, or even Carolyn Wonderland. And there are several great tours going on; surely someone has an open date around early October. How hard is it to check and make a few phone calls? Or how about an act that had to cancel appearances at previous ACL fests? I think I want to see Amy Winehouse more than ever now. And Duffy? "Yeah, yeah, yeah!" Oh yeah, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs would work also. Clapton/Winwood? Yes. And Sir Paul Mc is currently touring the U.S. ("Band on the Run").
    Previous ACL favorites would be OK with most of us, too. Neko Case (again!). Fleet Foxes. (OK, I'm just going to go for it, now. There are many ….) Chris Isaak would be wicked. Stevie Wonder, the Master Blaster … could you imagine? Why not?
    One could wish or dream for any one of the "one-named" acts, like Tina/Cher/Bette/Aretha/Madonna, Madonna, Madonna (that's three!)/Prince/Sting/Elton/Garth.
    Or, for the youngsters, Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, etc.
    Want to really stir it up? Shake up the neighbors? Shatter decibel-readers for miles? Then grow a pair and book – finally, for one and for all, by public demand, and in their full makeup glory – KISS. (Better than no Beastie Boys replacement at all!) There, told you I was dreaming! Now, I think I'll go and take a little siesta – I'm beat.
Jack Ortman

'This Ain't the Sixties'

RECEIVED Thu., July 30, 2009

Dear Editor,
    Re: “Double Murder: The Dark Side of Reefer Madness” [News, July 13]: And why did the murderer murder? What was that again? He owed more for his pot bill than he could pay? Wake up, old hippies. Anyone who lived through it will tell you, "This ain't the Sixties!" There ain't no peace, love, and happiness in drugville except in the lyrics of an old song.
Delwin Goss
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