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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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Cleaning Up BP Facts

RECEIVED Wed., Aug. 25, 2010

Dear Editor,
    In “The Hightower Report” published last week [News, Aug. 20], Jim Hightower writes about the horror of inmates working to clean up the oil spill. How terrible that imprisoned members of our society might do something productive. I guess they should be down on the state farm breaking rocks.
    Hightower also expresses outrage that they aren’t being paid; of course they aren’t! They are paying a debt to society, and it costs thousands of dollars annually to imprison each one.
    Personally, I would just like the Gulf to get cleaned up. I don’t care who is doing it. But the quicker that ecosystem gets returned to a semblance of normal (pesticides and junk from the Mississippi notwithstanding), the better.
    But if Hightower’s misplaced anger wasn’t enough, he makes a huge error in his last paragraph of the print version, writing: “However, BP is getting paid for this labor – by you and me. Under a little-known tax provision passed during the Bush regime, corporations can get a 'work opportunity tax credit' of $2,400 for every work release inmate they hire.” Work release is not inmate labor. BP would not be getting tax breaks for using inmate labor.
    Work release provides an opportunity for inmates to leave prison and be productive, and most importantly, earn a wage. Inmates doing road cleanup, or in this case, beach cleanup, are unpaid. And what’s so wrong with providing incentives for employers to facilitate the rehabilitation of prisoners anyway? When people get out of prison, they need jobs and proof that they can hold one.
    So whose side is Hightower on? In one instance he berates BP for using inmates, defending their “rights,” in the other, he bashes the Bush regime for trying to help inmates and newly released prisoners. The Bush comment is a blatant red herring in the discussion for a knee-jerk reaction from readers who hate Bush.
    What a hack.
Sincerely,
John S. Young
   [Jim Hightower responds: Mr. Young's assertion that "work release is not inmate labor" is false, since these tax-subsidized workers are still in jail – which I think is the very definition of "inmate." In addition, BP enjoys the free-labor subsidy of those inmates who are not in the work-release program.]

Help Me Please

RECEIVED Mon., Aug. 23, 2010

Dear Editor,
    Help me with this, people, please: How is being against an Islamic community center that will likely include a mosque of some sort in the close vicinity of Ground Zero not being a hater of Islam? How is it ill-conceived or otherwise in poor taste to put a mosque in this location unless you believe that Islam – as a religion – perpetrated and condoned the events of 9/11? How is this more insensitive than the rebuilding of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church with public funds?
Daniel Lea

'Mexican-American' Is a True and Accurate Term

RECEIVED Mon., Aug. 23, 2010

Dear Editor,
    I attended the "Mexican American Firsts: Trailblazers of Austin and Travis County" exhibit celebration at the Austin History Center on Saturday. Personally, it was very nostalgic for me to hear familiar names from the Fifties and Sixties. My own family has been in Austin for many generations, even before it became part of the United States. That is why the term "Mexican-American" is so true and accurate – this was Mexico first. As our neighborhoods are being destroyed by developers and taken over by others, at least we have the Mexican American Cultural Center, which only came to fruition after decades of hard work and dedication by many individuals.
Anita Quintanilla

Is This How a Nation Behaves?

RECEIVED Mon., Aug. 23, 2010

Dear Editor,
    Am I understanding this correctly?! Is it possible that Americans are not donating to help Pakistani flood victims because of the controversy over the proposed Islamic community center two blocks away from Ground Zero? Is this how a nation that some want to call Christian shows its true colors? I find it bitterly ironic that members of the tea party, who have stopped at nothing to slander, demonize, and otherwise undermine public perception of President Obama, including depicting him as a Nazi and denying his Christian faith, are actually the only ones using the tactics and propaganda methods characteristic of the real Nazi German party. It is easy to wave a flag. What is difficult, what requires courage, is to take a morally correct but unpopular stand. The reason Americans claim to believe that President Obama is a Muslim, the reason they question his citizenship, the reason for the Islamic community center controversy, is not about how the facts are presented. The truth shouldn't have to be sold, and anyway, people believe what they want to believe. All the mean-spiritedness and refusal to allow the smallest modicum of good will and good faith to a president who has already in his first term outperformed many two-term presidents, doesn't reflect on him; it is called hatred. People have criticized the first lady before for saying it took her a while to feel proud of America. Today I am having a very difficult time myself feeling proud of this country which ought to know better. McCarthyism has reared once again its ugly head.
Katherine Edmiston

Questioning WTP4, Seriously

RECEIVED Mon., Aug. 23, 2010

Dear Editor,
    The cartoon This Modern World, posing "serious" and "not serious" thinking, was a great lead-in to Wells Dunbar's article about Water Treatment Plant No. 4 [“City Hall Hustle,” News, Aug. 20]. First, there is Mayor Leffingwell's "serious" assertion that "to abandon [WTP4] now would be the epitome of fiscal irresponsibility." It could just as well be said that to have committed all that money to WTP4 before the environmental traps had all been run – or any consideration of "deep conservation" as an option for pushing out the need for WTP4 for perhaps a decade or more had been entertained – was the real "epitome of fiscal irresponsibility." From all observations of trends in peak-day water demands, it is still an open question just how soon WTP4, and the rate increases the spending on it will require, would really be needed, even without getting into "deep conservation" initiatives. But of course, in Leffingworld that is simply "not serious" thinking. Austin Water and the "gang of four" continue to steadfastly refuse to take any of this up.
    Then there is the bashing of the Save Our Springs Alliance engaged in by Dunbar. There may be flaws in its approach, but the recalcitrance of the city to "seriously" consider its options, or even to comply with environmental review requirements, really leaves the protestants with no options but to pursue legal challenges. I suppose that for Dunbar to have gotten into the real reasons why we should hold up, take a breath, and reconsider the need to be running headlong into this huge fiscal commitment – to perhaps actually consider the case for "deep conservation" – would have been "not serious."
    No, "serious" thinkers know that this billion-dollar expense is so important that we simply cannot take stock of this. Indeed, any sort of challenge to forging blindly ahead with WTP4 is simply "not serious,” right?
David Venhuizen

South Austin Cool

RECEIVED Fri., Aug. 20, 2010

Dear Editor,
    It was around 9am on a Sunday morning in September 2000. It was the hottest September on record, with temperatures reaching 117 degrees! It seemed impossible to get cool, unless you went to Barton Springs and stayed in “'til ya turnt blue!”
    I was living in the absolutely coolest apartment complex in South Austin. (OK, side note for you folks not familiar with Austin: The 04 ZIP is a status symbol. There is a reason Stevie Ray's statue is on the south side of Town Lake. South Austin Jug Band, the Continental Club, the Austin Motel, Saxon Pub, and the Broken Spoke. People you heard on KGSR were neighbors. My downstairs neighbor worked on the stage crew for Austin City Limits. So living in South Austin meant you were "cool" even in a record-breaking heatwave.)
    So I headed out of my upstairs apartment, and as I am going down the stairs I see in the middle of the parking lot shaded by large live oaks my neighbor. Henry has on tennis shoes, no socks, Seventies-style gym shorts, no shirt, and a 35mm camera, facing the apartment complex entrance. Now up to this point Henry and I had only introduced ourselves and never had a conversation of any length or substance (which if you know Henry, you know is a rarity). As I am passing by on the way to my pickup truck I say, “Smoke.” Immediately Henry turns to me, cocks his head back, and says, “The movie with Harvey Kietel?” (Wayne Wang film in which Harvey Kietel plays a shopkeeper and takes a picture from his door each morning at 8am.)
    Neither of us in our South Austin cool smugness would have ever assumed the other would have a clue as to the origin of the reference. So we stood there for more than an hour discussing movies, books, art, philosophy, psychology, and of course where the best Chinese buffet was in town. Thus the conversation began, and it has continued for the past 10 years.
    The conversation continues to yet another generation as Henry, forever the teacher, is now a counselor and mentor to my daughter as she follows in Henry's steps in becoming an exceptionally talented professional photographer.
    Just remember to keep your shirt on, sweetie.
Terry Roberts

The World Needs Our Leadership

RECEIVED Thu., Aug. 19, 2010

Dear Editor,
    Re: “Page Two” [Aug. 20]: No Louis, you're not "too stupid to see." No, if you were stupid you would at least have an excuse. No, unfortunately for you your problem is that you offend and disgrace yourself consciously through willful blindness of objective moral and intellectual reality. And you further tarnish yourself by overtly pretending that those immutable truths don't exist. It's a form of denial that is pernicious to you and anyone foolish enough to take you seriously. It takes the breath away. It's such a waste.
    And as far as the Constitution being intended to reject the concept of objective moral right and wrong and good and evil, yes the founders realized that liberty required tolerance and allowance of people to make asses of themselves. But you're again willfully leaving out a key part of the saga. They were well versed in the requirement that the American people had to be morally clear in order for liberty to thrive, lest the entire Republican enterprise degenerate into tyranny-producing anarchy. They were all spiritual and religious men. The Judeo-Christian value system was their guide, and they talked and wrote about it extensively. I know that you're fully aware of these facts. But I also know that you won't acknowledge them and will insist on continuing to willfully deny them.
    But being a leftist means you can even play the denial game with yourself being convinced that I'm just one of those "simplistically minded" morons who "bray" in paranoid delusion. The irony is that's about as simpleminded on your part that can be imagined.
    The reality is that today our world of liberty and prosperity is existentially threatened from the outside by many forms of very real genocidal tyrannies. Because of the denial of objective moral and intellectual truth, these mortal dangers aren't included in our psyches as the deadly threats they surely are – again willful blindness of these realities.
    But here it is. They're the bad guys. We're the good guys. If we don't stop them, liberty will be destroyed and America will be transformed into a prison of misery. Without vibrant liberty and American leadership, the world will become a landscape of barbaric theocratic or secular tribalism. Individualism will be no more, and the will of the savage despot will be everywhere. I can see you rolling your eyes right now. But accept it or not, you're enabling those who wish to condemn us to tyranny, genocide, and misery.
Vance McDonald

College Assistance Appreciated

RECEIVED Thu., Aug. 19, 2010

Dear Editor,
    Re: Ed Lindlof's letter [“Postmarks,” Aug. 13]: You were able to conclude that because Barack Obama is trying to help poor, disadvantaged, and/or young people go to college to improve their lives, he was implying that no one else could live a "full, rich, and rewarding life" without doctorate or a degree. You deduced that these actions were a direct insult to you and your successful ilk. You mentioned that one would have to be dancing with pixies not to appreciate the skills of electricians, car mechanics, or plumbers. I dance with pixies and little people, Ed, and I am in awe of people in those trades, the ingenuity of others, and their efforts to improve our world and their lives.
    All of the professions you mentioned happen to be so dominated by men that my attempt to enter their ranks as a single mother involved the use of psychological crowbars, luck, dodging harassment, begging, etc., and would likely require time in a trade school to succeed without a decent mentor. While I agree that our educational systems need renovation, it is still not possible without a master's degree and a good magic wand, or possibly bombs and bulldozers, which are also typically in the realm of men and questionably effective.
    The president is making an effort for me to be able to return to college after years at the bottom of the social barrel despite my talents, tremendous desire, and the frustration of watching men drive big trucks to nice homes while I was homeless with a baby in my arms on public assistance. With no upward potential as a mother without excellent training or a college degree, I have experienced far worse than denigration for saying “yes to life” and not having the skills that you and others obviously have.
Truly,
Holly O. Jones
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