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October 2007

Wildfires, cancer research and Blackwater

1101letters.jpg Pablo Martinez Monsivais ASSOCIATED PRESS

On Oct. 25, President Bush escorted Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., through the remains of a home that was destroyed by the California wildfires.

Walking the walk

Re: Oct. 26 article “Residents begin slow return to where homes once were; fire death toll hits 7.”

It did my heart good to see the photo of President Bush and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif, walking arm and arm through a fire-devastated area of California.

The Democrats and Republicans better learn (very soon) to walk arm and arm, or we all will be walking through the ruins of the United States of America.



President Bush has responded rapidly to the devastating fires in Southern California, especially in comparison to events in Louisiana two years ago.

No wonder. The victims of Katrina were not part of his base. Homeowners hit by the fires are, by and large, quite wealthy. Southern California generally votes Republican, too.

It will be interesting - and predictable - to watch the differences in recovery between the Lower 9th Ward, still in ruins two years later, and this much more wealthy area.

You can bet your bottom dollar there won’t be any FEMA trailers dotting the landscape.



Chill of corporate greed

News that British Petroleum is being fined $373 million for various corporate malfeasances - an amount that they can laughingly pay out of their petty cash box - makes it abundantly clear that Enron was just the tip of the iceberg of out-of-control corporate greed.

The glee with which the BP executives were recorded gloating over having cornered the propane market and were gouging consumers was enough to make even a Republican’s blood run cold.

Their behavior, along with that of other energy giants, health insurance companies, defense contractors, credit card banks, etc., show so clearly that what is needed is draconian reform, savagely enforced, across the business board.



Cancer not the only noble cause

The intelligent voter should reject Proposition 15. Cancer prevention and research is a noble cause. But it is not the only cause.

Roughly 21 million Americans have diabetes, and an estimated 54 million more have pre-diabetes. My family has had to deal with it for the past 56 years.

The treatment is virtually the same as it was 56 years ago. But a cure is on the horizon, given adequate funds for research.

If we must vote for disease research, we should be able to direct our funds to the disease of our choice.

The vast monies spent on AIDS and cancer are mostly spent to extend lives by months and maybe a year or so. That money is wasted and is not cost efficient. Life is guaranteed to end.

Contrary to liberal thinking, you cannot save a life. You can only extend it a little while.


Sun City

I urge readers to vote no on Proposition 15, which borrows $3 billion from our grandchildren for cancer research coordinated by the state.

I am all for cancer research, so I donate directly to cancer research charitable organizations.

I also donate for research on CFIDS (chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome), AIDS and multiple sclerosis.

Prop. 15 is effectively a tax on illness against anyone who happens to suffer from a less popular malady. What about diabetes - common among low-income individuals - or heart disease?

Heard about the recent deadly, drug-resistant staph infections in local high schools? That requires resources for prevention and response. Prop. 15 would tie our hands by targeting cancer only.

Prop. 15 has a well-backed campaign led by Lance Armstrong. Sorry, Lance; I rooted for you on the Tour but not on this one. I’ll donate directly to health causes and cut out the middle-man.



Help with celiac disease

Re: Oct. 24 article “Going against the grain.”

The article by Meredith Hight was very well written and gave a lot of information on celiac disease that will be useful to many of your readers.

The Alamo Celiac Group membership is worthwhile for those wanting more information. Contact Anne Barfield at (210) 340-0648 or

Membership includes a packet of information, a cookbook and a monthly newsletter. It costs $20 a year. The website is


Sunset Valley

Liberal personality

Re: Oct. 9 letter “Conservative personality.”

If you are a liberal or Democrat, you tend to oppose any scientific evidence that man is not causing global warming. Why?

First, the anti-technologists have spread misleading propaganda about global warming. Second, some scientists - not all biased by their own agenda - and legislators have vigorously claimed that humans are causing global warming. Third, liberals are often anti-technology biased and believe that anything man does must be bad.

Though more than 19,000 scientists, including thousands of climatologists, have signed a petition ( denouncing the pseudo-science behind the belief that humans are causing global warming, many liberals cling to their partisan fantasies.

This is an example of a major problem in society - blindly believing the long-term predictions of one group of climatologists . A solution might be to educate children in science and about the characteristics of the liberal personality.

Didn’t it used to be the liberals who believed in free expression ?



Boot on Blackwater

Re: Oct. 9 commentary “In defense of Blackwater.”

Leave it to yet another right-wing chicken hawk to defend Blackwater USA.

Max Boot did get it right that everyone hates them, but with cause. Those guys get paid more than 10 times what our soldiers get for doing the same job. They come and go as they please, may quit whenever, enjoy far better living conditions and are clearly ungovernable.

G.P. Spaniel


Permalink | Comments (7) | Categories: Letters to the Editor

Magnet program, cancer research and global warming

1031letters.jpg Kelly West AMERICAN-STATESMAN

LBJ High School and the Liberal Arts and Sciences Academy (LASA) are separate schools under the same roof — on different floors, each with its own principal and staff. Students from both schools assembled for a recent pep rally.

School pride at LBJ

Re: Oct. 25 article “Separation anxiety for LBJ High, magnet students?”

As a student attending the magnet program, I feel that the article misrepresented the situation that the two schools face.

Students from both schools participate in band; students from both schools participate on the football team; students from both schools decorated the hallways. Is this not enough evidence that magnet students participate along with the LBJ students in school activities?



LBJ Principal Patrick Patterson’s rosy student statistics (90 percent passing rate) are a smokescreen that cover the real situation at LBJ High School. When I was teaching there, the administration strong-armed me into raising my grades so that most students would pass. Scores of students passed who had no business passing.

LBJ students are being coddled into a false sense of achievement. Unfortunately, they will be rudely awakened when they reach the job market or college and find that they are underprepared and not competitive.



As a student in the magnet program at LBJ, I found the opinions voiced in the article about the school shocking and ill- founded.

The schools have different goals, but both wish to serve their students as best they can and have different agendas. Because of this, the separation is good: LBJ has access to the resources it needs, and we are more likely to be recognized by colleges and universities.

At the same time, the split affects us all negatively. The teachers cannot pool ideas or even venture into the other school’s copy room.

As for the students, many are separated from their friends in the other program, which is difficult and frustrating.

And while our “random” posters advertise Slam Poetry and Model UN, some of theirs remind students that they can be arrested for walking out of class.



Cancer research

Re: Oct. 22 editorial “Understanding your Nov. 6 vote.”

The American Cancer Society thanks the American-Statesman for editorializing in favor of Proposition 15, the cancer research proposal on the ballot. We encourage voters to vote for Prop. 15.

As the foremost private, not-for-profit funder of cancer research, we know the importance of another $300 million a year dedicated to cancer prevention and research in Texas. American Cancer Society researchers won two Nobel Prizes this year for scientific breakthroughs, which brings to 42 the number of Nobel Prize-winning scientists that have been funded by the Society. We’ve funded research leading to the first chemotherapy, mammography technology, bone marrow transplantation, the PSA prostate cancer test, a host of lifesaving drugs, and discoveries related to genetics and molecular biology.

Despite these advances and those of the federal government’s National Cancer Institute, it’s not enough. About one-third of the 95,000 Texans who will be diagnosed with cancer this year will not survive.


Chief staff medical officer

American Cancer Society

High Plains Division


I voted today, mainly to vote against Proposition 15, which would tax us more for the state to handle cancer research.

I think that the American Cancer Society does an excellent job of supporting this worthy cause. We certainly do not need the state government telling researchers how and what they can research.

We need fewer government controls, not more.



Global warming

Re: Oct. 20 letter “Warm front moving in.”

The letter writer misunderstands the status of climate research.

Weather affects us locally in chaotic ways. This is unrelated to the problem of long-term global climate trends.

The overwhelming majority of scientists working in the field assert that greenhouse gases contribute crucially to the projected temperature change.

Opponents of global-warming predictions have the same data as the proponents. Our one “experiment” is in progress. For the future, projections are all we have.

We must act on the best odds - i.e., the consensus of working scientists. We cannot afford to lose.

“Inconvenient lies?” No, Al Gore is informing us correctly that the odds are against us unless we make serious changes.



Vote to end unfair tax

Many hardworking Texans could get a surprise tax bill next year - up to $600 or more in additional tax - unless we vote for Proposition 6 on Nov. 6.

This proposition will end an unfair tax on independent contractors and business owners who use their personal car in their business, too. Most of us do this, traveling to meetings or running business errands.

It’s unfair to single out independent contractors, like landscapers, insurance agents, ranchers, cosmetics salespeople and many others.

The Legislature agreed with a unanimous vote in the last session, but a constitutional amendment is required to make it law. Protect hard-working Texans.



Honored by Texans

On Oct. 20, I attended a “Patriot Fest” at Hudson Bend Middle School honoring about 90 U.S. Army Air Cavalry troops from Fort Hood deploying to Iraq (most for their second and third tours in either Iraq or Afghanistan).

This event also included giving high-tech wheelchairs to some of their fellow soldiers wounded in combat.

While gathered in a group of about 10, a soldier from New York state said, “Sir, you can’t imagine how terrific all this is. Where I’m from, there’d be a line of protesters out to block it.”



Permalink | Comments (2) | Categories: Letters to the Editor

Heroes, morals and tacos

1030letters.jpg U.S. NAVY

Navy Seal Lt. Michael P. Murphy, of Patchogue, N.Y., was killed while leading a reconnaissance mission deep behind enemy lines in Afghanistan.

Heralding a hero

It is a sad state that our country is in when a college football victory gets a flashy headline, a large front-page color photo and a front-page story. But a True American Hero who received the Medal of Honor posthumously gets only gets a small black-and-white photo (Oct. 23, “SEAL slain in Afghanistan is decorated”) with one paragraph, on Page A2.



Let Limbaugh speak

Re: Oct. 20 article “Democrats’ letter to Limbaugh sets eBay record: $2.1 million for charity.”

The article was inaccurate and misleading. Rush Limbaugh did not call veterans who are critical of war “phony soldiers.”

He called a particular soldier who had spent a grand total of 44 days in the military a “phony soldier.” The article also failed to mention that Limbaugh matched the winning bid, bringing the total to over 4 million dollars.

I am not a fan of Limbaugh, but I am a 26-year veteran. And it makes my blood boil when others brag about their “service,” regardless of what they did. I served my country to preserve the right of free speech, and I believe the letter from Congress is an attempt to suppress this right.

The American-Statesman should be appalled at this action.



How low can they go?

The polls show Congress’s approval rating somewhere in the low 20s - lower than the president’s, which is in the mid 30s.

I would hope to see Congress’s approval rating to go even lower after the hateful remark of Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif. He commented after the President’s veto was upheld on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program: “But you’re going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president’s amusement.”

I found this to be a particularly disgusting comment during a time of war. I know the country is eaten up with hate due primarily to the war in Iraq. What was even more disturbing to me was the lack of condemnation by any member of Stark’s party or the written news media.



Gas tax fantasy

There have been many calls to raise the gas tax, claiming this will somehow reduce traffic and pollution, encourage bicycling and hybrid cars and apparently also cure cancer and cause mass transit to spring fully-formed into being. As long as we’re pretending, why don’t we all just ride moonbeam-powered unicorns to work?

It must be nice to be able to afford Austin’s absurdly high rent and live within biking distance of decent jobs. Here in the real world, a gas tax increase would devastate the working poor, have no effect on the wealthy, and just give the politicians more money to waste on pork.



Judge with morals

I have to say hooray to Sharon Keller, presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, for her stand on the death-row controversy.

She sure has more guts than the politically correct crowd of lawyers and judges that always seem to side for the cold-hearted criminal.

It saddens me that there are so many people who don’t seem to consider the victim, whose last moments were filled with terror and pain.

How refreshing to know that there are still some judges with morals and a keen sense of what justice is.



High end disaster

Re: Oct. 24 article “Caught in a high-end disaster.”

Finally, a situation President Bush can handle.

These Californians know how to deal with natural disasters, unlike their New Orleans counterparts. No whining for food, water, toilets and showers.

Why didn’t the New Orleans folks simply climb in their Lexus SUVs, make a reservation at The Four Seasons using their iPhones (while stopping at Starbucks for a latte, while checking e-mail on their laptops), pick up some new threads at Neiman-Marcus, and get out of dodge?

Bush can climb up on a stool at the hotel’s sushi bar with his bullhorn for his traditional “leadership” photo op then mingle with his contributors.

Now this is a disaster Republicans can relate to and manage.

Martin Ballsfeller


`Have not’ liberals

Re: Oct. 24 letter “Matters of compassion.”

Why does the letter writer think only conservatives work? Who fights your fires; teaches your children; grows, harvests and processes your food; disposes of your garbage; nurses your ailing; fights your wars? “Have not” liberals, millions of them.

Yet we still have open hearts to those who have lost health insurance, retirement promises, jobs and living wages. Things taken away by the “haves” and their party policies and politics.



Planning for sleep

I arrived home at 3:45 a.m. Wednesday from the Austin Planning Commission meeting. Clearly, the volunteer commissioners are interested in the details of practically every case. Too often, these meetings begin at 6 p.m. and end after 3 a.m.

I suggest the City of Austin appoint three Planning Commission teams. Divide the work into three packages and reduce the meeting times proportionately.

The result will be less work and more sleep for everyone.



1030letters2.jpg Bill Sikes ASSOCIATED PRESS

Because the Red Sox’s Jacoby Ellsbury stole a base in the fourth inning of Game 2 of the World Series, Americans can get a free crunchy beef taco between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. today at participating restaurants.

Think outside your belly

I was watching the World Series, and Taco Bell announced free tacos on Oct. 30.

I thought it might be a good idea for representatives of all of the shelters in Austin to be there to collect tacos to feed people in their shelters. I think it’s great for Taco Bell to do this give-away.

I’d love to see Austinites unite on this and pass along a taco to feed someone who really needs it.



Permalink | Comments (5) | Categories: Letters to the Editor

Wildfires, Texas’ lemon and rejecting Lance

1029letters.jpg K.C. Alfred SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE

Fire consumes a home and a car, top, in the Rancho Bernardo neighborhood of San Diego on Oct. 22. At bottom, the same scene one day later.

The wildfire crisis in San Diego

As a former San Diegan, I was gratified, but not surprised, to see the generosity and kindness expressed there during the wildfire crisis.

In contrast to people’s experiences at the Superdome and Astrodome after Hurricane Katrina, no one is robbing, raping or murdering; no gangs are marauding Qualcomm Stadium; there is no fear there; and even the displaced are volunteering to help others.

Yes, resources are plentiful in San Diego compared with those available after Katrina. But there is no doubt that some of what was going on after Katrina was because of the degradation of the people there (and I do not include in this degraded group the innocent, law-abiding evacuees or the victims of the human detritus committing crimes there) as well as the corrupt government in Louisiana, not just the dearth of resources.

Having a competent, action-oriented governor like Arnold Schwarzenegger obviously makes a huge difference, too.



Don’t worry, New Orleans, help is on the way … to California.

And, by the way, $46 billion more for the war in Iraq works out to about another $152.00 apiece from each and every American.



Lemon in office

I attended the School Land Board’s hearing in September on the proposed sale of the Christmas Mountains to the highest private bidder.

Commissioner Jerry Patterson said he wanted to preserve the mountains but that the terms of the deed restrictions in combination with state law prevented the state from preserving the land.

Only now that the National Park Service has expressed interest in the land do we hear an entirely new concern of Commissioner Patterson: hunting. Suddenly, the sale of the Christmas Mountains is not about preservation but about the right to hunt on public land, an issue so urgent he’s willing to sell our public land for $70 an acre.

We need a lemon law for our deceitful politicians.



I can barely contain my disbelief at the latest turn of events involving the Christmas Mountains.

The National Park Service has stepped up and said it is interested in purchasing the land so that all may enjoy this property in perpetuity, and our land commissioner has the audacity to say that unless hunting rights for a select few can be protected, he won’t delay his current plan to sell to the highest bidder.

This is completely outlandish. Patterson has no business serving as an elected official in a statewide office if his sole mission is to preserve the privileges of the few (wealthy landowners and cronies) at the expense of the rest of us.

He should be ashamed of squandering the public trust and failing to exercise prudent stewardship of state lands and resources.



Re: Oct. 13 article “Park service: State land fit for Big Bend.”

Asher Price wrote, “The deed with which the land was donated to the state holds that the land office can sell the property only after offering it to the National Park Service or the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.”

How can Patterson have the nerve to say that he won’t support the transfer if no hunting is allowed? Whose hip pocket is he in?



Vote against Lance

What is Proposition 15 if not just the further deification of bicyclist Lance Armstrong?

I don’t get it. But then I’ve never worn one of his wristbands, never thought he was any better than any other sports star. An athletically gifted man trains hard, wins races, survives a life-threatening illness and we’re supposed to put our grandchildren into debt so he can get his name on a research hospital?



Sell Brackenridge tract

The Brackenridge tract should be sold as soon as possible to the highest bidder.

None of those writing to protest the tract’s development have bothered to mention the ongoing fiscal squeeze the academic side of the University of Texas finds itself in. (The university and its football program are not the same thing.)

The Legislature has been unwilling to fund a university of the first class, and UT has lost ground against schools like Michigan, Berkeley and Rutgers.

Why shouldn’t UT use all of its resources to hire and retain the best professors, create a safe, modern and attractive campus, and put more books on the library shelves?



Send NFL greed to sideline

Re: Oct. 23 article “NFL Network, Tim Warner clash could keep games from viewers.”

Once again, we consumers are waiting to hear whether we can watch the Cowboys play this season.

Thanks to the NFL Network, we may or may not be able to watch Dallas face off against Brett Favre for the last time. The NFL Network is keeping these games from fans by charging millions for games that two years ago were free to any viewer with a television.

The greed needs to be sidelined, and the NFL Network needs to do what’s best for the fans.



What health care problem?

It’s funny how virtually all of the people opposed to expanding health care to include uninsured children already have health care for themselves and their families.

What does that tell us about them?



Permalink | Comments (18) | Categories: Letters to the Editor

Rescues vs. emergencies

Should people who put themselves in harm’s way and must be rescued by emergency personnel reimburse the city and county for their services? Those who call 911 for medical emergencies, such as heart attacks, get a bill. However, three cavers who were recently rescued by Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services and Austin Fire Department workers will not be charged.

In response to several critical letters to the editor, one of the rescued cavers posted a comment defending the current policy. University of Texas student Jeff Brown, 20, wrote: “Everyone on here saying we should be sent a bill is wrong. And for all of you who had to use emergency services and were charged for it — that’s different — you had emergencies. We weren’t in life-threatening danger so we shouldn’t be charged.”

What do you think about the policy? Check out the online letters to the editor to see what other readers think.

Permalink | Comments (4) | Categories: Talk Back

Brackenridge tract, Hamilton Pool and police matters

1028letters.jpg Ralph Barrera AMERICAN-STATESMAN

David Hillis, University of Texas professor of integrative biology, does extensive research at the Brackenridge Field Labs in West Austin. An advisory committee was unable to determine whether the field lab should be kept as is, downsized or relocated and instead called for further study by the UT System Board of Regents. The field lab functions not only as an outdoor classroom for biology students but also as a station for studies on fire ants, deer inbreeding, spring-dwelling fish, freshwater clams, insects, amphibians and reptiles.

What about development of minds?

Re: Oct. 22 article “Future of UT outdoor biology lab uncertain.”

Brackenridge Field Laboratory is an irreplaceable asset to University of Texas natural sciences students and faculty and should be considered as important to the university’s academic programs as football to its sports programs.

From a purely academic point of view, there’s no reason a true university wouldn’t want to protect and improve a research station like BFL, just as Stanford maintains its Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve.

Who would most benefit from developing the Brackenridge tract besides the university? Who are the prospective developers, and are they lobbying the Legislature to do something with that land?

UT has alternatives, such as developing the biologically worthless empty land at the Pickle Research Campus. Surely they could generate more millions from a hotel, spa or shopping mall there.



Hamilton Pool clean-up

Hamilton Pool is an irreplaceable Hill Country treasure. Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe and Travis County are committed to making sure the degradation in Hamilton Creek and Hamilton Pool gets cleaned up and that the developers who caused the problem pick up the tab.

Unfortunately, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality only values the damages at $85,000, which is not even close to being enough to clean up the mess.

As development pushes farther into the Hill Country, it is imperative that all jurisdictions work collaboratively to strengthen and enforce water quality rules. The TCEQ needs to let Travis County finish its assessment before committing to anything less.

Ultimately, the tide must turn from reactive, expensive cleanups to clearly understood rules for development planning that keep our creeks and streams pristine for generations.



Re: Oct. 18 editorial “No surprise that Hamilton Pool mess spills into court.”

Thank you for the excellent editorial regarding Hamilton Pool and the lack of county authority.

Two creeks and two spring-fed pools are sediment filled because of development and the inability of counties to regulate land use - three in western Travis County and Dead Man’s Hole in Hays County. This lack of land use authority not only affects property values and devalues basic property rights, it devalues the state of Texas.



Cornyn and SCHIP

I am outraged that President Bush vetoed the State Children’s Health Insurance Program legislation. This program is essential to providing millions of kids across the country with the health coverage they need. It’s especially important in Texas, which has the highest rate of uninsured children in the United States.

I am also very disappointed with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who has stood with Bush in opposing SCHIP. Cornyn proved that he cares more about partisanship, ideology and special interests than doing what’s right for his constituents.


San Antonio

May I arrest you please?

I saw Austin Police Chief Art Acevado telling the media that the latest tasing incident would be used as a training tool and that the video will be seen by recruits as well as seasoned officers.

I watched it and saw it as a microcosm of what is wrong with this country. An officer gives you a legal order, and you want to tell him how to do his job. He gives you another order, and you want to argue. He orders you out of your vehicle and to the rear of that vehicle, and you want to spin and make motions with your hands.

Was the officer supposed to say “pretty please” and risk being run over by a car struggling with someone who won’t obey his orders?



Thugs with a badge

I attended the Bowie-Austin high school football game and had what should have been a great night out marred by the actions of some of the Austin school district police officers on duty.

After Bowie won the game in overtime, students rushed the field to celebrate with the players and coaches. The problem to me wasn’t the students getting on the field; it was the way several officers went about trying to keep kids off the field. One officer sprinted towards the students. He kicked several as they ran by him and shoved, not lightly, quite a few others, including several girls and a young boy who looked to be about 12 years old.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing - a police officer who is supposed to help people acting like a thug. The officers involved should be ashamed. I certainly am.



Cancer research funding proposition

Although I applaud Lance Armstrong’s efforts to pass Proposition 15, I have questions.

Aren’t we already paying for cancer research with federal funds ? Wouldn’t it be better to provide tax abatements to pharmaceutical corporations to fund the research themselves? It would be more efficient than adding the bureaucratic processes of state government funding, which costs money to navigate and actually reduces the amount of money going to research.

Why not grant tax-exempt status to cancer research done in the private sector? It would generate more money and more incentive for research dedicated to cancer cures and treatments.



Permalink | | Categories: Letters to the Editor

Tattoos, warming and St. Edward’s

01027letters.jpg Eli Kaplan AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Karen Slafter, a tattoo artist and oil painter at Resurrection Tattoo, has been working in the field for 16 years. Slafter has tattoos on 70 percent of her body.

Think before you ink — and then enjoy

Re: Oct. 17 letter “Beauty that’s only skin deep.”

As a 40-something woman with many tattoos, I would like to respond to this letter writer. I still enjoy my tattoos and plan on more. They are meant to grow with one as the aging process continues.

I still think I’m attractive, and the tattoos help me to take better care of my skin.

I do agree that people need to think before they ink, but I have many tattooed friends who are happy, well-adjusted people.



Congress and CHIP

As the major players in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program issue debate whether additional funding for children’s health insurance is worth a growth in government dependence, another issue goes overlooked: whether the federal government is even allowed to fund health care.

The government is supposed to be itself governed by the Constitution. If the Constitution says Congress cannot do something, it cannot do it. In fact, if the Constitution does not expressly say that Congress can do something, Congress is not allowed to do it.

The Constitution gives Congress plenty of powers, but health care is conspicuously left to the individual states.

The American people must decide: Leave Congress to its own whims or force it to follow its own highest laws.


Round Rock

Hot topic for the governor

The governor never ceases to astonish me.

After more international recognition of the man-made global warming theory - awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore and a UN panel of scientists - what does Gov. Rick Perry do?

One would think that as a leader of the most polluting state in the country, he would have the decency to try to educate himself about the facts of climate change and the urgency of actions this state can take to contribute to a solution.

Instead, the governor shows off his ignorance and contempt for science, insulting the intelligence of many of us by making the unfounded claim that there is no consensus among climate change experts on man-made global warming.

Given what is at stake, we expect more courage and integrity from our state leader than seeing him side with the selfish and myopic special interests of oil and gas companies.



Perry only seems to have taken a controversial position on global warming.

While Kansas is rejecting new power plants based on CO2 emmissions, Perry is standing firm against the insanity. The notion that CO2 is driving the warming trend is largely based on the evidence gathered from the Vostok, Antarctica, ice core samples, which showed a correlation of historic warming trends and CO2 gas dating back over half a million years.

Recent discoveries regarding those samples, however, have shown that the CO2 build-up actually occurs hundreds of years after the warm-ups, suggesting that global warming causes CO2 build up, not the other way around.

The governor is standing on solid scientific grounds. I’d rather have him governing in this sensible manner than from a position of apocalyptic hysteria any day.


Cedar Park

Budgeting for health insurance

I learned early in life the importance of health insurance from my father, who was a pharmacist.

When gaining my first full-time employment, he asked me to verify whether my employer covered my health insurance and what it would cost me. When I retired in 2006, I was still aware of shopping and budgeting for health insurance.

What has changed in America that parents can no longer take care of this dire need? How can we guide young Americans to not be victims?


Cedar Park

Rebutting St. Edward’s

Re: Oct. 15 article “Bishop opposes St. Edward’s pick for guest lecture.”

Thank you, Bishop Gregory Aymond, for publicly objecting to St. Edward’s decision to invite the Rev. Charles Curran to speak at what has become a university that is Catholic in name only.

A Catholic priest removed from his position on the faculty of Catholic University in Washington and forbidden from teaching at Catholic schools or from using the title of Catholic theologian by Pope John Paul II has no business being invited to speak at St. Edward’s or any other Catholic institution. There are plenty of other venues where Curran can voice his blasphemous opinions.

I urge Aymond to use his authority to revoke St. Edward’s designation as a Catholic school. It is time for American Catholic bishops to follow more closely the directions from Rome and courageously enforce true Catholic teachings and dogma.



And traffic jams stink

Re: Oct. 15 letter “Tolls stink here, too.”

Yes, tolls stink. However, horrible traffic jams stink much worse.

The letter writer thinks it is an unfair burden if he has to pay extra to use toll roads. His solution is to tax everyone, including those who don’t use the toll roads. That idea creates an unfair burden on those who don’t use the toll roads.

He had a choice in California to take the toll or non-toll roads. He chose to pay instead of taking alternate routes and now wants to complain about them.

Sounds like he wants to have his cake and eat it too. Roads need to be built quickly and paid for by those who will use them.



Permalink | Comments (8) | Categories: Letters to the Editor

Deep thoughts, media bias and the polluter

1026letters.jpg Jay Janner AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Jill Baggerman, middle, 19, and Jeff Brown, right, 20, ride on a rescue vehicle with Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services worker Matt Paul after being rescued from Airman’s Cave on Oct. 14. Paul was in the cave for 10 hours making sure the rescuees were in good health.

Nothing to like about this hole story

Re: Oct. 16 article “Cavers won’t pay rescue cost.”

A couple of years ago, I had a life-threatening medical emergency and was transported to the hospital via Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services. A few days later, I received a hefty bill, which I paid.

So I noted this article with interest. Those having medical emergencies beyond their control have to pay for emergency services, while those who choose to put themselves in harm’s way get free rescues.

I fail to see the logic in this.



So, three students have already learned a valuable lesson: how to get out of paying their bills.

Who are they related to? Any time the rest of us utilize ambulance services, we’re not only charged for the medical services inside, but we’re charged a hefty fee per mile.

Cough it up. Be responsible (students or parents).


Del Valle

I’m really dismayed at the cavalier attitude of these young people, who consider the local rescue services and the taxpayers their free, personal cave baby-sitting service.

In spite of the fact that expert cavers say the area should be navigated only by experts, these “kids” insist they did their “homework” and the “only” thing they did was get lost - and they intend to do it again.



Some 25 firefighters and an unpublished number of paramedics and policemen spent about eleven hours rescuing three foolish young people from a crack some 2 miles underground. The rescuers were forced to crawl on their bellies and drag their equipment. These young people will not be charged.

My husband was rescued by firefighters and paramedics when he had a heart attack. They entered our air-conditioned home, where they were able to walk upright and comfortably carry their equipment. They had him at the hospital within an hour after symptoms appeared. We are grateful.

We were billed for the service. It was not cheap.

Is there something wrong with this picture?



Allocating the surplus

Re: Octl 19 letter “Cheese with that baloney?”

The letter writer accuses the Texas Department of Transportation and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization of feeding cheese to some unidentified rats by approving additional toll roads.

By implying that the $8.5 billion state surplus just sits there for the taking, he ignores the rest of the article stating that much of this money is already allocated.

He ignores the fact that roads must compete with education, jails, the Department of Public Safety, health and a host of other priorities. But most of all, he ignores that fact that it is not TxDOT or CAMPO that decides what to do with state revenues.

If you don’t like the way the state spends money, complain to your state senator and representative. Don’t blame the folks who are trying to do the best with what they are given.



Invective and bias

Re: Oct. 18 commentary “Fight humanity’s baser instincts.”

Thomas G. Palaima’s selective outrage over a mild barb tossed by a Fox News personality at Al Gore and his winning a Nobel Prize would be laughable were it not coming from a university professor supposedly interested in the truth.

Palaima accuses Fox News of “pandering to our baser instincts” for grouping Al Gore with fellow Peace Prize winners Jimmy Carter and Yasser Arafat. Palaima praises Arafat for his “truly noble attempts to break through the cycle of hatred and violence in the Middle East.”

Countless Israelis maimed and slaughtered by Arafat and his fellow terrorists in the Palestinian Liberation Organization likely would disagree with Palaima’s absurd assessment.

Apparently, the good professor has been too busy researching Fox News to notice the unending stream of invective and bias that passes for reporting, aimed at conservatives, by the mainstream media.

Keith Brainard


Can’t he help himself?

Re: Oct. 17 commentary “Make us stop.”

Stop me before I pollute again, cried David Crane, chief executive of the power company NRG Energy Inc.

He requested that Congress act to pass global warming legislation to keep more coal plants from being built without carbon controls .

Kansas regulators recently denied a permit for a power plant because it didn’t control its global warming emissions, and in July the NuCoastal Power Corp. acted responsibly and agreed to offset 100 percent of its global warming gasses of a proposed coal plant on the Texas coast.

Though we agree that Congress should act to reduce global warming emissions, we have to ask Crane: Why not be responsible and stop adding more fuel to the fire?



Dental care

Re: Oct. 11 article “U.S. dental health begins to decay as dentists’ fees climb.”

We as a society expect that the dental profession will adhere to high ethical standards of conduct as stipulated by the American Dental Association.

However, since it is a self-governing profession, it is a system wrought with problems. Not until the dental profession is regulated and monitored as the medical profession will all Americans be able to acquire adequate and affordable dental care.




The meaning of the Oct. 24 letter “Waterfront overlay ordinance” was altered in the editing process. Here is the letter as it was intended:

Re: Oct. 15 editorial “Hard line over condos would be civic setback.”

The editorial on the 9-0 Austin Planning Commission vote to deny CWS Capital Partners any variance to the Lady Bird Lake waterfront overlay ordinance is a greatly distorted description of a watershed decision to deny the desecration of our beautiful Lady Bird Lake corridor in trade for a short piece of trail and a few public toilets.

How could you stoop this low? We, as readers, deserve better.



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Yesterday’s hottie, dream drugs and other no-brainers

1025letters.jpg Douglas C. Pizac 1994 ASSOCIATED PRESS

Deborah Kerr, 86, was nominated six times for a best actress Oscar. She never won an Academy Award, though she was presented an honorary Oscar in 1994 for her distinguished career as an ‘artist of impeccable grace and beauty, a dedicated actress whose motion picture career has always stood for perfection, discipline and elegance.’ Kerr died on Oct. 16.

Deborah Kerr — 1921-2007

Re: Oct. 19 obituary “`King and I’ star played every part from a nun to a killer.”

For us old-timers, it was sad to see her passing.

It was an even greater surprise to realize that she never won an Oscar for any of her many great acting roles.

I find it even harder to understand that she was not on the same level as Al Gore for his Oscar-inspiring film.

She should be considered for a future award.



Avoid dream drug

It appears that the Texas Legislature has found a miracle drug. A drug so powerful that it not only cures cancer, but it builds buildings, lays water pipes, repairs roads and provides college educations. Debt, the politicians’ dream drug.

It cures whatever is ailing the electorate and requires nothing in return. No new taxes (at least not in the current election cycle). No budgeting process with its divisive prioritization of expenditures. Simply inject some debt, and blissfully spend.

Of course the Legislature cannot take credit for the discovery of this miracle drug. It was perfected by the federal government. Those junkies have the U.S. population hooked on a dose that is the equivalent of $30,000 for each man, woman and child.

Vote against the bonds on Nov. 6. If there is something we must have, then our Legislature should have the courage to fund it with real money.



Halls of democracy

Re: Oct. 14 article “What’s on the tapes?”

Wherever he goes, James Leininger talks about the fate of low-income and minority children who need options because only 40 to 50 percent commonly graduate our urban high schools.

He helped fund a 10-year, $50 million private scholarship program to prove that letting parents choose any school makes a tremendous positive difference without hurting the public school system.

That this private citizen might have talked with legislators in a back hallway of the Capitol is simply proof that his First Amendment right to talk about issues anywhere he likes is still in effect in Austin. He is not a lobbyist but a citizen who believes that our elected officials have been intimidated to ignore proven solutions .

Agree or disagree with school choice, his passion is healthy, needed and perfectly legal. In fact, the world could use a few more like him.


Texans for School Choice


Bush’s message to Turks

Re: Oct. 18 article “Turkish lawmakers approve incursion into Iraq.”

How ironic to hear President Bush chastise the Turks for authorizing a military invasion of Iraq to combat Kurdish terrorists who attacked their country.

“There’s a better way to deal with the issue than having the Turks send massive troops into the country,” Bush said.

What a painful echo of the message most of the world tried to send an intransigent Bush in 2003. In fact, the Turks’ goal is far more rational than ours: to invade the country from which the terrorist attacks actually originated rather than a country uninvolved in them.

We hope that Bush will somehow dissuade them but can only regret that he squandered our most effective negotiating tool in 2003 - moral authority.



Origins of cancer bill

The idea for House Bill 14 (state funding of cancer research) originated with Cathy Bonner, a friend and staff member of Gov. Ann Richards. After Richard’s death from cancer, Bonner contacted former state comptroller John Sharp and the Lance Armstrong Foundation with the idea that Texas should fund a research initiative similar to the $3 billion scientific research initiative in California, only dedicated specifically to cancer research and prevention.

Sharp turned to Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland . Sharp recognized that Keffer could help turn the idea into legislation and form a bipartisan coalition to pass the bill.

Keffer was the primary author of HB 14, and 103 representatives and 22 senators joined as sponsors or co-authors.

Private groups supporting the legislation included the American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Texas Medical Association, Texas Hospital Association, Lance Armstrong Foundation and Texas Children’s Hospital.


President, HaysCAN


Think, man, think

I am writing in response to the veto by President Bush of the reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

With the same money we’re spending to fund operations for 41 days in Iraq, we could provide health insurance for 10 million kids in America for a full year.

That’s a no-brainer.



Investors not so wily

Re: Oct. 10 article “Expectations of more Fed rate cuts fuel spike in stocks.”

When I read the article, an image flashed through my mind. It’s the one where the coyote runs off the edge of a cliff, but since he doesn’t realize he’s not on solid ground any more, he just keeps on running - until he looks down and then falls.

Cartoon characters tend to survive falls like that.




Checking us out

Re: Oct. 8 editorial cartoon.

Michael Ramirez’s cartoon touting the Bush administration’s fear-mongering claims about its illegal warrantless wiretapping program leaves out a very important character - the person being spied on.

The crucial question in this whole matter has never been asked, much less answered: Who is the Bush administration really spying on? They have provided no evidence to anyone that they are doing what they say.

For all anyone knows, the Bush administration is spying on its political opponents, like the Burmese and North Korean governments do. After all, frightened conservatives keep labeling as “terrorists” and “enemies” the 70 percent of the American people who see the reality of the disaster in Iraq and want out.

Looking at the cartoon again, the spy is looking straight out at you and me. It looks like they really are spying on us.



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Cancer research, compassion and the animal shelter

1024letters.jpg Mark Matson FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Austin’s Rick Kilmer, who has stage-four non-Hodgkins follicular lymphoma, is awaiting a transplant of healthy blood stem cells.

Better use for $3 billion

Re: Oct. 21 column “Lives depend on Prop. 15.”

It’s commendable that American-Statesman editor Rich Oppel supports Prop. 15. Who in their right mind could be against it?

However, I believe the $3 billion would be better spent on working toward giving the millions of uninsured people in Texas access to affordable health care. What good does better cancer treatment do to people who can’t get it because they can’t afford health insurance — or, if they could afford it, are rejected by insurance companies or are denied treatment?

Rick Kilmer is lucky because he has insurance. If not, he’d probably be dead already — like so many other unknown fellow citizens nobody seems to care about.

To put a twist on Oppel’s remark: I can think of nothing that will improve the quality of life of millions of people of all ages more than having access to unrestricted, affordable health care.



Matters of compassion

It seems that most liberal theory is based on a one-way, one-sided compassion.

Conservatives are always expected to have compassion for the people who have less, earn less, etc. A conservative may have spent hours, days, months, years, going to school, working two jobs, putting forth effort in order to better his life.

But liberals always want the conservatives, the very people with the sweat still dripping off their noses, to have compassion for those who do not have. Why? Why can’t the “don’t haves” see the sweat dripping off the noses of the “haves”?

Why can’t liberals have compassion for those who have earned everything they have? Why can’t liberals have compassion - period?


San Antonio

Columbus’ legacy

Re: Oct. 8 editorial “Putting America on the map.”

This editorial sanitizes the brutality of the “mistreatment” of natives by Christopher Columbus.

He slaughtered, dismembered, tortured and enslaved thousands of indigenous Caribbeans for their gold. His unconscionable acts, which initiated the worst holocaust in history, should not be celebrated and considered a national holiday.

Columbus Day, which is also known as Discovery Day, symbolizes conquest, genocide and racism. It should be abolished and possibly renamed “First Americans Day” to honor the original inhabitants and true “owners” of this land.



The editorial says that “the world proved to be a lot bigger than anyone thought in 1492.”

This isn’t quite true. Insofar as educated people thought about the topic at all, they probably accepted the estimate of Eratosthenes of Cyrene that the circumference of the Earth was 252,000 Greek stadia, in the rough neighborhood of modern measurements.

Columbus banked the success of his mission on a much smaller and wildly erroneous number, with only ocean between Europe and the Indies. Had his second assumption not also been wrong, he and his crew would have died of thirst or starvation long before navigating an extra 11,000 miles of ocean. Call his discovery the triumph of the overoptimistic and clueless.



Animal shelter relocation

Re: Oct. 8 commentary “Do right by Austin’s pets - relocate the city shelter.”

The animal shelter relocation argument is entangled because neither location is good.

The current shelter environment is abysmal, and I support building on a new site. But the proposed Lavender Loop site has few advantages.

Why must we again locate such a facility near the Colorado River and in the middle of heavy traffic patterns? Let’s house the animals in a nice quiet place on high ground.

The City Council is impatiently rushing into an ill-conceived decision. With more diligent work, officials could surely identify a location more conducive to maintaining a clean and healthy facility for the animals who live there and the staff who works there.



Sports and SMU

Re: Sept. 30-Oct. 1 series “UT Sports Spending.”

After reading Eric Dexheimer’s exposé of the University of Texas athletic empire, I’m glad that Southern Methodist University was given the “death penalty” by the NCAA in 1987, a harsh penalty that destroyed SMU’s opportunity for a bloated, UT-style athletic program for the next hundred years.

Yet, surprisingly, athletics at SMU are alive and well. SMU fans do their tailgate parties on campus streets and walk to the stadium, knowing full well that their team will lose.

Thus the SMU athletic program is on a balanced playing field with other SMU offerings: the new Meadows art museum, the new Laura Blanton business building and the prospective Bush Presidential Library.



Evangelical politics

A growing concern is the overwhelming number of religious evangelical extremists pushing their weight and beliefs into politics. These people are a concern, not because of what they believe in, but because they remove themselves from the idea of compromise.

Recently, high-profiled evangelical extremist leaders took a shot at their biggest supporter, the Republican Party, and said that they would remove themselves from the GOP and create their own presidential candidate if Rudy Giuliani is nominated as the Republican candidate.

No one religious faith should be pushed on anyone. That is why Americans, under the Constitution, are granted the freedom of religion.



Waterfront overlay ordinance

Re: Oct. 15 editorial “Hard line over condos would be civic setback.”

The waterfront overlay ordinance is a greatly distorted description of a watershed decision to deny the desecration of our beautiful Lady Bird Lake corridor in trade for a short piece of trail and a few public toilets. How could you stoop this low?



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California, Gore and cabs

1023letters.jpg Guillermo Arias ASSOCIATED PRESS

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger touts the joys of being a Californian. Some nouveau Texans aren’t so sure.

Greetings from Texas

I relocated here because Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his poor choices chased many of us Californians out of our homes. Where does he get his support and advice?

Tonight, I saw commercials, offering snowboarding, resorts and all that California has to offer. He is begging people to come to California.

Yet anybody from California knows that it is not affordable, especially for people moving from Texas. So why is he again wasting California taxpayers’ money?

This is exactly why we, and others, have left California.


Round Rock

Too dark for young children

Re: Sept. 28 article “Child killed as he played on highway by bus stop.”

I am sad to say I am not surprised that a child was hit while waiting for a bus.

I am an elementary school teacher. I see young children waiting for buses, riding their bikes and walking to school before dawn some mornings.

It is a shame that we make the youngest school population go to school the earliest.

Sure, we save bus money and the high school kids get to go later, which is supposed to be better for their body clocks.

Is this worth the expense of children’s lives?

How many more children will die before we look at the rationale of this decision?



Rush to defend

I see that many conservatives rushed to support Rush Limbaugh after his comments about “phony soldiers.”

This is the same Limbaugh who avoided military service with multiple deferments. The same man who ridiculed a disabled individual on the air - actor Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson’s. The same man who ranted about drug addicts while he was one himself.

What a hypocrite.

If any talk show host from the left had made the same comments, the conservatives would have crucified him and demanded his ouster. It all goes back to “If you are not with us, you are not patriotic.”



Blackwater in Iraq

As a former Marine infantryman who fought in Iraq at the Battle of Fallujah and in Afghanistan, I question the spending of money on our war on terror. We have spent billions of dollars on Blackwater USA, yet we have children in this country without health insurance.

I can remember during the Battle of Fallujah raiding houses for blankets because we couldn’t get cold weather gear. Yet while us underpaid grunts went house to house and took incoming fire daily, it was interesting to see these Blackwater fellows with all the necessary gear, not to mention the unbelievable amount of money they were making.

I wonder why we got shot at more, showered less than once a month and ate garbage for food while these “corporate warriors” got all the money.


Cedar Park

Grateful cat lover

I need to thank someone I never met.

A bit more than 13 years ago, someone left a box of kittens at the door of a veterinary clinic in Southwest Austin. My wife and I adopted one of those kittens, who recently died peacefully.

We do not often get to know the results of our small acts of kindness and mercy. In this case, because someone took the time and effort to leave the kittens where they would be cared for and adopted, my family received a great gift.

Because that kitten grew up to be such a good cat, six other cats found homes with people who might not otherwise have adopted a pet. I am sure that the number of animals who owe their homes to that good cat will grow over the years.


Fort Worth

Gore’s victory

Awarding Al Gore the Nobel Peace Prize predictably has many upset.

Many apparently had hoped over the last five years that President Bush would show the world that arrogance, petulance, laziness, ignorance, eagerness for violence, and contempt for study and careful analysis were effective and therefore traits to be proud of. Standing in the shambles he made of the Middle East, the Constitution and American prestige, Bush has, in fact, demonstrated that such traits are, as ever, those of a fool.

In this context, Gore receives an award for being a planetary-scale leader for the betterment of humankind. Possessing and using traits directly contrary to those of the president, Gore receives the Peace Prize for demonstrating his ability to lead in constructive ways,

Fans of the president are understandably upset.



Wasteful expenditures

Re: Oct. 6 article “Funding cuts take heavy toll on some abstinence programs.”

Finally, some good news. Fifty million dollars in federal funds dries up instead of going toward this folly.

Maybe next we could strip the budget of the useless “war on drugs” and stop President Bush’s tragically ridiculous and counter-productive war in Iraq.

Perhaps then we could use this money to provide universal single-payer health care and rebuild much of this country’s basic infrastructure. If we have a few cents left over, let’s use it to prosecute the sanctimonious, corrupt politicians and white-collar criminals who thrive on these stupid and wasteful government expenditures.



Cabs don’t look like cruisers

Re: Oct. 8 article “Cruisers to be seen in black and white.”

I know our new police chief is from California, but in Austin cabs are identified by signs on the doors or rooftop markings. I find it hard to believe that the police chief believes all four-door, white, unmarked vehicles are cabs.

To bring him up to date: Years ago, to save taxpayer monies for special paint jobs, Austin police cars were ordered all white.



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Left behind: nurses, childhood and housing market

Your life could be in my hands

Re: Oct. 14 article “Hospitals urgently seek staff.”

I read with exasperation about how hospitals and other health care facilities are having a hard time getting skilled workers, especially nurses.

I have been an RN for 27 years. I graduated nursing school in 1980, and there was a big fuss back then about the nursing shortage.

When I was a new grad, my starting pay was below the level of the starting city bus drivers in Indianapolis.

My job as a nurse has a lot of responsibility. Your life may depend on whether I know what I am doing. If I don’t, you may die. Yet there has been many a year when my salary increase does not keep up with inflation.

So here is my remedy for this shortage: Pay the nurses what they are worth, and you will have plenty of nurses. JOHN HOOK


Peddling Texas’ jewels

The Christmas Mountains are just the tip of the iceberg of Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson’s fire sale of Texas natural resources. He’s peddling off some of Texas’ crown jewels without restraint and against public sentiment.

He recited the same company line about why the state had awarded drilling exploration rights in the Gulf of Mexico and Laguna Madre without notifying any of the locals.

At a packed meeting on South Padre Island, Patterson told a convention center full of irate residents the same thing he said in his rebuttal to a recent editorial criticizing his proposed sale of the Christmas Mountains to private interests: He says he’s just doing his job of maximizing the state’s resources.

An emergency moratorium needs to be placed on Patterson’s efforts until checks and balances are installed to keep public officials from selling off the state’s most precious environmental treasures.



Washington blame game

I love how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is responsible for all our financial woes. Sure couldn’t have been caused by no-bid contracts with Haliburton Co., which has moved its corporate headquarters to Dubai, could it?

It has to be the fault of those horrible Democrats, who are destroying our finances by trying to negotiate us out of a war we should never have taken on.



No childhood left behind?

Re: Sept. 30 commentary “We’ll all pay for rolling back reform.”

Ruben Navarrette Jr.’s column supporting the No Child Left Behind law leads me to assume that Ruben either doesn’t have children in school, or he doesn’t care that there is no life beyond school between August and May for his kids.

The teachers’ mandate through NCLB forces them to burden the kids, with no time at nights and weekends to be kids.

Parents must weigh time spent by our kids on homework to keep up grades, time spent on home chores, time for physical fitness, extracurricular activities or time spent on an outside job to learn real life responsibilities toward work and finances.

NCLB may bring up standardized test scores, but it is leaving the childhood behind in the lives of our children.



Give us a break. After five years, this program still has more questions than answers. I don’t have the answers, but neither does Navarrette.

This is not a conservative vs. liberal issue, which is how he plays it. And it’s not evil unions and teachers vs. parents and kids.

Navarrette spews tried-and-untrue tripe: Teachers don’t really want what’s best for kids. Oh yeah? Tell that to the millions of great teachers who give their professional lives for students, year in and year out.

Even the conservative Texas Legislature raised questions about NCLB and similar state programs: Too much standardized testing promotes teaching to the test and less time for those creative extras that teachers teach, given the time.

If Navarrette had legitimate arguments for NCLB, he should have stated them instead of the same old simplistic, tired demonizing of Democrats, unions and teachers. It’s a false and boring argument.



McCain is wrong

Sen. John McCain has said that the Constitution established America as a Christian nation. This is completely false.

The Constitution contains no mention of God or Jesus Christ. The only time it mentions religion is when it states that no religious test can be required to hold office.

The founding fathers of this nation were men of the Enlightenment. Many of them, including Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, were quite clearly not Christians.

They believed in the power of human reason, not religious dogma, so they made sure to keep church and state separate when they created this country.



Ben, beware

In Ben Sargent’s cartoon of Sept. 26, the labeling of the vehicles was backwards. The American policeman’s car should have been labeled “nonsense” and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s “truth.”

In the United States, the blind lead the blind and the masses are led to believe nonsense. Those with the darkest, most sinister plans always cloak their efforts in fair words.

All too often, they eagerly demonize the best world leaders on the globe. People (including the very gifted and talented Ben Sargent) should take notice of that fact and beware.



Raise gas tax

Why don’t we cut income taxes and raise gasoline taxes? It would be better for the economy and for the environment.

An increase in gas taxes could encourage car pooling. In addition, it might lead some to live closer to work. It might lead some to reduce the size of their cars or change to hybrids.

It reduce the global warming threat. Who knows, increasing the gas tax might even help relieve traffic congestion.



Housing market jitters

My house in Oak Hill was put on the market a few weeks before the subprime mortgage debacle. Two cash contracts fell through as a result of the unfounded paranoia. Now, many lookers, no contracts.

The subprime issue has been fueled by speculation, not fact, which has resulted in an unfounded paranoia for home buyers that has unduly affected sellers. I want to sell my home but will not be able to do so until the buying public demands facts about this “phenomenon” rather than making assumptions that have adversely affected the once-robust Austin housing market.



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Brackenridge, Patterson and Blackwater

1021letters.jpg Larry Kolvoord AMERICAN-STATESMAN

A municipal golf course, more than 500 student apartments and perhaps a biological field lab should be replaced with commercial development to earn money for the University of Texas, a blue-ribbon panel said last week in a report on the 345-acre Brackenridge tract along the Colorado River and Lake Austin Boulevard.

There goes the neighborhood

A blue-ribbon panel recommending commercial development of the University of Texas’ Brackenridge tract says such development will be “transformational” for Austin.

Earvin “Magic” Johnson and his partners, breaking ground for their heavily promoted Block 21 project, say that it will “transform the face of Austin.”

How weird am I to have imagined Austin a relatively decent place without constant high-dollar transformations - built to attract more residents so the city can grow to ever more ridiculous, unlivable proportions?

Nothing special will be left when all the transformation is done - just newer, grander palaces of urban decay.



Some of my fondest memories revolve around arriving in beautiful Austin from dusty West Texas in 1955 to attend UT. This particular area still represents the best of old Austin.

Any logic arguing that this area should be developed would also argue that New York City should bulldoze Central Park and develop it.



I see that North and Northwest Austin may be short-sheeted once again. Muny golfers should send UT a blunt message to the effect that shutting down Austin Municipal Golf Course may produce negative monetary consequences in the form of an irate City Council.

Of course, the city should make the university a fair offer for a really long-term lease.



That UT’s blue-ribbon panel comes down heavily on the side of turning the Brackenridge tract into a cash cow comes as no surprise. The year it took to conduct the study serves merely as political cover to convince us that it arrived at this conclusion judiciously, based solely on facts, though only the naïve would doubt that the conclusion was already formed prior to the start of the study.

The blue-ribbon panel refers to “stewardship of the tract.” Nowadays, when the creed of the dollar clutches us in its maw, “stewardship” of land translates as condos, shopping centers and asphalt, upscale apartments and increased automobile traffic.



The West Austin Youth Association sits on a small chunk of the Brackenridge tract the university owns and will most likely lease for development to some degree or another.

WAYA is the only youth association west of MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1). Without it, children throughout West Austin would have no youth facility serving their neighborhoods.

Western Hills Little League, which runs WAYA’s baseball program, served more than 1,100 players last spring alone, and it is but one part of a vibrant WAYA organization offering many activities to hundreds of other kids, including an after-school program for students at O. Henry Middle School, which draws youngsters from more parts of the city than any other Austin school district school.


Past president

Western Hills Little League


If by pristine you mean …

Jerry Patterson, the Texas Land Commissioner, would have us believe that the only way to preserve the pristine state of the Christmas Mountains is to sell the land to private interests.

I wonder if he has driven through the Hill Country lately.



Cancer research

My mother is a five-year breast cancer survivor. Cancer research did not save her life. Having health insurance did.

With all due respect to Lance Armstrong, he did not speak about cancer until it almost killed him. If he wants to rally Texans to fund general health care for all Texans, I am all for it because I do not have nor can I afford basic health care.

But if he wants Texans to fund cancer research, then I ask all Texans to reject his proposition.



Preventive measures

Re: Oct. 15 article “Travis: Health costs steady.”

Travis County discovered it is cheaper to provide free preventive care for select groups rather than pay high costs of repeat emergencies.

Providing free preventive care for Central Texas’ 280,000 uninsured could create similar results. Providing free preventative care for uninsured would reduce the financial burden on emergency departments while preserving the integrity of current the health care system.



Mob reference in cartoon

The insurgents in Iraq need help in their efforts to defeat Blackwater USA. They have little luck in a fair fight, so they are taking a lesson from North Vietnam and are trying to turn the American media, and subsequently the American people, against Blackwater by using the “innocent civilian” lie.

They have found an ally in the American-Statesman and Ben Sargent. Sargent’s on Sept.25 depicts Blackwater members as mobsters.

My son served honorably in the 82nd Airborne Division and served honorably with Blackwater and was killed in Iraq while serving with Blackwater. I invite Sargent to meet with his mother and tell her to her face that our son was a mobster.

Or he can issue a public apology for his despicable action. I’m willing to bet he doesn’t have the courage to do either.



WWII documentaries

The real travesty concerning Ken Burns’ documentary “The War” is that he was forced to change his film to appease a small minority of protesters falsely accusing him of racism.

Obviously, these protesters are more concerned with their agenda of political correctness than freedom of speech or freedom of expression.

I’ve seen several dozen World War II documentaries that do not reference Hispanics either. Why aren’t they protesting those films?



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Cool clothes, warm weather, and Adam and Eve’s co-pay



Alex Gehring, 19, is a sales associate at Soigné Boutique and bassist for the band Ringo Death Starr.

Undercover reporting

Re: Oct. 11 article “The new vintage.”

Loved the article about vintage clothing.

Thought you might want to know that Alex Gehring’s “vintage bloomers” were actually called “pettipants” in the 1960s. They became popular when skirts starting going mini.

In fact, when I saw her on the front page of Life & Style, I said, “Oh, my God, there’s my old pettipants! By the way, the boys called them “spoilers.”



Warm front moving in

It’s scary that Al Gore has people deluded by the inconvenient lies he puts out.

The scientific method is not consensus but is based on experiments that test a hypothesis validity. Contrary to the false statement that there is “perfect unanimity” by scientists about global warming, several climatologists do not support that we are the cause of the temperature rise.

George Taylor, John Christie and David Legates are a few of these prominent climatologists. It does have real costs. The move to ethanol is contributing to higher costs for the underprivileged that rely on corn as a staple of their diets.

We are lucky to predict next week’s weather, yet we are told that Gore can predict the weather in 20 years?


Round Rock

Pity the poor elephant

The creature must be wondering what it did to deserve being the mascot for such a militant group as the Republican Party.

Its latest crusade of hate is against Graeme Frost, the boy who called out George Bush on his veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Point and counterpoint is a desired trait of democracy, but when normal people start tuning you out because of the imbecilic rants of party spokespeople (Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh), then you might want to rethink that debating style.

The GOP mascot should be a pit bull. Like the dog, the party is not recommended around children, exhibits irrational behavior without warning and is mostly ineffective on home security.



Why the `Y’?

Re: Oct. 9 article “Toll road plan cruises onward.”

I want the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization board know my disgust with its vote on the toll roads, especially the portion that affects me, the “Y” in Oak Hill.

How could CAMPO think building that monstrosity at the “Y” and tolling 2.9 miles is a good idea? Have the board members ever been to Oak Hill? They certainly weren’t listening to the will of the people.

I will remember their position come election time.


Oak Hill

Every reading of the law I do tells me putting tolls on existing roads is not permitted. Yet the powers that be continuously violate the law, doing whatever they want regardless of public sentiment (you know, what the people who elected you want).

But I blame the residents, because they’ll protest then pay their money. Why shouldn’t the authorities shove more things down our throats to “tax” us? People pay then wonder why these things happen.

If they illegally change the roads to toll roads and no one uses, them think of the possibilities. Then what?

Maybe one day the government we elect will actually listen to us (you know, like they are supposed to).



What’s good for America

The Republicans give big tax breaks to wealthy people and call it “good tax policy.” They write tax laws to benefit wealthy corporations and say that’s good for America.

But heaven forbid that a family that could use some government help actually gets it! That’s the conclusion I draw from the Republican right-wing attack on the family of 12-year-old Graeme Frost, who, along with his sister, were injured in a car crash. The two were treated under the SCHIP program even though the family’s income was $45,000 a year.

Well, as a taxpayper, I’d much rather see my tax dollars pay for insurance to help the Frost family than go to fat cats and corporations. The Republicans seem to believe the only people “worthy” of government help are those wealthy enough not to need it. I disagree, and I’m sick and tired of Republicans misusing my tax dollars.



Adam and Eve’s co-pay

Re: Oct. 10 letter “Parental control.”

I can only guess that the letter writer was/is a government or education employee.

Anyone who receives insurance through an employer has a harder time understanding what it’s like to come up with $500 or more a month to insure their families with a reliable insurance carrier.

Health care is expensive, whether you’re insured or not. Deductibles, co-pays and medications that aren’t covered are hard to pay for.

For anyone to suggest couples not to conceive until they can afford it is absurd. I don’t recall what it said in the Bible about Adam and Eve having maternity coverage.



Personality check

Re: Oct. 9 letter “Conservative personality.”

It is ironic that the letter writer believes the conservative’s personality, by not believing the perceived issue of global warming, is an example of a major problem in our society.

Labeling this a major problem in our society is laughable when the liberal personality has undeniably (and proudly) embraced two of the biggest and most self destructive ills of any society: abortion and homosexuality.

Maybe it’s time to check what the children are being taught about that.



A wheel liberal

I own two hybrid cars and two bicycles so, according to some recent letter writers, I must be a paragon of sanctimoniousness.

I love the cars and I certainly feel good about saving money on gasoline, but I am surprised by the attitude of conservative people who always seem to be smirking at my choice of vehicles.

However if one accepts the dictionary definition of “sanctimonious” meaning “falsely pious,” then I simply do not fit the description.

Let me give some better examples: Gay senators and preachers trying to pass laws banning same-sex unions; a president who supports torture yammering about “freedom and liberty.”

Perhaps I am too literal.



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Campaign 2008

Which presidential candidate - Democrat or Republican - are you supporting and why? Do you have any predictions for who will win each party’s nomination? What would your ideal ticket be?

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Holes in the ground, holes in the logic

101807_cave.jpg Jay Janner AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Austin firefighter Richie Kruse crawls out of Airman’s Cave after checking on the status of some other firefighters searching for three missing cavers on Sunday. Paramedics, firefighters and volunteers spent 11 hours looking for the cavers. Fire officials said they paid overtime to seven firefighters, at a cost of about $2,400. Eighteen firefighters already on duty also participated in the rescue.

Helping them out of a tight fix

Re: Oct. 16 article “Cavers won’t pay rescue cost.”

I disagree with Austin officials not to charge the cavers for their rescue.

The Austin Fire Department spent $2,400 on overtime, and Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services is still calculating. These University of Texas students entered the cave on their own knowing what could happen.

They should pay the bill and maybe learn a valuable lesson: Don’t expect others to pay for your stupid actions.



Cheese with that baloney?

Re: Oct. 10 editorial “CAMPO takes high road, addresses transportation needs.”

I read with bemusement the editorial praising the decision by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization board to approve five more toll roads for the Austin area.

In another article (Oct. 10, “Combs: State surplus climbs to $8.5 billion”), we learn that the State of Texas is sitting on an $8.5 billion surplus with only $300 million earmarked for highways.

The Texas Department of Transportation and the CAMPO board keep claiming that there is not enough money for freeway construction. I smell some big fat rats that just helped themselves to a big chunk of Central Texas cheese.



Motion for common sense

Re: Oct. 12 article “City buys I-35 land for court.”

Thank you, City of Austin, for doing the right and logical thing (albeit for the wrong reasons) and moving Municipal Court out of congested downtown.

The Home Depot site is on a major thoroughfare and on a bus line. This follows Travis County’s most excellent move of the tax assessor’s office to Airport Boulevard.

Can common sense strike three times and get the animal shelter moved near Airport Boulevard, a major road with a bus line, where it will have plenty of room for expanded programs?

Let us not listen to the racists, who will always paint the east side as the “bad” part of town.



Spare us

The television report hatchet job on Judge Sharon Keller said that if only she had kept her courtroom open to hear a last-ditch appeal, it might have spared rapist-murderer Michael Richard’s life. Of course, nothing was said about his crime or his victim.

I had to go online to learn Richard had been out of prison eight weeks when he went to the home of Marguerite Dixon, 53, a nurse and mother of seven. He raped her, then killed her.

Instead, ABC News dwelled on the fact that, after two trials and almost countless appeals stretched out over 21 years, this rapist-murderer was denied one last, frivolous appeal.


Fresno, Calif.

We are not dealing with a case where an innocent man was put to death. We are dealing with a case where a guilty man was seeking to avoid the death penalty because he may feel some pain as the result of the lethal injection.

I can assure you Richard’s pain at the hands of the State of Texas paled in comparison to that of his victim.


Los Angeles

The other death sentence in the news

I followed the trial of Selwyn Davis with what now is a morbid curosity. He is portrayed as a monster among men. Granted, what he has been convicted of is beyond the bounds of normalcy.

He was once an innocent child that time and circumstances turned. I was one of his elementary school teachers and remember him (and a brother) as kids typical of the time and environment he lived in.

He was not always what we see now in the news. I hope others see Selwyn and then see others in their midst that might follow his path - then make a decision to mentor the wavering child.

Make a difference: Give to the children who need positive role models.



Argument not germane

Re: Oct. 13 letter “Fence sitters?”

I’m no fan of the effort to build a wall, a physical wall, between Mexico and the United States. I think it’s a ludicrous, monumentally stupid, insane and obviously impractical idea.

However, I’m dismayed to see so many opposed to this idea compare it to the Berlin Wall.

The Berlin Wall was made to keep people inside. The Mexico wall will be made to keep people outside. It ain’t the same thing.



Study in economics

The UT System Board of Regents is being urged to turn the Brackenridge tract into a massive commercial development.

The 345-acre property, which lies mostly along Lake Austin Bouvelard, includes a unique student family community, a biological field laboratory, the Lions Municipal golf course and a number of leased retail businesses. The property was donated to the university by Col. George Washington Brackenridge in 1910 for educational purposes.

But those purposes have been reinterpreted by members of a task force looking for ways to generate funds for the university’s educational mission. UT Regents Chairman James Huffines says that commercial development of the tract “could be a transformational project for the entire community.”

I think by transformational he means condos, shopping centers, big bank towers, etc.



The UT permanent fund has $10 billion or so, so it’s easy to see the “need” to develop the Brackenridge tract, thus taking away housing for graduate students, green space and a research area for scientists and professors.

I guess the Athletic Department must “need” something new.


San Marcos

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Muddy water, stinky sidewalks and the mute button

Punishment for harm to Hamilton Pool is not fine

Destructive behavior by a few have harmed a place of beauty that many have marveled at for untold years. My grandchildren look forward to visiting Texas because of South Padre Island, Barton Springs and Hamilton Pool.

A fine is ridiculous. Money cannot replace, nor can man make, a place so beautiful as Hamilton Pool. It is a treasure.

Just as Treaty Oak partially died, now we add Hamiltons Pool to the list of memories of “how it used to be.”



The developer could have used known practices and strategies to retain construction sediment on site, but to do so probably would have cost more than the amount of the fine. It is cheaper for developers to pollute streams with construction sediment than to prevent this problem.

I wonder if this fine will deter this or other developers from creating the same problem.



The articles about Hamilton Pool being harmed by developer Cosmo Palmieri really make me mad.

Sure, he and his partners should be fined $85,000. But that’s not enough.

They should be forced to cover the costs of any remediation effort to clean up Hamilton Pool. Not only that, this kind of negligent action should require jail time. And his license to operate a construction business should be revoked.

Only with strict penalties can we expect the laissez-faire frontier attitude of some members of the development community to stop.



The subdivision developer basically blames the damage to Hamilton Creek and Hamilton Pool on Mother Nature. But there is no question that the massive sedimentation came from the excavation activities on his property.

He needs to take responsibility for the consequences of his actions, which in this case means paying for the removal of the sediment deposits stretching more than 4 miles from his property to Hamilton Pool and beyond.

He broke it, he should fix it.



Hamilton Pool Road Scenic Corridor Coalition (HPRSCC)


Why am I so special?

I got a non-generic prescription filled and was told the price was $123. I told the clerk she was mistaken; my insurance discount must not have been applied. She checked the computer then charged me $3.

Why do I pay $3 for my prescriptions, and my neighbor without a government health plan pays 10 times that or, if he has no medical plan, 20 times that?

I’m a military retiree who enlisted to fly helicopters in Vietnam rather than be drafted as an infantryman. After my obligation was over, I elected to stay in the Army and retired after 20 years.

I’m glad the government negotiated good prices for my prescription drugs, but I’m no better or worse than any other American. Why should any American pay more than I have to for prescription drugs? Why should any American pay more than any member of Congress pays for his or her drugs?



Not so green

Re: Oct. 11 Texas Digest item “Waste Management plans greener operations.”

The chief executive of Waste Management, David Steiner, should check with the Austin area office before putting out a press release about going green. I am forced to use Waste Management for pick-up service in a condo complex and last spring was notified by the company that it no longer would be picking up recyclable materials.

I assume they know they are still picking up old newspapers, plastic and glass - it is just in with all the other household garbage. One-third of what they collect from my container used to be recycled.

As Steiner said, “I don’t look at it as how much it’s going to cost. I just look at it as how much it’s going to return.”

Well, it is returning 30 percent more to your landfill.



Offended by pet walkers

I sit in a state office at Fourth and Guadalupe streets. From my window, I have a view of the tenants from the nearby swanky condos walking their pets. I often walk to lunch or for a snack using Lavaca Street or Guadalupe between Third and Second streets.

The smell is getting bad from the irresponsible dog owners. They are not picking up after their dogs. I must say it is so bad, you have to cross the street to avoid smelling it.

Do these people think someone else is going to do it for them? Do they think they are too good to do it themselves?


Cedar Park

Troop withdrawal

If it was a folly to go into Iraq, it will be a greater folly to withdraw in haste. It is not an easy matter to evacuate 160,000 troops and millions of tons of equipment in hurry.

Withdrawal is a most difficult operation of war. Morale of withdrawing troops is lowest, and that of pursuing troops is sky high.

Why should the operations in Iraq be discussed openly? Did al Qaeda warn us of Sept. 11 operations?


Cedar Park

I’m with Analog Man

My not-so-super alter ego is the uni-tasker.

I defend against those who would divide my attention. “You’ve Got Mail,” personalized cell phone ring tones, robocalls, text messages and the constant hum of an unwatched TV - these are my nemeses.

“Delete All,” silent mode, closing my door and the dramatic yanking of the cord from the wall - these are my weapons.

Thank you, Analog Man, for writing a funny yet eloquent essay of the beauties of that “realm the digital dimension can never invade.”



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Tattoos, parking garages and state schools

1017letters.jpg Doug Dreyer ASSOCIATED PRESS

A Houston woman shows off her tattoos, which she claims cover 80 percent of her body.

Beauty that’s only skin deep

Years ago, when I was a young officer in the Air Force, I knew many World War II veterans who had tattoos. Most got them got them when they were in their teens or early 20s.

Many of them, then in their mid- to late 40s, also seemed to regret either the design or content of what they had on their arms and probably elsewhere. What may have been attractive at 18, 19 or 23 may no longer be attractive at 35, or in later years.

I understand that tattoo removal is becoming an increasingly lucrative business.

Nothing wrong or illegal about a tattoo, but folks need to know there may be consequences for younger participants.



Parking garages part of the problem

Re: Sept. 27 article “Nowhere to park downtown? City looking to fix that.”

I keep waiting for Austin to have a mayor who realizes we’re living in the 21st century. Mayor Will Wynn’s favorable comment on the construction of yet another parking garage indicates I’ll have to wait a while.

The contrast between Portland, Ore., and Austin couldn’t be clearer. Portland has invested heavily in mass transit and actually restricts the creation of parking downtown. It’s won numerous planning awards and is widely recognized as a highly livable city.

Austin has invested heavily in parking garages and new roads, tolled and untolled. Our city was recently declared to be the medium-sized city with the worst traffic congestion in the nation.



Slurs to the north

What is going on in Williamson County?

In May 2006, Round Rock municipal court bailiff Dick Koble referred to “wetbacks” during the arraignment of Hispanic high school students who had been arrested for their part in the nationwide immigration protests.

This past January, Georgetown City Council Member Gabe Sansing used the same racial epithet in referring to area tree trimming.

Then last month, the Mac Haik Ford Lincoln Mercury dealership in Georgetown used that ethnic slur in an e-mail advertisement.

It is astonishing that officials and a major business so cavalierly use a derogatory term that demeans Hispanics. It is especially insulting to the growing Hispanic communities in Williamson County and reinforces the negative image of the county’s political, judicial and business leadership toward minorities.

How much do these folks speak for the rest of Williamson County?


Director, Texas Civil Rights Project


Exploiting family

Re: Oct. 10 article “Boy’s response to Bush sets off political storm.”

Shame on politicians and bloggers for exploiting this family’s tragedy. Shame on the left for its favored tactic of accusing State Children’s Health Insurance Program detractors of being anti-child, and on the right for its belief that all we need is Medicaid to protect the impoverished.

How about a multi-pronged approach involving federal and state lawmakers, and us, the voters? Lawmakers should work together, eliminating needless regulation that impacts the affordability of health care. Families should prioritize children above all else.

Expanding the scope of government is not the answer. It seldom is.


Cedar Park

State school was home

Re: Sept. 28 commentary “State schools raise quality of life for mentally retarded.”

I totally agree with Susan Payne. My brother-in-law was a resident at the Travis State School in Austin from about 1960 until his death in 1992.

If he had been sent to another school or a community setting, his life would have had less quality. The school was his home.

We did bring him to his original home in Thorndale several times a year. Coming home was great, but after two or three days he was asking to go “home” to Travis State School. We never witnessed any mistreatment of Leroy.

My daughter worked at Austin State School. She introduced us to Archie. He was 80-plus years old and had lived most of his life at Austin State School. He was a wonderful person who would have been lost anywhere but there.



Re: Oct. 9 commentary “Consolidate state schools to protect resident’s rights.”

This issue should be at the forefront for all who are interested in the welfare of all citizens and the fiscal welfare of our state’s health and human services.

As Gov. Ann Richards’ appointed chairwoman of the former Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation facility review task force, whose work resulted in the closure of two such schools, I had the opportunity to visit them all.

The observations, perceptions and data in Colleen Horton’s column are accurate.

Characterizations of these schools as having low pay, chronic staff turnover and unsafe and unhealthy conditions are, unfortunately, accurate as well.

Continuing to funnel money into these institutions instead of enhancing community services is archaic. Community living environments for all of our citizens are the alternatives on which the State of Texas needs to focus and which it needs to fund.


Public policy advisor

Center for Disability and Development

Texas A&M University

College Station

School shooting

Re: Oct. 11 article “Suspended student wounds four at Cleveland school, takes own life.”

Another mass shooting at a school in Ohio. Why are these shootings always at a school or some other gun-free area?



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Aggie bonfire, our high horse and Rush Limbaugh

1016letters.jpg David Kennedy 1999 AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Workers gathered at the scene of the Texas A&M bonfire structure the morning after it collapsed Nov. 18, 1999. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a ruling that found officials at A&M cannot be held responsible for deaths and injuries in the bonfire collapse, which killed 12 and injured 27.

Supreme Court and the Aggie bonfire

Re: Oct. 10 Texas Digest item “Top court denies bonfire case.”

It is beyond disappointing that even the highest court in the United States cannot be convinced that an incredible lack of leadership at Texas A&M caused such a needless tragedy.

As a former student who attended A&M during the collapse of bonfire, I witnessed many circumstances where the administration turned its head to obvious inappropriate activity. Freshmen at the bonfire work site being forced face down in the mud only minutes after Malon Southerland, vice president of student affairs, made a spirited speech during the ritual arrival of the center pole is one incident I recall.

The day before the collapse, A&M’s student newspaper, The Battalion, featured hazing at the bonfire cut site, including photos.

And yet A&M used the bonfire in every possible way to recruit and establish a student body that embodied the values of tradition, leadership and honesty. Ironic.



High horse and high on the Longhorns

Re: Sept. 30-Oct. 1 series “UT Sports Spending.”

I was amused and bewildered by the articles. I find it really amusing that a media organization that spends so much money covering University of Texas sports and earns so much money from doing so has any ability to criticize the cash cow UT athletics has become.

Why not, in the interest of full disclosure, reveal how much money is spent sending American-Statesman reporters every week to cover the football team? Why not reveal how much money is earned in advertising revenue from the Sports page and special Web site sections?

If the Statesman wanted to do something about the out-of-control spending, try not giving UT football so much coverage. Next time they win a championship, don’t sell commemorative editions.

Oh wait, the Statesman won’t do that. It would rather ride on its high horse while counting the money that keeps it in business. Hypocrites.



Society determines values by the money it spends, its attendance and its reluctance to pay taxes.

The public values UT football, Madonna, George Clooney, professional athletics, Michael Moore, etc. The public does not value teachers, Nobel prize winners, losing coaches or math scholars.

The public knows more about participants in “American Idol” than about the Supreme Court or members of Congress.

This same incredibly uninformed population continues to complain about those it placed in political office. We need to be more informed and more careful with our dollars, our votes and the venues we attend.



Water conservation

Re: Oct. 6 article “New lawn-watering rules anger property managers.”

Thanks to the American-Statesman for covering the new watering rules. I want to note why water conservation is so important.

Environmentally, the less water used, the more remains for various needs, including downstream bays and estuaries.

Additionally, water treatment requires large amounts of electricity. The more electricity used, the more greenhouse gases emitted. So water conservation is central to Austin’s role in fighting climate change.

Using less electricity saves ratepayers money. Another economic benefit results from Austin’s water contract with the Lower Colorado River Authority.

Austin is prepaid for water until use exceeds 201,000 acre-feet for two years running - predicted to happen between 2019 and 2025 - with an estimated water rate impact of 3 percent to 4 percent.

The longer that is postponed, the lower Austin water bills remain. These are a few reasons for the watering restrictions. City officials remain open to improving efforts to conserve water.

Daryl Slusher

Assistant director, Austin Water Utility

Border fence

Re: Oct. 3 article “Some border cities block access to fence builders.”

I found the article about border town mayors opposing the proposed fence filled with ironic humor. These mayors are blocking federal workers from performing legally authorized work that would facilitate the building of the border fence. Apparently, these mayors have been successful in keeping the feds out.

Maybe they should be put in charge of border security so they can keep the illegal immigrants out also.


Cedar Park

Stop-and-give traffic

Re: Sept. 19 articles “City wants to change poor giving record” and “Think Austin has traffic problems? It does, study says.”

Once again it appears that the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. The study that ranked Austin No. 48 out of the 50 largest U.S. cities in giving obviously overlooked the millions of dollars we give to the homeless while stuck in traffic at busy intersections.



Rush to judgement

The current campaign of slander of Rush Limbaugh by Democratic senators shows how unhinged the Democrats are.

When the leaders of the Senate have nothing better to do than slander a private citizen, they have veered from their purpose for being there. Little wonder that the approval rating of Congress is so low.



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Shoreline showdown

Should the Austin City Council grant a variance for a Riverside Drive condo project in exchange for enough land to extend the hike-and-bike trail? Or should the council back a Planning Commission vote that bars the developer from building within 200 feet of the shore?

To learn more about the issue, read the American-Statesman’s editorial.

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Texas tea, the judge who shames us and the man who hates success

1015LETTERS.jpg Association of Russian Polar Explorers A titanium capsule with the Russian flag is seen seconds after it was planted by the Mir-1 mini submarine on the Arctic Ocean seabed under the North Pole during a record dive Aug. 2. Two deep-diving Russian mini-submarines slipped beneath the ice at the North Pole and descended more than 2½ miles to the ocean floor on a Russian quest to claim much of the Arctic’s oil and mineral wealth.

Texas tea and atmospheric soup

Doesn’t it seem tragically and hilariously ironic that leaders of countries are salivating at gaining access to crude below the Artic, courtesy of the greenhouse effect, thereby allowing us to add that carbon to the atmospheric soup guaranteeing civilizational collapse?

Lately I’ve had this recurring, disturbing fantasy of Earth finally being visited by aliens, and after sizing up our circumstances, they leave awkwardly and I die of embarrassment knowing we’re the laughingstock of the galaxy.



Tolls stink here, too

Re: Oct. 7 editorial “CAMPO must move forward on tolls.”

The American-Statesman is wrong to push for more tolls. I just moved here from Orange County, Calif., home of Measure M, a county sales tax increase of quarter-cent that was passed by voters 10 years ago who were sick of congestion.

Texas may want to consider that model instead of tolls to fund new roads. Measure M has a built-in 10-year sunset and has to be approved by another vote when it expires. Orange County voters just voted to extend it because it showed visible results.

Tolls unfairly penalize those who happen to live near them, or who find them convenient. I was paying an extra $100 per month in California, and that is an unfair burden.

If the ridership doesn’t meet projections, the taxpayers have to pick up the tab anyway. Any way you look at it, tolls stink.


Lago Vista

A legacy, indeed

Re: Oct. 9 article “Forty years later, face is legacy of revolutionary.”

The article vastly underestimated the havoc Ernesto “Che” Guevara wreaked on Cuba.

His executions were not limited to officials of the Batista dictatorship. In December 1964, long after those officials were gone, Guevara declared in the United Nations that executions would continue as long as it was “necessary.” Opposition to the new dictatorship, of which he was one of its masters, was not tolerated.

As president of the National Bank of Cuba and as Minister of Industry, Guevara also oversaw the senseless dismantling of the once prosperous economy. The legacy of his actions resonate 40 years after his death: a failed state-run economy that cannot feed or house its people, a tightly controlled police state without freedom of expression, and jails that still hold in dire condition those who dare to dissent.



Shameful decision by judge

Re: October 3rd article, “Ruling could halt Texas executions.”

On Sept. 25, Michael Richard’s lawyers contacted the Court of Criminal Appeals asking that the courthouse be held open past 5 p.m. so an appeal could be filed in an attempt to temporarily stay Richard’s execution by lethal injection.

Judge Sharon Keller refused this request because, according to Keller, the defendant failed to explain why the courthouse should remain open.

Was she too busy to consult with the eight other available judges about her decision or contact Judge Cheryl Johnson, who was specifically assigned to handle any late motions in Richard’s case?

A lone judge made an uninformed decision, due process was denied, and a man was executed.

This is shameful and a perfect example of why the death penalty should be overturned in Texas.



Heartless conservatives

President Bush’s veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program bill that would expand insurance coverage for the nation’s children again displays his leadership of a group that should be called the heartless conservatives.

This group owes much to the talk show hosts, the radio stations that spew them and the shouting, hate-filled commentators on TV, who for all practical purposes serve as de facto political action committees supporting Bush’s agenda. This is the same group that loves real war games, played with real people.

Those few, brave Republicans who support the SCHIP bill and want to end Bush’s war deserve medals.



In vetoing the State Children’s Health Insurance Program bill, President Bush now wants to be the paragon of fiscal responsibility. This from someone who started a war with costs approaching $1 trillion, someone who literally sent tons of cash loaded onto pallets to Iraq that just simply disappeared.

He also stated that the expansion of this program would be a first step toward socialized medicine. If Bush is so adamantly opposed to government-run, government-paid medicine, then he should stop using Bethesda Naval Hospital, which is, of course, a government hospital staffed by government-paid employees and, by his definition, a socialist health care system.



He hates success

Why does the American-Statesman continue to give professor Thomas G. Palaima a forum to attack the athletic programs of the University of Texas? Like most liberals, he hates success and successful people.

His goal is to drag down the athletic programs. He should be more concerned about the fact that the Legislature is inadequately funding the universities in Texas, that moderates and conservatives are not welcome as speakers on campus, and that anti-American speakers are hailed as conquering heroes.

Every dollar in athletics is privately supplied by people like myself, not from tax dollars. Fans pleased with athletic success tend to provide gifts for academic programs, as well.

Palaima would do well to spend his energy overcoming the problems that he and his ilk have brought to the university. Those are the failures that need attention.



Law that doesn’t work

When bad legislation keeps willing workers with hungry families to feed from doing jobs that would otherwise go begging, then that law is destructive to the fabric of society.



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Analog Man and Class Mack

Contentedly disconnected

Re: Oct. 6 article “Digital? No can do.”

Once again Brad Buchholz has given us a wonderful piece of writing, this time with his essay on Analog Man.

I am much the same as Buchholz in feeling a bit out of step in a digital world. I work full time and am a mother, so I am pretty busy. But I don’t have a cell phone, and I have never felt the slightest need to use one - or any of the other gear out there.

I acknowledge that many tech devices have given us a better world. But I agree with Thoreau’s observation that most of these are really just toys that make the user feel important.

I am especially concerned that many tech inventions are being used in large part to isolate us from one another. People do everything they can, whether by e-mail or text messaging, to avoid actual live, person-to-person communication.



1014letters.jpg Jay Janner AMERICAN-STATESMAN

A dispirited Mack Brown congratulates Oklahoma players after Texas’ 28-21 loss in Dallas on Oct. 6.

Sooner salute to Mack

I was born and raised in Oklahoma and am an alumnus of OU. I anxiously watch the game each year and have been very fortunate to see my share of victories in the game.

I cheer OU and boo Texas, as I suspect many fans do - all in the good spirit that the game has been built on.

I want to say that I think Mack Brown is one of the classiest people in college sports today. In victory or defeat, he is a man’s man and a person whom those who support UT can be proud of.


Norman, Okla.

And a salute to Limas Sweed

Unlike Vince Young, you decided to stay your senior year and play for your school and fans. I am sorry you got hurt, but you still did the right thing. I wish you all the best in your NFL career.



Think of the future

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, never ceases to amaze.

He’ll vote to spend billions to destroy a country that didn’t even attack us, but he won’t vote to spend cents on those dollars to protect young children in his own country.

He should consider that these are the future soldiers that he wants to send to future wars.



In a word …

Re: Sept. 30-Oct. 1 series “UT Sports Spending.”

I tried to think of a word for the University of Texas sports budget.

Silly came to mind. But the word is disgusting.



Waiting for day care

Re: Oct. 6 commentary “Not even born and already waiting in line.”

Though I sympathize with Moira Muldoon’s difficulty in finding the best day care for her unborn child (I was in the same position 22 years ago), I urge her and other parents on waiting lists to imagine what finding affordable child care is like for a parent whose income is far less than theirs.

Muldoon and the other parents she mentioned have the luxury of choosing among several excellent day cares or have the option of hiring nannies. Many parents in Austin and around the nation, including those in middle income brackets, cannot afford those choices.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all day cares were like the Congregation Beth Israel Child Development Center or the Texas State University Child Development Center and were affordable to all? Children of working parents would have even more of a chance of growing up in a rich, healthy environment, and society would benefit.



Sargent’s message

Re: Oct. 3 letter “We’re not children.”

I began to wonder if I had totally misunderstood the implied meaning of Ben Sargent’s cartoon. I thought that Sargent was poking fun at a federal administration that is fighting a war on credit.

That is what seems contrary to the conservative (Republican Party) beliefs.



Selective principles

Re: Oct. 7 editorial “Closing time at death chamber.”

The American-Statesman correctly points out that the American Medical Association has issued a ban on physicians administering lethal injections to condemned prisoners because they would violate their oath “to do no harm.”

Shouldn’t a noble and proper principle such as “do no harm” apply in all aspects of our society? If so, why isn’t it applied to those doctors who perform abortions?

Have we become a society that picks and chooses our principles and then applies them only when and where it’s politically correct?



Cancer research

Re: Oct. 7 article “State asks voters to boost cancer research funding.”

Proposition 15 to spend $3 billion on cancer research will pass easily. But voters should be aware that this is a vanity project of Lance Armstrong, Gov. Rick Perry, the Texas Legislature and politicians and celebrities who have had cancer or have a relative who has had cancer.

State-funded medical research initiatives began with California’s $3 billion stem cell research project. Why Texas would want to emulate California is beyond me. Also surprising is why we didn’t one-up California with a $4 billion proposal.

But let’s get the biggest bang for our buck. Texas should spare itself the expense of creating, housing and administering its own research program. Send the money to the National Institutes of Health or the National Cancer Institute. They already have well-established and respected mechanisms to filter research proposals and to monitor research activity.

But where’s the vainglory if it’s not a Texas-only project?



Permalink | Comments (1) | Categories: Letters to the Editor

Analog Man and Classy Mack

Contentedly disconnected

Re: Oct. 6 article “Digital? No can do.”

Once again Brad Buchholz has given us a wonderful piece of writing, this time with his essay on Analog Man.

I am much the same as Buchholz in feeling a bit out of step in a digital world. I work full time and am a mother, so I am pretty busy. But I don’t have a cell phone, and I have never felt the slightest need to use one - or any of the other gear out there.

I acknowledge that many tech devices have given us a better world. But I agree with Thoreau’s observation that most of these are really just toys that make the user feel important.

I am especially concerned that many tech inventions are being used in large part to isolate us from one another. People do everything they can, whether by e-mail or text messaging, to avoid actual live, person-to-person communication.



1014letters.jpg Jay Janner AMERICAN-STATESMAN

A dispirited Mack Brown congratulates Oklahoma players after Texas’ 28-21 loss in Dallas on Oct. 6.

Sooner salute to Mack

I was born and raised in Oklahoma and am an alumnus of OU. I anxiously watch the game each year and have been very fortunate to see my share of victories in the game.

I cheer OU and boo Texas, as I suspect many fans do - all in the good spirit that the game has been built on.

I want to say that I think Mack Brown is one of the classiest people in college sports today. In victory or defeat, he is a man’s man and a person whom those who support UT can be proud of.


Norman, Okla.

And a salute to Limas Sweed

Unlike Vince Young, you decided to stay your senior year and play for your school and fans. I am sorry you got hurt, but you still did the right thing. I wish you all the best in your NFL career.



Think of the future

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, never ceases to amaze.

He’ll vote to spend billions to destroy a country that didn’t even attack us, but he won’t vote to spend cents on those dollars to protect young children in his own country.

He should consider that these are the future soldiers that he wants to send to future wars.



In a word …

Re: Sept. 30-Oct. 1 series “UT Sports Spending.”

I tried to think of a word for the University of Texas sports budget.

Silly came to mind. But the word is disgusting.



Waiting for day care

Re: Oct. 6 commentary “Not even born and already waiting in line.”

Though I sympathize with Moira Muldoon’s difficulty in finding the best day care for her unborn child (I was in the same position 22 years ago), I urge her and other parents on waiting lists to imagine what finding affordable child care is like for a parent whose income is far less than theirs.

Muldoon and the other parents she mentioned have the luxury of choosing among several excellent day cares or have the option of hiring nannies. Many parents in Austin and around the nation, including those in middle income brackets, cannot afford those choices.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all day cares were like the Congregation Beth Israel Child Development Center or the Texas State University Child Development Center and were affordable to all? Children of working parents would have even more of a chance of growing up in a rich, healthy environment, and society would benefit.



Sargent’s message

Re: Oct. 3 letter “We’re not children.”

I began to wonder if I had totally misunderstood the implied meaning of Ben Sargent’s cartoon. I thought that Sargent was poking fun at a federal administration that is fighting a war on credit.

That is what seems contrary to the conservative (Republican Party) beliefs.



Selective principles

Re: Oct. 7 editorial “Closing time at death chamber.”

The American-Statesman correctly points out that the American Medical Association has issued a ban on physicians administering lethal injections to condemned prisoners because they would violate their oath “to do no harm.”

Shouldn’t a noble and proper principle such as “do no harm” apply in all aspects of our society? If so, why isn’t it applied to those doctors who perform abortions?

Have we become a society that picks and chooses our principles and then applies them only when and where it’s politically correct?



Cancer research

Re: Oct. 7 article “State asks voters to boost cancer research funding.”

Proposition 15 to spend $3 billion on cancer research will pass easily. But voters should be aware that this is a vanity project of Lance Armstrong, Gov. Rick Perry, the Texas Legislature and politicians and celebrities who have had cancer or have a relative who has had cancer.

State-funded medical research initiatives began with California’s $3 billion stem cell research project. Why Texas would want to emulate California is beyond me. Also surprising is why we didn’t one-up California with a $4 billion proposal.

But let’s get the biggest bang for our buck. Texas should spare itself the expense of creating, housing and administering its own research program. Send the money to the National Institutes of Health or the National Cancer Institute. They already have well-established and respected mechanisms to filter research proposals and to monitor research activity.

But where’s the vainglory if it’s not a Texas-only project?



Permalink | |

Coach who stands for something; plus, walls and squabbles

1013letters.jpg Jay Janner AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Johnston High School head football coach Demo Odems spoke at a news conference at the school after the game against Manor was canceled Oct. 4. Odems cited a lack of players and a concern for his team’s safety.

The dilemma at Johnston High School

Johnston High School football coach Demo Odems may not win many games, but his decision to put the welfare of his players above winning should earn him something better - our respect.

Too bad more do not follow his example.



If the Austin school district were to rename Johnston High as East Side High, it would make more sense to discuss test scores and football turnout as products of the neighborhood and the socioeconomic situation and school pride.

East Side High would still have the socioeconomic situation to deal with, but it would not have to do the mental gymnastics to rationalize naming a school in a minority neighborhood after a Confederate general, Albert Sidney Johnston.



Fence sitters?

Strange how 20 years ago our Republican president ordered “tear down that wall,” and now our Republican president says, “Build that wall or else.”

Who can blame border communities like Eagle Pass for not wanting to become the East Berlin of Texas? I guess if you live in Colorado or Washington, it seems like a good idea, though.



Give teachers a trickle

As a retired teacher, I find it appalling that anyone could possibly be paid more than $900,000 working for the Texas Teacher Retirement System.

Most teachers in this state are not eligible for Social Security, which has a cost of living increase annually. Teachers in Texas have not had one dime of increase in our pension in more than six years.

Isn’t it interesting how we are concerned about hiring Texas teachers the best and most expensive experts to reinvest our retirement funds? I sure hope there is enough to trickle down.

An annual cost of living increase would certainly be appreciated. Remember, those of you who think you deserve such compensation: Who were the people who worked diligently for so many years to help you become so valuable?



I question paying Britt Harris, the chief investment officer of TRS, $904,500 per year, which would make him the highest-paid state pension fund manager in the country. First, make Texas teachers the highest paid in the country.

Also very troublesome is the Supreme Court ruling that would allow the compensation of pension fund managers to be kept secret. A third worrisome fact is to shift a whopping 29 percent of the assets into risky investments such as hedge funds, venture capital, real estate, buyout firms and other private equity investments.

The Sept. 17 issue of Business Week magazine had an article about pension funds investing in high risk investments. It said that TRS had invested in high-risk collateralized debt obligations, which have plunged sharply recently.

The pension funds are beginning to resemble corporations whose executives loot the organization through high compensation packages and leave the stakeholders holding the bag.



A Republican dynasty

With eager anticipation, I read about President Bush’s resolve to assist the Republican Party in capturing the White House for the third consecutive time in the 2008 elections.

I offer our next president a list of strategies to ensure four more years of security, unity and prosperity.

  1. Avoid invading a country with no history of democracy. If the temptation proves too great, don’t expect to be greeted as liberators. And don’t dismantle its security force. You may need it later.

  2. Avoid clever phrases such as “stay the course” and “mission accomplished.”

  3. If the country suffers a catastrophic disaster, visit the area immediately instead of scheduling a fly-over four days afterwards. And don’t forget the victims of such tragedies.

  4. Avoid surrounding yourself with your father’s political cronies and those who bow at your feet. President Lincoln was so self-confident that he filled his cabinet with his own adversaries.



Burns criticism

I take exception to the myopic criticisms of Ken Burns’ documentary “The War.”

I had the opportunity to visit Camp McCall in North Carolina in 1944, spending a week with my dad. All of the paratroop units received preparation for their engagements in D-Day, New Guinea and the Philippines.

I watched a mass drop of those guys as I sat in a jeep. I was 11 years old and very much connected with the mood and spirit of the time.

I ate in the mess hall and talked with many of the men. My version of the war was heavily influenced by the participation of the 11th Airborne, though Burns never mentioned them once.

What I took from this series was not a review of heroic acts by representative groups but of the ache, fear and drawn-out hoping that all of us felt.



Down the drain

Re: Oct. 3 article “Legislators alarmed by conditions at lockup.”

Mike Ward reports that some legislators ask about the Texas Youth Commission, “How did it get this bad?”

They must have short memories. After more than 10 years of budget cutting and tax cutting, it should come as no surprise that our schools, bridges, highways, health care and more are in decline.

If we really want to know how it got this bad, just look under the Capitol dome. When the state’s goal is to shrink government small enough to drown it in a bathtub, we should not be surprised when so much goes down the drain.



Free to squabble

Re: Oct. 2 commentary “What the Arab world hears in our squabbles over Iraq.”

Bridget Johnson agonizes over how to explain to the Arab world our intense national debate on the Iraq war.

Three little words would suffice: “freedom of speech.”

By the way, this is the kind of “squabble” that many in the Arab world would love to be able to freely and openly indulge in.



Food for thought

Re: Oct. 8 commentary “For conservatives, it’s all a joke.”

Paul Krugman describes a 43-year-old joke by Ronald Reagan and cites a couple of recent remarks by others without a description of the context to support his view that Republicans think starvation and sickness are funny.

It must be nice to have opinions that are not complicated by the viewpoint of others.



Permalink | Comments (1) | Categories: Letters to the Editor

Gore in ‘08?

Should Al Gore make a run for the White House? He has an Emmy, an Oscar, a Nobel - all he’s missing is an Oval Office to put them in. Do you think he’d have a chance if he entered the Democratic race?

Permalink | Comments (4) | Categories: Talk Back

Gays, sports and CAMPO

Gays and religion

Re: Sept. 28 article “A pastor’s calling.”

I really enjoyed Chris Garcia’s article on Troy Perry.

I am often in the gay/religion debate as a member of a conservative church. I often get odd looks after telling my fellow parishioners that there is no difference between a homosexual preaching the word of God or an adulterous heterosexual.

They are both sinners and will be judged equally.



1012letters.jpg AGLIFF

After living as a married man and father, Troy Perry divorced and founded a church in his Los Angeles-area living room in 1968. Today, the Metropolitan Community Church, a Christian denomination designed as a religious refuge for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people, boasts more than 300 congregations in 22 countries.

Sports and UT

Re: Oct. 4 commentary “UT’s brand is losing value.”

Sportsman of the year Thomas G. Palaima is back preaching how good it is to support sports. I recommend he check the University of Texas budget and see how much sports cost.

He preaches a lot about the history of football at UT but doesn’t recognize that times have changed.



Exercise? Why bother?

Re: Sept. 29 editorial “Exercise, academics bound to be a good fit.”

The proposal to mandate an additional 30 minutes of “physical activity” each day for schoolchildren is inadequate and ill advised.

The editorial actually makes that case. It flatly states that the proposal’s additional activity mandate can’t overcome the real contributors to obesity: poor eating habits and lack of exercise outside of school. However, the editorial then pointlessly claims: “It cannot hurt.”

A mandate that cannot help and cannot hurt is by definition a waste of the Legislature’s time and the people’s money.



The truth in Tennessee

Al Gore’s inconvenient truth message is just opinion, not scientific fact - especially among independent scientists not dependent on governmental handouts.

Gore’s actual inconvenient truth is: If his own home state of Tennessee had voted for him in 2000, Gore would have won and become President.

Thankfully for us, the voters of Tennessee knew better.



Preventive war

Re: Oct. 2 letters “This isn’t working” and “No more war.”

They reflect a misunderstanding of “preventive” and “pre-emptive.”

The Nuremberg Tribunal established a legal framework relating to aggression against another nation, the German invasion of Poland in 1939. Germany argued Poland posed a threat to Germany at some future date, and in anticipation Poland was invaded. The Tribunal rejected this argument and defined the act as “preventive” war and a crime against humanity and a crime of war.

The United Nations Charter embraced this definition and went further, defining pre-emptive war as a situation in which a clear, imminent threat of aggression exists and the threatened nation strikes first. This is permissible.

Whether or not weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq, there was no clear, imminent threat to the United States. When the United States invaded Iraq, it committed the illegal act of preventive war.


Johnson City

They’re watching you

Re: Sept. 23 article “Government travel data: Who? Where? Reading what?”

Welcome to the communist style of democracy. Communist countries of Eastern and Central Europe kept surveillance on their “suspicious” citizens, whom communist governments called terrorists. Homeland Security is doing the same job.

What is happening with our constitutional rights? What next, martial law?



Domestic priorities

President Bush has once again neglected vital domestic issues by his veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program reauthorization bill.

The president should be focusing on domestic priorities. The Bush administration should admit the wrongs committed by the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and devote the necessary resources to restore those countries to peace and calm.

There should be an international, United Nations-led inquiry into the best way to begin and complete this restoration, and America should avow no similar incursions anywhere in the world.

If our government would publicly admit its mistakes and take the necessary steps to correct them, it would do America worlds of good in the long run.



Make developers pay

The Chamber of Commerce wants to tax (toll) you and me more for new roads so it can profit from further development.

Maybe the thing to do is propose a business tax instead of tolls to pay for new roads. Developers are insisting that we need “new money” for roads. How about they cough it up? Maybe a special “developer surcharge” to build new roads?

Surely taxing a few developers a lot would be more efficient than taxing hundreds of thousands of drivers 50 cents at a time. Aren’t our business leaders in favor of more efficient government?



Hoodwinked again?

In the mid-1980s, the real estate moguls were telling us, “Don’t worry, our market is strong here in Austin and what is happening around the nation isn’t happening here.”

Yet the market collapsed, many people went into bankruptcy, and home foreclosures were escalating everyday.

Are we being hoodwinked again into thinking “it won’t happen here” because we’re still building tall buildings and expensive houses?



Not fooled by CAMPO

Re: Oct. letter “Leave CAMPO alone.”

CAMPO is a sham.

Sen. Kirk Watson, chairman of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, sends e-mail newsletters promoting toll roads. As chairman, he shouldn’t be influencing people’s opinions on this issue.

Toller Gonzalo Barrientos left a pro-toll board - some members with livelihoods tied to tolling - that has preached tolls and facilitated bogus citizen’s groups instead of maintaining even an appearance of impartiality.

CAMPO’s public hearings were pure theater - designed to appear as if the public had input when it really had none.



Permalink | Comments (12) | Categories: Letters to the Editor

Blackwater, Chinese Americans and cops

1011letters.jpg Khalid Mohammed ASSOCIATED PRESS

Passers-by look at damaged vehicles, including the one, top, in which the Polish ambassador to Iraq, Gen. Edward Pietrzyk, was traveling when he was injured in a car bomb attack in Karradah, central Baghdad, Iraq, on Oct. 3. Pietrzyk was evacuated by the security company Blackwater USA to a U.S.-run hospital in the Green Zone.

Blackwater’s role in Iraq

We see the ideal taken over by fanatics. They are foreign-born and they have come to Iraq to kill.

They are paid by a foreign government. They do not want the war to end because that would be the end of the reason to be there. There are many complaints that the mainstream believers of the ideal do not raise their voices against the theft of the message.

I am raising my voice against the theft of the ideal. The ideals are freedom and democracy. The fanatics, who in many cases serve as the face of America, work for Blackwater USA. They are paid by my government.

Who will believe anything we say as long as they are allowed to stay in the country? Has this administration hit us with the sandbag so many times that we don’t feel anything?



Blackwater is attacked for doing its job. In this insidious war, the enemy uses information and the media to strike back. We focus on the deaths of bystanders when militants attack U.S. or allied targets.

No one mentions that the terrorists have no concern for civilians in the area and only hope that collateral deaths will happen so that they can be blamed on American forces.

The Polish ambassador was saved by Blackwater security guards. They protect key officials and contractors in a time when American forces are spread dangerously thin.

Let’s not fall into the trap of further decimating our own people and reducing our effectiveness. Ask the Polish ambassador what he thinks about Blackwater. He is alive because of it.



Chinese Americans

I was interviewed for “KLRU Presents: The World, The War and Texas” to discuss Texas Chinese Americans who served during World War II, as a lead-in to Ken Burns “The War.” I am the author of a book on the contributions of Chinese Americans to Texas.

The KLRU film contains no mention of Chinese American servicemen. I donated several photos of, and was taped for nearly an hour talking about, Chinese American airmen who served with the U.S. Air Force’s 14th Air Service Group. I discussed Sgt. Wayne Lim, winner of the Distinguished Flying Cross as a B-24 tail gunner who flew 35 missions over Europe.

KLRU featured the FAB 100 instead. They were mainland Chinese Air Force officers who trained at Bergstrom Army Air Field. Japan surrendered before they could deploy.

KLRU’s honoring of foreign nationals while ignoring the sacrifice of local Chinese Americans was wrong.



Not jumping for joy

Re: Sept. 29 editorial “Exercise, academics bound to be a good fit.”

The American-Statesman ignores the fact that academic subjects will be sacrificed for required physical activity without regard for student need or interest.

If 30 percent of students were deficient in reading, we wouldn’t make 100 percent of students take time away from other courses for remedial reading classes. But that is what the Legislature is doing by requiring all students to take more physical education classes.

Because the Legislature did not lengthen the school day when it mandated more PE, other instructional time will have to be eliminated.

I predict many middle school students and parents will be shocked when they plan their course schedules for next year to discover they will not be able to take the music or art course, foreign language, technology course or high school credit course that they wanted because of the additional physical activity requirement.



SCHIP for the needy

Re: Oct. 1 editorial “For future of some kids, doctor isn’t in.”

President Bush strongly supports the State Children’s Health Insurance Program to help families that cannot afford private health insurance but do not qualify for Medicaid. Since February, he has called for a 20 percent funding increase.

Unfortunately, some in Congress want to expand this important safety net far beyond its purpose by covering middle-class families.

We have a better idea. Let’s find and enroll the 800,000 kids already eligible for SCHIP who haven’t signed up. Then let’s make health insurance more affordable.

Bush wants to give every American family a $15,000 tax break for purchasing health insurance, which according to the Lewin Group would allow nearly 20 million more Americans to obtain health insurance.

The administration is committed to renewing SCHIP for the truly needy and making health coverage more affordable and available.


Deputy secretary

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Washington, D.C.

Traffic signals

Is it just my imagination, or have Prius owners adopted the sanctimonious mantle of our cyclists?



Austin State School

Re: Sept. 28 commentary “State schools raise quality of life for mentally retarded.”

Thank you for printing Susan Payne’s column about the need for state schools.

As our family knows, some people could not live safely at home or in community group homes because they are considerably retarded and may have additional handicaps.

During the 15 months my profoundly retarded son has been at the Austin State School, I’ve come to appreciate the kind attention, good medical care and expert training he receives there. It’s the best place for him.



Cop news

Re: Sept. 19 article “Three officers cleared in shootings.”

Why is it that when the cops shoot somebody, it’s front-page news, but when they are cleared by the grand jury, it’s buried on page B7 (in the state edition)?



Permalink | Comments (9) | Categories: Letters to the Editor

Ticked off by tolls?

How would you pay for road improvements and highway construction in Central Texas? Are tolls the way to go? Should the state raise its gasoline tax? Is there something we haven’t considered?

Read the American-Statesman editorial board’s assessment of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s recent actions as well as other editorials on the Opinion homepage.

Permalink | Comments (4) | Categories: Talk Back

One teacher tackles the issue of priorities

1010letters.jpg Terri Olsem

Terri Olsem, a teacher at GOALS Learning Center in Round Rock, took a picture of her school’s teachers lounge after reading about the University of Texas football locker room, which boasts a new lounge area with five flat-screen TVs and a three-dimensional, lighted 20-foot Longhorn on the ceiling.

Where teachers go to relax

Re: Sept. 30-Oct. 1 series “UT sports spending.”

I am a teacher. This is my lounge. Maybe our priorities are just a little skewed?


Do you know of other teachers lounges that are rather sparse when it comes to comfort and amenities? Share photos of them with us at


Shock and awe of sports spending

Yes, the University of Texas spends a lot of money on its athletic programs, and Eric Dexheimer’s recent articles do a fine job of getting people to critically think about that spending.

The author’s repeated references to the amount spent per student-athlete, however, are uninformative and disingenuous. First, the vast majority of the athletic department’s spending is wholly unrelated to the number of student-athletes. Second, of the large amount of money the department spends, only a small fraction directly and exclusively benefits the student-athletes.

I can only infer that the use of such figures was done to “shock and awe” and stir up controversy.

If UT’s athletic department and a few rich old men wish to spend an exorbitant amount of money recruiting world-class athletes and building world-class facilities, so be it. As a sports fan and benefiting alumnus, I have no problem with that.



Re: Sept. 30 article “The Longhorn economy.”

Once again, we see an example of our nation’s colleges and universities rewarding sports over academics and holding up the wrong people as role models.

It will stop when universities and the parents of university students care more about their education than winning a football game. Our students, universities, business environment, government, country and world would be better served if academics became priority one.



Supporting Proposition 3

Earlier this year, state Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, and I sponsored a constitutional amendment to cap the increase in the appraised value of a home at 10 percent. This proposed amendment, which will appear as Proposition 3 on the November ballot, will help bring fairness and property tax relief to many Texas homeowners.

Proposition 3 will provide the relief intended when voters approved the 10 percent appraisal cap in 1997. Unfortunately, the law was interpreted to allow an annual increase in taxable value of 10 percent multiplied by the number of years since the previous appraisal. (If it’s been three years since the previous appraisal, a home’s taxable value could be increased by 30 percent.)

Proposition 3 has widespread support. It was passed unanimously in the Texas House and by a vote of 29-1 in the Texas Senate.

Scott Hochberg

State representative


Tell the truth

Re: Oct. 2 article “Gore brings `Truth’ talk, energy-saving tips to Erwin Center.”

I was disappointed by the America-Statesman’s coverage of Al Gore’s dynamic, moving and utterly convincing presentation in Austin of the facts on global warming.

By including Gov. Rick Perry’s puerile and unfunny joke about Gore’s mouth being a “leading source of all that supposedly deadly carbon dioxide,” the American-Statesman proved one of Gore’s most telling points. He says that while there is almost perfect unanimity in the scientific community about the real and imminent danger presented by climate change, it’s policy makers such as Perry who are standing in the way of change. He’s also critical of the media, which are not doing enough to alert the public to the crisis.

The voting public must do its utmost to defeat Perry and politicians of his ilk at the first opportunity and counter the naysayers in the media.



I was trying to persuade my son to vote for a candidate in 2006, but he cut me short: “I’ll vote for the first politician for saving the planet.”

My son and Al Gore are right. We can fuss about all kinds of political stuff (wars, budgets, etc.) but we gain little if we kill off the human race by making our planet uninhabitable.

Gore spent two hours with focused passion making his very strong case that our carbon use is changing the climate and will change the planet’s habitability, putting us all at risk.



Parental control

Re: Oct. 1 editorial “For many kids, the doctor is not in.”

I respectfully take issue with the American-Statesman editorial supporting the Children’s Health Insurance Program for working families who “cannot afford health insurance.”

I submit it is the very first duty of a parent to provide for the children’s health needs. If you cannot afford it, you cannot afford children, an idea which seems not to have occurred to the fecund poor.

And I wonder how many of those who “cannot afford” insurance will, nonetheless, have automobiles parked outside of an air-conditioned dwelling where they watch color TV.

Is it not a marvel how quickly we stop worrying about budget deficits when entitlement programs loom?



Poor financial planning

What disturbs me about the State of Texas renting a house for Gov. Rick Perry while the Governor’s Mansion is being repaired is that the state is spending roughly $10,000 per month for 18 months - which will probably stretch into 24 - for a house worth a little over $1 million.

This is typical bureaucrat financial planning. The state could have bought the house for less than the rent and then sold it when the governor and his family were through with it. Probably could have made a profit, too.

The person who leased this house to the state is laughing all the way to the bank while the taxpayers are picking up the tab.



Permalink | Comments (10) | Categories: Letters to the Editor

The other Nelson, politics and drug testing

1009letters.jpg Family photo

Bobbie and Willie Nelson, seen here around 1973, are nearly inseparable, both on stage and off. Bobbie’s first solo album, ‘Audiobiography,’ was recently released.

Bobbie Nelson, the `good ol’ days’

Re: Sept. 29 article “Amazing grace.”

I returned to Austin in 2004 after 30-some years away. My mind often drifts back to those “good ol’ days” when Austin was in its cultural prime.

At that time, I was working in a resort lounge on Lake Travis, and a new pianist began playing there a few nights a week. She had a huge repertoire of songs and could fill virtually any request.

After hours, she would entertain us with some honky-tonk. She would often call us, saying she had free tickets to Willie’s concert, although most of us would have to pass as we were working to put ourselves through college.

This pianist was Bobbie Nelson, who not only regaled us with her musical talent but shared with us wondrous tales of travels on the road with her brother. Thanks for the memories, Bobbie, and I am out the door to buy your CD.



Cornyn criticism

I am tired of Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, walking virtually lock-step with President Bush on major issues. Having two Republican senators has meant that nearkt 50 percent of Texans who voted Democratic and Independent do not really have a representative in the Senate.

It would be nice if Cornyn were always as questioning of President Bush as he now professes to be. I find it interesting and coincidental that this change he professes has occurred since Bush has sunk so abysmally low in the ratings - and as the next election approaches.

Unfortunately, a few good initiatives and votes against Bush does not lessen the lasting adverse effect Cornyn’s votes on Iraq and tax cuts for the millionaires have had.



Let’s talk politics

I don’t care which candidate is ahead in the latest poll of people who know little more than how the candidate looks and name recognition (horse race journalism). I don’t care how much a haircut costs for the candidates. I don’t care for quotes from the candidates that are not fact-checked.

Give me a list of major political issues, why the issues are important and where the candidates stand on them.



Another brick in the wall

Re: Sept. 8 article “City erects too many brick walls for some planners.”

I appreciated Suzannah Gonzales’ article on how the city disregards community volunteers who foolishly take the time to participate in developing neighborhood plans for the City of Austin’s Planning Commission.

I agree with Toni House’s sentiment that if she knew in the beginning what she does now, she never would have gotten involved in her neighborhood planning process.

But it is worse than simply a lack of voice in creating a plan. Once the neighborhoods go through the tedious process of developing a plan, city staff will completely disregard the adopted plan.

He who has the best lobbyist gets his way, even if it is contrary to a democratic neighborhood vote set up within the adopted neighborhood plans.

Don’t be duped by the city. Participating in a neighborhood plan is a waste of time.


President, Dawson Neighborhood Association


The Dawson Neighborhood Association was one of the first to be approached by the city to form a neighborhood plan. It’s been a struggle ever since.

At a recent Planning Commission meeting, I called for the Dawson neighborhood planning team to disband. I now call for all neighborhood planning teams to disband. We are not needed with the city staff’s agenda, and we are too tired from climbing over their brick walls.



American interests

“Protecting America” and “protecting American interests” aren’t the same thing. We don’t need to rule the world to be safe, or pillage it to be prosperous.

On the contrary, our client states (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia) are breeding grounds for fanaticism, and our conquests (Iraq) are costing us more than they are worth.

The next front is Iran, whose disruption would plunge most of the area into chaos. All done in our name, with our money, using our safety as the excuse.

At least the empire-builders realize they have to lie to the American public to get it to support their plans. We’re not buying it this time.



Conservative personality

Re: Sept. 23 articles “Environmentalists have a beef with livestock industry” and “Rising oceans, vanishing coasts.”

The two articles report first that the spokesman for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association says “… studies … have grossly overstated the amount of greenhouse gases that are attributable to livestock production.” Second, global warming will cause oceans to rise by 1 meter in about 100 years, according to “many climate scientists.”

If you are a conservative or Republican, you tend to oppose predictions of global warming. Why? First, the polluting industries have spread misleading propaganda about global warming. Second, some scientists - not all paid by the polluting companies - and legislators have vigorously opposed global warming. Third, conservatives are often highly anti-environmentalism .

Though Scientific American has featured articles like “The Undeniability of Global Warming,” many conservatives cling to their partisan fantasies. This is an example of a major problem in our society. A solution might be to educate children about the characteristics of the conservative personality.



Who gets tested for drugs?

As a former employer in a large company, it was our company policy to drug screen all new applicants seriously considered for employment. Additionally, we maintained a random drug screening policy in the workplace. Though I had many dedicated employees with superior skills, I lost quite a few to positive drug screening results.

If we are so careful about drug screening in the workplace, why are there not similar rules in place when it comes to government-subsidized living? If we require workers whose taxes contribute to these subsidies to undergo random and mandatory drug testing, should that same process not be required of welfare recipients?



Permalink | Comments (4) | Categories: Letters to the Editor

Holly, harping and UT hijinks

1008letters.jpg Ralph Barrera AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Construction of the Holly Power Plant, which ceased operating last week, started in 1960.

Holly helped make Austin what it is today

Re: Oct. 2 article “Bittersweet farewell for neighbors.”

The American-Statesman celebrated the closing of that blight on Austin, the Holly Power Plant.

How soon we forget. Longhorn Dam, which created what was then Town Lake, that beautiful jewel in Austin’s crown, provided cooling water for the plant. The sand and gravel dredged from the Colorado River bed to create the lake was used in building many of our streets, bridges and homes.

There is now a beautiful tree-covered park along Lady Bird Lake east of Interstate 35 and through Central Austin. Austin became the vibrant city we all love and enjoy today because of the power provided by the Holly plant.

Yes there have been complaints, but where would we be today if the Holly Power Plant had not been built?



All is not well at UT

Re: Sept. 28 letter “Unnecessary roughness.”

The idea that Mack Brown is doing a great job of properly handling his players’ bad habits and they are “sure not to happen” again is absolutely hysterical. It’s not like it only has happened once or twice in the past couple of years.

I suspect it is sure to happen again and again. And not just at the University of Texas. As long as athletes are allowed to operate under different sets of rules than the rest of us and made to feel that they can do anything and get away with it - or it will be taken care of - those kind of embarrassing incidents will not go away.



Harping on Cap Metro

Re: Sept. 24 Getting There column “Cap Metro finds `rail effect’ is at work once again.”

What explains the obvious vendetta that Ben Wear has against Capital Metro? It is a public agency providing mandated public transportation, and all Wear can do is take potshots at it.

Capital Metro doesn’t have the option of not providing commuter rail service. Why continue to harp on the costs of doing so?

Wear writes: “… low-income bus riders … are being asked to pay more for bus fares … so suburbanites can cruise into town on rails.” Why not report that commuter rail will have stops in, and serve, North and East Austin neighborhoods in addition to the suburbs?

Andrew Clements


What insult?

It is hard for me to understand the insult and dishonor that the Ken Burns documentary is causing to the Latino community.

The great service that all World War II veterans, regardless of race, gave for this country is something to be proud of and honored. The fact that one man’s movie does not have dedicated time for every race or class that participated in the defense of the country does not slight the actual service.

The fact that Austin City Council Member Mike Martinez thinks the only place his children can learn about the contributions of veterans is on TV is a sad statement. Much more is gained by attending the various veterans events and talking to fathers and grandfathers about their experiences.

We need to spend less energy being offended about a TV show and more energy passing on our collective American experiences.



Flight delays

Re: Sept. 28 article ” Bush orders flight-delay fixes.”

I find it amusing that President Bush is warning the airline industry to correct airline delays and congestion or he will order mandatory rules if the airlines do not act.

Why not fix the disaster he created in Iraq first?



Bush’s accounting

So President Bush vetoed the $35 billion expansion of the kids health care program because its too much pork. But he’s OK with spending $800 billion for the Iraq war?

What happened to having the oil in that country pay for the war? Another example of W’s failure in math class.


San Leanna

Mansion outrage

It’s an outrage that Gov. Rick Perry has the gall to use taxpayer money to rent a luxurious mansion while the Governor’s Mansion undergoes remodeling. Gov. Mike Huckabee lived in a trailer on the grounds of the Arkansas governor’s mansion while it was being remodeled.

Six of our 12 grandchildren are enrolled the University of Texas, Texas State or UT-San Antonio. Thanks to the mishandling of the Texas economy by Perry and the Republican Legislature, their tuition and fees have gone up a great deal.

Perry and the Legislature may be stingy with the people of Texas, but they are more than generous with themselves. I don’t ask Perry to live in a double-wide trailer. But he ought to be able to live comfortably in a downtown highrise.



Carter’s good sense

Knowing Marxist policies have been rejected by Americans, the Democrats are trying once again to sneak socialized health care into the country. This time they have used renewal of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which was created by Republicans to insure poor children.

They are counting on the average American to associate children with cute, dimple-cheeked tykes. But the “children” the Democrats have in mind have beards. And cars. And can legally party on Sixth Street. Oh, and they earn about $60,000 per year.

That’s right, the Democrats’ dirty little secret is that the SCHIP expansion redefines “children” as people 25 years of age with incomes of $60,000.

Thankfully, U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, had the good sense to vote against this nonsense, and his nay vote will help to sustain the presidential veto. Kudos to his good sense.


Round Rock

‘Cane’ more than fodder

Re: Sept. 26 editorial notebook “Wealth, beauty and intrigue, Latino style.”

CBS’s new show “Cane” is a continuing serial like “The Sopranos” or “West Wing.” But, its principal characters are of Cuban descent, and Arnold García Jr. refers to the show’s format as a “distinctly Latino genre of storytelling” (telenovela), aside from the fact that serial dramas have long appeared on English-speaking television . He even branded CBS as the “Comadre Broadcasting System.”

His real gripe is that “Cane” is not about a middle-class Latino family struggling with raising kids and paying the mortgage, a la “George Lopez.” Instead, this show suggests it may raise interesting issues about sugar ethanol as a replacement energy source, various global-political issues including our relationship with Cuba, and maybe our government’s role in agri-business and subsidization of commodities.

Surely, this may be more than just “fodder” to give the “comadres enough to talk about the next day.”



Permalink | | Categories: Letters to the Editor


Response to the two-part series of stories “UT Sports Spending” by American-Statesman reporter Eric Dexheimer that ran Sept. 30 and Oct. 1:

About the Pickle amendment

My father, former U.S. Rep. J.J. “Jake” Pickle, loved the University of Texas and Longhorn football, basketball and baseball.

While in office, he used his considerable influence to negotiate legislation favorable to the university, including the “Pickle amendment” allowing tax deductions for donations to buy football tickets. He could not have foreseen the consequences of this legislation to “his” university 20 years down the road.

I’ve been following the articles about the university’s powerful sports programs, Longhorn football in particular. Every time I drive by the expanded Royal-Memorial Stadium, I wonder on what other educational uses those millions of dollars could have been spent.

Our sports programs have become so powerful and autonomous, they eclipse the purpose of the University of Texas when it was founded in 1883, and which should be our purpose now: to provide the best education.

If the time has come to repeal or amend the “Pickle amendment,” then we should do it.

Peggy Pickle


What Doggett says

We asked U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, if he favors repealing the Pickle amendment. His response:

While not questioning Congressman Pickle’s valued legacy and never eager to get between a fellow Longhorn and our team, this is but one of hundreds of tax expenditures that should be periodically reviewed by Congress.

Your inquiry is the first contact in 13 years that I have had on this particular provision, and I look forward to reviewing the Congressional Budget Office report and any response that intercollegiate athletics programs across the country offer.

Whatever the ultimate decision is on this tax break, I am confident that the Longhorns will never suffer from a lack of supporters.

Spending and priorities

Why don’t most of our colleges and universities use some of their profits from sporting events to support their academic programs?

That would not only save taxpayers money but could help lower tuition rates.

If they can afford to pay their coaches $2 million a year, then they can sure spend a little of that money on academics.



UT athletics’ spendthrift addictions are revoltingly beyond ostentatious.

It would not be socialism to use some of sheik DeLoss Dodds’ chump change to enhance the quality of education and the number of kids educated.

What a national embarrassment - a rich club where the justification for buying anything and everything is having the means.

Dennis Nowstrup


I cut UT out of my will more than a year ago as my way of protesting the excessive emphasis on sports. I don’t care if the sports department is self-financing. If a university president can’t see that $8 million to $12 million for a football scoreboard is absurd, then I can’t trust him or her with my hard-earned life savings.

And to UT sports donors, aren’t you a bit ashamed that you aren’t doing anything more meaningful with your money than buying luxury recliners and flat screen TVs for pampered college football players?

With many students coming out of college today carrying a crushing student loan debt, the flawed priorities of UT supporters astonishes me.



I’d be remiss not to admit that, as a UT graduate, those programs and facilities have been a source of pride. However, Dexheimer’s articles expose the sad fact that the actual expense of those programs is not merely steep - it’s obscene. Adding to the insult is the athletic department’s shameless reluctance to share its bounty with the university’s academic departments.

Starting today, I’ll not pump one more dollar into UT athletic programs. I can live without sports tickets, Longhorn clothing or club memberships. Instead, I’m going to find a better way to give back to the university, one that promotes the university’s true purpose.



The series reflected a lot of hard work - not only for gleaning the facts but also for synthesizing the information.


Milam County

The Sept. 30 sidebar “The Longhorn economy” reported that the university, at Mack Brown’s request, spends $25,000 a year for some company to search the Internet to see what people are saying about him. The story did not name the company.

Please provide the name and address of the company doing the online research as I would like to write to them and save them the trouble of searching online for my opinion of Mack Brown’s coaching performance.



The timing of the series could not have been more appropriate, given the drubbing the football team took Sept. 29 from Kansas State.

Has it occurred to anyone at UT that the opulent facilities and the pampering that these atheletes receive might be generating a sense of inflated self-worth and entitlement that’s not exactly conducive to a winning football team?

The environment they live in (buses to practice to avoid traffic) won’t foster the hunger and drive that are key to a championship team.



When I read about the vast sums of money being spent on UT football, I could have wept buckets of tears.

My daddy, the late, great “Pop” Noah, delivered ice at 3 a.m. so he could stay in school and get an education at what is now the University of North Texas. He lettered in football and track.

Never was he given a dime from anyone. He was the head track coach at UNT for 25 years.

Tutors? Daddy was the tutor, and he spent nights at the library to make certain his boys were studying. When money was tight and there was a track meet out of town, he slept on the floor of the motel so the boys could have a bed.

Is something out of balance here?



Value of UT sports

The series confirmed what I had long suspected: The program is expertly run by men and women of integrity. It’s not surprising that other schools are trying to emulate UT.

Only a handful of the best-managed college sports programs are self-sustaining, and this one provides numerous benefits to the university, including scholarships for hundreds of student athletes.

I’ve been impressed with the athletic program’s contributions to the community. Other towns of our size don’t have an Erwin Center, where you can see everything from gospel music to high school basketball to Al Gore.

Austin merchants benefit financially from UT’s athletic program - probably to the tune of hundreds of millions per year in added revenue. But the availability of well-run university sports nearly year-round also adds greatly to Austin’s excitement and attractiveness.



Permalink | Comments (7) | Categories: Letters to the Editor

Helping hands, heads in the sand, handouts

1006letters.jpg Ricardo B. Brazziell AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Dionte Hill takes a look at his apartment after a team of St. Andrew’s Episcopal School seniors redecorated and painted it.

Investing in fellow student’s success

Re: Sept. 29 article “Now this house feels like a home.”

I wish to thank the American-Statesman’s M.T. Elliott for this heartwarming story.

Too often we read about teens in trouble. Kudos to the St. Andrew’s Episcopal School seniors for their huge effort in making this world a better place for one young man.

Indeed, this was a powerful statement of their investment in Dionte Hill’s success.



Heads in the sand

Re: Sept. 28 letter “Offensive display.”

Frankly, I find the fact that thousands of my peers are dying and tens of thousands of fellow humans are living in hell thanks to the unbelievably myopic egos in the Bush administration much more vulgar and offensive than any protesting going on around the Capitol steps.

“Protecting the innocence of our youth”? We live in a vulgar world!

Keeping our youths’ heads in the sand won’t protect them; it will only inspire ignorance and xenophobia to run rampant throughout their generation’s turn through history as well.

Isn’t that how this all got started?



Haven’t learned a thing

At a point in the Vietnam War, when the United States had lost 27,000 soldiers, the Joint Chiefs of Staff went to the president and told him we could not win the war.

But to keep from losing face, our civilian leadership chose to stay in Vietnam for five more years, costing us 30,000 more deaths.

We haven’t learned a thing in more than 30 years.


Round Rock

Fish conservation

With summer over, many Texans’ favorite time to saltwater fish is coming to an end. That doesn’t mean they don’t get to look forward to next year’s catch.

Unfortunately, if the health of our oceans continues to decline at its current rate, there may no longer be plenty of fish in the sea.

Scientists have documented the worldwide impact of overfishing for the future and predict the global collapse of most fish species by 2048 if trends continue unchanged.

Fortunately, the National Marine Fisheries Service is considering revisions to U.S. fish conservation law. The agency has a unique opportunity to write strong regulations that could help stop overfishing permanently. To save our seas, the Fisheries Service should ensure that conservative fishing limits are set based on the best science and that, if these limits are exceeded, immediate accountability happens to recover the species.


Environment Texas


Choosing toll roads

I don’t understand why a person would not want an additional way to travel to and from their neighborhood with a toll road. Opponents of toll roads who do not want to use them will have free, less congested frontage roads.

I live near the RM 620 and Parmer Lane intersection and have enjoyed reaching my destinations around town in half of the time it took me before the toll roads were built. I also notice the free frontage roads are less congested than before the toll roads were utilized.

I have never felt forced to use the new toll roads. I understand I have options, and I choose the toll roads, hands down.


Round Rock

Taiwan independence

Re: Oct. 1 World Digest item “Island aims for independence.”

Taiwan split from China nearly 60 years ago, yet China still considers this democratic island part of its territory and has threatened attack if Taiwan seeks formal independence.

China has no right to claim Taiwan. Taiwan hasn’t been a part of China since it was ceded to Japan in 1895 after China lost the Sino-Japanese War.

Taiwan possesses all the elements of a sovereign nation. Unfortunately, it seems the U.S. State Department opposes independence for Taiwan, in violation of the policy declared by President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice supporting democracy.

Taiwan has been rated as one of the most democratic and free countries, and China has been rated as one of the non-democratic and non-free countries.

If Taiwan’s democracy and freedom are considered to be expendable to gain China’s favor, oppression will be the victor, and democracy and freedom will be the loser well beyond Taiwan.

Francis Pan

Cedar Park

Philanthropy in Austin

Re: Sept. 23 column “Austin’s already weird … it should be generous, too.”

With a mild sense of dismay, I read American-Statesman Editorial Page Editor Arnold Garcia Jr.’s column about philanthropy. It reflects a very limited understanding of the potential of philanthropy to reweave the frayed fabric of society and to reinvigorate democracy in ways that open wide the doors of participation to include groups that seldom tread the corridors of power.

Community foundations - the fastest growing form of philanthropy here and abroad - are remarkably versatile instruments of change. They have been instrumental in the peace process in Northern Ireland and in rebuilding the civic infrastructure in places where it has been decimated .

In the United States, community foundations have tackled affordable housing, access to health care and the achievement gap between minorities and whites in public education. A city as remarkable as Austin should be invited and encouraged to tap the potential of this remarkable type of institution.



We should appeal to hope rather than give yet another sob story.

Like many of my generation, I grew up seeing hour after hour of celebrities with starving children on TV. All children should be fed, but handouts are not a long-term solution.

Instead, my colleagues and I in the nonprofit world have a duty to promote hope. For the donor, that means hope that their gift helps break the cycle of poverty and those families can feed themselves.

Those hungry families, likewise, need hope. Handouts can be essential during an emergency, but, over the long-term, breed despair and helplessness.

Instead of teaching people to depend on others, we should help them develop their skills, confidence and ability to build dignified lives for themselves, their families, and their communities.


Interim executive director

Foundation for Self-Sufficiency in Central America


Permalink | Comments (3) | Categories: Letters to the Editor

A deadly serious issue

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether lethal injections violate the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Some states are halting executions until the court issues its ruling. Should Texas?

Permalink | Comments (7) | Categories: Talk Back

Odessa, ‘The War’ and Christmas

1005letters.jpg Cindeka Nealy ODESSA AMERICAN

Police officers from around the state lined up to salute as Cpl. Arlie Jones’ casket passed by on Sept. 12 in Odessa. Jones was one of three police officers fatally shot while responding to a domestic violence call.

Gratitude from Odessa

There are no words that can adequately describe our appreciation for the tremendous outpouring of support that the City of Odessa received from the citizens and police officers of Austin during Odessa’s tragic events, which began on the evening of Sept. 8.

On that fateful day, three of Odessa’s police officers responded to a domestic violence call, and all were shot in the line of duty. Cpl. Arlie Jones and Cpl. Scott Gardner died at the scene, and Cpl. Abel Marquez succumbed to his injuries four days later.

From the moment that word began to circulate about the shootings of these outstanding public servants, law enforcement officers - including many who were off-duty - began responding.

Nearby law enforcement agencies volunteered to have their own officers assume police responsibilities during the funerals for each officer.

We want all of you to know we are thankful for your assistance.



Gratitude in Austin, too

Re: Sept. 24 editorial “Austin dollars tougher to win than hearts and minds.”

Though I can attest that the challenges of fundraising in our city are real, I thank the more than 3,000 volunteers who generously give their time to aid us in helping thousands of homebound elderly and disabled people live independently in their homes.

Because of the benevolence of our volunteers, Meals on Wheels and More is one of the leading home-delivered meal organizations in the country.

The American-Statesman editorial illuminates an important issue about how we, as a community, choose to give, and the fact that we rank third in the nation in volunteerism is testimony to our potential. Just imagine what our city could accomplish if we also ranked third in money donated instead of 48th.


CEO & president

Meals on Wheels and More


Harboring criminals

How can a sanctuary city not harbor criminals? These people committed a crime by entering the country illegally. If they are working, they are doing it illegally. If they don’t have a Social Security card, how are they working?

We need to stop allowing criminals to reside here. They are destroying the very fabric of our country.



Cornyn’s failure

I was rather annoyed that U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, voted against Children’s Health Insurance Program expansion and then justified it by saying it represents “an unprecedented expansion of a Washington-controlled health care and would actually mean less money for responsible states like Texas.”

Cornyn apparently didn’t read the bill before voting on it. And he apparently considers Texas responsible, knowing that there are more uninsured kids in this state than in any other.

For those two reasons, I don’t believe he should be re-elected.



A worthy 16 hours

After the first nine hours of Ken Burns’ epic 16-hour documentary “The War,” I have found myself entirely fascinated despite television writer Diane Holloway’s discouraging remarks (Sept. 23 review “The long march to `War’).

We Americans who did not live through that war should be steeped in the knowledge of it so we may gain even a slight understanding of what our soldiers did for us and for the entire world, especially now that so few of them remain. As a result of Burns’ work, I have an appreciation for what my father endured at the front and for what my mother lived through stateside.

When I consider the thousands of Americans who gave their lives that others might live free, I find 16 hours neither “too long, too slow,” nor “too ponderous.”



No incentive in Iraq

Aside from the fact that the Iraq war serves no purpose other than to project President Bush’s idealism and whatever other clandestine motivations his handlers convinced him of, there is little or no incentive for the Iraqi government to take control of the country’s destiny.

The United States has spent nearly a trillion dollars on this war, and there has been no benefit to our country. If another nation decided to come into the United States and, for no compensation, feed our hungry, shelter our homeless, defend us against our enemies, and provide health care for everyone, what incentive would we have to stop them from doing so?

We train our own troops in less than a year, yet we’ve been training theirs for four years now. Why are we, the American people, allowing this to go on?


Round Rock

Nuclear energy

Re: Aug. 28 editorial “Austin should consider backing nuke plant project.”

If you liked the doctored, phony X-rays, counterfeit bolts, cost overruns, the rubber stamp nuclear regulatory board and the customers paying for a plant up front, you’ll love this expansion.

Wake up. Don’t you remember? What has changed?



Showdown at Christmas

Re: Sept. 26 commentary “Selling the Christmas Mountains gives us the chance to save them.

In his hysterical tirade against professor Douglas Brinkley, state Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson manages to confirm the central charge in Brinkley’s indictment against him.

Patterson simply recites the Ronald Reagan litany: Government is the problem and never the solution. Private interests are the best caretakers of our air, water and land.

Patterson thus joins the legions of Republicans who get themselves elected or appointed to public office to prove by their actions and inactions that they were right all along - government is inept.

Private investors in search of profits are the “doers” who can be counted on to protect and improve our public lands and our conservation lands.

At great cost to their own treasuries? Let’s doubt it.



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Digs, Doggett and DWI

1004letters.jpg Keller Williams Realty

Gov. Rick Perry and his wife, Anita, are moving to this house with a swimming pool at 8113 Hickory Creek Drive at a cost of $9,900 a month while the Governor’s Mansion undergoes extensive renovations.

Digs at the new digs

I was en route to my volunteer internship at an Austin high school when I heard that tax dollars will be paying for the governor, his wife and their dog to lease a million-dollar home in an exclusive neighborhood near Barton Creek. I could not have been more shocked and disgusted.

While children in this state are sent to bed hungry each night, we will spend nearly $120,000 so the Perrys and their pooch can live in high style with a fantastic swimming pool and lavish entertainment areas.

Some families in this town live in trailer houses with holes in the floor, cracks in the walls and leaks in the roof.



I wonder how many children could receive needed medical attention, or how many hungry people could be fed, or how many teachers could get a nice raise instead of putting Gov. Rick Perry up in another mansion.

Couldn’t the money be better spent? Why don’t his rich Republican friends foot the bill?



Death penalty consequences

Re: Oct. article “Howard might face challenge for House seat from Republican.”

The death penalty applied to crimes that do not leave victims dead provides a perverse incentive for criminals to finish off their victims.

Capital punishment was once meted out for a variety of non-lethal crimes, from theft to rape. Partly out of concern over unintended consequences, society gave up on the notion that death sentences should be so widely applied.

Now comes Alan Sager, chairman of the Travis County Republican Party, to “deplore” Rep. Donna Howard’s vote against a law providing for the death penalty for a second offense of child molestation. “She’s been so crazy,” he said.

What parent would not prefer a child to survive such an ordeal rather than die as a consequence of a perpetrator’s “nothing to lose” logic? This provision should be renamed “no victim left behind” and seen for what it is - political pandering to the basest of emotions, consequences be damned.

Alfred Stanley


Loyal to Doggett

Even though I am not in District 25, I support U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, monetarily and personally because he votes along the lines of my beliefs.

My congressman consistently votes against them, and 2008 will likely be the year that Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, and his perfect anti-environmental scorecard, his scorn for our personal liberties and his disdain for programs to assist the most needy is finally sent home to a well-deserved retirement.

Smith never met a corporate welfare program he wouldn’t endorse, a military spending bill he couldn’t support and a proposal to help the people that he didn’t reject out of hand.

Contrast the voting records of Smith and Doggett for an enlightening look at the difference between the two parties.



DWI punishment

Re: Sept. 27 article “Man gets 30 years in fatal wreck.”

It took Matthew Troell four tries, but his latest DWI offense finally took someone’s life - Karen Rosenberg’s.

The punishment should be:

• first (non-fatal) offense, enough jail time to scare you straight.

• second offense, 10 years minimum.

• third offense, 30 years.

Karen Rosenberg might still be with us and her family.



The opportunists

Re: Sept. 16 article “Life after Bush: Advisers take divergent paths.”

Ken Herman’s article on former President Bush advisers Matthew Dowd and Mark McKinnon shows an interesting career arch.

Having swung from supporting Democrats like Ann Richards to becoming Bush disciples suggests the knack for recognizing the coattails of power and then clinging to them. Both profess a disappointment in Bush, but, judging by the lengths of their tenure with him, they are a little slow on the uptake.

The plunging poll numbers must have been their first clue. Their loyalty to the president appears to have paid off nicely, and now they are free to pursue their own spiritual quests or cause du jour, and isn’t that special?

Meanwhile, as we survey the wreckage these enablers helped strew, the rest of us can contemplate how to deal with the sad truth that our children’s future is a lot bleaker than it was six years ago. Thanks, guys.



No need to exit

I took Texas 130 for the first time. In my journey from Hutto to Texas 71, I didn’t see a gas station, a rest stop or a call box.

Do the toll operators assume that our drive will be so much faster on a road we are paying to use that we won’t have time to need gas, break down or use the bathroom?



Red means give

Perhaps Austinites would be more generous to the poor if we weren’t constantly harassed by charlatans at every intersection.

Most of these perfectly capable individuals are squandering the good will normally directed toward legitimately needy individuals.



Ill will

Sick. That’s the only polite term I can use to describe President Bush’s acts in asking for $190 billion for his ego-driven war and his veto of a bill that would have funded the states’ children’s health insurance program.

How does this man look himself in the mirror?



Permalink | Comments (4) | Categories: Letters to the Editor

Local vs. federal control

How should we balance issues of local control with national security? Congress has authorized $1.2 billion for about 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, and the Department of Homeland Security says it is committed to erecting 370 miles of fencing by the end of 2008. But mayors along the Texas-Mexico border began a quiet protest of the federal government’s plans: Some are refusing access to their land.

How should the federal government respond?

Permalink | | Categories: Talk Back

We’re not children

Ben Sargent’s Sept. 14 cartoon confirms what a lot of conservatives have been saying about liberals.

The cartoon blames the government for Americans getting themselves too deeply in debt. The government, according to Sargent, has failed to be a satisfactory role model when it comes to spending.

It’s not the responsibility of the government to be a “role model” for anything. And why is there a need for “role models?” That’s for little kids who often imitate their parents so parents have to watch how they act and speak round the little ones. Grown-ups don’t need role models. I don’t need a “role model” to avoid taking on more debt than I can repay. It’s called not being stupid.

The conservative critics are right. Liberals think Americans are children — unable to manage their lives without government telling us how.



Who’s really in charge

There is a lot of hullabaloo in the media about who will “run” the country after President Bush. Maybe it’s time to see who really runs things.

The Constitution gives Congress the responsibility — no one else — to print our money and to set its value. So,why does a private organization, one that is never audited, have control of printing the money, and for all intents and purposes, complete control over our economy? I refer to the group known as the Federal Reserve. It raises interest rates and the stock and home markets go down, and the economy tanks. Lower the rates and the economy improves. A private group of bankers, over which Congress has no control, runs our country, and we suckers think that Republicans and Democrats run things.

The folks who run things have us Democrats and Republicans arguing in the living room while they are in the dining room stealing the silverware.



Constitutional damage

Members of the Barbara Jordan Society for the Restoration of the Constitution, including myself, traveled to Washington last month to meet with Rep. Lloyd Doggett’s staff to voice grave concern that the Constitution has been shredded, possibly irreparably, by numerous actions of the Bush administration. Among the most serious violations are refusing to submit to congressional oversight authority; altering laws through executive order rather than the legislative process; and ignoring U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

We requested that Congress look at every possible means for restoring the Bill of Rights and the balance of power. We asked that Doggett consider every option, including impeachment proceedings, to save the Constitution and our country from the significant erosion of our liberties and to protect the carefully crafted provisions contained in our nation’s most precious document. We need vigilance and hard work now if we are to maintain this Republic.



Whose dirty tricks?

Re: Sept. 20 column by Bob Herbert, “Let the GOP’s dirty tricks begin”: Herbert faults the GOP for trying to change the rules for the distribution of electoral votes in California, something he freely admits the Democrats tried to do in North Carolina. (The proposal was scrapped “not a moment too soon,” presumably, so the big boys could turn their guns on the GOP.) It would appear that tricks are only dirty if they are performed by an opposing party.

Herbert quotes Humboldt State University sage John Travis declaring, “This is clearly a power grab by the Republican Party.” Power-grabbing is what elections are all about. Travis does recognize that these attempts on the part of voters might be an indication that the electoral system needs to be reformed to reflect more clearly the one-man-one-vote mantra that we claim to advocate.

The only thing that is clear in all of this is that the Electoral College should be scrapped, and one-man-one-vote should become a reality.



Real benefit for Texans

Re: Sept. 20 letter by Alex Winslow, executive director of Texas Watch, “Protecting patients”:

If Winslow really cared about Texas patients, he would be celebrating the fact that more physicians are available to take care of our patients.

In the past four years, the Texas Medical Board has licensed 10,878 physicians. The board only had to investigate 11 and discipline four of those physicians. The disciplinary actions did not even involve patient care. Bottom line: Texas is benefiting from medical liability reforms. More well-trained physicians are coming to Texas, and that is good medicine for Texas patients.

Winslow is not a patient advocate. He is simply a mouthpiece for the trial lawyers. The elimination of Texas’ lawsuit abuse epidemic dramatically hurt trial lawyers’ bottom line. They want their money back.



Texas Medical Association


A devastating economy

Re: Sept. 20 article, “Thompson slams Democratic hopefuls’ tax ideas”:

GOP presidential hopeful actor-lawyer Fred Thompson’s almost-unnoticed stop in Austin spurred Dell officials to lobby him early on to reduce (eliminate?) taxes on overseas income for U.S. corporations. Thompson warned that electing a Democrat president would “devastate” the economy. It’s not enough for Dell to export jobs and production overseas; now it wants overseas job production to be tax-exempt. The past Democratic administration left a budget surplus. This Republican administration has saddled the country with a record and still-climbing deficit. The dollar has sunk to all-time lows against foreign currencies. And the Republicans want to cut more taxes for the big guys. So who is devastating whose economy?



A musician missed

It was with great regret that I read about the passing of Gary Primich (Sept. 25, “With harmonica, blues player had skill and passion”). When I moved to Austin years ago, my wife and I spent a weekend at a place out on the lake. The Mannish Boys were playing. It was then that I knew Austin was my home. Some years later, when I decided to have music at my business, the Mannish Boys was one of the first bands I booked.

I loved sitting at the bar talking to Gary after we closed. He didn’t just play music; he loved it. When it comes to the harp and Austin, you think of Gary, and it’s hard to think of who is next. He wasn’t just a great musician, he was a great guy.



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Pursing truth … and criminals

The pursuit of truth

Re: Sept. 25 editorial by the San Jose Mercury News, “Now open to free exchange of ideas”: By engaging controversial Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a serious exchange of ideas, Columbia University exercised its academic freedom and manifested the highest ideal of American higher education: the pursuit of truth, wherever it may lead.

If only our national leaders had the wisdom and courage to do the same, in the interest of peace.



Letting criminals in

Re: Sept. 16 column by Alberta Phillips, “Our sanctuary city must not serve as haven for criminals”: Phillips wants to have her cake and eat it too by believing that Austin can be a city that protects illegal immigrants by not questioning their status yet won’t suffer from immigrants’ high rate of criminality. It didn’t work in Newark, N.J., and it won’t work here.

Pro-immigration enthusiasts falsely hail all border-crossers as good, hard-working people with family values. Nonsense. Many already were the lowest class and most desperate people in their home countries, and they regularly protect and cover for their criminal family members here.

Deluding ourselves, as Phillips does, into believing that we can look the other way and still protect innocent Americans who are being victimized by this growing criminal element is nothing but fuzzy feel-good thinking.



This isn’t working

When President Bush, shortly after 9/11, announced a policy of unilateralism and preventive war, many of us questioned that policy. But the president convinced Congress and many in the United States that violence and contempt for diplomacy would lead to more security and get results faster than law enforcement. But six years later the results are in: The unilateral pre-emptive military response to the 9/11 attacks has increased hatred of the United States, helped recruit new supporters for violent armed groups and destabilized key U.S. allies in the Middle East.

It is time to end this so-called war on terror and replace it with a concerted, multilateral law enforcement response to the actions of violent extremists.



Leave CAMPO alone

Everyone wants roads. No one really wants tolls, so we all hate the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

We need to target the source of the problem, not the body charged with allocating available funds. Our congressional representatives in Washington need to hear that we want them to quit taking away our transportation dollars and spending them in other areas. Our Legislature needs to know that gasoline taxes were for transportation, not other state expenses.

Send your message to the leaders of the state political parties to put anti-toll candidates on the next statewide ballots. Tell your federal legislators to put the money back where it belongs. Tell your state legislators find more solutions.

Leave CAMPO alone.



A government’s right

Re: Sept. 6 letter, “Drug prohibition”: I agree with the letter writer that the government should “stop the madness of prohibition now and regulate drugs e they can be produced safely and cheaply and can be taxed.” I disagree that “the government just does not have the right to tell me what to put in my body.”

So long as people depend on society through the use of government programs and insurance companies for help with their health care costs, the government has a duty to reduce with regulations and education the health damages done to people by what they “put in their bodies.”



No more war

There are more and more reports these days that the Bush administration is preparing for war on Iran. Another pre-emptive war in the Middle East? Is he crazy? The war we are in now is not winnable; it has created more terrorists than we’ve eliminated, and it has cost untold billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives. Starting a war in Iran will bankrupt the United States (except of course for Halliburton and friends), create hundreds of thousands more enemies for us and cause yet more catastrophic loss of human life. It’s time to bring all the troops home and stop making war.



Iraq not about al Qaeda

Every time I hear President Bush say we’re fighting al Qaeda in Iraq so we don’t have to fight them over here, I don’t know whether to laugh or vomit. The way the media liberally hurls their name about, you can almost see Osama bin Laden and his turban-clad band of evil-doers hiding among the rubble of Baghdad, wielding AK-47s and ominously waiting for our troops to leave. Come on, people. The Iraqis could care less about bin Laden. No, they’re blowing up one another by the tens of thousands over oil and land with an ancient river of hate running through it. Leaving Iraq will not be pretty. It will happen, but much to my horror, not before another half-trillion dollars and countless lives are lost on the most asinine foreign policy blunder in U.S. history.



Missing from ‘The War’

As I watched an installment of “The War” by Ken Burns showing U.S. forces invading the island of Saipan, I was reminded of a movie I saw as a child called “Hell to Eternity.” I will never forget how a tall, blond, blue-eyed Anglo American, Jeffrey Hunter, single-handedly captured more than 1,500 Japanese soldiers. Each night, Hunter would perform heroic deeds as he captured the enemy, sometimes with the point of his bayonet or the butt of his rifle, but mostly with smooth, calm persuasion.

Guy Gabaldon was one of World War II’s greatest heroes, and I thought for sure that Burns would include him in his documentary, but then the cold, hard facts hit me: Of course he wouldn’t include him. Gabaldon was not a tall, blond, blue-eyed Anglo; he was a short Chicano from East L.A., an American of Mexican descent.



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Give them shelter

Should the city move its animal shelter to East Austin or rehab the current facility near downtown?

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