Ida Tarbell Never Met Steve Stockman
I can forgive Tim Fleck for including me among "the great Republican unwashed" in the so-called VIP section at the Stockman/ Gingrich rally on May 18 [The Insider, May 23]. And as an agnostic, I won't take personal offense at the snippets of sneering contempt for other people's religious beliefs. And I can't fault Tim for not reporting on the substantive Democratic responses to Newt's proposals, as put forth by the demonstrators, since they had no substantive responses. ("Nuck Fewt" doesn't make it, at least in my book). After all, as a former liberal Democrat, I try to maintain a high degree of understanding and compassion for those still struggling to come to grips with the party's ideological bankruptcy.

The thing that really concerns me is that the reporter I was coming to so admire as Houston's latter-day Ida Tarbell threatens to take the easy road and metamorphose into just another chronicler of styles. Please, Tim, say it ain't so! Now more than ever we need those exposes of City Hall corruption that our "leading information source" can't find room to print. We need you to keep hounding the Dean Singletons and Hearst Corporations of this world for their tawdry deals and accompanying lies and cover-ups. Your stealth entry into the Houston Club luncheon was brilliant. You may have noticed that no such stealth was needed to gain access to the Stockman rally. We had nothing to hide. Think about it.

Joe Pueschner

The Right to Be Taken Seriously
One does not need to be a reactionary right-winger to conclude that a form of political correctness pervades the halls of many American public schools. The inane charge of racism leveled at teacher Phyllis Landes ["Bitter Lesson," by Michael Berryhill, May 9] probably resulted merely because she is a no-nonsense teacher who also happens to be white. There is far too much sentimentalist, anti-intellectual claptrap masquerading as caring that makes excuses for the academic failures of far too many minority students. A teacher demanding hard work and high standards is quickly perceived to be an ogre deserving contempt. How such permissive nostrums are supposed to prepare these youngsters to compete in today's job market is conveniently ignored by these ideologues.

The brutal truth is that the family life and immediate environment of too many children of all racial and ethnic backgrounds is not at all conducive to encouraging academic excellence. Placing the primary blame for their almost inevitable failure on the shoulders of hard-working teachers is neither fair nor sensible. It is also time for the general academic elite to make public what is casually discussed behind closed doors: the advanced degrees of most bureaucrats like those who persecuted Phyllis Landes are close to being fraudulent. These people have not earned the right to be taken seriously.

David Thomson

Saving Sheldon
Your decision to cover the plight of Sheldon Reservoir ["Down the Drain," by Bob Burtman, May 23] was an excellent editorial move. Too often, the important issues of our day are overshadowed by the meaningless public spectacles that grab the limelight in many of our nation's papers. The fact that the reservoir has been degraded to the extent that it has is an egregious oversight, especially on the part of the Texas Department of Transportation, and I am surprised they have not been sued over failure to adequately conduct an environmental impact statement.

As Sheldon Reservoir provides one of the few escapes to nature for many of us in Houston, it is of paramount importance that we preserve it. A host of environmental atrocities are created by our failure to intelligently plan development. With huge highways and streets without bike lanes, we encourage driving rather than mass transit. There also is little preservation of park space, compared with many other cities around our nation. And although the heat makes air conditioning a necessity, we abuse it far too often. With a more environmentally conscious mindset, perhaps our precious preserves like Sheldon Reservoir would not fall into jeopardy.

Kelson Rynnagh

Once Again, Joe Leydon Brings Shame and Dishonor on Houston
I was anxious to learn about the Mission: Impossible movie with Tom Cruise, so I was happy to see something in your magazine about it [Film, "Mission: Irrelevant," by Joe Leydon, May 23]. I started reading the article, but stopped after realizing how negative and condescending it was. I figured it better to see it for myself then to be steered by negativity. I have since seen the movie, which was entertaining from start to finish, and could not understand what your writer could have been talking about. So today I read your article, and it got me to thinking: Joe Leydon has problems at home and should be put on leave indefinitely. I realize that a review is someone's opinion, but he should realize that he is a professional and has a responsibility to the readers who trust your magazine for accuracy.

The negativity that ran through his article was enough to make me realize that some magazines just aren't worth the recycled paper they are printed on. Since I have so much pride in Houston and its people, I sincerely hope that someone from another city didn't pick up your magazine and get as disgusted by your author as I did. Consider me one less reader.

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