Christ and convicts: As a mentor at the Carol Vance Unit, I read your article on the InnerChange Freedom Initiative ["From Cells to Souls," by Mark Donald, December 7] with great interest. I hope you will do a follow-up when IFI releases the statistics on the program. I think the state will be in for a nice surprise.
I would question the recidivism rate of 30 percent for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. I would suspect the real figure is much higher. There certainly has been no fundamental change in the prison system that would account for any drop.
For years TDCJ has been nothing more than a revolving door, creating a better-quality criminal with each trip. I would think the fact that IFI is so heartily endorsed by criminal justice professionals should tell you something.
IFI offers an option. Having seen for myself the difference it is making in these young men's lives, I see nothing but good that can come from the program. Certainly a percentage of inmates will never "get" the program, but even 30 percent reached and changed is an awesome improvement over where TDCJ stands today.
Which would you prefer: productive members of the community, paying taxes, raising their families; or more prisons and more men and women under lock and key?
What might happen: We were shocked by the very slanted and misleading article regarding basmati rice ["RiceTec Paddy Whack," by Brad Tyer, November 23], with its patronization and racial insensitivity.
If India and the rest of the world have to adopt U.S.-style patent law as the WTO, the United States and, I assume, RiceTec wants it to do, then RiceTec's U.S. patents would be applicable in India and the rest of the world. This would result in consequences far beyond RiceTec's U.S. patent.
If the patent claim is interpreted to apply to all "functional varieties" (a term used in the patent) of basmati, it could result in Asian farmers paying royalties to RiceTec for use of their own seeds.
Indian farmers are undercut in the U.S. market by the RiceTec marketing of a "pseudo basmati" as basmati. Exports to the Middle East and the EU might also suffer if RiceTec could capture these markets with its "pseudo basmati."
As for the tone of the article, Shiva "whips up opinion," sees RiceTec as a "First World devil," talks as if in "exorcism" and is repeatedly dismissed as opposed to the subservient attitude to RiceTec's self-serving claims. The writer and the artist do an excellent job of re-oppressing some of those (in fact, we all are) already staggering under the yoke of corporate-controlled globalization.
Jere Locke and Doug Zachary
Coalition Against the RiceTec Patent
Another opinion: A friend who works at RiceTec sent me your article concerning the recent protest by Shiva. I congratulate you on producing such excellent writing. It is truly a pleasure to read a balanced, articulate, comprehensive, entertaining and informative piece of work. If only this quality of coverage were more common. Thank you.
Donald J. Merlo
Cross to Bear
Don't censor retablos: I'd like to just say, since I still can, that I am an art teacher at a private art school and a freelance illustrator/artist. If I understand correctly, Macario Ramirez ["Saints, Sacrilege and Retablos," by Steve McVicker, December 7] is saying that maybe they have a First Amendment right to this, but there's some things you can't say, like what he doesn't want you to say.
Who the hell does he think he is, my mother? So I suppose only white males are allowed to be depicted as nailed to a cross and given a blow job? Jesus wasn't white, by the way. Long live ignorance and intolerance.
Don't mess with icons: A small clarification to Mr. McVicker's article: I do not currently serve on the Art League board, and I do not speak for the organization -- only for myself.
To those who would continue to co-opt cultural icons, may I suggest targeting menorahs and mezuzahs next. Let them provide equal opportunity for invalid scholarship and equal opportunity for disrespect for the traditions and spiritual grounding of other cultures.
Better head than dead: Lots of Hispanics understand that it's art. Art in bad taste, but art nonetheless. And when we were fighting for equal access to everything in the larger white community, lots of us understood that that would mean whites would have equal access to everything in our community.
White guys making Mexican folk art? Had to happen. If Hispanics can sing German operas or cook French food, white guys can make Mexican folk art. Freedom cuts both ways. Having Hispanic culture somehow off-limits to white guys keeps us separate, not equal. We don't own retablos. These "artists" have the right to make them, too. They even have the right to make them badly. Is this stuff profane? Sacrilegious? Yeah. And? I'm more afraid of censorship than I am of bad art.
Besides, I think retablos and the Hispanic community can withstand Jesus getting a blow job. We've been through worse.
Olivia Flores Alvarez
Cell Phone Sequel
Talk shows: Judging by the letter writer's response to cell phone usage, I'm guessing that she's not wasting her time in any kind of self-improvement classes [Letters, "From Walls to Calls," December 7].
You go, girl. Keep talking on that cell phone wherever you want. Yeah, me too. I say, "Fuck 'em." How asinine. I'm sure she believes that unlimited cell phone usage ranks right up there with breast-feeding in public and urinating on car tires as a God-given right. Please don't tell me she's doing anything beneficial to the public well-being, like teaching preschool children. May your dentist have the same attitude at your next exam. And your doctor, peace officer responding to a call at your house, fireman en route to your burning trailer, etc., etc.
Name withheld by request
Bladder blabber: (Regarding the cell phone letter) I urinate all the time. I urinate at the grocery store, the library (very subdued there, though) and anywhere else I feel like it. If someone does not like my urinating on my time, then fuck 'em.
Insider extraordinaire: Tim Fleck is my hero.
I wanna be just like him when I grow up. I love that he is not impressed by the rank or stature of the people who find their way into his Insider column. Usually they are self-serving and hypocritical folks who tend to judge and condemn others without regard to the damage they inflict. It's good to see them called on the carpet for a change.
My week would be much gloomier without a good dose of Fleck.
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