Thrown for a Loop

Split on Shelley

Thrown for a Loop: I was very angry to read Tim Fleck's feature on Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs ["Overdose," August 22]. What he described was an ideal of what a city councilmember should be: a person of goodwill and concern.

Mr. Fleck wants "political experts" to run City Hall. To me, he showed "Inner Loop" arrogance that was not helpful or appreciated. I called 311 and shared with Ms. Sekula-Gibbs my appreciation for her commitment to the city and people of Houston.

Matthew Tobin

Greenhorns: Mr. Fleck -- thanks for the excellent piece on Sekula-Gibbs. Though I don't know her personally, after 25 years of working in the public sector, I have known many first-time elected officials like her who take a public office without having the slightest idea of its powers or responsibilities.

Here is civics lesson 101 for new councilmembers: The primary function of a city council, be it Houston or Podunk, is to adopt a budget, period. After that vote (which Dr. Sekula-Gibbs missed), everything else they do is pretty much eyewash. Thanks for writing another great column on a subject that the Chronicle probably wouldn't touch.

Dennis Oakes
League City

Hot Topic

Sweaty penguins? I think your article ["Global Warming Is Good for You!" by Dylan Otto Krider, August 15] demonstrates that the conflict over global warming and its potential effects is far from over.

Earlier this year, a University of Illinois study concluded that Antarctica was actually cooling rather than warming, as scientists originally thought. This was because earlier temperature studies were biased toward data collected on the Antarctic Peninsula, where there were proportionately more monitoring stations and where there was a local warming trend. Eliminating that bias toward the Antarctic Peninsula showed a cooling trend. This baffled scientists whose computer models showed that global warming would be felt earliest and most pronounced in the polar regions.

I wrote an unpublished letter to the Houston Chronicle that concluded that the only sure thing was that somehow the global warming lobby would figure out a way to modify their computer models, which were obviously flawed. I was close.

A few months later I read that the cooling of Antarctica was owing to some strange wind phenomena that could be dismissed as a fluke and global warming was going to continue. This just goes to show that politics is far more important than scientific fact and the less people understand about this the better. Treaties like the Kyoto Protocol are designed more to hurt the U.S. economy than help pollution.

Mark T. Evert

The human touch: The argument shouldn't be whether there is global warming (there is). It should be about what effect humans are having on global warming.

Since the last ice age ended 10,000 years ago, the ocean level has risen 300 to 400 feet from the increase in temperature. It will rise 300 to 400 more, until Austin has oceanfront property. We know this because it has happened 18 times in the last two million years for reasons we don't yet understand.

Will the 100 or so years of using hydrocarbons for fuel make a big difference in this trend? I doubt it. It is a fact that nature is a self-balancing act. You push it, and it will push back until things are in balance.

Jim Acker

Mercenary environmentalists: Accolades are owed to Dylan Krider. He has immersed himself in what I believe is an incredibly complex subject. In a short time he has come up with what I believe is quite a useful report. It might just motivate many to think about this issue and what is at stake. Indeed, the stakes are so huge that every citizen should insist that this field get the absolute maximum scrutiny and that we not settle, by default, for a politically defined "solution."

Surely this report does not have the priorities, tone or focus that I would have chosen as a skeptic of this issue, but then again I don't work for the Houston Press.

A subject as complex as global warming can expect to have errors, and there are some in this report. Most of them were minor. For example, my preference would have been to say four "assumptions" made by environmentalists, rather than four "false claims." I should note that rather than being head of the marketing department for Dow Chemical, my role was as head of market resources (primarily market research) for Dow Hydrocarbons and Energy, one of about ten major commercial departments in Dow.

As for Kennicutt's vote to believe "the scientists," the problem is that very, very few scientists talk directly to the public. Most of what the public hears comes from government bureaucrats and nongovernmental organizations, either directly or through their input to science reporters. I would argue the biggest conflict of interest lies with the nongovernmental organizations. They are like a small "company" with a payroll to meet and rent to pay and publications to print, etc. Hence they have to convince their "customers" (those who buy their assessment or position and donate) that they are doing great things for society and that their crusade is right and just and the only option.  

Gerald T. Westbrook

Shooting Fish?

Save the library: Damn fine article, Margaret Downing ["The Old West," August 22]! Your skilled journalist's scalpel opened up Tomball's library controversy like a filleted fish. In my estimation you performed quite a service to Tomball by just airing out the issues, which were festering and had become quite smelly!

You interviewed people on both sides of the question, with equal opportunity to patiently make their case. Thus, you accurately profiled the players and the plot. You brought the palpable "tension" (as you put it) between the sides into sharp relief, so that the reader longs for a resolution. The foreshadowing that you mentioned only heightened the tension.

To employ your apt Old West metaphor, it is high noon in Tomball, the two gunslingers poised and about to draw. Surely, soon only one will remain standing -- the other a casualty. Will Tomball lose its community library to "insider politics" or will the people prevail? Stay tuned…

David Clark

Sympathy - Not

Responsibility for sex offenders: It seems every day we law-abiding citizens of this country see something that we look at in disbelief. The inmates are running the asylum. The other day I heard about an 80-year-old woman being frisked at the airport and another woman having to drink out of some bottles that contained mother's milk for her infant child. My brother was thoroughly searched and two Middle Eastern men walked through unquestioned.

However, this article ["Hard on the Yard," by Scott Nowell, August 22] hits close to home, and I'm smacking my forehead saying, "What!" Call me a pessimist, but I have to ask several questions:

Don't these sex offenders have to walk, unsupervised, past that park? Will the partners at Scotland Yard accept full responsibility for their clients' actions? What will they do for the child who is the unlucky victim of a lapse in judgment by one of these offenders? I would venture to say, nothing. They will make the case that they shouldn't be held responsible regardless of the efforts they make to allow the clients to access that building. I like John Whitmire's solution. Somewhere along the line, the needs and safety of the many should outweigh the needs of the few. Especially when the few are in a group of people that are a danger to kids or pose a threat, such as that from terrorism.

Larry Wilson

Monster? Don't expect us to feel sorry for a sexual predator (whose sentence was commuted by nearly two-thirds) because he's unable to meet his attorney at one specific location. Doyal Alexander is lucky he made it out of the clink alive.

I have a hard time believing that Alexander is now harmless to society, particularly when I think about the abuse he surely suffered on the inside. I feel no sympathy whatsoever for this monster, who has no one to blame but himself for the fact that he can't visit his attorney when he feels like it.

Jason Parcell

Good fortune: Who gives a crap about this guy? The bastard is lucky he's still alive and not rotting in some crab-infested jail cell and being used as a punching bag by more self-respecting convicts.

Charles Nevle
Sugar Land

Spare the hankie: Reading this sob story, I found myself doing what I'm sure the author, sex offender Doyal Alexander and his attorney do not want readers to do: think about the girl who was the victim of his heinous crime. In fact, your article doesn't even mention the crime until paragraph five! Why? The author's obvious intent is to transform the criminal into a victim.

This is worse than Mrs. Lay's sob story! Alexander forces a little girl to suck his penis at least twice, and he's not spending the rest of his 25-year sentence in prison. Had he been locked up -- as he should have been -- he would be meeting with his lawyer in a visitation room with bars or bulletproof glass separating them. This guy is damn lucky to have any measure of freedom. Surely you guys have some real victims to write about!  

Michael H. Moore

Hold On

Alternative-school angst: I read the responses to your article on CEP ["Million-Dollar Babies," by Margaret Downing, June 27]. They do hold kids longer than warranted, I don't care what they say. I work as a therapist in that setting, and every kid I see bitches about it, it's true. It's countereducational.

Name withheld by request

Bouncing Back

Tien Ren fan: Yes! I've been going to Wonderful (I still can't call it Tien Ren) for as long as I can remember ["Pro-Choice," by Gary Michaels, August 22]. I'm so glad you wrote this piece about the place. I've been worried that it's going to go out of business since everything else in the shopping center seems to be joining the dearly departed.

I remember the sag in quality a few years back, and I do agree with you that it is right back up to par. The waiter has improved as well. He doesn't seem to stand around and push various religious beliefs the way he once did. But the food always made it worth it, and it's really cool that he always seems to remember who you are, no matter how long it's been since you were there.

The prices are a bit higher, so now I can't go as often, but when I do go -- wow. I don't need to eat for the next two days. Thanks for spreading the joy to a new generation.

Stephanie Hart

Meaty matters: Many of the entrées in these vegetarian (and vegan) restaurants are essentially using vegetables (and other nonmeat products) to try to approximate or imitate the real thing: meat! So, what do these people know about what the real dish should taste like, especially if prepared by a true culinary master?

Just comparing the boring offerings of one vegetarian restaurant to another is not helpful to anyone. We all know that any soy-based food product is about as bland as food gets and is only mildly interesting if one uses prodigious amounts of spices, and that vegan desserts are about as insipid as any food product ever devised. Gee, what revelations! Try comparing the food offerings in the vegan restaurant to those generally found in mainstream restaurants in taste, quality, freshness, creativity, etc., and then it may be of some use to your readers, unless your intended audience is limited to vegetarians and vegans alone.

Vegetarians are always lamenting (as in this "review") the woeful lack of vegetarian restaurants in the western hemisphere. Here's a news flash: It's called free-market forces. If there were sufficient demand for this product, there would be a vegan restaurant on every corner. If you think there is some vast conspiracy to limit the dining options of vegetarians, why don't you just try the old "build it and they will come" theory? By the way, any decent omnivore restaurant will prepare vegetarian and often even vegan dishes, if you just ask. In addition, in most cases, such food will be much better than anything that could possibly be found in a vegan restaurant because the chefs are generally not as limited in their creativity and experience as those found in vegan restaurants.

Robert Searle

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