Ignored by you for years, the Southern Legal Resource Center has finally arrived [“The 2009 Bum Steer Awards,” January 2009]! But, hey, where have y’all been? We filed the student free speech federal lawsuit against Burleson ISD back in 2007.

Clueless as we are, we naively cling to the quaint idea that the United States Constitution should protect three young ladies who are proud of their Southern heritage and who, without disruption, carried the Confederate flag purses they had received as Christmas presents to their school. The 1969 case of Tinker v. Des Moines established that if an article of apparel causes no material disruption to the educational process, a student has every right to wear or display it.

Texas Monthly, which thrives on First Amendment protection, shoots itself in the foot when it belittles our clients’ brave stand in defense of free speech. Would the SLRC be the recipients of a hallowed Bum Steer Award if we were fighting Burleson High School over the peremptory banishment of Texas Monthly from the school library? Somehow I don’t think so.
Kirk D. Lyons
Southern Legal Resource Center
Black Mountain, North Carolina

A World Away

As one of the few people to have spent time in both Juárez, Mexico, and Baghdad, Iraq, trying to understand the killing, I have to disagree sharply with Sito Negron’s comparison of drug violence in one city with insurgent violence in the other [“Baghdad, Mexico,” January 2009]. Mexico’s mafia violence, macabre as it is, does not begin to approach the death toll or random savagery of the suicide bombers in Iraq.

Consider August 2006, when the Iraqi Health Ministry reported 1,536 violent deaths in Baghdad, which will be equivalent to the death toll in Juárez for all of 2008. Moreover, sectarian suicide bombers more often than not target wedding parties or outdoor markets, where they routinely kill twenty to thirty or more innocent civilians at a time. The cartels do not, as a rule, target civilians. They mostly target one another. Certainly there are innocents who are victimized by the rampant crime that flourishes in Mexican cities dominated by drug mafias, but nowhere on a scale comparable to the arbitrary slaughter of civilians in Baghdad.

Murder is murder, whether by a Sinaloan hit man or a Shiite extremist, but that’s as far as the comparison serves.
John Burnett
Correspondent, National Public Radio

Deal or No Deal

I have yet to read Professor H. W. Brands’s history on FDR, but if it reflects the so-called “review” by Michael Ennis, I doubt it’s worth the time [“The New New Deal,” January 2009]. Objectivity certainly wasn’t achieved in this churlish worship at the altar of FDR.

Mr. Ennis seems hell-bent on explaining why massive governmental intervention and equity stakes in financial institutions aren’t socialism, and if he’s holding up FDR’s socialism as a cure to Herbert Hoover’s laissez-faire approach, which “drove” the United States into the Great Depression, then he should check his facts. Hoover was anything but laissez-faire, and his “remedies” were carried on in FDR’s administration.

Our current economic woes can be blamed solely on government intervention with the Community Reinvestment Act—creator of the subprime fiasco—and high deficit spending by Bush and the Democratic Congress. Adding to the soup is our own desire for instant gratification, financed through loan-shark credit cards. Under Reagan and then Clinton and the Republican Congress, taxes went down, government spending declined, government revenue rose, and unemployment declined to historic levels, while the economy boomed. These are facts that Mr. Ennis should check before declaring he isn’t a socialist and capitalism is the root cause of everything from global warming to dirty underwear.
Fred Hink

Intensive Caring

I was dismayed and surprised to read Mimi Swartz’s piece about the impact of Hurricane Ike on the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston [Behind the Lines, “Emergency!” January 2009]. It incorrectly conveys the notion that the UT System Board of Regents has in the past shortchanged UTMB, plotted its demise, and sought to diminish its role as a health care provider to uninsured and underinsured Texans. This is simply not true, and some minimal fact-checking by Ms. Swartz would have easily shown that.

As we’ve consistently stated, the UT System is committed to a successful, financially viable future for UTMB and the advancement of its education, patient care, and research mission. There is no secret plan to move or dismantle UTMB, and to suggest that the board is using a natural disaster to further such goals is absurd and offensive.

As to the specifics of the article: Senator Steve Ogden has a right to his opinions, which he has frequently expressed, beginning long before Hurricane Ike. Representatives of the UT System have met with Senator Ogden and other legislative leaders several times; no concrete commitments of funding have been made.

One of the primary reasons that UTMB was experiencing financial difficulties even before the tragic aftermath of Hurricane Ike is that state funding for uncompensated medical care at UTMB is inadequate.

The board will not allow UTMB to go bankrupt, which is why, painful as they were, layoffs were necessary. UTMB is seeking state financial support, and the board will consider a report from an outside consultant on a viable health care delivery program.

While allusions are frequently made to the UT System’s great wealth, our endowments are devoted by law to specific uses and cannot be used for wages and benefits at UTMB. Furthermore, state funds are not channeled through the UT System; the Legislature appropriates funds directly to each institution.

We understand that portraying administrators and regents as heartless and unconcerned makes good editorial fodder, but it does nothing to advance the recovery process and it is simply untrue.
H. Scott Caven Jr.
Chairman, the University of Texas System Board of Regents