I appreciate the fact that Jim Carvalho gave a generally positive review (April 25) of my book, Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerrillas, but also find his piece profoundly troubling. Can you imagine reviewing a book of in-depth interviews with the top rap stars or the beat poets without mentioning a single artist, song or poem?
I met Jim, and he seems a decent guy, but as far as I can tell from his review, his idea of Mexico is a bunch of seedy bars, whores and guys slipping him cocaine in the men's room. He bemoans my failure to paint the same picture, even criticizing me for turning down an offer to sleep with a 13-year-old (I am 43).
The fact is, I spent a year interviewing the most significant Mexican songwriters of the last three decades, figures whose work is known to millions all over Latin America and the U.S., and whose ballads of drugs, immigration and politics provide a unique picture of modern Mexican life. I framed the book as a travel narrative to broaden its audience, but always kept my focus on the writers themselves, figures like Paulino Vargas, Teodoro Bello, Chalino Sanchez and Los Tucanes de Tijuana, who have changed the face of Mexican music. To review my book without even mentioning this music except as a soundtrack to the reviewer's own visit to a Mexico City whorehouse suggests a profound contempt for the culture and people that produced it.
Mexico, like the U.S., has a lot of crime, corruption, violence and misery, and the corrido composers write about all of that, but that is not what is great about Mexico, or about them. What is great is that they have taken all of this and made it into the most compelling popular ballad style in the modern world. Like my book or hate it, the music and composers deserve more respect than to be treated as anonymous accompaniment to a gringo reporter's spring break.
Jim Carvalho responds: Drugs, drink, loose women and guns are the very subject matter of the corridos Elijah Wald celebrates. That he chose to travel through Mexico and so thoroughly avoid that subject matter is the main weakness of his book. Wald didn't have to do drugs or get laid, but while he was in Mexico he should've at least visited the underworld his heroes write about. Tom Wolfe didn't have to drink much Kool-aid, but at least he went to the parties.
Tom Danehy's (April 25) column is pure comedy gold. I am truly impressed by his material, because he's patient. You see, he's been working on the set-up since last election. I refer readers to his pre-2000 election remarks about Ralph Nader, whom Danehy despised in part for disagreeing with the consensus that there's a significant enough difference between Dems and Repubs to vote for one or the other. Nader, in the eyes of Danehy, cost his boy Gore the election; never mind that nearly 100,000 registered Democrats voted for Bush in Florida alone. But in his column, he delivers the punchline: There is no difference between Democrats and Republicans! I nearly fell out of my chair with convulsive laughter. But he didn't stop there, and if you possessed his comedy stylings, would you? Tee-hee: We'll tell them apart by which TV show they like! Yuk yuk: the Christians don't like "Gayes"!
Unfortunately, this is what passes for political commentary on Tom's half-page. While I'm not sure what the basis is for keeping him on as a columnist, surely it can't be his political acumen. It must be because there's no more fatuous propagandist for Southern Arizona sports, as evidenced by his ass-kissing love letter to Jennie Finch of a coupla weeks ago, among many other things. It's true: Danehy has become The Weekly's Ernesto Portillo Jr.--an embarrassment that the publication is in denial about.
Proposition 400 is flushing our money down the toilet. There is no way we can do the roads fast enough to allay the increase of population.
Every time Tucson gets a new resident, we must expect at least one more car--probably two. The only sane approach to this problem is to plan and pay for an extensive light rail system (less fumes per person).
Citizens For A Sensible Transportation System's plan promises to be much more effective. If the voters KNOW there is a viable alternative already in the hopper, maybe they would NOT be as likely to piss away their dollars on Proposition 400. If we are going to keep our city and particularly revitalize our downtown, we have got to find other ways of moving people locally-- and get some of the cars OFF the road instead of building wider roads. Frankly, I don't think the City Council and the Transportation Department gives a damn--and then they spend big bucks trying to cram their plan down our throats as if they were the only ones with an idea.
As a Phoenix area resident working frequently in Tucson over the past several months, I enjoy reading about the left-wing lunacy and half-baked "solutions" to Tucson's numerous and self-inflicted problems. Regarding the city's "double-decker" street plan, does the plan include idiotically slow speed limits like Park Avenue from 22nd Street to Broadway, together with a fleet of enforcement cops to ensure the public's "safety"?
The city is sparing no expense to push its transportation plan. They call it "education" but there is no mistaking that it is promotion, giving the best spin on everything, never mentioning any drawbacks or alternative possibilities. By contrast, anyone else using city facilities or money must avoid taking sides in a ballot issue. Signs on the buses must be neutral. Flyers in disagreement with the city plan cannot be distributed in city ward offices. Money spent by the city to help neighborhood associations in mailing their newsletters cannot mention a ballot issue.
I don't want to pay for their misleading and misguided advertising. I worked for a few years in a country led by a dictatorship, in which the press and TV was totally controlled by the government. The amount of propaganda, half truths and deliberate misleading statements was daily fare. I find the city's behavior in this election as decidedly reminiscent of that. Of course we are able to speak out against it in this country, but this liberty is diminished when people with the ability to use MONEY are able to overwhelm the issue.
Proposition 100 and 400. VOTE N-O. I can't think of the right words to use on the scam the city is trying to pull on its citizens--8.1 percent of hard earned money for what? Overpaid city officials who gamble on expensive projects with our money put us in this bind and now want us to trust their expertise and vision. Who was responsible for designing and approving a bridge that was hit twice, then guarded by TPD to make sure it stays up because it was too low? Rio Nuevo is a project that is much more out of reach for the same city officials to handle. An aquarium was approved to be built by an out-of-town firm; with controversy, mind you, and then quickly second-guessed when dreams were put into reality. Build it and they will come, but later, they just drive by it.
Besides that, we already have a high-priced circus downtown. Aviation Highway was, repeat, was a step in the right direction, but I could have told you that when it made its way towards downtown, there are large buildings there, and you know the rest of the story. Our mayor is like a coach who tries to pump you up before a big game, but retreats when the going gets tough.
There is something wrong with city government when it comes to wasting hard-earned dollars and convincing the citizens of Tucson that it is for our own good. Leave the gambling to the casinos and quit spending money WE don't have.
The city's Let's Go Tucson PAC has finally resorted to negative campaigning for its ill-conceived transportation plan which is bankrolled by the special interests. They now refer to those of us who have organized against the plan as CAVE people (which apparently stands for Citizens Against Virtually Everything).
The amazing thing to me about all of this is how the city is increasingly adopting the tactics of Robert Moses. Moses was the master builder who, with revenues from his Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, relentlessly built highways throughout the New York City area, destroying neighborhoods in his attempt to create auto nirvana.
Moses' unsavory tactics are legendary. He would attack those who tried to put a stop to his projects, as the city has resorted to doing. He would rewrite charters to circumvent the law if it enabled him to get his projects built, like the city's ballot language stipulates that it satisfies the Neighborhood Protection Amendment. He would grossly underestimate the cost of projects to get them started knowing that they'd have to be finished, just like the city is giving us lowball figures about the cost of GSIs.
And add to Moses' tactics the deceptive digitally enhanced brochures that Let's Go Tucson has sent out (itself a shameless and transparent attempt to take advantage of our esteem for firefighters in the wake of 9/11). The hypocritical confiscation of neighborhood association newsletters by the city. And the breaking of election laws by using taxpayer money to attempt to influence the outcome of an election.
In light of this I think that perhaps the city deserves an acronym of its own: CORRUPT (City Officials Running Roughshod Using People's Taxes). Thankfully, the people of NYC managed to stop Moses' attempt to run a freeway through downtown NYC and we too will put a stop to the city's idiotic GSIs.
As the Arizona Daily Star continues its disinformation campaign in favor of Proposition 400, the city's transportation plan (All Cars! All the Time!), its automobile and developer backers continue to pour money into expensive mailings and television commercials to cover their share of this taxpayer ripoff.
Proposition 400, with its extraordinary emphasis on road building, ignores the fact that Tucson is already building (and has been building, over the past 10 years) roads faster than virtually any other city in the nation. Surely you've noticed the resulting decrease in traffic congestion? Phoenix, our lovely neighbor to the north, has built roads even faster than we have over the last decade. Now there's a real success story, don't you think?
People, it's not that complicated: the answer is not more roads; the answer is alternatives to roads. Public transit (including improved bus and shuttle service, and light rail). Bicycle lanes and trails. Sidewalks and pedestrian throughways. These improvements, in conjunction with aggressive maintenance of our existing roadways, can achieve what all of our (and Phoenix's) road building has failed to accomplish: an integrated transportation system that works for all Tucsonans, even those too young, too old, or too poor to be able to drive a car. But you won't find anything in Proposition 400 to make those things happen.
On May 21, vote NO on Prop. 400. And in November, vote for a real transportation plan. That would be the one that Jim Click Automotive, Diamond Ventures, KB and US Homes, the Arizona Daily Star and the mayor and council don't want you to know about.
The city is counting on the ignorance of the voters to vote in favor of the transportation bill. I have talked to many people about it and have found that a lot of them think that since something needs to be done to improve traffic in Tucson, we need to vote for this bill. They are so dimwitted in not seeing that any bill would be better than this and that we should hold out until November to see what improved bill there will be--one that does not put mass transit on the bottom of the list. The city is treating us like rubber stamps. We need to send them a message otherwise.
There are a couple of things that really bother me about the ad campaign urging voters to vote for the bill. One is the way that city funds have gone into promoting it and how the "Let's Go Tucson" campaign is just a front for getting around the law prohibiting that use of tax money. Fortunately, your paper has brought this out in the open pretty well.
Second, the ads from supposed spokesmen of the fire and police departments who say they support the bill because it will help them respond to calls quicker. What a bunch of wimps! What do police and fire do in big cities back East where the roads are a lot more congested than here? Maybe we should import some real men from there who won't whine about our roads. Maybe we should stop sending two firetrucks and an ambulance every time an old person falls over or a drunk passes out on the street, when one vehicle will do. What a waste of money that has been for years. Their ads are really disgusting too when they prey on our sympathies by portraying how someone can die from an accident if we don't continually widen every major street in town and spend $30 million dollars for every intersection. That mentality wouldn't be satisfied with less than 20 crosstown freeways. Maybe we should turn Tucson into one big freeway that is miles wide.
Notice also their childish putdown of light rail by calling them toy trains. Two years ago, they opposed any growth management plan because they said a city with higher density would be harder to get around in. Once again, what do cities like Boston and Chicago do? Are our fire and police departments just plain stupid or are those kind of ads another front of the Growth Lobby and don't represent the views of most police and firefighters?