Money grubbers
The only reason Dallas Observer Editor Julie Lyons is taking a big public stand for giving Dallas City Council members a living wage ["It's the money," April 8] is because Laura Miller, her buddy, probably needs the cash right now to pay off her Neiman's credit card.

Still, regardless of Ms. Lyons' altogether sneaky ulterior motives, it's probably true that we indeed could go ahead and pay for the circus we call local politics--as if we haven't paid through the nose already.

But doesn't it frighten Ms. Lyons just a little to think about what might happen if we gave public walk-around money to local politicians who are really next to nothing more than sock puppets?

Money almost always leads to power, and power ultimately means being able to coerce those who don't feel like it to go against their better instincts, or their ideals, their reasoning, and sometimes even their own well-being.

That, in case we haven't noticed already, has resulted in a number of scandals in recent years--mainly because politicians have been forced to go into the back rooms that have been provided them by our powerful merchant princes and robber barons in order to allow them to gain a little economic incentive for all that otherwise selfless exercise of character The Dallas Morning News is always crowing about whenever it gets to rating its favorite local politicians.

Gordon Hilgers
Via e-mail

INS bullies
Reference your article about waiting in line at INS ["Huddled masses," April 8]. Did someone really say the INS wants to track the number of forms requested? How ludicrous. These can be ordered in bulk from the Government Printing Office. Anyone's free to come by my office and pick up what they need. There are software programs that print out these documents, blank or completed, sold by West, Matthew Bender, etc.

I practice immigration law and can attest that the situation outside the building is mirrored inside. Once upon a time interviews were conducted with dignity and consistency. An attorney would know what to expect and what evidence would be requested. These days, some examiners routinely engage in outrageous behavior, accusing applicants of lying for no reason, demanding totally unrelated evidence, refusing to let the attorney speak, threatening translators. Yet other examiners are polite and try to do their job. An applicant's life is literally affected by which examiner conducts the interview. I've seen an examiner promise to deport persons who were U.S. citizens.

It's gotten to the point where many local immigration attorneys refuse to attend the interviews, viewing it as a waste of time and perhaps resulting in exacerbation. Others push on, some (including myself) recording the interviews in case anyone in the future decides to look into this. I can assure you, no local supervisor cares about how immigrants are treated outside or inside the building. I maintain that if we want to reduce immigration, we should be straightforward and cut the number of visas instead of resorting to intimidation and harassment.

Name withheld
Via e-mail

Bob, you arrogant cuss
I recently read your article on Steve Earle's newest CD, The Mountain [Music listings, April 1]. I have to admit, after reading it, I'm not really sure whether you like Steve or not, but you are obviously extremely jealous of the man. There are several contradictions in your article. You are definitely a fence rider, Bob.

You ask, "When's the last time anyone made Great Art on purpose?" Are you serious? Many musicians consider their art "great," and they don't make it by accident. Also, I listened to Copperhead Road just today, and still can't make the Cougar connection. I like John Mellencamp, don't get me wrong, but his songs are pretty much shallow pop songs. Steve Earle writes with conviction and honesty like no one else today. By the way, your comparing Steve to Mellencamp and Springsteen is as thoughtless as the "critics" who used to compare Springsteen to Dylan and Mellencamp to Springsteen. The one thing you said that is right on was saying that Steve may be Townes Van Zandt. That is the highest compliment you could have paid him (I'm sure you didn't mean it that way). Townes was one of the greatest songwriters in history.

The fact that Steve can step out of his world into the world of bluegrass is amazing. The Mountain is an excellent bluegrass record. Sure, it helps a lot to have the Del McCoury Band playing on it, but don't forget--Steve wrote the songs. You obviously don't grasp the talent this man possesses when it comes to songwriting. Also, how can you say this record is "astonishingly perfect and astoundingly dull"? Dull? Wake up, Bob.

I don't expect everyone to have the same musical tastes as I do--in fact, I'm glad they don't. However, when I read something as malicious as your article, I get peeved. Which I'm sure is OK with you. What did Steve do to you? Steal your girlfriend, embarrass you (like your job isn't embarrassment enough)? You obviously have a bone to pick with him.

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