Letters to the Editor

EUTHANASIA, DEATH PENALTY, ABORTION POLITICS:
IMMIGRATION & FOREIGN CITIZENS:
LEGAL & DEMOCRATIC PROCESS:
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM & RECONCILIATION:
FOURTH WARD & HISTORIC HOUSING:
POLICE & ANTI-GANG POLICIES:

Euthanasia Debate

I NOTICED THE U.S. NEWS DECEMBER
issue contained separate articles on abor-
tion and euthanasia. Given the moral and
religious implications surrounding both,
it is clear that the government cannot take
sides on either issue without making laws
that violate the principle of religious free-
dom of citizen advocates on the opposing
side. Current state policies not only exceed
the constitutional limits of governmental
jurisdiction but also contradict each oth-
er: If abortion clients have the right to
clinical assistance in terminating life
within their bodies, why can't all patients
have the same right? And if euthanasia is
seen as an uniformed choice too easily
swayed by political pressure so as to pre-
clude better health care options and limit
the freedom of choice, can't the same be
said of abortion? I personally do not mind
the use of the news media to expose taboos
surrounding death and euthanasia. But
the resulting dialogue must take place in
context with the broader issue of termi-
nation in general, informed consent, and
equal access to other options, as well as
the inherent illogic behind authorizing a
"secular" state to make decisions on spiri-
tural issues of life and death and self-deter-
mination that even religious authorities
have failed to resolve.

EMILY NGHIEM
Houston
U.S. News & World Report (BC-5 Regional Issue), February 1, 1999

Death is a spiritual issue

Regarding Dudley Sharp's article
on defense lawyers in death penalty
cases ("Facts don't support ABA's
death penalty action," Outlook, Feb.
15), I agree with his suggestion the
American Bar Association police its
own members and disbar attorneys
providing inadequate counsel.

However, I would take such
scrutiny one step further. Since life
and death are inherently spiritual
issues, the decision to terminate life
clearly becomes a religious matter.
Thus no execution [can] be en-
dorsed or carried out by the state
without violating constitutional law.

Public resources are better spent
on mediation training and lawful
alternatives to capital punishment,
instead of being wasted fighting
unconstitutional practices.

Emily T. Nghiem, Houston
Houston Chronicle (Viewpoints), February 20, 1997

Death Penalty Violates Constitution

Thank you for your informative article on the Board of
Pardons and Paroles [Death Row Dilemma, Vol. 18, No. 21].
I have long held that capital punishment is a religious act:
To make decisions concerning life and death requires moral
judgment on spiritual issues, and for government officials
to be in charge of such is in direct violation of the Constitution.
Advocates against the death penalty need to get real about the fact
that the state is in the business of playing God, instead of giving
officials the power to take someone's life and then complaining
when that power is abused. Resources currently spent fighting against
the state are better invested in alternatives to the death penalty.
Similar to privately funded religious schools operated independent
of public schools, by religious freedom, citizens morally or
religiously opposed to executions by the state have the right to
support prison institutions of their choice.

Emily Nghiem, People Against
Capital Crime and Punishment, Houston
Very Special Thanks to the Editors of the
Austin Chronicle (Postmarks), Vol. 18, No. 22

Embargo hurting civilians

In response to Stella M. Shelton's letter, "War is not waged in a box"
(Viewpoints, Feb. 24), civilians are only "fully responsible for the deeds
of their leaders" in a pure democracy where the public is free to represent
themselves either directly or through representatives of their choice and to
change their votes at any time.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in America; and the situation in Iraq
is much worse. If our nation's leaders were truly representing the people,
they would have stopped the suffering long ago. Citizens worldwide have
denounced the U.S. embargo of Iraq as a direct violation of U.N. policy.
The public cannot be held responsible for leaders who are not even accountable to themselves.

Emily T. Nghiem, Houston,
March 1, 1998

Kosovars punished twice

In his April 6 Viewpoints letter, Pete Jamison holds the Belgrade
government responsible for putting "innocent people in harm's way,"
thus safely justifying the "collateral deaths of civilians." I would hardly
want to die in a bombing brought on by the crimes of others, including
corrupt officials I equally oppose.

I support civilians on both sides who seek peaceful resolution beyond
the inability of their leaders to resolve political conflicts. As a volun-
teer with residents of Freedman's Town who are fighting to expose the
invisible destruction of this historic community, I know too well the
struggle of politically oppressed minorities not represented but sacri-
ficed by their own government. It is not fair to punish the Kosovars twice
for crimes they didn't even commit.

Emily Nghiem, Houston
April 13, 1999

Inspiration in UH protests

I APPLAUD University of Houston Students for Fair Trade, who should receive
commendations, not censure, for their campaign to enforce ethical standards regarding
commercial contracts on campus. (Please see "Fair-trade coffee issue comes to boil at UH /
Students protest planned Starbucks kiosk in the libary," online at www.chron.com, June 17.)

At a time when many frustrated consumers feel like helpless victims of corporate
profiteering, these protests serve as an inspiring reminder that we all share responsibility
for how we participate in a free market, where security and growth depend on educating
buyers and empowering workers to build a sustainable economy.

EMILY T. NGHIEM, Houston
Houston Chronicle (Viewpoints), June 23, 2008

Long-term legal issue

I agree with Barbara Lay (Viewpoints, April 1) that Houston "does
not need another taxpayer-supported law school," but not for
the reasons she mentioned. The< problem with law schools is that
they do not teach the law.

Constitutional principles, such as free speech and the right to peti-
tion, have been all but lost in a court system more concerned with
quoting civil procedures and case law than redressing the actual
problem at hand.

The basis for a democratic government and society is summa-
rized in the First Amendment. Law schools should require students to
read and to understand those 45 words before the general public
can be expected to follow the law and respect the basic rights of all people.

State funds are indeed well spent on legal education, but only pro-
grams that provide literacy and mediation training based on consti-
tutional values. Only then can we reduce the high cost of crime and
litigation to society, break the vicious cycle of wasting taxes on
prisons and other symptoms of the problem, and invest in schools as
a long-term solution.

Emily T. Nghiem, Houston
Houston Chronicle (Viewpoints), April 11, 1998

No equality for minorities

Contrary to John Fafoutakis' opinion ("Republic is no democracy,"
Viewpoints, Dec. 9), America is not a "constitutional republic" but an
"unconstitutional" one. The current system of representation democracy
discriminates unfairly against political minorities who are left with no
representation, while those in the majority make the laws.

Without equal representation for each person, there is no equal access
to free speech and press [and the] right to assemble peaceably or to petition,
as necessary for the democratic process. There is not "equal protection
under the law" of these basic constitutional rights and freedoms for all
people, especially those whose religious or political beliefs place them
in the overruled minority.

Unless we practice "proportional representation," "isocracy," "consen-
sus decision-making," or other means of securing a more equal
voice in government, we are not upholding Constitutional standards
equally for each individual, in direct violation of the highest law of the
land. Those who truly respect "equal justice under law" would recognize
each group's political freedom to select their own form of government,
similar to the religious freedom to choose one's own church or religion,
instead of imposing the views and policies of the majority over everyone else.

Emily T. Nghiem, Houston
Houston Chronicle (Viewpoints), December 14, 1998

Lack of respect causes abuses

In Gertrud M. Krise's April 8 Viewpoints letter, "Germany's
Catholics, Protestants also under Hitler's rule," she describes Adolf
Hitler's Germany as having "no separation between church and
state," because a percentage of citizens' taxes is "paid into a pool
from which all priests and pastors are paid," thus making them "all
state employees."

How is this economic monopoly any different from the influence
of money on the election of judges and hiring of lawyers who, in con-
trolling the interpretation of law and the due process thereof
serve as secular priests and pastors between the people and their
governing authority?

Is the government not also acting as a religious authority when
making moral judgments on such issues as marriage, divorce and
child custody, crime, punishment and pardons and the legality of
termination of life through abortion, executions or assisted suicide?

Abuse of power does not come from lack of separation between
church and state, but from the lack of respect for the will of the
people or the consent of the governed.

In order to serve the public good instead of private interest,
officials in either church or state institutions must be one with and
not separated from the people who constitute both the church
body and governmental authority in a truly democratic society.

Emily T. Nghiem, Houston
Houston Chronicle (Viewpoints), April 20, 2000

Jury as full participant

Regarding the June 18 Chronicle article, "Perry vetoes execution exemption", Gov. Rick Perry will have to do more than veto this bill if he wants to restore faith in the jury system "to get it right."

Lawyers and courts would have to refrain from withholding evidence from juries -- including testimonies or statements dismissed at the judge's discretion.

Juries would have the option to balance the spirit and the letter of the law, instead of being restricted to narrow legal definitions and complex civil procedures which allow due process to be circumvented at the expense of justice.

Courts could no longer ban the distribution of literature advocating the right of "fully informed juries" to vote by conscience, regardless of court instructions and even written laws.

Without the unabridged right of juries to act as a final check on laws, the jury system is run by the mandates imposed by judges and lawyers and thus easily manipulated by political and economic forces. Only by respecting the power of juries to participate fully and equally in due process can trust be restored in the conscience of the people.

Emily T. Nghiem, Houston
Houston Chronicle (Viewpoints), June 23, 2001

Make civics ed law

IN response to the renewed debate over gun ownership, one solution is to mandate that
with equal rights come equal responsibilities, and to make civics education a legal re-
quirement. The Constitution should be taught as a mutual contract between people equal-
ly as government, in order to maintain checks and balances, as the law was intended.

Citizens invoking the right to defense, whether by legal action or gun ownership, should
be bound by the same constitutional standards as any other official or officer of the law.
Equal protection of the laws requires equal enforcement among citizens, government and
even corporations, in order to prevent abuses by any party.

- EMILY T. NGHIEM, Houston
Houston Chronicle (Viewpoints), June 29, 2008

A Different Count

Regarding the Tuesday Outlook column
"Let's get serious about making all votes count
equally": Neal R. Peirce's criticism of the Elect-
oral College system overlooks its basic purpose in
preventing candidates from focusing on the highest
population cities or states to win elections by pop-
ular vote, while ignoring the rest of the nation.

A better solution would be to require candidates
to win both the majority of popular and Electoral
votes, or to divide the Electoral College votes
"proportionally" per state according to the percentage
of voters for each candidate.

Instead of the winner taking all the votes,
"proportional representation" would still allow for all
states to be counted, while also reflecting the popular vote.

- EMILY T. NGHIEM, Houston
Houston Chronicle (Viewpoints), November 5, 2008

Driving is a privilege

In response to “Deaths by DWI — a ‘Pandemic;’ Fatality
rate: Harris County tops U.S. in alcohol-related road deaths,
but some call statistics misleading” (Page A1, Wednesday), I agree
with Hope Rangel of MADD that “those who drink any alcohol should not
drive,” and strongly disagree with the notion that drinking and driving
is “not against the law.” By law, citizens have the right to security and
to equal protections from known threats to public safety, such as alcohol
consumption by drivers. Driving is a privilege, which should belong only to
people who agree to follow the laws of the state, including not to abuse rights
or freedoms of others. Drivers who do not respect the equal rights of all people
to security and protection, including their own safety, should not be on the road.

- EMILY T. NGHIEM, Houston
Houston Chronicle (Viewpoints), June 12, 2009

Let people decide

Jo Anne Lay (Letters, Nov. 28) argues that
"separation of church and state" is not mentioned
in the First Amendment. Ironically, this very interpretation
was originally used by Thomas Jefferson to defend, not attack
religious rights, when he stated that to make "no law respecting
an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"
was to build "a wall of separation between church and State."
The problem with the prayer issue is that both sides want their way
instead of seeking a solution that both groups consent to. The conflict
could better be resolved by letting students democratically vote for
speakers to take turns giving a prayerful word of thanks or dedication
before games, similar to a valedictory, or by drafting a nondenominational
address approved by the student body, much like a traditional alma mater.
Asking the government to intercede and choose either side would cause an
unfair imposition on the other. Neither side would lose if they would respect
each other's rights by solving the problem together.Only by taking equal
responsibility as the government are citizens truly free to exercise and
defend their rights. The public should be challenged to exercise the "freedom
of speech, or of the press" in petitioning one another directly to redress their
own grievances, instead of depending on government to make decisions for them.

Emily Nghiem, Houston
Very Special Thanks to the Editors at the
Corpus Christi Caller Times, December 4, 1999

Reconciling of spirituality

Regarding the Chronicle's Oct. 30 article, "Pope's India trip," any con-
flict between Hinduism and Christianity is the mutual responsibility of
followers of both faiths. Similar to how Messianic Jews have success-
fully reconciled their Christian faith with traditional Jewish teachings
without losing their cultural heritage, there is no reason why Christianity
cannot be taught as fulfilling Hindu prophecy that all can someday rise
to the level of the Brahman. Buddha taught that true followers can some-
day all become Buddhas. The coming of Christ was a fulfilling - not annul-
ling - of these ancient Eastern teachings. Just as Jesus came to ful-
fill Mosaic law, not to abolish it. There need be no competition or
strife between religious tribes, as these cultures are not necessarily ad-
versarial, but can be seen as different, spiritual paths merging into a
single road leading to the Kingdom of God. The ability to reconcile to
achieve spiritual unity is the divine gift and message of Christ.

More Buddhists and Hindus would accept Jesus as the messiah if his
tenets were taught as the answer to sacred prophecies, instead of as a
threat to their spiritual ancestry and culture.

Emily T. Nghiem, Houston
Houston Chronicle (Viewpoints), November, 1999

Chants violated First Amendment right

In response to the letter from Bolie Williams IV (Thresher, Sept. 1),
if Rice University claims not to discriminate on the basis of religion,
then students who believe in free speech should be accommodated equally
as those, like Williams, who may not consider it an inalienable human right.

However, one might expect advocates of First Amendment rights and freedoms
to show the same respect for "the right of the people peaceably to assemble"
by refraining from speech or actions that would deliberately cause a breach
of the peace and disrupt a public assembly.

The example quoted was "yelling fire in a crowded theater." In this case,
it could be argued that the chanting and other jacks during matriculation
temporarily abridged other people's freedom of speech and right to assemble peaceably.

Unlike Williams, I believe that the First Amendment can be quite effective
when interpreted in a way that checks itself, which I recommend here.

Emily Nghiem, Baker '88

Very Special Thanks to the Editors of the
Rice Thresher, September 8, 1995
c/o The Thresher Online Project -- ethresh@listserv.rice.edu
This item appeared in the Opinion section of the September 8, 1995 issue.
Copyright (C) 1996 The Rice Thresher. All Rights Reserved.
This document may be distributed electronically, provided
that it is distributed in its entirety and includes this notice.
However, it cannot be reprinted without the express written permission of:

The Rice Thresher, Rice University, 6100 Main, Houston, TX 77005-1892, USA.

Learn by confrontation, not isolation

I was pleased to see Phil Mayor's commentary ("Christian-bashing
spreads under guise of liberalism," Sept, 18) on the tendency of liberal-
ism toward "Christian-bashing." However, as a Christian anarchist, I
have experienced bashing from all sides.

The problem seems to stem from the American political system of rep-
resentation by majority rule. Bipartisan factions condition their mem-
bers not only to take sides, but to abuse the limitations of the media to
push emotionally based arguments for or against certain positions in
order to "defeat" the other side, instead of solving problems logically
so that everyone wins.

The blame cannot be put on any one group collectively, as the change
has to come from each person. I have found just as many closed
minds in one group as in any other. Likewise, there are just as many
open-minded individuals from each group who are willing to ask ques-
tions and to focus on common values and solutions. The trick is to
connect the people who are ready to collaborate, instead of wasting valu-
able time and energy on areas of conflict, or worse, using media ste-
reotypes as an excuse for not associating at all.

Instead of merely criticizing "liberals" as hypocritical, I would en-
courage members of all affiliations -- whether political, religious, or
cultural -- to attend meetings or functions of whatever group is
viewed as most incompatible, offensive, intolerant or otherwise objec-
tionable. There is no better way to find out what people really think
than to ask each one personally, and there is no faster way to get a point
across than to confront the opposition immediately, rather than wait
two to four years for the next election. Much of the political violence
in the world could be prevented if conflicts were addressed and re-
solved on the intellectual level before they led to physical outbursts.

The Rice community has, in the past, demonstrated this potential for
peace on a local scale by bringing different groups together in earnest
to hear each other out. For example, the student forum on Christianity
and homosexuality a few years back changed perceptions on both sides
of the issue. I have also attended meetings of both Rice for Choice
and Rice for Life in support of combined efforts in preventing abortion,
and I have thoroughly enjoyed discussions with the members of the
Rice Baha'i group and Campus Crusade for Christ, which have toler-
ated my sharing very diverse religious and political viewpoints that
normally do not fit into the average conversation or mindset.

I appreciate Phil Mayor's advice to liberal thinkers to "re-evaluate
their prejudices," but would extend this advice to all people who,
like me, learn more about dealiing with personal biases by confront-
ing, not avoiding, others who come from a different context.

Emily Nghiem, Baker '88,
September, 1998

Very Special Thanks to the Editors of the
Rice Thresher

Pro-life can be a choice, too

Regarding Matthew Patterson’s criticism and Carolyn Greene’s defense of Feminists for
Life, I agree that counseling should include full access to information, including on the
process of abortion (“Feminists for Life do not empower women,” Feb. 9 and “Abortion
should not be a choice,” Feb. 23).

Given the risk and damage that abortion poses to women’s health alone, I believe
education is the most effective deterrent. I find that by trusting people to use reason to
reach the right conclusion, this helps the mind to focus rationally, to avoid making
impulsive decisions in haste or emotional desperation.

This happened to me, in 1988, when I planned to have a baby I very much wanted but
was pressured by my boyfriend’s suicidal threats to have an abortion against my will and
my beliefs. I was devastated, but I learned why pro-life advocates would rather make
abortion illegal if nothing else will protect women from having their free choice abused
and oppressed by other people, which defeats the purpose of fighting for women’s rights.

Over the years it took to heal my trauma, I realized what a tragic waste it was to see
ongoing distrust and competition between pro-life and pro-choice divisions, misdirecting
much-needed resources fighting each other through legislation instead of combining
efforts to prevent unwanted pregnancies, abortions and oppression of women.

In the words of Mary Cunningham Agee, who founded the Nurturing Network to prevent
unwanted abortions from social pressures facing college and career women, pro-choice
and pro-life are not opposites. I, for one, am pro-life in that I believe in eliminating
abortion, not by legislation but by health education — through fully informed choices so
no one is ever forced to compromise as I was. I am pro-choice, in that I don’t believe
laws can be passed, either for or against abortion, without violating constitutional laws.
As long as religious disagreement exists over when a soul enters the body, unless this
spiritual question can be agreed upon, no laws can be made by the government
representing the public without imposing a bias that violates the equal religious freedom
of dissenters.

Pro-life groups such as Feminists for Life offer proof that people can be led to oppose
abortion as not being a healthy or viable choice, without abusing legislation to impose
this standard. As strongly held as they are, pro-life convictions are freely adopted by
choice, thus showing that laws are not necessary to establish that level of understanding.

Emily T. Nghiem, Baker '88,
March 2, 2007

Very Special Thanks to the Editors of the
Rice Thresher, March 2, 2007
This item appeared in the Opinion section of the March 2, 2007 issue.
Copyright (C) 2007 The Rice Thresher. All Rights Reserved.
This document may be distributed electronically, provided
that it is distributed in its entirety and includes this notice.
However, it cannot be reprinted without the express written permission of:

The Rice Thresher, Rice University, 6100 Main, Houston, TX 77005-1892, USA.

Authority not listening

Hooray for the Allen Parkway
Village article recognizing the resi-
dents' voices when the Houston
housing authority has failed to do so
("Allen Parkway eviction hearing
set," Chronicle, June 6). Reporters
Jennifer Lenhart and Eric Hanson
covered a complex situation that
others have avoided for fear of con-
fronting 15 years of governmental
waste and corruption.
It is normal but unjust for the
housing authority to waste tax-
payers' money trying to abridge the
right of the people peaceably to
assemble in the security of their
own homes. It's time to stop the
nonsense and to seek consensual
and constitutional solutions to the
public housing crisis.

Emily T. Nghiem, Houston
June 7, 1996

Very Special Thanks to the Houston Chronicle

Fourth Ward contempt

Julie Mason's Oct. 21 article, "Fourth Ward plan would cut housing
units," revealed a glimpse into the massive deceit on the part of city
developers. The board of the Houston Renaissance carefully excludes dis-
senting voices and although they talk about "a master plan for the area
paid for by Houston Renaissance and a ministers coalition," they fail to
mention the Youth Master Plan, sponsored by the Fourth Ward
Health and Educational Center for Youth

Unlike the other groups involved, this nonprofit group is run by
a Fourth Ward resident, founding director Darrell J. Patterson, for the
sole purpose of serving the needs of neighborhood youth -- not outside
corporate interests.

Their goal is to help local families lift themselves out of poverty -- not
help Mayor Bob Lanier's developers lift money from the taxpayers.

As for the Houston Housing Authority, to say they are required to
"replace all of the 1,000 units demolished at the [Allen Parkway Village]
complex" is a sad understatement. In the final court ruling, the revitalized
Allen Parkway Village was described as consisting of "nearly 2,000 units"
that could "offer housing to thousands of Houstonians."

By those figures, the Housing Authority's plan to keep only 500 on-site
units shows contempt -- not only for the residents who voted to save all
1,000 units, but for the court order that, intentionally or not, called for
those numbers to be doubled.

Emily T. Nghiem, volunteer
Resident Council for Allen
Parkway Village, Houston

October 24, 1997

Very Special Thanks to the Houston Chronicle

Housing Woes

I applaud Brian Wallstin for exposing the corruption behind Houston Renaissance and
Fourth Ward demolition ["No Account," July 16]. In a single article, he revealed more
information than I received from Al Calloway, who took offense that I would even
question the city's decision to give money to outside developers instead of local residents
and nonprofits seeking ownership.

Freedmen's Town is the only site of African-American heritage in Houston with national
historic recognition. The good news is that perhaps now the city will get serious about
protecting its history, and taxpayers will get angry enough to call the state to revoke the
charter of nonprofit organizations illicitly used for political and private gain.

Emily T. Nghiem
Houston, July 30, 1998
Very Special Thanks to the Houston Press
houstonpress.com/issues/1998-07-30/letters.html

Fourth Ward vs. hostility

As a volunteer in the historic neighborhood of Fourth Ward, I would like to qualify the
comments made by Larry Gage in his Sounding Board column, "A few heroes can save a
neighborhood" (Editorial page, Sept. 28).

If neighborhoods are like people whose childhood development is affected by how they
are nurtured, then Fourth Ward is like an abused child caught in a 30-year custody battle.

The families who built and nurtured the community not only have had to deal with
everyday needs of maintenance and sustenance, but also have had to fight political battles
with outside interests who have worked against their best efforts.

Special credit should be given to the heroes in Fourth Ward, who have managed to
survive in spite of the political oppression they face every day.

It is challenging enough to bring up a child responsibly without having to fight off hostile
forces in order to do it.

Emily Nghiem, Houston

October 9, 1998

Very Special Thanks to the Houston Chronicle

Houston Historic Area

To the Editor:
"Historic Houston Neighborhood
Falls to Renewal" (news article,
March 15) is an insightful look at the
battle between developers and low-
income residents in Houston's oldest
African-American neighborhood.
However, non only Houston's history
is at risk of destruction but also the
history of the country.

Freedmen's Town is the largest
remaining freed-slave settlement left
in the United States. Although 40
blocks are officially registered as a
national historic district, according to
residents, the actual area covers clos-
er to 80 blocks.

It is true that the overall renewal
plan has put Mayor Lee P. Brown
"in a difficult spot," but the respon-
sibility for saving Freedmen's Town
belongs not just to Houston's first
African-American Mayor, but to all
leaders and citizens across the coun-
try.
Emily T. Nghiem
Houston, March 18, 1998
Very Special Thanks to the New York Times

Land Grab - Houston Press, 1997-1998

RE: Brian Wallstin, Houston Press:
Fighting the Renaissance, April 3, 1997
The Great Land Grab, January 30, 1997
On Borrowed Time, September 10, 1998

Fail Safe

Kudos again to the Press and reporter Brian Wallstin for exposing every wrong with
Houston Renaissance and Fourth Ward redevelopment. You have renewed my hope that
the free press serves as an effective check on government when all else fails.

Editor's note: The writer went on to enclose verse to the tune of "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown."
It concludes: "Yeah, it's a land grab in Freedmen's Town / Passed on down to Mayor Brown /
Who sits around City Hall / While developers take it all."[*]

[*excerpt from Land Grab in Freedmen's Town]

See also Hello, Mayor Brown?, Bill Simon, Department of Sociology, UH
Very Special Thanks to the Editors:
The Houston Press, October 1, 1998

Razer's Edge

Regarding her response (Letters, "Can't See the
Forest," April 29) to Margaret Downing's article,
Lori Westfall's statement that "no one seems to
have a problem when it comes to sports" is sadly
mistaken.

Residents and youth in Fourth Ward have
protested the downtown stadium and related
development that has caused mass destruction of
their historic neighborhood, including a whole
park of trees the children had asked to preserve.

It is nothing less than insulting to spend millions
of dollars on stadia while local residents do not
even have simple ballparks where the children
can play. The remaining park areas have been
exposed to contamination from gasoline tanks
stored by the city, which never warned the public
of these hazards.

Westfall insists that children's education is more
important than trees. But if we don't teach respect
for the community and the environment, what good
is education? Instead of teaching our children that
whoever owns the land has the right to destroy it,
it is better to send the message that
taxpayer-funded agencies like HISD have a
responsibility to the public that they serve.

Emily Nghiem
Houston

Very Special Thanks to the Editors:
The Houston Press, May 6, 2000

Fourth Ward invisible to HISD

Regarding the expansion of public school facilities in Fourth
Ward ("An asset for the Fourth Ward," Viewpoints, Sept. 8) Hous-
ton Independent School District Superintendent Kaye Stripling in-
sists that "HISD must adhere to established laws and regula-
tions," and takes it community responsibility "very seriously."

Apparently, Stripling is unaware of actions taken by HISD
that deny access to district resources to Fourth Ward families.

HISD's unchecked use of eminent domain has infringed on the
rights of local residents.

Systematic evictions have forced families from the neigh-
borhood, disrupting the lives and education of low-income students
already at risk and have threatened to close down an after-
school youth center.

This youth center provides volunteer tutoring and computer re-
sources otherwise denied to these at-risk students.

In contrast to HISD's claims to follow a policy of inclusion and
equal access to resources, our school system is still plagued by
segregation based on political and economic interests. Only
those whom it is in HISD's interest to serve are allowed to enjoy
the growing facilities.

Low-income families in the neighborhood, who cannot afford
legal defense to protect their own interests and rights, do not exist
in the eyes of HISD and are not a part of its community responsi-
bilities.

Emily T. Nghiem, Fourth Ward
Health and Educational Center
for Youth, Inc., Houston

Very Special Thanks to the Editors:
The Houston Chronicle (Viewpoints), September 22, 2002

Fourth Ward Drama

Regarding the Chronicle's Feb. 13
Outlook article "A community in transition," about the
gentrification that is going on in Freedmen's Town in
Houston's historic Fourth Ward: The respect shown by
new neighbors toward the history and the residents who
have lived in the area their entire lives clearly proves that
massive destruction was not necessary to bring about
change. Unfortunately, irreversible damage has already been done.

City-backed developers not only evicted senior citizens
and low-income families without legal defense, but
deliberately demolished houses of highest historic
quality, as evaluated by the city's own preservation officer.

And the Housing Authority's forced removal and
censorship of political opponents from Allen Parkway
Village in 1996 violated the constitutional right of citizens
to assemble peaceably to petition the government.

Current residents may feel they have pushed out "drug
dealers and other criminals," but the dealings of city and
corporate developers still loom over Freedmen's Town, part of
Houston's history.

Emily T. Nghiem, Fourth Ward
Health and Educational Center
for Youth, Inc., Houston

Very Special Thanks to the Editors:
The Houston Chronicle (Viewpoints), February 20, 2005

Saving Freedmen's Town: The shame of denial

I commend community efforts to preserve Freedmen's Town
in the midst of downtown development (See "Juneteenth /
The historic Freedmen's Town is vanishing, but a group is
working to preserve what's left / History-saving effort,"
City and State cover, June 19.) As this district is the largest
intact freed slave settlement left in the United States, it is a shame
this historic church neighborhood was again denied recognition
on the list of the country's most endangered historic places, as
nominated twice through the National Trust of Historic Preservation.

As Randy Pace was quoted, "67 percent of the property owners
would have to submit a petition" for local historic designation by the city.
Freedmen's Town is a sad reminder of legal inequality from the days of
slavery. Instead of slaves having the three-fifths representation of other
voters, today property owners hold all the voting power while tenants
affected by their decisions have zero. Given these unequal circumstances,
it is amazing the low-income residents have been able to survive at all
under the constant threat of eviction and demolition by competing
corporate interests with unequal rights.

Emily T. Nghiem

Very Special Thanks to the Editors:
The Houston Chronicle (Viewpoints) June 20, 2006

Where's city's sensitivity?

Regarding the outcry over a nooselike knot found hanging in a
firefighter's locker ("Captain's wife says knot's not a noose," Page B1,
Friday, June 26): I am encouraged to see city officials respond seriously
to complaints of discrimination by requiring sensitivity training for city employees.

However, I question why so much focus is given to a relatively minor incident,
while both city and community leaders have neglected more pressing complaints of
threats and damage to cultural history and relations.

In the Freedmen's Town district next door to City Hall, four historic black churches
in five years were destroyed by fires, suspected arson and premature demolition. Instead
of showing respect for the historic community, the City of Houston threatened further
penalties on African-American congregations already struggling to recover from irreplaceable losses.

Where was the public outrage and demand for sensitivity? Where were these leaders, so quick to
haggle with the fire department, while historic churches burned down without full investigation?

I applaud Council member Jolanda Jones' calling for sensitivity training "to be expanded to
all city employees" in supporting a citywide "zero tolerance policy for incidents of discrimination."
I just hope the Freedmen's Town district, and the national African-American history endangered there,
is finally included, valued and protected equally, instead of being discriminated against for its proximity to downtown development.

Emily T. Nghiem

Very Special Thanks to the Editors:
Houston Chronicle (Viewpoints) July 5, 2009

Inherent dangers

I commend Talmadge Heflin's proposal for "better ways to raise money to pay
for government" through a broad-based sales tax instead of property taxes. As long as
government depends on property for tax revenue, not only is the right of ownership at stake,
as Heflin argues, but the economy driven by property and rental values has unequally threatened
the right of elderly and low-income citizens to be secure in their houses, and prevented nonprofit
groups and churches from preserving historic buildings whose true value cannot be measured.

Furthermore, the abuse of taxing authority to seize property against the will of the owners
weakens the integrity of laws protecting people and property from criminals with similar intent,
costing billions of tax dollars wasted annually on a failed justice system. In order to break
the cycle of crime and waste, enforce laws and balance the budget, the state should stop taxing
law-abidingcitizens and productive businesses for owning property, and should collect restitution
from wrongdoersconvicted of crimes against property or persons, including government abuses of
resources that should be paid back to the public.

Emily T. Nghiem

Very Special Thanks to the Editors:
Houston Chronicle (Viewpoints) February 11, 2010

Station in Life

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the colorful characterization of Montrose Radio, including
the historic one-paragraph resume on Kevin Jackson ["Silence on the Dial," by Shaila
Dewan, May 13]. As one of the most prolific workhorses behind the scenes of Houston's
underground art world, Jackson certainly deserves a little credit for a change without
blowing his cover too much.

I have long suspected that his whimsical behavior is but a cheap ploy to ward off the
endless demands on him. He is truly one of Houston's unsung heroes. Kevin began the
research for the alternative station years before the group at Allen Parkway Village ever met.

Full credit for the anarchy and insanity involved in this project should also be extended to
the federal government for contradicting its own laws on free speech, and to law
enforcement. If even half the budget spent on policing citizens were spent on artistic
programming to deter criminal violence, we would solve problems with overcrowded
prisons and underfunded arts. I will gladly join with the chief of police in recommending
these as community projects to be considered by the Anti-Gang Task Force.

Emily T. Nghiem
Community Coalition for
Criminal Justice Reform
via Internet

Very Special Thanks to the Editors:

The Houston Press, May 27, 1999

Ganging Up

Thanks for the great cartoon on Perry Homes
targeting historic landmarks in Europe for
demolition (Chock Full O'Angst, by Kelly
Klaasmeyer, February 17), and also for the
informative article on cops and prosecutors
targeting minorities as gang members ("Gang of
One," by Melissa Hung, February 17).

The biggest unchecked gang activity in Houston is
the organized crime by developers scheming to
violate the rights of property owners. City and
state officials need to recognize the pattern of
fraud and malfeasance against the public through
the abuse of city ordinances and nonprofit statutes
to funnel profits into the hands of private
developers at taxpayers' expense. Until
government officials team up to investigate and
fight real crime, instead of media-generated
images of it, they are part of the crime problem.
Antigang policies cannot be taken seriously while
the government ignores, if not participates in, real
organized crime.

Emily Nghiem
Houston

Very Special Thanks to the Editors:
The Houston Press, March 2, 2000

Terrorists Among Us

Worse than Osama: I agree with Richard
Connelly that Houston's "bad air" and
"impassable streets" would make a terror-
is attack hardly noticeable here ("Uncivil
Defense," March 13). However, Houston is
not nearly "as likely a target as any other
major U.S. city," as experts claim, but luckily
has been rejected for these very reasons.

Our streets, reduced to rubble, already
look like Afghanistan's, thanks to down-
town developers who have leveled our most
historic buildings, leaving nothing for ter-
rorists to topple that isn't already next on
the list. At the rate demolition has sent
nearby residents scattering from their
homes - by force of eviction, eminent
domain or fear of asbestos - it is no won-
der terrorists doubt they can compete with
that, or with the threat of violence by gangs
and police alike, notorious for terrorizing
the local population.

Potential attackers very likely reasoned
that, heck, with massive crowds of Housto-
nians jogging and biking up and down
Memorial - breathing high concentrations
of benzene and carbon monoxide - why
waste precious biochemicals on these
idiots? Why not wait a few years and let
these health nuts gas themselves to death?
For free?

Why groom pilots to target infidels in
greater Houston, where unskilled drivers
are using their own cars as tanks to run over
each other as punishment for infidelity?
Such ingenuity takes the fun and glory out
of hijacking airplanes, while using a lot less
fuel and relatively little training.

Emily T. Nghiem
Houston

Very Special Thanks to the Editors:
The Houston Press, March 27, 2003

Mixed messages

Regarding the controversy over a staged photo of a law officer beating a young boy
representing Jesus' innocence (“Friction over young photography whiz's art,” Page B2, Monday),
the reason Jesus represented such a threat to the establishment was not that he was innocent
but that he had perfect knowledge of the law. Weighted with authority, his words brought sinners
to repent and exposed the corrupt as hypocrites, posing a danger to religious leaders abusing power.

A more clear depiction might be to show an officer on the ground protecting the innocent, while being
attacked on the left by an angry mob and on the right by judges in black robes wielding gavels, both
obstructing police in their duty of enforcing the law.

The church elders are wise to ask the photographer to rethink the mixed message his image could send.
Perhaps they should ask him first to consult with any police widow and consider adding a portrait of a fallen officer
who died as Jesus did, defending the law.

Emily Nghiem
Houston

Very Special Thanks to the Editors:
The Houston Chronicle, March 4, 2010

Death penalty alternative

Regarding "Jury sentences Bellaire cop killer to death" (Page B1, Wednesday), I believe the law should
include other alternatives besides either the death penalty or life in prison without parole,
which adds to the burden on taxpayers and security risks to prison personnel.

I applaud the prosecuting attorneys for meting out the most severe punishment to those such as Harlem Lewis III,
found guilty of deliberately killing a law officer; but I believe the government should offer the option of
revoking citizenship in place of imposing the death penalty. Not everyone agrees the state has authority to
terminate life, but since government grants citizenship, it should equally exercise full power to revoke it
and to deport individuals who refuse to comply with law enforcement, regardless of birthright.

Perhaps it's time the U.S. government started a prison exchange program with Mexico and other countries,
where convicts who commit premeditated crimes could face deportation.

Considering Lewis' young age at 23, he could still work for the rest of his life to pay restitution to society,
such as through a Mexican prison, losing his rights to live freely in the U.S. as a consequence for abusing
those freedoms and as a stronger deterrent against capital offenses.

Emily T. Nghiem
Houston

Thursday letters: Death penalty, immigration, marijuana
Copyright 2014: Houston Chronicle | July 30, 2014 | Updated: July 30, 2014 7:26pm
Very Special Thanks to the Editors:

The Houston Chronicle, July 30, 2014

Emily T. Nghiem
Isocracy and the First Amendment
Houston Progressive Webzine

Graphics Courtesy of (c) Cynthia Johnson, 1997-99