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TO PROTECT AND PRESERVE The Big Thicket definitely needs to be increased in size to protect and preserve its diversity, as you suggest in your May 2 Political Intelligence “the Big Thicket’s problem dates to its inception?’ when Congressmen Charlie Wilson and Bob Eckhardt “sold this patchwork” as a “string of pearls?’ Actually, it was the timber industry that tried to sell their miserly patchwork as a “string of pearls,” and Eckhardt called them on it. He argued that their 15,000 noncontiguous acres would not sustain the trees and wildlife. Eckhardt first supported Ralph Yarborough’s proposal for a 100,000acre park; then he proposed a 191,000acre park. “Hell, Eckhardt, why don’t you just go ahead and make it half a million,” Wilson told him. But together, Eckhardt and Wilson won approval for 84,550 acres, with the intent to add acreage over time. Indeed, in later years it was increased to just under 100,000 acres. Yarborough, Eckhardt, and Wilson stopped the chainsaws; now we need to act again to preserve the Thicket. Gary Keith Austin KIDS FIRST In every other country in the world, except the U.S. and war-torn Somalia, the government has a legal obligation to make the best interests of a child a primary consideration in any decision affecting a child \(“Children of the rest of us think that a government agency such as ICE, when federally run or state-run, should be taken to court to stop them from harassing child protection specialists. Perhaps the U.S. should come out of its ghetto and ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Mike Dottridge via e-mail FOLLOW THE MONEY As a former state employee with service at the San Antonio State Hospital, I can say that while low pay, disrespect of staff, and aggressive consumers are the reality, none justifies abuse by staff is easy to scapegoat low-paid staff, the real abusers are the well-paid bosses. Shutting the institutions down is clearly not a solution. What is needed is major reform, beginning with cutting back on overpaid bureaucrats, paying workers decently, providing safer consumer-to-staff ratios, and prosecuting those who are clearly guilty of abuse. Texas ranks among the bottom five in the nation when it comes to expenditures for our mentally ill and mentally retarded. One has to ask why. Frank Valdez via e-mail NOT IN JAMES’ NAME After carefully rereading the editorial \(“Deadly, Unjustified, and ing to view the tattoo crap again \(“The indeed, YOUR BAD. When you glorify the warriors, you glorify the war. I am a subscriber, but don’t do that in my name. NOT IN MY NAME. James Hofacker Victoria I JUNE 13, 2008 TheTexas Observer FEATURES FROM CHAIN GANGS TO CHAIN STORES 8 Sugar Land’s storied prison farm gives way to suburban sprawl. by Patsy Sims THE MOLLY 18 An excerpt from “Bernard Hill’s Story” OeMOLLY 2008 winner. by Diane Suchetka DEPARTMENTS DIALOGUE 2 EDITORIAL 3 ANDREW WHEAT 16 Laura Miller’s carbon admission. JIM HIGHTOWER 24 Crime pays for Blackwater. BOOKS & THE CULTURE POETRY 25 by Jeff Conant ULTERIOR DESIGNS 26 Lauri Lebo’s The Devil in Dover: An Insider’s Story of Dogma v. Darwin in Small-town America. by Ruth Pennebaker AFTERWORD 29 by Kelly White Cover photo courtesy Patsy Sims EVEN THEIR MOTHERS ARE CONFUSED Due to an editing error, historian of U.S. foreign relations Robert J. McMahon was misidentified as foreign affairs journalist Robert McMahon in our May 30 review of David Milne’s America’s Rasputin: Walt Rostow and the Vietnam War. 2 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JUNE 13, 2008