Letters to the editor

Let’s talk some more

I enjoyed your handy guide to alternative radio news programming [“Tuning in to Talk,” Dec. 22], but wanted to alert your readers that the list was incomplete.

Most notably absent was the formidable reception of pirate low-power FM station 107.5, Free Radio Asheville, providing alternative talk-news programming locally now for almost seven years.

Also, strangely unmentioned in WPVM’s schedule of mostly syndicated programs (the exception being a show broadcast in Spanish) was the one locally-produced alternative-news program in PVM’s stable: the long-running Asheville Global Report radio show. For a weekly review of news underreported by the mainstream-news media, tune into 103.5 Fridays at 5 p.m., Saturdays at 11 a.m., and Sundays at 8 a.m.

— Eamon Martin, Editor
Asheville Global Report

[Reporter Jon Elliston responds: Several news/talk programs aired by Free Radio Asheville should are now included in the guide. Regarding the Asheville Global Report radio show: It was not included in the guide because that list focused on talk programs that consist mainly of commentary rather than news.]

NPR is missing its “P”

I heard a report on NPR recently by Nancy Marshall-Genzer on the unsuccessful attempts by the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism) to get permits from the National Park Service to attend the inaugural parade for President Bush in January. The report was edited in a way that marginalized the coalition [members] as strident and unreasonable, and made the spokesperson for the NPS sound reasonable and responsible. This would have been my impression if I had not seen the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition’s press conference the night before on C-Span.

Virtually all the space along the parade route is being given to the president’s own inaugural committee, and any ordinary citizen who wants to attend the inaugural parade — to protest or even just to watch — is being kept out.

This story deserved much more space than the brief half-minute or so NPR allotted to it. Voices of dissent, such as those of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, need to be heard by the American public. It is my impression that NPR uses this kind of dismissive tone and brevity on stories involving citizen dissent. For instance, each November, more than 10,000 people protest the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas and commit the largest civil disobedience since the Vietnam War. NPR gives it a passing (and distorted) sentence, if it mentions it at all.

As Dr. Helen Caldicott of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute observed, while the commercial networks are owned outright by corporations, NPR is virtually owned by its corporate underwriters. NPR has a responsibility to address this gap in its integrity and credibility.

— Rusty Sivils

Civility is in the eye of the beholder

Like George Keller [Commentary, “On Disagreeing Agreeably,” Nov. 17], many people lament the current lack of civility in our public discourse. On the local level, I agree with him wholeheartedly, but I would like to step back and consider this question in the broader national political landscape.

If you assume that our democracy functions, that all voices and views have access to public media, and that every vote counts, then by all means state your case in a civil manner. But there is overwhelming evidence that this is no longer the case. Evidence shows Bush lost in 2000. Republicans have since blocked legislation for a paper-vote trail. Why?

The election of 2004 was likewise marred with fraud, and when the dust settles, I believe we may conclude this election was stolen as well. … When elections are irrelevant and facts suppressed, respectful discourse has also sadly been made irrelevant.

Don’t like being called a Nazi?

Webster defines fascism as a political philosophy, movement or regime that exalts nation or, often, race, and stands for a centralized, autocratic, often militaristic government. In our patriotic fervor, we feel we are the greatest nation on the planet. We believe it is our duty to tell other peoples how to live because we are inherently better than they are … and it is our responsibility to spread our system of “freedom” across the entire globe. So yes, we are exalted. Our government is run by corporate executives. Yes, we are autocratic. We spend more on our military than most of the world combined. Yes, we are militaristic. So yes, we meet our definition for fascism.

But Nazi? We aren’t Nazi here. There are only a few thousand people here, mostly Arabs, who have been locked up and detained indefinitely. And geez, we haven’t even killed them. But what about abroad? …

The international press has labeled the current administration soft fascism. Maybe you don’t like name-calling, but if the glove fits … .

— Dalton Stansbury

Humane rhetoric doesn’t stop killing

Regarding the letter “Firsthand Knowledge Might Be Smart” [Nov. 24], I’m confused by Ms. Common’s rhetoric. On one hand, she claims there is no slaughterhouse involved in the Spring House Natural Meat poultry, while on the other hand, she speaks of curious fact-finders educating themselves by witnessing the slaughter firsthand. Perhaps she prefers to call them slaughter-condos? Or slaughter-cottages? This resonates with all those who want to feel better about eating dead animals. My point is this: Any building [where animals are killed] is a slaughterhouse, whether it makes you feel warm and fuzzy or not.

Ms. Common also says that at this utopian slaughter-funhouse, the people involved make a point to kill the chickens in a manner that is “as easy and humane as possible.” I’ve always had a tough time reconciling the paradox of “humane slaughter.” Webster’s dictionary defines humane as having what are considered the best qualities of mankind — kind, tender, merciful, sympathetic, etc. If we are truly striving to treat these animals humanely, we should simply stop torturing and slaughtering them. It’s the very least we could do.

[Ms. Common] goes on to say that the chickens on this idyllic farm have “as good a life as many domestic pets.” I live with two seemingly happy cats. They appear to have a comfortable knowledge that I will never slice their throats or wring their necks, the eventual fate of all the chickens Ms. Common writes about. Slaughtering animals after providing them with happy lives is the epitome of dishonesty, the ultimate betrayal.

Ms. Common’s sense is often confusing. But the philosophy of vegetarianism is simple, compassionate and logical. In terms of ethics, one’s own health, the environment and feeding hungry people around the world, the vegetarian diet makes perfect sense.

— Billy Kelly

N.C. looks at medical marijuana use

Please be advised that House Joint Resolution 1038 is in the General Assembly now and should come to a vote in 2005. North Carolina does not allow voters to vote on propositions, [unlike] California and other Western states.

I have become interested in this cause since I was arrested last April for growing my medicine. My case has yet to be resolved. I live in Union County, N.C.

— Robert Gregg

[Editor’s note: House Joint Resolution 1038 would authorize study of legal possession and use of marijuana for treatment associated with certain debilitating medical conditions.]

A presidential guide to success

How does one succeed in the Bush administration? Firstly, you must have blind allegiance to the most incompetent president in the history of this country. Don’t dare disagree with any of Bush’s extreme right-wing policies and nut-job ideas. “I want to invade Iraq.” Okay. “I want to torture people.” Okay. “I want to cut taxes and increase spending.” Okay. “I want to create the largest financial deficit in the history of this country.” Okay!

Secondly, you have to be completely incompetent in performing your job in the administration. Lie about WMD in Iraq: Here’s a Presidential Medal of Freedom! Fail to secure Iraq after the invasion: Here’s a Presidential Medal of Freedom! Let Bin Laden escape in Afghanistan: Here’s a Presidential Medal of Freedom!

Now Bush is nominating the guy who wrote the torture memos to be attorney general, nominating the woman who ignored the memo titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the US” to be secretary of state, as well as locking in a second term for the defense secretary who lies to soldiers about why they don’t have armored vehicles 21 months into the war. All this from the president who promised to “usher in a new era of accountability.”

— Timothy Burgin

Bush is wrong (again) on Social Security

George W. Bush was wrong about WMDs in Iraq. He was wrong about Saddam Hussein’s ties to Al Qaeda. Bush was wrong when he said his massive tax giveaways to the nation’s wealthiest would stimulate the economy and reduce the budget deficit. Bush is also wrong when he says Social Security is going broke.

It isn’t.

Right now, the Social Security trust funds are generating annual surpluses, which Bush has been using to hide the truth about his federal budget shortfalls from the American people. For 20 years, workers have been paying elevated amounts of tax dollars into Social Security to provide for the baby boomers’ retirement. If Mr. Bush were not raiding the Social Security trust funds in order to wallpaper over his own budgetary problems, there would be ample money to pay Social Security’s promised benefits for as long as 75 years, without doing anything. But Mr. Bush has been raiding Social Security precisely so he can claim the program is going broke.

The administrative costs to manage the Social Security trust funds are less than 1 percent; show me any mutual fund that is as efficient. If investing in the stock market is such a peachy idea, why not empower the Social Security trust funds’ trustees to invest the trust funds’ dollars on behalf of the nation’s beneficiaries. The trustees would be able to obtain better fee rates and would have access to better investing advice than the average worker would.

Mr. Bush has been wrong about every economic claim he has made; why would any sensible person believe him about Social Security’s solvency?

— Lois Erwin
Waldwick, N.J.

Can’t we do better than this?

The shameful math of the federal disaster and relief allocations (described by the president from his continuing vacation) for the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami amount to the following proportional trifles: the $30 million pledged so far is just hundredths of 1 percent of the monies spent for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That $30 million, which represents a contribution of about 15 cents from every person in the United States, would pay for about five hours of the war fought so far in Iraq.

I think that it is disgraceful that such a pittance should be pledged in such a lowly way as from the podium of a presidential retreat. Evidently the enormity of the situation isn’t enormous enough for the president to either pledge real monies or to behave with the greater dignity that this catastrophe demands.

— John Ptak

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