Letters to the editor

Defining Bad Education

I used to sympathize with Cranky Hanke as I read letters attacking his reviews; then I went to see Bad Education. Cranky described it as the “best, most rewarding and most disturbing movie to hit town in 2005 to date … about relationships, the effects of childhood, sexual identity and identity in general”. It was on the second row of the Fine Arts Theatre where I learned more about Cranky Hanke’s vocabulary and his specialized definitions.

He failed to say that his definition of relationships is nonstop sex between two men. He also did not mention that the movie explored the effects on boys of priests’ molestations. Maybe his definition of childhood is rape. His review was so counter to what he wrote that I can only surmise that Cranky’s goal is to lure people into movies they would otherwise not see. His reviews need a cautionary note telling a little about Cranky Hanke’s tastes and specialized vocabulary. We are not all Cranky Hankes.

— Kathy Kyle

[Movie reviewer Ken Hanke responds: While I question the accuracy of the statement that Bad Education is “nonstop sex between two men,” I sincerely apologize to the reader for having quite unintentionally “lured” her into a movie she found offensive. Apparently, she only read the significantly abbreviated short review that ran the week after the complete one. Otherwise, she’d have seen this warning: “If scenes of gay sexual activity that leave nothing to the imagination offend or upset you, this is a movie perhaps best skipped.” At the same time, I did refer to the film as “disturbing” in the short review, and it is an NC-17 rated film, suggesting content some may find offensive. I’d strongly suggest that anyone who’s interested in a film based solely on the short reviews check out the complete version available on the Xpress Web site in order to make a well informed viewing decision.]

Big-box boycotts have their (local) place

Ms. Stalvey takes issue with boycotting Wal-Mart and other chains [Letters, “Consider All Links in the Local Chain,” March 30] due to the fact they employ local people … [and] therefore … [contribute] to the local economy. According to the Committee on Education and Workforce Web site (Democratic, minority party’s site), edworkforce.house.gov/democrats/, Wal-Mart has been known to: pay below-average wages (yet they are the top retailer in the world), withhold earned wages by forcing workers to work unpaid overtime, … delet[e] hours from time sheets, hire undocumented workers, … pay insurance premiums for only 40 percent of their workers, … exploit foreign labor, aggressively discourage unions and discriminate in hiring workers with disabilities. …

In a report by California Congressperson George Miller, found on the above mentioned Web site, he states the taxpayers would have to pick up $420,750 (through medical and housing assistance) per year for a hypothetical Wal-Mart store employing 200 people. According to two other Web sites (sweatshopwatch.org and globalethics.org), other giants such as Penney’s, Sears and Target are cited for sweatshop abuses and child-labor laws. However, Wal-Mart is the most egregious example … unlike Costco, which pays the highest salary in the industry and covers 92 percent of employees’ health-care costs (according to reclaimdemocracy.org). Too bad this isn’t the standard.

While it seems we benefit initially from jobs these chains provide, what is the long-term detriment to the community? Local businesses are choked out, profits leave the area, and we are left with ugly, homogenous, unsustainable buildings that add nothing to the Asheville that was once unique.

The easiest way to let the chains know we don’t want them here is to boycott them. It’s simple and effective. As more and more big-box chains come into our area, we have fewer choices on where to shop and where to work, so it is important to frequent local businesses that treat their employees as an integral part of the business. Boycotting a business is not about harming or devaluing the people that work there. To the contrary, letting businesses know you don’t approve of their labor practices hopefully benefits the employee. …

— Claudia Cady

Myth versus meth

First, let me thank you for your opinion piece on drugs and children … [Commentary, “Failed Drug War Won’t Protect Our Children,” by Clare Hanrahan, April 6]. Although we share dramatically differing perspectives, I appreciate anyone who attempts to shine some light on our serious drug issues in Asheville. As a point of secondary interest, your assertion that I in any way solicited crack cocaine is untrue and represents a repeat of an urban myth largely perpetuated by my fans at the Mountain Xpress. While we are on that subject of urban myths and drugs, may I share a few more?

Urban Myth One: Most drug dealers live in public housing. No, in truth, the victims live in public housing, and it is the hard-drug dealers and users from other places who consider public housing a safe playground. That means that the families and children who live in public housing are persistently exposed to danger, confusing role models, harmful temptations and a disrupted quality of life because those of us who live elsewhere turn away and live with our comfortable assumptions. I will leave it to you to advocate for hard-drug dealers and users. The voices of the moms, dads, senior citizens and children they affect more dramatically capture my concern.

Urban Myth Two: First-time drug offenders get long jail sentences. First-offense crack or meth dealers rarely receive any jail time. It takes repeat offenses and numerous failed efforts to rehabilitate an offender before he goes to jail. You portray a judicial system without heart or concern — when in fact the lengths [to which] our courts go to [salvage] drug offenders is extraordinary, so extraordinary that the benefits and temptations of dealing drugs (money, power and opportunity) too often overshadow the fear of consequence found in our judicial system.

Urban Myth Three: The drug war is a failure and it’s time to surrender. I’m not a personal fan of our country’s drug-enforcement strategy. It is my sense that we put too much energy into marijuana and not enough into hard drugs. I also wonder if we are spending too much time and money on a futile quest to dry up the sources when the real drug war is on our streets. I share your concern for those who are addicted to hard drugs, but my greater interest is in those they affect (through thievery, abuse, neglect and violence) and those we can prevent from becoming future hard-drug addicts. The more we turn away and make excuses for hard-drug dealers and users, the more training grounds and opportunities we allow [that support] the cultivation of new dealers and users.

Urban Myth Four: Minorities and the poor are being singled out for attention. In reality, our city’s black community and the poorest of us are suffering the brunt of the harmful impacts of hard drugs. Our police, many of whom are minority officers, arrest without prejudice anyone who deals hard drugs. Most of those dealers arrested are in fact serving white buyers who leave their neighborhoods (in and out of Asheville) and come to poorer sections of town, including public housing, where it’s easier to hide their activities. That’s wrong, and it my personal belief that we should do everything in our power to inconvenience and impair hard-drug users and dealers in their abuse of poor neighborhoods and unprotected minorities. Predators, and all hard-drug dealers and users, become harmful in some fashion [and] tend to prey most enthusiastically on those least able to protect themselves — minority groups, children, older folks and the poor.

Urban Myth Five: If we pile on enough ridicule, threats, falsehoods, vandalism and dirty cartoons, this guy will give up fighting hard drugs.

Not a chance … .

— Carl Mumpower
Vice Mayor
City of Asheville

[Editor responds: In a June 23, 2004, news story, written by Xpress Reporter Brian Sarzynski, we reported that Council member Mumpower had recounted an incident that occurred as he was driven through an Asheville public housing complex by former City Council member and retired police officer Herb Watts. According to our news story, “Watts rolled down the driver’s side window, asked for ‘a dime,’ and ‘the guy dropped a rock in his hand, Herb handed it to me, and Herb then drove off without paying. I was looking over my shoulder waiting for the gunfire.’

“Later that evening, said Mumpower, he drove downtown and turned the rock over to the Asheville Police Department. According to a ‘found property report’ submitted at 3:25 a.m. on May 15, ‘1 tan rock = 1g. [was] found in the possession of Vice Mayor Carl Mumpower.’ The report continues: ‘Dr. Mumpower stated that he got the tan rock from Lee Walker Heights. Dr. Mumpower requests testing for controlled substance.’

“‘The point of the episode,’ said Mumpower, ‘is to illustrate how casual the drug dealers are. They have no natural enemies.'”]

Hanrahan gripes while others combat drug crimes

I am writing in response to Clare Hanrahan’s nonsensical commentary of April 6 [“Failed Drug War Won’t Protect Our Children“].

First, the drug war has not failed. The object of the drug war is not to eliminate all illegal drugs and drug use. (However, we would if we could.)

I certainly doubt the veracity of the statement of the writer that drug abuse is more prevalent in the condominiums of Asheville than in public housing. Regardless, the parking lots of the condominiums are not “open air” drug markets as they are in public-housing communities, and that endanger the children that use the same area for a playground. Ms. Hanrahan says there is little drug-related crime in public housing. Tell that to the parents of Pisgah View who need to scurry around and get their children inside while about eight gunshots rang out in the middle of the afternoon on Tuesday, April 5. Shots rang out the following morning at 2 a.m. This is crime at its worst. (And it is not unusual.)

The writer should be ashamed for trying to agitate by trying to make our city’s efforts to control drugs into a racial issue. I think that is a wicked thing to try to do.

The ignorance of the writer continues as she refers to taser guns as “deadly.” I am sure that more people die of paint-ball shots than tasers. Neither is intended to cause severe injury. Every officer that is certified to use a taser is required to “take a hit” with a taser themselves in order to complete his or her training and certification. Doesn’t that tell you anything?

It makes no more sense to question a public official that “procures a drug” as a matter of his/her research on the issue than it does to question a plain clothes officer “procuring a drug” in a sting operation. We need to support our public officials (especially Council members Ms. Terry Bellamy and Dr. Carl Mumpower for their dedication to the control of this problem). We also need to encourage our law enforcement officers for the effort that they are making. We don’t need mealy-mouthed griping from poorly informed rebel rousers, at this point.

— Ivor Thomas

Biodiesel: It’s not just for hippies

I am writing to comment on Steve Rasmussen’s article on biodiesel from the March 30 issue [“Biodiesel Blooms in Asheville”]. I quit reading after the first line, but feel that the small portion I did read warrants rebuttal. Biodiesel is a viable alternative to petroleum use. It may not be the end-all solution to our energy needs, but it uses technology that is available and affordable today.

Contrary to Mr. Rasmussen’s statement, it is not just for “hippies.” I am a member of Blue Ridge Biofuels, and although I do not speak for the group in any way, I resent the representation of biodiesel as a “hippie” fuel. The word itself has very little real meaning these days, but carries a lot of connotation, most of it negative. The use of the word “dose,” which I interpret as a drug reference, is equally offensive.

You do not have to be a “hippie” to use biodiesel or care about the environment, and most of the people I know that use biodiesel are not “hippies.” You can put it in your 2005 VW Jetta and take your kids to soccer practice. You can put it in your Ford work truck. You can put it in your diesel tractor, or heat your home with it. Likening it to a “hippie” phenomenon only slows the idea’s movement into the mainstream. Rasmussen’s statement has no place in a news article, as it wanders too far from the facts. Tell readers what the news is, and let them decide if it is for “hippies” or just concerned citizens.

— John Burdett

WNC film industry is thriving

Thank you for your article “Is It a Fade Out for the WNC Film Industry?” [April 6], although for those who didn’t make it past the front page, the title is misleading. The film scene in Asheville is thriving!

For instance, on July 22, Asheville will host “The 48 Hour Film Project,” where teams of one to 100 [people] get together and write, direct and edit a film in 48 hours. This is a fantastic opportunity for our community to come together and create!

The Western North Carolina film industry is what we make of it, not what Hollywood can bring to it; otherwise, we are merely a location. Asheville has the opportunity to create something unique and honest with our film and arts communities, but we have to come together to make it work. I’m completely optimistic about what we will accomplish on our own. We are nowhere near fading out.

Let us determine our own success and have a great time in the process!

For more information on the 48 Hour Film Project, contact katiekasben@gmail.com

— Katie Kasben
Asheville Film Commissioner

Getting Farm Families and taking heart

In sort of a roundabout fashion, I received a copy of your review for my film Farm Family: In Search of Gay Life in Rural America [published March 30]. I’ve been working on another project, www.fishcantfly.com, and feeling a certain level of angst about the whole filmmaking thing. Reading [your] review and knowing that someone really “got it,” does the soul good.

— Tom Murray
Sarasota, Fla.

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