Letters to the editor

Inalienable rights under attack

[The April 12] Mountain Xpress was poignant for me because, on that day, my friend Jean Marlowe was sentenced to 10 months in prison, after confessing to a federal judge that she considered marijuana (cannabis) to be a gift from God to use for her health (see Genesis). Jean has an inherited liver disorder called porphyria that manifests in pain, nausea and muscle spasms. Cannabis relieves these symptoms, as well as helps the efficiency of her liver, by what her doctor calls “micro-circulation” — the vascular-dilation effect of cannabis — helping to bring oxygen-rich blood to all parts of the body.

Her doctor, who testified in her defense, said that Jean is “like the canary in the coal mine” in regards to [the effects of] synthetic medicines (often toxins) on everyone’s body. Have you noticed how the side effects in drug ads often list liver damage? These pills are slowly killing us. Of course, the pill-pushers are happy, because we have to buy more pills to counteract the side effects.

Law-enforcement officers say that they are just doing their job until the laws are changed. This is not true. As Jean has pointed out, they take an oath to uphold and protect the rights of the citizens, above all else. This is what this country is supposed to be about — these unalienable rights supersede temporary laws. The U.S. government gives medical marijuana to eight patients (George Bush illegally closed the IND program in 1991, when thousands of AIDS patients applied), yet prosecutes others. This is a clear violation of the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment. They are not doing their jobs. They are lackeys for the pharmaceutical companies and the prison/industrial complex, and they should hang their heads in shame.

Abe Lincoln said, “a prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which this country was founded.” Thomas Jefferson warned that tyranny advances in small steps, and that it is our duty as free citizens to stand against it. If we don’t stop this madness, we can kiss the great American experiment in individual freedoms good-bye.

— Ervin Dargan
Mill Spring

Fired co-op worker feels vindicated by labor board

Twice now, Mountain Xpress printed quotes by French Broad Food Co-op management stating that I was fired for various reasons [March 8, cover story, “Making cooperation pay”; April 5, letter, “Salt in this worker’s wounds”]. The bottom line is that I was fired for my union-organizing activities. My case was taken to the National Labor Relations Board, which has charged Co-op management with interfering with workers’ rights to form a union. My termination was one of several charges against the FBFC. Historically, termination has been a common procedure to intimidate, and therefore silence, people who are trying to better their working conditions, while fearing for their livelihood.

I am one of many who care about the Co-op too much to sit quietly while management disregards the very principles that have made the Co-op an integral part of the community. For me, becoming a Teamster was a consequence of us workers being given no other alternative.

— Catherine Shane

Devastated national forests cannot be rebuilt

Asheville’s new $1 million bus terminal is about 4 feet too narrow. We got gypped. All the spaces through which the bus riders must walk are too narrow. Even the benches are designed for a place that is too narrow. Go see. Arrive a couple of minutes before the hour. Bring the correct change.

I just spent three-and-a-half months writing an 11-page letter, in which I listed in detail what is wrong with the terminal, but the well-being of our community demands that a more important issue is addressed. Someday, this terminal will be torn down and properly rebuilt. Meanwhile, our local public lands — known as national forests, and which must be understood to be forest ecosystems — are being torn down, and we cannot rebuild them.

These delicately balanced natural systems are treated by U.S. Forest Service employees, multinational timber corporations, non-“environmentalist” media and certain loggers as if they are tree farms, and they are “harvested” and “sold” (at a $1 million per year loss). Loggers have the remaining 96 percent of North American forests to farm. Monoculture, single-species tree farms are not forest ecosystems. Forests are not corn fields. Our national forests are not under our stewardship to be messed up. They are our children’s children’s children’s ancient groves. They are not the timber corporations’ “crops.”

Is not the chief aim of Mountain Xpress and the Asheville Citizen-Times to inform, to educate citizens — i.e., about what ecosystems are and how they are harmed by logging? Instead, the media act in unison with the U.S. Forest Service and timber corporations to misinform the public. Is the media coverage here part of a conspiracy, or is it stupidity?

The issue is not “loggers versus bats” Xpress, [April 5, “After the swarm”]. The issue is forest ecosystems and an informed public versus ignorance, profit and ruined lands. How much does your front page cost? Xpress might as well next write about “TVA coal-burning utility plant employees versus fruit flies.”

Those readers who doubt the Forest Service’s complicity should read The Taking of the Tongass: Alaska’s Rainforest, by Bill Shoaf. And for those who belittle the importance of un-“managed” forests: The Green History of the World, by Clive Ponting. For those who are yet uninformed of the imminent devastation of eastern American forests: The Dying of the Trees by Charles Little, and An Appalachian Tragedy: Air Pollution and Tree Death in the Eastern Forests of North America, edited by Charles Little.

Those willing to help solve these problems should vote against Rep. Charles Taylor, and read the Wild Mountain Times and The Forest Advocate newspapers. Those unwilling to be part of the solution are part of the problem.

— Ron Ogle

Internet skills equal higher wages

I do hope that the commentary by Klaus Martin in the April 19 issue of Mountain Xpress [“Middle-class man confesses”] doesn’t have the effect of discouraging others from getting on-line.

As a writer, artist and publication designer, my life has been made so much easier and fuller by the use of computers, the Internet and e-mail. A huge additional benefit is that I can telecommute — that is, live in Asheville but earn California wages, which run three to five times higher (or more) than the wages typically offered here for my services.

For example, I am working on a technical manual for a college in California with two other writers, one of whom lives in San Diego and the other in Santa Fe, N.M. We communicate largely by e-mail; we put our work up on my Web site for proofing and discussion; and we fax our work back and forth using our fax modems. And it all happens in minutes.

Try doing that with snail mail. It would take forever — not to mention all the wasted paper print-outs, and time and money spent on postage (and air pollution), and running to and from the post office every day.

The manual we are working on is for technicians converting trucks and buses to alternative fuels, such as natural gas and propane, and a fair amount of my time is spent on the Internet — searching the Web sites of organizations and agencies, such as the Department of Energy for information, reports and statistics that just are not available locally.

The point to all this is that I suggest your readers, especially the younger ones, keep an open mind about the very beneficial uses of computers and the Internet.

A few pages further in the same issue [as Martin’s commentary] was an article by Margaret Williams, titled “Buncombe needs business sites and a trained work force.” This article cited the low wages offered workers here — typically around $8 an hour — and mentioned one company that “is willing to pay $13 an hour, [but] they can’t find the workers [here].”

Will someone please tell me what is so great about $13 an hour? That’s $455 for a 35-hour week (about $24,000 a year) before taxes — and probably less than $350 a week for most workers, after deductions. Try living in a decent home, raising a family, having a car, paying insurance, and handling all the other normal expenses of contemporary life — not to mention buying an occasional book, or eating out, or going to a play or concert every now and then — on that kind of pay in Asheville. Try doing it on the more typical $8 or $9 an hour.

I highly recommend our young (and older) people learn how to work on computers and get on the Internet, rather than stick their heads in the sand and pretend this is 1975. They will earn more money, be able to work at home if they want (and what a pleasure that is), and not have to put up with jobs that pay $8 to $13 an hour in a town where a decent house costs at least $125,000.

It’s not a big deal learning about computers and the Internet. You can go to vo-tech or college, or you can do what I did when I bought my first computer: lock yourself in a room for two weeks with your computer until you learn how it and some basic software work. Then, [you can] go out and find some high-paying work. The Internet has Web sites listing thousands of jobs paying a helluva lot more than $13 an hour.

Good luck.

— John Hilgerdt

Why Morgan submits to public scorn

A newspaper reporter asked me, “Mr. Morgan, as a convicted felon, who do you think would vote for you? Who do you think you would represent?”

I replied, “I can represent several groups of people! Some of those groups overlap.”

First, there are the Christians. True Christians understand that once I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ into my heart and re-dedicated my life to serving God, I became a changed person. The Bible says that I am a new person in Christ Jesus. Christians want someone to represent them who is proud to say that they are a Christian, and someone who will take Christian ideals into the legislature.

I can represent farmers, who need a new crop that is valuable for a lot of uses, a crop that is prolific, easily grown, and doesn’t deplete the soil as badly as cotton and tobacco does. That crop is hemp. …

This brings me to the third group of citizens I can represent: the huge disenfranchised segment of our society who, like myself, don’t think it is criminal to smoke pot. I feel that is one of the reasons why so many citizens in our population don’t vote, especially the younger people. They don’t have a candidate who will openly express their views and fight for their right to smoke whatever they want to.

I can represent the respectable, nonpartying, hardworking citizens who know or suspect that their children or grandchildren smoke pot, and even though they disapprove of the smoking itself, they realize that the smoking will do their children less harm than a lengthy prison sentence.

That brings me to the fourth group of people I can represent: people who have been affected negatively by the justice system. I treasure freedom much more than most people because I’ve had mine taken away. I know, better than most people, what it’s like to live under tyranny. At this time, one in 34 adults in the U.S. over the age of 18 is either in prison or on probation or parole. And that’s not counting people like me who are finished with the system.

For every one in 34, there are [family], friends and neighbors who are affected when that one goes to prison. Figure an average of five people affected when one person goes to prison, and that equates to about one in seven people in the U.S. who know someone personally who is in trouble with the law. …

While I’m speaking of freedom, let me say that I understand how our personal freedoms are being eaten away by big government. Gun control, illegal searches, police brutality and senseless killings, with no recourse for the victims are some examples. Rich and influential people can buy justice with dream teams of lawyers. Poor people go to jail.

Speaking of poor people, I can represent the poor people of all races. I know exactly what it’s like to have to struggle for a living, to wonder where the money for the next payment is going to come from. I know exactly what it’s like to work from daylight until dark, and then study until 2 a.m. for an [upcoming] exam.

Having graduated from UNCA in 1996, and having successfully graduated four different times from A-B Tech, (twice since I was released from prison), I can represent students because I understand their needs. …

I can represent the people who are concerned about conservation, watershed preservation, recycling and the ecology in general. Even while I was busy rebuilding my personal life and building a successful business, I still made time to handle local environmental problems. I organized and led the work force which cleaned up and refurbished the childrens’ playground in the Beacon village. … I discovered that the Beacon watershed was in imminent danger of being destroyed by being developed as a stone quarry. I organized and led the petition drive which prevented that disaster from occurring. I’m still working to get that watershed preserved.

Many of these groups overlap and, taken collectively, represent the greatest portion of our population. I can represent them all, better than anyone else I know.

That’s why I am willing to submit myself to public scorn in the newspapers.

— Michael Morgan

[Morgan is a Democratic candidate for state House District 51.]

No offense meant toward mentally ill

It is getting so that it is hard to write anything anymore without offending someone. In response to the letter writer [“Cut the mental-illness jokes,” April 19] who was disgruntled by my letter concerning Broughton Hospital, I had no intention of offending anyone with mental problems — especially in light of the fact that I have had them myself. Nor did I wish to make Broughton, which is a fine facility, the “butt” of a joke. It was, rather, a way of dealing with my own instability via prankishness. I hope we can bury the hatchet.

— Charles Mathis

Beware the heartless, indifferent industrial machine

In your April 12 issue, you featured an article about Hart Squire and his friends and family, entitled “Casualties of War.”

The “good guys” against the “bad guys” — it’s always been that way, always will. As to the identity of the parties? Depends on who you ask. The so-called “War on Drugs” is a propagandist stunt aimed, as are so very many things, at diverting the American people’s eyes from the truth.

Hart Squire’s ordeal is but a drop in a gigantic ocean of misplaced, aggressive, safety-Nazi, do-gooder bull***t — because, sadly enough, too much emphasis is placed on appearances. This is a slice of human nature that may never change. A family desires to live in seclusion with close friends, grow organic produce, share love, encourage and inspire one another. The man wears a pony tail; his wife is quiet, reserved, wears overalls; and one or more tie-dyed garment exists in close proximity. Opinion of the conservative public (a percentage of which are closet pedophiles, pornography addicts, as well as alcohol and nicotine junkies): “potheads,” “hippies,” “weirdos.”

If the same subjects (or should I say suspects?) were dressed in Versace suits and designer dresses, drove luxury sedans and vacationed in Beliz, would local authorities descend like a blitzkrieg? Perhaps. But they would do it respectfully — not full of scoff and piss. For those things are what we respect and value in this country — money and power and financial success — while our children fry their minds on the Internet, and we lie awake in disillusioned beds lost in foundationless marriages that dissolve when the money runs out.

Don’t worry about Hart Squire and his family, for they have soul. Worry instead about the heartless, indifferent, industrial machine that seeks to crush every drop of humanity out of us all. [Worry about] those who have given themselves over to a system that controls thought and action, and discourages heart and kindness. Those who have made an unconscious pledge to materialism and ignorance — their minds filled with empty goals and a loveless decency, eyes cold, souls as dry as desert dust.

— Nelson

Piedmont Airlines started in Winston-Salem

This is in response to Allen Thomas’ commentary, which ran in your April 12 issue [“Where are you, Piedmont Airlines?”]. As a native of Winston-Salem, I feel compelled to point out that Piedmont Airlines was “born and bred” in that city — not in Charlotte, as Mr. Thomas stated.

— Don Downs

Hurrah for the pot police

Cheers to the 25 brave officers who served God, state and county during the July raid of the pony-tailed pot farmer [Xpress, April 12, “Casualties of war”]. It makes me proud, as I write my yearly checks to the IRS and the State Revenue Office in Raleigh, to know that the money will support such noble efforts in the future. Hats off to the Asheville Police Department officers who so courageously joined the raid; $192 each to harass some long-haired, back-to-the-land freak is a small price to pay for a pot-free America.

Obviously, we need to buy more advanced surveillance helicopters, so we can do better than the fuzzy images these underfunded agencies come up with. I’m sure — with more generous funding for high-tech-camera development — wedding bands, as well as pot seeds, could be better analyzed. There are, at this present time, perhaps hundreds of law-breaking citizens quietly smoking dope in houses that should be hooked up to a giant network of infrared surveillance cameras capable of distinguishing the different burning rates of tobacco and pot. These people should be put in jail before they start organizing for their “rights.”

I find it distasteful for Xpress to interview the [drug-war] opponents and publish letters such as Brian Kester’s [April 12, “Your moral/legal obligation to fight the War on Drugs”]. Letters such as his are extremely dangerous in their potential to undermine the legal authority and moral righteousness of the government — federal, state and local. The trillions of tax dollars spent on what Kester calls “domestic terrorism of our own citizens” is more rightly a healthy eradication of a pestilence that has been growing since the hippie ’60s.

The modern King James Bible nowhere mentions pot, cannabis, weed, buds, blunts, mooters, griffo, or spliffs. As a Christian society, we must make sure everyone uses only the culturally ordained drugs of alcohol and tobacco.

As for the “Community of Compassion,” they sound like a bunch of commies. Their subversive drive to force a marijuana referendum could turn this town into a giant forest of kudzu and ganja. Don’t sign their petition, or the Cherokee will rise up and the rastas will take over City Council. Everyone will be wearing G-strings, and riding bikes and skateboards everywhere. Strict marijuana enforcement should be the highest priority of the Asheville Police Department. Pot may be a sacred herb in India and Africa — but here in America, face it: It’s an evil drug. So don’t confuse your readers with compassion, conscientious objection and all that hippie crap. They might not pay their taxes.

— Name withheld at writer’s request

Slavery was unconstitutional

As another anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln approaches, it is fitting to remember what he did. This is especially so in North Carolina — a state more affected by direct war actions than Northern states, due to [the Civil War]. That war occurred due to significant concern about slavery. As part of the reaction, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. There were several legal grounds.

The president is commander-in-chief, pursuant to the U.S. Constitution, Article 2, Section 2. Most people know that Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation as a purely military order in that capacity. Armies can, of course, confiscate enemy property and people — e.g., weapons, supplies, whatever and whomever aids the enemy to continue making war. As the Confederacy was calling slaves “property,” using them to aid the war effort, Lincoln could take the Confederates at their word! So he carefully worded the Emancipation Proclamation as a military order.

But what most people don’t know is that Lincoln had additional legal grounds for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. As president, his job — pursuant to the Constitution, Article 2, Section 3 — was to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” The Constitution is “the supreme law of the land … anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding” (Article 6, Section 2). The Emancipation Proclamation simply enforced the Constitution. Here are some examples:

1. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution mandates that “no person shall be … deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.” Due process of law includes an indictment, trial by jury, and judgment rendered in open court. Slavery violated that constitutional proviso.

2. The Constitution’s Article 1, Sections 9 and 10 ban “nobility” and titles of nobility. Being a “master” was a nobility matter — the old “lord paramount” concept — so was unconstitutional that way.

3. Article 1, Sections 9 and 10 also ban “ex post facto” laws and “bills of attainder” (any penalty or detention in servitude without advance, prior, written notice of charges and due process of law). As slaves were being detained without official charges having been filed in advance, slavery was unconstitutional that way as well.

4. Article 1, Section 10 also bans states from obstructing people’s right to make contracts — e.g., to marry, to acquire property, to not labor except for pay from a person of one’s own choosing, etc. As everyone knows, slavery inherently contradicted this constitutional proviso.

5. Slavery was also a violation of Article 1, Section 9, which provides for habeas corpus — the right to obtain freedom whenever detained without “due process.” Slavers knew that slaves who could read had obtained writs of habeas corpus pursuant to the common law. So Southern states passed laws banning slaves from learning to read, to prevent them learning their right to writs of habeas corpus.

As president, it was Lincoln’s job — pursuant to the Constitution, Article 2, Section 3 — to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” So the Emancipation Proclamation was him simply doing his job — to enforce any and all of the above clauses in the Constitution. I emphasize these grounds, as some people claim that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation lacked legal basis.

It is sad that North Carolina was sucked into an unnecessary war and much devastation, which could have been easily avoided by adherence to the above constitutional rights.

There is much more data on slavery as unconstitutional and never allowed here in the United States, as well as current implications. For those readers interested, more details can be found on the Web at www.medicolegal.tripod.com/slaveryillegal.htm.

— Leroy J. Pletten
Sterling Heights, Mich.

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