Letters to the editor

The destruction of Asheville’s civil-service law

This letter is in response to proposed changes in [Asheville’s] civil-service law, which the City Council has forwarded to the Legislature [for approval].

The city administration does not propose to merely change the civil-service law. It intends to destroy the only objective oversight of the hiring practices of individual city departments, and replace it with “administrative policy.”

No longer will department managers be required to prove to an autonomous review board that they judged all applicants fairly and equally. No longer will the record of who applies for a city job, vs. who is rewarded with each job, be available to the public. No longer will tests for city employment be required to be “practical … [and] relate to matters which fairly measure the relative fitness of applicants.” No longer will applicants be protected from questions that “relate to political or religious opinions.” No longer will vacancies in city service be required to be, “whenever practicable, filled by promotion.”

The city intends to strike the provision that “written charges of misconduct or inefficiency against any officer or employee in the classified service may be filed with the Director of Civil Service by any person.” Their changes remove from the Civil Service Board the right to “investigate any such charges … and report the findings of the investigation in writing to the authority responsible.” And they plan to strike completely the section that states “Any taxpayer in the city may maintain an action to recover for the City any sum of money paid in violation of the civil service provisions.”

The city calls this a “substantial revision of the Civil Service Law.” As vice chairman of the Civil Service Board and a taxpaying citizen of Asheville, I consider it somewhat more than that.

Virtually all that remains of a law that has set Asheville apart as a forward-thinking, open government for over 40 years, is the right of an employee to appeal to the board after he or she has been fired. This is a disgrace.

Whatever the city would like to accomplish with its hiring goals can be done in public and with proper oversight.

— Jane Knisely
Asheville

Stop this NATO madness

I rarely become engaged in politics. However, we have now gone beyond politics. Few protested while we bombed Iraq and killed thousands of people. And what about us killing millions of those “yellow-skinned” Japanese in Nagasaki and Hiroshima? As for “ethnic cleansing,” how soon we forget what our government did to the natives of this land that we called the United States. Did you know that U.S. soldiers bashed little babies’ heads into trees as a fear tactic, to get these natives to relocate to reservations (remember Hitler’s “concentration camps)? And how about the enslavement and lynching of millions of Africans in this country for over a century?

And now we are doing it again. Maybe it is our psychological guilt.

We are indeed a sick society. We go news-crazy when 15 kids get killed in a Colorado high school, and we do the same thing — on a grander scale. Great example we set for our children! What else would you expect them to do? They are simply being “normal,” aggressive Americans getting ready for the next war!

When, oh, whe, do two wrongs make a right? We have created our military into blind cowards with their Nintendo “accurate” air strikes. They do not even face their “enemy.” It’s been made into an electronic game for them.

I have been listening to talk radio around the country and have read the Yugoslavia board in AOL, as well as surfing the Net.

I have spoken with many people during my recent trip to Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia, where I held peace prayers and meditations. The Russian people do not want war, and they are wondering why we do. They are actually embarrassed by us! We are now challenging them again.

Americans seem to breed fear and violence. In terms of domestic violence, we lead the world as well.

Now, we (80 percent of NATO’s 19 nations) are killing more Albanians and Serbs than all the ethnic cleansing that we say we abhor.

I will continue to say this: As an American, can you simply sit by and allow our country to plunge the world into war? It’s time you spoke with your government officials and stopped this senseless and inhuman bombing. Our military leaders have gone insane!

God, I would rather hear about Monica all day, than know that one small child was massacred because we, the bully on the block, continue to “protect” the world. Where are your hearts, America? Do something!

— Swami Nostradamus Virato
Nepal Institute
Asheville

Scrap the contributory-negligence law

Dear residents of North Carolina! This is a serious matter of which you may not be aware! This is in regard to the North Carolina “contributory negligence law,” a law that I, like many of you, had never heard of — until just recently, when I had an automobile accident [while driving] my neighbor’s pick up truck.

An 18-wheeler took a wrong turn and forced me off the road. I didn’t suffer any injuries, but my neighbor’s pick up was totaled. The truck driver’s insurance adjuster claimed “contributory negligence” and denied payment.

Concerning the contributory-negligence law, any insurance company here in North Carolina can completely deny payment if they believe that any “contributory negligence exists” — even as little as 1 percent.

My “contribution” to this accident was that I was on the road. The police report states that I was not at fault at all! North Carolina is one of the last four states in the U.S. that still has this kind of law. All others have “comparative negligence.”

Thus, I got left with paying my neighbor for the damage. The insurance company based its decision on the belief that I won’t be able to get an attorney, since the total cost of damage is $2,000. Attorney and court costs would be higher than that.

Don’t let this happen to you! I urge you to contact your state or district representative to change this law and no longer support the insurance companies!

— Rainer F. Steinbauer
Fayetteville

How high taxes lead to violence

The real root cause of school violence is high taxes. It used to be that one income could comfortably support a family. Today, with various levels of government taking half our incomes in taxes, the same family needs at least two full incomes — one to feed the family and one to feed our ever-expanding government.

People wonder why we don’t spend more time with our children. If we didn’t have to devote half our working lives to pay these taxes, parents would be able to spend less time at work and more time at home.

This problem is compounded by the fact that government schools have attempted to fill the void in our children’s education. Yet in government schools, any attempt to teach morality is regulated out of existence.

These horrible events only take place in government schools. There are no examples of school shootings in private settings, where moral education is still allowed. Columbine High School is an education factory for over 2,000 children. Such an environment cannot possibly provide a substitute for the personal attention our children require.

The only solution to this madness is to reduce the size and scope of government and the insane tax burden that keeps it growing. This is the only way to give the power of moral education back to the family, where it belongs.

— Sean Haugh, chair,
Libertarian Party of North Carolina
Durham

The returning threat of nuclear war

What is important to you? Perhaps you might include your family, your job, your ability to buy gas for your car or turn on a faucet and get drinking water, and turn on a switch and have light and watch TV.

Should a nuclear war be unleashed, our personal lifetimes’ accomplishments will be irrelevant; our tragedies will become insignificant.

Contrary to what we usually allow ourselves to contemplate, the danger of nuclear war has increased since the end of the Cold War.

Our government’s actions carry a burden of responsibility for this state of affairs. We preach nuclear nonproliferation to the nations of the world, while we “modernize” our nuclear arsenal at nuclear-weapons sites as nearby as Oak Ridge, Tenn. We prepare to manufacture tritium for nuclear weapons in our civilian nuclear-power plants. We prepare to place nuclear weapons in space and develop an extravagant, impractical anti-missile defense system, in violation of our treaty obligations. We have also expanded NATO, so as to surround Russia with NATO allies, which increases Russians’ fears and distrust of our intentions. Regardless of our justification, we have now bypassed the United Nations and used NATO to attack a Serbian country toward which most Russians feel ethnically connected. These actions on our part have heightened animosity against the United States and increased the likelihood that hard-line Russian leadership will assume power. All of this has been going on as we face the uncertainty of Y2K computer problems.

Both the United States and Russia maintain nuclear arsenals of thousands of nuclear weapons, ready to be launched at each other on a few minutes’ notice, with no real change since the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) strategy, dating back to the ’80s. Meanwhile, the Russian arsenal has become antiquated, their personnel have become demoralized, and their computer technology is ill-prepared for Y2K.

That a nuclear war by accident is quite possible was demonstrated by the fact that a launch of Russian nuclear missiles was canceled, with only a few minutes to spare, by President Yelstin on Jan. 25, 1995. A rocket, launched from near the Norwegian coast, had been located by Russian radar operators. Aware that a U.S. submarine in that locale could launch a missile that could deploy several nuclear bombs on Russia, Yelstin was in a position to decide about launching nuclear missiles in response. With only a few minutes to spare, senior military officers determined that the missile in question posed no threat to Russia and, fortunately, MAD was averted.

With all of the uncertainties that currently exist between our nations, the possibility of nuclear war by miscalculation has increased since that time.

Sen. Helms writes: “The risk of an accidental nuclear launch is one reason cited in support of developing and deploying an effective ballistic missile defense. … In light of this ominous threat, one would assume that the United States would be actively developing national missile defenses to protect the American people against this danger.”

However, many of our leading scientists have repeatedly stated that any such system is basically flawed, that it would allow for a significant percentage of missiles to get through … and that repeated testing of such models has resulted, thus far, in failure.

In addition, Sen. Helms believes in defense through maintaining our nuclear arsenal, modernizing it — meaning building more nuclear weapons and ignoring existing treaty obligations — which means that the rest of the world will be more hostile to and distrustful of the United States.

There is still time for our leadership to work out details of de-alerting nuclear weapons, if sufficient numbers of our citizens demand prompt action.

[The process] could be started on a small scale by President Clinton asking for reciprocity by Russia, and then extended until it is accomplished prior to the millennium. This type of action was successfully carried out by President Bush in 1991, and it was reciprocated by President Gorbachev. This could be done by separating warheads from their delivery systems, removing guidance systems from missiles, or pinning open switches that fire missile motors, to name a few possibilities.

Times a-wasting, and human life on earth may hang in the balance. An “Action Alert” is scheduled for May 13 and 14, in which all persons are urged to call President Clinton at (202) 456-1111 and insist that he begin the process of taking nuclear weapons off the hair-trigger-alert status, in which they are ready to fire at a moment’s notice.

— Lewis E. Patrie, M.D., president
WNC Chapter, Physicians for Social Responsibility
Asheville

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