Letters to the editor

Mumpower’s homework lacking in scope

I read the reply of Vice Mayor Carl Mumpower to my friend Officer Howard J. Wooldridge of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition [Letters, June 23], with interest, after spending much of the past 10 years researching the topic of drug policy.

Mumpower says, “We’ve done our homework and followed models that do work across the country.”

No, he hasn’t; there are none.

Prohibition is a rain dance; it addresses a serious problem and does nothing to stop it, other than to delude the public — a la Mumpower — into thinking that something beyond frantic activity and wasted tax dollars is going on.

Check your community with care. I very much doubt it is any different from the norm, where some 75 percent of the young have used an illegal drug by age 22, and prohibited marijuana is easier to get than alcohol, and other illegal drugs are easier to get than prescription drugs.

Prohibition is the greatest gift to criminals in the world’s history, and they turn around and use those profits to make the drug problem worse.

Ending prohibition is not about drugs, but about ending the evil empire of the drug lords and their network of drug dealers. Right now we are financing our worst enemy. We’ll do a much better job with drug abuse when we use regulated supply to adults to reclaim control of the drug supply that prohibition surrendered.

I might add that Nobel prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, and a host of other experts such as Paul Volcker and George Shultz, have described and predicted these results for over 30 years. You would illuminate this debate if you publish the open letter they and hundreds of other world leaders wrote in the New York Times in 1998. [See Web site: www.drugpolicy.org/global/ungass/letter/index.cfm]

In July, William Buckley’s National Review will have a cover story on ending marijuana prohibition — a major first step in correcting this problem.

— Jerry Epstein
Houston, Texas

Good jazz is never safe

I would like to commend the Jazz Composers’ Forum for presenting local composers who would not ordinarily have an opportunity to present their work. But, I would also like to add something to Marcianne Miller’s article [“It’s summertime, but the living ain’t so easy,” June 23] concerning eschewing safety, and not playing “familiar (read ‘safe’) standards.”

“Standards,” those tunes “you applaud yourself for recognizing,” have always been the life blood of great jazz performances, alongside the originals, which have unavoidably been influenced by them.

Late jazz great, pianist Bill Evans, really believed in the language of the popular idiom, the song, “…and this has come out of not just our culture but all of history. … It’s the experience of millions of people and of conditions which are impossible to take into consideration.

“But I’d rather deal with something as real as that than anything that is merely arbitrary, such as playing without chords, bar lines or form.”

Playing standards with ease and grace will always be the enduring gift of great jazz performers. Nothing safe about it.

— Tom Coppola
Asheville

Local “geek history” deserves better mention

Writer Steve Shanafelt and his interviewee Alex Brown need to brush up on their geek history, not to mention local con history. In his article, [“Heart of Dorkness,” June 16], Shanafelt quotes Alex Brow (described as a “veteran of the massive DragonCon”) concerning local conventions: “There have been other gaming conventions in Asheville, but they were never very good.”

As a long-time sci-fi-and-comics fan and gamer, I have to disagree with this. (I’ve attended DragonCon several times, along with several other cons, so I guess I’m a “vet,” too.)

There have been several sci-fi/fantasy-related conventions in Asheville, some with gaming, some not, and all of them deserve better than this ill-informed dismissal.

In 1989, along with Nicky Rea (writer for White Wolf and Ravenloft, among others, and Metamorphicon guest), I co-chaired SilverCon. We had help from numerous volunteers from the Asheville Area Science Fiction and Fantasy Association, a local group that was formed in 1981 (several members of this group later created the Asheville Gaming Society at UNCA in the mid-’80s, which has since been restarted). One hundred eighty-eight people attended, not bad for a first-time con. We featured gaming, panel discussions, a costume contest, a vendor’s room, a benefit auction and more. We actually made a profit, all of which went to Francis Garfield, widow of North Carolina author Manly Wade Wellman.

Guests and attendees enjoyed themselves, and SilverCon even inspired other local conventions, including BalladTrek.

Prior to SilverCon, the late Dennis Howard hosted several SkyCons, which brought people like science-fiction author Hal Clement, illustrator Al Williamson, (The Empire Strikes Back comics adaptation, and the Star Wars daily comic strip), and number-one fan and king of all geeks, Forrest J. Ackerman, among many others (including local author and publisher Ralph Roberts and local illustrator Phil Hawkins).

While Karmacon did have a somewhat unusual location, the attendees I saw there were having a good time, and several people I spoke with, who attended BarnCon also, enjoyed themselves. That’s what gaming is ultimately about, right?

Maybe some people just take themselves and their games a little too seriously, and need to loosen up.

As to the professionalism of the organizers of these cons, the ones I know went out of their way to provide a good experience for their attendees, and that’s what really matters. When you consider that the work at most cons is by volunteers, working without pay, the con’s success is often measured in enjoyment by attendees, rather than dollars.

Speaking of local geek history, I can’t help but notice that one of the major sponsors for Metamorphicon is mentioned nowhere in the article. Pastimes is the first and oldest gaming and comics store in the entire area, and has been supporting gaming in Asheville since 1987, when Beth Bostic (freelance writer and Metamorphicon guest) and I started the gaming section there as a small concession. Shanafelt knew of Pastimes’ involvement, and in fact was told to speak with the manager there, but did not. In my opinion this shows a lack of professionalism.

By the way, my name is Jeff and I’ve played D&D, too. Still do, among other games, and I read comics as well. I may be a geek, but at least I don’t talk about my hobbies like I’m at a 12-step program. I’m too busy having fun with them.

— Jeff Britton
founding member and past president,
Asheville Area Science Fiction and Fantasy Association
founding member, Asheville Gaming Society

Vulgarity bespeaks its own pain

This letter is specifically addressed to the teenage boy that resourced and utilized a keen appreciaton for the use of hate words on a recent Thursday at the Vance Monument.

Dear Sir: Although I believe you have an idea of how I felt after you exhibited your pyrotechnic-like vocabulary, somehow I doubt the array of sign language I displayed was symbolic enough — albeit true that the behavior I reflected was senseless. I could have just as easily ignored you and carried on with eating my food in peace.

What you said was disrespectful, not only to me, but to my community, to the city we live in, and to the other people that were enjoying a pleasant stroll around the reflecting pool. Spouting out the words “stupid faggot” invalidates everything you may know about what it is to be a man. If you have difficulty understanding this, then you may also be perplexed by the notion that what you truly find stupid is something entirely different.

I know what you said was not about me. You were speaking of your own pain, your own agony, and taking it out on someone you felt deserved to be a victim.

In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to enlighten you on a few things regarding the subject at hand. First, and foremost, I am a victim to no one but myself. Second, the group of people you speak so resistively towards are your artists, your business owners, your executives, your entrepreneurs, your family members, your friends, the waiter serving your dinner, and so on.

Lastly, I deeply recommend that you demonstrate caution [by exercising] your better judgment when it comes to using your words as a weapon.

— Gus Frisbee
Asheville

Real estate, ballot access and nekkid riders

After being identified as a “West Asheville developer” two or three times in this publication, I had to laugh, and should clarify that I have never developed any real estate in West Asheville. Heck, I can’t even secure a building permit for a small bathroom/kitchen addition to a brick warehouse, because of strict zoning rules that prohibit such an owner’s privilege to improve property. City rules are costing me $1,500-plus per month in lost rent, but property rights are oppressed by “rules.” Perhaps I will reapply with different usage restrictions.

I do have 3 acres on Kentucky/Hanover, zoned RM16, upon which I’d like to develop 45 new, affordable condos, and I am searching for financing resources and developing plans now. Inquiries? E-mail: caud1925@bellsouth.net

Thanks to Dave Goree for the excellent, “Let the voters decide,” [Commentary, June 16] about North Carolina’s oppressive ballot-access rules. These “demopublican rules” violate your voting civil rights by controlling ballot appearance by third party or Libertarian candidates.

Nationally, the same oppression is wielded by the CPD, Commission on Presidential Debates, expressly formed to keep “the others” off America’s most important political forum. In 2000, Mr. Harry Browne, the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee on 49 states’ ballots, was denied access due to unconstitutional rules fabricated by the CPD. The CPD is a national sham on the voters.

[A] new Web site (www.opendebates.org) for the Citizens Debate Commission recently formed to challenge the CPD to reform or be abolished. Log on to the Web site, and sign their petition to demand this change. Read all about the mission, and order the book No Debate by George Farah, a Harvard Law student who founded Citizens Debate Commission recently. Then forward it to everyone you know!

Example of local ignorance department: Recently, a local barber went into a tirade in the barber shop about the naked bike ride/protest occurring that day. His ignorance was that he thought the naked bike riders/protesters were ruining the good name of Asheville (Ha!), and that “nobody here wants a bunch of queers riding through town nekkid!” (How does he know they are queer? He doesn’t!)

I pointed out that the “nekkid bikers” put Asheville on par with other more international cities hosting the same naked-themed protest — just before I leapt from my chair and fled his ignorant, name-calling threats!

— Fisher Caudle
West Asheville

Abu Ghraib a sado-masochistic alarm clock

The prison-abuse scandal has finally caused the majority of Americans to feel horror over some of what we’re doing in Iraq. But the most frightening thing is that it took a kinky scandal for us to feel horror.

After all, some investigators believe we’ve already killed over 10,000 civilians and untold tens-of-thousands of Iraqi soldiers and militia, and maimed over 50,000 others. We’ve also blown up an incredible number of buildings, work places and life-support systems. All this barely bothered us. A similar level of destruction in Afghanistan evoked even less of a reaction.

We killed most of these relatively defenseless people using execution-style bombings from the air. The excruciatingly slow, shrapnel-lacerated torturings involved in many of their deaths make the recent, horrible beheading of the American businessman seem almost routine. We were becoming the hideous horror of a super-powerful country that is completely unconscious of the suffering it inflicts on others.

Then the S&M alarm of Abu Ghraib prison woke us up a little, at least for a while. Abu! America. Say hello to your global shadow.

— Bill Branyon
Asheville

Medicare “improvements” shafting seniors

Betrayed by the AARP, lied to by the Department of Health and Human Resources, deceived by Congress, the senior citizens of this country were shafted by the legislation called Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003. The only “improvement” will be for the drug companies. We should not be too surprised. William Novelli, chief executive officer of the AARP, is an old friend of Newt Gingrich. Newt is the one who wants to do away with Medicare and Social Security by “starving the beast,” meaning by creating such huge deficits that the government will have to eliminate those programs.

The law was written by the pharmaceutical industry and will effectively force seniors, in 2006, to buy discount cards from private insurers. The law prohibits the negotiations of discounts or the importation of drugs from Canada. However, the drug companies can raise prices at will so that a 10-to-25 percent discount can be easily wiped out.

This is one of the most nefarious, duplicitous, hypocritical acts of this administration. It is so bad that even some Republicans refused to vote for it, and it was passed only by some legerdemain, and backstabbing by the AARP.

Did you know that a Prozac pill costs less than 4 cents to manufacture, yet a 90-day supply costs as much as $84? Even at Canada’s reduced price of around $40, the drug company makes out like a bandit. We have been utterly brainwashed by the pharmaceutical industry. It spends more on advertising than it does on research. Many drugs have been jump-started by government research, and manufacturing of many drugs is done overseas (outsourcing).

Wake up, America. Let us get rid of these crooks and vote against the vultures now in the White House, and their colleagues in Congress, come November.

— Leon Gouin
Asheville

No sale on Reagan legacy

Instead of putting Ronald Reagan’s likeness on money of any denomination, or on a physical item of any description, how about a Rushmore-size jellybean with Bonzo’s face on it at the corner of Hollywood and Vine? It wouldn’t even need Reagan’s name.

Why is this primitive conferment of sanctity by reason of death still around in the 21st century? The man was a third-rate actor, a third-rate governor and a third-rate president. Dying didn’t make him better or worse; it just made him permanently absent.

— Thaer Benjamin
Hendersonville

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