Letters to the editor

Time for truce with Texas & war on DUDU

When I first made the decision to turn toward our city’s hard-drug problem, I anticipated shin-busting hurdles, personal attacks, misinterpretations and manipulations of my motives, philosophical differences with some colleagues on City Council. I even expected a few myopic mud pies from Mr. Molton [Xpress cartoonist], and I had no doubts that the hard-drug dealers and users would be less than tickled with my labors. I did not, however, expect that my stumbling efforts would stimulate wrath from the good state of Texas.

The most recent letter from advocates of “Law Enforcement Against Prohibition” chastises me for supporting prohibition and deluding the public into “thinking that something beyond frantic activity and wasted tax dollars is going on” [Letters, July 7]. I’m not exactly sure what all that means, but I suppose these folks think our national drug war is a failed endeavor that should not be perpetrated by local government. Our Texas friends would get no argument from me on that count. What I would argue is their lack of awareness of what we are really trying to do, and their attempted application of a national policy (over which we have no control) to a local situation (over which we do have some measure of influence).

With the patience of our Texas friends, I would like to summarize just what I, and others, have been proposing to do to address our hard-drug problem in Asheville (as in North Carolina).

1) My interest has been specifically in our hard-drug problem. With no wish to be malicious, marijuana addiction makes a person an airhead — hard-drug addiction makes a person, any person, a predator.

2) This has never been about arresting more people and putting them in jail. It has been about making the sale and purchase of hard drugs significantly less convenient than the open-air-market conditions that currently exist throughout our city. Done right, we arrest less people, get more hard-drug addicts into meaningful treatment, and decrease the number of dealers by cutting into their profits and customer base.

3) The national drug war focuses on targeting where the drugs come from and the money goes to; [our local] effort is about addressing where the drugs come to and the money comes from. If we don’t address the demand, we will never successfully decrease the supply.

4) Every drug buyer who stops buying or goes elsewhere (if you must buy drugs, please buy them in your own hometown — not ours) becomes one less person helping to poison a neighborhood, misguide a child, support violent crime, rip something off or otherwise corrupt our community.

5) The 21-point hard-drug intervention plan that Councilmen Dunn, Davis and myself supported, placed primary emphasis on services, support and “holistic” interventions — but we made sure that these were grounded in 24-hour street-level drug interdiction in all neighborhoods where drugs are a problem. Holistic interventions without law-enforcement interventions have been demonstrated to be as wasteful and futile as our national drug policy.

6) Of great importance to me personally is the strong potential to save people who [would otherwise] become drug dealers or users tomorrow, by limiting the convenience, opportunity, access and license to deal and use hard drugs in Asheville today.

It might be fun to continue fencing with our friends from Texas, but the real place for persistence is for the streets and neighborhoods of Asheville. Sadly, Drug Users and Dealers United (you can figure out the abbreviation) will continue to work to increase their and our misery factor to the point we have to take more steps to resist the harm.

With that in mind, I hereby declare a truce with the boys from Texas — there are more menacing forces much closer to home.

— Carl Mumpower
City of Asheville

Pro-growth stats don’t jibe with the real world

In “Back Bush’s pro-growth agenda” [Letters, June 2], Brooks Moorhead touted some economic reasons to support Bush in the next election. As I read through his/her glowing numbers about growth and jobs, I began to wonder what world this person lives in. Then I realized: Oh, she/he lives in that macro-economic world where numbers for all sectors of the economy are aggregated — so that Wal-Mart’s or Target’s increasing sales boost the numbers for retail sales, and job increases don’t take into account the pay rate or benefits (or lack thereof).

But I live in the micro-economic world (or what I like to call the “Real World”). In my world, people’s hours are being cut back; there are few new jobs available; small-business people are refinancing their homes to keep up with overhead. About the only sector that is booming is real estate, and that is a double-edged sword (people moving here from the Northeast or West, having sold more expensive homes, can pay cash and bid up prices, while the local residents struggle to qualify for higher mortgages). Without the low interest rates we’ve enjoyed in the past few years, I question whether real estate would be doing so well.

I have a retail shop in downtown Asheville (nine years), as well as a Web site (three years), and products on Amazon’s new home-and-garden “shop” (the past six months). The past 16 months have been the slowest since I opened, and the past seven months have gotten worse and worse. I talk constantly to my neighbors in downtown and do not hear anything other than: “It’s really slow — and keeps getting slower.”

On the surface, and perhaps at the macro-economic level, Asheville seems to be booming — lots of construction, new businesses opening. But if you look more deeply, here and at the national level, you will see that it is only appearance. More than simply changing the party in power is needed, in my view, although that will surely help. We need to look clearly at our goals as a nation, at what this country truly stands for, and begin to re-embrace the policies and values that once made us the model for the world — instead of its enemy.

— Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
The Natural Home

Can Bele Chere committees spell R-E-S-P-E-C-T?

I could write volumes on irritations connected to this subject, but I won’t. I’ll get to the point.

My husband submitted his band’s CD and application for Bele Chere and then waited, and waited, and waited. After he heard nothing back from them (we were led to believe that the committee was supposed to contact you, whether you get in or not), I called the Bele Chere office myself on May 22 to see when the letters were to be sent out, and I was told that they had been sent out two weeks before. We live about 12 minutes from downtown Asheville, so I’m guessing that the mail can’t be that slow.

One of my friends told me that [another musician] was complaining that the same thing kept happening to his band when they submitted their information to Bele Chere. Maybe this is a widespread problem.

You see, about three or four years ago, I was in a band that sent in an application to play in Bele Chere. I had played in Bele Chere many times with another band, and also for community events in downtown Asheville (when we had a band member who knew people on the committees who made the decisions). After applying with the new band, we waited, and waited, for a letter that never came. No answer, either way.

So I called, they scrambled around, and then someone admitted they lost our submission and a whole lot of others, too. And some just got tossed in the trash because they didn’t have time to listen to all of them.

I’m not sure how they “lose” things like that, and how can it be acceptable to throw away a submission just because you’re too busy to bother looking at it or listening to it. My husband, the band’s guitarist at that time, hand-delivered the CD and paperwork to the Bele Chere office himself in order to be certain they received it. Then, later on, our drummer vented his frustration to a woman on the committee. She admitted that they had received so many submissions that they had thrown a whole lot of them away simply because they didn’t have time to listen to them all. That just is not right.

Currently, bands pay a $10 fee with their application. I know that isn’t a huge amount of money. But since they are glad to take your $10, you’d think they would feel obliged to actually listen to your stuff and then tell you yes or no in a brief, but pleasantly worded, form letter.

Are there others of you out there who think the whole process is messed up?

— Nancy Rollins

[Editor’s note: Xpress contacted the Bele Chere office for a response, but none was offered.]

Like Fahrenheit 9/11? There’s more

Perhaps one of the most telling images of Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11 occurred off-screen — the spectacle of people lined up for two blocks outside nearly every showing on its opening weekend. The message was unavoidable: You want to see this film? Well, first you might have to travel a ways from home and then wait, and then maybe wait some more, just to see it.

Everybody should see Fahrenheit 9/11. When George W. Bush himself resorts to clumsy agitprop — juxtaposing images comparing Moore to Adolph Hitler in his latest campaign ads (as he has done) — the film’s political significance is undeniable. F-9/11‘s scenes of Black National Caucus members trying in vain to fight for their constituents’ votes, for example, only to be shot down by Al “Don’t Rock the Vote” Gore, is a lesson in U.S. history demanding some form of preservation.

Anyhow, if you’ve already seen the movie and found the filmmaker’s investigations intriguing enough to learn more, I’d like to offer a suggestion. Whereas Moore spends a great deal of time ruminating on conjecture regarding the mysterious ties between the Bush and bin Laden families, there are in fact public documents, unmentioned in the film, that go a long way to explain why we are grappling with these issues right now.

Written in 2000 by the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” is a position paper that lays bare the neo-conservative blueprint for U.S. global domination that would later be codified as official U.S. policy in Bush’s 2002 National Security Strategy.

The report, commissioned by future Iraq war architects Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, contains some rather eye-popping admissions, such as: “While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.” Written before 9/11, the paper further laments that total U.S. domination of land, sea and space might take awhile, “absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event — like a new Pearl Harbor.”

Flash forward: The men of PNAC are in power, advancing their pre-formulated agenda, and they, as well as other members, such as Jeb Bush and ex-Iran-Contra [criminal] Elliott Abrams, must be beside themselves, giddy about whatever providence supplied just such an event. Let the public record speak for itself: They wrote about it. And then they went ahead and did it. To view these documents, just go to PNAC’s Web site, http://www.newamericancentury.org/ and click on “Publications/Reports.”

Oh, and before you assume I’m writing this because I want you to vote for a Democrat, think again. More innocent Iraqis died on Bill Clinton’s watch as a direct result of merciless economic sanctions ([about] 5,000 children a month) that paved the way for Operation Enduring Freedom. Both parties are laughing at you for taking your vote seriously, especially now. Only when the people stop allowing others to make decisions for them, will anything change.

— Eamon Martin

[Editor’s note: Elliott Abrams faced felony charges, but pled guilty to misdemeanors which were subsequently pardoned.]

Christianity 101 for Mr. Bush

Mr. Bush: As we “wrap up” our operation in Iraq, I wonder if you’ve ever considered practicing what you preach. Your administration — a purported fundamentalist Christian institution, with the likes of yourself, Ashcroft and Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin — overreacted, in your haste to expunge the world’s demons, proving [to be] both ill-equipped and ill-prepared to deal with the consequences.

The men who boarded those flights several years ago, intent on fulfilling their interpretation of the law, were wrong in their actions. Dead wrong. But while the old law teaches an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, Christ — from whom the word “Christian” derives, Mr. Bush — said in Luke 6:27-41: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you….” Boring stuff, I know, but bear with me for a moment. It goes on and on about turning the other cheek, not being a hypocrite, first taking the plank out of your own eye, blah, blah, blah. Written for the common folk, but certainly not for presidents of freedom-loving nations whom Jesus obviously smiles down upon.

Mr. Bush, perhaps you should take note. Begin sorting through these passages and find out about true compassion. Meet the real Jesus, and on the way, remove the plank from your own eyes before attempting to remove the speck from your neighbor’s. It’s never too late to start.

— Vinton Kevitt

Faulty intelligence or no, US attack on Iraq was legitimate

The recent report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee has caused quite a buzz in the media. The report is being treated as proof that America went to war in Iraq based on questionable intelligence. As a politically-minded college student, I would like to remind the readers that we did not go to war based on the intelligence in question. The war was caused by Saddam’s refusal to account for the weapons of mass destruction that the U.N. weapons inspectors found in Iraq after the first Gulf War.

The United Nations passed [Security Council] Resolution 1441 in October of 2002, warning Saddam that he would face “severe consequences” if he did not meet the deadline determined by the multilateral U.N. Security Council. The deadline came and went, and the United States acted in accordance with Resolution 1441 … The war was not fought over shady accounts of “possible” WMDs, as alleged by the CIA, but over weapons that were well documented by both U.S. and U.N. inspectors after the first Gulf War. The new Senate report does not de-legitimize the war in Iraq at all.

— Paul Stern

Law aside, what do you believe?

John Kerry now claims that he believes life begins at conception. The only reason he goes along with abortion is because it is the law. My problem with that argument is that a lot of bad things were once law, such as segregation by the “separate but equal” decision. That decision was later overturned.

Just because something is law now doesn’t mean it is correct. Opinions change, and people reevaluate their decisions. Even the person that started the Roe vs. Wade decision now wants it overturned. Slavery was once okay, but I doubt you’ll find very many people that will argue it should still be law. People need to stop hiding behind the Supreme Court and come to a conclusion of their own.

— Kate Shuping
Spartanburg, S.C.

The not-so-noble reasons behind the war on drugs

I’m writing about Michael Harney’s thoughtful op-ed, “Let’s get real” [Commentary, June 30].

We could continue to do what we have been doing regarding drugs — throw another trillion dollars down the drug-war rat hole. And we could lock up another million, or two million or ten million, hoping to nullify the immutable law of supply and demand. And we could continue to keep certain (politically selected) drugs illegal so that they continue to be untaxed, unregulated, controlled by criminal gangs, and financially supportive of our enemies.

Of course, many currently employed in law enforcement are opposed to legalizing any now-illegal drugs. That’s because if all types of drugs were legal, we would need far fewer law enforcement personnel, far fewer prison guards and no prison builders. Thus, many now employed in law enforcement or the prison industry would be looking for a job or washing cars for a living. However, those opposed to legalizing recreational drugs because it would affect their livelihood will not [admit why]. Instead, they cite noble reasons like protecting the children.

As if our current policies are protecting children from drugs.

— Kirk Muse
Mesa, Ariz.

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