Letters to the editor

Shameless P&Z commissioners approve

In yet another “up with the developer, down with the community” display of local government shortsightedness and greed, on July 6 the Asheville Planning and Zoning Commission voted 6-1 in favor of the “Kenilworth Heights” development, despite the Planning Department staff’s recommendations that the application be denied.

While the developer blamed city staff for his own application’s deficiencies, commission members feverishly conspired on how to circumvent city and state safety requirements in order to ramrod the project through.

The one shining moment of personal integrity occurred during voting, when Chairwoman Hedy Fischer (the lone nay vote) scolded the other members for ignoring provisions of the Hillside Development Ordinance and for voting to allow this 387,000 square-foot, 130-foot high behemoth eyesore on the side of Beaucatcher Mountain.

Avoiding eye contact, her fellow commission members could only cast their eyes downward like miscreant delinquents caught stealing money from the church poor box, while being reprimanded by Fischer.

Ms. Fischer: Go to the head of the class. The rest of the commissioners should go stand in the corner and consider the consequences of their votes. Shame, shame, shame on you.

— William A. Jell

Bele Chere needs to raise Kane

Christine Kane is not going to be at Bele Chere this year?

She’s a national-quality performer and lives right here in Asheville. Why isn’t she on the Bele Chere lineup?

— Paul D. King

Stars, stripes and larceny

In answer to Ann Craig’s letter [“Flag Thief Also Stole Faith”, July 13], I also had a flag stolen on July Fourth!

My flag was not hanging in the distress position (although that shouldn’t have been a problem). Mine was a large flag, attached to the eves of the house by large hooks. There were two sets of footprints in the soil around the area, both children’s — one smaller than the other. One had to have lifted the other, as it was difficult to reach the flag otherwise.

I also appealed in the local paper for its return, to no avail.

This flag was given to me at work on the day I received my American citizenship, and it meant a great deal to me. That someone would invade our space and steal the flag, and [do this] on Independence Day, was inconceivable!

I hope Mrs. Craig is luckier than I, and her faith is restored. Mine never was.

— Adele Greenwood

Why death? Why life? Why Yoko?

I enjoyed, mostly, your report/interview with artist Yoko Ono on the advent of her late husband’s artworks coming to Asheville [“Illustrating His Point,” June 15]. I had the pleasure of seeing this collection in 1985, when it came to my then home of Boston.

But I found myself performing a cartoon-like double take as I read the following sentence: “Likely, Ono’s career would have long since eclipsed Lennon’s.”

Pause, whilst any readers born before 1970 and raised by other than wolves finish shaking their heads.

To illustrate how this sentence made me feel: I once was a cashier at a music store, and a woman in her 20s approached me, asking if I knew about “that old band, from England — I think Paul McCartney was in it?” Your statement shows as little grasp [as hers] of Lennon’s importance to music history, and even less regarding his role as half of the most prolific songwriting team of his generation.

Lennon wrote lyrics, the most simplistic of which were mastery. “Every summer we could rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight, if it’s not too dear. We shall scrimp and save … . Grandchildren on your knee: Vera, Chuck and Dave.”

Whereas the only lyric I can recall from a song written by Yoko Ono that was even intelligible might be from the album Double Fantasy: Why death!!? Why life!!? … Broken mirror!! White terror!!

Yeah, right. I can see that going double platinum as a single — not!

John Lennon loved Yoko, and that is the only reason anyone knows her name. His untimely death made her the most famous widow since Jackie (Don’t you dare ask “Jackie who?”), and that is how we know her from any other avant-garde Japanese performance artist from the ’70s.

Now, Yoko’s been through a lot — from the loss of her daughter to the loss of her soul mate — and most of us have stopped blaming her for the Beatles breaking up. But to say her career would have eclipsed John Lennon’s is just silly.

If she’s so prolific, why aren’t we seeing a traveling exhibit of the art of Yoko Ono? I will confess that her cover of the song “Money,” delivered in ridiculous deadpan monotone, is the funniest recording I have heard, second only to William Shatner’s “Tambourine Man.”

So do, please, tone back the awe you felt at meeting Ms. Ono. She’s no John Lennon.

— Alexander Thompson

[Writer Alli Marshall responds: Since first meeting John Lennon, Yoko Ono has been a controversial figure, and whether or not she’d be known outside of avant-garde art circles otherwise is debatable. I hypothesized that her career would have eclipsed her husband’s because in the last five years of his life, Lennon had dropped out of the limelight to change diapers and bake bread while Ono continued her work. Whether or not Lennon would have resumed his own career, sadly we can’t say. As for his lyrics; yes, he was a gifted writer. However, the line quoted here is from a McCartney song (as pointed out in the article), about which Lennon famously remarked, “I would never even dream of writing a song like that.”]

Moving across psychic tundras

Thoughts while waiting for a job interview in the lobby of a mental health agency: I believe in neither tradition nor the future. I used to believe he who does not adapt, does not survive. But what if the things you need to do to adapt deaden your soul? What if the repressive nature of forgetting, so essential to letting go and adaptation, murders the essence of delicate human nature?

We are moving too fast, and the evidence is everywhere in human affairs: the slumped shoulders, the wringing hands, the drugged shuffle, the vacant stare of exhausted faith, the whispered timidity of battered nerves. We demand too much of one another: too much concentrated time, too many money payments and too high a price for slow compliance, too much obsessive carnality, too many cinematic myths celebrating strangeness and violence, too many journeys across psychic tundras without horizons. Too much work for too little pay. Jobs, like schizophrenic voices, that demand we deny ourselves a life in order to survive.

We assault the brain and body with toxins and stimulants and call it pleasure. Being stimulated and poisoned has become the standard of normality, and those who suffer chronically debilitating side effects are corralled with stigma and drugs.

Tradition will not return us to some old, romanticized world. The future rests its limp, heavy hand on our collective shoulder. We must slough it off. Its promise is tyranny; there are too many lost souls waiting for an afterlife. The sick and the caregiver live in the moment with only one thing on their minds: the quality of mercy.

— Adrian Murillo
West Asheville

Nuclear sabers are rattling

How unfortunate that newspapers generally won’t reprint articles from other sources — in particular The Nation, a national weekly. In the June 13, 2005, edition (p. 12), Jonathan Schell reminds us of the 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States of America, a George W. Bush policy. Out of this grew the “Nuclear Posture Review Report of 2002,” just about ignored by the public. It announced nuclear targeting of China, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya, as well as recommended new facilities for the manufacture of nuclear bombs.

Bush’s new military strategy encompassed preemptive war, as in Iraq. In effect to this day is a policy of “first use” of nuclear weapons. Are people aware that nuclear weapons are currently on a hair-trigger alert and could be fired at any time on order of the president?

The rhetoric of global dominance by the United States is being heard over and over again. Would the president back down rather than cause an Armageddon? Only an outburst of public opinion against the use of nuclear arms can change the scenario.

The horrors of nuclear devastation were withheld from the American public after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts in Japan. It must never happen again.

— Leah R. Karpen

Thankful respect may be the key

In reference to Jodi Mann’s letter [“No More Fish Out of Water,” July 13], I agree that killing fish is just as inhumane as killing other animals. However, killing fish is the earliest thing done by man, and it made him into Homo sapiens in competition with three other hominid species (according to The Omega 3 Connection by Andrew L. Stoll, M.D.). The hominids living by the lake ate fish, and their brains grew to about three times the size of competing hominid species.

Fish contain EPA, which is only found directly in fish, and DHA, which is found in fish and algae — both of which are otherwise missing from our diets and which are essential to proper brain function. These and a third essential fatty acid, alpha-linoleic acid (found in high quantities in flax and in reasonable amounts in other vegetables) make up the omega-3 fatty acids. Your body can convert ALA into EPA and DHA, but that conversion process varies with each individual — and most of us get hardly any ALA anyhow, preferring the omega-6 fats found in soy, canola and other popular oils.

Taking fish oil (to enhance my brain’s functioning, among other reasons) has been the main thing keeping me off psychiatric medications, as mentioned in a letter to Xpress last year [“New Mental-Health-System Doctors = Drug Pushers?”, March 24, 2004]. I have now been without [psychiatric] medications for over a year and a half.

The Hindu concept of “ahimsa” (non-harm) is a good one, but cannot be practiced in a pure form. Brushing your teeth kills millions of organisms. What I feel to be a proper use of ahimsa is to bless and thank the animal — and plant — for the gift they have given to support me. I work for more humane treatment in the raising and slaughter of animals, but not the elimination of animals (or plants) for food.

Respect Nature, and it will respect you.

— Moss Bliss

Let’s talk community

For several years now, the Asheville Community Resource Center has maintained a significant presence and influence on local arts and social change. We have served as a showcase for less-than-mainstream music, art, film and lectures, and have housed many local activist groups, including Prison Books, Tranzmission, EarthFirst!, Bountiful Cities Project, The Bike Recyclery, Free School, and the Asheville Global Report, to name a few.

The ACRC provides a free computer lab, lending library, and public meeting space and event venue. No one is ever turned away for lack of funds, making it one of the only places in downtown Asheville where we can gather, exchange information and catch a local show without having to spend one dime.

Despite growing pressure, rising rent prices, and spending a year without a space following our 2004 eviction, the ACRC has somehow managed to survive and provide a space for our community downtown. Unfortunately, for reasons we are trying to understand, the current ACRC at 16 Carolina Lane is going seriously underutilized, and is running on the considerable efforts of very few individuals. We need to know what we can do to better provide the community with what it needs.

We have decided to hold an open-forum, public-input meeting on at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 28, at the ACRC to find out what we can do to better serve Asheville, get more involvement from more members, and determine the future of the ACRC.

Given the current local-gentrification nightmare, Asheville cannot afford to lose another venue which supports our way of life, which we have created and maintained on our own. The ACRC was started years ago so that there would be a vehicle for change and unity in Asheville. Please recognize the efforts of the founders, and recognize the community’s need for people to maintain and give direction to the resources available to us.

— Elyse Manning
ACRC Collective

Don’t let the facts bother you

I’ve just read Bob Niewoehner’s letter [“Could the Senator Be Misinformed?”, July 6], and I take issue with (Ms. Dole’s?) claim that “government study after study shows all the bad things that will happen to us should we ever be exposed to marijuana.” Politicians have been making that claim since before the release of “Reefer Madness,” but the truth is that “study after study” has proven no such thing.

If pressed for details on any of the government or medical studies that have been run on marijuana (including the most recent one on the “newer, more potent strains”), politicians will say the results are “inconclusive.” Apparently, “inconclusive” is political-speak for: “We didn’t get the results we were hoping for.”

But, then again, skilled politicians have never been known to let the facts stand in the way of their policy decisions.

— Steven Olson

Wild and rich, or poor and taboo?

Sen. Elizabeth Dole [“Could the Senator Be Misinformed?”, July 6] and her husband, former Sen. Bob Dole, are close friends with Dwayne Andreas, head of Archer Daniels Midland, an association which has given Dwayne Andreas enormous wealth by utilizing the sludge at the bottom of his corn buckets to make alternative fuels.

Biodiesel fuel is made [by] mixing alcohol and seed oil … [and] can be burned in any diesel engine as soon as settled — within 24 hours.

The enormous profits earned by Archer Daniels Midland have eliminated small farmers and provided the bioengineered seed-crop industry with control of agriculture, guaranteeing profits for investors for generations through the implementation of GPS monitoring of global agribusiness.

The most dangerous legislation Elizabeth Dole supports is [testing for drugs] to get a driver’s license. This legislation is counterproductive. It does not recognize the lack of infrastructure to provide public transportation in most cities, without which there are millions who will no longer have transportation to their places of employment and will be deprived of supporting their families.

Who knows why persons choose to self medicate through overeating or massive indulgence of sugar, coffee, tobacco, alcohol, prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Often stimulants are used to relieve ailments of dysfunction, pain and depression.

Bob Dole made millions as a spokesman for Pepsi while leering at Britney Spears in a commercial with his dog. The same Mr. Dole also lined his pockets with gold as he introduced Viagra, and freely spoke of erectile dysfunction on airwaves nationwide.

Why is choosing what to do with your own body in one instance acceptable for the wild and rich, and taboo for the poor? Just think of how wealthy the Doles have become by investing in the proper corporations, and passing legislation to ensure they and their friends make profit.

— Debby Moore
Wichita, Kan.

Capitalism, not socialism, behind court’s error

In “We Must Reclaim Our Liberty” [Letters, July 13], a writer complained of the Supreme Court’s approving a decision in which the city of New London, Conn., was allowed to take private property against the will of the owners, for the purpose of selling it to a private business for commercial development. The writer is right to be indignant. It is government theft for private gain. She is wrong to call it socialism or communism. A socialist government would only take the property for a governmental purpose. I assume she threw communism in just to make it more inflammatory.

This is not a court in support of socialism, but a court supporting the rights of capitalist entrepreneurs over the rights of individual citizens. We are not losing our rights to socialists, but to right-wing capitalists. Wake up and see the real world instead of the propaganda you have been fed, lady (and people), or fascism is just around the corner. This is the true meaning of “Homeland Security.”

It was a bad court decision. Among other things, the Fifth Amendment — which applies to the federal government — says: ” … nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” The 14th Amendment extends this application to the state governments. The 14th Amendment, among other things, says: ” … nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” (Italics in both citations are mine.)

The 14th Amendment is not exactly the same as the Fifth, but close. Not close enough for a Supreme Court majority. In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that local governments may seize well-kept, privately owned property (including homes) against the will of the owner, for the use of private economic development! Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said, in disagreement: “Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.”

Socialist? I rest my case.

— Ronald L. Kuykendall

Step up to the plate, citizens

When a vacancy occurs on the U.S. Supreme Court, the president has the responsibility under the Constitution to nominate an individual to fill that vacancy who is qualified to serve, and who will faithfully interpret the Constitution. With the announcement on July 1 that Justice Sandra Day O’Connor will be stepping down from the Supreme Court, the Constitution calls on President Bush to nominate a new justice. After careful consideration, Bush has chosen to nominate Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to be an associate justice.

Upon discernment of the qualifications of all of the candidates, Judge Roberts was selected because he fits the mold carved by the American people as the person best suited to fill the vacancy on the bench. As a citizen and a voter, I am asking you, as fellow citizens, to fulfill your Constitutional obligations and support the confirmation of Judge John Roberts by contacting your senators for their support in the Senate.

— Joyce Vaughan Byars

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