Letters to the editor

Ethics violations seem Taylor-made

In a coup for justice and the personal accountability of our elected officials, Congressman Chris Bell, D-Texas, filed a U.S. House of Representatives Ethics Committee complaint against [House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay, R-Texas, in June. Although the political dynamics for Bell were unique, in that his electoral base was lost to Texas redistricting, Mr. Bell is a genuine hero.

Why should we care about Texas politics? When it comes to Tom DeLay, there are more reasons than space here. But what is most salient is the need for the Ethics Committee to thoroughly investigate our N.C. congressman, Charles H. Taylor — if not before the November elections, as soon as Bush is replaced. The new attorney general ought to be pressured into investigating Taylor, with or without Ethics Committee action, and regardless of whether Taylor wins the next election.

Taylor bought a Russian bank, with no authorization from the House Ethics Committee or any certification from a law-enforcement agency with purview. Taylor — not his holding company, Financial Guaranty Corp. — owns 93 percent of the Bank of Ivanovo, as reported by the Asheville Citizen-Times. Given the instances of financial crime associated with Taylor’s inner circle (Cagle and Martin; see below), one would have thought Taylor would have asked for approval himself.

Unfortunately, the Republicans with their money, and Republican-leaning Democrats with their inability to hear the populist voice, seem more than ready to either protect Taylor or cower at his financial and political power. With Bell’s action, Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., will attempt to approach the House Appropriations Committee (Taylor chairs the interior subcommittee there), asking for a new rule to be added to a legislative-branch funding bill, banning lame-duck lawmakers from filing ethics complaints.

When rule of law and the democratic process is made illegal, we know we are in trouble. History has too many examples of what happens when the criminals are allowed to make the rules. But it’s not news for the Asheville Citizen-Times, and surprisingly enough, it’s not been fit for some our favorite progressive media outlets to date. For more information, visit: www.InvestigateTaylor.com.

Further, the confirmation of Robert Conrad (the U.S. attorney who oversaw the Taylor-related cases) to the western N.C. District Court must be stopped until Hayes Martin and Charles Cagle, Taylor’s former associates and campaign agents, are sentenced for the financial crimes involving Rep. Taylor’s Blue Ridge Savings.

The WNC and American citizenry should be up in arms on this, but the cover-up is working too well. We need Conrad’s statement on the Taylor situation, in public. He should have come out on the sentencing delay before leaving his position in preparation for his judgeship. He needs to make a commitment that he will ensure that Judge Graham Mullen (the federal district judge for western North Carolina overseeing the Martin and Cagle cases) understands that endless delay in sentencing is totally unacceptable in our democratic system of justice. Mullen needs to produce a finding (public statement) on whether Taylor himself was involved in the crimes. And sentencing after November would be outrageous.

— Grant Millin
Asheville

Mumpower’s solicitation put public in harm’s way

Thank you for the interesting article about how Asheville Vice Mayor Carl Mumpower solicited crack cocaine in a residential neighborhood [“The education of Dr. Mumpower,” June 25]. A lot of people have been wondering for quite a while, and more so lately, has Carl Mumpower lost his mind? I think the jury is back on that question.

It is interesting how, in local right-wing media outlets like the Asheville Tribune and The Mountain Guardian News and Opinion, Carl Mumpower takes credit for soliciting the crack cocaine and speeding away from the scene without paying for it. The Tribune reports that Mumpower admitted he was lucky he didn’t get shot as a result of his action.

Several questions come to mind.

Since when is it not a violation of federal law to possess crack cocaine? Since when did Carl Mumpower get deputized? Did he deputize himself? Did he ever stop to think that maybe it’s not a good idea to create a situation with the potential for gunfire in a residential neighborhood?

Did Mumpower have a plan for what to do if the drug dealers jumped into their car and chased after him? Did he plan to engage in a high-speed chase, or stop and fight? Which of these scenarios places more innocent people in danger?

What would Mumpower say to people who might be driving through the same neighborhood in a vehicle that looks like his, and get shot at or run off the road by drug dealers?

Last year, City Council censured [then-councilman] Brian Peterson for an action that endangered only his political career, not the lives of innocent people. The Asheville Citizen-Times stated that Peterson’s actions were so reckless that he should resign. If hanging out with [an alleged] prostitute is grounds for censorship and resignation in the Peterson case, what is the appropriate response to a member of City Council who decided to solicit and possess crack cocaine while creating the potential for violence in the middle of a residential neighborhood?

My advice would be that if you see Carl Mumpower circling around your neighborhood, call the police.

— Bud Howell
Asheville

Pondering the mountain lion crisis

In recent years, a friend tells me, mountain lion attacks have increased in eligible mountain cities. We’ve had none in Asheville, of course. The animals here are Tibetan Buddhists and would have been arrested for peeing in the bushes before a useful stalk of prey could ensue.

Where do these attacks happen then? I speculated Utah. My friend mentioned Oregon. “Attack” is not a wholly accurate term because, ostensibly, a mountain lion wouldn’t bound into town, swat a guy on a bench, steal a hot dog from the vendor, and leave town. A mountain lion would expectedly devour its unfortunate host.

“Eatings,” we determined satisfied the details of tragic mountain lion visitations. Eatings. Marvelous, as in “makes you marvel” that not only termination but elimination results from a meeting with those hill villains. If killed, a life is disconnected, deposed from the body-place. If eaten, the form is appropriated by the eater, the form’s vitality entirely usurped by the thereby.

Arguably, lions own the mountains by ancestral entitlement. Remove the street signs and perhaps one or two home-decoration boutiques, and this town rolls grassy as any prairie. However, I heard a guy from Transylvania County comment that Asheville “ain’t the mountains,” that “you can’t build a city in mountains.” So, truly, if mountain lions were to skulk into Asheville from the “elevated wilderness,” that lifted area with distinct games and systems, their visit would be an invitation, their eatings a crisis. Mountain lions would sniff out the most vital, active bodies in our city, and their patronage, to put it one way, would usurp the life force, dear populace, so laboriously generated over the years.

I’m putting up a fence.

— Jaye Bartell
Asheville

We are witnesses, not center of world

I am sad and outraged that the issue of logging the Asheville watershed in the North Fork valley is being considered again. It seems like only a short time ago that it was defeated. I remember quite well the public meeting at the Black Mountain Library to discuss the pros and cons. It was a surprise to see that loggers wearing their hardhats were bused in by the logging industry to attend. They were an ominous presence. At one point I stood up and said that I sometimes talk to trees, to which one of the loggers belted out, “I talk to trees, too, lady, I yell Timber!” No more needed to be said.

For years now, there have been signs along the Blue Ridge Parkway that borders the watershed that read “No Stopping” to protect the land, hence the water, from being polluted by cars and humans. Just imagine the impact loggers and their equipment would have. One doesn’t have to be a tree lover to understand the disastrous consequences. Our drinking water will soon supplant oil as the major dwindling resource on the planet. I am reminded, too, of the importance of nature to mankind by a quote from Swedish diplomat, Dag Hammarskjold: “Here man is no longer the center of the world, only a witness, but a witness who is also a partner in the silent life of nature, bound by secret affinities to the trees.”

— Kay Greene
Black Mountain

Nuclear delusions, past, present and future

Inasmuch as Western North Carolina is key to U.S. nuclear weaponry and energy production, we have become the “Nuclear Heartland of the Southeast,” being located along interstates and railroads linking two active and expanding nuclear bomb factories: Savannah River Site, S.C., and Oak Ridge, Tenn. As hub of this network, we have passing through our communities hazardous, weapons-grade, radioactive materials (tritium, plutonium, highly enriched uranium) and nuclear-weapons components essential for creation of thermonuclear bombs.

It’s been 59 years since Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yet as a nation, we continue to spend billions each year to upgrade old and create new nuclear weapons, under the delusion they would protect us from terrorists.

Perhaps we are as unaware of the horrors that such instruments of mass killing unleashed upon peoples of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as we are of potential dangers of having these nuclear-bomb factories nearby.

To peacefully commemorate the Hiroshima anniversary and encourage opposition to nuclear-weapons production, please come to Pritchard Park at 8 p.m., Friday, Aug. 6, for messages, song, drama and sharing of concerns.

Also, consider carpooling to Oak Ridge on Sunday, Aug. 8, to protest enhanced-bomb building. Call 299-1242 or 273-2229.

— Dr. Lew Patrie
WNC Physicians for Social Responsibility
Buncombe County

— Dr. Tim Pluta
Chapter 99, Veterans for Peace
Mars Hill

Swing your vote and change the world

North Carolina may very well be the critical “swing state,” as associated with the upcoming presidential election. All registered voters can have an important say in what happens in this country — and the world — over the next four years.

As John Kerry’s vice presidential choice, John Edwards certainly embodies what North Carolinians are about: grassroots, not infrequently small-town dwellers, people who have worked very hard to obtain what they have. He worked for many years as a plaintiff’s attorney, winning sizable awards for people who were wronged by large systems.

If you know people with no health insurance, who have lost their jobs, who have become despondent and depressed over the conditions of their lives, then I believe a vote for Kerry/Edwards is a vote to right some of the wrongs.

— Marsha Hammond
Asheville

Mumpower vs. Molton

Mumpower vs. Molton

[Editor’s note: In the interest of fair mudslinging, we are offering a guest editorial cartoon this week, compliments of Vice Mayor Carl Mumpower (with the artistic assistance from one of his associates).

The guest cartoon comes after publication of several drawings by Xpress cartoonist Randy Molton poking fun at the vice mayor. Mumpower explains: “In a spirit of fun and joust, I designed the cartoon and commissioned someone with more artistic ability than I could muster to draw it.”

The cartoonist remains anonymous because, says Mumpower, “That person prefers to remain anonymous, not wishing to become a target for Mr. Molton or others who may not like being challenged.”]

Clarification

The 520 Gallery, a new art gallery at 520 Haywood Road in West Asheville, had no connection to the drug bust we reported in a July 21 news story (“West of the Moon”). The gallery opened July 2, and the drug bust occurred at the same address (in a different unit) on June 22.

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