Letters to the editor

Free speech is not silent vandalism

I live near downtown Asheville, and I recently had my vehicle vandalized. Were my windows broken or was my paint scratched? No, someone chose to deface my George W. Bush stickers with graffitti.

Now, I understand there are many in this city who do not agree with my political views, but I do not infringe upon their right to speak what they so choose by vandalizing their property — so why should they infringe upon mine? I would not deface a Kerry, Nader or Badnarik sticker; it is their right to post it, not my right to destroy it. If they want to put a pro-Joseph Stalin sticker on their property, that is their right, and although I may not agree with the view, I will respect it as theirs.

What truly confuses me, as a Republican (albeit with Libertarian leanings), is that many of these people who are so anti-Bush are claiming that he stifles their free speech rights. I am not about to sit here and debate whether that is the case or not. What I am willing to argue is that the very people who are crying wolf over their speech rights are infringing upon mine. Not only is that hypocritical, but it weakens the very positions that they say they so strongly stand for.

They know who they are, and they should think about their actions the next time around, and perhaps they won’t appear to be so inept. Perhaps publishing something may help remind everyone what free speech is.

— Matthew Hebb

“Defeat Bush” message a turnoff

I attended Bele Chere on Sunday. My daughter and I saw live music, karate dancers, crafters, vendors, ate good food; it really was a good time.

At two intersections, we ran into a person calling out to passersby individually, requesting that they sign up (with their affiliation) to “defeat Bush.” I am all for registering voters, for more opinions will more closely represent the true fabric of our communities/nation; however, the request for my support, voiced in the “anti” cry, simply turned me off.

If those same people had called out the reasons they supported some candidate for president, this undecided voter might have been interested in hearing what they had to say.

— Ed Link

Nothing personal, but Shanafelt was wrong

I try to not be a complainer about Mountain Xpress and let you all proceed to do the fine job you usually get done. However, in the recent “Random Acts” column [July 28], Steve Shanafelt does the MX readership and mission a tremendous disservice.

Laura Hope-Gill’s Nothing Personal was miraculous for me. The intense joy I felt from seeing her work continues to be most memorable, as from her previous shows. Shanafelt tells his audience that what they saw was the sputtering nova death of Laura’s talent. That’s a lie.

Shanafelt tries to create a direct comparison between Laura’s past works and Nothing Personal. This might fly if the comparison were based in the quality, professionalism or mise en scene, but the correlation is attempted based on content. “Adulthood” for Laura corrupts her earlier sense of protest and nouveau, according to Shanafelt. Her present repertoire is hardly cleansed of the past, but rather grapples with it successfully, as in her life. But the sense of the present production is too subtle for Shanafelt to grapple with, so he simply shows contempt for the beauty we all saw.

Nothing Personal is first class for a one-person production. The clarity shown in overcoming hearing loss wasn’t even a question of balancing out the two. She was clear, and when she wanted to show her vulnerability, she showed us. No crew came in to flip on and off her production equipment, but it was done smoothly enough. The technological tools she used were not distracting.

I don’t know what show he saw, but Shanafelt’s testimony wasn’t what I witnessed, and I’ve seen my share of live theater, from San Francisco ACT productions to N.C. School of the Arts works, and local stuff.

Laura’s work needed to be lauded more so than deconstructed. In this time of intense fear and disconnection, she handed her audience a massive dose of peace, love and creativity. The themes were Laura’s, but we all felt a human life coming through, and an interesting one. In this time of apathy and lying, she spoke the truth about being alive. It was gorgeous, and the feeling of nirvana found in the sum of Nothing Personal was wonderful. It was one of the most intelligent and artful human endeavors I’ve seen in years. Laura’s imperfections only fit into the message of the show, of deep compassion, positive action, human fragility and love. The audience only seemed unresponsive because of the quiet beauty at hand. It wasn’t a show made for the sake of clapping, it was a show made for the sake of human peace and togetherness.

I feel that Shanafelt had two actual reviews [to do], and one had to be the baddie. He picked wrong. His column is a ripoff of the notion of random acts of kindness. His quality is random, and I can only wonder what sort of productive action he intends to deliver to the public.

— Grant Millin

[Steve Shanafelt responds:

I think Mr. Millin saw what he wanted to see in Hope-Gill’s performance. I, too, bordered on overlooking the weaknesses, because I wanted to think of Hope-Gill as the fire-breathing poet I remembered from years ago. But frankly, the show I saw wasn’t very good. If Saul Williams or Glenis Redmond — or for that matter the ghost of Cummings himself — had given a show as uneven as Hope-Gill’s, I would have been just as honest. So, before she receives the avalanche of well-meant laurels her friends and devotees will shower her with for giving the whole poetry thing another go, someone — in this case me — had to give her the straight dope. Such blunt honesty is the only way to be fair to someone of Hope-Gill’s talent. I stand by the review.]

Mumpower is a pawn of the drug lords

Vice Mayor Carl Mumpower called for a truce with Texans who see dysfunction in the mechanisms of the drug war [Letters, July 21]. But the vice mayor tears down the white flag and turns logic on its head with his list of six “solutions.”

Mumpower says all pot smokers are airheads and all hard-drug users are predators. Carl Sagan, William F. Buckley and Bing Crosby were/are airheads? Dr. William Stewart Halsted, widely recognized as “the father of modern surgery” and as one of the four founders of Johns Hopkins Medical Center, was a “predator” because of his lifelong addiction to morphine?

We are now in our 90th year of U.S. drug prohibition. When the drug war began, there were no drug lords, no drug gangs, very few overdoses and few children using drugs. Drugs are now cheaper, purer and more available than ever before, yet Mumpower says, “Done right, we … decrease the number of dealers by cutting into their profits….”

Mumpower also says: “If we don’t address the demand, we will never successfully decrease the supply.” We pay billions of dollars to other countries, pleading that we are helpless to control our consumption, [so] please stop sending us this stuff. We pay $50 billion per year to stop the demand in the United States, as well.

The vice mayor states: “Every drug buyer who stops … becomes one less person helping to poison a neighborhood … or otherwise corrupt our community.” Common sense shows that the day we regulate distribution is the day we stop sending drug profits to bin Laden, we destroy the drug cartels, we end the reason most street gangs exist, we take away the job of every street-corner vendor selling drugs to our kids, we basically eliminate drug-overdose deaths, and we find ourselves with $50 billion per year to spend on catching criminals who mean us harm, on education, treatment and jobs training.

Mumpower states: “Holistic interventions without law-enforcement interventions … [are] as wasteful and futile as our national drug policy.” That is quite a failure to live down to. Those in power never seem to grasp that the policy of allowing these drugs to be controlled by criminals ensures children easy access to drugs. Our “drug war” scenario is exactly what the drug lords want.

Mumpower then states: “Of great importance to me personally is the strong potential to save people [from becoming] drug dealers or users tomorrow.” Good for you, Mr. Vice Mayor — wonderful motive, but your planned tactics are guaranteed to fail, as they have for 89 years.

In closing, Mumpower writes that drug users and dealers [will] increase their and our misery factor [until] we have to take more steps to resist the harm.” Prohibition ensures easy access to drugs through the black market. The misery of drug-overdose deaths also comes from prohibition, which keeps citizens from calling authorities about potential overdoses. For thousands of years, people all over the world used drugs with absolutely no laws in place or any of the major problems of our drug war. It was only with the advent of the U.S. pharmaceutical houses at the early part of the last century, and their need to control the supply (and profits) of “legal” drugs, that the problems you wish to solve began.

Truce? Hell, no! You, sir, are ignorant of the mechanisms of drug war; inept at fighting for the rights, lives and future of your constituents; and a pawn of the drug lords, terrorists and criminals of this earth.

— Dean Becker
Houston, Texas

It’s not about Michael Moore

I am very puzzled by the fact that there are people who are partaking in Michael Moore bashing. These folks are trying so hard to discredit him by digging through his personal life and things he has said in the past.

In my opinion, what these people need to do is get a group of scientists together and try to discredit something called “video footage.” With all due respect to Moore, I wouldn’t care if someday they found out that Osama bin Laden was his best friend, he was stockpiling WMD in his basement for Saddam, or the Democratic Party was illegally funding him in order to defeat Bush.

The bottom line is: It is not about Michael Moore. Michael Moore just happened to be the person who organized video footage and facts about the Bush administration. These people who bash Moore remind me of an animal that is cornered and cannot get away. The only thing they have left to do is assume they can convince others not to see the movie because the filmmaker is not credible.

The film exists. If the film magically appeared and no one took credit for making it, it would still have the video and the documented, proven facts about corruptness in the Bush administration. It would be one thing if the video footage was fuzzy, the documents were forged, or Michel Moore hired actors that looked like the Bush entourage. Then Michael Moore bashing would make sense.

God forbid that someone put the time and money into organizing facts and pictures to show the mainstream the truth. I guess some people don’t have anything better to do than to shoot the messenger.

— John Kelleher

Don’t disgust your readers

In this crucial election year, please attempt to report fairly and without the disgusting liberal bias so prevalent in the media.

This is far too important to be disingenuous with your readers.

— Brian Wolfe

Eeny, meeny, Jackson, Cheney

Trying to keep score at home is often a complicated business for me. I can’t imagine how the home-schoolers are able to do it, where family values are a centerpiece of teaching our young people.

For example, under which column do I put a check mark noting the vice president’s recent gutter remark directed at a well-respected senior senator on the Senate floor, where courtesy and decency have always been the rule? You remember courtesy — we were reminded that Sen. Jesse Helms was the exemplar.

But then, where to put a check mark regarding Janet Jackson’s wardrobe failure?

I’ve already decided that including “under God” in the pledge of allegiance should stay in a family values scorecard, but I truly am stuck on the example set by the vice president of the United States. Perhaps the Senate should consider censure, or at least abandon the practice of opening their sessions with a prayer. Cheney’s remark in a session guided by prayer could make the practice seem to be an insincere invocation of the Almighty.

— Allen Thomas

Bush tax cut robs all but the rich

With regard to the right-wing ideologues who persist in supporting President Bush’s tax giveaway and denying that it is a transfer of wealth, I am astounded, appalled and incredulous that otherwise intelligent persons could be so ignorant of the facts relating to Bush’s transfer of wealth from the working poor and middle class to his wealthy supporters.

I direct their attention to the front page of the Wall Street Journal of July 20, “So Far, Economic Recovery Tilts to Highest-Income Americans.” In this article, the authors clearly document that the top 20 percent (in income) of American households received 76.9 percent of Bush’s tax cut, while the bottom 60 percent received 9.3 percent.

In addition, let me refute the GOP doggerel that only those who pay taxes should benefit from a tax cut. Anyone who can read should know that one-third of the IRS intake is from the labor tax (FICA or the Social Security “trust” fund). Tom Delay has exposed the reality of the “trust” fund with his statement that anyone who believes there is a Social Security trust fund probably also believes in the Easter bunny.

Furthermore, another fact: FICA is regressive in that only the first $87,000 of income is subject to the labor tax. So the struggling working class has its labor taxed at nearly 15 percent, while the $500,000 exec is taxed at only 2.1 percent.

Finally, another frightening fact to consider: When the “trust” fund starts redeeming those IOUs in 20-plus years, the interest on the “loan” from that fund to the federal government will have a monthly payment due of $18.7 billion, if — and only if — the feds do not purloin another penny from the “trust” fund. I suspect that the pilfering will continue and the monthly interest bill will be in excess of $30 billion, or $1 billion per day.

Wake up, America, and vote.

— Thomas M. Kelemen-Beatty

Kucinich and truth buried by biased press

In the last few years, there has been in this country the highest level of censorship of the truth than at any other time in history. The American public didn’t hear about Dennis Kucinich because the press didn’t want you to hear about him. He accepted no corporate money for his campaign; as a result, no corporations (or very few) backed him for president.

I met him … when he gave a speech here in Asheville. His campaign and beliefs and platform are 100 percent for the people of this country, and of the world. My whole life, I’ve not been interested in politics because all I’ve ever seen is one liar and idiot after the other, out to pad his pockets and benefit the wealthy. Coming to know Dennis Kucinich has enriched my life to a measure that I cannot describe. He is the only candidate I remember who is as real and genuine as diamonds or gold. He speaks 100 percent from his heart, yet his reasoning and ideas and ideals are sound and practical and realistic and courageous and honorable — and are to empower and give freedom and life back to the people of this country. … [He] is the only right person for the job of president of the United States, but even after 2.5 years of campaigning, there are multitudes of people who have never even heard of him.

Thanks to NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX and all the rest, he and his message for America and the world were and still are buried. They wanted Kerry to be nominated for president — and look who won the Democratic nomination.

If you have never heard Kucinich or seen him speak, I encourage you to visit his Web site (www.kucinich.us) and spend a little time reading or listening to some of his speeches.

By the way, Kucinich spoke in Asheville and three other cities in North Carolina in April. In the April caucus, he won in all four of those counties — even beating out Edwards, who is from North Carolina. [M]any who know politics well [say] that if his message, instead of Kerry’s, had been brought to the American public, Kucinich would be sitting in Kerry’s seat right now.

The press in this country has played a huge hand in robbing us of the opportunity to a elect a better life for ourselves: freedom from tyranny, [better] education, fair and reasonable health care, fair job opportunities, peace and much more! The ABB (Anybody But Bush) mentality was exploited by the press, and allowed us to cheat ourselves out of a much brighter future than we are going to get even if Kerry makes it to the White House. Congratulations, America!

— Carlton Whatley

No, I won’t get over it

“A date which will live in infamy” is what Roosevelt called the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. But there is another date that will live in infamy, and that is Dec. 12, 2000, when the U.S. politburo, known also as the U.S. Supreme Court, overturned the Florida Supreme Court, permitting that state’s electors to vote for Bush.

There were only four honest judges that infamous day: Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer. The others were nothing but mediocre political hacks at best, scaling down to the dense, witless, confused, speechless Clarence Thomas.

Everyone knows who really won the Florida vote. The exit polls were correct and the TV networks were absolutely right in predicting a Gore win in Florida. And no, I will not get over it. My most precious democratic right, my vote, was stolen by the dark, evil forces of the Bush-Cheney axis. A president with no mandate from the people (he lost the popular vote by more than half a million) has acted like a megalomaniacal, paranoiac emperor, and the results have been disastrous.

One is as sick as one is secretive, and that has been the hallmark of this regime — secrets and lies. No WMD, no link between Al Qaeda and Saddam, no purchase of uranium from Niger, no plans for peace in Iraq, and no sign that the pathological liar selected to be our president is able to admit to any mistakes.

Beware of leaders who claim that God is on their side, no matter what religion they profess. Vote for Kerry in November to stop the slide of this country into the abyss.

— Leon Gouin

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