Letters to the editor

Heritage facts

Thank you for the information on the activities of H.K. Edgerton [“Heritage, not hatred,” Oct. 27]. I fully agree with the views he expressed in the article you published. I really must admire his public display of support for Confederate heritage.

He seems to know more about Confederate flags than your reporter does. The flag he was carrying is not a Confederate battle flag, but the third national flag of the Confederate States of America, adopted on March 4, 1865 and thus, still the Confederate national flag.

The flag flying atop the Capitol dome in Columbia, S.C., is not the Stars and Bars. It’s the flag of the Confederate navy and the last battle flag issued to the Army of Tennessee.

The Stars and Bars was the first version of the Confederate national flag and consisted of a ring of stars on a blue background, with a red, a white and a red bar.

I, also, am disgusted with the NAACP for their call of a boycott against South Carolina. It shows an extreme lack of respect for Confederate heritage and will only create division. South Carolina has repeatedly said it displays that flag to show pride in its heritage and respect for the soldiers who died to protect their land and people against invasion. If you ever visit Columbia, notice the monument at the front entrance to the Capitol grounds. It states, in very moving language, that the sacrifices of the Confederate fighting men are not forgotten by the people of South Carolina. And so they shouldn’t be.

— Byron F. Hovey
Asheville

Hold your kudos for air agency

Kim Carlyle’s commentary [“Our air agency is making good progress,” Oct. 13] makes the point that the WNC Regional Air Pollution Control Agency (WNCRAPCA) has endured harsh criticism, which, in his opinion, was unjustified. Carlyle, who is a representative of the Sierra Club, believes that a majority of this criticism can be attributed to the publicizing of adverse selections taken from the N.C. Environmental Management Commission (EMC) audit of the WNCRAPCA.

I think the agency’s actions (and lack of) in the past clearly illustrate there have been problems in operations. I must acknowledge that the agency is starting to turn things around, but let’s not pat them on the back so fast. Much work still needs to be done.

Accountability is very important; it is essential to keep agencies honest. Carlyle’s commentary downplays the deficiencies in WNCRAPCA, calling them “largely paperwork issues.” He goes on to say that you don’t hear “about the agency procedures, which were considered superior.” In my opinion, these two things go hand in hand. If you are going to have procedures, you should follow them — and paperwork is part of that.

If you go back and read the report, in almost every case, the EMC praises the procedure, but then states it’s not certain that the agency is following the procedure — due to inadequate paperwork. This is true throughout the report: under Source Testing, Continuous Emissions Monitoring Systems, Inspections and Complaint Response Activities, Enforcement and Compliance, and the Permitting Program.

If you are not keeping adequate records, how can you prove that you are doing your job?

Another point made in Carlyle’s article, which I believe is questionable, is the statement: “In truth, the professional and competent agency staff has been working to safeguard your air quality, in accordance with state and federal regulations, all along.” According to the EMC audit, the agency has been misapplying air-toxic regulations since the start of the program in 1990. [The report states,] “The misapplication of the air toxic regulations and not keeping abreast of the latest air toxic rule changes is a major deficiency in the WNCRAPCA permitting process.”

I sincerely believe that, with the new leadership that has been appointed to the air-agency board, the highly competent staff of WNCRAPCA can begin to improve their operations.

As for the WNCRAPCA Air Fair, I think it’s wonderful the agency is taking a step forward to educate the public. I would prefer to see the agency put some of their money into pollution-prevention programs and get away from some of this fluffy feel-good stuff. Output! Output! Output!

— Carolina McCready
Asheville

McCready is a member of the WNCRAPCA’s Citizens Advisory Committee and the Mountain Clean Air Task Force of the WNC Alliance.

To our not-so-coy senator

Even in the dumbest moments of our country, when it seems as though the nuts really have taken over the asylum — or as Will Rogers put it, “whenever Congress makes a law, it’s a joke, and when they make a joke, it’s a law” — I try to remind myself that, after all, it is a representative form of government.

Then I thought about suggesting a litmus test we might want to use to separate our legislative representatives according to whether or not they are Y2K-ready. The test might show your senator is not quite ready if he or she uses words like “hogwash” and “poppycock.” I mean regularly, you know, on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Yes, of course, I’m talking about our senior senator, but then I was cheered to remember: This is a representative form of government. He didn’t just drop in from another planet, he actually can pull an election out of the fire every time, and it’s got to be with the help of people who, God bless them, need to hear words like hogwash and poppycock.

Personally, I don’t classify Sen. Helms as a very good legislator, but he has always been fun to watch, as far back as his 5:30 p.m. slot on WRAL-TV in Raleigh, roughly 1965. He’s there to remind us not only of our representative form of government, but that in North Carolina, you take good theater where you can find it. I like to see his picture, and read about him and think about him, as a kind of rock on which we and the country sit, not easily dislodged by foreign foe, Godless comma-nist or homo-sekshul.

What is a little troubling is the realization of what might have been. Sen. Helms has been in office some 30 or so years, and he doesn’t seem to have grown in the job at all. He’s the same small-town, mean-spirited bigot he was when he entered the Senate. This is no small accomplishment, not to have learned any new tricks — the pony whose only trick is No.

In Raleigh, I recall one of his televised broadsides, attacking the teaching of a poem to “young, impressionable students” over at that swamp of liberality, UNC. Reading the poem, “To His Coy Mistress” today makes me wish we could go back to a world where people could be shocked by something so droll. Or at least pretend to be. That’s theater.

I feel sure many of us would be perfectly happy to have Sen. Helms as a next-door-neighbor and live in Mayberry with Andy and Aunt Bea. I just wish he had grown more in the job.

— Allen Thomas
Asheville

The final, nonbiodegradable curtain

Why do I feel like it’s Environmental Tirade Time again? Was it the recent letter in your pages discussing that lovely word, “greenspace,” and the idea that local, city, state, federal and philanthropic organizations should coordinate to save land (that is, before it becomes outdoor parking for 1 million cars)?

Even if everyone agreed, we would need to create a new office of Environmental Coordination and find a candidate/appointee! Who’s ready for this job?

Overbuilding is going on all around us. As traffic becomes hopelessly glutted, the building interests already know what we are going to say: We are going to beg for more and bigger roads! That suits them just fine. It might be useful for us to start thinking of each new slab of asphalt as a permanent, final, extinguishing curtain.

Anyone who is interested in having “greenspace” left to save will realize that, when we vote, we’d better know who is serving the construction industries and who is serving the people.

— Tom Coppola
Asheville

Courage, heritage and the right information

In regard to Mr. Julian Price’s Oct. 27 article, “Heritage not Hatred” (on H.K Edgerton), I would like to congratulate your paper for the coverage of this issue.

The Confederate flag is an often-misunderstood symbol of the South and of lineal Southerners. Mr. Edgerton has much to offer in the discussion, and his views are well thought out and historically accurate.

I am quite proud of H.K. — as are members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, of which I am one (there were African-American confederate soldiers and SCV members, too) — as he is well informed and obviously a true Southerner for standing up for his beliefs against a rip-tide of “PC” NAACP rhetoric, which threatens to associate Southern heritage and the Confederacy and its history with white-supremacist hate groups by association, in general, and by their boycott of the Battle Flag over the South Carolina Capitol, in particular.

I am proud of my many Confederate ancestors and of the honor, sacrifice and values that they believed in and died for (yes, some were slave owners, but all slaves were given freedom by 1850).

I am disappointed by Mr. Price’s lack of being informed in regard to Confederate-flag history, however. The Stars and Bars is not the same as the Confederate Battle Flag. The photographed flag carried by Mr. Edgerton, accompanying the article, is the Third National Flag of the Confederacy, not the Battle Flag or the Stars and Bars (which was the First National Flag). This is an example of how simple misinformation gets in the way of compromise and understanding. Mr. Price may benefit from study of a brief history of the Confederacy and the flags representing it — as might South Carolina politicians, regardless of race (and any others not informed but curious about the subject).

An excellent informative (and historically correct) Web site is http://xroads.virginia.edu/~UG97/flags/confederate_stars_and_bars.html.

Thank you, Mr. Price and Mr. Edgerton for the courage to stand up and educate, in hopes that peace, understanding and compromise can be achieved.

— W. Sterling Schermerhorn
Black Mountain

Why the caged chimp cries

On Aug. 24, the United States Department of Agriculture entered into an unprecedented legal agreement with the Coulston Foundation, requiring the nation’s largest chimpanzee-testing lab to divest itself of 300 chimpanzees. The agreement settles two federal complaints charging the foundation with multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

Questions about the ultimate fate of the 300 chimpanzees have shed light on a major problem this country faces: what to do with the hundreds of chimpanzees who are no longer needed for research, but are simply being warehoused in laboratories across the nation.

Since 1986, the National Institutes of Health has spent upwards of $50 million to breed chimpanzees at five laboratories, including the Coulston Foundation. But a trend away from the use of chimpanzees in experiments — for both ethical and scientific reasons — has resulted in a major “surplus” of these sensitive, intelligent animals.

Chimpanzees are highly complex beings who think, feel and act in ways remarkably similar to human beings. They have language and distinct cultures, use tools and make moral choices. Without government funding to relocate the “research” chimpanzees to sanctuaries, these special beings are condemned to be warehoused in barren cages for decades.

Recently, Dr. Thomas Wolfle, a former National Research Council official who helped set up the NIH’s chimpanzee-breeding program, told the New York Times (Sept. 14, 1999) that the NIH has a “moral obligation” to pay for lifetime care for the chimpanzees it paid to breed.

Please contact your congressperson and U.S. senators. For more information, contact In Defense of Animals, 131 Camino Alto, Suite E, Mill Valley, CA 94941, (415)388-9641, or check their Web site at www.idausa.org.

— Edward Greenfield
Asheville

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