Letters to the editor

Media culpa

It’s Nov. 3, and in my opinion, the butterfly ballot of the 2004 election has been the confusion caused by the inadequacies of the mainstream news media. Today’s media has done an impeccable job of distorting and obfuscating the information we need to properly understand current events. Twenty years ago, the media analyzed — and verified — incoming information. Nowadays, the media is content to present both sides in a “he said, she said” format, while failing to expose untrue information. Worse yet, the mainstream media doesn’t broadcast a vast amount of truly newsworthy information. Sinclair Broadcasting preempted Ted Koppel’s Nightline broadcast exposing the military casualties of the Iraq war. An Asheville Citizen-Times report claimed millions of fish in an eastern North Carolina river were killed by what the paper poetically termed “blooms of algae” — but the newspaper failed to mention the cause of the algae infestation: fecal contamination from industrial hog farms.

We’re not getting the whole story, and when we do get the story, we can’t be sure it’s valid. Until we achieve true media reform, the people of this country won’t be making informed decisions; we’ll continue to be swayed by the distortions of a corporate-controlled news system, and unqualified extremists like George W. Bush will continue to win elections.

— David Lynch

Liberals live to fight another day

A Republican gleefully e-mailed me after Election Day describing what I stood for as the losing side of things. Whether it was my tiny candidacy for the board of education; Patsy Keever’s validity as a human being and a still-potential member of Congress; Erskine Bowles’ tough race; Inez Tanenbaum’s desire to represent South Carolina as Fritz Hollings had; or Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards’ important fight to make America right again, for all her people and for the sake of the globe, we were all right.

I have been faulted by a Republican for running as a “political activist.” (Thanks.) In my case I merely wanted to help make our schools as good and as proportionately-funded as America’s wealthiest counties.

Let’s get up on Jan. 20 and be activists again, because WNC and America still need a fresh start. Let’s replace City Councilmen Carl Mumpower and Joe Dunn. Let’s make Sen. Elizabeth Dole a one-termer. Let’s start in on the 2006 N.C. Congressional District 11 race now. Let’s get new life and ideas injected into the Democratic Party. Republicans should be easy to beat in every case.

Americans should have flocked to the Democratic ticket without MoveOn.org’s canvassing or phone-banking. The problem was Democrats being afraid to honestly describe the difference between what life in a liberal democracy is like, compared to what we have now.

Congratulations to Patsy Keever, and to folks like Doug Jones, the Progressive Project, and many, many others who got people involved.

— Grant Millin

Who’s attacking whom?

Mahatma Gandhi said “The most violent weapon on earth is the table fork.” Linda McCartney agreed with Gandhi’s simple ethic of nonviolence. When asked what she thought about eating free-range poultry, Linda replied, “Terrific. They run free and then we wring their necks. What’s the difference? To me, it’s all cruelty. And if you eat cruelty or you give your money to buy cruelty, then you’re an accessory after the fact: You’re guilty of murder, too.”

I greatly admired Linda. So when Carolina Animal Action learned that a fundraiser using Linda McCartney’s name and image would benefit a fishing group, we provided the organizers with a link to a video in which Linda denounced fishing (see http://www.fishinghurts.com/). We also provided statements that Linda made about fishing and vegetarianism. We requested that, in honor of Linda, they not raise money to sponsor fishing trips and that the event be vegetarian. I find it unbelievable that anyone could watch the video and read the quotes and disagree. Perhaps dollar signs blurred their vision. They told us that the event would be vegetarian, but that was a lie. They responded to us with vitriolic attacks and the threat of multiple lawsuits. And then three of the organizers wrote a letter to the Mountain Xpress saying they felt harassed, intimidated, coerced, etc. Unbelievable!

I commend the Mountain Xpress for reporting both sides of the issue. But the decision to publish a letter full of unsubstantiated character assassinations is troubling. We’ll all benefit if the Opinion pages of the Xpress raise the bar of discourse in our community rather than become a print version of The Jerry Springer Show. Some people find it easier to denigrate someone with an opposing view rather than engage in honest debate. Let’s bring some integrity back into the dialogue.

— Stewart David

Celebrate life, don’t condemn its protectors

I am deeply saddened by the response of the Asheville community [Letters, Oct. 27] to Stewart and Terri David’s voices in reference to the fund-raising event for breast-cancer survivors. I know the Davids personally, and am shocked to hear them described so vehemently. They happen to be good, gentle people who are doing a very unpopular thing. They are standing up against violence done to those who have no voice. They feel passionately about animal rights, and are not at all ho-hum about it. If people like the Davids do not speak for animals, then animal abuse and animal slaughtering would never be challenged — certainly not by a mentality that can justify it for its own good.

I am a vegetarian, and know many vegetarians. Generally, they are people who abhor violence of any kind, to any creature. Put two and two together. What kind of person could be violent or threatening to another when they cannot stand for another creature, however small or “insignificant,” to suffer or die violently or needlessly?

Sounds like an overreaction by people who had already put a lot of effort into a particular project and were offended [by the idea] that they might be doing the wrong thing in the name of doing the right thing.

Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Schweizer, Ghandi, Linda McCartney spent their lives advocating the rights of animals against suffering and abuse. Isn’t it ironic that the chosen course of celebrating surviving a deadly and dreadful disease is to enjoy taking another voiceless life in turn?

Seems to me, to truly celebrate life is to celebrate life of all kinds. Not just human life. As for the references of war and intimidation, I really cannot figure that one out. The victims of war are usually those who have no voice. I am still trying to get the justification and connection there. Guess I am just getting out of my own skin and thinking too much.

If I were in the country to assist the Davids in their efforts, I would be there handing out leaflets and speaking for the voiceless, as well. Bravo to them for their commitment and their guts [in] doing an unpopular thing.

— Monika Teal

McCartney’s image marred

To Ann Dunn, The Asheville Ballet Guild; Starr Nolan, Casting for Recovery; and Linda McLean and Debra Roberts, Little Pearls [Letters, Oct. 27].

Using Linda McCartney’s image for your charitable event to help the fight against breast cancer, and including Casting for Recovery, a program that promotes fishing, is a slap in the face to Linda’s good vegetarian and animal-rights name. She abhorred fishing and spoke publicly against it many times. How dare you try to defend yourselves. And the food served at this event is not vegetarian?

You should be ashamed of yourselves.

— Barbara Wilson

Housing Fair offered options, hope

Thanks to the Affordable Housing Coalition and the city of Asheville for coordinating the first Affordable Housing Fair on Saturday, Oct. 2, at the Asheville Civic Center. For anyone who missed it, the event brought together all of the organizations active in advocating, constructing and financing affordable housing in the Asheville area. It was amazing to see realtors, homebuilders, banks, advocacy groups and government programs all in one location. I left the event with a sense of hope that buying a home for myself (a single, one-income guy) in town is not a pie-in-the-sky idea. There are options out there!

I am a social worker, and in the past, I have questioned the encouragement that I give to others about their ability to rent or own a home here. Now that I have a clearer picture of the activities taking shape, I am very encouraged. Will these professionals be able to turn the housing market upside down so that all housing is affordable in the Asheville area? Probably not. But what they can do is share years of expertise in working the housing and financial systems in order to make housing affordable, one property at a time.

— Kenneth Kidd
Hospitality House of Asheville

SMART Security would deploy more than weapons

Three years after the 9/11 attacks, the bipartisan 9/11 commission’s call for reorganizing our intelligence bureaucracy has received most of the attention. Another recommendation, perhaps more importantly, calls for a new strategy in addressing terrorism. It questions the central concept of our current approach: that we are at “war” against terrorism.

The report notes that following our military action in Afghanistan, the benefits of military action are quite limited. It concludes, “Long term success demands the use of all elements of national power: diplomacy, intelligence, covert action, law enforcement, economic policy, foreign aid, public diplomacy and homeland defense.”

But the administration’s main claim to success in the “war” on terrorism revolves around preemptive war on Iraq and threats to expand this to other nations. (The commission concluded Iraq had no connection to the 9/11 attacks.)

In focusing on military solutions, the administration is shortchanging the other “elements of national power.” One measure of our failure is the growing anger and hatred of the United States in the Arab world.

We should also be doing all we can to stop terrorists from getting their hands on nuclear materials — but we’re not. Russia still has huge stockpiles of unsecured nuclear materials that could be used to make crude nuclear bombs. We have spent $144 billion on war in Iraq, a nation that had no dangerous weapons, and only $2 billion to secure Russia’s nuclear materials. We warn other nations not to try and acquire nuclear weapons, while the Bush administration is pushing for the development of two new kinds of nuclear bombs — a so-called “mini-nuke” and a nuclear bunker buster.

Physicians for Social Responsibility believes we need a national security policy more in line with the 9/11 commission’s recommendations. That’s why we are promoting SMART Security — a Sensible Multilateral American Response to Terrorism.

SMART Security means strengthening international institutions and cooperative diplomacy. It calls for addressing the root causes of terrorism by investing more in development aid to unstable regions and to international peacekeeping. It focuses on securing all nuclear material worldwide and protecting our ports and borders by enhancing screening procedures and other security measures.

To truly commemorate the lives lost in the 9/11 attacks, we should reflect more deeply on the ramifications of our current policies and what will truly make us more secure.

— Lewis E. Patrie
Physicians for Social Responsibility

When it rains, let it pour

What’s wrong with this picture? Too much water falling from the sky, and therefore people flocking to the stores to buy bottled water. That sums up the ironic situation brought about by the recent floods.

There are better ways to relate to our natural resources and to turn problems into solutions. The most obvious solution would be to capture and store some of that rainwater! Just imagine if everyone had a rain barrel — or better yet, a large cistern — and a nontoxic roof. Then, if the municipal water supply became contaminated or was cut off, there would still be plenty of water. A 1,000-square-foot roof will collect 625 gallons per inch of rainfall.

Consider this: Urban runoff is a major contributor to flooding, and it’s caused by impervious surfaces that do not absorb water. Roofs are impervious surfaces, but water which is collected from roofs is kept out of the storm drains. To take it one step further, consider replacing paved areas with gravel, or bricks with spaces in between. Where vehicles are parked, these “absorption beds” allow oil drips or other pollutants to sink into your local ground instead of contaminating the nearest stream. Plant trees. They not only hold the soil, but capture and slow down runoff.

— Cathy Holt, Permaculture Educator

Self-Help or no help?

Self-Help Credit Union claims to be a nonprofit organization with a client base of middle- or below middle-class people, or even people with credit issues. They claim to help people buy houses and get small business loans. Sure, they give a class or two, and sure, they are a nonprofit. But “help” was not what my friend encountered.

My friend is a single mother who intended to open a small business in the downtown area. She didn’t need a loan or a credit line. She needed a commercial retail location in the downtown area to lease.

Self-Help had a perfect location for low rent. My friend provided information, such as a social security number and financial statement, to the leasing agent more than three months ago, and was told the space was available to her. The leasing agent was fully aware my friend wanted to establish an alcohol-based business there, and fully aware she didn’t have any credit — but had the cash to do so. An inspection roadblock took the state a couple of months to respond to, in her favor. Then my friend went back to the leasing agent to see if the space was still available, and it was.

After a couple of days, the leasing agent called and asked for more information, such as a financial statement and a business plan. A week later, my friend got a call from the director of Self-Help, who had decided not to lease to her. When my friend questioned why, she was told she didn’t have credit. The director’s words: “If you have all of this money, why don’t you lease somewhere else?”

We have since found other locals who were turned out after weeks and weeks of waiting for answers. Self-Help equals Self-Doubt!

— Gerald Salerno

[Editor’s Note: Self-Help Credit Union responds in the following letter.]

Self-Help seeks compatible tenants

We can agree with the [preceding] letter writer on one count: Self-Help Credit Union is a nonprofit and does help low- and moderate-wealth families with mortgage and small-business loans. In Western North Carolina, Self-Help has provided some $37 million in credit to almost 800 homeowners, nonprofits and small businesses since 1989. It provides a valuable service to the entire region. But as a property owner, its responsibilities to its tenants and the community are quite different.

Self-Help purchases and renovates abandoned downtown office buildings, such as the Self-Help Center, to create reasonably-priced office space for nonprofits and small businesses, not nightclubs and bars. Self-Help is within its right to lease to organizations and businesses with few or more-costly alternatives, and to provide a businesslike environment for our tenants and their clients. Clearly, the need exists — the Self-Help Center has been fully leased for years.

Without getting into specifics on the [above-referenced] owner’s finances and business plan, the incompatibility of the business with existing tenants gave Self-Help ample reason to choose not to lease to this business owner. We regret she was so upset with our decision; however, we wish her well with her business. But, for our building, it didn’t fit.

— Shirley Wood, Property Manager
Self-Help Center

Fair tax issue is rather cloudy

Fisher Caudle’s endorsement [Letters, Oct. 27] of the federal “Fair Tax” proposal (H.R. 25) exposes its true sentiments in one key sentence: “Millions who don’t pay income taxes would now pay their fair share.”

Who right now doesn’t pay federal income taxes? Primarily the poor and those on fixed incomes. These “lucky duckies,” as the Wall Street Journal calls them, are supposedly freeloaders on our tax dollars, living the easy life — on the princely sum of $10,000 a year. In short, it makes Caudle’s blood boil that people earning minimum wage aren’t paying their “fair share,” which, under H.R. 25, amounts to $80 more each week than is currently withheld from their paychecks. Those parasites!

It’s absurd, of course. The “fair share” mantra comes from conservative ideologues, such as Grover Norquist, who believe that the only way to reduce government spending is to make the poor come to despise it by having to bear more of its costs. It’s a classic bait-and-switch, accompanied by vast handouts to millionaire pork-barrel pols like [Rep.] Charles Taylor.

So when you hear someone advocating the “Fair Tax,” think “Fair and Balanced,” as in Fox News. There’s a far more accurate term for what Fisher Caudle proposes: “Soaking the poor.”

— Nick Sweeney

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