Letters to the editor

We’re talking N.C., not N.Y.

Sam, please, take it back.

Mr. Wardle’s commentary [“Local Restaurant Workers Need a Union,” Nov. 3] generates concerns that, quite honestly, scare the hell out of me.

As a food-and-beverage professional, I … agree there do need to be reforms in the health-care opportunities for all employees and citizens, but not just those who work in the hospitality industry.

And, yes, it is definitely worth mentioning the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association, though [Sam] did fail to mention the $12,000 that it raised to support and aid the staff of its two member-restaurants in Biltmore Village after the floods that closed those businesses.

There are two words used in Mr. Wardle’s piece that bothered me the most. These words were “union” and “stuckness” … .

It has been my experience that in an industry that has a 300-percent turnover rate of employees, unions only reward the people who do the least amount of work. They do not promote a teamwork environment and do not allow, as Sam stated, “independent restaurant owners … to work right alongside their employees.”

There is no separate union for independent-restaurant workers and chain-restaurant workers. In an industry where the owner of an independent restaurant may wear many hats throughout the course of the day, it is also helpful and appreciated that many dedicated employees are happy to do the same.

Could you imagine walking into a restaurant in Asheville, N.C., and having three servers — standing at the door — refuse to seat you because that is a hostess’ job? That type of hospitality may work in New York City, or maybe that’s why those folks are moving to Asheville to begin with.

As Mr. Wardle stated, “Asheville doesn’t offer the world’s best selection of career opportunities,” so forcing independent restaurants out of business may not be the best solution. If these businesses’ profit margins do not allow them to provide benefits now, what makes anyone think that it would be possible with the larger staffs created as a result of unionization?

And if service staff did get something started, such as ROC-NY, I would hope they would first institute a program that convinces tipped employees to report 100 percent of their earnings — an advantage when trying to borrow money to buy a car or a house. And [it should] provide services that encourage savings, money management and community service.

There is no doubt that Sam is right. Most independent owners “would love to … provide benefits for their employees,” and, in Asheville, “these owners are a remarkable group of people.” For right now, maybe the best thing hospitality staff can do for their preservation and future benefit is to convince owners who are not members of AIRA to become so. I truly believe if you build this group, it will be able to accomplish [what] it has set out to do. …

As for “stuckness,” North Carolina is an “at will” state. That door swings both ways. This may not be a big city, but at least “we’ve got leaf season and the good will of our employers.”

— Tres Hundertmark
An “at-will” restaurant employee

Firsthand knowledge might be smart

The author of “PC Terms Slow Food Truths” [Letters, Nov. 3] has asked why slaughterhouses are not shown? The answer is simple. There is no slaughterhouse involved with the Spring House Natural Meat poultry. It is clear that a simple phone call, or perhaps a visit to the farm, would allow any uneducated person the access to any information on how the poultry is actually raised.

If one is truly dedicated to being knowledgeable, I am sure one would be allowed to witness the slaughter. It is done in small numbers. The chickens are not confined for long periods of time up to the actual slaughter. There is no trucking the birds in small coops to the butcher. Thus the process reduces fossil-fuel usage, as well as decreasing stress on the birds. The birds are not suffering. A point is made by the people involved to make it as easy and humane as possible.

So, speak of falsehoods and exaggerations. The author of “PC” has revealed both of these in his article. Yes, on a national level there are major problems. No one can argue that industrial farming has not presented extreme ethical and environmental problems. It has. I simply want to point out that truly educating yourself on an issue is not all about reading books articles and journals. Anyone can pull facts from those sources. Seek it out; expose yourself to what is tangible. See for yourself.

Vegetarianism is a respectful choice that is appropriate for many people. I personally choose not to eat chicken or pork on a regular basis. I know, however, that the specific animals that you are trying to defend have as good a life as many domestic pets. Look a little deeper. Please consider that, on paper, your position is very strong. In the living, breathing world there are many more dimensions.

P.S. Also, consider that precious land. The alternative to farming it would look like a subdivision. Consider that perspective for a moment.

— Cari Common

No heart for Huckabees

Having just seen I Heart Huckabees after reading the rave review penned by your erratic columnist, Ken Hanke, I can only say that Mr. Hanke should consider finding another job for which he may be better suited. He gave this terrible film a five-star rating, when it actually deserved, at best, only two stars.

In fact, the Skyland Arts Cinema in Hendersonville only kept this film for one week, since it did poorly at the box office — which is really no surprise, as many folks walked out of the theater before the movie was finished.

For years, I’ve been reading Hanke’s reviews in Mountain Xpress and have come to rely on his adept ability to properly evaluate the films that are worth seeing. Now, after viewing I Heart Huckabees, I feel that your reviewer shows poor judgment when recommending this existential comedy.

Not only was the film a mixed-up hodgepodge and its underlying message difficult to understand, it struck out by its extremely offensive language and overtly sexual content.

Frankly, if Hanke can’t do better than giving a rotten film the highest rating, then perhaps he should consider taking early retirement for the sake of the readership.

I’ve lost my faith in your movie reviews and doubt if ever again I will use the reviews as my guide to good and decent entertainment. I’ve now joined the ranks of disgruntled readers.

— Fred R. Chaffee

[Reviewer Ken Hanke responds: I’m sorry the reader didn’t like I Heart Huckabees, but I did say, “The movie will likely polarize audiences … I don’t see much room for middle-ground” — which might have clued him in on the fact that it’s clearly not a movie for everyone. I also noted that it’s a difficult film that doesn’t pretend to have the answers, only the questions. Even the critical populace is split almost down the middle on this film. It has 90 good reviews versus 60 bad reviews on the Internet review collection, Rotten Tomatoes. There are some heavy-hitter detractors (David Denby, Roger Ebert) and some equally heavy-hitter defenders (Andrew Sarris, J. Hoberman), so the response on either side is pretty even. However, if this is indeed the first time in four years I’ve erred this much in my judgment when reviewing an average of 160 movies a year, then I’m not sure I’m doing that badly.]

Let’s adopt Al Kamleen

I have visited and lived in England, Qatar and Sudan during the last two years. I have many memories and stories about these countries.

I take this opportunity to suggest that Asheville City Schools should have a sisterhood relationship with Mekki Shibeika primary school in the city of Al Kamleen, Sudan. I have visited Mekki Shibeika primary school with my father, mother and my brother Marwan last July. The school is located in the city of Al Kamleen, 65 miles south of Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. The school, which was founded in 1902, is recently renamed after my great-grandfather, Dr. Mekki Shibeika.

Professor Mekki Shibeika was a famous Sudanese historian, educator and former vice chancellor of the University of Khartoum.

It is sad to see that the students at Mekki Shibeika primary school do not have a library building, computers, overhead projectors, photocopying machines or even enough English books.

I attended a class and talked to the students at the school. They are smart kids. They also want to be in touch with American students.

I [would] really appreciate [it] if Mr. Logan, Mrs. Moore and my teachers at Jones primary and other schools in Asheville consider to establish a sisterhood relationship with Mekki Shibeika primary school. Asheville City Schools can also develop a learning-cultural project by communicating regularly with the teachers and the students at Mekki Shibeika primary school. We can also exchange information about our countries, providing them with books and technical assistance.

We can learn from their experience about how can we incorporate teaching about Africa and the Middle East in our curriculum. After all, we live in a global village.

— Ghassan Abunura
Mrs. Lifchez’ fourth-grade class
Ira B. Jones Primary School

Birth control begins at home

I want to thank Mountain Xpress for your disciplined, local focus that has helped me see the fundamental error in most progressive tactics and current, self-inflicted defeat and despair. The reality is that the 2005 elections were always more important than the 2004 ones.

National birth-control advocates wouldn’t believe me before, but please believe me now when I say that the U.S. federal government is hopeless and therefore not worth our energy. It has been decisively proven once again that we are a political minority in the United States, and no amount of compromise can ever change that. This should not be news. Our only hope is to build, first, local — and then perhaps state — majorities for birth control and abortion funding, the way we gay-rights advocates successfully did in Massachusetts.

North Carolina has municipal elections next year, which [decide] school boards and deserve 100 percent of our attention, leaving none for Bush or Congress. Roe is history now, and the issue will fall to state legislatures. Have we devoted the kind of attention to these races that we need to, to keep abortion legal in some states?

We need to start organizing to move people — especially young people — as necessary to build majorities in selected states and counties with mild climates and affordable housing. Oil prices will soon make the Northeast unlivable, and housing costs rule out the San Francisco area, Portland, Seattle and Hawaii.

Localities have a huge and direct incentive to fund family planning, and to reduce class size and education costs without compromising quality. We can force at least some of them to realize this is where we are concentrated, and if we can’t, we must move (meaning change domiciles) to concentrate our votes further until we can. Then we can use those towns as examples, like Massachusetts, for the nation and world.

P.S. I voted for Kerry but refused to waste much time on him because Grant Millin was more important.

— Alan Ditmore

Where are the peacemakers?

War is wrong always.

Why is no one speaking these words? Where are the peacemakers?

War is wrong always. This is my true belief. This is what I was taught as a child, before I was old enough to understand all the caveats and the justifications for war.

In the early times of human history, wars were waged between tribal groups to gain possession of land, property or women. Presumably, these people had not yet developed a moral code to guide their behavior. As modern morals were developed and taught, war continued, but was justified by religious leaders who lived in obeisance to the king. All religious tenets and all true religious leaders have always opposed war.

This trend continues in modern times, with so-called religious people often in the forefront of the cries for war. In modern war, the young, poor and powerless are indoctrinated and sent to die for the benefit of the old, wealthy and powerful. The kings no longer lead the battle charge, but watch from a safe distance. The priests stand by their side.

Like most citizens of this country, I have never seen war with my own eyes — only on television, in books and in movies. Perhaps this is part of the problem. Sitting in my comfortable chair, I can only imagine what it feels like to have my body torn apart by burning hot bullets or shrapnel, or to have a leg blown off by a land mine. Yet … as I sip my morning coffee, men are lying on battlefields and in makeshift hospitals, wounded and dying in terrible pain. At this moment, wives and children are crying in grief and wondering how they will survive.

As a child … I witnessed a friend wounded by a .22 rifle. … He had gone hunting with his father and an accident happened. His wound was minor; the bullet entered his arm near the elbow and exited the other side … yet my friend was screaming in pain and fear as I had never heard a child scream before. I decided in that moment guns had no place in my life. I want to be a peacemaker; I have done far too little.

All justifications for war are self-serving. War is wrong always.

— Jeff Hersk

Counting votes and noses

Kathy Dopp noticed something startling after compiling official Florida state election information into a table, available at http://ustogether.org/Florida_Election.htm.

While the heavily scrutinized touch-screen voting machines seemed to produce results in which the registered Democrat/Republican ratios largely matched the Kerry/Bush vote, in Florida’s counties — using results from optically scanned paper ballots fed into a central-tabulator PC, and thus vulnerable to hacking — the results seem to contain substantial anomalies.

[According to these statistics], in Baker County, for example, with 12,887 registered voters, 69.3 percent of them Democrats and 24.3 percent of them Republicans, the vote was only 2,180 for Kerry and 7,738 for Bush, the opposite of what is seen everywhere else in the country where registered Democrats largely voted for Kerry.

In Dixie County, with 9,676 registered voters, 77.5 percent of them Democrats and a mere 15 percent registered as Republicans, only 1,959 people voted for Kerry, but 4,433 voted for Bush.

To explain this phenomenon, some point to the “Dixiecrats” — registered Democrats who vote Republican. But apparently Dixiecrats only live in the counties where optical scanners were used. Franklin County, 77.3 percent registered Democrats, went 58.5 percent for Bush. Holmes County, 72.7 percent registered Democrats, went 77.25 percent for Bush, and so on.

And this appears to be only one way in which those exit polls could have been so wrong in Florida, Ohio, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada and Iowa. Hmmmm.

— Dalton Stansbury

Believe in a politics of kindness

Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda, said that, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will come to believe it.” Apparently, many Americans have sadly reached that place through being cowed by a politics of fear.

Nov. 2, I was proud to have my 13-year-old son with me as we campaigned for John Kerry at our local precinct. During that time, I met many wonderful people who epitomized what the Democratic Party is about — a politics of kindness. I am grateful to remain part of that community.

Jimmy Stewart said it best in the movie, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Sometimes what appear to be the lost causes are the best causes to fight for, because of one simple rule: Love thy neighbor.

Let us continue in our fight and be faithful to our values. It is our choice in steadfastly taking a higher road that will ultimately lead us to a higher ground.


— Trip Woodard

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