Letters to the editor

Clearing the air for democracy

Steve Rasmussen’s article, “Who’s In Charge?” [Dec. 7, 2005], regarding the presumed influence CIBO has on air board appointments is Fourth Estate journalistic responsibility at its finest. I am unaware of any other local media — print or broadcast — providing such insights.

In a democratic society, the Fourth Estate is our last bastion of defense against autocratic, imperial or secretive government at all levels. The first responsibility of a truly free and independent Fourth Estate is to challenge authority. Dissent is patriotic. With virtually complete corporate control of major Fourth Estate outlets (and their voices), the role of independent publications such as Mountain Xpress, and journalists such as Steve Rasmussen, Brian Sarzynski and Cecil Bothwell, is essential to the survival of democracy.

For public servants, both elected and appointed, who take umbrage at critical questions or comments, I ask if you really, really believe in “of the people, by the people, for the people”? If not, I offer Harry Truman’s admonishment, “If you can’t stand the heat … .”

— Bob Gunn
Black Mountain

Sharing the feast respectfully

In Stewart David’s recent letter [“Don’t Think, Just Consume,” Dec. 7], he suggests that to keep up with ever-changing dynamics of overfishing and sustainability is nearly impossible, and that it is better to simply not eat fish. He refers to a PETA Web site full of generalities and misinformation and even a section titled “Top 10 Reasons Not to Eat Salmon.”

As an Alaskan commercial-salmon fisherman who brings a good portion of my catch back to sell in Asheville, I have to object. Alaskan waters are still pristine. Its runs of wild salmon are well managed and healthy. My boat isn’t the size of a football field, as PETA suggests; it’s 32 feet long, and with one other crew person, it is pretty darn crowded. All salmon fishing in Alaska is along this model: single-owner small boats, crews from one to three people.

We have almost no by-catch, and due to good management, salmon runs in Alaska are still huge. Truly huge. This summer, the Nushagak River, where I catch the fish that I bring back to Asheville, had its third-biggest sockeye salmon run since 1893. The fourth-biggest run was in 2003. The salmon return to spawn in the tens of millions. It is an awe-inspiring thing to witness.

Yes, the fish die so that we may eat them. I respect that, and I don’t doubt that they feel pain. But they are destined to die soon anyway. The Sockeyes and Chinooks that I catch have already eaten their last meal. In a week or two, unable to live anymore in fresh water, they will be laying on their side, spawned out, seagulls picking out their eyes. This undoubtedly hurts, too. We all fight death, but it’s all part of a natural cycle.

Humans have stood on the same river banks awaiting salmon for tens of thousands of years. The salmon provide a seasonal feast for the gray whale, the brown bear and the bald eagle. To share this feast, to be able to take one’s sustenance respectfully from such a timeless resource, is something powerful indeed. It’s food for the soul.

If Mr. David chooses not to eat fish for ethical reasons, that is his decision. Clearly, he cares about the world we live in and is trying to make wise choices. Information about wise seafood choices is out there. There are store owners and restaurateurs as well as other fishmongers here in Asheville who do know what they are talking about. Me, I know salmon, and anyone wishing a deeper discussion of the issues than is possible here can call me at 231-6377.

— Robert Lebovic

Why quote Mumpower, when he stands alone?

On Tuesday, Dec. 13, WLOS-TV 13 broadcast a news report on the Asheville City Council’s 6-1 vote approving the placement of wireless Internet antennas on a city-owned tower by the nonprofit Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN).

The report quoted only one source, City Council member Carl Mumpower, who objected to the Council’s vote because, he claimed, MAIN is a political organization with a liberal and progressive political agenda. He said public property should not be made available to a political organization, especially at a discounted rate.

The news story also stated that the monthly tower rent is $200. The overall impression of the WLOS news story was that the City Council had made a special concession to a local political organization. The news story was incomplete and thus misleading.

First, MAIN is a tax-exempt nonprofit organization in full compliance with all federal, state and local nonprofit regulations. Tax-exempt nonprofits are prohibited by law from endorsing candidates for political office.

However, nonprofits are not prohibited from engaging in political speech, as the nonprofit media empires of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell amply demonstrate.

Second, the city of Asheville has an established tower rental rate for nonprofit organizations. The city created that rate last spring for another local nonprofit. Third, that nonprofit rate is $200 a month per attachment. MAIN will be placing three attachments on the city’s tower, putting our monthly rent at $600, not the $200 quoted in the WLOS story.

Fortunately, the city of Asheville does not apply a political litmus test to determine who qualifies to rent space on city property. Its commercial and nonprofit rates are available on a nondiscriminatory basis.

While Councilman Mumpower is entitled to his view that the city should have a litmus test for tenants on its tower, viewers of WLOS are entitled to more than one viewpoint on questions of public policy.

— Wally Bowen, Executive Director
Mountain Area Information Network

The gift of freedom

With the holiday season approaching, please let me take this opportunity to offer a special thank you to the courageous men and women who serve in our armed forces.

In doing so, I would like to share with you three quotes from some former American statesmen:

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” (Ronald Reagan)

“Freedom is the last, best hope of earth.” (Abraham Lincoln)

“God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it.” (Daniel Webster)

I’m proud to live in a free country, and I’m extremely thankful for those heroes who continue to fight today on behalf of the United States of America so that freedom may abound not only here, but throughout the world.

— Steven B. Odom

Think for yourself and go vegan

If you truly love animals, the environment and yourself, then you should consider veganism. It’s the best gift that you could give to yourself and your family.

Every meat-eater is responsible for at least 86 animal deaths each year. The suffering that these animals endure from birth until their painful, unjustified death is unimaginable. In order to produce meat, our environment must endure outrageous and unnecessary devastation.

Consider your health. How much more information do we need to help us understand that eating animals is poisoning our bodies? Heart disease is the number-one killer of Americans. Obesity rates are unbelievable. The meat and dairy industries spend billions of dollars to convince us that eating animal products is healthy and even necessary. The sad thing is that it has worked so far. We have learned not to think for ourselves. We lazily depend on what we hear, instead of doing the research ourselves. I believe that most of us just don’t want to know the truth. It’s less convenient.

Our society is driven by selfishness and convenience. We must break this vicious cycle. We must educate ourselves and our children. Please consider compassion. Animals are not ours to eat, to wear, to use for testing or for entertainment. They are not ours to dominate and abuse. Please take a step towards cruelty-free living this holiday season. Give the gift of life.

— Jodi Mann

It’s my home, and my civil disobedience

Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience and Ghandi’s civil-disobedience methods seem too formal, grand and distant to apply to the marijuana issue. However, given the grievous marijuana-related costs in human terms and taxpayer expense, civil disobedience is exactly what is called for. Government has no place either restricting or interceding with those making the marijuana choice, whether for pharmaceutical purpose or for pleasure.

Over the years, starting with Nixon, government “blue ribbon” committees have deemed the effects of marijuana nearly harmless, and yet legislators maintain malicious, criminal penalties. Any rational person realizes that marijuana represents something sinister in the minds of its opponents, which casts those people as being sinister themselves. In their ignorance, they even fear hemp, which is totally benign.

The arguments over the marijuana issue are endless, with a very long list of the whys and why nots. But in the end, we are free to choose for ourselves — the law and those who write and enforce it be damned. No one belongs in my living room except by my invitation. It is my home and my life, and it belongs entirely to me. This right of ownership of my life is a cornerstone of our country, of being an American, [and it should] be yielded to no person.

I will get high when and how I choose, and no one will stop me. This is my act of civil disobedience, and I will endure and thrive by it. When we all stand forth honestly on the marijuana issue to our friends and families, then the law will change. Meanwhile: Smoke all you want — they’ll grow more.

— John Buckley

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