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Letters to the Editor

Coming out celebration
I am writing in response to an article written by Antonia Lilley about pagan parenting ["Children of Nature," Feb. 20]. I was so very delighted to read this essay. I have been an Independent reader for years now and as a parent I have really enjoyed reading the parenting articles by Antonia over the last year or so. As a pagan parent I am encouraged that your paper has taken notice of the pagan community and published such a well-written essay about us. Most, if not all of the time when the topic of pagans is brought up by the press, the articles are not written by pagans and the quality of appreciation and understanding is reflected in the words of the article. Antonia is a wonderful representative of the pagan community and should be recognized for her bravery through which she has opened herself up to the readers of your paper. Thank you for your time. I hope to see more articles of this nature in the future.

Thank you so much for including the essay about pagan parenting by Antonia Lilley ["Children of Nature," Feb. 20]. I enjoyed it so much. I must say that I, too, have been a member of the Children's Circle since its inception. I am so pleased to be able to raise my son in a supportive spiritual community with other pagan parents.

It is so important, as we come "out of the broom closet" that the general public understand that we are a peaceful, nature-loving group. Articles like this one help clear up misunderstandings and promote good will among people of differing religions.

Paving and the public
I want to commend you on your article about asphalt plants ["Paving the Way," Feb. 20]. The article was especially helpful in the way it placed this specific issue in the broader context of how the development, planning, zoning, and rezoning processes favor developers, industries, and special interests at the expense of citizens and neighborhoods. The fact that it would be Durham citizens, especially its poor and minority citizens, and not the asphalt industry representatives or lawyers who would have had to bear the increased health risks and decreased quality of life associated with asphalt plants, reveals just how unfair and unjust these pro-development, pro-industry biases in the planning and zoning processes are. Given these biases, it was heartening to read how citizen opposition to these plants was successfully mobilized.

I also find it shocking that the public "notification" process for proposed zoning text amendments is so weak and half-hearted. At a bare minimum, it would seem reasonable to require that existing community groups like Durham's many neighborhood associations, the PACs, and the Interneighborhood Council be notified of such proposals.

People's Alliance would like to congratulate The Independent and Jennifer Strom for a thoughtful and informative article about the efforts of asphalt companies to place more asphalt plants in poor and minority Durham neighborhoods ["Paving the Way," Feb. 20].

The point was made in the article that with their nearly unlimited time and money the asphalt industry can easily gain access to planning department staff and advocate for the industry's position. Citizen groups rarely have the expertise or the finances to counter the juggernaut that a wealthy industry can put forward. The article quotes planning staff as saying:

"Anyone can walk into the planning office, ask for a change to the zoning law and launch the same approval process the asphalt industry is now pursuing".

This type of laissez faire attitude does not really serve the interests of the entire community. Those with deep pockets obviously have the advantage since only they have the resources to spend on working the system. One way planning department staff could begin to redress these imbalances would be to at least publicize "text" changes (i.e., changes to the zoning law that effect the entire county) as well as they publicize simple zoning changes (such as changing the zoning for a given parcel that allows an area zoned as single family housing to be changed to, say, an office building). As pointed out in the article, text changes only require a small ad in the paper while zoning changes involve letters to neighbors and public hearings. It seems to me that a lot more people in the community would have something to say about text changes if they were properly informed.

Another point brought out in the article that concerns People's Alliance is the appointment of an asphalt industry attorney to the Environmental Affairs Board. This attorney has recently advocated for the asphalt industry's point of view. How is it possible that he can now be objective in considering community concerns about the actions of his former (and perhaps present) clients?

Last, but not least, another subject touched on in the article is what has come to be known as "environmental racism." The asphalt industry, understandably, likes neither the expression nor any accusation that they might be involved in it. When the industry attempts, in a serious manner, to locate an asphalt plant in Hope Valley, then maybe the accusation won't have as much merit.

Enron, Schmenron
Hal Crowther's outrage for Enron is understandable but he is remarkably naive for an aging cynic ["Boiled in Oil," Feb. 20]. Enron is no more going to change the course of capitalism than the $300 billion savings & loan scandal did. Sure it helped triggers limited campaign finance reform but when did that ever plug the flow of money to the pols? Only public financing of elections will ever preclude cash and carry government.

And sure we'll get a lot of bills and some laws, but laws without enforcement don't mean a hell of a lot. The SEC has had a legislative mandate since 1934 to regulate the accounting profession and the repeated reality in redundant scandals and hearings over the past 67 years, has been the profession regulating the SEC's behavior. If one reads Chairman Pitts' "reform" proposals, one quickly realizes that he is still working for the profession.

The AICPA (American Institute for Certified Public Accountants) is one of the sneakiest and toughest lobbies in town ($53 million to pols since 1989) and (like the medical and legal professions) isn't going to really let anybody regulate them. Former SEC Chairman Levit tried to save auditor independence but was humiliated by what he later called the "fiercest and most venal lobbying" he had ever been subjected to. Rep Tauzin (R-LA), now chairman of a committee "investigating" Enron, was a leader in that effort. When the SEC tried to get corporations to account for their stock options properly, the corporate CEOs ganged up on them and forced them to withdraw their recommendations. (Congressmen led by Phil Gramm threatened to cut his budget.)

Sorry Hal, not this time either. We're both going to die cynics. Big money is bigger than our government. Anybody who thinks we're living in a democracy is in a state of fantasy (and maybe that's the best place to be).

Corporate Darwinism
Why is it so difficult for Hal Crowther to admit the strongest attribute of capitalism: the self-correcting feature that removes companies like Enron from the corporate gene pool ["Boiled in Oil," Feb. 20]. Enron's failure is a huge positive thumbs up indicator of economic health!

If one of the largest companies in the world (using every possible bribe/influence on the accounting, political, and media establishments) is unable to prevent its collapse into the dustbin, then America's incarnation of capitalism (while not as truly laissez-faire as I would prefer) is more than healthy enough to reject a cancer like Enron. Kudos for us!

I agree with Hal's description of the symptoms, but my diagnosis of the disease differs. When Hal mentions that corporate pocket change is more than enough to buy favors from the government the answer seems obvious.

I suggest that when government has less power and control over economic activity, it will be less subject to corruption. When government is the only customer, you cannot be surprised by corruption in an effort to make the sale.

Subvert the paradigm
Hal Crowther's article "Boiled in Oil" [Feb. 20] was right on target. Kudos for him to witness to the fact that capitalism without values, values on human and animal life and on the Earth that sustains life, is one which requires huge military outlays to keep the "have nots" from taking from the "haves." The United States, with only five percent of the world's population, consumes 25 percent of its oil, mostly in the form of gasoline. At that rate it would take five Earths to provide everyone on the earth with some of what we have. So add it up, folks. Raise your sons and daughters to fight for our wealth, so the other folks can't have what we have.

Capitalism has a two-tiered value system: profit maximization, and property. All other values, philosophies, religions, etc., are expedient, and evaluated in the light of these two primary values. We'll do business with anyone, as long as they provide us cheap labor, and an open market. Just look at our policy toward China vs. Cuba. It's not about democracy.

We don't need more cynicism, which only maintains the status quo. We need to change the winner-take-all, zero-sum paradigm that fuels our devotion to capitalism. What we need is a new ethical system that places value on life, rather than on its exploitation. We need a broader vision, a vision that allows us to channel the avarice of capitalism toward a good that helps all people of the Earth have a good life, and raises everyone up. That may sound corny and idealistic, but without it, we can expect more wars, and more terrorism.

Easier done than ...
It is relatively easy to avoid "premature exposure" to commercialism ["Premature Exposure," Feb. 20]. Avoid multinational corporations. Don't buy things from them. Don't go to their restaurants, don't watch their TV shows. Buy things from locally owned business firms whenever possible. Then you can speak to the owner directly when you encounter something you don't like, especially inappropriate ads or media for kids.

Multinational commercialism is one of the scariest things on the planet. If you have ever been to Disney World and Epcot, you know what I am talking about. As consumers, our most powerful method of voting is with our wallets! Mary-Russell Roberson should try the buy local technique. She will help keep money in her own community as well ... which then recirculates through the schools, churches, and other institutions of her community.

Worthy choices
It was a pleasure reading Mary-Russell Roberson's opinion piece ["Premature Exposure," Feb. 20] because becoming detached from television is vital for adults, just as it is for children. Roberson was right to shade her child's eyes from the commercial perversity produced by advertisers. The small but effective changes she brought to light at the end of her piece were also important and helpful to mention.

There are obviously good networks providing entertaining programming none of us should take too seriously. It's entertainment. Unfortunately, most of what television beams into our living rooms is symbolic of the kind of gluttony that brought Rome to its knees. Our nation won't be defeated by barbaric hordes sweeping across the Bering Strait into the American heartland. Our society will be defeated by the immoral, money-hungry drones it produces.

An awards program was twice cancelled in the wake of Sept. 11 because its "theatrics" seemed inappropriate. No kidding. Why did we need a tragedy to see the gluttony of television for what it is? And why now is it OK for a scantily clad Christina Aguilera to strut around the closing ceremonies of the Olympics singing about infatuation while grabbing herself?

I love the fact that we live in a society with so many choices. I just wish a few more of the choices were worth choosing.

So as I preach to the choir about the ignorance and arrogance of television, I think it's obvious nothing will change unless we change it ourselves. I'd like for all the visual artists, writers and business folk with an ounce of justice in their hearts to lead the charge. We might not be the ones with the ratings boxes on our televisions but we're the ones with the future in our hands and the talent to share.

As we shade our child's eyes with one hand, let's create something worth watching with the other.

Thou art wrongeth
Bob Geary, in his article on Jesse Helms, "Mr. Mouth," Feb. 27, states, "but the first commandment is to love thy neighbor as thyself. ..." Mr. Geary must not be referring to the First Commandment in the Old Testament since the this First Commandment states--"I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me."

Mr. Geary must not be referring to the First Commandment summed up by Jesus in Matthew 22:37--"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." Nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus or the Apostles refer to loving thy neighbor as thyself as a First Commandment.

This statement is always referred to as a Second Commandment by Jesus.

Does Mr. Geary research his material?

Acting therapeutic
We wanted to write and call your attention to an error we found in an article written about Cinematherapy, an original program on Women's Entertainment by June Spence ["On WE: Ennui," Nov. 7, 2001]. In it, she states that the show's hosts are the authors of the book that inspired the show, Cinematherapy.

In fact, the hosts of the Cinematherapy show on WE: Women's Entertainment, are not the authors of the book, but rather, actresses playing characters named "Kate" and "Jessie." My cousin Nancy Peske, and myself, Beverly West, are the authors of the book, Cinematherapy, the Girl's Guide to Movies for Every Mood, which preceded and inspired the television show. We are not actresses and have never appeared on WE to promote or discuss Cinematherapy and its sequels. We would appreciate it if you would let your readers know this.

We neglected to tell readers that the quote about candy and good behavior attributed to U.S. Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-SC) at the top of last week's Front Porch section came from The Onion, "America's Finest News Source."

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