Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Christians and the Pagans

I found two editorials published today in the Asheville Citizen-Times to be deeply offensive. One by Bruce Steinbicker and another by Jean Franklin.

According to these two guest editorials, the vigorous defense of a Christian Christmas can be described either as "pitching a hissy fit" or a "sideshow" or a "tempest in an eggnog cup."

I'd like to see these writers apply their arguments to all those people who claim to be offended by Christian religious symbols during this season. Are they pitching a hissy fit? And can we apply this same argument to those who are offended by racial epithets. Are they engaging in a sideshow or stirring up a tempest in a teapot? The simple fact is that some things are worth defending. And the preservation of the distinctly Christian character of this seasonal holiday is one of them.

Also, in her editorial, Jean Franklin arrogantly digresses into a lecture on the etymology of the words Christmas and holiday which I found condescending and irrelevant. This is commonly known as a "red-herring" argument. It’s a way of introducing a divergent topic in order to change the subject. And change the subject she did by then quoting a Leftist, anti-Walmart propaganda film as her source of information for the purpose of reiterating tired anti-capitalist clich├ęs.

Bruce Steinbicker, in his editorial, refers three times to "right-wingers" and disingenuously asks that they explain themselves in all of this. I had not considered that the defense of Christmas was the exclusive charge of the Right. Now I know.

Steinbicker concludes his snarling editorial by suggesting that we Christians should emulate an even better holiday than Christmas: Kwanzaa. That’s the phony holiday cooked up by a Black militant in Los Angeles in the 60’s specifically designed to compete with Christmas and divide people along racial lines.

The central subject, which Mr. Steinbicker and Ms. Franklin work so hard to obscure, is the intentional and aggressive de-Christification of a specifically Christian holiday by a cultural elite that is emboldened by the passivity of the complacent faithful. Now that that passivity has been shaken off and a campaign to preserve a valued cultural heritage has been successfully mounted, they want to cry foul and lash out with sanctimonious sarcasm and juvenile, hate-filled rhetoric to denigrate all those who would dare to speak up in the face of their transparent assaults.

It sounds like somebody's having a hissy fit and needs a "time out."

Friday, December 23, 2005

Bowen Can't Take Yes For an Answer

In a recent letter to the Mountain Xpress ("Why quote Mumpower, when he stands alone?" 12/21/05), Mountain Area Information Network, (MAIN) Director Wally Bowen complained that TV station WLOS quoted Asheville City Council member Carl Mumpower, and no one else, even though the motion to waive market-driven pricing on antennae placements and offer MAIN a discount was approved 6-1, Mumpower dissenting.

Mr. Bowen, claiming that the report was incomplete, although not in error, first charges that Mumpower brought to Council's attention that MAIN is a decidedly political organization; a factual claim that Bowen reinforces himself saying, "nonprofits are not prohibited from engaging in political speech." The problem here is that no one has disputed MAIN's right to promote a distinctively partisan political point of view--which indeed it does. On any given day, you can find some mention on MAIN’s website of the standard Leftist complaints and tired arguments. Mr. Bowen then admits that "Mumpower is entitled to his view." So much for argument one.

The reason Dr. Mumpower was quoted by WLOS was because he pulled the item off the Consent Agenda and was the only Council-member to comment substantially on the matter. “Why quote Mumpower when he stands alone”—asks Bowen? Mumpower should have been quoted precisely because he stood alone. That was the story: Mumpower’s dissent!

Second, Bowen takes pains to explain that his monthly rent would be, not $200, but $200 thrice, since MAIN intends to employ three antennae at the discounted rate. Here again, Bowen is not presenting any new compelling information. As he states himself, rent would be set at $200 per unit, as factually reported by WLOS. This is well under the $600/month normally required to compensate the City for their cost of doing business. And who picks up the tab for the difference between cost versus discounted rent payments? The already tapped-out City residents who generate tax revenues..

That city taxpayers will subsidize three antennae instead of one is a bookkeeping detail that does not significantly alter the facts as reported by WLOS. MAIN will be paying a reduced $200 per unit no matter how many they choose to rent, one or one hundred. So much for argument two.

What Bowen fails to appreciate in his misapplied rejoinder is the essence of Mumpower's dissent: MAIN, being primarily a partisan political media organ, in this case on the Left, should not be afforded the consideration that Council majority has given due primarily to its explicit intellectual bias and its rather transparent motives.

Bowen’s intent, it seems clear, is to extend his influence beyond Asheville and across the mountains by supplying a seemingly innocuous service to needy subscribers that will then draw them to his websites, newsletters, and radio programs with the aim of immersing a captive audience in his political bias. This will be the first step in putting the imprint of Leftist Asheville onto a greater Buncombe County and sets in motion the fulfillment of Bowen’s vision—one presumably shared by City Council—which is to insidiously convert county residents to his political persuasion and then deliver them to a national Leftist movement—ideally, in time for critical elections.

Our new progressive City Council has allowed a nonprofit organization that shares their own partisan political leanings to offset their expenses using the property of the hard-working tax producers of Asheville. Then certain Council-members turn around and reap the benefits of their own largess by subscribing to services provided by MAIN whose operating expenses have now been reduced by direct Council action. Mayor Bellamy and Council-members Jones, Davis, Freeborn and Newman all have accounts with MAIN; and Robin Cape used to host a program on MAIN’s radio station WPVM: The Progressive Voice of the Mountains. In the vote to allow subsidies for MAIN, these Council members should have recused themselves. That would have left Mumpower alone to decide the matter. (Would it were so.)

So it would seem we have expanded our working definition of what it means to be a progressive on City Council: To cavalierly hand out sweetheart deals to their pals at our expense as they laugh all the way to the Westville Pub. (Oh, for joy.)

Despite Wally Bowen's insistence that we thoughtlessly treat his own private Wally-World as just another generic, run-of-the-mill nonprofit—in the end, we cannot. And, indeed, must not.

And City Council should not be in the business of handing out favors to its favorites, Left or Right.

Bowen's letter to the Mountain Xpress has been reprinted in the Wed Dec 28th edition of the Asheville Daily Planet (pg. 14).

Bowen's letter to the Mountain Xpress has also been reprinted in the Wed Dec 29th edition of the Asheville Citizen-Times.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Wal-Mart Forum

Last night, the development team for the proposed west end Wal-Mart Super Center held a public forum at the West Asheville Community Center to share their plans for the project and field questions and concerns and take any other input on their large development initiative that the community might want to provide.

One Leftists in the crowd rudely interrupted the opening presentation by insisting that he be able to begin the question-and-answer period on his own timetable rather than allowing the speakers to finish the overview.

The question period having now begun, other angry voices piped in to express their own personal resentment regarding general issues related to Wal-Mart and its operations. This was not the intent of the forum and I took the opportunity myself to shout down these interruptions and point out that this was not an activist session.

Shortly afterwards the most vocal Leftists walked out and the civil portion of the meeting got underway. There were still some passionate questioners and some hostility sprinkled throughout the rest of the meeting, but by-and-large genuine concerns were being raised about noise, light, traffic and housing displacement. These concerns were all addressed by the development team, which included a Wal-Mart attorney for the project.

It appeared that many in the audience did not understand the process of zoning, regulation and city government in general and I can certainly sympathize with that. Catching that tiger can require a certain stamina. But it seemed that the disgruntled minority simply thought that they could disregard the systematic process that brought us to this point and show up at one meeting, express a few tight little anti-capitalist bromides, sign a petition or two and then this would all go away.

And while all this confusion and cross-talk proceeded, we actually had a member of City Council sitting quietly in the audience with us through the entire meeting: Bryan Freeborn. Mr. Freeborn had nothing to say on any subject but instead listened attentively while citizens discussed buffers, tree-planting, zoning, business development, net job loss, the morality of the marketplace, and a host of other issues; many of which the developers were not there to discuss but which would be more proper to bring to planning boards and City Council.

Finally, one last lonely Leftist (sitting next to Freeborn, by the way) spoke up saying, "I don't think we need another Wal-Mart. I won't be shopping there and no one I know will be shopping there."

In response, I raised my hand and said, "I love Wal-Mart and I love shopping there every day." This elicited a smattering of laughter and some goony looks from the crowd. Then the developers decided to wrap the meeting on that positive note and we adjourned for the evening.

Afterwards, Leslee Kulba and I compared notes and agreed that Asheville has a long way to go in understanding basic economics, the law of supply and demand, and that, contrary to one questioners complaint that the voice of the people was not being heard, the real voice of the people could be found in the poster-sized architectural renderings and photos of the new proposed Wal-Mart destined to rise up on the west end and satisfy a felt need that they would only be happy to fill.