Thursday, October 26, 2006

Comment on article headline

Keep in mind that I don't write the headline to my columns, just the column itself. Even when I have submitted a column title, the staff at the paper writes their own. Today's column title was "Nation needs a voter revolution". For the record, NO, I did not write that title and it does not accurately reflect the content of the column. Furthermore, it does not reflect what I mean. I did not mean a voter revolution, I meant an ACTUAL one.

Column for October 26, 2006

I learned a few things this past weekend. I went with a good friend of mine to see the movie that opened last week called "Flags of Our Fathers". It is a historical film about the Battle of Iwo Jima. Of course, it is historical fiction, and I don't expect that every detail will be 100% accurate. I do expect, however, that since there are so many people who are still alive from that time period, there was a lot of archival film and pictures, as well as written history about that time period, that major details would be intact.

Not only did I learn about the war effort and that battle in particular, I learned some about America. I enjoy historical movies and documentaries. My mother wasn't even born yet during World War II, and I used to really get into watching old documentaries and movies about the war. I admit that I am a frequent viewer of The History Channel, History International, and The Military Channel. As I write this column, I am sitting in my living room with The Military Channel on in the background, showing a documentary about Iwo Jima. The release of "Flags of Our Fathers" seems to have spurred a lot of programming of similar content.

The politics chronicled in the movie are just as familiar today as in that time. However, the American spirit was displayed as strong and cooperative. It seems to me that the public sentiment has greatly changed since that time period. One thing that I noticed was the American sense of cooperation and coming together for a common goal, victory in warfare. It seems that we have been missing much of that attitude in the United States since about the time of The Korean War. It was certainly missing during The Vietnam War and both Gulf Wars. One notorious example is the whining about the 2.800 soldiers that have died in over three years of combat in Iraq. In just 40 days on Iwo Jima, the United States lost over 6,800 Marines and had over 20,000 wounded. I do not minimize the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq at all. I do, however, want to put things into proper perspective. Americans have lost their collective will, it seems, and have unrealistic expectations.

It may surprise some to find that I was not in favor of our entry into Iraq for the second Gulf War. If for no other reason, I felt that we should have had a Declaration of War from Congress prior to invasion. I am not going to debate or comment on the merits of the war in Iraq or lack thereof in this column. One thing I will say, however, is that while in a time of war, there will be no peace without victory. Once we are committed and engaged, we have no real option other than to see it through.

One noticeable thing in the movie and recorded in historical accounts was that the people of America showed respect for our soldiers in the 1940's. They had a genuine affection for the men who served and for those who died in the line of duty. The American people came together and supported the war effort by financing the war. The disrespect currently shown to our military and to the idea of standing for what is right is something that upsets me as an American. War bonds raised approximately $26 billion dollars just in the 7th bond drive depicted in the movie to support and supply our soldiers and war efforts. For perspective, the entire 1946 federal budget was around $56 billion dollars. Now our government spends that much without thinking twice. That last concept alone should upset any American. Because of high taxation, redistribution of wealth, and out of control spending, I don't believe that we would ever again be able to have the same unity that Americans displayed during World War II.

I believe that we need a major change; almost a revolution in this country to change this. I encourage all of you to consider how you vote in the upcoming election at every level and evaluate what you do personally to change our nation for the better.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Alternate site for audio clip

In case the audio clip I uploaded to my account is not working (the site host is having issues that count my bandwidth usage over four times higher than actual usage and therefore shutting my site down), I have uploaded the file to another site of mine. Here is the link. You still need Real Player.

Column for October 19th, 2006

I wish that everyone would take the time to attend a Town Council meeting once in a while. You get to see things you may never read about, get to know the nature of your elected representatives, and get a glimpse of how your town works at the top level. I try to attend as many such meetings as I am able, even though I have no standing commitment other than personal interest.

Mayor Charles Hester is now almost half way through his first term as mayor. It is hard to believe, I know. He has been an active mayor with an agenda of items that he believes are actionable and of importance to the town. He is moving forward with that agenda on a regular basis.

The one thing I remember hearing quite a bit last year was Mayor Hester's list of 50 items on his agenda. I have not seen that list and don't recall seeing it published. I would like to see that list made public as a "mid-term evaluation". I am not saying anything positive or negative about the list or its existence, not knowing its contents. I was pondering recently about how in the last year, neither I, nor other citizens I know can recall ever seeing the announced list. It is a good thing to look back and evaluate the progress of the town in the last year.

Another member of the Council that I have pondered is Mrs. Jackie Lacy. At the October 10th Council meeting, as a citizen and just plain human being, I had a hard time keeping my mouth shut in the middle of the meeting. On the meeting agenda was the appeal of a town issued demolition order regarding several substandard housing structures.

During the discussion, Mayor Hester said that the need for cleaning up the properties in town is to get rid of worthless properties, properties that do not enhance the town's image, appearance, quality of residents, and tax base. This is a condensation of what he has said, but you get the idea. Basically to get rid of undesirable properties and people.

When Mayor Hester referred to a similar sentiment expressed previously by Mrs. Lacy, she indignantly denied having said so and declared to Mayor Hester, "You would get rid of the whole Negro race!" I even got a copy of the meeting recording to play it back again. That audio clip is now on the internet at

I find this comment to be totally out of order and unacceptable behavior in public office. It is one thing to make such accusatory and racist commentary in private, but when made as a town official at a public meeting, I find it despicable.

I realize that Mrs. Lacy is passionate about her beliefs, and I guarantee that we both have similar viewpoints about treatment of the races. We obviously differ in many aspects of practice of those same viewpoints.

Nothing was really said or done about Mrs. Lacy's comment at the time it was uttered, but it did not go unnoticed. Had it been Mr. Hester making a racist remark or accusation towards Mrs. Lacy, I guarantee that it would have been in daily newspapers, on radio, and on television the next morning.

I do not personally know all of Charles Hester's views on race relations, I don't really care what they are, and I am not defending him with this column. I do, however, believe that there is an inequity of political correctness that is inappropriate in this nation. I further believe that such behavior, regardless of from whom it proceeds, should never be tolerated by either the Council or the citizens of Selma.

I believe that Jackie Lacy owes a formal apology a formal apology for her remarks to Charles Hester and every constituent in Selma. I will be waiting to see a letter of apology in "The Selma News" at a minimum.

If any of the readers of this column are online on MySpace, look for me as user ID troylaplante.

Disclaimer time: No dictionary was used for the purpose of word selection in the writing of today's (or any previous) column.

Audio file I promised in October 19th column

Here is the audio file that I promised in my "LaPlante's Rants" column for October 19th. You will need Real Player to hear it. If anyone wants an mp3 copy of the clip, instead, email me.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Column for October 12, 2006

By the time that this column is published, the thirty days that the Selma Town Council gave to be able to further study the Cotton Mill water tower situation will have expired. The council will have met on Tuesday evening, and perhaps a disposition announced.

I am on record in this very column and on the internet as being indifferent as to whether the tower should stay or be torn down. To me, the tower is an old rusting metal structure. If it comes down, it comes down. "The Selma News" unofficial web poll is overwhelmingly in favor of saving the tower. There are a lot of people who have signed a petition to save the tower. Signatures, however, are not dollars.

One issue in the debate over the tower is the issue of liability. The tower does not have a sturdy fence for perimeter protection. That is one concept that I can relate to. In a previous career, I worked for a public safety organization performing safety inspections and risk avoidance. The word liability was used quite often. We had five times the population of the entire town of Selma and more area to cover. One of the first things I noticed about the old water tower was that there was no fence around its base, creating a possible liability situation for the town. So I can relate to the liability argument.

One thing that I have written about in the past is the issue of liability. There are many situations in town that are potential liability risks and nothing is being done about them. We have uneven sidewalks that I personally have tripped over. During the recent Railroad Days festival, I noticed many cables near the main stage that were not secured and observed people actually trip and almost fall over them as a result. In that situation, we are talking about thousands of people of risk exposure as opposed to few if any tower climbers. I am just an old safety guy talking common sense here.

The latest estimate to tear down the tower is now as low as $5000. The cost of erecting a sturdy fence to protect access to the tower and limit liability is about $3000. Is it worth the three grand to protect a rusting structure that is not being used when another $2000 will tear down the tower and eliminate the risk? Personally, I say it is not.

The problem that I still have with tearing down the tower right now is that even if the cost is just $5000, that is still money that the town wants to spend in a time when our property taxes have gone up, we have eliminated staff, and cut budgets. Five thousand dollars is a small amount of money and we can probably find it in the budget somewhere, specifically in the water budget, I am told.

I am all for limiting liability, but I am also all for fiscal responsibility. To cut employee benefits and positions while at the same time bothering to spend money to tear down a long abandoned and relatively harmless water tower is just plain bad employee and public relations. It fosters a hostile environment for already affected employees and irritates tax payers out of principle.

Do I think that the tower should come down? From a common sense and professional standpoint, yes I do. Yet I can live with or without it and don’t really care if someone steps up to the plate to salvage the tower. I would love to see proponents of keeping the tower given the chance to raise funds to do so. Let people put their money where their mouths are. The reality is that they would never come up with sufficient funds to save the old tower.

Should it be a priority item for the Town of Selma and the issue be raised at this time? No way. If we can find $5000 in any budget, whether it be a revenue generating stream or not, then that is five grand that could be better managed. Where else could we have found more money to squeeze out of some budget instead of raising taxes and cutting employee benefits? That is the opinion of this taxpayer and utility customer.

Reader feedback Oct. 12, 2006

This feedback came in the form of a "letter to the editor" and was published in the Oct. 12, 2006 edition. As I put this online, I still have a smile on my face.

I am still chuckling over this one. I went to the mailbox and pulled out my copy of "The Selma News". I was told ahead of time that I was going to find a stinging letter to the editor this week about my column. I was waiting with great anticipation for today's edition of the paper.

I find it very amusing that any individual would be offended over the idea that another individual can express themselves well with the written page. Perhaps Dave Holmes feels inadequate or threatened by my punctilious writing style. For the record, I do not use a dictionary or thesaurus when writing to find words for my column or blogs. I do use a dictionary when I need to check on spelling of a word and I don't have spell check or even if my spell checker flags a word I think is spelled correctly. Sometimes that happens, too, since not all words found in the dictionary are in spell check. That is the God's honest truth.

Is there something wrong with being relatively articulate? This, by the way, is not the first time that I have been bashed by those who want a "dumbed down" method of communication. Personally, I prefer to write as if I actually received a modest education, as if I am actually attempting to communicate effectively, and at a level worthy of my efforts. I do not write to impress. It is the message that I prefer to convey, not the style. I do believe in conveying those ideas in a style befitting them rather than articulating them towards the least common denominator, which is apparently Dave Holmes. I don't know about y'all (a little "least common denominator lingo" there), but I was taught to write, speak, and even non-verbally communicate in an effective and precise manner; or at least attempt to do so.

Are my opinions conservative? Abso-freakin'-lutely! I make NO apologies for that whatsoever. People generally love or hate commentators such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, and the like. Though I personally look up to Rush as a sort of hero in the broadcast industry, I do not seek to emulate any of them. Others that were loved or hated that I have read behind are Barry Goldwater and William Loeb. I grew up reading The Union Leader, Loeb's daily paper. I still read the online edition and scan for storied of interest to me on a daily basis. I love the conservative politics of Goldwater, having read "Conscience of a Conservative" many years ago, and even the new documentary "Goldwater on Goldwater", which I recorded. I found Goldwater too liberal for me on social issues such as abortion, however. Goldwater was also a heathen, to my knowledge, regardless of his Jewish or Episcopal roots.

Anyway, back to the letter to the editor. My views were not the reason I was not elected to town council last year. I can easily list several right here, as I did almost a year ago. First, I have only lived in Selma for four years now. Three as of the last election. I was not well known in town then. That has apparently changed (snicker, snicker). All other three candidates were known by the public, having been in Selma all their lives. Two of the other candidates were also incumbents. Incumbents always have the advantage of experience and name recognition, not to mention voter apathy. One candidate is Negro, which attracted the minority vote. Combine that with her past work with the NAALCP, and that a strong voting block.

I spent relatively little money ($700 is not little to my budget, but I did learn a lot from that experience), had relatively little time to be able to campaign, etc. I make no excuses for that. It is just the reality. Another reality is that even if I did do a lot of campaigning and spend a lot of money, in all likelihood, nobody else would have beat the two incumbents.

I DID do fairly well by comparison in my own precinct. I got a real good percentage of the vote on the west side (my own side) compared to the eastern side. I came within just 13 votes of the next highest vote getter, who had been on the ballot before, knew far more people, and has been a Selmite all of his life. I was told by several people that I did a lot better than they expected. In retrospect, I guess I didn't do too bad in the election. Many of these factors will be different next time around.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Column for October 5, 2006

Just as I was contemplating the very topic, a former classmate of mine forwarded an email that contained a famous quote. I was unsure about the validity of the quote, so I did some research.

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury." The quote was used by Ronald Reagan and is commonly attributed in one form or another to either French author Alexis de Tocqueville or Scottish professor Sir Alexander Tytler, depending upon the source.

The quote continues, "After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that the Democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy, to be followed by a dictatorship, and then a monarchy." Does that sound familiar? We are living that very loose fiscal policy with our federal and state governments today.

I have been preaching for decades now that the use of welfare, the Social Security system, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Medicare, and other government entitlement programs is nothing more than a clever means to enslave the masses. I will even take it as far as to include our "education lottery" in that category. Basically, people will vote for candidates that will appropriate public treasury dollars to go into their constituents' wallets or some benefits that behoove themselves in exchange for their loyalty and votes. What benefits you get are often dependent upon your level of poverty, which is alleviated by more government subsidy. It often becomes easier and economically beneficial to totally rely upon the government nipple for one's source rather than enjoy the freedom to succeed or fail on one's own.

What did the "Civil Rights Movement" of the Sixties accomplish? That depends upon to whom you pose the question. Personally, I say it accomplished a lot. The equality of opportunity is there. I see it regularly in a multitude of people I know and observe, and relish its effect.

I also see the converse effect. It is a shame that many people whose ancestors were freed from physical slavery have been enslaved their own selves in the mentality that they are not good enough to make it in life without the assistance of the government. This is a travesty, a disservice to any man, and it is an immoral attack upon liberty.

However, that wide sweeping attack upon personal liberty, initiative, and success has been perpetrated upon people of all races and backgrounds in this country. As long as people look to someone other than themselves, their families, and God Himself for their constant supply, then they are enslaved and become serfs.

Enslavement is for the sole purpose of maintaining power over a group of people. Public funds are voted out of the treasury at about every level of government, whether it is constitutional or not. Those monies are funneled into redistribution programs that take the place of self-reliance and liberty.

Do you see that this enslavement has been foisted upon our populace for generations? Now look at the topic of several recent columns that I have written. This same tactic is being used to further enslave immigrants to this nation, whether they are legal or not. When illegal immigrants in this nation are granted driver's licenses, they get to vote. They are granted welfare, food stamps, Social Security benefits, and free health care. The idea is to allow them to vote for those who will continue to give them free money. It is nothing but attempted enslavement for power.

If you pay taxes in this country, then you help to shoulder the burden of this heinous plot. If you pay into the Social Security system with no other plans for retirement, then you have bought into slavery. The same goes for health care, housing, utilities, education, and food supply. I am not talking about a helping hand on a short-term basis, I am talking about life long and generational enslavement.

America is not a democracy, thankfully. We are a Republic. The quote, however, is just as applicable. Exercise your freedom. Take personal responsibility. Throw off the yoke of bondage. Above all, remember this the next time you go to vote.