Sunday, December 30, 2007

Column for Dec. 28, 2007

Do we REALLY want change? I doubt it.

I have been reflecting over the course of events both in my personal life and here in my community for 2007. I must say that there have been significant changes, probably some of the biggest changes I have personally ever gone through. In some things, however, I can say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. There is one local shop owner who laments to me every time he sees me, "Ah, Troy, my friend, I'm telling you...people in this town, they don't want any change!"

So what has changed here in Selma this year? Some houses and old dilapidated buildings were torn down. Some stores were sued. Some properties were going to be annexed but that may well be held up in court or nullified. We have a new fire chief on staff. What has remained the same? The same potentially illegal and dirty political tricks were employed in this year's municipal election. The same town council with one exception has been elected. Will our course as a town bring more change or maintain status quo?

There are all sorts of opinions as to the efficacy of the current administration here in town. I have heard from several different sides of arguments and concerns. I have talked to people who know this town's government better than most anyone and gotten some insights as to how things were run in the past and are currently being run. That is always a great benefit to me personally, since I get more than one side to a story or situation. I am not going to write about those perspectives or people, since I agreed to not do so, but I encourage everyone to ask questions rather than to take every statement, position, or situation you hear as the truth. Often truth is subjective, which is what defines politics.

I personally stand for what is right, not necessarily behind an individual. For instance, I did believe that there were some inefficiencies in our town spending that could have been tightened and they were. I believed that we needed to have a fire chief in Selma for various reasons. I stood by that position regardless of the hate mail I got, the names I was called, the acts of cowardice such broken glass that was purposely sown at the end of my driveway, anonymous comments left for me, people knocking on my door in the middle of the night and running off, vicious rumors, and a few other things.

Right is right. I have no aversion to standing up and taking a few tomatoes thrown my way for taking a stand. If I am wrong, I am wrong and will change accordingly. I had this conversation on several occasions with people I have known. That "take a stand" mentality has both gained and cost me relationships and friendships this year. As I study more and more about original intent and history of the Constitution as well as the Revolutionary War period, I come to understand more and more what was meant by "with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

I can not begin to describe the changes I have made and have endured in my personal life. In reflection on 2007, I can honestly say that this has been one of the most exhilarating and yet painful years of my life. I recall the beginning to the book, "A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens. It begins, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." That truly describes my year. I began on a tepid plain, went through a long, fiery plateau, traveled through a furnace of a valley, and have ascended a mountain all this year. And yet through it all, I have grown as a man.

For the town of Selma, however, I can see where we have had many things stay the same. We have debated growth, we have redefined a few things from within, and yet this year is pretty much the same as any other of the past two years. We have made some progress in some areas, yet possibly regressed in a few others. Can we as a town, a county, a state, or a nation endure the changes necessary for true progress? Personally, I doubt it. Changes can be more easily effected on the local level, but I don't know as though people are ready for it. If people were ready for it on the county and state levels, we would have radical changes in leadership. The quadrennial election cycle is forthcoming, and I just do not see the resolve in this nation for a change from our present course. The ones that do have the resolve are being lampooned as lunatics, and yet I display my resolve for change on my front door. This paradigm seems to trickle down to the local levels of government.

What will 2008 bring? Will it bring change to Selma, Johnston County, North Carolina, or the USA? I can see some personal changes coming for the better. I can only pray I will see it on a grand scale, as well.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Column for Dec. 20, 2007

Demonstrating the Christmas spirit of giving

Every so often, I get the opportunity to be witness to acts of true love. These past few weeks, I have seen people give selflessly to others and show the true spirit of Christmas. One thing that I have said for years is that I would rather be the church than "go to" church. I would rather never darken the door of a church building and do as James wrote, "show you my faith by my works" than do just the opposite. This is the spirit we are supposed to celebrate at Christmas. God gave his only begotten son, which is what we commemorate each year on December 25th, and again in the Spring when we celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Christmas may get more attention each year, but without what most refer to as Easter, nobody would care about Christmas.

There is one couple who is very dear to me. They have been close friends for over fifteen years, have seen me through some tough times as well as some good times. Just today, as I am writing this, they are blissfully celebrating the love they have for three special girls. These three girls have been in the foster care system for almost six months now. Their mother could not continue to care for them, since she had to leave her abusive husband for fear of her own safety and that of their five children. The three girls were split up and put in foster care, along with the twin baby boys, after the mother could not support the family on her own. I personally know this mother, having been introduced by the proud, new foster parents that I call friends, and also now call the mother a friend.

This couple was happy to take in these precious girls, ages 2, 4, and 6 years. They have selflessly gotten toys, clothes, food, car seats, and bedding supplies for these children, as well as spent a great deal of time in preparation wading through the government bureaucracy, the eventual arrival, and now the actual care for these girls as a total labor of love. These girls were going to spend Christmas apart, in two different foster homes. Now, because of the relentless labor of love by one special couple, the girls will be spending Christmas together in a loving home and get to know the true meaning of giving.

Another act of kindness I have personally witnessed on more than one occasion is by another person with whom I am well acquainted. This man does something that I personally recommend to each and every one of you reading this column. This man travels frequently across North Carolina, sometimes into South Carolina, and up and down the eastern seaboard on occasion. I have personally seen this man take the opportunity to take the time to thank men and women who serve in our armed forces.

How he does this, as his favorite method of expressing gratitude to our military, is when he is dining out during his travels and sees military men or women in a restaurant, he will either simply ask the wait staff to bring him the tab for the soldier(s) or personally walk over to the military personnel and ask to pick up their meal tab and tip. If the wait staff is agreeable to bringing him the check, he personally walks over to the military personnel when they are about to leave, tells them that he is picking up the expense of their meals, shakes their hands, looks them square in the eye, and thanks them for their service to our country.

He does not go to them to tell them he is getting their meal to give his gifts before men, but rather to let them know why he is paying for their meals and to express personal, heart felt gratitude. I find that to be classy. Having witnessed this simple yet effective means of thanking a serviceman or woman, I have continued this tradition during my travels. If more people would also take up this idea as a means of materially as well as verbally expressing gratitude for service and sacrifice for our nation, I do believe that we will foster a better relationship with our military, indelibly mark the consciences of fellow men and women, as well as foster personal habits of expressing gratitude. Won't you try this same thing the next time you see someone in uniform at a dining establishment? Why not try this in other variations, such as for clergy, police, fire, or other such people who often work thankless jobs for the benefit of the greater populace?

I know that this week's column is a bit more sappy than normal, but I wanted to write this as my way of hoping that just before Christmas arrives, that you will know and maybe yourselves demonstrate what it means to give at Christmas time.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Column for Dec. 13, 2007

Enslavement of the soul and wallets

Why do we mortgage our future for the sake of some amount of control and political gain in the short term? One thing that liberalism has done to our nation is quite frankly, enslave the masses into a paradigm of selfishness for short term reward and a lack of long term gain.

We see this in such things as the continued use of affirmative action, welfare, prescription drug programs, earned income tax credits, Medicare, and Social Security. These programs make promises of long term gain, but the measurable gains are in fact few. The promise of a long term retirement plan was sold to previous generations in the form of Social Security benefits. Many use this as a primary method of planning for retirement instead of doing anything on their own. People look to the government for a minute fraction of a return on investment. Welfare recipients get a government check that keeps them in economic bondage, just as Social Security recipients. Entire generations of people are being limited as to the amount of money that they can earn or face losing the entitlement payment they wish to continue receiving.

When someone can get more money from the government for doing nothing than earning a living and taking personal responsibility for their own well being, then the government usurps the role of God as a provider and becomes an idol to be worshiped at the altar of a check or automatic direct deposit notification. What is the purpose of this manipulation of the economic system? Power. People who suckle at the teat of the government funding sow tend to vote for those who will perpetuate their hand outs, thus keeping them in power.

Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1787 and delivered to the Constitutional Convention the following words, as excerpted from the notes of James Madison. "Sir, there are two passions which have a powerful influence on the affairs of men. These are ambition and avarice; the love of power, and the love of money. Separately each of these has great force in prompting men to action; but when united in view of the same object, they have in many minds the most violent effects." This is true of both the ones who provide the dole and the recipients.

Another form of economic slavery is the mortgaging of our own futures for the sake of short term solutions. With all the recent attention paid to the collapse of a bridge in Minnesota and a parking deck in Charlotte, we in Johnston County are dealing with the state of our bridges over Interstate 95. Johnston County has the oldest stretch of I-95, since the interstate began here. We also have the lowest bridges as a result. Overpasses are often being hit by trucks and closed. The bridges get repaired and then get hit again. Instead of replacing the bridges, the Department of Transportation, in their infinite wisdom, is going to pay to raise the bridges so that they do not get hit any more. We are going to pay almost $4 million to raise the same, old, damaged bridges about one foot. Why not just replace the bridges now? It will cost more, but we are also talking about the oldest bridges on the interstate. We have old, banged up bridges, and instead of replacing them with wider, newer, better engineered bridges at the same time, we are going to just raise the old ones. This is abject stupidity to me and a waste of tax payer money. This is one instance where I firmly believe that we should spend more money now to save some later.

Why do we have the problem of needing, nay, wanting to spend less now and then turn around to spend even more later? Because a huge portion of our budget is going to entitlement programs. Both the federal and state governments are doling out cash like a sailor on shore leave to those who will take it. People who are not even citizens and citizens alike get free money, housing assistance, food assistance, transportation, health care, and tax credits at the expense of the rest of us who foot the bill.

Why do we allow the corruption of our values, the sale of our tax money for votes, the enslavement of our people, the abrogation of responsibility, and the pillage of tax payers? Benjamin Franklin had it right, and we tolerate it as a people to our own demise.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Column for Dec. 6, 2007

I do love my liberal friends, honest I do.

I have been told that I am rather opinionated. I don't mind being considered such, since we all have opinions. Some of us are just not as afraid to express them as others. If I was afraid to express them, then I would not be sitting at my computer writing this column each and every week and you would not have the pleasure (or not) of reading my rants.

For Thanksgiving, I was invited to a friend's house to fellowship with the family. I knew enough about this person's family to avoid topics of politics and religion. For those of you who have read my columns for any length of time, you know that I am not the least bit afraid to tackle those topics at all. It is amazing that I was a really good boy. I kept my mouth shut for quite some time. The family members were the ones engaged in discussions of topics relating to politics and religion. I kept hoping that the discussion would be limited to those participants and they would leave me out of it. But nooooo! Sure enough, I was asked my opinion, and good ol' Troy had to be Troy and be honest.

One thing about my opinions and perspectives is that I have consciously spent a great deal of time working on them, pondering them, reading, praying, and refining them. In short, I put thought into what I believe and why. This was not always the case. I used to be fairly liberal in many of my views and a bit conservative in others. Once I realized how emotionally based my liberal views were, and usually baseless, I changed those views. Even today, some of my views are being shaped and refined as I grow older. Even just living in the South for two decades has rendered some perspectives I would not normally have.

I was asked my opinions on things such as the death penalty and abortion. Those are two heated debates and I don't pussy foot around them. When told that someone has a faith of a certain religious order, and then start quoting Bible verses outside their context or intended meaning, I am not the type to just nod my head. For instance, I was told that the Bible says, "Thou shalt not kill" and therefore we should not put convicted murderers to death. At the same time, I was told that it is not right to tell a woman what she can and can not do with her own body and therefore it is acceptable to abort a fetus. My response was simple and logical, that I was just told that "thou shalt not kill" apparently does not apply to a baby; that it is wrong to punish the guilty but fine to slaughter the innocent. Of course I also had to expound on the fact that the death penalty was instituted by God Himself and that "thou shalt not kill" refers to murder, not the justified taking of human life. But I guess that I was not smart enough to stop there. I even offered to be the one to flip the switch on "Old Sparky", the electric chair since that is how much I stand by my conviction and know it is right. And I have not even gotten to the part about talking with a Jewish woman about her love of eating ham with our dinner.

I used to feel the same way as my friends about abortion. By way of confession, when I was a young, stupid heathen, several of my own children were killed in the womb for the sake of convenience. I am neither bragging nor flagellating myself over it. I am merely stating fact to demonstrate the concept that my views have changed over time and I realized how illogical my thought process was.

I usually find most all so called liberal thought patterns to be rather illogical and rooted in emotion. By way of example, my friend is a liberal Catholic and big time Hillary Clinton supporter (why someone would even think about voting for someone so evil is beyond my comprehension). I, on the other hand, am a conservative Protestant (for lack of a better term for it, though I don't consider myself Protestant or protesting anything) who thinks that Hillary is about the closest thing to the Anti-Christ we will see in these United States.

The ironic thing that I find about liberals is that they often skewer conservatives as being narrow minded and intolerant. Actually, I often find the reverse to be true. I tolerate the opinions of others, even among close friends. I have friends that are Christian, agnostic, atheist, homosexuals, and heterosexual. Just because I believe that someone is wrong does not mean that I can not tolerate them as people or debase them in any way. What I find ironic and often hypocritical is the claim that having convictions makes a conservative narrow but makes a liberal open minded. I find that the liberal is often the one intolerant of contradictory views.

Now that I know that I will never be invited for Christmas dinner or even get a Christmas card because I was asked my views on politics and religion and hold fast to those views, I just shake my head in amazement.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Column for Nov. 29, 2007

The AARCLU strikes yet again

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"… What is so hard to comprehend about that statement? Obviously, it is the beginning of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. There are those who are attempting to use both the court system and intimidation to rewrite not only the definition of religion but of the act of Congress making a law.

Our old nemesis, the American Civil Liberties Union, falsely so called, has been at it again. These God hating secular communists have continued to attack the Carolinas. I have talked to leaders from two different anti-ACLU organizations that have confirmed that the ACLU has been targeting towns, counties, and schools in both North and South Carolina for action to remove any vestiges of Christianity from our lives. I did say that the ACLU was full of communists. In looking at the origins of the ACLU, you will find that the organization does, in deed, have communist roots.

Two more North Carolina school systems have now been attacked by the ACLU. Earlier this month, Harnett County Schools knuckled under to the ACLU's demand to stop allowing The Gideons to distribute Bibles to elementary school students. The ACLU claimed that it was a violation of Constitutional rights to allow Bible distribution in the schools, and the school system decided to comply rather than resist. The very concept of forbidding the distribution of religious materials is actually the abridgement of Constitutional rights, not the allowing of the activity.

Allowing the Gideons to distribute Bibles does not comprise Congress making a law that establishes an official religion, or respecting one religion over another. Congress had nothing to do with the Harnett County School system or the Gideons. Why is this so hard to comprehend?

In Fayetteville, a mother of a fifth grader filed a complaint with the ACLU about the fact that Bibles are available for the taking in her son's classroom. The Bibles are not being pushed on the children, mind you, they are simply sitting there and available for children to take one if they want one. Of course, the ACLU says that this is against the Constitutional rights of the students.

How does the mere presence of a Bible violate the rights of anyone or establish a national religion? Why do Americans readily accept this garbage from a bunch of God hating communists? Why do we allow the courts to destroy over two hundred years of Constitutional procedure, principles, and tradition? I say it is because Americans are woefully ignorant of their own form of government, which is a planned thing. For years, American students have been "dumbed down" by a long term, planned process. When people fail to understand their history and heritage, they can not defend, appreciate, or even know to look to it for guidance.

Lately I have been reading through James Madison's notes from The Constitutional Convention and I am amazed at how some of the same arguments we have today were going on in 1787. The difference is that the people at that convention realized what they just came out from and some things to avoid. I doubt that the vast majority of people in this nation today have any clue what we are, where we truly came from, and why things are set up the way they are. Groups like the ACLU prey upon that situation and such an ill informed, secular populace.

The Anti-American Restriction of Civil Liberties Union (AARCLU, as the ACLU should be renamed) is not into the preservation of civil liberties. Nowhere is the Constitution is the freedom from being offended by the mere presence of a religious artifact, symbol, or book considered to be a civil liberty. There is a guarantee of freedom OF religion, but not freedom FROM religion. To claim absolutely that Bible distribution on school grounds is against Constitutional freedoms is absurd, intellectually dishonest, and nothing but a communist heathen agenda meant to crush your own freedoms.

If anyone wants to learn more about the original intent of the Founding Fathers, the writing of The Constitution, or get your own pocket copy of the document, feel free to contact me and I will gladly assist you.

Don't let the AARCLU bully your schools, your towns, and your counties into falling for their agenda or suffer the threat of lawsuits. They tried that with Selma and Forsyth County already. Tell your leaders to take a stand and tell the AARCLU to go pound sand.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Column for Nov 22, 2007

Thanking God at Thanksgiving

This week, we as a nation celebrate a sacred holiday. It is not as big a holiday as it should be. Thanksgiving is a day for just that, giving thanks. I am often dismayed at the idea that it is simply a day to have a feast, eat domesticated turkey, gorge ourselves on the abundance with which this nation has been so blessed, and watch football. To many, it is but a day or two off from work and the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.

It is bad enough that three radio stations in the Raleigh market have already started playing Christmas music full time. Wal-Mart has already started injecting Christmas music into its store public address system. Many stores started putting up Christmas decorations the day after Halloween, almost negating the sacred holiday in between.

This often over looked time of giving thanks has been maligned as to its purpose and frequency. In 1541, the Spaniards exploring the North American continent declared a time of thanksgiving in what is now Texas. I would be thankful to have gotten through Texas and finally found food, myself. As Coronado found out, Texas is a nice place to visit, but I would not to live there.

In the Revolutionary War period, there were multiple days a year set aside during which to offer thanks, such as after the Battle of Saratoga. Of course we read about an earlier time when the Pilgrims set aside time following the harvest in 1623. By the way, having grown up in the land of the Pilgrims, I can tell you for certain that the harvest did not take on the fourth Thursday in November and the feast would not have been outdoors as typically portrayed. It is too darn cold for either, so don't think that we celebrate Thanksgiving based upon the time frame of the activities that are in every elementary school re-enactment skit. Actually, early celebrations of thanksgiving entailed fasting rather than feasting.

A national day of thanksgiving was declared by George Washington for celebrating thirty years of nationhood in 1789. Another Washington proclamation came in 1795. Numerous presidents declared days of thanksgiving observances during their administrations. There was a thanksgiving day declared following the end of the War of 1812 as well as a day declared during the Civil War.

I look with disgust at the annual tradition of the President pardoning a turkey and think how far we have strayed from the precepts of a once hallowed tradition. What is the root of the tradition? Yes, to give thanks, but to whom and for what?

Just by way of research, I started to look up the history of Thanksgiving in America. One thing I find is the lack of to whom thanks was given. The pilgrims were said to have given thanks for the harvest. Of course they were thankful for the fruit of the harvest, but whom did they thank? Who did George Washington thank? Abraham Lincoln? Did they intend for us to have a day off to watch an annual parade and football on television? Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with football. I enjoyed watching the greatest NFL team in history, the New England Patriots, destroy the Buffalo Bills just the night prior to typing out this flimsy column.

What was missing from my research source material narratives was the emphasis of the entirely religious nature of taking the time to offer our thanks. The Proclamation of Thanksgiving by George Washington on October 3,1789 gives the purpose at its beginning. " Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor…"

This week, let us not forget to humbly take time to thank Almighty God for his benefits, His mercy, His love, His salvation, His grace that He has bestowed upon us, the blessings He has given our nation, our state, and our town. Let us thank Him for our safety and security, our liberty, and our provisions for health as no other nation has been able to enjoy these past few centuries.

I performed a quick search to see how often the words "give thanks" occur together in the Bible. The list is long and should tell us something about having an attitude of gratitude. I have a long list of things for which I am thankful, and I do express them to the source of my blessings, God Himself. May we all take the time to actually give thanks at Thanksgiving and have the courage to declare His glory.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Column for Nov 15, 2007

What part of "NO WAY" don't they understand?

I wanted to start out this week with a correction of a typographical error in last week's column. It was pointed out to me that the figure of 1% was supposed to read 10%, something I overlooked. Spell check and proof reading doesn't always catch errors like that. To make the matter worse, as I was writing the column, I looked back over what I had already written for a reference of my earlier statistic and referenced the typo. I chuckle over the mistake, but at the same time, I kick myself for making it. Hey, at least I admit when I make mistakes. If I am willing to be vulnerable to making them publicly, I had better be ready to admit it publicly. And thank you to those of you who pointed out the error. I would have missed it myself yet again in just reading over my column later. Before I even got my copy of the paper in my mailbox, I got emails pointing out the typo. Wow, y'all are quick, and very little gets by some of you. That is a good thing.

OK, back to my regularly scheduled programming. On more than one level, I was happy with the election results from last week. The one outcome for which I was thrilled was the resounding "No. Nix. Nyet. Nein. Fuhgedaboudit!" vote against the land transfer tax and one quarter cent sales tax increase referendum items. The vote was not even close. It went down in flames most everywhere it was on the ballot to the tune of seventy to 90 plus percent against the idea of tax increases. You would think that if sixteen counties soundly defeated the referendum items that the idea would be dead. Not in North Carolina or with liberal spenders. For them, it is "Yes. Si. Oui. Absolutely. I'll be back." Think "Rocky" and "The Terminator" for those last two.

I have heard several reports from the very day after the referendum was defeated that state and local officials are vowing to keep pushing the agenda until it passes. That means that we have to keep saying NO each and every time. It only takes one time to say yes. It does not seem to matter that a minimum of seven out of ten people have said that they are not for funding growth related needs in this manner.

I was in Greenville a few times this last week and saw one sign still standing along the side of the road saying to support the quarter penny increase for school construction. My understanding is that Pitt County did actually vote in favor of that increase, as did four other counties full or dullard voters, whereas it was soundly defeated here in Johnston County. Could the reason possibly be that we just voted a $90 million dollar bond and have seen sales taxes increase over the past several years? Even here in Selma we have seen a local five cent increase in property taxation. I would say that those had a bearing on the vote. I also believe that people are darn tired of having the complete burden for all of these growth and school items placed on the shoulders of the property owners. We are taxed on our income. With that taxed income, we buy a house in which to live. We are taxed every year on the house. When we sell that house, the thought of paying yet more tax upon a taxed investment payed for with taxed dollars is a repulsive and unethical notion.

It would be one thing if North Carolina did not already have the highest gas tax in the Southeast, a state income tax, and a property tax on top of that. In a few states, there are high property taxes but the corollary is that there is not a sales tax or income tax. Here we have all of them. North Carolina is becoming the "Taxachussets" of the South. Sure, we need to pay for growth some how, but I thought that growth was supposed to be a good thing and pay for itself. We are constantly being told that is what we need to increase the tax base. Yet we end up paying for growth rather than the growth paying us dividends, it seems. Something is seriously wrong with that concept.

I guess it would be too simple to look at profligate spending as a problem instead of a lack of revenue stream. Here in Selma, some simple things such as cutting spending went a long way in controlling our budget, even if we did have a corresponding tax increase. If we can do it on the local level, so can the county and state. Instead of myopic leaders in the state and county governments wanting to ramrod yet another tax burden down our throats until we swallow, it would make more sense to deal wisely with the monies coming to them at present. That should be normal fare, but apparently it is an afterthought to raising taxes. Does anyone run their own household that way? Some do and have ended up in bankruptcy court as a result. We can not collectively afford to do the same. No government ever taxed its way into prosperity.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Column for Nov. 8, 2007

To vote or not to vote

I was asked to write a commentary for a popular Triangle area web site about elections in general. Since by the time that this column is published, the municipal elections will have taken place, I figured it was safe to talk about the topic. I want to first take the time to thank everyone who voted in the election, regardless of for whom you voted, even if some people will always vote amiss, in my humble yet always most accurate opinion. You are the people who keep our republican form of government working. I don't care who is running or what the ballot initiatives (referendums) are to be voted upon, I am thankful for people who actually vote.

I was talking with an internet video producer and writer about voting, and as usual, ol' "ask me my opinion and you are bound to get it" Troy gave it. She then asked me to share those sentiments with her readers. I agreed, but I also wanted to hold off until I could fulfill my primary obligation to my own readers first. As a result of that discussion as well as a subsequent discussion with a candidate in a Johnston County municipal election, I figured I would punch some keys on the old IBM Net Vista (yup, I still have an oldie but a goodie).

Two years ago in the Selma election, there were, according to the Johnston County Board of Elections, there were 2853 registered voters in the town. That is almost 42% of the population. Only 22% of those registered voters actually showed up to the polls to cast ballots. That means that less than ten percent of the total population of the town actually decided the town's leadership. Does that strike anyone besides me as a sad statistic? Only time will tell the final totals this year.

When I compare this to the images we all saw in 2005 in the first genuinely free election in Iraq's history, I about weep. Regardless of your stance on the war in Iraq, the fact is that the first free election there was held just two years ago. Iraq had a 79.6% voter turn out. In Selma, less than 10%. 12.3 million people in Iraq walked for miles, stood in line for hours, and cast votes under the threat of death from insurgency groups opposing the election process and freedom itself. Despite the obstacles, millions of voters walked out of polling places with a purple inked finger, a sign that they had actually voted in their election. Why, in the most free nation on God's green Earth, do we have such a disparity of participation by comparison? Is it apathy? Is it the malaise of cynicism? I really can not answer that one, since I have voted in every election for which I have been qualified to vote since coming of legal age to do so.

Something I have commented upon for years is the total lack of accountability of the precious few votes that are cast. By that I mean that one does not have to prove identity in order to vote. In some areas of the country, dead people have voted for years. In other areas, people who are not citizens have been voting. Some people vote more than once. If one is not required to show identification to prove who is voting, someone can literally take your vote away from you by impersonating you. Someone I spoke with just last week decried this very thing when performing early voting at the Board of Elections office. No ID was required. That means that anyone who just came across the Rio Grande can possibly vote in our elections.

Of course some group like the ACLU would claim some esoteric form of discrimination if we did the obviously sensible thing and required people to prove their identity when exercising such a sacred right, nay, duty. Not only should we not be glib about taking our right to vote seriously, we should be vigilant about protecting the process from those who would perniciously violate it. We must protect the process and the right to vote. We must also shake off apathy and paradigms and actually participate in our electoral process.

I know, you are wondering why I would write this for publication just after an election. I am not late for the recent election, I am merely early for the upcoming primaries in just a few months. I can never remind people too much or too often.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Column for Nov. 1, 2007

Local patriots, local dissenters

I wanted to share some of my experiences this past weekend. As you will recall, I commented about an anti-war/anti-torture taxi march and rally that was scheduled for this past Saturday, and sponsored by NC Stop Torture Now. I decided that I did indeed wish to attend and observe. I had a plan and I stuck to it. My plan was to talk to people on both sides of the issue that showed up. I say both sides since I knew that there was coming a sizable counter protest from The Gathering of Eagles and Rolling Thunder.

I had a digital voice recorder and a microphone that works surprisingly well for the whopping four dollars I paid for it. I have microphones that cost a hundred times that amount, but this one is fine for the application. I decided to record audio clips of the protesters, the protesters protesting the protesters, and the whole ambiance that is little old Smithfield under siege. I actually got some great interviews, speeches, confrontations, background noises, and commentary recorded for use on my internet talk show. I wanted to be like a segment reporter at National Public Radio, but I am sure that many of you realize that I am usually incapable of such restraint. That leads me to a few things I wanted to bring out for public review.

One fantastic thing I witnessed at the rally is that passion is not dead in the hearts of many Americans. Whether I personally agreed with them or not, I was glad to see that so many people were willing to express their convictions openly. There are so many apathetic individuals in this nation, many of which are willing to be obsequious. Hundreds of people were unashamed of their convictions and to take a stand for what they believed to be right. For this very reason, even if I vehemently disagree with someone, I am willing to give someone the courtesy of a civil discourse if they are willing to reciprocate. Obviously, I have no problem with being expressive of my beliefs, and admire those who have the same "Moxie". For those who don't know, Moxie is a New England expression for spiritedness. Moxie is a regional, strong tasting cream soda that has been around for over 130 years. The expression is derived from the early marketing claims that the beverage gave one "spunk".

One thing that I do not do is question the love of country by those who protest Aero Contractors, George Bush, the Iraq war, or allegations of torturous acts, regardless of how misguided or ill informed many of them may be. What I do have a problem with is the automatic assumptions that any activity performed by the CIA is evil, all Bush administration members are liars, and that all interrogations are torturous. I heard one very nice and sincere lady discuss having a memorial for all those who died of torturous acts committed by our government, but when asked about numbers, she could only name one known case of such a death. One. I heard venomous rantings by highly educated individuals that just defy logic, in my opinion. I heard people defending the Communist Party and blaming George Bush for far more than he is capable of doing. I am no Bush defender, as many of you already know. On the other hand, I heard protesters referred to as scumbags, losers, and various other terms I can not publish here.

Another thing that I witnessed was the continued love of country and support for our military by the local citizenry here. The Gathering of Eagles was stationed along Market Street in front of the county courthouse. They were waving flags and holding signs that said to honk if you support the troops. For several hours there was non stop horn blowing and tooting in downtown Smithfield.

There is so much to share but so little space in which to write. There are plenty more details of sheer humorous ingenuity, passion, personal heroism, sacrifice, and soul searching that I would love to relay, but alas, print space is finite. I have recorded much of these for posterity in as fair a means as I can muster at present. Anyone wishing an audio copy, just contact me.

It is good to see that the proper exercise of freedom of speech, the right of assembly, and passion of commitment have not perished in this nation.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Column for Oct. 25, 2007

The whack jobs are coming to Johnston County

This Saturday, Johnston County will be invaded by bats. Not the type that are mice with wings, but the sort that are affectionately referred to by some conservatives as "moonbats". I don't take direction from any conservative group or individual to form my opinions, but I am all for agreeing with an apt descriptor if it fits. And in this case, it does.

Every so often, you will see people protesting along Highway 70 in Smithfield near the Johnston County Airport. There is a big rally planned for this Saturday in downtown Smithfield as well as a protest at the gates of the airport. The wing nuts at "NC Stop Torture Now" sometimes stand outside the gates of the airport to protest against Aero Contractors, Inc. Aero Contractors is a business that provides essentially a taxi service for the U.S. government. They provide transportation for prisoners of war (or if you prefer, enemy combatants) to and from Guantanamo, Cuba for alleged CIA directed missions.

These moonbats claim that the flights that the CIA charters are for the purpose of transporting prisoners for the purpose of torturing them. Keep in mind that these torturous acts are alleged, not proven. People think that somehow protesting a taxi service is going to stop CIA activities. As a matter of fact, looking at the event sponsors, I see groups that are activists that protest and boycott companies like R.J. Reynolds because some illegal alien laborers have died in fields while planting or picking tobacco. R.J. Reynolds has nothing to do with the planting and harvesting of tobacco; they purchase the harvested crop and process it. The same concept baffled my mind when organizations started boycotts against Mount Olive because farmers from whom they bought cucumbers hired illegal aliens under working conditions not conducive to their personal favorable opinions.

Some event sponsors have put out allegedly theologically authoritative treatises on the idea of these CIA flights, but their position paper claiming to be a religious perspective relies on quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr. instead of Biblical quotations. When I see more quotes from a man or an agenda than from the standard for the religion itself, I lend little credence to the document or its author.

Many of the rally sponsors are groups that are known to be theologically liberal groups that preach a social gospel rather than a Biblical standard, groups that are known communists and socialists such as Code Pink, impeachment advocates, Amnesty International, and the like. That alone would turn me off to their message.

I am not going to get into a debate over whether or not torture is a viable means of intelligence gathering or even ethical. I don't have sufficient space to get into that in my column. I will say that I do not for one minute consider what many liberal whining protesters call torture to be actual torture. Our CIA does not exactly get medieval on prisoners and the detainees don't exactly look like they were just staying in a hostel in Slovakia (a la the movie "Hostel"). If it were the case, we would be hearing about it both loud and often. As it is, waterboarding, humiliation, and sleep deprivation are far from barbarous acts that maim and kill and not considered torture in any rational individual's consideration. Besides that, radical Islamists think nothing of beheading and actually torturing our soldiers, civilians, and contractors in the Middle East. Ergo, I have little sympathy that Abdul had to put ladies' underwear on his head or went without sleep for the last 48 hours.

To me, protesting a taxi service is like protesting against Ford Motor Company that people use their cars to drive drunk, or protesting Yellow Cab and Greyhound because rapists and murderers use their transportation services to flee a crime scene or jurisdiction.

I have had my Christian faith questioned by these same whack jobs, since I am not willing to come out and condemn these flights out of little old Johnston County Airport. I am all for Aero Contractors making a living off from providing transportation services, regardless of for whom. Hey, I wish I could get in on that lucrative business deal myself. I have no problem flying old Abdul around in a private jet. The pilots don't engage in alleged torture, they fly the plane, which is what they are being paid to do. If you want to stop torture and the CIA run operation, try protesting in Washington DC or CIA headquarters.

I am not going to stop eating cucumbers or buy Mount Olive pickles because some immigrants are working in harsh conditions in harvest fields. I am certainly not going to stop supporting private businesses prospering at our local airport for providing a shuttle service. Actually, I may very well bring my bullhorn and work as a counter protester in favor of common sense.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Column for Oct 18, 2007

Change the charter, change the town for the better

Every odd numbered year, there are elections in municipalities across the state. Some have already transpired, others are yet to come. I love local government and always have. It is interesting to see how different towns in North Carolina and even across different states run their affairs. What I enjoy about local government is the "hands on" ability, especially in smaller towns. I have kept watch on some elections in towns that are of personal interest to me.

In my capacity as a technician for a very large media company (company policy strongly discourages me mentioning their name, though it is not specific to me alone), I travel frequently across North Carolina. On Monday, I got to travel to Fayetteville to do some work and see the various election signs in different towns. Some towns, because of their size, have different districts or wards, depending on what they happen to be called in that municipality. I am a big fan of district voting, especially when it comes to county elections, and even for municipal elections.

Several weeks ago, I documented a problem with an annexation ordinance passed earlier this year, as there was no two-thirds majority vote on the first introduction of the ordinance for a vote and there was no second vote within 90 days. That is one problem that could have possibly been alleviated with something I have advocated for Selma for some time.

According to Selma's town charter, "The Town Council, hereinafter referred to as the "Council", shall be the governing body of the Town. The Council shall be composed of four (4) members and the Mayor. Four (4) Council Members shall be elected at large by all the qualified voters of the Town for staggered terms of four (4) years or until their successors are elected and qualified. The mayor shall be elected by all the qualified voters of the Town for a term of two (2) years or until his or her successor is elected and qualified." I am not a fan of at large elections, except for those positions that make sense to have at large voting because of the breadth of the constituency.

Having true district elections in a town such as Selma would allow citizens to have a more direct influence on their elected officials and foster an even closer connection to Town Hall. It is also, in my opinion, more in the true spirit of a representative republic. This concept works well for other towns, and I feel it would work better for Selma.

There are currently two election precincts in Selma. The east precinct is about twice the size of the west precinct, based upon simple population and registered voters. What I propose for consideration is that the town seek to amend its town charter to increase its electorate numbers and at the same time, subdivide into precincts, wards, or districts, depending upon the pleasure of your vocabulary. I would love to see the east precinct split into two halves, thus yielding three districts. Two representatives from each district would be members of the Town Council, bringing the total number of Councilors to six plus one mayor elected at large. One member of each ward would be up for election each odd numbered year, for terms of four years, just as the existing pattern follows.

One argument used against district elections, as was the case when Johnston County was considering this very thing for apportioning the School Board members by district, was that it would tend to harm so called "minority candidates". I am sorry, but that argument does not fly with me and it never has. An elected representative does just that, represents all constituents. Do Bob Etheridge or Charles Hester represent only Caucasians because of their skin color, or do they represent every person in their respective constituencies? It is not a matter of needing to put someone from a so called minority group on an elected board. If people are willing to vote as a block to elect someone because of skin color and need the wider base of support in order to accumulate sufficient voters to put someone in office based upon race, then I say that they have short changed themselves and have not fielded a good candidate. Elections should never be about race, they should be about issues and governance.

If Selma went to the concept of district municipal elections rather than at large elections and at the same time increased the number of Town Council members, we may very well have a better success rate of ordinance passage when needed, a better balance or blend of constituency, foster closer neighborhood ties, have less areas go basically unrepresented as has been the case for years, would increase the likelihood of having a quorum when needed, and may increase the spectator entertainment value for those of us who watch council meetings. Sure, it will take a change to the town charter, but it will be worth it. The "more perfect union" concept of a better representative republic awaits towns like Selma.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Column for Oct. 11, 2007

As good as warm mashed potatoes or rotten tomatoes?

When you stick your head above the crowd, sometimes you get some tomatoes thrown at you. Sometimes you simply enjoy the view. I sometimes get to do both. This week I got my share of both. The tomatoes I get are usually people who have never actually read anything I have written with comprehension, either in this column or on the internet. Most likely, they have not listened to my talk show, either.

I have had the good fortune of being able to write this column for over a year now, and have been afforded several opportunities I would not normally have. One pleasurable such recent opportunity was to meet many of my readers at Selma's Railroad Days and get feedback from them. I can not count the number of people who came up to me and said that they read this column each week. For that I am grateful and humbled. I was warmed by the kind words spoken to me. Sometimes I wonder if people are actually taking the time to read, and the feedback I received did my heart good. People from here in Selma, from just outside of Selma, as well as people from Goldsboro, and even Virginia took the time to talk to me and comment upon this weekly excursion into the rantings of an ordinary guy with opinions that took advantage of a more than ordinary opportunity to write. Thank you, each and every one of you, for reading.

One thing about Railroad Days that I personally would like to see is a return to the theme of the railroad and Selma's heritage of being a railroad town. There is nothing wrong with a street fair, but I had people from out of town ask me if I knew where the railroad exhibits and railroad themed stuff was. Quite honestly, I did not know. For future reference, I was told that the Jernigan Building and Union Station both had railroad exhibits. I know that the railroads play an ever dwindling role in transportation in America, but since I live less than a block from the tracks, I have a hard time forgetting that we are still a railroad town. Another person asked me where the spike driving competition was being held. Quite honestly, I could not answer that one, either, since I did not bring my event brochure with me. I probably need to do so next year.

I am not criticizing the event; I would just like to see more of it and its theme. Our Parks and Recreation staff work hard at making the event a success, and this year was no exception. I was pleased to see the crowd. The live band at the intersection of Railroad and Raiford Streets was very enjoyable. I was singing and dancing right along with many of their cover songs. I am still singing "She's a Brick...House" in my head as I write this column, since that song started the second music set after the intermission. The food smells were exquisite along Railroad Street. I love to watch people. I have always been observant of the different sizes, shapes, colors, apparel, and attitudes of people as they walk around.

One interesting thing about watching the parade is the number of "beauty queens" that participate. There is Miss Junior Miss This, Little Miss That, Miss So and So Realty, Miss Railroad Days, Teen Miss Queen, Junior Miss Queen, Little Miss Queen, Tiny Miss Queen, Teeny-tiny Miss Queen, Toddler Miss Queen, Newborn Miss Queen, and Embryo Miss Queen. Each was practicing their rotating wrist beauty queen wave to perfection.

At least at a sizable event like Railroad Days, we get to see some of our County Commissioners, Clerk of Court, State House Representatives, and even our Congressman. It has been a long time since I got to say hello to Leo Daughtry or Tony Braswell. Hey guys, come around more often. I am sure some of us would love to talk to you more. I know that I would.

Of course, no parade in Selma would be complete without tractors. You have to put tractors in a parade, as long as they are before the fire engines. The good thing about dragging out the John Deeres and Farmalls is that unlike horses, they don't leave gifts in the middle of Raiford Street.

For those of you who have contacted me about the column, I thank you, even those of you (and there have been a couple) who had negative feedback. As a side note, for those of you who do choose to leave a negative opinion via email, voice mail, or other means, you will get a lot better results if you don't just hurl baseless accusations, spread rumors, call names, cravenly hide behind anonymity, or just ignore the facts. Just a thought.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Column for Oct. 4, 2007

So call me liberal…no, not that kind.

There are great mysteries of the universe that I still do not comprehend. The safety label on a curling iron that reads "For external use only!" is one such mystery. I don't understand the need for such a label, and will never comprehend the sort of person who needs that warning. Sometimes people must do stupid things and need the obvious stated to them.

One such mystery I ponder is the use of the term "liberal" by liberals. The various definitions of the term liberal can actually be quite diverse, even contradictory. As an adjective, liberal refers to "of or befitting a man of free birth". That is my definition of liberal, and in my estimation, the classic definition of liberal. As a noun, a liberal should be one who thinks, promotes, and exercises liberty.

Liberals can also be said to be those who adhere to the political thought of liberalism. Liberalism according to one definition by Merriam-Webster, is "a movement in modern Protestantism emphasizing intellectual liberty and the spiritual and ethical content of Christianity". The modern liberalism in today's America is far from that definition.

Another definition is actually a paradox in itself. Merriam Webster's dictionary also defines liberalism as "a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties". The definition I gave pertaining to spiritual and ethical content does not pertain, for the most part, to what are today considered civil liberties. Unfortunately, what have become known as "civil liberties" are nothing more than excuses for sin and bondage. The Christian definition previously quoted also does not inherently believe in the goodness of the human race. It is quite the opposite, actually, hence the need for Christ in Christianity.

Just Monday I heard Gubernatorial Candidate Beverly Perdue espouse the desire for the expansion of Medicaid to include any and all people who are allegedly too poor to afford medical coverage. Doing so will cause the rest of the state's taxpayers to shell out for their medical coverage. I pay for my coverage. I have the liberty to elect to take the coverage or not. Nobody is forced to pay for my medical costs. Millions of people have and exercise the same choice. That is liberty.

Forcing people to pay for the medical costs of others may come under another definition of liberal, "given or provided in a generous and openhanded way". Unfortunately, the generosity is at the expense of others who are forced to pay for the generosity of some politicians. Money is extracted by force from the citizenry to pay for the things that other citizens work to obtain. This is inherently antithetical to the concept of liberty.

In Christianity, we are told that "the poor you will have with you always". We are also told to be generous as people and as a Body. According to the definitions shown herein, we are supposed to have ethics, be generous, and promote liberty. Where is any of that in a government doing it forcibly for us? Why is this the case? For one, we as a nation of Christian people have abrogated the responsibility of liberal generosity to a worldly government. Another reason is the paradox I described. The human race is not inherently good, it is inherently corrupt.

It is precisely because of that corruption that people do not take personal responsibility for their own personal welfare and that of their families. It is because of that corruption that those in power use that same power to take money from people by force and give it to others. It is that exercise of power that enslaves the recipients and fosters the loyalty of the enslaved to keep those who gave unto them in power to perpetuate the cycle.

Given the definitions of liberal and the current status of what is considered liberalism, why would anyone ever vote for someone that displays those ethics? Those who believe that people are basically good and the government should step in to help all people at all times at the expense of the liberty of others are just plain enemies of freedom, progress, and ethics. I much prefer the classic definition of liberal and choose to be one; someone who thinks, promotes, and exercises liberty.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Column for Sept. 27, 2007

Drop back and punt on ETJ a good thing

I read with interest the article in last week's edition of "The Selma News" about the failure of Selma and Wilson's Mills to come to an agreement on extraterritorial jurisdiction between the two towns. The failure to reach an agreement basically forced an agreement, which was to leave the jurisdiction over the disputed areas with the county rather than either of the two towns.

Personally, I believe that was the best scenario. I feel about an extraterritorial jurisdiction about the same way I do forced annexation. The town has corporate limits, and I would much prefer that the town's power extend no further than the corporate limits. Across the state, towns under 10,000 population have a one mile reach beyond their corporate limits into which to extend the tentacles of their influence and regulation. According to state law, "any city may exercise these powers within a defined area extending not more than one mile beyond its limits. With the approval of the board or boards of county commissioners with jurisdiction over the area, a city of 10,000 or more population but less than 25,000 may exercise these powers over an area extending not more than two miles beyond its limits and a city of 25,000 or more population may exercise these powers over an area extending not more than three miles beyond its limits."

Johnston County, for some unknown reason, has a two mile authorization. I have read in several journals and news articles that the State of North Carolina has specifically authorized towns in Johnston County to have the two mile authority with county approval, but not necessarily other counties. I have been doing more research into the topic and will be compiling some data for action in the future. I am sure that I will find out more and more facts as time goes on as to the whys and hows behind extraterritorial jurisdictions (ETJ) and Johnston County, in particular.

That same statute says, "Where the extraterritorial jurisdiction of two or more cities overlaps, the jurisdictional boundary between them shall be a line connecting the midway points of the overlapping area unless the city councils agree to another boundary line within the overlapping area based upon existing or projected patterns of development." Apparently, that agreement of another boundary line could not be agreed upon and both towns must have felt that it was mutually beneficial to drop back and punt rather than automatically have a line connecting the midway points of the overlapping area. That was probably the best scenario for both towns.

As I said a bit earlier, I feel about ETJ about the same as I do forced annexation. I especially feel that it is inappropriate to have an ETJ that extends two or three miles beyond the corporate limits of a municipality. There is a reason why it is called "city limits". I understand the reasons for allowing an ETJ, but regulation without representation other than to have some residents of the ETJ serve on the Planning Board is still regulation without representation.

There was a bill in this year's NC Legislature that would allow residents of an ETJ vote in municipal elections. Personally, I have no problem with that, though the NC League of Municipalities does. If people can be regulated by a town in which they do not live, they should have just as much right to vote for the nomenclature of that town's governing body as the town's citizens. That is only fair. I will take it one step further and say that people who own property in a town, though they personally reside in a different town, should be able to vote in any town's municipal election in which they own property or are influenced or effected by a town's regulatory body. Since the property owners will be subjected to the municipality's regulations and taxation, it is quite appropriate to allow them to do so, especially since towns and counties rely heavily upon property taxation for sources of revenue. I realize that is getting off the subject of ETJ for a bit, but the principle is the same.

One thing to keep in mind is the fact that towns extend their ETJ by ordinance. As we learned last week, a two-thirds majority vote is necessary in order to pass an ordinance the first time through, with time frames for secondary voting. I will watch with interest future ETJ expansion efforts.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Meet the columnist for FREE coffee and fresh pastries

On Saturday, September 29 from 9:30 AM until 12 noon, you can meet with me at Edelweiss Cafe and Bakery at 101 South Raiford Street in Uptown Selma. Feel free to ask questions, express concerns, share issues, or just swap stories. The coffee and pastries are my treat!

Column for Sept. 20, 2007

More problems with forced annexation?

One thing that this paper's editor, Rick Stewart, has hammered for a long time is the open meeting law as pertaining to town government. He has called the town to task a few times when the Town Council has gone into closed session to discuss subject matter that may or may not be material requiring closed session.

This last week, the Selma Town Council again wound up it monthly meeting in a closed session. This was advised and requested by the town's attorney to discuss a current case of litigation against the town. I fully understand the need for this sort of closed door session, but I have to wonder whether or not this is necessary each and every time something is discussed. This is especially true when the subject matter is a very public affair.

In this case, a reliable source has shared with me some of what the Town Council was discussing in closed session. In journalism (not that an opinion column is necessarily journalism), you sometimes have to know your sources, and with this one, I know that he or she would be "in the know". Sure, I am not Woodward or Burnstein, and I would never want to be either of them, and I have no mystery "Deep Throat" informant.

I have gone on record as opposing forced annexation for Selma or any other town. When the issue came up a few months ago and was a small firestorm, I wrote in opposition to forcibly annexing property into the town corporate limits. Specifically, the folks in McCormick Heights have been upset about their incorporation into the town limits. I am in full sympathy with them, since the annexation seemed to be purely financial in nature and may not have been all that wise a financial deal for the town. Furthermore, the annexation had questionable legal issues that should have been thoroughly addressed rather than having been dismissed with such a cavalier attitude.

Now it seems that a technicality not even brought up in the legal objections to annexation may have arisen. In a lawsuit filed against the town, an issue of procedural voting on annexation may be a snafu for the town's plan to incorporate McCormick Heights. I was informed that a vote on annexation takes more than a simple majority. The reason being is that state law requires a two-thirds majority for any ordinance to be passed by a town. Annexation is accomplished through the process of passing an ordinance. According to state statute, "In addition, no ordinance nor any action having the effect of any ordinance may be finally adopted on the date on which it is introduced except by an affirmative vote equal to or greater than two thirds of all the actual membership of the council, excluding vacant seats and not including the mayor unless the mayor has the right to vote on all questions before the council."

In June of 2004, North Carolina Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake, Jr. wrote in a decision for the high court, "Involuntary annexation is by its nature a harsh exercise of governmental power affecting private property and so is properly restrained and balanced by legislative policy and mandated standards and procedure". If my source of information is accurate, then this is a prime example of the reason for the quote by Chief Justice Lake. This annexation seemed rushed, arguments seemed discounted, and technicalities ignored.

By this procedural flaw, it seems that it may very well be that the annexation ordinance is null and void. The town did not have a two-thirds vote in the affirmative. There are other towns that have found out they had the same problem the hard way, when a Court of Appeals ruled against them.

This entire situation brings up one other question. If there was this procedural problem with this annexation ordinance, how many other ordinances in the town may actually have been enacted illegally for the same reason? It looks like the town may want to revisit its minutes of previous meetings in which an ordinance was passed and reaffirm its town code.

When the town residents, the Town Council, and those being annexed were assured that the annexation met all legal requirements, why was this potential snafu not known in advance? The League of Municipalities had this information readily available to the town, not to mention the statutes that someone in the town must have known about in order to conduct town affairs.

When you are talking about taking away the freedom and money of property owners and fellow citizens, a government can not afford to be slack. If this legal challenge is successful, how much town money has been spent on the reports, the consultations, the attorneys, and the procedure that could have been saved by simply respecting private property rights?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Feedback on my latest column

Column for Sept. 13, 2007

Desiring the honest, despising the false

Today I had a couple of contractors at my house fixing problems left by a dishonest businessman. When I bought my house here in Selma, I found that the seller never disclosed the fact that the air conditioning system was in need of replacement. This violated our contract for purchase, but I had no idea until I was moved in and living here for a while. I eventually paid to replace the system with a new one. The contractor I hired was dishonest in that his license as an HVAC contractor was suspended, yet he sold me a system anyway. Because his license was not valid, he did not get the town to issue a permit for the work. I eventually had to go to an administrative hearing to testify against this contractor.

This man was given the opportunity to rectify his work, which was sub-par and would not pass inspection, anyway. He took a lot of shortcuts and left code violations. He also left old, abandoned air conditioning registers open, never having sealed them. Today, I had those removed, sealed, as well as some other work being done around the house. Much of the work being performed was because people were dishonest in their business dealings.

This is not new to me. I have dealt with dishonest people quite a bit just this year. I had dishonest people emailing me about positions I have stated in this column or on the internet who have twisted what I had written into something I did not say and insist it is the case. I have had people put up web sites just for the sole purpose of showing hatred for me. Yeah, it actually happened. I have had men who claim to be of good report fabricate stories about me, my dealings with them, and all for the purpose of self justification. According to The Sermon on the Mount, I must be blessed.

I have been talking to several people who have seen their long time spouses be deceitful and literally spread lies about them. Just yesterday, I was fellowshipping with a local pastor whose wife recently left him after being seduced by the dark side of The Force to follow after her own ways. I have seen this a lot with different people and simply fail to comprehend the lack of fidelity.

There have been many shady deals that have been perpetrated upon the citizens of North Carolina. We were told we would pay for schools with a lottery and then we have bond referendums and now tax hike referendums for the same purposes. We have seen national shame come upon the state and specifically, three men at Duke University because of one dishonest man with an agenda. We got the lottery because of a dishonest political play in the state legislature. We got a budget surplus because of over taxation and then the state dishonestly kept the overage to spend on pet projects. We were told that additional school spending would raise test scores but recent results published in within the past week or two show the opposite. All of this does not even get into bribery and corruption scandals associated with Jim Black.

Once in a while, I run across an honest man. Recently, I paid a business to perform a service for me. I got exactly what was promised, for the amount promised, and even earlier than promised. I may have paid more than I would have with other companies, but I got a quality product from an honest man.

I wish that sort of honesty would transcend the world in business, personal relationships, and government. One of my biggest pet peeves in life is being lied to. Lying is what got Bill Clinton impeached. He did not get convicted in the Senate, but he was still impeached. Being dishonest does not pay dividends in the long run. I expect and demand honesty from my friends, family, business dealings, and my government officials. You should, as well. Sure, I expect worldly people to act like the world does, but that does not mean that I should not demand honesty. I don't know about you, but I am very tired of being lied to by the media, government, and people in general, hence this rant. It may seem like a personal "bone to pick", but it really is just a general frustration lately with so much dishonesty coming from so many directions and from so many sources.

Just last week, I found a deal on some "best of" CD collections, so I picked up some Billy Joel and ABBA (yes, I am actually old enough to remember and enjoy them) which were missing from my music collection. One song from the collection by Billy Joel that has been going through my head for a week is "Honesty". I leave you with the chorus to that classic song.

Honesty is such a lonely word
Everyone is so untrue
Honest is hardly ever heard
And mostly what I need from you

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Column for Sept. 6, 2007

I wish I could thank Congressman Etheridge for his visit

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about the purpose of government. As I write today's column, I have just returned to my office from the Jernigan Building in Uptown Selma. Congressman Bob Etheridge was holding office hours today for his constituents. When I arrived, there were already dozens of people seated in the former court room seats waiting to speak with their Congressman.

I went because I wanted to speak with my Congressman, as well. However, the purpose of my visit was most likely very different than most of the visitors. I was told that if I wanted to speak to Mr. Etheridge, that I should sign in on a log book on the podium. I went up to the front of the room, grabbed a pen, and proceeded to sign my name and address into the log book. After finding that I had the one pen in the bunch that was running out of ink, I found one that did write and finished my log entry. I noticed that there were two or three full sheets of names ahead of me, all waiting to see Mr. Etheridge.

After I stood in the back of the room, having elected not to sit in the hard folding seats, I remained standing. I had been seated most of the day already. I watched people as they came into the room. I saw many sweet looking, blue haired old ladies. I saw a young, beautiful Latina holding the hand of her toddler. I saw middle aged men and senior citizen aged men. I saw men that I know come in to the room and sign in to the log book. I saw our Police Chief enter and check on the gathering. I saw a local politician waiting for a photo opportunity and seizing it when a photographer arrived. Of course only loyal Democrats such as Will Crocker were at this event and he was able to squeeze his mug into a shot with the Congressman. Never mind the idea that a United States Representative does just that. He represents all constituents, not just those of one particular party. This works just the same when the Republicans have their public relations machine in place. I observed all of this with interest. I pondered whether this was worth my time, when a stamp is only 41 cents. Two hours of my time was worth more than 41 cents to me.

What was heartening was that there were so many people there to see their elected representative. What was troubling was that there were so many people there to see their elected representative. What was troublesome about it was that so many of these people were present to see what the government could do for them rather than to meet the man elected to be their mouthpiece and give their opinions. There were people who were veterans who had trouble with the Veterans Administration, people with Medicare issues, people with Social Security problems, and the like. Many people were filling out forms authorizing the Congressman's office to investigate their problems. A Congressman is a representative, not a troubleshooter. Were there not so many entitlement programs and socialist agendas in government, we would not need a full staff for each of the 435 members of Congress to deal with the very bureaucracy that they created.

Why was I there? I had a simple question or twelve that should have only taken five minutes or less. I had a pocket copy of the United States Constitution with me and a list of the bills that supporters of Congressman Etheridge have touted as some of his wonderful stances. Those include repealing the restrictions on federal spending on embryonic stem cell research, a bill allowing the government to negotiate directly with drug companies to lower prices for Medicare, and Mr. Etheridge's own "The America's Better Classrooms Act of 2007", which provides $25 billion in bonds for school construction and modernization.

My biggest questions were: 1. Have you ever read the entire Constitution? 2. If so, please show me in the Constitution where any of these projects and bills are authorized by the Constitution. I was ready to supply a copy for his personal use. 3. If such authority for Congress is not allowed under the U.S. Constitution, then why, Mister Congressman, are you supporting completely unconstitutional measures?

I have a history with Mr. Etheridge, having interviewed him on the radio on several occasions and always asking tough questions. One time, his campaign manager even told him not to answer one of my questions while we were live, on the radio. Rest assured that I would ask the same if Mr. Etheridge was a Republican, only I would cut him even less slack. I thought the better of waiting a couple of hours for this and figured that the value of a stamp is far less than that of my time. I left baffled and yearning for a return to Constitutional principles.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Column for August 30, 2007

Oxymoron of the week: government efficiency

This November, I want you to pay real close attention to the ballot in the upcoming election. Before you snarl at me like PETA at Michael Vick, it is not what you may be thinking. On the ballot this year will be a referendum or two. We are almost sixty days away from a significant decision for taxpayers.

As some of you may know, the State of North Carolina has approved two options for local governments to use to increase taxes. One is a .4% land transfer fee and the other is a quarter percent increase in sales tax. Voters in each local district will have to approve the taxation in order for it to be considered by a local government. A vote of affirmation would allow the county to pass one or the other but not guarantee that one would be enacted. A negative majority referendum vote would kill the idea completely. No matter how you slice it, we are talking about the potential of higher taxes.

One thing about the sales tax increase that bothers me is that we would fork over that money to be paid to a notoriously thieving system. The state collects sales tax money we pay to retailers. The state takes its portion and then disperses the portions allotted to the local governments. I remember that several years back the state had an unbalanced budget. To help make that budget balance, the state simply decided that they would not parse out the share of the sales tax due local governments.

The incredible thing is that in order to help local governments recover some of the absconded cash, the state allowed local governments to raise local sales taxes even higher. Those taxes again would go right into the hands that stole from local governments to begin with. Why should the state ever be trusted with more of our money? Even if it is just one quarter of a percent increase, I do not trust the system to be honest.

Keep in mind that the state that would be taking this money is the same state that has robbed from the highway trust fund and never replenished it, even after having well over a billion dollar surplus last fiscal year and refused to put the money into the trust fund, return it to the over taxed citizens, or pay the towns the money previously mentioned.

If only we had a nearby harbor and the proposed taxes were on tea! Do we not sent millions, even billions to our state, county, and towns already? Oh, I know, it is for the children, right?

Why drain the equity in someone's home at the time of the sale just for more money for adequately funded schools? I just looked at my home equity for a financial check up, and I would be slapped with an unjust distribution of the equity I worked hard to achieve for the benefit of extra revenue to an already funded school district.

Property taxes, as it is, are inherently unfair. People like myself, who are property owners, pay taxes while those who rent do not. In Selma, that means only 40% of the citizens here pay the freight for our schools.

If you really think you own the land you have, just stop paying your property taxes and you will find that the feudal overlords of government will confiscate that property and sell it to make their cut of your hard earned property value. Now the proposal is to penalize those who sell their hard earned investment.

If the triple tier bus schedule proposed for Clayton could be avoided by mysteriously coming up with money for new buses, then we can certainly find areas in which we can be more frugal with the money we supply government.

I sincerely hope that the citizenry of Johnston and other counties will have the backbone and intelligence to vote NO on both proposals for increased taxation. We already have a huge bond we just approved and a lottery that were supposed to help with school construction. I want accountability and efficiency with that money, not just the milking of us citizens for more of it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Column for August 23, 2007

Remembering the purpose of government

I have been doing a lot of reading on early American history as of late. I am a part of a small group of men who have formed what is being called "The Patriots' Pub" (on the internet at The purpose of the group is to lay out the foundations of history in this country that led up to the writing of the United States Constitution. This has been a great refresher for me, since this is a period of history that does not seem to be taught in depth any more. There are so many people who have never been taught about the origins of the Constitution, of the nation, about the reasons for independence, and the reasons for the guarantees written into the Constitution.

One thing about being a part of The Patriots' Pub is that we have a ground rule to follow. We do not allow political commentary about history; we only present the facts as we have found and researched them to be. The words of any opinion will be quotes from those men of the time. This does a great service to the presentation and project. The frustrating part is that I can't offer commentary on the parallels between those days and today. When we read the state of affairs, the oppression tactics of the British crown, the taxation, and the control exhibited by a government upon its citizens, I am amazed. It has often been said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

I have had numerous conversations with other people who are even outside of the United States, who have the right sense about the purpose of government. One thing that we all agree upon, whether Christian, agnostic, or otherwise, is the purpose of government. To put things into perspective from several views, in Thomas Paine's pamphlet "Common Sense", published in January of 1776, Paine wrote, "Society is produced by our wants, and government by wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher. Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil." I have been reading some of Paine's writings in preparation for more presentation in my group.

From a Christian perspective, the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 13, "For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to [execute] wrath upon him that doeth evil."

One thing that I totally agree with the deist, Paine, as well as Paul, is that government is supposed to be an entity that serves society and is necessary for the punishment of evil. Lately, I have seen the government at various levels punish those who do right. Whether that punishment is via taxation, unjust laws, or a lack of regard for what is righteous and ordained of God, we have often lost the purpose of government.

I encourage each and every one of you to investigate history. Do some reading of your own, and be a responsible citizen. This may seem like a simple admonition and a boring one, but quite honestly, I am amazed at the lack of knowledge being shared in our schools and possessed by the general populace. I have learned more by reading on my own and sharing with other people than I was ever taught in school. This tells me that there is a difference between going to school and being educated. I was amazed at how much I either forgot or was never taught to begin with. If you have internet or library access, there are plenty of resources available, and therefore no excuse for a lack of knowledge. I make none for wherein I have been lacking and endeavor to remedy that. I hope you will, as well.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Column for August 16, 2007

Because I am an American, THAT'S why!

I take exception to those who come into this nation illegally. When someone comes into my home through the window instead of a doorway, I consider him an intruder and I deal with the uninvited individual. I don't instead offer for him to live in my home, eat my food, get medical help, have an education, and give him cash to send to his family who lives elsewhere. Why? Because I am an American.

I believe in defending the right to free speech. I do not believe in giving my time to those who wish to waste it with the use of their free speech to spew their lunacies that espouse principles that will take away my own freedom. Instead, I believe in counteracting their idiocy with truth. Why? Because I am an American.

I don't believe in pressing 1 for English or in paying for other languages to be printed on government documents that I help pay for. I believe in pursuing the dream of being a fellow countryman in the language that has been used here for four hundred years and that the vast majority of residents use every day. Why? Because I am an American.

I believe in hard work instead of lazily relying upon the rest of society to supply money upon which to exist. I believe in charitable benevolence, but only for those who can not do for themselves rather than those who will not do so for themselves. Why? Because I am an American.

I believe in reading and understanding the history of this nation and the supreme laws upon which it was framed. I believe that if we are to operate under a set of rules, it is wise to be familiar with the rule book. I believe in following the rule book and not making up rules as we go along. I believe that Congress, the Supreme Court, and the President should follow the rule book, too. Why? Because I am an American.

I believe in keeping taxes as low as possible and not take more than is necessary to run the government as lean and efficiently as possible. I believe that individuals know better how to spend their money, raise their children, and contribute in charitable giving than any government bureaucracy. Why? Because I am an American.

I believe in owning guns not just to defend a home, but to help defend a nation. I believe that the reason we have a right to keep and bear arms is to throw off tyranny and repel invasion. I believe in exercising the right to own arms because we can, if for no other reason. I believe that if we are not vigilant in keeping guard on such freedoms that we will lose them. Why? Because I am an American.

I believe that there is a reason behind the verbiage "all enemies foreign and domestic". I believe that there are those who do not hold the same values that the rest of Americans have held since our continent was being settled. I believe that we must first counteract their error with truth and reserve the right I just mentioned as a last resort. I believe that we have many enemies that are domestic. Many were foreign, but have become a domestic problem. Many are and always have been domestic. I believe that they must be resisted so that we can maintain the greatness of this nation. Why? Because I am an American.

I believe that people should let their opinions be made known to their elected representatives. I made sure that our county school board members and county commissioners all got a copy of my last column. I email, fax, and write my Congressmen, state representatives, and state senators about legislation and issues that affect us as citizens and for which I have a passion. I believe that every citizen should shake off their apathy and do the same. Why? Because I am an American.

I believe that if you disagree with the opinions that I just shared that you wrong, don't know what America is all about, and probably are part of the "enemies…domestic". I also believe that you have every right to believe as you do and I will defend your right to believe and say so. Why? Because I am an American.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Column for August 9, 2007

Wiping off my shoes

Have you ever walked down a sidewalk or on a lawn and suddenly you smelled a present left you by a dog? Then you realize it is now on your shoe? I got that same sense upon reading the letter to the editor that was printed in this newspaper from Dr. Anthony Parker, the Superintendent of Schools here in Johnston County.

In his letter, Dr. Parker cited a bunch of statistics about how much money was being spent, was needed, and how many students he expects to enroll in our county schools in the future. He used this opportunity to stump for a tax increase to generate more revenue for schools.

In Johnston County, we just passed a $99 million bond referendum in May to assist in school construction. Next, we supposedly have a lottery to benefit education, hence the inaccurate name, "The North Carolina Education Lottery". Obviously they were both ineffective, a boondoggle, or not good enough for Dr. Parker.

Is it not ironic that right here in Selma, we have a charter school starting this year that takes no state or county money for school facilities? They are only given the exact same amount of money per student that the public schools are allotted. The cost of facilities for charter schools has to be paid out of that money whereas public (government owned and run) schools get that money plus money for facilities.

We are now paying Dr. Parker $209,000 a year to do his job. We pay him to administrate the school system. We do not pay him to perform political lobbying, recommend how to fund schools, or attempt to sway the process that we elect people to perform. He is paid more money than the Governor of this state to run a school system of only 31,000 students compared to the Governor's constituency of 8.8 million people.

We elect people on the County School Board, the County Board of Commissioners, and state legislators to take up such debates and decisions. We did not hire Dr. Parker to attempt influence for a needless tax increase.

We had a $1.5 billion budget surplus in this state just this year. That means that we as taxpayers were overtaxed that much. Instead of spending the surplus on school construction, retiring debt, or refunding the overage, the money was squandered. On top of that, the state still wants to raise taxes and so does Dr. Parker.

When I was in school, we used 20 plus year old textbooks. They often were in disrepair. However, history, mathematics, elementary science, and English do not change, so we squeezed use out of the books. I was talking to a young local teacher recently who told me that she just got brand new textbooks but was informed not to use them for some unknown reason.

When I was in school, we did not use mobile classrooms. We put 35 to 40 children in a room and we did not know that we were overcrowded. We put students in converted closets. We turned a drama stage into a library so that the library could be used for classroom space. We cut some extra-curricular activities and almost cut out the entire sports program at one point. I personally still have a letter from the mayor of that small town thanking me for my input on the matter at a town meeting when I was a mere elementary school student.

Parochial schools in the area turned out a quality education for even less money than the public schools because they were frugal with their money but focused on education instead of facilities and maintaining a highly compensated bureaucracy.

I have been accused of using sophisticated verbiage in my columns and keeping a dictionary handy to write my word craft. No, it is merely a product of a school system that faced the same student population and funding issues but still turned out students with a decent education rather than whining about needing to increase taxes on landowners.

In preparation for this column, I redid some research. According to The Federation for American Immigration Reform, Hispanics made up 57 percent of enrollment growth in North Carolina public schools from 2000 to 2005. Personally, I do not care that these people are Hispanics. I only care whether they are here legally or not. According to the Carolina Journal, roughly 65 percent of North Carolina’s Latino population are illegal immigrants (December, 12 2005 article). That tells me that we have a huge issue with having to pay for the education of children who do not belong in this nation.

Doctor Parker, the problem is not with a lack of money being sent to the federal government, the state, or the county to pay for schools. The problem is that we are mandated to pay for the education, meals, and health care of those who do not belong in this nation, so the problem is with the federal government, under-taxed landowners. The problem is with schools having a bloated administrative staff who are paid more than our chief executive officer of our state. It is a problem with administration, Dr. Parker, not with money. More money does not equate to quality education, and that is what we pay you to provide. If money was the answer, then the Washington, D.C. schools would put out the best students in the world.

When the schools can prove great frugality with the money we already provide, I will consider supporting a tax increase. Until then, I have to go wipe off my shoes.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Column for August 2, 2007

Fairness in enforcement is necessary

When property owners are given a deadline to bring their buildings up to just minimum specifications for safe habitation, the town has an obligation. The obligation is to follow through on its commitment. If not, then some people who are adversely affected can claim unfair treatment while others are constantly given extensions.

Over a year ago, property owners with unsafe buildings were given notice to fix the properties or have them torn down. If they did not comply nor tear down the structure, the town would do it for them. The owners were given almost a year to do something. A process was set in place to comply, to petition for extension, etc. Some did apply for extensions and they were granted across the board for all. Four months extra were given. Then, some owners started working on their properties. To those property owners who showed reasonable effort, more time was granted to complete the work.

There were many owners who did not do anything. Some who did nothing are now complaining that they want more time. Now, the town council has backed down yet again on yet another request and allowed just that.

What bothers me is that some houses are going to be torn down, people are going to lose their properties, and they are going to have a lien against their property to help recover the costs associated with demolition. I have no problem with that concept if the property owners are going to do nothing about properties. However, I am troubled that there is a double standard in place here.

If the town is going to "get tough" on these properties, extension after extension after extension is not going to help the cause. I just read that the town has granted yet another extension to a property owner one month after the extended deadline had passed. Now, the owner has a two week time line just to get a plan from a general contractor. That could mean that the process with this one property, over which there have already been many breaks granted, could drag out indefinitely.

I am all for private property rights. However, I am also all for equal protection and treatment under the law. This action by the town to clean up blighted properties that do not even meet the minimum standards for human occupancy have nothing to do with race, creed, sex, religion, or social status. It has to do with meeting minimum criteria for basic sanitation and safety.

With property rights comes responsibility. One can not constantly ignore the responsibility and claim the rights. If someone does not take care of a property, it becomes a haven for drug users and transients (as the property in question repeatedly has), it lowers the value of the surrounding properties, and affects the neighborhood, then action needs to be taken. Some property owners, apparently, have to be dragged kicking and screaming to their responsibilities. When notified of the responsibility, some have shirked it and a good "head slap" is needed, which in effect, is what the owner of the condemned house in question has gotten. I merely say that he should have the same treatment as the others who have or will be losing their properties and not have indefinite exceptions unfairly made for one person who has dragged his feet but squawked the whole way.

Has this whole condemnation policy worked? Since I am on the Planning Board for the Town of Selma, I do get to see properties come up for planning review. Four old houses that were condemned and previously given an extension will finally be town down and nice new duplex homes will be erected in their place. This will help the tax base for the town, attract a higher quality tenant, improve the neighborhood, and hopefully profit the owners.

Two other duplexes were reviewed at the planning board meeting a week ago Monday. These are going to be built in established neighborhoods that have previously been blighted by the same old, substandard housing. These buildings can only help the neighborhood and the town in the same way.

As much as I would prefer to see these buildings be single family homes that local folks would own instead of rent as tenants, it is a small start towards change in the standard of living in Selma. It is a slow process, for certain, but worth it in the long run.