Thursday, July 26, 2007

Column for July 26, 2007

Kiss your gun rights goodbye?

When you think of the word evil, you may conjure up images of hideous looking creatures out of some mythological movie. Maybe you think of some hideous witch or a devil with a pitchfork. Not me. When I think of evil, I think of well intentioned people in suits who wish to take a vote on a piece of legislation to stifle the masses. There are several such bills before the state legislature right now.

Because I choose to be active in writing and other forms of media, I get to speak with people who are known to be fountains of information. Sometimes I simply read information that is freely available to all, yet is rarely reported.

Grass Roots North Carolina ( is a group to which I belong. It has one primary mission, which is to educate the public about our right to keep and bear arms and deal with legislation at the state level. Often, I get emails from them telling me about the latest attempt to curb your freedoms to procure, own, or use firearms for sport or self defense.

North Carolina House Bill 1287 is one that I find most insidious. That bill would register anyone who is denied a pistol purchase permit by the local sheriff into a database run by the State Bureau of Investigations. In theory, that database record would be purged after 8 years. That means that for eight years, any sheriff who does a background check on you will know that you were denied a purchase permit.

In North Carolina, county sheriffs can deny you a purchase permit at will with no reason given or for any motivation, with or without a criminal history check. The denial will appear in all subsequent records check on the individual in question.

Here is the horrific part. The database would be shared with the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives at the federal level. Of course, state laws for purging data do not apply to federal agencies. That means that if Steve Bizzell decides that he wants to deny you a pistol permit in Johnston County, you will now have an FBI record. That record will follow you all over the country forever.

At the federal level, the McCarthy Bill (HR 2640) will ensure that your right to keep and bear arms will be decided by a doctor, not by the Constitution. Allegedly, the bill would put any mental health records into a the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS. Don't ask me why it isn't NICBCS, but then you wouldn't be able to pronounce the acronym like the name of a New York basketball team). If you had a bad day and were feeling depressed so you visited the Johnston County Mental Health Services office, you would now be entered into a criminal database.

It is bad enough that this is already checked by the sheriff during a background check for obtaining a concealed carry weapons permit. People in this county have already been denied these permits because they hit a bad, temporary patch in life and are now branded; precluded from ever being able to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

The 2nd Amendment was never about hunting. It was and is about being able to throw off tyranny. Those who adopted the Constitution knew the tyranny that could be placed upon citizens by decree. They also knew what it meant to throw off that same tyranny.

It is happening again. Our freedoms are being restricted. A governing body prefers unarmed subjects. Disarming the public was a popular tactic of despots of the 20th Century. As this nation becomes more and more socialistic, we are seeing the same liberties being squashed as they did. And, in this more technologically modern age, we are seeing an Orwellian approach to tracking everyone and everything by Big Brother. Sadly, even alleged gun rights groups like the NRA are too obtuse to oppose Big Brother and protect your privacy and gun rights. That is just one reason why I refuse to have an NRA membership.

If you have ever wanted to purchase a handgun for leisure or for self defense, you may want to do it before bills like these become law and some gun rights lobby groups continue to sell out your freedoms. You may also want to join "no compromise" gun rights organizations such as Gun Owners of America and Grass Roots North Carolina. Bit by bit, your freedoms, whether you chose to exercise them or not, are being eroded.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Column for July 19, 2007

Is the upcoming local political season too political?

Since long before I have been doing this column, I have been pleading with people to get involved in their communities and their government. I don't believe in just whining about the operations of our various levels of government. I believe in putting action to your beliefs.

I am glad to see that we have at least one man "stepping up to the plate" for the Selma mayoral race this year. I personally do not personally know William Overby, who at the time of this writing, was the only candidate to file for that office. Then again, two years ago, nobody really knew who I was, either. The filing period for November's municipal election closes this Friday.

Mr. Overby has publicly stated that he supports the town's efforts to hire a fire chief. I have publicly stated my position on the matter in this column, on the internet, and in private conversations both verbally and via email. I have gotten my share of hate mail over my position. Mr. Hester has gotten his share of hateful sentiments and actions aimed his way. I am convinced that the only reason that a cross was not burned on his front yard was because it would have been the fire department would have to put out the flames. As of this writing, Mr. Hester has not filed for re-election.

The town has posted employment ads soliciting applications for a new chief. I have looked at the job listing and have personally forwarded the position on to some people I know who are qualified for the position. I got a funny response from a friend of mine. He said, and I quote, "Thanks, but not interested…this one is way too political. Good luck in the search."

Here is what I know for sure. There are many fire departments that operate with a high degree of efficiency and morale under the proposed structure. I can personally attest to this, having worked under and around different structures in the past. Either way, it is my hope that the town officials continue to work for progress, accountability, and in the best interest of the citizens of Selma.

One thing probably not adequately explained is that the new chief's position does not pay $55,000 per year. That was the amount budgeted for the position. The position pays in the $44,000 to $46,000 range. An employee always costs more to hire and pay than just the salary, so the budget for the position, to include benefits and costs of having an employee come to $55,000. I only surmised this by reading the position description, seeing the salary, knowing the public information on that job, and having a basic understanding of economics.

Keep in mind that Selma officials do take decisions that affect those outside the town's jurisdiction. The fire department does serve the fire district, which includes areas outside the town limits. Those who live in the fire district do not have a vote or say in how the town runs its fire department, and rightly so, since it is a town department. However, there needs to be due consideration to all decisions taken and whom they affect.

The planning ordinances affect up to one mile outside the town in what is called the extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ). I personally take issue with the town being able to regulate those who live outside the town, are not town citizens or tax payers, and tell them what they can or can not do with their own properties. I doubly take exception to any town here in the county being able to extend that reach of power to two miles. However, that is another subject for another day.

Another way that town officials affect those outside of the town is with annexation. The town will be considering a voluntary annexation request. I am all for voluntary annexation. When it is against the will of property owners, with minor exception, I take umbrage and make an issue of it. This has been and will again be a hot button issue.

The town's elected officials have turned around budget woes, have begun to work on some hot potato (or potatoe, if you are Dan Quayle) issues, and have garnered regional attention as a result. By Friday afternoon, we will find out who will perhaps be carrying the baton of local government in Selma, as well as other municipalities here in Johnston County. Keep reading this newspaper and column for more.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Column for July 12, 2007

I'm from the government and here to help

This column marks the completion of one full year of writing for "The Selma News" and "The Wilson's Mills News". I am grateful for the opportunity to have been able to share my opinions and information with you. I thank each and every one of you for reading my column, and I want to take the time to thank the staff of "The Selma News" and "The Wilson's Mills News" for the opportunity as well as their support. I have heard a lot of praise from some of my readers, disagreement from some, and even harsh criticism from others. No matter what, I am glad that all of you are reading. For those of you who have said that they agree with me 85% of the time, rest assured that I am working on getting that other 15%.

That having been said, I want you to know how your various levels of government are allegedly helping you. Sure, that is a popular topic with me, but as Forrest Gump said, "Stupid is as stupid does". He prefaced that statement by saying, "My momma always says that..." His momma and my mother have a lot in common, because she said the same thing often.

At the 4th of July celebration held right in Uptown Selma, did you know that the county's health inspector limited your choice of food vendors? One local business, Edelweiss Bakery, paid the requisite fee to have a vendor's booth at the local festival. There were other food vendors as well. Steve Reed, the owner of Edelweiss, spent a bunch of money in supplies, staff pay, and booth equipment. Just down the street was a church group selling chicken, as we often see at these events. The Edelweiss booth was almost shut down, limiting them to selling only chips and beverages. The reason? There was not some sort of guard in place and netting on his booth. There was also no such protections on the church booth, yet they were allowed to continue to operate and serve food.

What is the paradigm at work here? Edelweiss prepared its food in a kitchen that is inspected and graded by health inspectors on a regular basis. The food was put into bins and transported fifty yards down the street to their tent for retail. Apparently, that was not good enough. The non profit food sellers did not need to undergo any such inspection or permitting. I was told that the reason for the difference was that Edelweiss is a business and the other group is a non profit organization. That tells me that it is fine to possibly get food poisoning, as long as it is at a not for profit booth. I am not saying that you stand a better chance of getting food poisoning at a church plate sale than at a restaurant. I am merely pointing out the stupidity in the regulations. The truth be told, it is for profit with either group. The only difference is what sort of corporation the proceeds will be supporting.

If you do get food poisoning at a local outdoor festival and are on Medicaid, you can rest assured that the rest of us will probably be paying higher property and sales taxes to support your medical care. Medicaid funding is an unfunded mandate by the state that is placed on the backs of local governments. Some local governments spend as much as 30% of their budget on Medicaid. Two thirds of homeowners in the state will end up paying higher tax rates to help fund the growing Medicaid costs. Many of these costs are incurred as a result of supplying medical care to illegal aliens, but that is another discussion for another day. I have been reading news articles that some state law makers want to fund Medicaid more at the state level with a property transfer tax and higher sales taxes.

The governmental efforts to allegedly keep our food supply safe and provide health care services are obviously unfairly handled and funded. I decry the stupidity and inequity of government agency regulatory enforcement as well as forcing those of us who bear the burden of taxation to pay for the health care of others.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Column for July 5, 2007

A few observations while in Manhattan

Having spent two decades in North Carolina, I have heard it stated often, "That's how we have always done it", or "It's a tradition". Some traditions are good. Others are worth re-evaluation. Nothing helps you consider the world you live in like going somewhere else and experiencing different cultures and regions. My wife and I recently returned from a trip to Manhattan. During this trip, I had plenty of things to contemplate as I saw how different things are and can be.

The first thing that struck me on my trip was the use of the railroad that runs right through our small town. What totally amazes me is that for a ticket price of over $100 each person for each leg of the trip, Amtrak loses money each and every year. You and I are paying the U.S. government for Amtrak to operate at a loss. One would think that if nothing else, the rip off prices of second rate food served in the cafe car would make up for any losses of operation. If you like paying $15 for a couple of sodas and two prepackaged sandwiches that you can find in convenience stores, then Amtrak is for you. If airlines and bus companies can operate at a profit, why can't Amtrak make a profit? Perhaps it is time to sell off that asset and let private industry take over.

New York City has been cleaned up quite a bit, from what I have read. The subways, cabs, Times Square, and the streets were, for the most part, clean. The train station and subway stations all seemed to be much better than I had heard about for years. This gives me hope for what we can do in this small town. Selma has a reputation for being a drug haven. When I got back from my trip, I found local media with coverage of drug busts by our own CSI Selma. I type that in a respectful and affectionate manner, by the way. I have great appreciation for the work that is being done by Chief Bowen and his staff.

While taking a tour of downtown Manhattan, I found the history amazing. Entire districts of the town such as the garment district were dying and slated for demolition. Today, that area is a thriving business community. We spent a lot of time in Times Square which was once occupied with a lot of pornographic theaters. Today, it is thriving with family oriented businesses. More New Yorkers come out and visit their own city than they once did. The city streets are cleaner and safer than they have been in a century. This means more tax revenue for the city, increased services, and a better quality of life. A better reputation attracts more visitors.

Another thing I noticed while walking around the city was the diversity of businesses. There were many restaurants, specialty shops, clothing stores, department stores, convenience stores, bakeries, souvenir shops, etc. If that diversity can revitalize their city, on a smaller scale, it can only help us. I have stated before that making Selma an antique shopping destination is not really a sustainable long term plan. I have nothing against antique shops nor shop owners, as those who know me realize. But diversity of our business district will attract more locals to spend more time and money right here in our own economy, attract more residents, and thereby build up our own tax base.

Another thing I noticed was the amount of languages spoken. Just while on top of The Empire State Building, I heard German, French, Italian, Hindi, Swedish, some African dialects, Arabic, and some other languages that I could not distinguish. I also noticed that the primary language for business and cross cultural communication was English. Many cab drivers were either African (true "African-Americans", in my opinion, and not just some catch phrase) or from the Middle East. Every one spoke good English, knowing that they must assimilate to effectively operate. I wish that the primary population of immigrants that come here would take a serious cue from these people who embody the spirit of becoming Americans.

I have already cut down this column quite a bit in order to fit within my allotted space and have so much more to tell. Alas, I have to wind down for this week. I will wrap up by saying that if New York can do it, we can make Selma truly A Charming Place to Be.