Friday, April 25, 2008

Column for April 24, 2008

Please, Mr. Etheridge, read the US Constitution!

Politicians often make claims and push agendas that will get them either elected or re-elected. Our local Congressman, Bob Etheridge is no exception. I have watched his career for years, starting when he was State Superintendent of Public Instruction. When he ran for Congress the first time, I interviewed him on several occasions for a broadcast outlet where I was employed at the time.

One thing that should be a pre-requisite for running for federal office is to pass a history and civics exam. Each Congressional, Senatorial, and Presidential candidate should have a basic, nay, advanced knowledge of United States history and government. I do not know if that knowledge exists a forehand and it is conveniently forgotten upon entering the Beltway around Washington, D.C., or if there is just plain ignorance on the part of those running for elected office.

Don't get me wrong. Pandering has been going on for centuries, and on many different levels. I have seen candidates here in Selma whose messages were simply, "I am going to lower taxes and utility bills" or a promise of health care for our elderly citizens. Regardless of the level of office, it happens.

One thing about Bob Etheridge is that he is known for bringing back federal dollars for North Carolinians, especially for the special interests of agriculture and civil service. For the past several years, old Bob has been active on farm bills at the federal level. He was responsible for helping with the tobacco buyout a few years back. He has recently been appointed to work on the final draft of a farm bill that will set agricultural policy in the United States for the next five years. Congressman Etheridge was quoted as saying, "I am pleased that I have been appointed to have a seat at the table to fight on behalf of North Carolina’s farm families and consumers."

My major question is simply why the federal government is even involved in setting agricultural policy and will interfere with the free market economy? For years, I have decried the concept of quote programs, farm subsidies, and the like. To pay people to not grow crops is a bit insane to me. To tell people how to, how much to, and how to sell a crop is just antithetical to the concept of a free society.

I know that Bob is revered amongst the farming community. He even claims to be a farmer himself. However, owning farmland does not make one a farmer, any more than owning an automobile makes me a mechanic.

Another issue that Congressman Etheridge has been involved with recently is his support for a bill that will guarantee student loans for college students. In his support, Mr. Etheridge said, "With growing uncertainty about the economy, it is appropriate for Congress to take steps to ensure that students and their families continue to be able to access college loans."

Again, I have the same question about the free market economy and government intervention. Since when is it the job of the federal government to ensure that people have full economic access to a higher education? Sure we as a society may all benefit from someone becoming educated. However, education is not a right, much less the access to borrowing money for such. The guarantee of rights is a function of government. The securing of personal choices that not all can afford or require, however, is not a function of government.

Life itself is not fair. It is not an appropriate function of government to ensure that all have an equal opportunity to attend a higher educational facility. It is their function to guarantee equal access, but not the opportunity to avail one's self of the privilege.

Speaking of schools, Bob Etheridge is also a proponent of spending federal money in the form of grants to fire departments, police departments, and school systems in the name of "homeland security". Perhaps that money would best be left in our own pockets or maybe even at the local governmental level to begin with so that it does not need to be sucked out of our pockets, filtered through Washington, DC, then returned to the region in a diminished capacity.

Why we applaud when money is laundered under the guise of taxation, a hefty cut taken out of it for administration, and then sent back to our region in far smaller quantities than what was sent is beyond my comprehension. Most of the programs upon which we spend such dollars are extra-constitutional. If Congress spent money only on those things specifically enumerated by The Constitution, I believe that your tax burden would be cut to a fraction of its current level.

The only thing that I will grant to Mr. Etheridge in his desire to return tax dollars for schools under the guise of "homeland security" is that the preamble to the Constitution does indeed say, "insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence". It is a stretch to spend tax money on improving security at individual primary education facilities at the local level, however.

Another part of the preamble to the U.S. Constitution declares the purpose of the document is to "promote the general Welfare". Note that it is the general welfare of the nation and not that of the individual, farmer, student, or teacher.

When voting for a candidate for elected office, look to see if he or she follows the simple guidelines set forth for their office and exhibits the principles embodied in their official capacity. I do believe that you are going to have an extremely hard time finding men or women who do that this coming election in November, or even this primary election next month. I have not seen a keen Constitutional mindset exhibited by any candidate at the national level this time around. Then again, that is nothing new. It just seems that this year is worse than any time in recent history, Mr. Etheridge especially included.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Column for April 17, 2008

Can we PLEASE take up the Friskies bowl?

I used to set out dry cat food under my carport to feed an outdoor cat that I adopted. Since she was a neighborhood stray that wandered over to my house from time to time, I had no idea to whom she used to belong. She came over from a house that had been foreclosed upon, so my thought was that she may have been abandoned when the former property owners left. Since I had no idea of knowing her name or whether she even truly had a home, I figured I would come up with a generic name by which to call her. Considering my sense of ironic humor, I chose "Fluffy" to name this short haired, mixed breed cat.

Fluffy was a great cat, as it turned out. She was cute, affectionate, and loyal. She was also still somewhat feral, however, so she stayed outside for the most part. Occasionally, Fluffy would come inside and snuggle, even eat with my other cats. She got pregnant one time and even gave birth to a kitten in my closet. The kitten only lived about 48 hours, though. After the kitten died, I took Fluffy to get spayed. I kept up with her shots and health care. The one thing that I could not keep her healthy from was the constant traffic in my neighborhood. Fluffy was pretty good about crossing the busy road on which I live. One day, however, Fluffy's luck came to an end and I had to bury a flat cat.

While Fluffy was still alive, there were a couple of other cats that came around my house to enjoy the cat food I put out for Fluffy. Both the Fluff monster and I were agreeable to feeding other neighborhood strays, even if they were not as friendly. As a matter of fact, they never even allowed me to touch them, much less get anywhere near them. They did, however, recognize that this was my place, who I was, and the fact that I was their benefactor. Even after Fluffy died, I kept putting out the cat food and water for the other cats. Since there were two gray tabby cats that came around, I called them both "Tabby".

Hey, I know that the originality is just overwhelming, but all I wanted was some way to which to refer to these cats. I also have three parakeets, one of which was named already by someone else. The other two I call "Birds". As far as I am concerned, that is their collective name. It may not be original, but it works. I also have a dog I named Slime Dog, since when I rescued him, he was tethered outside in the freezing rain on a fifteen foot chain with no shelter. His paws were slimy from the mud, his soaking wet coat, and the piles of dog excrement through which he waded inside that little radius of his existence. He got his paws all over my clothes, and I told him how slimy he was; that he was a "slime dog". He responded to that term, and a name was born. OK, back to the main point now.

Besides the two tabbies, I also had other, uninvited creatures that would visit for the free food. A flock of blackbirds camped out under my carport. They often flew in to raid the cat food bowl. They built nests under the carport. They used the bird bath I have in front of my house. All of that did not bother me so much. I thought the sight of birds eating cat food was rather humorous. The unfortunate part was that the birds had absolutely no respect for the free lunch nor the provider and his property. They left a lot of droppings all over my concrete driveway and carport area. My brick steps and hand rails were constantly covered in bird droppings. All they cared about was the hand out. The longer the free food was available, the more birds showed up. The message spread. More and more birds came and visited my free Meow Mix buffet. Soon there was less and less cat food available for the tabbies, for whom the food was originally intended, since the birds kept eating it faster and faster, along with leaving droppings faster and faster. Since I could not be constantly monitoring the food supply each and every moment of every day, I could no longer keep up with the birds' consumption of food never intended for them to eat.

Eventually, I got disgusted with the mess left by the birds and the bill for the constant food replenishment. I power washed the bird droppings, took up the food dish, and never put out any more cat food. Rapidly, the cat food eating blackbirds all left my carport and have not returned since. My bird bath no longer is over run by a "town council", as I called them, of birds meeting at my bird bath. Now cardinals and robins freely enjoy the bath that was once monopolized by the freeloaders. Once the hand outs were removed, the freeloaders left.

This is a real life parable from which we as Americans can learn. The tabbies still come around from time to time, though seldom, and I always say hello to them. Occasionally, I even try to tempt them with some cat morsels. I feel sorry for them, since the good thing I tried to do for them was ruined by those who took advantage of the system.

This is no different than our welfare system, our food stamp program, and (especially) our policies on illegal immigrants. If we remove the freebies, we as Americans and the source of the buffet, will stop getting covered with droppings by those who seek to do nothing but take advantage of a system never intended for them and have nothing but disrespect for those footing the bill for their freeloading. Those for whom the system was truly intended will continue to get a raw deal, since the supply will be eaten up by freeloaders. Until we as Americans decide to take up the Friskies bowl, we will continue to have freeloaders drain our economy and poop all over our homeland.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Column for April 10, 2008

Martin Luther King and Moses

This past weekend was bittersweet for many Americans. Saturday and Sunday marked the anniversary of the loss of one leader and the recent loss of another. Though very different in many respects, they had the same end desire, freedom and equality. Even so, their respective views of equality may have been different.

April 4th marked the anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. King is revered by millions, vilified by others, and is held with indifference of estimation by still others. King's life was indeed ended prematurely and tragically, which unfortunately, made him a martyr in the minds of many. He has been deified by many, which I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears. For some reason, he has become an object of worship among some of his race. Personally, I believe that King would have found this abhorrent. Unlike many White folks, I have actually read behind King. The internet is full of documentation and audio of his speeches. I personally spent three days with one of King's disciples at a conference discussing racism.

King said in his famous "I Have A Dream" speech, "Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred." It is unfortunate that so many of those who claim to follow King's vision do just that. All one has to do is listen to one of his disciples, Jesse Jackson. Even worse has been the rhetoric of Barack Obama's pastor, Jeremiah Wright, which has been full of pure venom. Oddly enough, many of these people carry the title of "reverend", and yet I never hear them preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Rather, I hear a social gospel, which tickles the ears of those who feel wronged by their status and position in life and blame society as a result.

One thing of which I am sure is that racism is not exclusive to Caucasians. It is certainly more prevalent, yet less overtly so, in the minds and actions of so called liberals. Liberals tend to tell people of color, whether of African or Hispanic heritage, that they can not advance in society without the assistance of the government. Over forty years ago, the great hope was for equal treatment under the law. Today, it seems that it is a hope that the government will supply their needs rather than having the opportunity for pursuing the dreams that equality can offer.

King said in the same aforementioned speech, "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'" These words are the foundation of this nation, and many were excluded by law from this creed. Today, the work of those like King resonates with the result. There is indeed equality under the law for all, regardless of skin color. The rest is up to the individual to rise above circumstances and thrive rather than flounder in pity and doubt.

One of my favorite lines from King's speech is "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." A big amen to that line. If it would be so, however, then we would no longer have the enslaving paradigm that so called affirmative action brings. We would no longer allow welfare, regardless of skin color, to be propagated generation after generation.

One man who actually marched with King and the civil rights movement, was Charlton Heston. Heston was a staunch conservative and later, president of the National Rifle Association. He was very politically incorrect in a very politically correct society such as Hollywood. Yet, Heston knew that the opportunity for equality was an essential tenant of what I refer to as "classic liberalism". Classic liberalism bears no resemblance to modern day liberalism as we know it. Actually, classic liberalism is what is true conservatism today. Few actually practice it, however. Liberalism refers to the practice and promotion of liberty with accompanying exercise of responsibility.

Heston knew that gun rights were essential to the exercise of freedom. That is just one aspect of individual liberty, as he obviously understood, hence, his participation in the civil rights movement of the 1960's. His dream, however, was a bit different than those liberals of today. He believed in the principle of being free to succeed, yet free to fail; of being free to participate in the American dream and take advantage of the freedoms available, yet taking responsibility for one's own actions and success or lack thereof.

Heston, who portrayed Ben Hur, Moses, El Cid, and John the Baptist, died this past weekend. I was saddened to see this, though it was not unexpected. Charlton Heston was 84 years of age and suffered from Alzheimer's Syndrome.

I am amazed at the difference between civil rights activists like some of Martin Luther King's disciples, who have perverted the message of King to be a self serving and ironically enslaving paradigm and someone like Charlton Heston, who preached freedom and equality for all until the day he died. Heston's message actually embodied the concept of "…a nation where [people] will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character". I wish that there were more that preached that message in this nation.

Selma, Alabama may have been where MLK and his disciples chose to bring the message of freedom, but I have chosen Selma, North Carolina to do the very same thing, regardless of skin color. The civil rights movement was a necessary thing, and has made great changes in our nation. What we need today is a civil responsibility movement to follow up and free minds now that the bodies have been freed.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Column for April 3, 2008

What in the world are people thinking?

I just fail to comprehend the mindset that some people employ when it comes to the state of affairs in America. Maybe it is because I read notes from the Constitutional Convention of 1787, read biographies of people like John Adams, and watch historical documentaries for leisure. Then again, I read "The Godfather" and watch the movie from time to time, as well.

Just this evening (I am writing this on Monday) I was asked opinion on the upcoming Presidential Election with the choice basically of Obama, Clinton, or McCain. My whole answer was that it looks like people may have to vote for the lesser of three evils. In this case, this expression could not be more appropriate. It is, however, merely indicative of the national, apostate paradigm.

I was reading a news article just today on the latest new powers proposed for the Federal Reserve. I guess the facts that "The Fed" is not exactly Constitutional, nor that the Federal Reserve Board are not really accountable to anybody is important to most in government. The proposal would cover everything from regulation of mortgage lending to insurance agencies, to investment brokerages.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was quoted as saying, "We must take steps now to provide help to families who are hurting." I am sorry, but it is not the government's job to help every family who is having issues. I have been literally bankrupt in my life (though I never filed as such) but worked hard to overcome my situation. If I borrowed more to buy a house than I could afford, it would seem that it is my own fault for obligating myself to such a commitment and not the lender's fault. That is why we have record defaults and foreclosures. More regulation will not solve problems like that. I took advantage of the great lending market five years ago, as did millions of other people. I have just paid my mortgage every month and I did not buy more house than I could afford.

We already have The Securities and Exchange Commission, which regulates the financial markets. The Federal Reserve, an almost autonomous body would have broader powers to look after financial markets and risks. The very idea of risk is the definition of what makes a free market economy. Some take risks and win, others take risks and lose. I take risks three times a month as I put money into my ongoing investments; others do the same to whatever extent suits them. That risk sometimes pays off for me, other times not so much. Nonetheless, it is my risk to take…or not.

Barack Obama is on record as wanting to raise the capital gains tax and provide universal health care. Hillary Clinton is determined to get us some sort of health care system that will take over one seventh of the economy. John McCain wants to legitimize twelve million lawbreakers and provide amnesty to illegal aliens in this country. McCain is famous for McCain-Feingold, a law that limits free speech during campaign season under the guise of campaign finance reform.

Now, our so called champion of "compassionate conservatism" President and left wing Congress want to illegally place more regulatory power into the hands of an un-elected body of bureaucrats and tinker with an already reportedly precarious economy.

Closer to home, I have been reading about revamping the Triangle Transportation Authority and giving it another name and maybe a new focus. I still hear about toll roads in North Carolina. I hear about school systems asking for 12% increases in budgets. Some counties in the state are still talking about a land transfer or sales tax increase.

Why do we allow such things to happen? Why do we just "take it in the teeth" as citizens? Just today (Monday) I watched a reenactment of a tax collector getting tarred and feathered in the 1700's because of excessive and unfair taxes and trade practices. Yet I look on the horizon and see that we are about to elect either one of two Socialists or a pseudo conservative to the highest office in America. What are people thinking? In which parallel universe or Twilight Zone episode am I living? Still, I thank God that this is not my home, because people are sure trying to ruin this one.